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.
Once again I am brought to this incredible piece of the world during the final months of my time here in Australia before we move to the UK for several years. With the perfect excuse of showing a Canadian born Fujifilm user parts of Victoria that he'd never seen we set out early one Wednesday morning to this unique part of Australia. If you're a recent follower of my work you can see a post I made of a similar visit from a year ago here.
I brought all my kit along for this one so that my companion Dragan (check his stuff on instagram!) could try out some focal lengths he hasn't experienced before in the telephoto range. Perhaps the best part of the kit to bring was my new MCEX-11 macro extension ring, which spent a good bit of time attached to my XF56mm F1.2 in the Otways Rainforest and Treetop Walk. Seriously, the best bit of cheap kit I've bought for my Fujifilm gear and works ridiculously well, particularly with the XF90mm F2.
Scroll to the bottom if you want to see me really maxing out the Fujifilm X-T2 when the local penguins returned to the beach head at dusk!
Hope you enjoy!
Anna and Chris - what gems!
It's not every week you get invited down to one of the most beautiful parts of Victoria to shoot, be greeted with some nice red vino, and watch a beautiful couple let go of their inhibitions like these two did.
As part of getting to know Anna and Chris before their wedding day next March we teed up a little evening shoot in Airey's Inlet along Australia's Great Ocean Road, and as soon as they stepped out of the car down the stairs to Eagle Rock Marine Sanctuary, Anna and Chris lit the place up. We stayed on at the beach until the sky turned a deep blue, and as a final bit of awesomeness they bravely jumped in for a post sunset swim in the very frosty water.
Massive shout out and thanks to Chris and Anna for being so awesome to work with and getting me back to Australia (along with a few other couples) next March for their big day. I can't wait!
Here's a post I have been looking forward to making since I heard the X-T2 was coming into existence, and boy I was not left disappointed.
In the lead up to the release of the X-T2 there were a few things I was looking forward to seeing improved upon, one being a more competent auto-focus system that followed my instructions a bit better, particularly when shooting my beloved XF56mmF1.2 R. I am well aware that on an ~85mm equivalent lens, AF speed and accuracy at F1.2 is not exactly an easy thing to achieve, and Fujifilm wasn't alone in this department when compared to Canon's 85mm F1.2 L behemoth.
Well, after almost 2 weeks shooting with the X-T2 and my XF56mmF1.2 R on numerous occasions and circumstances I can safely say that Fujifilm have made me a very happy camper. This new pairing is fast, accurate, and surprisingly tracks really well in continuous focus mode. That said, today's post is all about portraiture so you'll just have to wait for another day when I post about the X-T2 and its ability to capture action and fast paced, changing movement.
I had the pleasure of meeting the martial artist, model, actress and generally awesome human, Ann Truong, during some captures at my local Muay Thai gym. We met up in our local neighbourhood one Saturday afternoon recently for some impromptu portraits and I got to put my new camera through its paces, all whilst showing her and another friend some unique parts of the town centre. For this series I used the XF56mmF1.2 R with only a few noted shots on the XF35F2.
You can take a look at full size JPEGs at this link.
Fujifilm have improved their auto-focus system out of sight when comparing the new X-T2 to the X-T1. Yes, I loved my X-T1 (it's moved to a new home now) but at times it was like a disobedient child that you wanted to do one thing and it wanted to do... well, not what you wanted i.e. lock focus on this subject, not that piece of shrub in the background. The immediately noticeable difference is the focus acquisition speed and accuracy when shooting with all of my lenses, particularly the XF56mmF1.2 R @ F1.2. Even when shooting into heavily flared afternoon sunlight behind Ann, the camera and lens combo still hit the mark and didn't go off in the woods hunting! Hallelujah!!!!! In cases where I have shot between near and far subjects, it's quick to find focus and has proven to be a gem at this too during very dim light in my home environment. I will test this more in future though.
So what is there to be mindful of when using this combo?
Fujifilm have a great menu system that can readily be used to access features like face and eye detection. Heck! It can even be setup to choose left or right eye as a priority on the fly. So, if you've got a relatively settled/staged subject this feature is a god send for getting dead set focus on the eyes of your subject. Another thing to be mindful of is that this lens seems to really eat battery power. I am not sure what combo of the lens' motor and camera would cause this but I am certain that the camera would have to work overtime to acquire focus like it does at F1.2. Always pack an extra battery or two, or get the new vertical battery grip.
On a final note, if you're a Canon user and your 85mm 1.2 L is doing your head in with it's heft, awful purple fringing, and slow focus, seriously go and give this combo a test. If you're not this kind of person/user, just go and do it anyway!
For some time now I have been making a personal effort to capture Footscray as I see and experience it so that I can hopefully preserve my own memories of it. My time in Melbourne is quickly coming to an end due to our impending move to Oxford in January. Through my ~5 years living in Melbourne's inner-west I have come to love the elements that make up this place, particularly my home suburb of Footscray. It has an incredibly rich cultural history that has served as a new home for migrants from all over the world and each culture has made its mark on the architecture, food, and character of this wonderful place. Unfortunately, as the area gentrifies I am sure some of the suburb's history will be lost as the facades of streets and generations move on.
This is my first post using the new FujiFilm X-T2 but it's not intended to be a review post much like many of my others. I've had the camera since its first day of release and I am yet to fault it. Fuji have taken the few niggles and irritations of the X-T1 and produced a truly phenomenal camera that can hold its own and then some against the big boys. I'll save that review for another week though.
This entire post is devoted to a weekend of shooting for enjoyment and moments, of which I have captured using the Fujifilm emulation of Acros. All of these pictures are Straight Out Of the Camera (SOOC) JPEG small with either AcrosR or AcrosY used (sorry, I don't remember which ones) and have +1 highlight, -1 shadows, +2 sharpening, and strong grain effect. I used the XF16, XF35 F2, and XF56 1.2 for various shots featured.
UPDATE (next day) Apologies if you read this when I had Astia written down instead of Acros, which is what these are using. I was trying to be productive yesterday after a day at a rather nice winery (pictured) and made some mistakes on here. I have also added in a few other Acros JPEGs where I have pushed the shadows out to +4, which is a look I really dig. They're at the bottom of the post.
A massive shout-out to everyone I got to hang and create with over the weekend, particularly Dragan and Ann. What was set to be a casual photo-walk turned into an amazing afternoon and evening of learning new street portrait skills from Dragan, and passing on some of my more posed portrait skills to him after we bumped into the ever awesome Ann. Ann is a bad ass martial arts actress who stars in the new Hard Target 2 film. Check her out!
The photos below are also using Acros but with Shadows at +4.
They were all shot with the XF35F2