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Japantag Düsseldorf 2013 – Cosplay Portraits

Japantag Düsseldorf 2013, Cosplay portrait

Düsseldorf has one of the biggest Japanese communities in the world and every year the city celebrates the Japantag (Japan Day). It is a great party with lots of Japanese activities, Kimono dressing, Ikebana, Japanese Calligraphy, music, dance… It is a really nice party full with lots of photographic opportunities.

The occasion is also used by thousands of Cosplay fans to dress up and meet. You can see they put a lot of effort in some of the costumes. This year I did not capture much of the official fest and focused more on the alternative one. I moved around photographing the ambient but after awhile I got tired of pushing people and getting pushed, as it was really packed. The day was quite cloudy, it rained from time to time, and provided a beautiful soft light. So I looked for a quiet corner, found a nice clean background (the back of one of the stands) and waited for the people to pass by. Every time I saw somebody that I wanted to photograph I politely asked if they would mind. All of them agreed except one that was in a hurry. After all it is a compliment to their work. Here is a small sample of the days loot, for more you can visit my Japantag 2013 Flickr album.

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Dusseldorfer sunrise

In the last days/weeks/months we have not seen much of the sun and everybody is really in need of sunlight. This long winter is taking the toll on the nerves. Here is a relaxing sunrise taken this autumn at the Unterbacher See in Düsseldorf. It was a quiet morning with wonderful light which provided a few keepers. I hope you like it.

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Fujinon XF 35mm f/1.4 R

Last week a friend sent me a link with a very good price for the Fuji XF 35mm f/1.4 R lens for my X-E1. Since I had already been thinking about buying it I couldn’t resist and I ordered it. I got it on Wednesday and the first impression at unpacking was great. Fuji packages the X system as some luxury items and once out of the box it is clear that they are made to last.

Yesterday I got some time to walk around the city and test it. I took the camera with the new lens only. The day was quite gray and cold and there was little light. So it was the perfect occasion to test the lens wide open. I set the camera to 1/125s or 1/60s, auto f-stop and auto ISO (max 3200) and just shot away.

Since my lovely wife and muse accepted to pose for me even if she was freezing I could not resist to make some portraits in the soft light. The lens is amazingly sharp, even wide open, and the bokeh is delicious. I can confirm all the positive things that have been written about that lens in the forums and reviews.

The combination of the X-E1 and the XF 35 1.4 are a joy to use and great walkaround combination. I am sure I will be using them a lot just wandering around in the city. I find it ideal for street shooting or for casual / environmental portraits. I just had to remind myself several times that it is not a focal length for close-up portraits, 35mm are too wide and the noses are distorted too much. That will be a task of the 56mm that is scheduled for release end of the year.

The only negative aspect is the autofocus, it is SLOW, noisy and rough. It really does not match the rest of the system.

Here are some examples from yesterday:

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Steve McCurry interviewed by The Sartorialist

One of my long time admired photographers is Steve McCurry. I love the way he composes his images and how he works with the available light to create the drama that his pictures have.

Last week The Sartorialist published an interview in 5 parts that they did with him. The interview is structured more like a chat between two friends where they discuss McCurry’s photography and ways of working. It is different to other interviews/presentations I have seen where he explains his photographs only. It is definitely worth watching/listening and I will do it again soon.

For me the most interesting part was when he explains his approach to a work day photographing and how he finds his subjects. The key points I took with me are:

– He starts in the morning and works outside as long as there is good light. If the light is too harsh he moves indoors or looks for places in the shade.
– He works with a fixer that can translate for him, knows the place and knows how/when to get out if it becomes dangerous.
– He approaches strangers when he finds them interesting. If the light is not good he asks them if they have time to move to another place. If they do not have he asks them if it is possible to meet another time or if he can walk with them and maybe they will find a better place.

Here is the interview, enjoy:

Steve McCurry, the Sartorialist interview part1
Steve McCurry, the Sartorialist interview part2
Steve McCurry, the Sartorialist interview part3
Steve McCurry, the Sartorialist interview part4
Steve McCurra, the Sartorialist interview part5

I got his newest book (Steve McCurry: The iconic photographs) as Christmas present. I can also recommend it to everybody.

Lucas & Oscar – Oscar & Lucas

Last December I got a call from a friend who owns a painting company. He needed a shot for the Christmas card that he sends to his customers and asked if I had time and any ideas. He wanted to have the 2 kids in the picture, the rest was up to me. Knowing that Oscar, the dog, would stand almost anything I decided to try something fun. We got some children hand paint, a white background paper roll and some mischief. From what I heard the receivers loved the postcard, the customer is happy, I am happy.


Boot 2013

Boot 2013

Boot 2013

The Boot is the biggest nautical fair in Europe and it takes place every January in Düsseldorf. It showcases all kind of maritime products, from diving suits to ships costing several million euros.
Last week Sunday it was closing day and I decided to visit and see if I could find cheap prices on diving equipment and just to spend the day. I took my new X-E1 😀 with me and started to get familiar with it. As in my previous post I must say that the camera is a pleasure to carry and handle.

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Cabalgata de Reyes de Seña (Cantabria) 2013

Every 6th of January the Spanish children get their presents from the 3 Wise Men (Los Reyes Magos). Every spanish town and city has a parade on the evening of the 5th where the 3, accompanied by their court. They carry the presents on their camels and all the small children are delighted trying to guess which one will be theirs. Afterwards the children go to sleep and the morning after, when they wake up, the presents have magically been delivered at home.

In Seña, a small rural town in Cantabria, they started 26 years ago doing a parade on the morning of the 6th. The town neighbours dress up, take out the animals and walk together with scouting the Wise Men.

Last year, on the 25th anniversary, it was raining cats and dogs but this year we had a nice and sunny day. I positioned myself where the “actors” would have the light from the side/back which would detach them from the back ground and bring out the textures of the costumes. This also has the advantage that they will not squint with the sun on their faces. At the same time I found a spot at the beginning of the parade where there were few spectators and I could avoid having people with modern clothes in the picture.

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Fujifilm X-E1

On Saturday I managed to get my Olympus kit stolen (E-PL2 + 3 lenses), don’t ask how. So now I am searching for a new walkaround camera. From what is available at the moment I only see 2 options, the Olympus OMD-EM5 and the Fuji X-E1.

The Olympus would keep the compatibility with the E-PL2 that I need to buy, again, for my underwater kit. I could then share all the lenses. The Fuji, on the other side, would be a totally new system to add. When reading the different webs and forums the OMD gets praised for its fast autofocus, weather sealing and general performance and the X-E1 gets praised for the image quality and photographer oriented design.

What I ask of the camera is to be able to carry it around without having the bulk/weight of the DSLR; to have the best image quality possible, including at high ISO; to be reactive enough for street and travel photography; to have some sharp lenses with big aperture;… I will compare it with the Canon EOS 7D and L lenses that I have used for the last 2 years.

At the moment I don’t know anybody that could lend me the OMD but yesterday Frank lent me his X-E1 and I managed to get some shots during the lunch time and the evening. Here is a short report of my experience:

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La Coruña fishing boats



Every time we go to visit the family at La Coruña (Galicia / Spain) I like to go down to the small fishing harbour and just walk around. This year I had some time for me alone so I took the camera with me and I spent an hour photographing the small boats. I did not have any image in mind but I wanted to focus on the boats and not get much of the harbour. I hope you like what came out.

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