Creating an Imperfect Image - Fujifilm X-T2 with a Helios, tilt-adapter, and other ramblings after a night of Aussie metal
To para-phrase a security guard at the photo barrier on this night "I F$%KIN hate this music! But... These gigs have the best behaved people. They drink tonnes of piss and spend heaps at the merch stands. Honestly, I'd rather get digitally f#$%ed by a giant than listen to this stuff."
Much love to this fella for being brutally honest and giving me a damned good laugh.
This gig served me up a pretty profound experience as a photographer. With no pressure of producing images other than for my own enjoyment and for all these fine bands to use should they want to, I got to experiment with some new goods, including the XF50-140 and an old Helios 44-2 F2 58mm with a tilt only adapter. This was also the first time I got to use my X-T2 properly in a live music environment, which was a bit of an overdue itch to scratch. So what made it a profound experience?
For just about my entire journey so far in photography a big part of it has been chasing that perfect, sharp, optically stellar image. An image that really isn't achievable since invariably I know I'd never be satisfied with the result. It's also quite closely linked to gear acquisition too. Undoubtedly, good gear enables great photos to be taken or discretion to be used when necessary, such as in the case of compact performers like my trusty XF35mm F2, a phenomenal ~50mm equivalent.
When I recently purchased an old Helios off of eBay ($80 for a nicely refurbished one) I didn't expect to get much more than an effect out of it that could be used from time to time for a bit of fun when combined with the tilt adapter too. I certainly didn't expect that on this occasion I would end up using it for more than 50% of my photos and come away with images that were so far from perfect they felt much closer to my perfect image than I could ever have expected.
See, the usual suspects in my Fujinon kit certainly got used and performed outstandingly. The XF16mm gave me those close wides and crowd shots with not a single focus issue, and the flexibility of the rear tilt screen of the X-T2 allowed way more freedom for me to compose with. The XF56mm 1.2 also worked outstandingly and provided me with low ISO shots due to its exceptional widest aperture. My newly acquired XF50-140 was the high performance best I expected it to be and served me particularly well when taking shots further back and elevated above the crowd. Using the image stabilization was a blast too in the face of some heavy moshing, providing some unique looks.
In light of these awesome modern lenses, using an old manual focus lens with a non-parallel focus point (can be adjusted to straight) was an absolute jam and a lesson in taking control. I doubt many purists would be overly enthused towards a lens with no hood that gives wild flaring and soft-edges, but for me, the way these 'imperfections' come together in this combo feel so right. There's just something else about making an image that is flawed. An image where the main perceived subject isn't in focus. An image where it's overcome by floods of light and shadow in inconsistent ways. I guess what it also comes down to is creating a certain mood with imagery, which certainly suits the gloominess of the metal scene. Perhaps it's also the thrill of the chase when focusing manually, knowing that the shot could be 'missed'.
After some stern words from my brother Dan at Matsu Photography recently, I think this experience is the turning point for me in seeing the enjoyment of the journey rather than the unattainable end goal, where harsh self-criticism and comparison against other talents can tend to spoil the experience.
It must also be said that I sincerely appreciate all my brothers and fellow 'creative folk' in these phenomenal bands featured. If not for letting me have this experience but for creating incredible, inspiring music that provides a soundtrack in my life. Cheers to my Ormsbros in Psycopritc, Hollow World and Hadal Maw, and to the other fellas in Orpheus Omega, Blackhelm, and Naberus.