Photographer Oliver Wheeldon normally shoots adventurous landscapes with the X-T1. In this article he tries the FUJIFILM X-T2 on location in Cornwall, and gives us his feedback, along with his top tips on how to engage with the beauty of the natural world.
My Fujifilm History
It is great to finally get to write about my experiences with Fujifilm. I moved over to the X Series back in 2014 when preparing for an expedition to the Antarctic. I was using a Canon DSLR and I wanted to upgrade image quality, low-light performance and durability, without getting a larger camera body size. Having experienced the X-Pro1 in India I had a proper look into Fujifilm and fell in love with the X-T1, I took the plunge and I haven’t looked back since. It was everything I had wanted in an upgrade and for a lower price! I then upgraded to shooting on two bodies for my next Antarctic trip where they survived pummeling blizzards. I continued to travel and put them through a sandstorm in the Sahara and the intense Monsoons of Vietnam and they continued to shoot amazing images through it all.
I feel confident in saying that I am an X-Series user who has pushed these cameras to their limit, and they aced it.
I used to live in Arizona, where I was surrounded by stunning landscapes – it was a photography haven. It was such an incredible opportunity to be there for a long period of time. Whilst my Antarctic photography was journalistic, as I continued to explore these stunning places in Arizona, I was sharing my experiences more and more on Instagram. I really honed my skills and discovered different methods to best capture a location with the intention of sharing it on social media.
In an age of instant viewership and the consumption of 1000s of images a day, how do you capture a place in a way that will grab someone’s attention and really make them look at what you share? I will explain later.
When I was offered the chance to try out the FUJIFILM XT-2, I instantly said yes, I love everything about the X-T1 so I was intrigued to see what would have improved.
From the spec sheet there were 2 features that immediately stood out to me. Firstly, the higher megapixels, which is welcome to me as I am now even more interested in printing out my images than I used to be and so knowing I am capturing a place with as much data is possible is great news. The second feature which stood out for me was the extra axis of rotation on the screen. I love to capture landscapes in portrait mode and so now being able to mount on a tripod and still flick out the screen to a comfortable angle would actually make a huge difference.
What I found when actually using the camera for two weeks is that it was not just some numbers on a spec sheet; everything had been upgraded. I didn’t think it was possible in one generation of camera but the difference is striking.
It doesn’t take long to see where the improvements lie, it feels sturdier in the hand and just more refined. From the more secure memory card door, to having now a conventional 3.5mm microphone port and even moving the tripod mount to allow access to the battery door when a tripod foot is attached. There are so many tiny things that build up to make it a phenomenal upgrade.
In all honesty I hadn’t thought the cost would be worth just 8 more megapixels, but that isn’t all you’re getting, Fujifilm have taken the X-T1, which I thought was perfect, listened to the users and engineered a camera that is nothing short of brilliant. I could go on to talk about how I also prefer the new dials, the added features of the scroll wheels now being buttons, too, but I think I have made my point!
Exploring Cornwall’s Coast
I only had the camera for a short period of time but it coincided with an exciting trip to one of my favourite landscape areas in the world; the north coast of Cornwall, England. Continuing what I said earlier about sharing the beauty of a place, I aim to capture landscapes in three ways, using the X-T2 in Cornwall was no exception.
The first is actually something I developed after using Instagram and seeing how other people share their travel experiences. I used to aim for no signs of people in my landscapes, feeling it ruined the serenity and natural beauty of the scene, now it is my favourite thing to aim before because it actually adds so much to the image. By including a figure you not only give an otherwise unobtainable sense of scale, but it makes the image more relatable. I want my pictures to inspire people to travel and engage with the beauty of the natural world around them. If my images can feature someone doing just that, then the viewer will be able to better visualise themselves being there doing the same.
The next is to get into the landscape. If you are amongst the rocks or trees you gain a greater sense of drama and also form. This can be particularly effective if your scene has motion in it, like the crashing of waves or the cascades of a waterfall, being too far away can flatten the landscape and lose the drama.
Finally, the third is the classic landscape shot, this can often be the hardest because I am now ditching the elements that help make for a dramatic or awe inspiring image, I only have the viewpoint and my camera to work for me. For this shot I spent a while hiking around the cliff side to try and get the best angle where all the stacks are on show and not overlapping or hiding one another. I was extremely lucky with the weather and employed the use of my ND filter to allow for a longer exposure. I wanted to do this because the coastline is so dramatic that by making the water perfectly smooth, I can bring more focus to the incredible rock formations.
On top of my ND Filter I also used a polariser to darken the sea, making the whites of the waves stand out more and, in a second image, using the polariser to darken the sky, preserving all the colours during my long exposure. I then combined the two images together in a composite to ensure I had the best features from both shots.
Whilst I feel it does create a stunning image and the colours are incredible. I still prefer my first shots with a person on the cliff edges overlooking the landscapes. This is for all the reasons I mentioned before, whilst I used to seek ‘pure’ landscape images, I am now far more captivated by shots that give me a sense of scale and adventure.
You might argue that I could have done the same in this last image, adding a figure to the edge of the cliff right in front of me, they would be nicely framed by the water and again give me scale. This would be my absolute favourite shot if I had done so, but the simple truth is it would have been too dangerous, which leads me to another photography tip.
Be aware of your environment. It is easy to not heed the warnings of signposts in an effort to get that one shot, but if the locals tell you to be careful whenever you mention the beach you are headed to, best to take note. I only took liberties with exploring this cliff side because I have visited this area for over a decade and I know how dangerous it is and why the signs are there. Which is why I did not push it and suggest my friend or myself stand on that particular ledge, there is always a point where it is just not worth the risk.
As my time in Cornwall continued through caves and more cliff sides I got very attached to the X-T2. For the rest of our time, the weather was overcast and raining which didn’t make for the most compelling images, as the flat light can hide the details in the form of the landscape and rain on the lens makes a tack-sharp image impossible! This just made it clear that my decision to make the most of the first few days was worth it.
If it were not for my camera there would be many beautiful sights I would have never seen. My quest to capture the beautiful has driven me up mountains above the clouds, into deserts under the Milky Way and on top of buildings to catch the setting sun. I can say with 100% certainty I would not have been so driven to do those things if my pursuit of beauty wasn’t also in capturing and sharing what I am lucky to witness.
Because of this I am so grateful to have photography in my life, it helped me develop my adventurous side and is the reason I have seen such incredible things from our amazing planet.
Whilst this love for photography was a driving force, a huge catalyst of that is having a camera you love to use. It might not always be about image quality or having a boast-worthy spec sheet, if you love the camera in your hand that is what is most important. Fujifilm has created gear that I love to use and that are highly competitive in terms of quality all-round. In a small and sturdy body the X-T2 for me is the perfect camera, made more perfect.
More from Oliver Wheeldon
More about FUJIFILM X-T2
In its compact, lightweight and robust body, the FUJIFILM X-T2 delivers everything you need. A large, high definition EVF, easy to use dials, high-speed AF, compatibility with an extensive range of high-performance interchangeable lenses, Film Simulation modes that inherit the legacy of Fujifilm colors, unparalleled image quality and outstanding 4K movie recording, made possible by the latest sensor and processing engine, It is the X series perfected.
Find out more here.