Bless my cotton socks, it's twenty-seventeen!
And it's about time. Kicking off with the death of Bowie twenty-sixteen was one bad news story after another. In the closing weeks of last year I had to work through some pretty emotional issues that, left unwritten, would have latched on unbidden to my twenty-seventeen posts as a sort of sea-anchor; invisible beneath the surface yet dragging everything down, especially my upcoming Kentucky adventures. With those issues now dealt with in words and pictures I feel I can get on in this new year with a clean slate and with what's important to my sanity and - hopefully - to the reader's enjoyment. And that's pure photography in inspiration, process and the final image.
And to be fair I felt fairly satisfied with the progression of my photography in twenty-sixteen. I still don't think I've found anywhere near my true voice, photographically, but I have had the chance to throw myself into a plentiful and varied mixture of challenges that I feel have improved my technical ability and self-confidence. I've shot a bundle of weddings, worked an international dance festival held here in Cardiff and photographed a variety of projects involving the local arts scene. It's been a little bit punishing at times, physically and mentally, but the experience has been invaluable and I've been really happy with the end results.
One thing I haven't been doing throughout twenty-sixteen is publishing the odd little snatched shots here and there - some of family, some walking the street and sodden moors, some in bars and clubs. These individual shots have no real theme and were outside of projects, but I like 'em. I found about two-hundred I rather liked, but figured I'd whittle them down to thirty-six - the number of exposures on your average 35mm film roll. I'm holding back ones from the America trip, the weddings I shot, and a few other planned upcoming entries. But all the same there's a nice even spread throughout the year, and they consist of shots taken with my current stable of Fuji-X cameras, both current and last generation.
It's a year that found me shooting a lot more black and white as well, which surprised me. (I blame Fujiflim's Acros simulation.) Indeed my favourite image of 2016, and the leading image in this blog post, is a black and white photograph at the Barbara Hepworth gallery in West Yorkshire, of my father looking out a window on a rainy afternoon.
So, on with the photographs and don't forget to click images to embiggen them...
Images taken with the X-E2, the X100T and the X-Pro2
It's not just been a pretty good year for my photography, it's also been a hell of a year for Fujifilm. It's no secret that I love their cameras, in fact it's pretty much all I shoot, so I figured a brief re-cap would be rather nice. It seems to me that twenty-sixteen is the year that the Fujifilm X system finally reached maturity. Early in the year the X-Pro2 was released, a camera I dearly love with beautiful haptics and sheer perfection for street, travel and documentary photography. Look for a review pretty soon on that one. We saw the 23mm f/2, a truly compact weather-sealed and fast-focusing lens that, along with the 35mm f/2, made for a discreet, light and eminently portable documentary and street kit for the X-Pro2. The Fuji-X system finally got an in-house professional flash that works, after all the long delays, in the EF-X500. Wildlife photographers got their XF100-400mm telephoto zoom and those in the market for something to slip into their jeans back-pocket got the little X70, perfect for street and a night-out, and probably the last triumph of the X-Trans II 16 megapixel sensor.
Then there was the release of the X-T2. True, it left my X-Pro2 sulking a little, having to share the glory and field endless questions as to why it didn't shoot 4K like it's baby brother. But in truth we got two great solutions from Fujifilm. The rugged X-Pro2 puts the joy back into photography and breaks down barriers between you and the subject. The X-T2 is the first Fujifilm camera that can confidently achieve professional video results, and is a perfect fit for the sports and wildlife photographer. Indeed, if it were not for the blazing Nikon D500, it would have taken the crown in quite a few end of year charts.
And finally we have the GFX announcement. Fujifilm wisely skipped full-frame, which would only have seen a lot of sacrifice in size, weight and cost for minimal gains in image quality. Instead they went for the hallowed medium-format and are on the verge of releasing the Fujifilm GFX, the first 'affordable' medium format digital camera. Of course, 'affordable' is relative. This isn't really a camera for the enthusiast like myself, only for the top tier of professionals whose business will make the camera pay for itself. But its mere existence nicely shows Fujifilm's commitment to the future of photography. Yup, as Tori Amos sang, a pretty good year.
So, it's on to a brave new twenty-seventeen. Sounds like the sort of date they used to stamp over an megalopolis in the opening shot of a science-fiction film. But rather than fight a robot uprising for example, I hope instead to more regularly update my blog. So keep your eye out for a lot more in the way of projects this year, from weddings and street photography to performance theatre and travel. I'll also find time to review the odd tome from my ever increasing photography book collection, and maybe even the odd piece of gear - starting with my imminent review of the X-Pro2. I also plan in shaking up my photography by shooting a lot more JPEG, possibly even nigh-exclusively with just a little tone-curve added. It should make for an interesting experiment, and I'm so smitten with Acros and Classic Chrome that it just seems like the right choice to make.
In closing, love and lollipops to you all. May you have a bucket full of golden hours, stormy skies, cats in sinks and whatever else floats your photographic boat. Best wishes to thee and thine, and here's to a great new year of photography!
Wishing all my readers a happy New Year,