Here are 46 pictures of UK model Jenny Fisher that I took on a recce in Spain. I used the new Fujifilm GFX50s together with the Fujinon 32-64mm f/4 zoom lens for every picture. Some of these blog images are links to full resolution versions of the pictures for you to see the kind of detail I capture on a real world shoot. I’m not a pixel peeper, I’m a photographer striving for the highest quality of output I can realistically achieve whilst keeping photography fun. Enjoy…
Back in January Radmila Kerl and I had a meeting in a steak bar in London to discuss the possibility of running a workshop together in Spain in September. Radmila is a former student of mine who has gone on to become one of the top portrait and wedding photographers in Germany. Based in Munich, Radmila is a great communicator and an excellent photographer sharing my passion for beauty, fashion and form. We chose Spain because it is one of the few countries with many abandoned properties giving wonderful textures for styled portraiture and nudes.
Locations like these need scouting out because access to some of them is difficult and others have been restored or demolished by the time we get there. We used a combination of Google Earth and Google maps to plot suitable candidates for this recce adventure in the Granada area of Spain. We were a bit unlucky on the whole but we did stumble across some real gems. Being there gives us an understanding of the light direction and what time of day each location will shine. Out of 30 or so potential locations we found six fabulous places that will form the basis of our workshops in September. I still have another 8 or so potential shoot spots to check out in the days prior to the start of the workshops.
I asked Blaise my PA to source a model that I’ve not shot with before for us to test with and Jenny Fisher, a fashion model was recruited. The first time we met was in Malaga airport. This kind of meet up is tough as it’s hard to build rapport while negotiating with a hire car company.
It took us about an hour of driving before we stumbled upon our first abandoned farmhouse in an olive grove. A bit of off road driving by Len, got us to the location. I first met Len 22 years ago. He is my neighbour and a Mamiya RB67 owner who likes beer. We still share regular beers together and the odd trip too. In fact we’ve been to France, Germany, Italy and now Spain shooting together. The good things in life are best shared with friends.
I had a few other reasons to test shoot; I had a new camera with a new lens, the Fujifilm GFX50s with the 32-64mm zoom, two new flash units, a Godox AD200 and a Godox AD600BM, and a new tripod by Novo. I needed to establish a slow, calm shooting pace for the GFX system to work at it’s best for me. I’ve been there before with medium format digital capture and many years of shooting 120 film so a calm, considered shooting process is nothing new to me. It just takes a different approach to capture the fine detail and subtlety in tone that the GFX can deliver. You can shoot a GFX like an XT-2 but what’s the point? The X-T2 is faster, lighter and delivers a great image quality. The GFX is more refined and realising it’s true potential requires more care and precision from the photographer. Put simply the X-T2 is like a Mini Cooper S and the GFX is more of a Bentley Continental.
So what’s the Fujifilm GFX50s like to shoot with?
It’s a delight to work with the new GFX50s but if you are joining me on that GFX adventure there are a few things you need to know. The level of detail that the GFX can capture is only achieved with the camera still or with a high shutter speed selected. I know it sounds obvious but it needs saying. I chose to shoot everything on a tripod with the exception of a few street shots where I used a monopod instead. In my opinion this is the best approach to high resolution photography. It’s such a breath of fresh air using a tripod. I love giving myself time to carefully compose a shot. It’s great being able to leave the camera on the tripod while I adjust the styling, dress the scene and give direction to my model/ sitter knowing that the composition is already established.
The GF 32-64mm f/4 zoom – Really?
“You went for the zoom”? Wrote someone on Facebook. “Yes”, I replied “and I love it”. There are photographers online right now whipping up a frenzy for fast aperture primes to marry with the GFX but most of them have yet to discover that even at f/4 focus accuracy is critical. The GFX has a sensor that is four times the size of the X system sensor. This makes a big difference. Marry that sensor size increase with a doubling of the resolution and you have a very finely tuned focus zone. Even at the 32mm end of the zoom you are deciding what eye to focus on. Forget wide area zone focussing at f/4. The GFX requires precise focussing. I knew I needed a 32mm lens as my core optic so the zoom was my only option. Wow! what a great lens it is. The 32-64mm zoom completely exceeded my expectations. The bokeh is calm without swirls or busyness. It renders the background in a low contrast manner that lets the picture pop effortlessly. The background still tells the story, It’s not obliterated but it supports the subject in a subtle, beautiful way. The lens is heavier than the 63mm prime though but that is not a problem when using a tripod or monopod for every shot like I did here.
I have also bought the 63mm lens in anticipation of moving to an all prime setup. It arrived just after I returned from Spain. I like having a lightweight camera and lens combination. I just need the 23mm, a 35mm and the 110mm primes to complete my system. I’ve bought a 210mm f/4 Zeiss T* lens for the Contax 645 system to use with a ‘smart’ adapter. It was an Ebay bargain from Asia in EXC+++ condition. There are several smart adapters currently in development for the Contax 645 system that allow full autofocus operation and aperture selection from the camera. I’ll give it a go and if it is not up to scratch I’ll sell it again on Ebay. The Contax lens may well have the name Zeiss on it but I’m pretty sure a new Fujinon will far outperform the older Zeiss lens design. I hope a 210mm f/4 appears on the roadmap soon.
The Novo Explora T20 carbon fibre tripod
I spent several hours scouring The UK Photography Show for a new tripod. I looked at Gitzo first, because in the past they have set the benchmark for durability, stability and build quality. I have a Gitzo 3225 monopod and I love it, so I’m right on brand. I knew the £800 price tag was enough to put off most people but I’m thinking this will be the last tripod I buy so I better make it a good one. I felt the collar on the central column of the mountaineer series was awkward and unnecessarily stiff. I tested the bendiness of the legs when the sales assistant had his back to me and I wasn’t overly impressed. It claimed a superior multilayer custom wrap but it was no stiffer than some of the other brands that I tried at the show. I moved over to Manfrotto as they were on the same stand. I have an aluminium 055 tripod that I bought in the early 1990s and it has been a good servant over the years. I still use it as my principal tripod for video productions with a fluid head and levelling base. The new version of the 55 was too blinged up for my liking and I prefer the rotating clamp system of the Gitzo, Sirui and Novo rather than the lever lock system of the Manfrotto. I already have one of the Sirui carbon traveller tripods for my X-T2 and it’s great but the Novo was the best option for the GFX and it performed brilliantly on location. I’m delighted with my choice. It goes high enough, low enough, is really well made, folds in on itself for packing away and is a rock solid support for the GFX.
The Godox AD200 and AD600BM flash heads
These latest generation flash heads form the basis of my location lighting for 2017. I’ve been using a X1N trigger in ‘centre pin’ mode on all my Fuji cameras and it works really well. Rumour has it that Godox are currently working on a dedicated Fujifilm version of this transmitter that will be plug and play with TTL and HSS functionality. It’s due out by the Summer so I am led to believe.
Post production of GFX files
In the latter stages of Lightroom development for GFX compatibility I was sharing my RAFs from a pre production camera with the Adobe team and giving them feedback on the ‘look’ of the images processed from RAW files. They were in the process of fine tuning the default values for sharpness and noise reduction. Everything else was in place and now that Adobe have hundreds of files from their beta testers with final production versions of GFX to work with the next refinement of settings will perfect a near perfect output.
I happen to love working with Adobe Lightroom as it is fast and easy to use creatively. There is a lot of talk about Capture One etc but with a RAW file processor this good I’m happy to stick with Lightroom.
On the 12th, 13th and 14th September I will be returning to Spain with Radmila to run a three day workshop for a maximum of 5 photographers per model/ tutor. There will be two models, two tutors and 10 photographers in total. In the usual Lovegrove tradition we will swap groups often to ensure that everyone gets to shoot every setup and works with both models and both tutors. The details of this workshop will first be published on the Lovegrove Creative Shoots Facebook group. Then any remaining places will appear on our Passion Photography Experience website.
Please feel free to comment on or ask questions about the GFX, GF lenses, the workshop in September or these pictures below.