Fuji X100 | 1/200 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200

Such a historic day for Suki, and as you can see, she’s quite happy about it. Today we granted her the most off-leash freedom she has ever had. There’s no better place in the city to do this than at Fort Funston, an old military outpost located at the south end of San Francisco’s Ocean Beach. The area is full of wide open space, sand dunes, trails, and of course, there’s the beach.

When Suki was younger we let her off leash at this same park, and quickly regretted the decision as she bolted off into the horizon with no regard for her pack (her comparatively slow-moving human parents). Most Shiba owners have at least one Shiba-bolting horror story to tell….I have like…20. In fact, I took my opening photo of my 52 weeks project at this location. Check out the image here. See the leash? Yeah, I totally didn’t trust her back then.

But while I’d still never ever let her off leash on a city street (it’s not legal anyway in SF), I’ve come to trust the bond Suki and I have built over the years. She definitely knows we belong to each other, and while Bridget was feeling a little hesitant today, I knew that Suki wouldn’t ditch us this time.

So, at peace with the entire concept, we stepped out onto the ice plant and set her free:

Fuji X100 | 1/80 sec, f/2.2, ISO 200

The image above represents a very memorable moment for me. She actually bolted ahead of us, turned the corner and disappeared. Before I could even call out to her, she reappeared just as you see her above. That’s right. A Shiba Inu waiting up and making sure her humans are following….for reals?!?!

From that point forward, it was all smooth sailing:

Fuji X100 | 1/280 sec, f/4.5, ISO 800

Fuji X100 | 1/280 sec, f/5, ISO 800

Suki is definitely the recon member of our family, scouting ahead from time to time but never forgetting to pull back and let us catch up, even stopping when we stop:

Fuji X100 | 1/340 sec, f/5, ISO 800

Fuji X100 | 1/850 sec, f/2, ISO 400

Thrilled with the entire situation, we continued onto a trail from the dunes down to the beach. At this point Suki had burned off a significant amount of energy, and now more relaxed, stuck even closer to us:

Fuji X100 | 1/950 sec, f/2, ISO 400

Unlike the puppy Suki of old, today’s Suki won’t chase absolutely anything that runs (above).

Fuji X100 | 1/340 sec, f/5, ISO 400

A simple “let’s go, Suki,” and she snaps away from what ever she’s doing and follows. If I didn’t have these photos I’d swear none of this was real, just an awesome dream.

The following are a few of the images I took at the beach, processed into black and white in post:

When we were done at the beach, it was a long climb back up the cliff. We took the stairs, and Suki…well, eventually got on the stairs, but not before breaking a few rules. In the image below, she’s looking at me as I yell out “hey silly, you do NOT qualify as wild life! Get back on the stairs!”

Fuji X100 | 1/320 sec, f/5, ISO 800 (flash on)

Such a beautiful area to bring the dog, and such an exciting day for Team Suki!

One side note: I’m getting a lot of questions and emails about what picture settings I use when I shoot with my Fuji X100. I’ll go ahead and answer that question here once and for all. I’ve mentioned this before, but for most of my recent blog posts that involve shooting simple snaps and documenting life etc, I find it easier to work with the JPEG files from the camera than to shoot everything in RAW. So when I’m not shooting RAW, I use these picture settings:

Film Sim: Astia
Dynamic Range: Auto
Color: High
Sharpness: Hard
Highlight Tone: M-Hard
Shadow Tone: M-Hard
Noise Reduction: M-Low
White Balance: Auto
WB Shift: +2 Red, -2 Yellow

I make slight curve adjustments in post to my taste, and that’s it. Depending on the situation, I sometimes use the Provia film simulation as well. The other question I get a lot is “does the X100 produce great JPEGs?”


Fuji X100 | 1/420 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200

I’m proud of you Suki. Today you have proven yourself off leash. =)

42 thoughts on “Suki…Unleashed!

  1. I’m such a proud doggie mom right now!!! I never thought I could ever trust Suki off leash, and she stayed close to us the whole time. Love my little pup!

  2. Shibasquatch! 😉 You are far braver than me – Zuko can go off leash on the beach but on the trail I still worry I will lose him. Congrats – Suki has rewarded your trust in her!!

  3. Fort Funston is a good place for off leash stuff, but you really have to make sure you have some sort of bond/control with a shiba. I had Kouki out there last September, and he was awesome off leash. The only problem was another dog wanted to be chased, and they ran down the hill (opposite the beach side) towards the highway. There aren’t any barriers over there, and the bushes/growth does nothing to stop a hopping shiba. Lucky I had a ball that I threw back towards the park and he came running back up. I and the other owner were very relieved. I’ve been working on a good recall since then, and I’m a little more trusting now.

    Another place I’d suggest is Point Isabel in Richmond. It’s a little more manageable, as the water all around provides a natural barrier. With only the bridge and the bike trail as access points, it’s easier to head them off.

    1. Yup, for the reason you just described, we stayed on the west end of the fort just to be safe. Thanks for suggesting the other park! I’ll have to check it out if I’m ever in that area.

  4. Hey

    I recently started following your blog after I found it when I was searching for X100 related stuff. I’ve really enjoyed it so far and your shots of your dog are really nice!

    I have one question though regarding your image settings that you posted in this post. to put it simply, what is it that makes you prefer Astia with more color and contrast as opposed to Provia or Velvia standard?

    I’m looking to find a setting that suits me the best to avoid shooting RAW all the time with my X100, and I just found it interesting that you have, as far as I understand, chosen to use the most muted film mode, and then up the color etc.



    1. Kenny,

      Astia is the middle-ground on X100. If you try to bracket with “film simulation” you’ll see that Provia is the most flat and boring photo (at least to me), Velvia is really vivid (sometimes too much, especially greens) and Astia seems like a nice compromise that you can easily pump a bit more “boom” into in post processing if you want.

      1. Kenny,

        Klaus is correct. To my eye, the Astia sim looks more film-like than provia in my opinion, and it’s definitely more contrasty and colorful. Velvia pushes things a little too far for me. Thanks for the comment!

  5. before i even saw the one that you said was a memorable moment, i noticed her looking back for you in the one where she is all shadowy and thought “oh that’s a good sign…she’d wait for them”…this was such a great post and i’m so happy to see her having fun and being free! and by the way, your conversion on the B&Ws is just perfect. i’d love to know THAT secret 😉

  6. Such a nice story and milestone for you guys + Suki. What a great dog!! The one time I babysat for a friend’s shiba inu, Kika, I cracked the door open what I swear I thought was about 2 inches… and she was out. Luckily a neighbor caught her before she went too far. That was one of the scariest moments of my life!

  7. Way to go Suki! Niko also ‘scouts’ and turns around to make sure the pack is safe. Off leash is a shiba’s dream come true. I’m so glad to see Suki earn your trust this time!

  8. I think I’ve been there, like 7 years ago. It looks like the perfect place for a free-roaming pup.

    Btw, I saw a Shiba with the cone of shame last week and thought of Suki. 🙂

  9. Ah… I think it’s a good feeling knowing your best friend knows how to come back even if you let her go free. I love the black and whites in the set.

  10. Ah, one of my favorite spots in the city. I love the view from atop Fort Funston, with its dramatic drop-off and hang gliders taking off. Suki’s looking good here as always!

  11. Jonathan,

    One day I hope you’ll do a blog post on why you went with the settings on X100 that you’ve decided to go with 🙂

    I’m especially curious as to why you have sharpness set to high? Because it’s not easy to remove sharpness in post, but it’s easy to add, right?

    Regarding highlight and shadow tone at M-Hard, doesn’t M-hard mean that it will make highlights brighter and shadows darker? Or is it the other way around?

    I’m still playing around with my X100 but there are so many settings that I’m finding it hard to “just pick one and go with it” 🙂 I’d shoot RAW most except I think the RAW files that X100 produces are so large and I’d like to keep the X100 mostly for “snapshots around town” where I don’t have to process each RAW file.

    Oh, and I’m curious regarding this one too: “WB Shift: +2 Red, -2 Yellow”… guess I’ll have to try it out for myself and see what it does 🙂

    Give Suki a high-five from me!

    1. Good questions Klaus!

      When I shoot JPEG my goal is to as little fussing in post as possible, so I set sharpness at hard because it tends to give me the sharpness I want out of the camera. Regarding highlight and shadow tones: Yes, “harder” means deeper blacks (shadow tone) and brighter highlights (highlight tone). The default settings tend to give me results that are a little to flat for my taste, so I push the curves a little in the camera.

      Finally, the white balance shift. +2 REd and -2 yellow gives my images a little bit more warmth, which I prefer. Everyone’s tastes are different though, so make sure you experiment to find what works for you. Thanks for the great questions!

      And thanks everyone else for the comments and scary shiba-escape stories!

  12. Haha you must be so proud of her man. I would be too. It’s so cool that she’s getting to be a little more chill and patient now 😀 Time to go out for more walks with her off leash hehe. Hope Bridget’s hours improve too man!

  13. Awesome! I wish there would come a time that i can have my dogs off leash like that. It goes to show that Suki is already attached to her humans.

  14. Awesome pictures, thanks for sharing your adventure! I’ve been researching about San Fran (want to vacay there someday) and had not come across this beautiful area. It’s definitely on my must see list now. Thanks

  15. Oh wow, I need to take my shiba to one of these places. I feel bad because, like you say, it’s a nightmare when that leash comes off! I totally sympathize, but I do feel bad because he doesn’t get the freedom he needs. Really, really cool pix by the way!!

  16. Very well documented of Suki unleased! That’s so cute that she waits for you humans as she runs ahead. and yes, I agree that every shiba owners has at least one horror story. 🙂

  17. Hi Jonathan,

    I was wondering what viewfinder you use, it seems like the EVF is what I would use most of the time, as the OVF tends not to autofocus properly some of the times.

    1. Paul,

      I use the EVF for working at close distances or in dark environments where I can benefit from it’s brightness. Other than that I use the OVF, but you have to watch out for parallax error as you get closer to your subject, which can cause you to focus on something you didn’t intend to (the newer firmware has a corrected AF display to help with this). That being said, I’ve taken thousands of pictures with the X100 and haven’t felt held back by the AF system using either finder.

      1. Me and you both Jonathan – we must be in denial, according to Scott Kelby’s recent “The Grid” episode where he spent somewhere around 30 minutes to trash the X100 and “misses focus every 2nd-3rd shot”.

        (I’m sure my D7000 is jealous, it’s not getting much prime time since the X100 arrived – I really enjoy it)

      2. That’s really odd, because I can chase my little Shiba Inu around and nail focus just fine with the X100. Missing every 2nd/3rd shot? That’s a vast difference from what I’ve experienced, and I know I’m not alone in getting consistent results from the X100’s auto focus. Does the auto focus perform like my D700’s? No, but if that really mattered to me for day-to -day shooting, my DSLR wouldn’t be stuck at home while my X100 stays at my side every where I go.

  18. Jonathan, thank you very much for so great blog and amazing X100 photos! I am having X100 by myself and shooting RAW now but after seeing your fantastic work I have to test JPEGs again.

    Suki is so wonderful dog! I am glad to see that she is feeling better now.

    Best wishes from Finland,


  19. Reply to Jonathan
    August 12, 2011 at 6:48 am.

    When you’re chasing Suki around, do you use X100 in AF-C mode or do you simply find that the time it focuses in AF-S is fast enough to shoot her?

  20. Hey. It’s definitely a really anxious experience to unleash a Shiba… Ours has just turned 3YO and still loves to chase & hunt anything that moves…

    I learned of a good method for training “off-the-lead”, by taking her for walks and runs in the local bush (ref: “Woods” for you Northerners) and waiting for her to dash off, then hiding from sight for a few minutes. In time she has been less inclined to leave me for further than 10m, and now she waits around that distance whenever off-the-leash. Sadly, we still can’t ever unleash her near a street or around town, though… Such an intense breed!

    Love your X100 shots; I have a little X10, 5DMK2 and Mamiya 6 and love using all three. I’ve thought about selling the 5DMK2 for an X100, but might just see what happens with the LX next year.

    The shots of the beach above really highlight the quality & capability of the X100 (when used well!), but also highlight the lack of dynamic range in the upper zones; which makes me wanna cling to the 5DMK2 (and M6) a bit longer. Such a cool camera though… It’s form factor & quality is seriously attractive!

    Thanks for sharing such personal & interesting images & experiences.

    1. Jay,

      Thanks for the comments. I too never let my Shiba off in the city or near road traffic of any kind. No matter how good she is off leash, she’s a hunter at heart and fears nothing, even a speeding car!

      Regarding highlight retention with the X100, I actually believe that is one of it’s strongest capabilities of the camera. The way it renders highlights is natural and beautiful, and the camera’s ability to extend dynamic range is ridiculous, so much so that using it certain environments can sometimes give you images that are a little flat. Such was the case with the images here. I therefore used in-camera settings that reduced dynamic range in favor of contrast, and further applied curve adjustments to taste in post. These particular shots, therefore, don’t really showcase the camera’s awesome highlight rendering capability that I’ve seen when using it in scenes where the extended dynamic range felt more appropriate.

      That being said, I wouldn’t sell any of my DSLRs to get one. I still need those for professional work. The X100 is my camera of choice for everything else now, however.

  21. Just wandering…

    Are you still using these x100 settings today? Are you using the same setting om your X-PRO1?

    Film Sim: Astia
    Dynamic Range: Auto
    Color: High
    Sharpness: Hard
    Highlight Tone: M-Hard
    Shadow Tone: M-Hard
    Noise Reduction: M-Low
    White Balance: Auto
    WB Shift: +2 Red, -2 Yellow

    1. Hi! Lately I’ve been using both the X100 and X-PRO on their default settings, and making minor tweaks in post, but sometimes I’ll still use the Astia settings I came up with. Just depends on my mood =)

  22. OMG, I am jealous!!! How did you train your dog to come off the leash?>????????!??!?!?!?? Did it just take time for your dog to recognize you as the pack leader? if so how long and was there any training involved?

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