Welcome to the Second Series of Through a Photographer’s Eye. In this series, we continue to learn about Australian photographers and how they use X Series Cameras to photograph their world around them. Our eighth interview in Series Two is with Manly based photographer, Chelsey Elliott.
Chelsey, tell us about yourself and what made you choose Fujifilm X Series equipment to express your vision?
I started my photography passion in the SLR film days when I was taking more bad shots than good and spending all my money on film processing. When DSLRs appeared I bought a Canon like most people and took a million shots for a few years before I landed in a corporate career that took up my time and energy – so the camera was put aside.
Living in Manly, on Sydney’s beautiful Northern Beaches I met a great photojournalist Bradley Hunter, who really encouraged me to pick up the camera again and asked me to help him with his project of shooting a photo a day of local life in Manly. It was Bradley that introduced me to the Fujifilm X Series and the amazing X-T1. I instantly loved the compact, light feel, and the mirrorless feature of ‘what you see is what you get’ in the images.
The X-T1 gave me the ability to carry a discrete small camera everywhere, and the confidence to experiment with settings that were right at my finger tips – it was quite freeing. Then there is the weather sealing on the Fujifilm X-T1 and X-T2! I love to travel, heading to snow fields annually and spending many weekends shooting seascape/ocean shots, so my gear is usually getting splashed, rained on or frozen. I’m glad to say I’ve never had an issue or a worry with my cameras or lenses, even in an igloo in the Arctic Circle…in winter!
Seagull to the Rescue – Manly Beach, NSW
Fujifilm X-T1 – XF18-55mmF2.8-4 – 27.7mm – 1/400 second – F8 – ISO 200
Your portfolio is quite diverse, how do you challenge yourself to keep taking interesting photos?
I guess, coming back into photography only a few years ago, I am still trying to find my preferred niche – so I’m trying out a range of ideas and styles to keep myself versatile. I am inspired by the beautiful place I live, so you will see a lot of landscape/seascape, and I am influenced greatly by the amazing artists on Instagram like Warren Keelan, Andy Mann and Kahn Ficarra. Shooting for a daily project also really forced me to take a different angle or find a new idea to keep the audience interested and coming back every day. I completely recommend a project like that for anyone stuck in a rut or wanting to be challenged.
When shooting a scene that has been done by the masses, like the Sydney Harbour Bridge or Manly Beach, I do try to find that different angle or odd composition to keep the picture appealing to the eye. So you will see me often lying down to find a reflection, or hiding behind trees to find some good framing.
Foam Dances – Manly Beach, NSW
Fujifilm X-T1 – XC50-230mmF4.5-6.7 – 95.4mm – 1/400 second – F7.1 – ISO 400
Bridge Reflections – Kirribilli, NSW
Fujifilm X-T1 – XF10-24mmF4 – 12.6mm – 1 second – F22 – ISO 200
You recently made the upgrade to a Fujifilm X-T2 after starting with the X-T1. In your opinion was the upgrade in megapixels and features worth it and how has your photography improved since then?
Once I started to pick up some freelance work, I invested in a second body for on-location travel jobs. Luckily the X-T2 had just been released, and I’ve found it to be a really amazing camera. I can see the difference in image quality when I print beyond A2 size images for sale, and that quality definition is so important as I move into higher paid contracts. With the confidence of a ‘pro’ level camera producing money worthy shots, I have been able to put my name out there more for commercial jobs knowing that the end product is worthy of international marketing material. Not to forget to mention the Fujinon lenses – no one can argue that Fujifilm makes some of the best lenses in the world.
I’d really like to use the video features more on the X-T2 as the quality is outstanding and today’s digital-minded audience has come to expect great videos to keep them engaged. That visual medium is certainly my weak point, and I find it very challenging to compose a story correctly, it’s not something that comes naturally or comfortably to me. With some time and patience, I hope to greatly improve my videography skills using the X-T2.
Sunrise Ripples – Lake Macquarie, NSW
Fujifilm X-T2 – XF10-24mmF4 – 10mm – 1/60 second – F4 – ISO 320
Smoking Pipe – Manly Beach, NSW
Fujifilm X-T2 – XF10-24mmF4 – 10mm – 1/250 second – F4.5 – ISO 800
If you have some advice for someone starting out in photography what would it be?
When I dusted off the old Canon DSLR, I took a couple of intensive online courses to brush up on the basics and just started to take shots of everything. The more I practised, the easier it was to remember what the best aperture was for a certain light, what the ISO was for, white balance, metering and all those things that slip the mind.
Then once I was comfortable with the basics – I picked a decent camera system (X Series) that I knew I would use ALL THE TIME. So choose a camera that you will have on you, as the best camera to buy is the one you will use. The X Series cameras fit in my jogging backpack, so I take one with me every day I go for a run. That way it’s there for a quick snap if the light looks good, or if something interesting pops around the corner.
I encourage everyone to get an Instagram account… even if it’s just for inspiration from the thousands of talented artists sharing their knowledge. It’s a fantastic media channel to review different styles, research your next shoot location or to build a connection with other like-minded photographers. It’s extremely satisfying when one of your favourite photographers leaves a positive comment on your photo; it encourages me to get back out there and create another beautiful image.
And finally I recommend taking up a daily photo challenge for a month, it will force you to take chances, put yourself out there and be creative.
Cloud Mountain – Curl Curl Beach, NSW
Fujifilm X-T2 – XF18-55mmF2.8-4 – 18mm – 1/1600 second – F8 – ISO 200
What is your favourite beach image you have taken with the X-T2 and XF10-24mmF4 lens? Can you tell us the story behind the photo and how you captured it?
This one – I call it “Molten Cream” – was taken on Easter Sunday at sunset on my favourite beach in the whole world – North Curl Curl, NSW. The gold colours being reflected off the wet sand were intense, so I wanted to give it some contrast, or relief to the eye by adding in the swirling white foam water. I had to wade in with my gear and turn my back to the waves which is usually not the best idea if you want to stay mostly dry. I have fallen in love with the shapes that ocean foam creates which you only can appreciate when frozen in a photo – the swirl in the bottom left corner really grabs the eye.
It’s not the best composition as I feel it needs a figure in the centre to give it a proper focal point, but the magic of this beach is how unpopulated it always is, so this image (to me) highlights that feeling of a secluded untouched location.
The XF10-24mmF4 is my go to lens for all my landscapes. I purchased it for my Scandinavian trip last year, knowing I’d have some expansive mountain and waterfall scenery to capture. Even at the ultra-wide focal length of 10mm, the distortion is so minimal, and the sharpness is unbeatable. It has also functioned without missing a beat in minus 15-degree chilly temperatures!
Molten Cream – North Curl Curl Beach, NSW
Fujifilm X-T2 – XF10-24mmF4 – 10mm – 1/75 second – F5.6 – ISO 200
Do you have any tips on how to best photograph pets? Is there a best time to photograph them or a particular lens you would recommend?
Pet photography is certainly something I’d love to do more of. It’s a growing market as our cute fur-babies are more and more treated as a member of the family. As a devoted animal lover, what better way to spend time than playing with a puppy!
It’s a funny thing about animals, but they really find the lens an uncomfortable thing to look into, most dogs will look away like it’s a big eye staring at them. For close ups, I’ll have a stick, a favourite toy or a treat either just under or above the lens. The photo comes back like they are looking straight into the camera, but really they are waiting for their reward for being so patient. Time of day really depends on the type of animal but generally mornings and evenings when everyone’s a bit more active and playful.
For lenses, I like to use the XF35mmF2 lens for more ‘profile’ static type shots. It’s really versatile in a range of lighting conditions and picking up highlights, textures and being small is not so off-putting to the shy ones. Have the lens wide open at F2 really allows the image to be all about the face, or eyes, and less about the background. The incredible sharpness of the picture produced by the XF35mmF2 will really surprise you.
For more action shots you need a zoom like XF18-55mmF2.8-4 as a dog will run in and out of frame catching their toy. The best thing about shooting dogs in action is they are more than happy to keep repeating the same shot until you get it right… just keep throwing the ball!
Freedom – Queenscliff, NSW
Fujifilm X-T2 – XF18-55mmF2.8-4 – 18mm – 1/350 second – F7.1 – ISO 200
What amount of time do you spend capturing photos versus being in front of the computer editing them? Do you find Fujifilm X Series equipment helps you be more creative?
You can easily get lost in the editing process, and over time the photo gets further away from the true picture, and you can lose hours heading down the rabbit hole of minute adjustments. So I have some of my own rules for the RAF/RAW images that I want to prepare for sale/print.
- Start editing the next day, or at least ½ a day later. It helps you to see the photo subjectively as opposed to the emotional connection you had when you took it. Sometimes your emotion can subconsciously lead you to over edit as you try to find the point of perfection that your mind remembers.
- Edit in a 3 phased approach – moving between photos each phase. First time to fix up the obvious (crop, dust, etc.). Second to adjust contrast, highlights, etc. The final step is to dial back what you did in the second phase, and then you have the perfect amount of adjustment.
These rules help me spend a lot more time behind the camera; I can happily sit and shoot at waves for hours on end, then editing the best one up in 10-15mins. Having now learnt NOT to take 100’s of shots of the same thing, my culling process is a lot faster than it used to be.
For the many photos that I don’t need to edit from RAF/RAW – the JPEGs that are produced by the X Series are incredible. I love the different film options available in camera, with Astia/Soft being a favourite. I also use the Bracketing functionality for my landscapes to give a HDR feel, the exposure options are perfect.
Shadow Puppet – Lowe Head, Tasmania
Fujifilm X-T1 – XF 18-55mmF2.8-4 – 18.8mm – 1.3 seconds – F5 – ISO5000
We noticed you travelled to Iceland, what advice would you give someone who is planning on going and what Fujifilm X Series equipment would you recommend they take?
I have been fortunate to have travelled to many amazing countries all over the globe, and I have to say that Iceland is the most extraordinary place in the world. It should be on every landscape photographers bucket list. I visited Iceland for New Year’s Eve, so it was a white winter wonderland with quite low light and very short days. Having a week there, we only managed to cover the south coast from Reykjavik to the iceberg fields of Jokulsarlon. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t helping us view the Aurora Borealis. I have put Iceland back on my bucket list to visit in summer time when the land is completely green and the waterfalls at full flowing force.
If travelling there in winter, I recommend a good sturdy tripod that will stand up to the cold temperatures. The one I took from Australia pretty much shattered in the below 10-degree temperatures so now I have a replacement bought locally that is carbon fibre. For cameras, I can only recommend either the X-T1 or X-T2. The weather sealing was so important as it was often icy, snowing or raining and windy. The easy access settings dials were a huge help when you didn’t want to take your warm gloves off!
As for lenses, take an ultra-wide or wide angle, the vistas were immense, the waterfalls so tall that you virtually needed to take a panorama just to capture the full scene. I also recommend a prime lens with large aperture, like a F2 or F1.4 to assist with the low light conditions. Don’t forget your remote trigger, plenty of batteries and memory cards in case you are lucky enough to witness the elusive Northern Lights.
X-T1 XF10-24mmF4 – 10mm – 1 second – F22 – ISO 200
Other interviews in this series