The On Field Media Project, Teaching NGOs to Tell Their Own Stories

Digital Storytelling.001

“Photographs are the portal to one’s first impression of a non-profit’s mission via their website. Having amateurs do that work is always a serious compromise. The staff might know the stories but that doesn’t mean they can translate them into effective visual narrative. Just my opinion.” This was a recent comment addressed to me on Facebook after I posted about our recent On Field Media Project training in Africa. I left this persons name off the quote because they deleted the comment, I am not sure why. Maybe they had a change of heart. But I know there are other photographers who feel this same way. To me, this is old, classic, and somewhat colonial thinking. It’s a antiquated mindset that has to be challenged. Continue reading

Views of Kenya with the Fujinon XF 16mm f/1.4 WR

Fujinon XF 16mm f/1.4 WR Well balanced, but it couldn't be called a small lens.

Fujinon XF 16mm f/1.4 WR Well balanced, but it couldn’t be called a small lens.

 

Fujinon XF 16mm f/1.4 WR with it's tulip lens hood attached.

Fujinon XF 16mm f/1.4 WR with it’s tulip lens hood attached.

So just before I left for Kenya, I got a WhatsApp message from my contact at Fujifilm Malaysia telling me they had the yet-to-be-released Fujifilm XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR. I have been waiting for this lens since it showed up on the Fujifilm Lens Road Map. A 16mm f/ 1.4? That’s a lot of light!  But the real question was going to be, would I feel it was wide enough? Let’s face it, a 16mm lens on the X-system is effectively a 24mm in 35mm-speak and I generally like shooting wide. I like fast even better. This lens has not disappointed me.

f/1.4, 1/2000 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

f/1.4, 1/2000 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

 

f/1.4, 1/1250 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

f/1.4, 1/1250 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1


I really wanted to write this review before leaving and post it the day the lens was officially announced, but unfortunately I got the lens only the day before I left for Kenya and I have been working on an OFMP training everyday since I arrived. I was able to carve out a few moments here and there to put this little guy through some of it’s paces.

 

f/4, 1/10 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

f/4, 1/10 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1


Speaking of little, this actually isn’t all that small. It dwarfs the Fuji 14mm f/2.8. It’s bigger than the 23mm f/1.4 and the real shocker is, it is even slightly bigger than the 56mm f/1.2! I am not sure I understand why it needs to be this size. I understand the weight. It weighs right in between the 23mm and the 56mm at 375 g (0.83 lb), about where I expected. After all, it’s loaded with glass. But I don’t understand the size. It’s slightly bigger than the 56mm that is 3.5 times longer in focal length. But what this lens looses in size, it makes up in sharpness. Like many of the other Fujinon lenses, the 16mm is razor sharp. You need to be careful because you’ll cut yourself, its so sharp. It’s sharp at f/16 all the way to f/1.4. I was thoroughly surprised to see this lens was not only sharp in the center at f/1.4, it was also sharp from edge to edge.

 

f/10, 1/160 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

f/10, 1/160 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

 

I have yet to discover any chromatic aberrations at any f-stop. It’s here where I am suppose to tell you about the 13 lens elements in 11 groups, including 2 aspherical lens elements and the 2 ED glass lens elements to reduce lateral and axial chromatic aberration, but honestly I have no idea what that means, so as Clark Gable once said, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn!”. All I know is it is crazy sharp!

 

f/10, 1/40 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

f/10, 1/40 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

 

I do know nice-looking bokeh when I see it, and this lens has it. Apparently it has to do with the 9 aperture blades. Again, I am less concerned with why it happens and more concern with “does it look nice?”, and it does.

The lens is weather sealed and becomes a great addition to the the weather sealed X-T1. Twice on this trip I was shooting in the rain and the camera got completely drenched. Not a problem.

 

f/1.4, 1/400 sec, at 16mm, 200 ISO, on a X-T1

f/1.4, 1/400 sec, at 16mm, 200 ISO, on a X-T1

 

f/1.4, 1/550 sec, at 16mm, 200 ISO, on a X-T1

f/1.4, 1/550 sec, at 16mm, 200 ISO, on a X-T1

 

I have read somewhere that this lens was slightly slow focusing using phase detection. Maybe, but I never experienced it. Every time I used it, it seemed to snap to focus as quick as the best Fuji lens.

I want to be fair here; I have not put this lens through a tough regiment of shooting. I just received this lens as I was leaving for an OFMP training at The Kilgoris Project in Kenya and only had a limited amount of time with it. What I can say is I am not disappointed with it. Unlike the 16-55mm, a lens that I felt was a well crafted lens but will never find it’s way into my bag, there is a chance this lens will not come off my camera! It is just wide enough to provide context in photos without creating undo distortion on the edges. It is fast, so it will be useful in low light situations, it is sharp and focuses quickly and accurately. What more can a photographer want? My guess is once I get this lens, my 23mm f/1.4 and my 14mm f/2.8 will stay in my bag a lot more.

 

f/1.4, 1/320 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

f/1.4, 1/320 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

 

Did you know that this is the 4th lens in Fujifilms lens lineup at the 16mm focal length? They have the 10-24mm f/4, the 16-55mm f/2.8 and the XC 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6. None of these are primes and all of them slower, with the fastest being the 16-55mm at f/2.8. It might surprise some of you that I never bought the 10-24mm f/4. As sharp as that lens is, and it is really sharp, I found it too slow at f/4. Yes, I know it has image stabilization (OIS) but that just stabilizes the lens not the subject. When I did use the 10-24mm, it was almost always on at the wider end between the 10 to 16mm focal length. So the new 16mm lens gives me speed at f/1.4 and a nice wide focal length. Do I wish this was a wider lens? Sure. But at the moment, there is no wider lens at this speed on the Fuji Road Map. But I can live with that. This lens hits the sweet spot for me.

 

f/1.4, 1/1250 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

f/1.4, 1/1250 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

f/1.4, 1/60 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

f/1.4, 1/60 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

 

The 16mm seems to have plenty of contrast and shooting at f/1.4 it gives your subject a nice separation from it’s background. It focuses close, as you can see from the tea flower and the daisy image below. I think I was as close as 6 inch or more. The bokeh get more impressive the closer you get to your subject.

 

f/1.4, 1/1800 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

f/1.4, 1/1800 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

 

f/1.4, 1/1250 sec, at 16mm, 200 ISO, on a X-T1

f/1.4, 1/1250 sec, at 16mm, 200 ISO, on a X-T1

f/3.2, 1/90 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

f/3.2, 1/90 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

 

The lens is suppose to be selling on Amazon for $999… er $1,000. So in the end, it comes down to would I shell out $1,000 for a 16mm f/1.4 lens? The answer is a resounding, “Heck yeah!”

 

f/5, 1/1100 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

f/5, 1/1100 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

 

f/1.4, 1/1250 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

f/1.4, 1/1250 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

f/1.4, 1/1000 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

f/1.4, 1/1000 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

f/1.4, 1/2500 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

f/1.4, 1/2500 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

 

f/1.4, 1/2000 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

f/1.4, 1/2000 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

 

f/16, 1/110 sec, at 16mm, 200 ISO, on a X-T1

f/16, 1/110 sec, at 16mm, 200 ISO, on a X-T1

Marco Pierre White and Greatness

marco_white_quote

Recently I watch an episode of Master Chef Australia that featured Chef Marco White. This is Master Chef Australia  not US. I have always been amazed at the kind but gentle guidance that the chef Gary Mehigan, chef George Calombaris and food critic Matt Preston give each participants. Often  Master Chef Australia has celebrity chefs come to teach and inspire the contestants. This last episode featured Marco Pierre White. I have heard many people compare him to Hell’s Kitchen’s Gordon Ramsay. But there is no comparison, White discovered Ramsay and I would venture to say Ramsay patterned his gruff evil demeanor after White. Continue reading

The Maasai

A Maasai Mother and Child.

A Maasai Mother and Child. Ollolailei, Kenya

In the last post I wrote about my time with the folks at the Kilgoris Project in Kenya. The project helps Maasai children to obtain a quality education – in short it gives them the leverage to choose their future. The Maasai are a proud people from Kenya and northern Tanzania. They are semi-nomadic herdsmen that are renown for their bravery. We met one old man that as a test of bravery killed a lion with just his spear, he had the teeth marks in his arm to prove it!

I was privileged to be able to photograph a few of the Maasai children and adults that live in villages that are apart of the Kilgoris project. These are special people on so many levels. I really hope I was able to portray their strong spirit.

 

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Two Friends. Ollolailei, Kenya

 

A young Maasai girl in ceremonial dress.

A young Maasai girl in ceremonial dress.

 

Life doesn't frighten him at all. Kilgoris, Kenya

Life doesn’t frighten him at all. Kilgoris, Kenya

 

 

The Kilgoris Project

School starts early under the tree in Ndege, Kenya.

School starts early under the tree in Ndege, Kenya.

 

This week I had the privilege of photographing the extraordinary work being done by The Kilgoris Project in Western Kenya.  The Kilgoris Project is an NGO started around 10 years ago by Caren and Jon McCormack to provide quality education to the children of the Maasai. If you are a long time reader of my blog then you are familiar with this extraordinary work. In fact, I would encourage you to listen to the podcast I did with Jon a year ago last March. You’ll find it HERE.

Even though I have known about Jon and Caren’s work for some time, this was my first Kilgoris experience. While Jon and I took off to the bush to photograph two new prospective sites for more schools, Gavin Gough and Lesley Fisher were busy running Gavin’s amazing charity, SeedLight. The idea behind SeedLight is to help kids to express themselves through photography. Learn more about Gavin’s work HERE.

Jon and I visited two prospective locations for new schools. Each school is in a rural area that offers only one school for miles. The schools we visited in Ndege and Ollolailei, are spread over several miles. Each community might have one school that educates 500 to 600 children, but this is only counting the children who actually attend, there are many, many others who just don’t make the hike. Many communities like Ollolailei have no road. Children who are only 5 or 6 years of age will literally hike miles through the bush just to attend classes. But these schools are over-crowded–often 80 kids to a class and three to a desk. The schools usually have no funding for facilities for lunch programs, and with so many of the students walking so far to come to school, the classes are kept to only a half day. By the way, the older children arrive at school by 7:00am in order to receive tuition and don’t leave school till 5:00pm!

At both Ndege and Ollolailei the school is literally made of mud and sticks. Ndege is less rural and has over 500 students. The school has around 10 or so classrooms, but with no room left over for the primary children, they have their classes outside under a tree. It might be beautiful to look at, but not so nice when the rain starts. On those days, there simply is no class. Ollolailei is way off the road. Here the school is only one room and it does double-duty as their church. Here they have two classes under the a huge tree.

I am touched to be able to share with you some images from this week.

A note to all you photo geeks: All these images were shot with Fujifilm X-Pro 1.

 

Ndege children waiting for school to start.

Ndege children waiting for school to start.

 

Children often are three to a desk.

Children often are three to a desk.

 

Philip Oloetiptip is the 1st grade at Ndege.

Philip Oloetiptip is the 1st grade teacher at Ndege.

 

Oloetiptip and his 1st grade class.

Oloetiptip and his 1st grade class.

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A smiling student at Ndege.

 

Children sit early in the morning for tuition.

Children sit early in the morning for tuition.

 

A child waits outside his classroom at Ollolailei.

A child waits outside his classroom at Ollolailei.

 

A Masai elder stands next to  the schools class under the three at Ollolailei

A Maasai elder stands next to the schools class under the three at Ollolailei

 

The one room school house and church at Ollolailei.

The one room school house and church at Ollolailei.

If you would like to donate to the work that the Kilgoris Project is doing in Kenya, here’s your chance. Please donate.