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Gear Inspiration

Stephen Bell: A London Stroll with a Fujifilm X-M1 and XC16-50mm

· 24.January.2016

I inherited some money last year and treated myself to some pro photography gear – Nikon D810, a few lenses – as a part of working towards a second career as a photographer “one day” (!) The Nikon camera is superb but with a 16-35mm on it it is huge. And heavy. Not really a casual travel camera. So I looked around for a small compact and read about the Fuji sensor… then found the cheapest iteration of the same in an X-M1 for an amazing £300, including the 16-50mm zoom.

Stephen Bell is a keen amateur photographer from Cheshire, UK. Recently some of his work has been published by Cheshire Life magazine, including the cover of the January 2016 edition. He has taught photography in the past as an aspect of being an art teacher but is currently an education officer with a local authority where he commissions school expansions and new school buildings.

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It has to be said that the silver and brown leather retro look did it as much as the hope of quality pictures. Gorgeous in an age of black slabs of plastic it really stood out and garners interest wherever I take it. Full marks to Mr. Fujifilm.

By chance I was to speak at a small conference in London a few days after buying the camera, which was thrown into my bag as I rushed out for the train. Speech delivered I had some hours before the train back, so took the Fuji out for a stroll. First stop was Tate Britain Gallery. The Tate Modern elsewhere in London has rather overshadowed the original gallery but I have fond memories of visiting it in my student days, and later taking students around it during my teaching years. Behind a frontage of Victorian Corinthian columns lies a central axis of classical pastiche that serves as the link to multiple runs of galleries, many decorated with entrance porticos deemed suitable for high art in times past.

Tate Britain Gallery

Tate Britain Gallery

 

Tate Britain Gallery

Tate Britain Gallery

 

The little X-M1 coped admirably with the different light sources and even the spotlit paintings fared well: the sensor seems most forgiving and although there were colour casts to manage later there seemed no loss of information such as I have found with other cameras who take a hissy fit when the light isn’t 5500K. Close up wide views suffer from the inevitable barreling which was easily fixed later but no sign of the dreaded ‘mustache’ distortion which is a difficult to counter. A really good lens.

Tate Britain Gallery

Tate Britain Gallery

 

My exit from the Tate Britain was via the Clore Gallery extension. Much criticized this is a slice of post modernist architecture designed by Stirling to house an extensive collection of Turner’s artwork. I like the care that has gone into the design, and found the sweeping curves of a stairway a photographic draw. Minus a few of the garish colours and the architecture I think serviceable but whether it will ever be a good frame for the Turner collection is a good question, often asked. I am sure that the irascible Turner would have enjoyed the controversy!

Clore Gallery

Clore Gallery

 

My stroll continued on along Millbrook, admiring the Victorian and Edwardian architecture. Then in Tower Gardens my first chance to see the restored Buxton Memorial Fountain that commemorates the emancipation of slaves in the Empire in 1834. A gothic fantasy that makes an intriguing subject rather surreally placed in the gardens adjacent top the Houses of Parliament. Outside those houses on Scholars Green there was a protest taking place against further tobacco sales restrictions where the masked protesters were gathered for a photoshoot. Bizarre example of democracy. I shot a few pictures around this area, including St. Margarets’ Church, and some views of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. Day’s sculpture to commemorate the anniversary of the Battle of Britain, the London Eye all taken on a gloomy day but still of interest.

Slavery Abolition Monument

Slavery Abolition Monument

 

Slavery Abolition Monument

Slavery Abolition Monument

 

On to Trafalgar Square. I was sans any form of tripod but resting my bag on a bollard gave me a base for a long exposure of the fountains, then to the National Portrait Gallery to see an interesting exhibition of the Tudors before rushing to the underground to commence my journey home.

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square

 

National Portrait Gallery

National Portrait Gallery

 

London Underground

London Underground

 

After this, and other Fuji adventures I have given in to Fuji love and ordered a monochromatic X-T10 plus a couple of lenses. However the retro look is sorely diminished and the lenses ordered are black. Ugh. Take a de-merit Mr. Fujifilm. It’s a good job that sensor is so good.

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