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 ninth interview in Series Two is with Melbourne based photographer, Athol Hill.
Athol, you go by the name of ‘The Overrated Photographer’ online, can you tell us why and how you got started in photography?
I picked the name because of the keyboard warriors on the internet. I wanted a website where I could document my photographic journey and calling myself “The Overrated Photographer” seemed like a humorous way to eliminate the trolls.
Photography was a lazy start for me. I did most people did; I bought a DSLR and left it on auto or used the scene modes. I thought that photography was a talent you were born with. I’d hear people say a photographer had a good eye and I assumed I didn’t have it.
Fujifilm X-T2 – XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR – 1/1400 second – F4 – ISO 200
My real introduction to photography came when I was kitesurfing regularly, and there weren’t many people taking photos of kitesurfers. I went through the process of learning the manual settings of my camera and over time, I started to realise that the “photography eye” was something you developed through experience and skill.
With the arrival of my children, my extreme sports photography opportunities dried up. This forced me to extend out to unfamiliar genres to keep myself taking photos, namely environmental portraits, family and street/abstract.
Fujifilm X-T2 – XF35mmF2 R WR – 1/4700 second – F2 – ISO 200
What do you most enjoy about photography and how have Fujifilm X Series cameras impacted the way you shoot?
Photography is my artistic and creative release. I’ve used to feel I had the artistic capacity of a brick because I lacked the ability to do the conventional arts (painting, drawing and sculpting). When I discovered photography it was the realisation that I found my creative art.
Fujifilm X-T2 – XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR – 1/5800 second – F2.8 – ISO 200
Prior to moving to Fujifilm, I had bought into the propaganda machine that told us we “need” full frame cameras to create good photos. Fujifilm has given me an appreciation for how small my gear is and yet, I have lost absolutely nothing from an image quality perspective. My photographs look better than they did before and my bag weighs half of what it did.
I also think that photography is an ongoing learning process and EVF’s offer more opportunity for improvement because we’ve gone from imagining the photo to seeing them immediately.
Fujifilm X-T2 – XF35mmF2 R WR – 1/250 second – F8 – ISO 200
If we were to look into your camera bag what Fujifilm X Series equipment would we find?
I have a broad set of gear that I choose from depending on type of photography I am doing. That includes:
Fujifilm X-T2 – XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR – 1/250 second – F3.6 – ISO 400
What’s your favourite photo you’ve captured using the XF90mmF2, can you tell us the story behind the image?
My favourites will always come out of family due to the emotional attachment. My favourite is the one of my youngest daughter in a superhero mask, not because of the technical merit of the photograph or the composition, but simply because it epitomises the way children are. They’re about imagination, having fun and enjoying the moment. We forget that as adults and children help remind us.
Fujifilm X-T2 – XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR – 1/900 second – F2.8 – ISO 1600
What photography genre do you prefer to shoot and why do you enjoy it?
Some people find a single genre and stay with it. I found this challenging because I appreciate different sides from each genres.
I’ve always loved extreme sports because the athletes inspire me. I enjoy watching people push their boundaries further and when people see a camera out, the “show off” side of their ego makes an appearance. The challenge with a family is finding the time to get out regularly, so more recently my preference now is environmental/child portraits and street/abstract, simply because of the accessibility.
Environmental/child portraits offer more opportunity to convey emotion whilst street, offers a broad variety of subjects and forces you to think outside the box.
Fujifilm X-T2 – XF90mmF2 R LM WR – 1/1000 second – F2 – ISO 1250
Can you mention where you might find your inspiration on any given day before you go out and shoot?
Finding inspiration with extreme sports is easier (when you have time) because I actively participate. I can look out the window and if there is wind, I’ll head to the beach for kitesurfing and take some photos before or after the session.
Fujifilm X-T2 – XF90mmF2 R LM WR – 1/110 second – F2 – ISO 200
For other genres it’s a little harder, and you have to push yourself outside your comfort zone. I try to carry a camera everywhere with me. That was part of the reason for getting the X100T, it offers accessibility and small size without compromising quality.
How do you find the Fujifilm X-T2 performs when reacting to something happening quickly before you? Does it get the job done and what’s the image quality like?
Pre-children, I used to think photographing sports was the peak of AF challenges, but I’d say photographing kids is far more challenging to AF system. With most sports, you have a defined path the object or person is moving in so that makes it predictable to large degree. A skater goes up in the air, does a trick and you know where he is going to go and when he will do it. Kids on the other hand will do what they want, when they want, and how they want, and there is no warning. The challenge becomes two-fold, keeping the lens on them and having the AF keep up. For these scenarios, I find the AF system in the X-T2 is remarkable. There are very few photos where the AF hasn’t done its job, it’s normally my inability to move the camera quickly enough that’s the problem.
Fujifilm X-T2 – XF90mmF2 R LM WR – 1/320 second – F2.8 – ISO 2000
I also think having full AF capability on the rear tilt screen is an advantage because it allows you to get low without having to lie down. There are no DSLR’s that offer comparable AF in liveview and in some situations, like a skate park, you can’t lie down or you are in the path of skaters. You must be on the move, getting out of the way quickly.
If you could see Fujifilm develop a future XF lens that doesn’t exist what would it be and what would you photograph with it?
A part of me that is still tied to extreme sports and for that reason, it happens to be one of lenses on the roadmap for 2018, namely the wide angle zoom. The wide angle zoom is something I’ve been waiting for. It’s not because I don’t like the 10-24mmF4, but primarily for weather resistance. When you shoot wide in water sports, you are generally close enough to be hit by the spray. I typically use a rain hood, but if something does happen, you want the environmental sealing for peace of mind.
Fujifilm X-T2 – XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR – 1/1250 second – F2.8 – ISO 6400
If you have some advice for someone starting out in photography what would it be?
Don’t become despondent about the number of good photographs you get when you start out. Novices often have a flawed perception about photography because they’ll see the 50 perfect wedding photographs in an album, not the 400 that didn’t make the cut. They aren’t aware that a studio photographer might take 100 photographs to get that one perfect shot. There are very few perfect first shot photographs, that is reality of photography. In time, your success rates will improve and you’ll have a higher percentage of keepers, but it’s a journey fraught with learnings and failure.
Fujifilm X-T2 – XF35mmF2 R WR – 1/250 second – F8 – ISO 200
It’s also important to find a medium that allows you to get constructive criticism. It’s great to post a photo on Facebook or Instagram and get 50 likes, and don’t stop that because the endorphins help keep your enthusiasm going. The challenge is 50 likes on Facebook won’t teach you how to make a good photo into a great photo, or a great photo into a spectacular photo and that’s the key to your progression. Don’t be scared of constructive criticism; we all started somewhere and making mistakes is a natural part of learning. Every mistake is an opportunity to do it better next time.
Fujifilm X-T2 – XF35mmF2 R WR – 1/350 second – F16 – ISO 200
Other interviews in this series