Playing With the Fujifilm X-T2 (And Some Random Photos)

I’ve had the Fujifilm X-T2 for almost two weeks and the more I use it, the more I get used to using it, the more I’m convinced that I made the right decision in selling off my Nikon.

My initial fear was that this camera was going to be too small for me to comfortably hold but that didn’t turn out to be the case at all. It’s a great fit, almost as if they had my hands in mind when designing the camera.

My next realization was that with easily accessible and clearly marked dials for ISO and shutter speed, and aperture rings on the lenses I purchased, plus the “assist” I can get from the two command dials, I’m possibly thinking about settings more than I did in the past, and manually bracketing a lot of my shots as I continue to try to find out what works and what doesn’t work with the camera.

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Fujifilm X-T2 Bought, Now I Gotta Learn It

Yes, I bought the Fujifilm X-T2, as promised. (I bought the graphite edition because the price difference was less than I expected and the guy in the shop told me that in HK, the graphite versions generally have higher resale value, not that I’m planning on selling this any time soon.) I also like the retro look of the graphite edition vs. the all black:

(not my image)

Along with the camera, I purchased 3 lenses.

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A Slow Week – Champix Moods – And What Lenses to Buy?

I never really took any vacation last year. At least not the “going to a resort” or “going to a great city” kind. I took off a week when my mother first came to Manila in March – and then bookended the year by taking off a week in December to deal with her death. I’m taking off all of next week, and while I’d rather be spending that time in Bangkok or Penang or Vietnam, I’ll be in Hong Kong (for reasons that I won’t go into). It will at least function as a vacation – I won’t be going into the office, I’ll be staying at a nicer hotel than the one my company puts me in for business trips, I’ll see lots of friends and eat lots of good food … and I’ll buy a new camera.

So I’m expecting a pretty good week. And as a result this week feels as if it’s taking forever. How can it only be Wednesday when every morning I wake up convinced that it’s Friday?

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Getting G.A.S. Again

One of my “thinking by writing about it” posts ….

Many photographers suffer from G.A.S. I myself suffered from it for many years. G.A.S. of course stands for Gear Acquisition Syndrome.

I cured myself of G.A.S. by not looking at gear review web sites and not reading photography magazines. But lately I’ve been thinking …. I may not need to buy a scooter (for reasons that I won’t go into) so maybe I would have the money to finally upgrade my camera.

My Nikon D800 is now 5 years old. It has served me well. But it’s big and heavy and the lenses are also big and heavy and imaging technology has moved forward by 5 years.

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New Photo Gallery – Jeff Beck in Hong Kong 2010

I’ve added a photo gallery of my pictures of Jeff Beck, who appeared in Hong Kong at Asiaworld on March 22, 2010. The shot above is my current favorite from the batch.

As I mentioned earlier, as I’m allowing Spike’s Photos to wind down, I’m going to be adding photo galleries here. Rather than just copying over the photos from seven years ago, I’ve gone back into Lightroom and “remastered” them. Lightroom is a much better program and I’m much better with it than seven years ago.

The band included the great Narada Michael Walden on drums, Rhonda Smith on bass and Jason Rebello on keyboards.

While I’ve seen Beck live many times, stretching back to 1974 or 1975, this was his first time playing a concert in Hong Kong. And it was my first time having a “3 songs, no flash” pass for a major concert in Hong Kong. I’m really thrilled with how well these shots turned out (although when I go back to them now and see the settings I used, I’m amazed that they came out as well as they did).

I did get a little bit punch drunk while re-processing the photos, pushing things a bit to see just what I could do with them. They’re not in the gallery but I’ll show a few of them to you here.


I’m undecided about the results – they’re either artistic and unique or they’re goofy as fuck. You tell me.

Manila – OPM Against Drugs Festival Photo – Photo Gallery

I’m now going to be adding Photo Galleries here (rather than on Spike’s Photos). You can see there’s now a Photo Galleries item on the top menu. I might add in some of the older galleries soon.

I’m kicking this off with a gallery of what I think are my best shots from the OPM Against Drugs Festival held in Manila on January 14, 2017.  Here’s a few sample shots:

Click here to see the full gallery!



Manila – OPM Against Drugs Festival Photos Part 1

January 14, 2017 – 100 bands, 5 stages for the OPM (Original Pilipino Music) Against Drugs Festival produced by Rakrakan. The 5 themed stages were Move, Indie, Groove, Mosh and Slam. (I won’t comment on the “Against Drugs” bit.)

My friends Tribo Subculture were one of the bands appearing on the Slam stage and they arranged an all-access pass for me.  The festival kicked off around noon but I didn’t get there until around 10 PM or so, which gave me time to shoot some of the bands, wander around the crowd a bit, get some food, gaze at the “merch”, and of course enjoy the music that I heard.

I’m told that last year they had 24,000 people there and this year it was up to 35,000. Well, advance ticket prices were just P500 (that’s around US$10) and draft Red Horse Beer was just P50, so why wouldn’t you go if you could? The crowd was remarkably peaceful and friendly and I thought it was a great event.

I’m still working my way through the photos I shot but here are some of my favorites so far:

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Tribo Subculture Live at B-Sides The Collective

I’ve known guitarist Bong Borbe for six months and knew he was a musician with a large following in the Philippines but never had a chance to see or hear him play until last Saturday, when he invited me to see his group Tribo Subculture. They were appearing as part of an all day festival called MerchX Jam at a place in Makati called B-Side, The Collective.

Fortunately, Bong and his group were great. Loud, energetic and, most importantly, passionate. Here’s Bong:


Here’s Tribo Subculture lead singer Cris Relato:


And here’s one of the group’s percussionists, I think his name is Julius Publico:


The photos are all up on Facebook for those who follow me there. I’ll be adding a gallery to Spike’s Photos within the next day or two.

It felt great to be out and shooting again after such a long dry spell.

And congratulations to Bong Borbe, starting his new job today as Country Manager for Fender Guitars.

Random Late Night Thoughts

When I fly out of Manila, I try to get the earliest flight possible so that I’ll have the least amount of traffic going to the airport. That always works fine.

Coming back to Manila, I get a late flight, again so that there won’t be much traffic once I land. That works so-so, because the later the flight, the more likelihood there’ll be a delay. (A friend of mine on Facebook said, PAL = Planes Always Late.) That’s what happened tonight. My 10:30 flight delayed by almost an hour and a half. Then again, I made it from the airport to my front door in 38 minutes.

Anyway, last week a friend was visiting Manila and we went out after work for a few hours. This is a guy who is extremely well organized and I follow many of his tips. His latest tip is to always have a camera and a notebook. Aside from always having both at your fingertips, he says it’s a conversation starter. I silently questioned the wisdom of walking around Manila with a US$1,000 camera in your hands, but he seemed to be doing just fine.

But that got me thinking along a tangent. I have the Nikon D-800. I’ve had it for 5 years now I guess and it is without question the best camera I ever owned. I have ten lenses for it (including the 24-70mm F2.8 and 80-200mm F2.8). And in the year and a half since I came to Manila, I think I’ve used it three times. It’s just sitting there, day after lonely day, in the dehumidifier cabinet.

There’s also the fact that the camera is big and can be quite heavy (depending on which lens I’m using).

I started wondering, if I sold it all off and got a much smaller mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, would I be using it more frequently – and would I be as happy with it (and with the results) as I am with the Nikon?

I don’t know the answer to that yet.

Very coincidentally, Wednesday night walking down Lockhart Road, I ran into a friend and we stopped into a nearby bar to catch up. This particular friend is a member of Hong Kong band The Sleeves. I knew they had just returned from Cambodia, where they recorded their second album, so I had at least a thousand questions. And I joked that they should have brought their official photographer (aka Me) along on the trip. And he turned around and said that the photos I’d taken of the band were the best ever taken (here’s some shots from the studio session we did) – and how sad it is that they can’t use them any more (they have a new bass guitarist) and that I should either bring my camera along with me next time I come to Hong Kong or maybe they’ll all make it to Manila before the end of the year.

I no longer have a studio – and I’m not connected to any local photographers or studios yet. So there’s that.

It also got me missing Hong Kong (even though I was there at that moment) in the sense that on any given night I can still walk around Wanchai or Lan Kwai Fong or TST and run into at least half a dozen people I know while my circle in Manila is immensely smaller.

First and foremost, I have to get out more. So that’s one resolution I will try to keep. With a notepad and camera in hand (but for now, just my Sony RX-100 Mark 3, which is still a damned fine camera for its size).

Farewell to PASM Workshop

“I had the time of my life …”


I’m very sad to report that PASM Workshop, the photography studio that I co-owned, closed for good yesterday. Of all the things that I did in my 18 years in Hong Kong, I’m proudest of my connection with this studio.

The idea was Victor Cheung’s (the tall guy in the center of the photo above), a photography studio that would also be a meeting place for the artistic community. When Victor told me the details of the idea, I practically begged him to let me be a part of it. Coincidentally, the opening party in 2009 took place on the day that I left Warner Bros.

The team has grown and shrunk over the years, nine partners at its peak. We did this more as a labor of love than with any expectation of growing rich. The studio held frequent parties, was the Hong Kong branch of Open Show, hosted classes from internationally known photographers such as Emily Soto and probably shot as many charity events as paid events.

My participation in the studio over the years meant that I got to meet so many other photographers in Hong Kong, many of whom were uncommonly generous in sharing advice and tips with me. For me it was a place to learn, a place to try new things and a personal clubhouse.

With Victor’s untimely passing earlier this year, with me no longer in Hong Kong, with the other partners also holding down full time jobs, there was just no viable way to keep the studio going any more. Yesterday was the last day of operations. Today it’s dark.  Read on to see some of my favorite photos from my PASM shoots over the years.

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