Billingham Hadley Large – The Ultimate Day Bag

Billingham Hadley Large in FibreNyte/Tan Leather

Billingham Hadley Large in FibreNyte/Tan Leather

People who follow my blog will know I’m a big fan of the M. Billingham & Co. bag company based in Cradley Heath in the West Midlands, UK. I own both a Hadley Pro as well as a Hadley Digital which have served me well, in the case of the former bag, for over 11 years.

These bags are so well made and resistant against the worst that the British weather can throw at them they are basically indestructible and I suspect last pretty much for ever (or at least will outlast me)! This being the case the reasons for buying a new Billingham are somewhat limited unless you just want to build up your own bag showroom!

That said, one of the things I have been looking for is a shoulder bag that will enable me to carry a small amount of camera gear (i.e. one body and a maximum of two or three lenses as well as a late 2016 13″ MacBook Pro) comfortably all day. Whilst I can fit all this gear into my Hadley Pro it is a tight squeeze especially if I want to include any additional accessories or essentials such cables (which you need lots of for the new MacBook Pro), chargers or even the odd bottle of water.

Whilst visiting The Photography Show at the National Exhibition Centre near Birmingham this year I was able to visit the Billingham stand where they were not only showing but also selling their bags. On show were all the existing Billingham bags plus three new ones introduced this year including the new Hadley One which does just what I needed i.e. has space for a 13″ laptop. Having looked at both the new Hadley as well as the existing bags however I opted to buy the Billingham Hadley Large (in FibreNyte, for a change, rather than Khaki Canvas).

The new Hadley has been on several outings already and here are my initial thoughts and observations (together with a few images).

  1. Size wise the Hadley Large is a bit taller and a bit wider than the Hadley Pro meaning a MacBook Pro comfortably fits between the inner compartment and back of the bag.
  2. As with the Hadley Pro there are two dividers plus a couple of flaps which allow you to sub-divide the compartments between the top and bottom allowing you to stack lenses. My preferred configuration is to divide the bag into three and place a couple of larger lenses at the bottom of two compartments with a couple of smaller ones above each and a camera body in the middle.
  3. There are two large pockets at the front allowing you to carry accessories and even a small camera (my Fujifilm X100F fits comfortable in one of these).
  4. Whilst all of this gear fits easily into the bag, for me that’s about as much as I’d want to carry for very long. The bag is fairly comfortable as long as you use a shoulder pad (which is extra) and carry the bag across your body rather than just over one shoulder.
  5. Unlike the Hadley Pro there is no carrying handle (not really a problem) or back pocket (which would have been nice).
  6. The fasteners on the Hadley’s are great. You can either use the buckle or just unclip the leather strap from the metal retainer for a quick release. Perfectly silent with no velcro in sight.
  7. For a day bag, when I am out and about and just want to carry the X100F and a laptop with a few cables etc, this is a great bag. It’s comfortable enough to wear all day and gives good protection for my gear. Bear in mind though that there is no padding between the laptop and the back of the bag which is fine as long as you are wearing the bag against you but you need to take care when putting the bag down or against hard surfaces not to drop or knock the bag over.

Overall the Hadley Large is another great bag from the Billingham stable and complements well, size wise, the Pro and Digital giving you a range of carrying options depending on how much and what type of kit you want to carry. Definitely worth checking this bag out if you are in the market for a reasonable sized shoulder bag that looks stylish, is comfortable to carry all day and weather resistant.

Macro Beauty

One of the talks I attended at The Photography Show this year was by the beauty and fashion photographer Tina Eisen. Inspired by her macro beauty work I decided to have a go at this sub-genre of beauty photography myself. You can see the results below.

The model for this shoot was Moe (AKA @thatbaldmodel) who, as you can see, has a very distinctive look. The makeup artist was Megan Hewitt and the studio SS Creative Photography in Birmingham. All images taken with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 (Mk I) and M.ZUIKO 60mm f/2.8 macro lens. Lighting is with an Elinchrom D-Lite RX 2 and 4 plus Rotalux Octagonal softbox.

 

Friday Foto 28 IV 17

Spring Colours

Spring Colours

It’s usually Autumn that has the riot of colours in woods and forests that makes creating images at that time of year such a rewarding time for photographers. However, if you get your timing right with the light and are lucky to be in the right place Spring too has the possibility to reveal some lovely subtle colours.

Today’s Friday Foto is of Spring colours taken as the sun sets over the River Dart in Devon.

Friday Foto 14/21 IV 17


Four photos this week to make up missing last Friday altogether. Still messing about with the Fujifilm X100F. I have to say it’s taking some getting used to. Focus seems slower than the X100T and I don’t know why. Make no mistake, this is a very capable camera but like any complex machine needs some usage to become truly adept with it.

Fujifilm X100F First Impressions

I’ve had the latest version of Fujifilm’s X100 series, the ‘F’, for a few weeks now. Life being what it is, i.e. busy, I’ve sadly not had the chance to use it as much as I’d hoped but here are my first impressions with a few images of and from the camera.

This is in no way meant to be a detailed review of the X100F as I have neither the desire or time to deconstruct every aspect of the cameras operation and write about it. Apart from which there are a huge number of such reviews out there already, this one from Steve Huff being pretty comprehensive.

Fujifilm have also released a series of YouTube videos showing off the capabilities of the camera, this one on street photography from Matt Hart and this one on landscape photography from Chris Upton being nice examples.

So what are my initial impressions of this camera and what are the key differences to the previous X100T?

At a first glance the X100F looks very similar to the X100T. There are a few cosmetic changes (e.g. there are now no buttons on the back left of the camera) and additional dials (e.g. on the front) but the basic look and feel is very similar between both versions of camera. Probably the biggest difference in terms of usability is that Fuji, in their quest for old-style rangefinder looks, have added a physical ISO dial into the shutter speed dial. If I’m honest, I’m not too sure about this. I know retro styling is all the rage at the moment but the physical task of removing the camera from your eye and lifting and turning a dial to change ISO (as opposed to using the quick dial select of the X100T) feels a bit of a faff, maybe I’ll get used to it though.

Talking of ISO the X100F, just like the ‘T’ has a nice auto-ISO capability coupled with the ability to set an ISO upper limit and slowest shutter speed. For street photography this is a nice feature to have as the camera will up the ISO before dropping to lower shutter speeds. However as I discovered with the below image the slowest shutter speed is not definitive as the camera will drop below this in order to get an image if you hit the upper ISO limit. In this image I had a slow shutter speed of 1/60 set but as the ISO hit the upper limit of 1600 it decided to drop the shutter speed to 1/25 resulting in a nice blurred shot.

The Conversation

The Conversation

This is slightly annoying but I guess the design point here was it’s more important to get (any) shot which you can hopefully do something with rather than the camera preventing you getting an image at all.

Whilst on annoyances I have to say that two things from the X100T which I found slightly irksome sadly seem to have been carried over to the X100F. The first is that the battery/SD card slot has what feels like a flimsy door which has a tendency to come open in the bag. Secondly the on/off dial seems to magically move to the on position, also in my bag, a bit too frequently. Either these are sub-optimal designs or I have some gremlins operating in my bag. However, let’s not dwell too much on the annoyances of this camera and instead look at the good things it has to offer.

The X100F has an updated sensor (a 24.3MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS III as opposed to the 16MP X-Trans CMOS II of its predecessor). Now, sensor size is not supposed to matter, right? Of course this is the case, these days a sensor of any size is capable of creating great images in the hands of a capable photographer. That said the thing I like about having a larger sensor is the ability to crop more without losing too much image quality – something that is sometimes useful with street photography where you don’t always have time to compose the perfect shot. Below is an example of a crop taken around Coven Garden, London. The crops is post processed using the Fujifilm ACROS film simulation.

Another addition to the X100F is the little joystick which allows you to move the focus point around for quick selection which is definitely a bonus and time saver over the X100T and not something I’ve used before on any other camera.

One of the functions that seems to be missing from the X100F is macro mode. On the ‘T’ you could select macro from one of the selection buttons on the back of the camera but that has got on the ‘F’. It turns out that the X100F automatically switches to an AF mode optimized for close-up photography with a minimum working distance of 10cm.

Macro Mode with CLASSIC CHROME Emulation

Macro Mode with CLASSIC CHROME Emulation

The X100T had a great selection of film simulation modes including Velvia/VIVID and PROVIA/STANDARD. The X100F has a new monochrome film simulation called ACROS which provides a nice grain like texture reminiscent of the old film.

Berry Head Nature Reserve with ACROS Film Simulation

Berry Head Nature Reserve with ACROS Film Simulation

A few other features to be found in the X100F are:

  1. The physical exposure compensation dial now features a ‘C’ position to permit an expanded +/- 5 EV range when working with the control dials.
  2. There’s a digital teleconverter setting  that lets you simulate the look of a 50mm or 70mm lens.
  3. A three-stop neutral density filter allowing you to work in bright light conditions with wider aperture settings to get a shallower depth of field (or slower shutter speeds).
  4. An electronic shutter giving shutter speeds of up to 1/32,000 second.
  5. A supposedly longer life battery than was found in the X100T.
  6. Some filters including: Toy Camera, Miniature, Pop Color, High Key, Low Key, Dynamic Tone, Soft Focus, and Partial Color (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, and Purple).

Overall this is a very nice and accomplished camera. Aside from fixing some of the minor annoyances I’ve mentioned already (still not sure about that retro-physical ISO dial) it’s difficult too see how Fuji could improve on this model (which given the numbering scheme maybe just as well if the ‘F’ stands for ‘fourth’ how will they designate the ‘fifth’ version).

Like I say this is very much a first impressions view of the X100F and I’ll no doubt give a more considered view in a month or two’s time when I have had more time to shoot with it. In the meantime here are a few images I’ve taken with the camera.

Boulevard Brasserie, Covent Garden

Boulevard Brasserie, Covent Garden

Elberry Cove,Devon, England

Elberry Cove,Devon, England

Elberry Cove,Devon, England

Elberry Cove,Devon, England

Beach Huts, Devon, England

Beach Huts, Devon, England

Funghi, Devon, England

Funghi, Devon, England

Berry Head Nature Reserve

Berry Head Nature Reserve

Creating the Image

ZFS Team

ZFS Team

This year I am really pleased to be working with the fashion designer Chiedza Dawn Ziyambe and her team (pictured above) on her 2017 Zimbabwe Fashion Showcase event due to run this summer in London.

At the beginning of March I worked with Dawn to create one of the publicity shots for this years show whose theme is “Zimbabwe 2030, a glimpse into the future”.  The brief was to create a composite image showing five styles of fashion over a period of time with a final, sixth image putting out the question what will fashion look like in 2030? To create the image we worked with the model Linda Ndiweni in different outfits with the plan being to Photoshop them together into a composite.

This turned out to be a great learning exercise for me, both in turns of how to make best use of a small shooting space (in, it has to be said, not the world’s greatest studio) as well as how to use Photoshop to come up with the desired final image.

Here’s the process I followed and the various techniques I used to get the final image.

The Shoot

We shot Linda in five different outfits and looks. Each set had 25+ images but here are the six images we agreed upon. The last one, in the white dress, has two because that will appear twice. Click an image to get a larger version with technical info on the shot.

Develop the Images in Lightroom

The first step was to get all the images into a Lightroom folder so I could begin doing some basic ‘developing’. I use my latest cataloguing scheme to organise the images.

Develop in Lightroom

Develop in Lightroom

Whilst in Lightroom I ensure all the images have a similar exposure and white balance and perform cropping and straightening etc as appropriate. Once satisfied with the images I export each as a PSD file to the ‘Processed’ folder ready for manipulation in Photoshop.

Create a Blank Canvas

Once in Photoshop, and before opening any of the individual image files, I need to create a blank canvas which I will compose each of the images in. This will become the background onto which each individual image will be placed. This is pretty straight forward in Photoshop, just select File/New… from the menu to create a new file of the correct dimensions (12″ x 5″ in this case).

Create a Background

Create a Background

Process and Select Each Image

The next step is to select each of the individual images, doing any further processing as required before placing them onto the blank canvas.

Image Selection

Image Selection

There are great number of selection tools in Photoshop, probably the most powerful is the ‘Quick Selection’ tool with the ‘Select and Mask…’ enhancement. For a description of how to use this tool see this YouTube video by Brooke Shaden as well as this description. The main challenge with cutting people out of an image will be with the hair. In the above example this was fairly straight forward however if you have images where the hair is long and flowing and not separated well from the background you are going to have a tough job ahead. It can be done but requires a good deal of patience and a lot of time.

The major challenge I had in terms of image selection was the one of Linda with the grey afro hair where the requirement was for it to be black! Sounds like a straight forward select and change of colour right, but to make it look even half way authentic requires a fair bit of work otherwise the hair just looks too artificial (even if it is a wig). The best tutorial I found for how to changie hair colour is this one which I followed and was eventually able to get something I was happy with.

Place Images onto the Blank Canvas

Having edited and selected the individual images the final step is to place them onto the blank canvas.

Image Selection

Image Selection

This just involves copying the selected image, switching to the file containing the white background and pasting, then moving, the cutout image to the right position using the ‘Move Tool’.

The final challenge was that the last image was to have a starburst effect covering the model showing that the future was still unknown (but bright). This was done by blending a suitable starburst image with one of the selections of Linda.

Blending Images

Blending Images

The Final Image

Finally, here is the composite image created from the individual ones above all edited in the ways discussed.
Composite v6 (Medium)