The New Hershey Gardens Atrium


Well, I finally made it to Hershey, PA to tour the new Atrium which includes a year round, climate controlled butterfly exhibit. As you look at the picture above the butterflies live on the right side, where the five large windows are. The left side is reserved for a plant exhibit. There is also a gift shop and a basement that includes offices and restrooms.

Whoever designed the building did a good job, IMHO. The butterfly house is nicely landscaped and larger than the original. It is climate controlled at a comfortable 80 degrees with 70% humidity.


The staff is knowledgeable and friendly which makes the entire experience enjoyable. My grandson and I had a great time photographing the various butterflies. They advertise that they have about 600 in the exhibit.


My only critique is that the variety of butterflies needs to be improved. Every time we go, either to the original or this new Atrium, it is the same ones. I wish they would add some moths and  different varieties of butterflies. It is nice to visit a butterfly house not knowing what might be on display.  There is a seasonal one in Wheaton, MD that always has something new. Once they had an Atlas moth which was amazing.


Hershey Gardens has invested a lot of money in this building. I am hoping they will try to find some new and different butterflies in the future. There are about 26 year round, climate controlled butterfly houses in the U.S. This one is a winner!

The Hershey Gardens Butterfly House

I finally had an opportunity today to take my grandson to the Butterfly House in Hershey Gardens.

I am a little rusty but here are a few of what I attempted to get.

Next year, they are suppose to have a year round conservatory built that we can visit even in mid-winter if we want to.

That will be nice!

These were all taken with the Fujifilm X-T1 and Fujinon XF 18-135 lens.

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Getting My Feet Wet

It has been months since I have shot anything worthwhile. I have retired at the age of 62, sold our home and moved into our new home with our daughter, son-in-law, three grandchildren and a total of four dogs. On top of that I began playing music again, but this time it isn’t guitar or bass it is the ukulele. All in all the last few months have been busy.

Today, I went with my two grandsons and son-in-law to a new place in the area we now live in. It is a local arboretum. I am not sure how many acres it is but undoubtedly it is hundreds. Today we explored a little and refreshed out knowledge of our Fujifilm cameras. All of us were rusty but I did come away with a shot I liked. It is below taken with my X-T1 and 55-200 lens.

Now that I am up and running there will be more to come. My wife, Susan, and I are taking a long road trip for the first time in our 42 years of marriage. It will be from the East Coast to the West Coast and back again. The X-T1 will be with me so there will be more pics to come. Stay tuned!


Spring Update

Another update- I am in the midst of retiring so things have been busy on this end, as you can imagine. I have been involved for almost 31 years in full-time ministry. It is time to take a break and focus more on my family. I am looking forward to picking up my granddaughter from pre-school and taking some photography trips with my two grandsons.

This winter I began playing the ukulele and I am now teaching my 10-year-old grandson the instrument. He will be playing a song on his new ukulele in his school’s talent show next month. The best thing is I will be able to attend to cheer him on.

I have also begun a new ukulele blog. If you like music, and who doesn’t, or want to see what else I have been up to you can find it at this link- Vic’s Ukulele Blog.

April will be a new experience for me as I will be moved into our new home with my son-in-law, daughter, three grandchildren, wife, four dogs and myself. I can’t wait!

More to come.


Winter Blues

I wanted to make a quick post to assure the many who are visiting that all is well on this end. I had another pre-cancer removed a couple of weeks ago and it is healing great. Hopefully, this is the last one.

Winter’s in Virginia are always difficult and this one is really tough temperature wise. We haven’t had that much snow but the temps are brutal. Last Sunday I left for work at 0800 and my car’s thermometer read 9 degrees. With the wind chill it felt like -13 degrees! A little too cold for me.

I haven’t shot hardly at all as Virginia is pretty dead during the winter with not much to shoot or see. Spring is almost here, thank God, and I will be out and about with my X-T1’s.

Here is one of the last pics I took last year. I love the detail in this pic. Fujifilm rocks!

P.S. Some may be wondering what I have done this winter. I began playing the ukulele! After playing guitar and bass for years I am having the most fun, musically, that I have ever had. I am going to my first ukulele festival in March. Should be fun!


I am back with some new pics!

I have been off-line for awhile as I had skin cancer removed from my face three weeks ago. I had similar surgery last year.

I am feeling better and healing so I went into my Lightroom Catalog and found a few pics I don’t think I have put online yet.

These were all taken with the excellent Fujifilm X-T1 and most of them had the XF18-135 lens attached. Enjoy!

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas!🙂









Part 4- The Fujifilm X30 at ISO 2500

I have waited for the new version of Lightroom to come out so I can begin shooting my Fujifilm X30 in RAW. Unfortunately, it is not out yet. I am not sure what the hold-up is as the new Camera Raw came out over a week ago.

I have had some requests for some JPEG’s shot at higher ISO’s so I thought last night’s band practice would be the perfect opportunity to give this a try. After some experimentation here is what I had the camera set at:

ISO 2500


WB Auto


Sharp +1

Spot metering

Large, Fine JPEG

Classic Chrome Film Simulation

These pics are SOOC, except for the last two, and I have not done any noise reduction in Lightroom. Frankly, I am pleasantly surprised with how the Classic Chrome reproduced the lights on the stage. It is very accurate. I can’t wait to get Classic Chrome for my X-T1’s!













This next pic I did process including Noise Reduction in LR 5.6.



There you have it. The X30 did better than I thought it would at ISO 2500. I haven’t spent a lot of time playing with these files so I am happy with the way they came out. I hope to do a shoot in RAW if the new LR ever comes out.

Until then, keep shooting!

© Vic Schmeltz


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Part 3- My First Two Weeks with the Fujifilm X30

The last couple of weeks I have spent my time getting to know the Fujifilm X30.  I have taken pictures in and around Leesburg, VA including the leaves changing colors for the Fall. As I progress I want to note a few things.

If you are looking for a point and shoot, with capabilities other than “auto,” this camera is perfect for you. It is nicely built, easy to use and produces a nice file. I like the looks of it. I think it has a bit of a modern look which suits me fine. I know some have complained about its appearance but I like it. It is a small, light camera which can easily be put in a backpack for a hike. You will come back with some beautiful pics.

I like the three different film simulations I have used so far. In Part 1 I used Classic Chrome and in Part 2 I used Velvia. In this post I have used Standard. You will find that this is truly the standard with Classic Chrome being slightly muted and Velvia slightly more vivid, color wise.

So far I have found a couple of things I would like to change. It needs an ND filter if you are going to try to shoot wide open during the day. I was finally able to do that on a cloudy, rainy, dreary day. I wish the filter was built-in like the X100 series.

The camera only goes to f/11. Not sure why but it should be able to get to at least f/16. I am confused by this. Not good.

The X30 can go to 1/4000 of a second but only at “small aperture.” I would prefer 1/4000 sec be available at all apertures. I don’t understand Fujifilm’s thinking on this either.

This post is more pic heavy than word heavy. The pics were originally large, fine, JPEG’s.

So far I like this camera. If you are expecting files like the X-T1 or any other APS-C camera you won’t get them. Noise is present as you increase the ISO from 200. It is okay to ISO 1600. I wouldn’t go higher than that.

I am curious what the RAW files will look like and how they will respond to adjustments in LR, especially noise reduction. I hope to have that post out as soon as Adobe releases LR 5.7. The new Camera RAW is out so LR 5.7 shouldn’t be far behind.

My goal in the following pics is to show how beautiful the colors are that come out of the X30 on the standard setting. I really like the way the camera faithfully reproduces them. I did do some processing in LR 5.6 as I wanted to show how the JPEGS respond to a little touch up. I didn’t do much.







This pic does show some DOF as I was able to shoot at f/2.5, 1/80 sec at ISO 200.


This pic also shows some DOF. It was taken at f/2.8, 1/180 sec at ISO 200.







One of the things that Fuji Rumors predicted was discounts on the X30 soon after its release. I paid the MSRP of $599 but I am already seeing it on sale for $509. I think the main reason for this is that the camera is in its third generation and it still has a 2/3″ sensor. If it would have had a 1″ sensor, or larger, this wouldn’t be the case. More about this in Part 4.

You can find Part 1 here.

You can find Part 2 here.

You can find Part 4 here.

© Vic Schmeltz

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Part 2- My Second day with the new Fujifilm X30

I was able to spend a second day out with my new Fujifilm X30 at a local wild life sanctuary. The weather was perfect and I had an opportunity to shoot in open sun and the forest. My goal was to test the auto focus as well as multiple frames per second, higher ISO and the super high macro mode.

Let’s talk about the auto focus. I have to say it is great. Very fast and accurate. I shoot with the auto focus box, most of the time, in the middle setting which is two clicks larger than the smallest box or two clicks smaller than the largest box. This setting incorporates all nine focus points which gives me optimal performance. I was very pleased with it and had no problems finding focus while I was shooting.

I decided to try the continuous shooting using the “high” setting. This gives about 9 frames per second. When pressing the shutter button, as I do for single frame shooting,  I usually average 3 frames when I use this setting. I get the same results when shooting my X-T1 on continuous high. I like to use this setting when I am shooting nature as I never know what will happen when wildlife is around. If I choose to I can hold the shutter down for as long as I want depending on what is happening. I like the flexibility of continuous high which exceeded my expectations. There is also a “super high” setting that yields 12 frames per second.

My first time out with the X30, I had a difficult time with the macro mode. Come to find out it can only be used with the lens at the wide-angle. I did some comparisons between shooting the same subject with the telephoto and the wide-angle using the super macro mode. The results are interesting but I will say you have to get very close to your subject with this camera. Not ideal but the pics are good. Personally, I hope that Fuji will come out with a macro lens that is at least 90mm but preferably 105mm for my X-T1. I love that focal length for macro pics.

As I discussed in Part 1, unless noted otherwise, these are all straight out of camera (SOOC), large, fine, JPEGS. No processing  in LR 5.6.

The camera was set-up as follows:

Meter on “multi” or “average”


WB Auto

NR -2

Large Fine JPEG

Velvia (Vivid) film simulation

Sharpening +1

Telephoto- 112mm (35mm format).


Super high macro at the wide angle- 28mm.


I did not crop either of the previous pics so they do look similar except the first one shot at 112mm has much better depth of field (DOF)and a little more compression.

I did decide to crop and process the first one taken with the 112mm telephoto setting. I wanted to show you how great I think it looks. ISO was 200. I really like the detail and DOF.


Here are four more at the telephoto and wide-angle end of the lens.

Telephoto at 112mm.


Super high macro at 28mm.


Telephoto at 112mm.


Super high macro at 28mm.


I was taking pics in the forest of a deer so I had to bump the ISO to 1250. I like the results but I don’t think I would go higher than ISO 1600. My main camera is the X-T1 that I routinely shoot at ISO 6400 with great results. This sensor is not nearly as big in the X30 so it will be difficult to shoot at higher ISO’s without some grain. If you are shooting in B&W it would probably look good as personally I like some grain in my B&W photos at times.



I decided to crop the pic of the deer and to process it in LR 5.6. I am really surprised at how good this came out. This was at f/2.8 and 1/420 sec. No noise reduction.


Here are a few more pics from the meadow. These were all taken at ISO 200 at 112mm.




I really like the DOF that the camera gives at 112mm.

As an aside, when I took the pics for Part 1 I was using a wrist strap with the X30 and it didn’t work out very well. My hand got tired of holding the body. This time out I used a neck strap and that is the way to go. I will definitely use that set-up from now on especially when shooting street which I hope to do soon. I want to walk around downtown Leesburg to see how the X30 will do there.

Up to this point I have to say the Fujifilm X30 has exceeded my expectations. I never owned the X20 but I can tell you it is a huge improvement over the X10 I use to own.

More to come in Part 3.

© Vic Schmeltz







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Part 1- First Impression of the Fujifilm X30

I wrote a teaser post earlier today that I was able to find a black Fujifilm X30 at my local camera store- Ace Photo. This afternoon I have charged the battery and set the camera up. I have shot with it some and want to give my first impression of my new X30.

As I unboxed it my immediate impression was one of quality. This camera looks and feels well-built. The dials and buttons have great feel to them. Fuji got these just right. They are not too loose and not too tight. The two rings around the lens, one to adjust zoom and the other set by default to adjust aperture, feel perfect. They are smooth but not loose. This camera is well thought out and put together. Great quality throughout.

This new X30 has a some upgrades from the previous generation X10 and X20. Some of those upgrades are as follows:

1.  Focus peaking

2.  Tiltable screen

3.  Wi-fi and usability of the remote app

4.  Much longer battery life

5.  On-sensor phase detect

6.  External mic jack

7.  Much higher resolution screen (922k vs 460k)

8.  24p and slow motion videos

9.  Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) vs the old optical viewfinder

Oh, and the MSRP price is the same- $599!

When I initially read about the improvements I was most excited about the EVF. I have owned an X10 and thought the camera was good but I really didn’t like the optical viewfinder. The new EVF in the X30 is from the X-E2. I owned two X-E2’s so I knew exactly was I was going to get when buying this camera, EVF wise. When I took it out this afternoon and looked through the EVF for the first time I literally said out loud, “Wow.” It is that good! This is a huge improvement and for me the most important one. On top of that the diopter is really easy to adjust which makes setting up the EVF a breeze.

I also like the tiltable screen and that the X30 uses the same battery that is found in the X100 series. It will give longer battery life. The LCD has better resolution. This camera is an upgrade for sure.

Of course the elephant in the room is the sensor which is still a 2/3 sensor. Time will tell if that is an issue but I know with  the X10 I was able to produce great files.  I tried to shoot RAW with the X30 today but the latest edition of Lightroom is not able to open them yet. Come on Adobe, let’s upgrade to LR 5.7 soon!

I have only had this camera out one time this afternoon but here are a couple quick impressions other than the build rocks. The camera is close in size to the X100s. Dimensions and weight are nearly identical but not quite. The camera is small but I would not call it pocketable. It might fit in a jacket pocket but not pants, at least not mine. This is not an issue for me as I never carry a camera in a pocket. I want it out and on, ready for action. The zoom for the lens is smooth. The new dial on the front is set as a default to adjust the aperture. It is smooth also but it does not have a click to it. I did end up changing my aperture unintentionally a couple of times. I think indents would help but honestly I have bumped the aperture on my other lenses a couple of times too even with indents. I like being able to change the aperture with a ring on the lens, instead of a dial on top of the camera, but the downside is it can be accidentally bumped. All the more reason to pay attention to your EVF to make sure the settings are what they should be.

I am not a big fan of having the on/off switch built into the zoom lens. I am sure the camera would have to be bigger to have a traditional switch around the shutter button so I can live with it.

There are a few function buttons which make this camera very versatile. The Q menu is awesome and I like having the drive button on the back too. All in all a great job by Fujifilm again.

Enough talk for now. Here are a few pics. These are straight out of camera (SOOC) JPEG’s. I have not done any processing in LR. The camera was set-up as follows:

Meter on “multi”


WB Auto

NR -2

Large Fine JPEG

Classic Chrome film simulation

Sharpening +1

The first three pics at ISO 400.




The next five pics at ISO 200.






Part 2 about the Fujifilm X30 will follow with more pics. I hope to have something up by the end of the weekend if not sooner.

© Vic Schmeltz