In Australia we really like our long weekends. In the first half of the year we get quite a few, which gives many of us the well earned time off from busy jobs to get away with family and friends for 3 or 4 days in beautiful parts of the country, or simply veg-out a bit and relax.
. During the recent Easter holiday period we took off down to Phillip Island in Victoria's south for a quiet couple of days away with some friends who rented a sweet beach house. It may have only been 2 days and 1 night, but I was certainly treated to a few stunning photographic experiences, and as you can expect, I packed a nice little shoulder bag load of FujiFilm gear. All shots were on an XT-1 with either the XF16 1.4, XF35 F2, XF56 1.2, or XF90 F2.
As a little thank you gesture for having us, I made sure to grab a few family snaps of our friends who so kindly let us stay with them for free. It was such a pleasure to be able to merge stunning scenery with a family portrait of sorts, which also helps to keep me sharp and inspired in between weddings and other more formal photo shoots. For this afternoon walk I simply took my XT-1 and XF56 1.2, which provides that subtle hint of compression and stunning subject isolation when I take a 'wider' approach to my framing, such as with the shot above. After being so inspired by the location only 2 minutes away from our accommodation that afternoon I made a point of getting up early the next day for sunrise to see how some long exposures would work out.
As the sun rose on the opposite side of the island, I was treated with some stunning tones and during a cloudy early morning. Was it what I expected? No. Was it still immensely satisfying? Absolutely!
What I loved about where we were situated was how quickly I could walk from this beach to another side of the island that had direct morning light, offering a new and equally unique perspective to the day's beginnings. As the day moved on I returned to the beach with our friends for a few more snaps and took advantage of some of the finer details around the house in which we were staying. The XF90 was a gem as always for the close up shots because of its combined focal length and relatively close minimum focusing distance.
Our final short trip down in Phillip Island was to The Nobbies, a vital area to many animal species and a spectacular sight to behold. The boardwalk is a comfortable experience for people of all ages and abilities and awesome viewing angles are in abundance. It's a wonderful family friendly place and if you're lucky, you may get to see penguins having a rest down by the rolling hills and oceans' edge.
As you would expect, the selfie-ticks were in an abundance here but thankfully it wasn't so busy that I couldn't get the snaps I wanted. The sharpness of the XF16 with a 10 stop ND filter in some cases won for me during this experience, with a few extra shots coming in from the XF35 F2 & XF90.
With only a bit more than half a year left before we move to the UK for a few years, I have become increasingly eager to explore my home country. Sure, things will probably be much the same when we return but there is certainly a yearning to live in the now and for experiences, not things. I also hope to inspire fellow visitors or dwellers in Australia to get out there more often and see what this massive country has to offer. Go get lost!
Fight sports: One of the fastest growing sports categories in the world, and for good reason!
As a martial artist who's trained a wide variety of different disciplines, I have a tremendous level of respect for the men and women who devote so much of themselves to competing. The hours upon hours of intense training in and out of the gym, the dietary restrictions, and of course, the mental preparation required to step into the ring or cage and engage in an often brutal and satisfying few rounds of high level martial arts expertise are things reserved for a select part of the world's population. Then there's the recovery that comes after the fight...
But enough of the philosophical banter.
As a massive advocate for the capabilities of the FujiFilm XT-1 and its always improving FREE firmware upgrades, the testing of the XF16-55 R LM WR was an itch that was in well need of a scratch. Any extra funds that I can allocate for gear typically go on new prime lenses, because, like Optimus, I am a Prime guy (get it?!).
For this project I hit up the ever awesome Leigh Diprose at FujiFilm Oz and he sent me the XF16-55 for a few weeks along with an X100T for some other projects. I now very much understand why folks have raved about this lens, it is a beast! It's fast, sharp as a tack, and very responsive!
In order to give this lens a fair run for its money I sought to shoot a Muay Thai Fight Night alongside a great friend and amazing photographer, William Luu of W.L Fight Photography. Absolutely massive thanks and appreciation goes to him for helping make this happen and welcoming me into his domain.
For starters I went into the backstage preparation areas to see how the fighters for Warriors Way were looking. The light in there was pretty awful to say the least but the XF16-55 managed to handle itself well, and the XT-1's high ISO capabilities did the shots justice too. The constant F2.8 aperture is brilliant and the lens did not hunt around trying to gain focus using Zone Focusing mode.
Shooting fight nights isn't typically a comfortable affair. I'll take 12 hours at a wedding any day (because I love it!) rather than being stuck on my knees in a space smaller than 1m2. Regardless, I was hooked up with a good fixed position for the night at ringside that yielded some pretty awesome results and a few close calls with fighters almost falling out of the ring.
For most of ring bound action I set my XT-1 up in the following manner:
Normally I shoot RAW or RAW and JPEG small for weddings, because I don't typically shoot using high burst rates. However, given the nature of fight photography I wanted the camera to be as responsive as possible and with the EVF and consistent lighting, I knew I could guarantee my exposure would be on point for the show.
For most shots outside of ring, such as fighter walk-ins, I switched the camera to the following:
Switching between the two modes was an easy process made so by the very well laid out controls and visuals on the XT-1. As you can imagine, the light of stage wasn't always great and it was made even more difficult by visual obstructions like the ring. Again, the XT-1 and XF16-55 hit the mark almost every time in the 3000+ shots that I took throughout the night.
I am a big fan and user of the tilt-screen on the XT-1, and not having it on the new X-Pro2 has been a big reason why I I'll be waiting for the XT-2. Then again, the XT-1 is a formidable camera that is serving all my needs more than adequately so an upgrade may not be necessary unless desire takes over. Back to the tilt-screen.
In the case of this show I found it incredibly useful when keeping myself and the fighters safe because I could keep the angle of the camera where I wanted it under the ropes and easily pull back as fighters came near. It was also very useful for some of the low-angle shots of the fighters in their corners during rounds.
I used one single Sandisk 16gb extreme card for this show since i was shooting in JPEG. For most of the show I shot in CL (Continuous Low) so I could get manageable 3-5 shot bursts, and on occasion for some of the bigger fights I used CH (Continuous High), which you can see some sequenced examples of lower down. Panning and zooming in during bursts in these modes worked brilliantly and I experienced little to no misses and only on 1 occasion did it focus beyond the fighters to the other side of the ring. Honestly, I didn't expect it to respond this good! I can only imagine how much better it'll be with the fast EVF refresh time on the XT-2.
As for battery usage for the ~3700 photos I took, I used just over 2!
I'd imagine that shooting JPEG is much easier for the camera and card to transfer, meaning less processing power is required and thus, greater conservation of battery power. Very impressive!
What can I say that hasn't already been said about this combo?
I had such a great time shooting with it and my expectations were met and then surpassed. I am certainly no pro fight photographer like William Luu, but if I was thrown into the world of fight photography professionally, I would have no qualms shooting with this combination. Alas, my passions in photography lay elsewhere and Will does an outstanding job, living and breathing the fight photography scene down here in Melbourne.
If you've considered this lens for applications like this or otherwise, you'll be hard pressed to find fault with it. It's got a good bit of heft behind it so you could certainly balance it better with a battery pack on your camera body, but it's certainly not uncomfortable. I will soon be writing a follow up post to this where I shot the majority of a rather special wedding using this as my first ever zoom.