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.
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.
Fujifilm X-Pro2 ~ XF23mm F2 @ f/2, 1/125th Second, ISO 1,000
Fujifilm X-T2 ~ XF50mm F2 @ f/2, 1/250th Second, ISO 1,250 Fujifilm 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.
Fujifilm X-T2 ~ XF23mm F2 @ f/2, 1/125th Second, ISO 640Fujifilm 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.
This helps me a lot with the storytelling element of shooting.
Fujifilm X-Pro2 ~ XF50mm F2 @ f/2, 1/125th Second, ISO 200Fujifilm X-Pro2 ~ XF50mm F2 @ f/2, 1/125th Second, ISO 320Fujifilm 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.
Fujifilm X-T2 ~ XF23mm F2 @ f/2, 1/320th Second, ISO 200Fujifilm 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.
Fujifilm 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.
Fujifilm X-Pro2 ~ XF50mm F2 @ f/2.2, 1/160th Second, ISO 200Fujifilm X-T2 ~ XF23mm F2 @ f/2, 1/125th Second, ISO 200 Fujifilm 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.
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:
- Single Shot AF
- Manual Focus Mode
- Some images Spot Metered
- Release Priority set to Focus for AF-S
Frame #1Fujifilm X-T2 ~ XF23mm F2 @ f/2, 1/220th Second, ISO 200
Frame #17 Fujifilm X-T2 ~ XF23mm F2 @ f/2, 1/480th Second, ISO 200
Frame #35 Fujifilm X-T2 ~ XF23mm F2 @ f/2, 1/480th Second, ISO 200
Frame #42 Fujifilm X-T2 ~ XF23mm F2 @ f/2, 1/1,250th Second, ISO 200
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.
Fujifilm X-T2 ~ XF23mm F2 @ f/2, 1/140th Second, ISO 200 Fujifilm 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.
The Inspired Eye Street Photography Magazine
I mentioned recently how I read The Inspired Eye Street Photography magazine.
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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))