Fujifilm X-T4 Quick Review – Two Things

Originally a Nikon shooter, I bought the Fujifilm X-T1 when it came out to give mirrorless a try. There was a bit of a learning curve for the X-T1 and I favored my Nikon for my food photography, but I did appreciate the lightweight Fujifilm for travel. With the release of the X-T2 and X-T3, I upgraded each time. Each iteration had improvements, but it wasn’t until spending the last two months shooting with the X-T4 that I felt compelled to say “I REALLY like this camera!” And, I haven’t even tried shooting video with it. There are two main features added to the X-T4 that have really made the way I shoot easier, which I will focus on here.

First, I thought the IBIS (In Body Image Stabilization) might be useful; who can’t use help getting sharper handheld images. I have IS lenses for both my Nikon and Fujifilm cameras, so I’m used to that technology. But, I’ve never had a camera with in body stabilization. I have really been impressed with the very useable images I have been able to shoot handheld at much lower shutter speeds than I’d ever been able to do before. I understand that the X-T4 combines both the lens IS when available and IBIS to enable you to shoot at much slower shutter speeds. I was really surprised by this handheld test shot of ginger! Shot without a tripod using my new Fujifilm 80mm macro with image stabilization at 1/8 second, it is now in my stock portfolio:

1:1 Enlargement of the ginger above.

The second feature I really like is one that I wasn’t expecting to care about. That is the new, fully articulating screen. When I purchased the camera, I didn’t think the screen would be such a big deal, since I don’t shoot vlogs or selfies – that’s more for the younger generation. But, since I shoot most of my food and still-life on a tripod and overhead shots are so popular now, I often used to find myself needing to stand on a stool to see the screen since I am short. Yes, I’ve tried using the live view shooting on the Fujifilm app, but the image update delay can be frustrating. Now, I just twist the screen around 90 degrees to the camera back when shooting overhead and fire away with the remote button on the app.

Speaking of the Fujifilm app, I love that too! Nikon’s little ML-L3 wireless shutter release used to be one of the best little accessories for shooting food, but now I have one less thing to loose. I just use the Fujifilm Cam Remote app as my wireless shutter release!

I’m not emotionally quite ready to part with ALL my Nikon gear, but I’m moving in that direction. I will keep my Nikon D750 and a few lenses for now, but have already sold some of my more expensive, under-used Nikon glass. As I simplify my life, I can see a day in the future where I might be able to let go of Nikon and be all in with the X-T4.

These images and more are available from my portfolio on iStock and Getty Images. Please license them there if you would like to use them.

I occasionally link to products I use on Amazon and other sites. If you click on these links and make a purchase, I may get a small commission and thank you for that!

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Quick Pickled Onions

When I was little, my parents’ favorite restaurant was a family owned Italian restaurant in Mt. Carmel, Pennsylvania called Mattucci’s. Even as young as 10 or 12, my favorite thing on the menu was their antipasto, and my favorite thing on the antipasto was the pickled onions! Four plus decades later, I have yet to find a better antipasto (although I haven’t been to Italy YET!)

I still love pickled onions… quick pickling onions mellows the sulfur compounds that make an onion “strong” and adds the tang of vinegar and salt. Plus, by thinly slicing the onion all at once and pickling them, they are ready to add to your next salad, wrap or sandwich without breaking out the mandolin or dirtying a knife. Since they will last in the refrigerator for about a month, I try to keep a jar on hand most of the time.

Quick pickled red onions with thyme in a glass jar on a rustic wooden table.

For these, I use at least 1 part vinegar to 1 part water. If you like things really tangy, you could use more vinegar but since I am trying to cut added sugar out of my diet, I go with 1:1 but don’t add any sugar like some do.

Quick Pickled Onions

1 onion sliced thinly
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
Herbs or peppercorn add-ins as desired

Place thinly sliced onions in a clear jar with any add-ins. 
Heat water and salt in a measuring cup in the microwave until hot.
Stir until salt dissolves and then add vinegar. 
Pour hot mixture over onions. 
Allow to cool a bit and then place the lid on the jar 
and refrigerate.

I like to use red onions because they turn a beautiful magenta color as they pickle, but white onions work fine too.

These images and more are available from my portfolio on iStock and Getty Images. Please license them there if you would like to use them.

I occasionally link to products I use on Amazon and other sites. If you click on these links and make a purchase, I may get a small commission and thank you for that!

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Chautauqua UK 2019

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Last week I returned from a ten day trip to the UK. I was there to attend an event called Chautauqua, a gathering of people interested in FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early). Although there was much to love about the trip, the people I met were definitely the highlight. The group was so diverse and interesting. There was a woman from Copenhagen, a couple who lived on a boat in the south of France, a blogger who lives in Scotland, a couple who has been traveling the world for the last four years and several homeless people! Homeless by choice, that is – homeless millionaires! Along with the international attendees, there were people from Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina and more.  Yet, this was not a large group – attendance was limited to 30 participants plus the speakers.

If you have heard of the FI movement, you may recognize some of the speakers. JL Collins is the grand-daddy of them all and the one who started Chautauqua seven years ago. Reading his book, A Simple Path to Wealth really resonated with me – especially the part about “F-You Money!” This year’s event was organized by Katie and Alan Donegan and superbly organized it was! Each day we had one speaker – with fun activities, lots of time for getting to know each other and LOTS of elegant food in between. Our speakers, in order of appearance were: JL Collins, Kristy and Bryce of Millennial Revolution, Carl – Mr. 1500, Jullian from Montana Money Adventures, and Alan from PopUp Business School.  Brandon, “The Mad Fientist” was also there to help mentor.

Smoked Duck Appetizer

The Food! – Smoked Duck Appetizer

One of the most refreshing and impressive things was the openness, honesty and lack of pretension of everyone I met. There were people on their way to FI, but there were also quite a few already there. There were people who had sold their businesses and were multi-millionaires. Despite that, no one dressed to impress. I didn’t see one Louis Vuitton bag or Rolex and only a few diamond rings. These people spent their money on things they valued, not things to impress other people – and they valued their freedom more than material goods.

The event was held at a historic English manor built in 1858 known as Ettington Park in Stratford-upon-Avon. On our way there, we took a walking tour of Oxford University. One afternoon we went into the town of Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of Shakespeare, and attended a role-reversed production of “Taming of the Shrew” at the Royal Shakespeare Theater.  The last evening we got to watch the new documentary “Playing with Fire” – all together in a room with many of the people in the film – surreal! The remainder of the time we luxuriated in the relaxed pace, walking the grounds of the hotel, soaking in the pool or sipping drinks in the garden. There were impromptu jam sessions, croquet games and a yoga class. Chautauqua was unlike any other event I have ever been to and the magic of it was definitely the time to connect with the other like-minded participants. I am sure everyone there made lifelong friendships… I am pretty sure I have!

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Ettington Park

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Ettington Park

Radcliffe Camera at Oxford

Radcliffe Camera at Oxford

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The Royal Shakespeare Theater

Chautauqua Dinner at the Royal Shakespeare Theater

Dinner at the Royal Shakespeare Theater

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All images except for the very first one are mine and many can be licensed at iStockphoto.com. I don’t know who to thank for the first image, but I believe it was taken by one of the hotel staff.
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Getting Back on the Trail

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Sometimes life events can cause you to divert from your intended path… eventually taking you down a different trail. It’s always a good feeling to get back out there and move forward again. In my case, getting back on the trail means getting back out in nature with my camera, which I did recently at Harpeth River State Park.

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The park is just west of Nashville, Tennessee a few miles north of Interstate 40. It’s not a large park, but has a nice overlook which provides a good little aerobic workout to reach even though the trail is only a third of a mile. The trail climbs up a narrow sliver of land between two sections of the Harpeth River.

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Taking the lower trail leads to the usual Montgomery Bell Tunnel, which was built in 1819 to power Bell’s iron foundry. Waterfalls are a love of mine and were my first photography subjects, other than my children. This manmade waterfall will have to be revisited when there is more flow and softer light. Still, it was an interesting location. And, it was nice to be back on the trail.

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All images were shot with the Fujifilm X-T2
and the Fujinon XF 18-135 mm lens and are available for licensing through iStockphoto

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Food Friday – Brussel Sprouts

Fresh Raw Brussel Sprouts
When I was a kid, my parents made me eat my vegetables, ALL my vegetables. Even the ones I didn’t like. As a result, I learned to like most. Brussel sprouts were one of the few exceptions. I always thought they were cute as much as a vegetable can be cute, but I didn’t like their slightly bitter taste. As an adult, I am all about growing, learning and expanding my world. Recently this included giving brussel sprouts another try.

Fresh Raw Brussel Sprouts

I found I actually like these miniature cabbages if they are stir-fried lightly with some salt, garlic and olive oil (especially a flavored one from Cleo’s) or even raw. My mom was a pretty good cook, but I think she over-did the brussel sprouts a bit. It probably helped that I got my super fresh brussel sprouts right on the stock from Whole Foods too. If there was something you didn’t like as a kid, don’t be afraid to give it another try, you might discover you have been missing out on something good!

Fresh Raw Brussel Sprouts

All images copyright Brycia James. Most can be licensed at iStock.com by clicking on the image.
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Food Friday – Orange Abundance

Navel Oranges in a Wooden Crate

What do you do with two dozen oranges? If you are a photographer, you probably take some photos of them before anything else! You can’t just EAT them!

This week my neighbor, a sweet little Asian lady, brought a box of navel oranges over as a thank you for helping them clear the recent snow. At first I didn’t know what I was going to do with that many oranges, as I am the only one in the house who will eat them! But when I offered some to a friend, she mentioned I should take photos of them. Of course! So, instead of working on taxes all day today, I played with oranges a bit!

Navel Oranges in a Wooden Crate

Navel Oranges in a Wooden Crate

Navel Oranges in a Wooden Crate

Navel Oranges in a Wooden Crate

Then I ate some and they were delicious! Now, time to share and get back to the taxes. 😩

Happy Friday Everyone!

All images copyright Brycia James. Most can be licensed at iStock.com by clicking on the image.
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Food Friday – Cleo’s Fine Oils & Vinegars Food Shoot

Smoked Gouda Speared with Cherry Tomato and Drizzled with Balsam

Last week I had the pleasure of working with Cleo’s Fine Oils & Vinegars in Annapolis to create some food images for their new packaging brochures. It was only the second time I had shot food for a specific client. Usually I purchase and prepare food myself, style the shot and finally take the photographs to add to my stock portfolio. It was so wonderful to work with someone else and have their help and creative input.  Not to mention how many more images came out of a four hour shoot!

Linda, the co-owner of Cleo’s and her marketing director, Dee created eight different dishes for me to photograph, ranging from the smoked gouda and tomato hors d’oeuvres seen above, to salsa, salads, sides and yummy desserts. All the dishes incorporated one or more of Cleo’s flavored oils, vinegars and salts to create more complex flavors. The addition of Cleo’s ingredients definitely took the foods from ordinary to gourmet with little additional effort. Many of the recipes I photographed can be found on their website, such as this one for Chocolate Orange Mini cupcakes:

Mini Chocolate Cupcake with Espresso Sea Salt

Part of the beauty of adding flavored vinegars, oils and spices to your dishes is that it adds so much flavor without adding tons of calories or unhealthy ingredients. I have been a fan of quinoa for a few years now, but it definitely needs a little something to add flavor. On it’s own quinoa is rather bland. With the addition of a few veggies and some lemon white balsamic, quinoa goes from meh… to Mmmm!

Quinoa Salad with Avocado, Cucumber and Tomato

Vegetables become so much more interesting with the addition of a few extra flavors. A little olive oil is a heathy addition and flavored oils add that much more flavor. I have become a big fan of Cleo’s Agrumato Lime Olive Oil – I’ve always loved citrus flavors! Here are some roasted carrots with olive oil and thyme finished with Black Hawaiian Sea Salt we did for the shoot:

Roasted Carrots on Baking PanAnd here is a beautiful Japanese Carrot and Diakon Salad dressed with Cleo’s Pacific Spice Vinegar and Toasted Sesame Oil:

Japanese Carrot and Daikon Salad

I thoroughly enjoyed working with Cleo’s and love their products! If you are in the Annapolis area, you can find them in the Annapolis Towne Centre, or you can purchase from them over the phone and have it shipped directly to you. I look forward to working with them in the future, discovering more uses for their quality products and adding more of their tasty dishes to my food photography portfolio.

If you would like to add any of these images to your blog, magazine or other publication, you may license them at iStock.com by clicking on any of the images above.

Happy Friday! Eat well and enjoy today!

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Creativity Seminar with Bryan Peterson

Today was a lucky day for me in more ways than one! The biggest reason was that I got to spend a major portion of my day listening to one of the rock stars of my world speak about creativity, Bryan Peterson:

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Bryan is an internationally known photographer, the author of at least seven books, the founder of the Bryan Peterson School of Photography and a very entertaining guy! He is quite animated (as you might guess from the above photo) and very humorous. His presentation was peppered with puns, personal stories and quick one-liners. When he asked if anyone in the room was making money selling stock, I cautiously raised my hand and then indicated “a little bit” with my fingers. He responded with “The way to really make money in stock today is to sell your camera.” A joke I can agree with recently.

All kidding aside, Bryan’s presentation was very valuable. I sometimes feel I struggle with the creativity aspect of photography more than the technical and Bryan is the kind of guy who can make an interesting photo anywhere. He uses inexpensive materials such as colorful fabrics to make backgrounds on location portraits and found objects in junk yards or along the street to create the most interesting abstract art. He stressed the importance of patience in waiting for elements needed to create an image to align and working the subject completely. If you ever get chance to hear him speak in person or attend one of his workshops, I highly recommend it. If you can’t make it in person, you can watch Bryan in action on Adorama Learning Center’s series “You Keep Shooting” on YouTube.

Bryan’s portfolio site can be viewed here: http://www.bryanfpeterson.com/

Today’s seminar was put on by the Creative Photography Society. It was the first of their functions I had attended, but I’m sure it won’t be my last. If you live in the Baltimore/Washington D.C. area you should check them out!

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Food Friday – Classic Risotto

Mushroom and Sun-dried Tomato Risotto in a Copper Saucepan

During the cold winter months, we all turn to comfort foods to warm our soul. Instead of the standard gluten, fat and carbohydrate laden mac and cheese I like to kick up the sophistication a level with risotto. Risotto is made with Arborio rice and cooked in a way that makes it thick and sticky, not unlike mac and cheese, but with more complexity. It can be augmented with so many healthy vegetable add-ins like this Mushroom and Sun-dried Tomato Risotto. Risotto still provides that warm, cheesy goodness that we crave in the cold months, but with a little more style and nutrition. Below is my basic risotto recipe which you can add all sorts of yummy things to.

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Basic Risotto Recipe:

1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 onion chopped
1 cup Arborio rice
1/4 cup of dry white wine
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat olive oil in a heavy bottomed sauce pan and add chopped onion. Cook until onion is softened then add Arborio rice and stir until translucent. Add wine and stir until evaporated. Add one cup of stock and stir until absorbed. Continue to add stock one cup at a time. When nearly all the stock is absorbed, add vegetables and stir until stock is absorbed and vegetables are heated. Remove pot from heat and stir in grated Parmesan cheese and 2 tablespoons of butter; mix throughly, season with salt and pepper and serve. Garnish with greens or parsley and additional grated cheese.

Mushroom and Sun-dried Tomato Risotto in a Copper Saucepan

If you would like to add any of these images to your blog, magazine or other publication, you may license them at iStock.com by clicking on any of the images above.

Have a happy Friday! Keep warm and cozy!

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Make Today Different

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This weekend was a good weekend for the simple reason that I did something different. On Saturday morning I had agreed to help out a friend by giving her husband a ride to the airport AT 3:45AM! Rather than looking at getting up a 3AM as pain, I looked at it as an adventure… something different. I actually get a kick out of driving around in the wee hours of the morning; it makes me feel like I’m engaged in some clandestine activity! LOL! And since I was getting up early, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to take some sunrise photos. So, after the airport drop, I headed out to Sandy Point State Park to photograph the bay bridge at sunrise.

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I got there in plenty of time, even after a leisurely breakfast on the way. But, as true landscape photographers know, the good color often comes quite a bit before the official sunrise time. Above is an iPhone photo taken at 5:59AM; official sunrise was 6:40AM on Saturday at this location. The lead photo was taken only six minutes after.

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So often one day blurs into the next. We get so caught up in our daily lives of work, kids and chores. It pays big dividends in the form of fond memories to get out of the rut and do something different. I’m glad I opted for the cool, quiet solitude of the Chesapeake Bay Saturday morning instead of crawling back into bed!

Bundle of Twigs on the Beach

All photos shot with a Nikon D800 and the Nikkor 24-120mm f/4.0 lens and are available on iStock.com for licensing.

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