Welcome to the Fourth Series of Through a Photographer’s Eye. In this latest series, we continue to learn about Australian photographers and how they use FUJIFILM X Series Cameras to photograph their world around them. Our first featured photographer is Jane Sheers.
I have been shooting with FUJIFILM cameras for the last four years. When I am travelling, I usually take my two FUJIFILM X-T2 bodies and the FUJINON XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR, and one of the telephoto zooms. This time, as I was flying back to Cambodia for the 5th time, I wanted to challenge myself by taking prime lenses only. This decision lead to quite high levels of “but what if I miss a shot” and “which primes to take” anxiety. The former I told myself to forget as no matter what gear you have there will always be shots you miss, but the latter was a bit more of a dilemma. Should I go with the FUJINON XF90mmF2 LM WR R or the FUJINON XF56mmF1.2 R, or how about the FUJINON XF23mmFf1.2 R or the FUJINON XF35mmF2 R WR?
Every time I thought I had made my decision a siren named the FUJIFILM X100F called me day or night. She tempted and tormented me convincing me that all the things I preferred about the X-T2 over the rangefinders did not matter. She told me I needed her. I resisted the call with all my might. However, there was a universal conspiracy against my resistance in the form of the FUJIFILM Australia Cash Back, a timely ‘not to be missed sale’ and Tourist Refund Scheme. Being astute, I could read the signs, so off I went into the heat of early monsoon to Cambodia with the FUJIFILM X-T2 coupled with the FUJINON XF56mmF1.2 R lens and my very new sexy silver FUJIFILM X100F.
In Cambodia, I spent most of my time in Siem Reap. Siem Reap is the town well and indeed on the world tourist map due to the magnificent Angkor Wat Temple, the tree (way more famous than the Wanaka Tree) at Ta Phrom made famous by Lara Croft, and the 216 huge stone faces of the Bayon. Each temple is excellent in its way and presents different challenges when it comes to photography. Angkor Wat is vast and on the first visit can be overwhelming for no other reason than it is just that – huge. I would recommend anyone going for their first-ever trip to leave your camera in your bag and walk around the place to get a feel for it (unless of course, the light is just perfect at that very moment). Then come again and start working it photographically.
I’ve been in there at least 20 times over the years and always see something new or different. I prefer details over the whole scene, and my real love is the Apsaras (celestial dancers or musicians). While there are many throughout the temple it is up in the top of the central shrines you will find the best ones. When in the labyrinth of Angkor Wat there is every likelihood you will see a monk in their bright orange robes making a nice contrast against the dark stone.
The Bayon is famous for its much-photographed faces supposedly of the Avalokiteshvara (the Buddha of Compassion), yet they reportedly bear a close resemblance to King Jayavarman VII who built this temple. As big and vast as Angkor Wat is the Bayon is tight and somewhat compact. It offers photo opportunities galore with the most popular being one of the faces through a window frame. The selfie opportunities: it almost resembles taking a number and waiting in line. Despite the hordes that visit, it is effortless to get away and find your quiet little spot for reflection, like the main shrine in the central tower. It is in the quiet places that I am happiest.
If you want to get away from the crowds, head to some of the other temples such as Banteay Kdei or Preah Khan. Aside from not being as busy as the main three, the additional advantage is they are not tightly controlled meaning you can scramble around more and get in touch with your inner Indiana Jones or Lara Croft. I love both of these temples, but of the two, I find there something special about Banteay Kdei. Maybe it is the fabulous Apsaras that are covered in orange lichen or the main gate into the temple that is a smaller version of the very popular southern gate at Angkor Thom. I suspect these temples will become more popular as people want to get away from the crowds; in fact, this is now happening with Preah Khan.
One of the beauties of Siem Reap is that the countryside is readily accessible in a remork (the Cambodia version of a tuk-tuk: a quaint carriage attached to the back of a motorbike). In just a short time you can leave behind the hustle and bustle of the town or temples to catch a glimpse of rural Cambodian life. Between the small villages, you will come across rice fields. At the beginning of the monsoon, the hard work of ploughing and planting rice begins, and rain doesn’t mean down time. In the late afternoon on a bright day, you can catch a gorgeous late afternoon golden glow in one of the surrounding villages.
There is more to Cambodia than Siem Reap and its ancient temples. I arranged to spend a couple of days with a local photographer (Eric d Vries who incidentally happens to use a FUJIFILM X-Pro1 or the X100T), around the Battambang area. This offered an opportunity to visit places I wouldn’t have otherwise seen and also for some mentoring in ‘the art of seeing’. My creative flow changed, and I even experimented with in-camera double exposures. This added something extra to creating images, but the one thing I wish we could do is to use more than two images with the multiple exposure mode. It would be great not to have to shoot the photos consecutively too. Can we have this in a Kaizen firmware update, please?
It was out on this trip I was able to meet some of the people of Cambodia and take their portraits. Cambodia is not called the Land of Smiles for no reason. Nobody seemed to have an issue with us taking their pictures, instead, they would call out “Barang” (Khmer for foreigner), and they would laugh at us. Let’s say we were not hard to spot being the only three westerners in places where westerners seldom visit and even more so given Eric is well over six foot and very fair. But what beautiful, friendly people. And some of the kids LOVE having their photo taken.
During my travels, both cameras served me well. I must admit that it was difficult jumping between the two bodies due to the different ergonomics. Both had their benefits, and I was surprised that I used my X100F more than I thought I would. I have near equal numbers of images from each camera and maybe balance tips more to the X100F. If I was going for a walk, I intentionally pick up the X100F. Where I think the X100F shone was in markets as it was so unobtrusive. Obviously, the siren was calling me, and I did need her after all. I have no regrets in heeding that call.
As for travelling with primes rather than zooms, after a few hours, I was no longer trying to twist the barrel of the lens to get my shot. Instead, I thought about the shot more before taking it or moved around more to get what I wanted. Remember, one of my original dilemmas was missing the shot if I didn’t have my zooms? Yes, there were a few times where I did miss the image that was going to make me famous, but I quickly forgot about that lost opportunity as I was presented with an alternative one almost immediately.
FUJIFILM continues to allow my muse to create. The FUJIFILM X-T2 will always be my special love. However the X100F has turned out to be a great little mistress to have on the side as she offers me different opportunities, and in fact, she is sitting beside my left hand as I write. I know we will continue to have more adventures together in the future and I have reserved a place for her in my bag as she is coming on my next overseas trip later in the year to Hong Kong. I’m counting the sleeps!