Interviews

X-Thusiast Featured Photographer William Solis: Familiar Can be New

Australia strip BLACK

In continuation from last month, we are happy to announce William Solis as our new X-Thusiasts Featured Photographer for September 2016. In his recent interview, Solis relays his thrill for cinematography and travel through Fujifilm photography.

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“Starry Night”, Fujifilm X-T1 + Samyang 12mm F2 @ F2, 30 sec, ISO16000

Let’s start with the basics: Where is home? What are your hobbies? What inspires you from day to day?

Home is Newport in the Northern Beaches NSW. It’s a beautiful place, and I simply enjoy watching the ocean in my spare time. My hobbies other than photography are fitness, cinema and technology. Each hobby has some carryover to the other and ultimately gives me some variety.

My biggest daily inspiration is seeing the incredible shots in places that I’ve been to many times. There have been times where I haven’t gone out shooting because I felt I’ve covered every inch of that location, only to see someone else’s photograph from there; I’ve gained a perspective I had never considered as if I had never seen that place before. It’s really opened my eyes to continually try different shots, so I carry my camera with me everywhere. As I look for those shots, sometimes a great scene shows up, and I’m only able to capture it because I have my camera on me.

How did you develop an interest in photography? How did you learn and develop your craft?

Cinema has always been a big part of my life—even now it is a gigantic inspiration for my photography. I grew up watching movies and the cinematography was a very important aspect to me. The way the scenes were filmed, it was a perspective I had never seen in my day-to-day life. I wanted to capture my life like that. I also really appreciated my childhood photographs and they help me remember moments in my life that would otherwise be a fragment. I also felt they showed the moment better than I could explain it.

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“Fireworks in Darling Harbour”, Fujifilm X-T1 + XF23mmF1.4

My parents got me a compact camera when I was about 15. From there, I took photos of anything and everything—at first, I emulated the compositions I liked in the movies without really understanding what made them look so good. Over time, I researched composition guidelines, photography FAQs, beginner guides, etc. I joined photography websites and spent a lot of time analysing shots I liked, matching them up with the composition and post-processing posts I was reading. I would get some constructive criticism from other photographers, but most times I would come back to my earlier shots and see what didn’t work based on the experience I had gained since then. My goal was to understand the thought process and develop my eye in order to take better shots.

Over the years, I have met other photographers who have taught me a lot and I have attended workshops that have taught me things that would have otherwise taken me way longer to learn. I am still developing my vision through experimenting, mixing it up or looking at shots from people who have different viewpoints.

 

Do you have a particular photographic style? If so, what would you consider that to be?

Travel photography would be the best way I could describe it. I try to see the places I go to as if I was seeing it through the eyes of someone who’s been there for the first time and I like to think if after looking at their shots, how would they have photographed it differently? From the beginning, my goal has always been to photograph to remember the life I have lived.

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“Sunset at Barrenjoey Headland”, Fujifilm X-T1 + XF35mmF1.4, shutter 1/5000

What’s your favourite location to shoot in Australia?

Barrenjoey headland at Palm Beach; not only is it beautiful but there are so many ways that it can be photographed. I find it’s a playground, an open-air studio that I am free to enjoy.

 

Consider your favourite or most memorable Fujifilm photograph. Where was it taken, how was it shot and what does this photo mean to you?

That is not easy to answer! Most memorable for me would be a rain cloud I photographed from Newport beach in the morning. I went down to the beach despite it being a cloudy morning. I did not think I was going to get anything special but I went anyway. I just wanted to photograph.

I reached the beach and saw this wonderful view of a rain cloud over the ocean and the sun behind it. I wanted to give some context and sand wasn’t working so I walked past the ocean pool and onto the rocks. There was a rock that the waves kept crashing against and I saw a shot in my head. I squatted down, tilted the screen up on my X-T1 and composed the rock in the foreground and the rain cloud in the background. I simply waited for it to appear in front of my camera. I was listening to Simon and Garfunkel during the shoot and I know that influenced my shot.

The shot represents a couple of things to me: To go out even if it doesn’t look ideal and that you don’t always know what you’re going to get, so put yourself out there.

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“Good morning, Newport”, Fujifilm X-T1 + XF23mmF1.4

What’s your favourite X Series camera? Why do you prefer that particular model?

X-T1 without a doubt. Specifically the EVF, flip-up screen and design. I’ve used a variety of cameras in my life but there has always been something that has hindered me or been not as enjoyable to use. The X-T1 is easily the most enjoyable—it is just right in the places that I need and almost feels tailored to me. It’s like the makers had a wishlist for a camera that they would use themselves and made it. I’m just glad that it exists! I refer to my X-T1 as my electronic eye because it feels like an extension of me and the closest I can get to saving the moments I see with my own eyes.

 

Which Fujinon lens(es) do you prefer?

The 23mm F1.4 is my main lens. It enables me to get the shots I am after. I do not feel hindered by it, especially in low light. There are many shots I would not have been able to get if I did not have that lens. I also use the 35mm F1.4 for subjects farther away and the Samyang 12mm F2 if I want to go wider.

 

Could you describe your photographic workflow? Do you prefer any third-party, post-processing software, camera accessories or community networks to develop and share your work?

My in-camera settings are Pro Neg Std and Colour +2. I shoot in RAW but the look of that film simulation works for me as a base idea. I use Lightroom predominantly and Nik Collection for sharpening as I find it does a better job. I import my photos with VSCO 06 400H+1 + because it gives me a feel of what I’m after and starts the process of connecting the photograph I have in my head to the final image. Usually, I get the colours first then highlights/shadows/curves and then finish off with colour afterwards. Sometimes the missing piece is changing the colour hue, usually blue and yellow. Sometimes I edit a bunch of images and by the last one, I have found the look I am after and apply it to the previous shots.

I upload to Flickr and share it to Instagram. I also back up my exported images to an external hard drive. Sometimes I feel I don’t need to go to Lightroom and instead convert in-camera to the look I’m after and send it to my phone. I then edit in Snapseed and upload from there.

 

Do you have any additional final thoughts regarding Fujifilm X Series? Do you have any tips or advice you’d like to share with other photographers out there pursuing their craft?

Firstly, I am very interested in the X-T2—especially for the video and AF—so I will be checking that out when I can. I highly appreciate the firmware updates and Fujifilm listening to feedback (any video-centric firmware updates for the X-T1 would be greatly appreciated).

I often get asked what camera I recommend and I would love for Fujifilm to make a 1″ sensor successor to the X30. I have a feeling that it will fill a gap for many people and would be an excellent introduction to Fujifilm. On a similar note, I would really like Fujifilm to host more events because it would allow people to try out the gear in real-life scenarios. I would definitely like to be involved or attend such events.

My advice for photographers would be to never stop learning and be open to new ideas, different compositions and styles because it may open you up to take photographs that you would have never considered.

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“Sunset on St. Leonards, NSW”, Fujifilm X-T1 + XF23mmF1.4

To see more of Will’s work, you can follow him on Instagram at @willsolis1.

If you, or someone you know, is interested in joining our X-Thusiast community, check out the full X-Thusiast Gallery and Submission details here.

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