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.
It's not everyday I find myself trekking through the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, Australia, wearing suade shoes and black Levi's. However, when there's a great opportunity to be had, you work with what you've got. For this trip I packed an X100T that the lovely FujiFIlm Australia folks have loaned me, and my own XT-1 and XF90 for something a little different to add into the photo mix.
After flying up to Sydney to present at an educational expo on virtual reality, I had a spare few days up my sleeve to suss out a little more than just the local tourist attractions. A quick recommendation from an expert rock-climbing friend to checkout Wentworth Falls, and I was on my way. The 2-hour ride from Sydney's Central Station is very comfortable, picturesque, and best of all, extremely accessible and affordable for anyone. Simply put, if you're ever in Sydney, a day trip here is very easy to undertake and highly recommended.
I took the path straight out of town through Charles Darwin Walk, which in itself presents numerous photo opportunities with stunning creeks, mini falls and wildlife - don't be afraid of the numerous skinks running across the path though, but always keep watch for snakes.
I have seen a fair bit of Australia over my 30 years of life and living here, but it's quite possible that this moment, this place, and this experience at Wentworth Falls was my favourite one of all.
It's hard to capture the sheer mastodonic scale of Wentworth Falls. From it's highest point looking down, the colours, textures, and shapes of the landscape take you back in time leaving you wondering and in awe of how nature carves such beauty. It's the kind of place that when I'd look back up from my camera or my steps, I would immediately be stopped in my tracks by a different angle of this ancient place. As the afternoon slipped away the colours of the landscape became more diverse and intense, with beautiful shadows creating stunning contrast in the scenery. The only thing I regret was not packing sufficient supplies to stay on until sunset. I'll be back though!
Ah the Fuji XF35 F2 WR and XF90 F2.
These two lenses are supreme and exemplify how FujiFilm continue to improve on an already outstanding level of quality with their X-series line up.
They absolutely slayed on a recent wedding in the streets of South Melbourne and are now my go to combos for portraiture. Yes, I still love the XF56 1.2, especially when light is hard to find, but these 2 lenses (as I've said before) are superior in AF speed and accuracy when compared to 'older' lenses from Fuji's X-series line up.
For this post I thought I'd share 2 recent shoots using these admirable lenses, as well as share some of my wife's snaps of Jess (the gorgeous blonde haired woman) with her favoured kit, the Sigma 35mm Art and Canon 6D. I may be a Fuji guy but the Sigma 35mm @F1.4 still produces beautiful images with a lovely artistic and hip vignette. The XF35 F2 was solely used on the train snaps with my wife.
HOLY SMOKES! What a blast this wedding was!
Right from the beginning of the day, Nikki & Kesh set THE tone for a celebration of their love, great friendship and family, then wrapped it in generosity, incredible food, insane partying, and a desire for raw industrial wedding photos.
It's not every wedding where the couple says 'We want you and Nat to feel like our guests' and follow through by trying to get you to drink beer and special rum cocktails in the first hour of the wedding day. Emphasis on 'trying'. They also hounded us with food!
From the preparation, to the ceremony, and right through to the reception, there was such a genuine sense of love and respect between all of Nikki and Kesh's family and friends. Even their celebrant, Kay, was a great friend of theirs!
However, the most touching aspect of the wedding (aside from their marriage) was Nikki & Kesh's noble support of cancer research through a very beautiful gesture. Take a close look at the polaroid station. Each shot that guests took and placed was then matched with a donation by Nikki & Kesh to the Australian Cancer Research Foundation. Can you imagine if every wedding was this selfless?
Natalia and I cannot stress enough how much this wedding was an absolute pleasure to capture, especially since we've made acquaintances with so many people from the wedding too!
Lots of love to you both, Nikki & Kesh! Thank you!
What a way to start 2016.
An ever handsome and gregarious 6'8" groom, and a classically beautiful and eloquent bride made for a truly unique and stylish wedding at the Werribee Mansion in Victoria's south west. There was always a truly endearing look in Benson and Jacqui's eyes whenever they looked at each other. That of a love that is true and deserving of great celebration.
We are incredibly grateful for Jacqui and Benson having us capture their exceptionally well planned and down right fun wedding day. They will most certainly enjoy a love filled and life-long marriage together.
1 year on with the Fuji XT-1 and a myriad of other FujiFilm gear.
Honestly, I pondered this post today, started collating some of my favourite photos, and then realised that today is my 1 year anniversary with the FujiFilm XT-1. Spooky?!
Nah. Just math.
Well, I must say, it has been a fantastic 12 months using Fuji's X-series 100%. I have traveled a fair bit of the world with my kit and put it through a heck of a lot of varied circumstances. On the streets, through weddings, in the sweat of live music, the pace of MMA, and through various nations, it's been a fantastic journey developing as a photographer, and as a person, refining my creative path through the medium. Not only that, but my hipster factor has grown exponentially with the XT-1's retro dials, coupled with my hair.
What started with just the XT-1 and XF56 (added to my X100s, which I later parted with for an XT-10) soon grew. At year's end my Fuji kit contains an XT-1 & XT-10, Xf16, XF27, XF35F2, XF56, XF90, and the underrated XC 50-230, along with my Instax printer for sharing the love. With various combinations of this gear I explored regions of my home country Australia like never before, shot weddings in Ireland and Vietnam, and most importantly, met so many incredible new people and took part in many great stories.
This post is my first retrospective and quite significant to me personally. I'm not going to say how long I've been shooting for but it's not that long. Happy for you to have a guess!
More importantly, I just want to send a massive thanks to all you curious folk out there. It's been awesome hearing from so many of you over the 12 months and I hope I can help you more and more and perhaps even connect with you too! Enjoy!
Weddings across the world.
Sweating and thrashing through the pits of live music.
Exploring my home country like I never knew.
And exploring a few new ones too.
Got to meet and shoot a lot of lovely people.
Trained and shot alongside some of the best.
And sometimes just watched life go by.
It's a lovely Wednesday morning here in Ho Chi Minh/Saigon, Vietnam, as I write this post buzzing on iced Vietnamese style coffee - the juice of the Gods! My wife and I have arrived to shoot a very special wedding in a few days time and it's an honour to be involved.
About 10 hours before leaving Melbourne, Australia I picked up a little something that I'd been eyeing off for some weeks, the newish Fujifilm XF35 F2. As always, I saw the good folks at DigiDirect in the city and they hooked me up with the best price around, just as they've done with my entire Fuji kit. They were also super patient about me trying the original XF35 F1.4 back to back against the new F2 version, and although the F1.4 certainly has its merits, the F2 won out in a few key areas, which I'll discuss soon.
I'll be straight up. The photos in this post aren't intended to be about photographic prowess nor highly technical breakdowns of the XF35's features, construction, and all that camera nerd stuff. I get enough of that in the world of high end guitars, so cameras are a safe haven for me where I can focus more on creativity rather than technicality. Enough coffee induced rambling.
For a little challenge on my first day shooting the XF35, I decided to go with a bit of street style approach by firing from the hip and seeing how well the lens could keep up in the Auto Focus (AF) on Saigon's busy and beautiful streets. I must say, I am damned impressed by this tiny high performance lens.
Onto some stuff about the lens (I suppose). Something that is immediately clear about this lens is just how responsive the AF is. If you've ever been to Vietnam I'm sure you can understand that you need to keep moving in the busy streets, particularly in high traffic areas, which when trying to capture sharp and in focus pictures is not a great combination since your field of focus changes so quickly through movement.
The XF35 is quick, and I mean quick. It's the kind of speedy and accurate responsiveness that makes this such a different beast to many other Fuji lenses, particularly its predecessor, the XF35 1.4. Not only is it dead quiet and has no feel of movement from its internals, the XF35 F2 does not hunt!
In the past with some Fuji gear the AF has left me frustrated due to a missed shot or slightly lagging response time. This little piece of gear absolutely slays its siblings. My time at DigiDirect comparing the two 35's back to back quickly showed that although the 35 1.4 is still awesome and has that extra stop of light, it simply feels outdated in performance and feel when compare the the new 35 F2. When I compared them in continuous focusing with heavy back-light, the 1.4 didn't know what to do, and in single shot mode it had that slightly nagging back and forth hunt for a moment before acquiring focus. The 35 F2 displayed none of these features and made it very easy for me to make a decision on which one to take home, even though the original 35 had a $200 cashback on offer, making it around $100 cheaper than the new 35 F2.
A quick perusal of my snaps in Lightroom shows that most of my first day's snaps were taken between F2 and F4, so it's not as if the lens and camera have taken the easy path of narrow apertures, and thus, depths of field where focus is easier to acquire. So, keeping in mind that I was not holding the camera up to my eye and stopping for creative and stable framing, I think the XF35 F2 has really shown how much it's the new generation of what Fuji has to offer in terms of high performance gear.
So what about sharpness? Bokeh? Weather sealing? Well, it's the first day. I've got a wedding here to shoot that I'm sure will feature heavy use of the XF35 F2 and its brothers, but so far, for its size and performance, this is possibly Fuji's best XF lens to date. I cannot wait to see how this thing performs the new bodies rumoured for 2016, like the X-E2s or X-PRO2.
Hanging Rock, Victoria, Australia. It's a truly remarkable part of the state, and what's great is it's readily accessible for inner-city folk like myself at only 1 hour's drive away. At the spark of inspiration, my wife and I took off on a drive out there one Sunday for a good bit of fresh air and stunning, natural Australiana.
As you'd expect for this time of year the weather was a somewhat warm 30 degrees celsius, however many areas of the reserve were very refreshing due to different wind tunnels and the natural chill of many of the large shadowy rocks.
For this outing I wanted to keep it simple, light-weight and tack sharp.
Can you guess what I took?
As you may have guessed by the title of the post, I packed the XF16 1.4 and my XT-10. Two extremely powerful pieces of gear that are light-weight, responsive, and can wrestle (and win!) with the big boys. They're also incredibly robust, based on my awful experience of dropping the XF16 from waist height onto concrete some months ago. Watching it bounce several times made my heart skip a beat. Literally.
The temptation to shoot at wide apertures with this lens is always there, but with so much detail going on at Hanging Rock, I chose to shoot just about all these images between F8 and F11. I'm sure you can pick the few that are shot nice and shallow at F1.4 though.
There's really not much I can say about this combo that I've not said or shown before. Every time I pull an image off from this combo I'm just amazed at how much detail there is in the RAF files. Being able to pull shadow details from the way I expose images leaves my Canon rig for dead. I must also add for fellow Fuji X users regarding sharpening with Lightroom. Don't go beyond ~80 the amount of Sharpening and start with Masking at 100 and pull back from there. I like to sit mine around 70-90 depending on the style of photo. Trust me, it'll do your images justice.
Thanks for viewing!
As the weather starts to warm up down here in Australia (Yes, we do experience temperatures other than stinking bloody hot) and the season to be wed kicks off, I have been out getting my eye trained up for some moodier portraits, and further venturing down that road of posing models to achieve the results I'd truly like to see. I also recently had the pleasure of attending an incredible 2-day workshop here in Melbourne with David Talley Photography, Rob Woodcox, and Kiara Rose Photography, all of whom are incredibly inspiring people and artists whose level of achievements and business savvy for their ages is somewhat confronting and mind-blowing. Truly awesome young creatives!
The love for Fujifilm gear continues on for me and I am so inspired by the XF90 135mm equivalent lens that I purchased a few months ago. It's a focal length that just works for me and the quality of the product itself demonstrates how much Fuji is still evolving, leaving me to wonder what 2016 will mean with the X-Pro2 and potentially, the XT-2. Of course, photography isn't all about gear, but having an inspirational piece of equipment or gear certainly helps!
As I look to the summer months ahead I am eagerly looking forward to a very special wedding that my wife and I will be shooting in Vietnam over Christmas, as well as some other lovely couples here in Melbourne, Australia. With the long days of shooting and travels comes preparation in the gym and good eating, which will hopefully serve me well in the more rural areas of Vietnam and some of long wedding days ahead.
To those of you who read and view my posts, and keep my website traffic at some pretty inspiring levels, I thank you for your support and hope that I can continue to keep you returning in the months and years to come.