Landscape techniques with the Fujifilm X Series – Part II

Over the past few weeks I have been writing a series of blogs for the Fuji X Aus site. The key to these blogs has been and will continue to be all about gathering the thoughts, opinions, insights, skills, workflows and tips directly from members of the Fuji X Aus Facebook group. These blogs will be about some of those key photography questions that we see discussed in the group on a fairly regular basis.  And in return it is my hope that these blogs will give back to the greater community a wealth of information. The members are approached by myself for a short interview to gain a little insight into who they, what they shoot and why they use Fujifilm X Series products.

Hopefully you have been following along with our blog series as we have already covered some great topics and spoken to some truly amazing and inspirational photographers. Members of the Fuji X Aus group just like you and I. This blog is actually part two of a blog I wrote a few weeks ago where we talked to a group of photographers about their techniques when out and about taking landscape shots. Not just the shots themselves though. I also wanted to know about their preparations for facing the elements. Have personally spent a couple of hours clinging to a cliff with Dale Rogers to get that great landscape shot – I know all too well the benefit of waterproof boots! Well, NOW I do. And on the subject, yes that is Dale on the cover photo of this blog. Doing his thing. 

Landscape photography has long held a high level of respect amongst society as it enables everyone to see a piece of the world that may have only been experienced by a few. Or seeing a scene of a remote and beautiful part of the planet may inspire the imagination and desire to travel and witness such beauty for ourselves. And in this the photographer plays such a key role – just as cartographers of and navigators one did – they document the landscape as points of reference. I think that there is something truly romantic in an art form such as this. 

Being a true romantic myself, I sought out a number of members from the Fuji X Aus group to gain a greater insight into how they do what they do. I was not disappointed as our group has an insane number of highly skilled and experienced landscape photographers that tell a story of the land in the blink of an eye. On this occasion I am grateful to David Mullins, Murray Foote and Justin Curtis for their time and insight into this genre. 

David Mullins

Vietnam
Ha Long Bay, Vietnam 2018 XT2 16mm ISO 400 1/420 F8

Could you tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from? How long have you been doing photography? Is photography a full time job, part time or a hobby for you?

I am from the UK originally. I came to Australia as a teenager in 1989. I worked in the aviation industry untill 2014 but I hated every day of it as I was not in a position to express my creativity so I was bored to tears. I have always been creative. Alongside my day job I ran a small 3D design and 3D printing studio. I also loved photography. I started taking it seriously in 2011 when I purchased my first DSLR. Now I am self employed working from my own studio as a concept artist as well as doing photography, mostly commercial photography but I love landscapes and portraiture. Basically I do whatever pays the bills  so that I don’t have to go back to being an employee and so I can express my creativity.

Do you have a favourite location to capture landscape? A place that calls you back time and again?

I love to shoot in Asia. To me the landscape is so varied and mystical. I have travelled through Cambodia twice and recently toured Vietnam. My dream is to do a three month trip through Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam by motorbike with my camera gear. I will not pre-book any accomodation as I plan to stay in local guest houses and roam at my own pace. I always feel rushed on a pre-booked trip and often miss some of the best scenery whilst travelling via bus, etc. On a bike I should be able to capture whatever I like when I like. 

How do you prepare for the elements? What practical non-photographic equipment do you pack for a landscape shoot?

I dress for the expected weather and take wet weather gear just in case. I have been caught out before miles from anywhere and it was not an experience that I would like to repeat. My friend, another landscape photographer, introduced me to those little pocket warmers that you shake to activate. I always have some on me just incase. I always take a torch some black electrical tape and lots of snacks 🙂 

Do you do research and pick a specific destination to photograph or do you just go rogue into the wild and hope for the best?

I use google maps and google search plus instagram, etc to check out a location prior to going there to see the attractions and lay of the land. I use APPS on my phone to check sunrise sunset times etc and also for astro work.  I do love to explore though and have often found some amazing places that I had not planned on seeing.

Which is your favourite Fujifilm body and lens combination when it comes to shooting landscape?

I favour the Fujifilm XT2 and the Fujifilm XF10-24mmF4.   If conditions are favourable,  I love prime lenses so I cannot resist the XF16mmF1.4 for landscapes as well. When I am travelling I favour the 16mm as it is weather sealed, compact and built like a tank with the metal square hood.

If people wanted to view your work online where can they find you? (This is not a compulsory question but if you want to promote your site, social media, etc then feel free to do so here.)

www.relativity3d.net 

https://www.instagram.com/david_mullins_r3d/?hl=en

Cambodia
Siem Reap, Cambodia 2018 XT2 10-24 F16 ISO 100 240 seconds (ND10)

 

Murray Foote

DSCF0463-Edit
The Cazneau Tree, Flinders Ranges, made famous by eminent historical photographer Harold Cazneau, August 2016. Fujifilm X-E2 (Infrared converted sensor) plus Samyang f2.8 8mm fisheye probably on a tripod at 200 ISO, 1/180 sec, maybe f11 (not recorded by camera) … plus lots of jiggery-pokery, voodoo incantations and acrobatics in Lightroom and Photoshop.

Could you tell us a little about yourself? 

I’m 68 and am a full-time amateur photographer, hopefully of a professional standard.

My photographic interests are based in landscape and live music.  I used to shoot infrared landscapes in the film days and renewed that in the digital era.  I also expanded in the last eight years to wildlife, macro and street photography.

I seek to master both the technical and aesthetic aspects of photography, shooting RAW, processing however little or much to optimise the image, and doing my own printing.  I believe that producing a print is the ultimate purpose of photography, especially landscape photography, and for it to be truly your own work, you need to do it yourself.

I grew up in Auckland, New Zealand.  I came over to Australia in 1973 and spent two years in Sydney before moving to Canberra.

How long have you been doing photography? 

I have some images of Pompeii from 1960 when I was 10 But last time I looked I couldn’t find them.  My first camera was a folding 120-film Agfa Isolette.  My first SLR in the mid 70s was a Pentax SV and after a few years I switched to Nikon.  I got serious about photography in 1981 when a friend gave me an enlarger.  In the film era after that, I shot slides and printed Cibachrome.

I joined the Canberra Photographic Society, was President for six years in the 80s and Competition Director for seven years in two separate periods.  I am still active in the Society.  It has been my main vehicle for learning Photography.

In the mid-80s I progressed to large format photography (5 by 4 inch film size) and in 1987 I was sent around Australia taking photographs of lighthouses, so I was a paid photographer for three months.  This resulted in the coffee table book and history From Dusk Till Dawn, the Department of Transport & Communication’s contribution to the 1988 bicentennial.

I lost interest in the chemical darkroom in the early 90s and largely gave up photography for some years.  I regained interest when I returned from a trip to New Zealand and discovered scanning and Photoshop.  In this period digital cameras were becoming obsolete almost as fast as yesterday’s newspaper, so I largely stayed with film and my serious camera from 2005 to 2008 was a 6x17cm Gaoersi panorama camera.  I got my first DSLR in 2008 which was a Nikon D3, and since then I have shot very little film.

I retired from the Public Service in 2010 and found myself able to travel. So since then I have had photographic expeditions to 26 countries outside Australia.  I visited New York with just a Fujifilm X100 in 2011 and a trip to India in 2014 was my first with a Fujifilm system.  

Is photography a full time job, part time or a hobby for you? 

None of those, it’s a vocation.  I have never seen it as a way of making money because that usually involves things for other people that you would not otherwise choose to do.  It’s almost impossible to have a financially successful career as a fine art photographer.

Do you have a favourite location to capture landscape?  A place that calls you back time and again? 

Not really, because the world is a big place and there’s a lot to explore.  I generally prefer to go to wild and remote places and focus on getting the best out of a new location.  Most countries I’ve been to overseas I’ll probably never return to.  Some I’d like to go back to, Iceland and Japan for example, but then I’d be visiting different places.

How do you prepare for the elements? 

I wear clothes for one thing.  .I’ve noticed other people often do that too.  And a hat.  And shoes, usually.

I’ve photographed at -26°C in Hokkaido and experienced katabatic winds in South Georgia.  I’ve also been in the Caribbean when it was very hot and humid.  I’ve also been at 5,000 metres in the Atacama Desert and approaching that in Ladakh.

Altitude hasn’t bothered me, though it does slow you down and you do need appropriate drugs at least to start, and maybe a medical evacuation capability.  Hot and humid can be a hassle because it restricts what you wear and how many pockets you can have, and you obviously need lots of water.  Cold, you just need the right clothes and lots of layers and it helps to have good photographic gloves that you can poke an end of a finger out of.  Good waterproof boots with ankle support is often essential.

I use a Mindshift Gear 180 Panorama pack where you can swivel out a lower-section and don’t need to put the pack down to access cameras and lenses, or even a tripod.  I have a couple of camera rain covers but I haven’t needed to use them yet for Fujifilm cameras.  When I walked the Overland Track in Tasmania in winter last year (lots of snow and rain), I had a camera in a cover and lenses in waterproof lens cases, all strapped to the pack straps and belt (I was using a supplied pack).

What practical non-photographic equipment do you pack for a landscape shoot? 

Probably water containers.  Often a car GPS.  Maybe a map and a compass.  

If I’m travelling, I usually have a laptop with a 1TB SSD hard drive and two external drives (one a compact SSD) to back up images.It is a 17” laptop with 32GB RAM so I can also process images when I get the chance.If I’m somewhere with no electricity, I just need sufficient SD cards.

Do you do research and pick a specific destination to photograph or do you just go rogue into the wild and hope for the best? 

I do a lot of research.  I may spend months researching for a trip.  For my next trip I have a 10-page Word document filled with info and links.  I will also have pre-specified routes on my car GPS, especially where I am hiring a car, so I can jump in the car and ask the GPS “OK, where do we go next?”.

Which is your favourite Fujifilm body and lens combination when it comes to shooting landscape? 

Currently I have two Fujifilm X-T2s and an infrared-converted X-E2.  I don’t feel compelled to rush out and buy an X-H1.  

My favourite landscape lenses vary greatly according to conditions and what I have at a particular time.  If I had them, my favourite lenses would be the 200mm and the 8-16mm.  I’d been hoping to pick up an 8-16 for the next trip but it’s not going to be possible.  My current favourites are probably the XF80mmF2.8 macro and the XF100-400mm but I have six other lenses, a teleconverter and an X100F, and use them all where appropriate.

A good tripod does make a difference and so does using it with a remote release or shutter delay.  However, when travelling internationally it’s often not possible to use a tripod.  It’s a good idea to do some systematic testing to compare handholding vs tripod sharpness at different shutter speeds for different lenses and focal lengths.  Optimal shutter speeds will differ for each person.

I don’t see either equipment or technique as the most important factors in Photography generally or Landscape Photography in particular.  Vision is the key – being able to know what you want to create and to be able to envisage the final result as you look through the viewfinder.  Everything else falls into place in time.

If people wanted to view your work online where can they find you? 

I spend a lot of time preparing posts in my blog www.murrayfoote.com.  As well as the images, I may make detailed notes on the history, archaeology and cultural context of places I visit.  It currently includes 900 posts, 13,000 images and 300,000 words.  

DSCF1674-Edit
Pencil pines from Cradle Plateau, Overland Track, Tasmania, August 2017. Fujifilm X-T2 plus 55-200mm hand-held (no time to pull out a tripod) at 200 ISO, 1/400 sec at f11.  The weather cleared for some good views and then closed down again shortly afterwards. Converted to monochrome using Nik Silver Efex Pro but not much processing.

 

Justin Curtis

Pelican Sunrise-2

Thank you for taking the time to talk to me. What can you tell me about yourself and your photographic journey?

Thank you for the opportunity Greg

Born and bred in Melbourne and have travelled and lived across Australia and the world up until my current age of 55. Started out as a Motor Mechanic, Sales Rep, Security at the Windsor Hotel, etc, etc. Until i finally joined the Army and spent most of my military life travelling to far flung places such as Morocco/Algeria and Mauritania just to name a few. Looking back, i wish I had the photography bug whilst in these beautiful but somewhat harsh corners of the globe. I always had an interest in photography but the “passion” did not show until one day I was walking through New York with my wife and I took a shot of a sandstone building reaching up into a pale blue sky with my point and shoot Samsung. I did not look at this shot until I returned to Oz. However when I did, I said to myself “I’m going to buy a decent camera”. The rest is history.

As it currently stands, I have been employed within management in the transport industry for the last 11 years. I work Monday thru Wednesday and spend the remainder of the week working, shooting and growing my part time photography business. I shoot anything from street to fine art to portrait and landscape. However my two loves are probably at the far ends of the scale being street and landscape. Black and white, both digital and film from 35 mm through to large format, is my vice 😉

Do you have a favourite location to capture landscape?  A place that calls you back time and again? 

There are so, so many wonderful locations close to home. The coast draws me in all the time however. Cape Schank and the surrounding coast line calls me back time and time again. No matter what time of day, year or weather conditions that prevail, the rugged coastal scene around here changes time and time again. No matter where I go, every-time I complete a shoot and pack my equipment away, I always take the time to sit back, sometimes for hours, and take it all in, quite often have been known to fall asleep lol.

How do you prepare for the elements? 

I love dramatic scenes, overcast conditions, heavy cloud cover, etc, etc. So for me to get out amongst it when the weather is not the best happens quite often. Appropriate clothing is a must (weatherproof) footwear also is a high priority. I quite often take my Swag with me and lay it out during the night, no matter what the conditions, so I don’t have to travel to get those early morning opportunities that arise. My 11 years in the Army I guess toughened this old body up enough to take good with the bad. Of course, cleaning equipment goes without saying. Especially when a lot of my time is shooting on the coast or anywhere near water. I shoot alone so i always tell family/friends and where required the local police station where I’m going and what my plans are and return date/time. Last but definitely not least is i have both the LED Lenser hand and Head Torch, i do not go anywhere without them, they are both always a part of my kit.

Do you do research and pick a specific destination to photograph or do you just go rogue into the wild and hope for the best? 

I do both. I generally have an idea in mind of what I want to come away with from a shoot. I always check tide times, sunrise and sunset timings, weather reports, routes, road conditions, it is always best to be prepared. In saying this, sometimes, the best laid out plans can come crashing down, this is where the “Rouge” factor kicks in. Mother earth can be cruel at times so as they taught us in the army always remember the 6 “P”s, Prior Preparations Prevent Piss Poor Performance, just prepare for the unknown each and every time.

Which is your favourite Fujifilm body and lens combination when it comes to shooting landscape? 

Without a doubt the Fujifilm XT2 with the XF10-24mmF4 on the front, however i always have the XF50-140mmF2.8 with me and the X100F as a backup. It definitely has its place in my landscape kit. The XF10-24mmF4 is just so versatile, gives me a great point of view selection and i just about always tend to incorporate the foreground in my shots. It’s a beautiful and rugged piece of kit. The WR is handy on the coastline as well!!

If people wanted to view your work online where can they find you? 

http://www.instagram.com/justincurtisphotography

http://www.instagram.com/justincurtistreet

http://www.facebook.com/justin.curtis.961

http://www.justincurtisphotography.com (Under Construction)!!

The Rock

That wraps up our second blog in this series.  I find it quite amazing and humbling to hear of the varied and interesting lives people have led. Both in their personal sphere and in their photographic journey.  And I am sure you will agree that these guys know their stuff. I think also the most important message out of this series about landscape techniques is about being prepared for the best and the worst of the elements.  Having a plan and making sure that at least one other person knows of that plan and where you will be is super important. Yes you may just get that amazing sunset. But make sure that you are safe and well prepared for the situation. Once again thanks to David, Murray and Justin.  Hope you have enjoyed this read. Happy shooting.

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