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Inspiration

X100S in Istanbul

· 4.March.2016

I’m Gaetano Belverde, a journalist and photographer from Italy. I love to shoot street/reportage and portraits. I like to keep my approach quite simple, I love to spend time speaking with people before I take a shot. I aim to be very close to my subjects and that is why I often use a wide angle lens. I generally work alone, with small amount of equipment, in order to go unnoticed and capture my subjects spontaneously.

 

Gaetano Belverde is a reporter and journalist writing for several Italian newspapers and magazines. You can look at more of Gaetano’s work on his website.

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In the last few years I tested several DSLRs from different brands, mainly with fast prime lenses and some mid-range zooms. I was always looking for a system that can ensure great portability, discretion and, of course, good quality. All the reflex cameras I tested were so bulky and flashy, that when I was trying to shoot portraits and candids on the street, people often felt embarrassed. When I was using larger lenses, they were reacting very badly, like they have been being focused at with a weapon.

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For this very reason, a few years ago I decided to try the Fuji X100, a little camera with retro design, very small but with a DX sensor for good quality. I tested this camera for a few months, but I finally sold it because of its slow AF response (even though with the last firmware update the original X100 AF speed was boosted). So when the X100s was presented I bought one for me and the AF was much better this time. My favourite lens is a 28mm eq., so I found the WCL-X100 so perfect for my needs. Now I’m working with the small Fuji X100S plus WCL-X100 and the X-E2 with XF 18mm, these are my tools for street. For portraiture works I also tested my old Nikon fast prime AFD 50mm 1.4 with very good results. Thanks to the focus peaking feature inside the X-E2, I’m able to work with all my old lens designed for single reflex cameras.

Last year, after a longer time, I came back to Istanbul. In fact, I already produced a reportage about this nice city in 2009. At that time I was carrying a bulky Nikon D700 with me and had a lot of problems when shooting people on the streets without being noticed, in order to get spontaneous portraits and street scenes. This time I planned to shoot the reportage with a very small and powerful camera from Fuji. I choose the X100S that allows me to keep a low profile and stay unnoticed among the tourists in the old city. Nobody paid attention to me and to my small stealth camera. Istanbul is the city of hundred names, it straddles two continents as a natural bridge between East and West. This time I focused my attention on the Eminonu district and the area near the port. This is the crucial point between the two shores of the Bosphorus. There, in the Golden Horn, every night at dusk, the light goes down quickly, and the sky above the bridge turns pink. At sunset the view is magnificent. When the signs of the restaurants are turned on, they draw coloured beams of light on the water channel; following them your eyes will meet the nearby austere silhouette of the Yamii Mosque. I visited this mosque several times during the day in order to get the right light with the right subject and when I was in the arcaded courtyard on the west side, I found a lady sitting on the flight of steps and thanks to the very silent operation of X100S I was able to shoot from less than 1 meter away from the subject without being noticed.

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Thanks to the nice ISO performance of the X100S I was able to shoot some photos on the square at very low light and just with the light of the vendors of tickets and chestnuts. The same with some ladies on the subway.

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The X100S sensor is extremely sensible and allows to record the colours of the dusk even at very low light. In the port area the stuffed mussel sellers place their stalls along the Galata Bridge, trading among people and spreading a good smell of fish into the air every night. At the same place an army of fishermen lined up along the Galata Bridge and the harbor and dropped their lines in the water. Here I met a family, a mother, a newborn baby and the dad who was about to start fishing for the dinner.

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The light was low, but even with a shutter speed of 1/10 sec. all details have remained visible. In fact, unlike the reflex camera, which has a mirror that moves during shooting, the X100S has an electronic shutter which causes no vibration and therefore the shutter speed can stay really slow.

The area of Sultanahmet, where Hagia Sofia is located, is also where most of the ancient city monuments are: Topkapi, the Byzantine Cistern of the Yerebatan Saray Basilica, the Blue Mosque, the National Archaeological Museum, the Grand Bazaar; these are just few of the most famous monuments that deserve a visit. The local little markets, the Port of Eminonu, the Armenian Kurdish neighborhood of Balat, the University, or the well-known area of Taksim and Istkal Caddesi, are just few of the other must-seen places of this city. These districts are full of people, day and night, and is very easy to find good ideas and good pictures. The important thing is to be ready to shoot in a very short time. In this regard, the X100S is very responsive and using the pre/zone-focus technique and its OVF, it becomes very fast. Thanks to the camera being totally silent, the photos can be taken almost in the faces of subjects without being heard – it was the case of this portrait of the girl, that I took just a few centimetres away from her face.

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The roads of Istanbul are not just a place for walking or running, but a place to meet, play ball, search for coolness in the sultry summer evenings; it is also a place for trading, where people sell all sorts of merchandise.

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On the old bazaar ancient professions coexist with blacksmiths producing the copper crescent moon, and sellers of T-shirts and souvenirs. Tradition and modernity, two aspects that seem to live together perfectly.

You can find more pictures at my site at www.gaetanobelverde.it