I recently shot a Day in the Life / Birth story which I title “When Maja met Lenny”.

Warning:  Some fairly graphic, but I think beautiful, images towards the end of the blog post.

The photo film is shown again below, but I had a lot of questions after that post regarding the equipment I used, and how I shot the day.

So, in today’s post, I’ll explore the shoot a little further with stills and some background information.

I shot the entire sequence on one X-Pro2 with the 23mm F2 WR lens attached and one X-T2 with the 50mm F2 WR lens attached.

Why did I choose the F2 lenses over the faster equivalents?

Well, the simple reason, in this case, was size.

The F2 lenses are the newer, lighter, weather sealed lenses in the Fujifilm range.  I honestly think they are amazing.

  • They are faster to focus than their 1.4 and 1.2 counterparts.
  • They are lighter.
  • They are cheaper.
  • They are weather sealed.

The only real downside for me is that extra stop of light gathering ability.

I’d shot in an operating theatre before, so I knew that the light was reasonable – if not perfect – and I was more than comfortable at shooting with the F2 lenses.

In fact, the only time I really needed to push the ISO was earlier in the day when I spent some time with the family before heading to the hospital.

Earlier in the day…

This particular shoot started with a more traditional Day in the Life type session with Maja and mum and dad and the idea was to shoot some of the time before the birth before Maja’s brother entered the world.

The clients don’t live near me, and I knew I’d be travelling around a lot so the traveling light was imperative.  This was another reason I chose to have only the two cameras and the two F2 lenses with me.

Fujifilm XF23mm F2 Fujifilm XF50mm F2 (on the right), compared to its big brother, the 56mm F1.2

When I’m shooting candid family photography, especially children, I love the compactness of the cameras and it’s a real benefit to having the flip down screen of the X-T2 available for me at this point too.

Day in the Life PhotographyFujifilm X-Pro2 ~ XF23mm F2 @ f/2, 1/125th Second, ISO 1,000

Day in the Life PhotographyFujifilm X-T2 ~ XF50mm F2 @ f/2, 1/250th Second, ISO 1,250 Day in the Life PhotographyFujifilm X-Pro2 ~ XF23mm F2 @ f/2, 1/125th Second, ISO 1,600

I’m a firm believer in that there is a story to be told in even the most seemingly mundane of everyday events.  Even if those events are having breakfast, or tidying a room.

The connection between people is very precious and as we all remember from our own childhood, the comfort we get from our own parents just doing everyday things is very powerful.

I like, well try at least, to tell these stories in my images.

Birth PhotographyFujifilm X-T2 ~ XF23mm F2 @ f/2, 1/125th Second, ISO 640Birth PhotographyFujifilm X-T2 ~ XF23mm F2 @ f/2, 1/125th Second, ISO 800

A challenge for me in this part of the day was trying to communicate the relationship between Maja, mum and the as un yet, unborn baby.

In as many images as I could, I tried to include all three when the opportunity arose.

When telling a story, whether it’s through text or images, I try to remember to inform the reader or viewer of the five Ws.

  • Who
  • Why
  • Where
  • When
  • What

This helps me a lot with the storytelling element of shooting.

Family PhotographyFujifilm X-Pro2 ~ XF50mm F2 @ f/2, 1/125th Second, ISO 200Family PhotographyFujifilm X-Pro2 ~ XF50mm F2 @ f/2, 1/125th Second, ISO 320Family PhotographyFujifilm X-Pro2 ~ XF50mm F2 @ f/2, 1/125th Second, ISO 320

As we got closer to the time when we would leave for the hospital, the weather took a turn for the worse.

Again, I think this is an important element of the day to remember.  I subsequently asked my own mum what the weather was like on the day I was born and she simply couldn’t remember the detail.

Family PhotographerFujifilm X-T2 ~ XF23mm F2 @ f/2, 1/320th Second, ISO 200Family PhotographerFujifilm X-T2 ~ XF23mm F2 @ f/2, 1/300th Second, ISO 200

This image below remains one of my favourites from the set.  It’s a simple image, and technically not special at all, but I think the combination of mum waving, the obvious nature of the pregnancy and little Maja giving her a comforting wave at the window works for me.  I’m a proper softy, mind.

Family Photography LondonFujifilm X-T2 ~ XF23mm F2 @ f/4, 1/180th Second, ISO 200

Shooting quietly and Observationally

Of course, as you can imagine, when shooting in an environment such as a hospital and definitely in an operating theatre, it is incredibly important to shoot sensibly, considerably and quietly.

Birth PhotographyFujifilm X-Pro2 ~ XF50mm F2 @ f/2.2, 1/160th Second, ISO 200Birth PhotographyFujifilm X-T2 ~ XF23mm F2 @ f/2, 1/125th Second, ISO 200 Birth PhotographyFujifilm X-Pro2 ~ XF50mm F2 @ f/2.2, 1/160th Second, ISO 200

Even the difference between using the 1.2 and 1.4 lenses compared to the F2 equivalents can make a difference here.

Both my 56mm F1.2 and my 23mm F1.4 have served me well, and continue to do so.  However, there is a mechanical noise when autofocusing, they are slower to focus and simply bigger – in delicate situations like a birth, these subtle nuances can make all the difference.

The Birth

I shot a whole load of images surrounding the day of course.  In fact, the clients will receive something like four hundred and fifty.

The culmination, and pinnacle of the whole day, I suppose, is the actual moment of birth of the new little baby.

By shooting with the AF-L button, using a back button focusing technique, I managed to shoot around 60 frames of the actual emergence of the baby.

I shot the sequence with:

  • AF-L
  • Single Shot AF
  • Manual Focus Mode
  • Some images Spot Metered
  • Release Priority set to Focus for AF-S

Frame #1birth photographyFujifilm X-T2 ~ XF23mm F2 @ f/2, 1/220th Second, ISO 200

Frame #17 birth photographyFujifilm X-T2 ~ XF23mm F2 @ f/2, 1/480th Second, ISO 200

Frame #35 birth photographyFujifilm X-T2 ~ XF23mm F2 @ f/2, 1/480th Second, ISO 200

Frame #42 birth photographyFujifilm X-T2 ~ XF23mm F2 @ f/2, 1/1,250th Second, ISO 200

 

The above sequence was shot using the electronic shutter.  I had checked previously on the pulsing of the lighting in the environment and decided it was fine. Shooting with the electronic shutter, of course, make the whole process totally silent.  To the point where the surgeon later asked me (as he did four years ago), if I’d actually taken any images.

Shooting with the electronic shutter, of course, make the whole process totally silent.  To the point where the surgeon later asked me (as he did four years ago), if I’d actually taken any images.[/alert]

There is a whole lot more that goes on once the baby is safely in the world.  Of course, there is lots of emotion (and the odd silent tear and sniff from me) from the parents, but the doctors and midwives are busy too.

There is weighing, cleaning and preparing etc.

At this point, I’m acutely aware of my own presence and I certainly don’t want to interrupt any of the activity.  Shooting with the flip down screen allowed me to stand back a little and get those very first moments of life captured too without any chance of compromising the events unfolding.

Birth PhotographyFujifilm X-T2 ~ XF23mm F2 @ f/2, 1/140th Second, ISO 200 Birth PhotographyFujifilm X-T2 ~ XF23mm F2 @ f/2, 1/125th Second, ISO 200

There is a wider, and everlasting story here of course.  And that’s the one of new life, love and happiness.

The pictures, really, are just pixels of those memories.

Why the 23mm F2 lens and not the X100F?

This is another question I was asked after the shoot by several photographers (11, in fact).

The answer, quite simply, was that I wanted to have the option to switch between lenses on the bodies.  I actually photographed a previous birth story using the X100S quite comfortably.

However, as is the case with weddings, when I’m shooting commercial work, I rarely shoot with *just* X100F cameras.  I can shoot all day on the streets, or my own personal photography, but for client work, I want the ability to either shoot with the X100F AND an interchangeable or with a couple of interchangeable cameras.

I believe the X100F would have yielded the same images, but I may have felt just that tiny bit less comfortable on the day.

You can get the 23mm F2 now and also the 50mm F2 if you wish.  They really are great little lenses.

The Inspired Eye Street Photography Magazine

I mentioned recently how I read The Inspired Eye Street Photography magazine.

It’s curated by Olivier Duong and is a really good read.  I’ve found lots of inspirational articles in there.

I’ve recently been chatting to Olivier and has said he will offer $100 off a subscription just for the readers of this blog.  The offer expires on the 30th June though (WHICH IS TOMORROW), so if you want to subscribe, be quick.

If you wish to take up this kind offer, then use this link to get $100 off the subscription price.

  • Happy Snapping – Kevin (in my Studio in Malmesbury, listening to BBC Radio 3, Essential Classics))
  • Bob Owen

    Terrific documentary Kevin, especially the light on the baby before no lifted in the operating theatre. All your W’s firmly ticked!

  • a perfect description of these fantastic lenses … agree to every word, Kevin … use them now nearly to 3/4 of my time. And – of course – great pictures again!. Well done!

  • Great post, Kevin. I really love the emotion in your images. Plus it’s inspiring me to shoot a lot with “Acros + R” on my new X-Pro2. I recently switched from Canon & Sony. Your images, blog, & videos played a pretty pivotal role in that decision. So thank you for that.

    On your B/W images I notice they have a bit of a brown or yellow color shift to them. Are you doing that in camera or in post? I’ve been messing around with everything to see what I can make happen, but am guessing that slight tonal shift is happening in post.

    Thanks so much for all you do!

  • Terrific submission, top quality images (I’m a B&W shooter first and foremost) and a wonderful narrative. I enjoy my 23mm f2 and find the option of being able to switch in my case between that and my 35mm f1.4 better than a fixed lens X100. Thank you.

  • What a storytelling! This is what photography is all about. A truly articulate seeing!

  • Lovely frames and great storytelling, Kevin!
    And the 1.4 lenses you only use for low light situations?

  • Martin S. Klein

    Stunning as usual!

  • moses

    beautiful work, Kevin. truly inspiring storytelling. i’m sure the clients were quite happy with the results.

  • moses

    hi Kevin, I don’t believe the link is working for the inspired eye magazine subscription.

  • absolutely amazing photos, every single one of them. Great story-telling serie. Also very inspiring to use my 23mm more.

  • Amazing work, thank you for your comment because you use this or that lens or such or such camera, good luck !!

  • Doug Casement

    Hi Kevin,
    Superb and inspiring as always. Many thanks for the ongoing inspiration.
    The Inspired Eye link appears to be broken, going to this page: https://www.theinspiredeye.net/rephotography-course/
    Which appears to be a “course closed at the moment” page at the moment. Have tried several times in case it was user error at my end – the normal cause of technical issues…
    Cheers
    Doug Casement

    • I think the signup closed on the 30th June Doug….

      • Doug Casement

        Thanks Kevin, I had tried several times yesterday on the 30th – just hadn’t commented in time to be helpful! 🤔

  • Juraj

    One more dimension in your photos I see is a respect for intimity of the event.
    Really inspiring and eye pleasing post.
    Juraj

  • andy

    Hi Kevin
    When using my x100t im able to meter by using the evf and by manually changing the shutter speed to get the light just how i want. i find this quicker and easier than spot metering. great feature.

    But i just cant find the settings to get my xpro2 evf to behave in the same way. no matter what speed the shutter is set to the evf seems to compensate and does not show how the image will look once ive taken it. have tried various settings and just cant get it to work like my x100t. hoping you might be able to help.

    andy

    • The XP2 should behave the same way. Unless you are looking through the OVF or Hybrid VF?

      • andy

        in case anybody is interested finally found the setting for the xpro2 under wrench: screen setup: preview exp wb in manual mode: preview exp wb

  • Stellar!!! Would love to know your thoughts on the 50 2.0 rather than the 56 1.2

  • I can’t believe that I missed this entry! So blown away by your take on birth photography ( my own personal favorite subject to photograph). As always, and absolutely fantastic job Kevin! I am definitely intrigued and checking out the 23 and the 50 WR to add to my collection! Bravo sir, bravo!