Monkey See, Monkey Do - Street seller, Holy Spring water Temple, Bali, Indonesia, 2019 - Fuji X-T2 & 16-55 2.8 zoom
I recently watched a vlog from a top Nat. Geo. Editor – she was giving advice on how to set up ones photographic website. She discussed everything from layout, colour schemes, font sizes and punchy images. I implemented a lot of what she suggested and I now believe my 9 year old website has never looked so good! However, one thing that stuck in my memory was what she said about ‘favourite images’. She was discussing in particular what to call various ‘folders’ or ‘collections’ on the website and what images not to include. I was a bit horrified when she said “….. do not name or include a folder called my favourites” – oh boy!! She said it did not look or sound professional and nobody cares about what your favourites are!! Guess who had a folder on his website called ‘my favourites’? It is therefore somewhat with ‘tongue in cheek’ that I pen this, my latest blog.
It’s been a marvellous and exiting journey over the last 9 odd years as I fully transitioned from a Nikon full-frame system to a Fuji mirrorless kit. Though the road was often spattered with periods of frustration, disappointment and financial tension (buying and selling digital cameras and changing systems is very expensive), I would not have had it any other way.
Man on a Mission - streets of Malacca, Malaysia, 2019 - Fuji X-T2 & 16-55 zoom
From my first blurry, overexposed images on the X100 (the stuck shutter blade issue), to my current setup, there have been many beautiful images that have graced my portfolio. Images that I would venture to add may never have been taken if I was still shackled to my Nikon full-frame kit. More specifically because I now shoot mostly from the hip (using the flip-out screen), and the smaller more discreet cameras and lenses, allows me to take images totally unnoticed as I pursue the genre of ‘street’ and ‘travel’ photography. Add to this the very quiet shutter that my X-T1 then X-T2’s had, and now the gorgeous near silent shutter of my X-H1’s – I can click off images now that people are never aware of (compared to Nikon’s loud clunky shutters).
However the most wonderful aspect that has bolstered my photography is the enjoyment of using such great equipment. Though I am very passionate about photography itself – the places in the world that it takes me to, the people I meet and the lovely images I record – over 50% of my enjoyment is actually using great quality equipment. Though my X-T2’s were good, now that I have recently swapped over to two X-H1’s (last few weeks), my love and enjoyment of using these cameras has gone off the scale! The XH1 is such a beautiful camera - it reeks of quality and really has that ‘made in Japan’ feel. From its new IBIS to the thicker body and extra weather sealing, I feel I could go to hell and back and this baby would still emerge with crisp, sharp images!
Perhaps the question I am asked the most by friends and people who visit my website is ‘did your photography suffer by swapping over to mirrorless’, and ‘what are your favourite images from your Fuji years’? I thought it timely then to write a post that includes some of my favourite images from this period. I will give a brief explanation of each image, why I like it and the camera and lenses used. Folk can then decide for themselves if they think my sojourn into Fuji land has been fruitful or should I have stuck to Nikon!
I had a short holiday with my wife in Bali over Christmas last year (2018/19). As usual we hired a motorbike as our means of transport. Early one morning we were riding up out of the hills from Legian and we came across some farmers planting rice. My wife patiently waited whilst I approached the farmers. After some pointing, smiling and waving I got the nod to go ahead. I ended up on my knees in the mud, but thanks to the flippy screen on the X-T2 I could get very low without getting wet. I wanted this low perspective with the farmer’s hands in the water and the towering sky. I like this image because of the very closeness that is portrays, which makes one feel as if you are actually right there in the mud too. Taken with the Fuji X-T2 and the brilliant XF 16-55 zoom.
This was taken on the same trip as the farmer planting rice. My wife had to return home for work, but I stayed on in Bali for another week. Then I went on to photograph Malaysia for a whole month (see my separate blog on this wonderful trip). I stumbled upon a recycle slum just out of Kuta in Bali. There was a whole community of people living there in very poor, squalid conditions. I went back several times and took gifts to the children. This little girl was called Siri and I gave her a ‘beauty’ kit for girls. It had combs, hair clips and ties, a mirror and such. I snapped this spontaneous picture as she delightfully played with her new toys. I love this image because of the delight that a cheap $4 gift can bring to a poor child. Taken on the Fuji X-T2 and the 16-55 zoom. An insanely sharp image that has no right to be taken with a zoom!!
From the same trip again - these are some of the recycle workers at the slum. These were really tough and rough guys and I would not have liked to have crossed them. They were kind to me though and smiled and shared their doughnuts with me. They let me take my time and get the right shots. This may not be the best reportage image in the world, but it is one of my favourites, because of the story that it tells. I love the interplay between these tough, hard- working men and the pretty actress smiling down upon them. They had a bird-cage covering the picture of the girl, but they even allowed me to remove it so it did not spoil my picture. Once again, Fuji X-T2 with the 16-55 zoom.
This is one of my all time favourite images - just so simple, yet so powerful and mood invoking. I had a few days in Hsipaw in Myanmar. I would get up before dawn each day and cycle up to a place called ‘Little Bagan’. It has some old temple ruins there and a monastery with monks. I took some nice images in the early morning light. I was going back to my hotel one morning around 7:30 when I noticed this little boy eating breakfast with his dog mournfully watching. This was taken in the days before I had ‘seen the light’ and bought the 16-55, so at this time I was using the 18-135 Fuji Zoom. Also taken on the X-T2.
I have a very special place in my heart for Vietnam. I lived and worked there for a year in 2011 and met my wife, so we go back often to visit her family. We were staying at the old city in Hoi An. The light and colour on the buildings gives some of the best photographic opportunities anywhere. I got up very early one morning and found my way to this little fishing village. I was able to grab this image as the boatman disembarked from his craft. I like the low perspective (flippy screen on the X-T1), the action invoked by the fisherman and the light in the sky. The ironic thing about this photo is that it’s the only photo I have kept from my traumatic days of trialling Fuji’s 18-55 kit lens. I tried 3 copies of this lens over as many years – trying to find a decent, useable copy, but never did. I want to forget about this wretched lens, but I can’t because I like this image so much! Taken on the Fuji X-T1 and 18-55 kit lens.
I like this shot a lot – not because it may be the best image on the planet (it’s not), but because of what it means to be able to have taken this image. I live and work in a rough, tough, gold-mining town in the Western Australian desert. We have a lot of Indigenous Aborigines living in and around the town. There are many social issues revolving around alcoholism, family violence, crime and unemployment. It may be hard to imagine but it is almost impossible for the non-indigenous person (me), to photograph them. They think we may use the photos in a negative way, or record them at their worst, or even by taking the picture we may be seen as racist.
It’s so ironic – I can photograph people all over the world in their culture and I’m never viewed with suspicion or ever questioned, but it is so hard to photograph the people in my own back yard. Being a teacher I know a lot of the children of these families and over the years I have built up some trust. I often photograph them and take a framed copy back a few weeks later and present it to them. By doing this I’ve broken some of the barriers down and I have many beautiful images of these friendly people. Fuji X-T2 and 16-55 zoom.
I really love this shot because it perfectly illustrates the vicissitudes and frailties of timing. I was in ‘Little India’ in Bangkok looking for a vegetarian meal (not hard in India). I walked past this lonely street merchant selling his raffle tickets. He looked rather sad and dejected as he gazed down upon all of his unsold tickets. I snapped off a few shots from the hip as I do (as usual he had no idea a photo had been taken), and kept going. It wasn’t until later when I got back home to process the images, that I noticed the bus. Oh my goodness, it zoomed past so quickly I hadn’t noticed – perfect timing. I love the juxtaposition between the poor street merchant and the successful business people in the signage, staring down at him. Fuji X-T2 and 16-55 zoom.
I like this photo a lot because it illustrates that if we have one of the elements of a good image (subject, lighting, composition and moment) – present, it can actually fill in for the other missing elements and still make a very acceptable image. I shot this at a small fish market in Nha Trang. I just lifted the camera above my head and ‘shot’ the ladies below. I couldn’t even see because this camera never had a flippy screen – I just guessed. This photo isn’t perfectly sharp and not the best lighting, but it works because of the strong composition. The human eye loves symmetry. Our eyes will always find the leading lines and follow them in and out of the frame. Our eyes follow through the triangle formed by the hats, the bowls of fish and the ladies’ hands. Fuji X100s.
Just in closing – perhaps the main message from this post is that it doesn’t really matter which camera or lens combo you use. The Fuji X series cameras (and there are many of them), all produce beautiful, memorable images. Just remember, don’t be so busy pursuing photography (writing blogs, searching the internet, buying new gear, reading test reviews), that you forget to actually get out there and make some beautiful, lasting and powerful images.
The Little 'Fisherman' - Holy Spring Water Temple, Bali, Indonesia, 2016 - Fuji X-T2 & 18-135 zoom