It’s our last night in Broken Hill and the heavens have opened up with severe weather conditions including floods and thunderstorms that ended a day of gale force winds. For a long time I’ve wanted to travel on an adventure, out into the Australian Outback, with my trusted camera in hand, for opportunities of the ‘not so ordinary’ photographs.
As a professional photographer, I began my career as a Nikon user, and I still am on one hand (excuse the pun), however I like being untethered. So taking my DSLR out on the road for trips like this one, felt like a burden – not because of its ability to take beautiful photographs, but because of the size and weight of it, and also because of how much it draws attention. It wasn’t until last year when I did Project 23 with Fujifilm Australia using the X100S, that the seed was planted; that’s when I realised the potential of the Fujifilm mirrorless camera. I always wanted to have a camera that was small enough in my hand, yet capable and rugged enough to handle all shooting situations, especially when I’m on the road. So began my journey to find the right ‘partner’ in the perfect camera world.
We had planned a four-day road trip in early October from Melbourne to Broken Hill and the NSW Outback Desert. When Fujifilm announced the release of the X-Pro2 at the beginning of this year, I had my keen eyes set on it. However timing wise, the X-T2 was just released at the same time I was ready to buy a new camera, and right before I was leaving for the Outback Road Trip. So my decision was very hard. Weighing up the latest X-T2 against the X-Pro2 was an extremely difficult and time-consuming exercise for me. I did a lot of research online, talked to photographers who use the X-T1 and even rented the X-Pro2 for one day to see how I felt with it. But on D-Day, it mostly came down to personal preference: durability; the hybrid viewfinder on the X-Pro2 vs. EVF only on the X-T2; and just how good the Fujifilm X-Pro2 felt ergonomically in my hands. So X-Pro2 it was.
We stayed in Broken Hill for 4 days (inclusive of our 2 x 11 hour drives from/to Melbourne each way). There’s so much to see along the way, a 9-hour drive that became 11-12 hours because of the amount of times we stopped to take photographs. Conditions wise, just in those four days, we went through flash floodings, mini cyclones, thunderstorms and gale force winds including red dust storms. I couldn’t just sit inside the car and feel protective or scared of ruining my new X-Pro2, as much as instinctively I wanted to. There will be battle scars that my camera will earn and I’m ok with that.
Whilst walking along a road outside of Broken Hill, during what they say is a normal windy Spring day, I was shooting in an actual red dust storm – with fine little pieces of dirt and dust blowing straight towards me, and my X-Pro2 was completely exposed. I spent the evening blowing the dirt out of the grooves of my Polarizing Filter, lens and buttons.
On other shoots, we were standing on top of a mine, exposed without protection, in pouring rain and gale force winds – on the day where we planned to do our long exposure night photography shoot. It’s about the adventure for me; so making the most of the opportunities, and capturing moments when they happen, is what I live for. So I have to get out there.
Fujifilm advertise their X-Pro2 and the XF35mm F2 R WR lens (which I also bought with my X-Pro2) as being Weather Resistant. Based on my experience, I can honestly say that the ‘army-like machine’s’ durability of the camera casing is definitely weather resistant, and no matter what I put it through on this ‘field test’ trip, it is exactly the sort of camera I can rely on, and take with me on all my adventures!
Our goal for the trip was to really see and experience the environment of the Aussie Outback – after all, it’s all about the journey, not the destination. A constant reminder our GPS announced throughout the trip was to ‘proceed to the route’. But we didn’t care because stopping along the way and going off the beaten track WAS the journey.
Broken Hill and Silverton (30-minute drive North West of Broken Hill) both have so many opportunities for photography, including the 270km stretch of uninhabited desert that lies between the drive from Wentworth to Broken Hill. It’s a pretty awesome landscape for all photographers. What I know from my own experience, in most cases, the best photographs come out of spontaneity. I am willing to admit that I am a huge planner – I like to make lists and plan my shots ahead of time and it always served me well. But on journeys such as this, I had to put my inner control freak aside, and just be in the moment.
These are some of the places we shot at whilst on this Outback Road Trip:
- Silver City Hwy – this is the Hwy you have to travel on when driving to Broken Hill from Wentworth. The terrain is barren, vast and rugged. Red earth, lots of lizards and nature along the road, and carcases of animals long gone. We saw the remains of what seemed to be a Dingo, with just the tail and claws, and the skeleton half buried in the red dust, just a little way off the side of the road.
- Palace Hotel – this is where Priscilla Queen of the Desert was filmed, and made famous in Broken Hill City Centre. They have an event in September called Broken Heel where they have a performing Drag Queen and re-enact the movie. The inside of the hotel has huge murals that are apparently great to see.
- Line of Lode Miners Memorial – this is literally just 5 minutes out of Broken Hill City Centre and has great views of Broken Hill City. We used this location for our long exposure night photography and storm photography. The altitude here and the front of views of the city make it a great place to take some amazing shots.
- Silverton Hotel – is in Silverton, which is a 30-minute drive North West of Broken Hill. The hotel is famous for being the film set of movies such as Mad Max and Razorback just to name a few.
- Silverton and its surrounds – if you want Ghost Town kind of Outback, then Silverton is an amazing place to get some arid photographs of the desert, along with a whole range of abandoned cars and buildings. It’s called a Ghost Town because of all the empty relics. We found it a bit spooky to be honest, but it had a real Aussie Outback feel, and the fact that it is used so often as movies sets, says it all about the opportunities it has for photographers too.
- Mundi Mundi Lookout – is just 10-minute out of Silverton, and has amazing views of the flat plains and desert-facing sunset, all the way to the horizon. We stayed out there and did our night and star photography from there because we could see all the way to the horizon. Amazing sunsets too. Word of warning, it can get crowded because tour buses come out there for sunset too, as well as many other people to watch the sunset. So if you like solitude, don’t go on weekends or school holidays. Also take insect repellent – the mosquitos out there bite really hard!
- Dirt Roads – there’s many dirt roads, and dried out river beds, outside of Broken Hill, and in particular just out of Silverton as well as the Living Sculptures turnoff, that are amazing opportunities to walk along, explore and take photographs.
- Living Desert Sculptures and Flora & Fauna Sanctuary – about 20-minute drive out of Broken Hill, this is yet another location where you get amazing views of the terrain and desert all the way to the horizon. Word of warning, don’t go out there when it’s windy, and make sure you purchase entrance fees ($6 pp as of October 2016) because the Rangers do come and check apparently.
- Brownes Shaft Mine & Lookout – is another location where you can get great night sky and star photography. It’s elevated on top of an old mine and the structure is great as a landmark around the night sky for some pretty great shots. The stars are awesome out there, the Milky Way so bright, especially when there is a no moon, which is what we had when we were on this trip.
- Tyrell Lake / Salt Lake – this is somewhere you can take a short detour off on your way to / from Broken Hill. Unfortunately, we had heavy rain and floods so the road was closed, and the photo we did get to take was out in pouring rain, so the salt wasn’t so colourful or visible. I think it would be a great place to visit in the dryer months.
- Brim Silos – again another place you can plan on your trip up / from Broken Hill, where an artist has painted portraits of farmers on one side of the silos in the wheat producing strip of Henty Hwy in Victoria. Their sheer size is just breathtaking.
And when you need to feed after a very long day out in the desert, we highly recommend Thyme On Argent for their pizzas (say hi to Jodie) and Bells Milk Bar for their heavenly milkshakes and sweets.
I pride myself of shooting RAW all the time but with Fujifilm cameras I shoot FINE (JPEG FINE that is). For some reason the JPEG that comes out of any Fujifilm camera that I’ve own (X-Pro2 and X100S) come out really nice and creamy. I don’t know what ‘spices’ and ‘ingredients’ they put in producing their JPEGs, but the colours come out really nice and just right.
My favourite would be Provia, Classic Chrome and of course Monochrome Film Simulation. You can view different JPEG Film Simulations of the Fujifilm X–Pro2 here for comparison.
Full disclaimer: I own these two cameras and this isn’t a technical review of the cameras on behalf of Fujifilm. But I’d like to share my first-hand experience of taking both my X-Pro2 and X100S on my ‘field test’ trip. Any locations I mentioned on this blog are purely my own recommendations – obviously you’ll need to do your own research and see whether it’s suitable for your own journey.
I’m so in love with my new Fujifilm X-Pro2, and know that I made the right decision. I’m wrapped and satisfied with how it withstood so much from this trip. We love travelling light, on adventures and road trips, and most of our luggage is usually photography or gadgetry equipment. These cameras will stay with me for a very long time.
See you all on our next Untethered Adventure!
The gear we used on this field test trip:
- Fujifilm X-Pro2 (Firmware 1.02)
- Fujifilm XF35mm F2 R WR (Firmware 1.01)
- Fujifilm X100S (Firmware 1.21)
- Peak Design Slide Lite Camera Strap
- Peak Design Cuff
- Peak Design Field Pouch
- Benro Tripod GC168TB1 (used with the X-Pro2)
- 3 Legged Thing Brian X1.1 with Evolution 1 with AirHed 1 (used with the X100S)
- Hahnel Combi TF with Cable release (used with the X-Pro2)
- HOYA Fusion UV Filter 43mm Thread (used on the XF35mm F2 R WR)
- HOYA Fusion Circular Polarizer Filter 43mm Thread (used on the XF35mm F2 R WR)
- Lexar Pro – 32GB SDXC Card – UHS 1 – 95MB/s – 633x – Class 10 (used on the X-Pro2)
- Lexar Platinum II – 16GB – SDHC Card – 100x – Class 6/10 (used on the X100S)
- iPhone 7
- Apple Macbook Pro 15” Retina Display
- Western Digital Passport Hard Drive 1TB
- Inmarsat Satellite Phone (yep, you’ve gotta be prepared!)
About the authors
Maya Sugiharto and Aviva Minc are Visual Storytellers. Photographers and Short Filmmakers based in Melbourne, Australia. They are the Co-Founders and Creative Directors behind Agent Morphe Design. They love to travel (with their cameras) on adventures and road trips, off the beaten tracks. To see more of their photos visit them on Facebook and Twitter or on their personal Instagram accounts.
Maya Sugiharto – @mayasugihartophotography
Avia Minc – @photographersassistant