The white plastic wrapped box was smaller though heavier than I expected. Life is full of surprises, sometimes delightfully so. Cycling over to the local postal outlet I was actually nervous to meet this new member of my photographic equipment family. Was it worth the money? Will it meet expectations? Will it really make a difference to my photography?
Kathie and I have welcomed children, guests, animals, visual art, sewing and quilting equipment, vehicles, music and books into our home during our 34 years together. This has included cameras, lenses, flashes, fast computers, printers, scanners and other equipment. We have each attended courses and continue to study our own art and craft accordingly. My focus (!) today however is photography.
For photographers, the arrival of a new camera is a special occasion. As both a Nikon and Fuji shooter I enjoy the privilege of two different systems for scene capture and image making. I try not to be gear-obsessed, but good equipment does help. With my purchase of a Fuji XT-1 almost ten years ago I now hold in my hands the newer model XT-4. It’s just a tool of the trade, but wow, what a tool!
Larger files sizes produce greater clarity and afford better crop potential; Image stabilization in-camera makes low light work easier; Two multiple format data storage units means more usage options including direct posting to social media; Special features include increased multi-exposure capability and focus stacking; The dials are better designed; the grip fits my hand better; the screen cantilevers in all directions and the display is sharper and more clear; the bottom design provides better access to the battery slot. You get my drift. On day one I am a very happy photo camper.
Add to these features the intuitive operational design from earlier models which means a smaller learning curve for me. Image quality is typical Fuji-brilliant. While slightly heavier than earlier models it is still half the weight of the professional high-end Nikon or Canon products. Many internationally acclaimed landscape photographers love these lightweight and versatile cameras. Just take lots of batteries in the bush as these machines gobble power because of the in-camera digital view capability.
As I said earlier, what a camera! But does the camera make the photographer? Many of my best shots were taken with a much older though wonderful at the time Nikon D50. File sizes were often 2MB instead of 25MB now. There was certainly a fair portion of beginner’s luck in those early days. Now one must explore and utilize features accessed through many menus, though Fuji does a good job of keeping essential programme functions on the top dials. The XT-4 feels in many ways like the old 1970s Nikon, Canon and Minolta cameras. Today I often set everything to AUTO and use the camera as a point-and-shoot.
So again I ask, does the camera make the photographer? I suggest not. I further suggest a return to basic rules and principles if worth a try. Some photo guides simply “f8 and show up” which really means put in the time and practice common sense. There is wisdom here. Following Mads Iversen, to get great landscape shots, enter, enjoy and discover the landscape as much as you can. If you love the land your pictures will convey your enthusiasm. As I don’t drive it’s hard sometimes to enter many landscapes. I am encouraged however with the insight of Canadian photo guru Freeman Patterson who says that ninety percent of his work occurred less than two kilometers of his home in Shamper’s Bluff, New Brunswick.
Another simple rule is when shooting landscape is focus one third of the way into the landscape before you. Others employ the Sunny 16 rule. Harking back to the days of film when many cameras did not have through-the-lens (TTL) exposure capability the sunny 16 rule (also known as the sunny f/16 rule) is a method of estimating correct daylight exposures without a light meter. The basic rule is, “on a sunny day set aperture to f/16 and shutter speed to the [reciprocal of the] ISO film speed [or ISO setting] for a subject in direct sunlight.
These are two of many simple technical solutions for great results, many now archaic as our cameras do so much of the heavy lifting for us. But still, despite the “we have the technology” attitude, good images are made through intuitive and skilled composition, coupled with sensitivity to changing light situations, keen balance between foreground and background and by paying attention to colour or black and white tones and textures.
Science and engineering are brilliant companions to art, but it is the art of the photographer where satisfaction and inspiration is to be found. We dare to call our local photo gathering the Kamloops Photo Arts Club., Our nomenclature is intentional; we are not simply a photography club. We are for better or for worse, photo artists. It is the art which makes our images interesting, evocative, memorable and enjoyable. At least that’s my approach.
So what’s yours?