Exploring Panama with the X-T1

X-Photographer strip BLACK

By Braden Gunem

I like to travel alone.  Partners and friends are great, but they can also hold you back from really experiencing a culture deeply.  Solo travel allows you a freedom and adventure rarely achievable for those rushing back home for dinner.  So when a group of friends and I booked a house in a rather touristy area of Panama, I didn’t plan to spend much time shooting.  I grabbed my trusted X-T1 and my favorite lens – the XF23mmF1.4 R.dscf3684One of the local attractions in this area is a beach only accessible by boat or a long muddy trail through the jungle.  After attempting the trail, we opted for the boat and were dropped at a small dock in a lagoon filled with mangrove trees.  A short walk across the island towards the sound of surf led us to a beautiful beach. dscf3736We were walking along the beach when a foreign couple approached saying that a man with a machete had tried to rob them, but they were able to run away.  Suddenly. I regretted bringing my camera.  We stopped walking for some time. We swam, did hand stands, and drank beer.  Eventually, the allure of discovery won over and we continued along the deserted beach.

On my extensive travels, I often have a specific image in my mind when I’m shooting.  Sometimes, the search for this image blinds me from all the other potential shots present.  It’s refreshing to go out with no expectations and see what organically appears.  When I saw locals on horseback approaching, I sank into the jungle looking for a frame to contain them as they passed.  They had ridden the muddy trail, and were headed to the far end of the island to go hunting.Beach HorsesThis long strip of sand is interrupted occasionally by large trees overhanging into the ocean.   They are a natural jungle gym, and soon we were climbing all over them.  From the trunk of a tree,I realized there was a good shot and picked up the camera again.  I tilted the LCD to get super low to the ground and avoided wallowing around myself.MonkeyAs my friend Laura was working on a new route for this particular tree, I switch on the Cinematic Mode; it’s accessible on your camera by turning the mode dial to CH and holding down the shutter release button.  As it’s clicking away, I’m able to make  slight adjustments to the composition.  But, I’m mostly waiting on the subject to look at their best.  Yes, it fills a memory card really fast.  That’s why I use Lexar 128s, so I don’t have to worry about changing cards very often.TarzanBeyond the beach, we came across some boys walking around with machetes.  They seemed to be out honing their skills with these essential jungle tools.  One boy was carefully opening a coconut to drink the water.  I sat my X-T1 on the ground near his feet, using the tilting LCD to compose.  It must be great to grow up in a land where snacks fall readily from the trees.Snack TimeIn the evening, we returned home to discover the hunt had been successful. DinnerIt’s rare that I do a trip with no photographic objective.  It’s refreshing to travel light and go with the flow – and it’s authentic and easy to capture with FUJIFILM X Series. On to the next adventure!

 

 

 

Idi Probak – A traditional Basque rural sport

Danny Fernandez Idi Probak1

Guest Blogger strip BLACK

By Danny Fernandez

The Basque Country is an area spanning both Spain and France on the Atlantic coast.

In the past few years, I’ve been lucky enough to visit this unique Spanish region (what most people are referring to when they talk about the Basque Country) several times and have been able to learn a little about the culture, traditions and food; all of which are extremely rich.

On my last visit, I was able to join in the yearly celebration of ‘San Pedro’ (or ‘San Pedroko Jaiak’ in Basque). This is celebrated all over Spain, but this festival is especially important to the village of Boroa. Boroa is made up of 15th Century farmhouses, rolling hills of farmland and dense forests, but also has a pioneering industrial centre. Interestingly, Boroa has it’s own Michelin starred restaurant.


The Basque Country is a place with many rich, rural traditions (many dating back centuries), and they celebrate their heritage by keeping these traditions alive during special events throughout the year.

The climax of the Boroa’s San Pedroko Jaiak celebration is a traditional rural sport named ‘Idi Probak’ (which can be loosely translated to ‘Oxen Tests’) and takes place in Boroa’s village centre.

There are a few variations of this game (depending on the region in which it is held) but I will briefly describe the one which I saw.

The game involves two oxen dragging a rock (in this case, a 1800kg concrete slab) along the length of a cobbled track (named ‘proba toki’ – the length of this is typically from 22m – 28m). The oxen are guided by an ox-herder and a goader, whose job it is to steer both the oxen, and the rock along the track. They have 30 minutes to do as many lengths as possible, dragging the 1800 kgs behind them. The spectators bet on how many lengths the Oxen can carry the weight in 30 mins.

I heard that in the past, it wasn’t uncommon for the competitors to bet their harvest, their houses and even their land during this event!

The oxen are trained throughout the year in preparation of this competition, and are regularly taken for long walks in the hills and mountains as well as trained by dragging rocks.

Danny Fernandez Idi Probak13

During the evening of the event, the locals (and also those from neighbouring villages) come to watch the spectacle, socialise and end the night with traditional music and dancing.

The Basque country is a very unique place, full of natural and untamed beauty. The people are proud, the food is incredible and the landscapes are stunning.

‘The moment this man won a bet, correctly guessing how many lengths the oxen could drag the weight in 30 minutes’.
‘The moment this man won a bet, correctly guessing how many lengths the oxen could drag the weight in 30 minutes’.

 

All photos taken on a Fujifilm X-T10 using XF16 / XF23 / XF56 lenses.


To see more of Danny’s work, click here.

 

 

Testing the FUJIFILM XF23mmF1.4 lens

By Matty Graham

Fujifilm’s XF23mm has been hugely anticipated by X-series users, and after testing the optic, it’s easy to see why. With an effective focal length of 35mm, this is a ‘go anywhere, do anything’ lens. Suitable for street photography, landscapes and even portraits.

X-Pro1 - XF23mm - ISO 1600 F/2.5 - 1/640
X-Pro1 – XF23mm – ISO 1600 F/2.5 – 1/640

What most users will do when they unbox the lens, is flick the aperture ring straight to F1.4. I can’t blame them, the larger F-number gives beautiful bokeh, and amazing images, as well as the confidence to work in low light, without the worry of camera shake and blurry images. With most lenses that sport a fast aperture of F1.4 it feels like you’re attaching a dumb-bell to your camera. However, the XF23mm only weighs 300g, making it more than manageable on the X-Pro1 that I used here.

X-Pro1 - XF23mm - ISO 400 F/1.4 - 1/850
X-Pro1 – XF23mm – ISO 400 F/1.4 – 1/850

The aperture ring takes you through from F1.4 to the minimum aperture of F16. Instead of the typical AF/MF switch, the XF23mm features a push/pull ring that switches between manual and autofocus. There are also distance and depth-of-field scales on the barrel.

When using wider optics like this, there are usually two main areas of concern – barrel distortion and vignetting. However, the XF23mm aces both categories with virtually no distortion and vignetting is handled extremely well – even at F1.4.

X-Pro1 - XF23mm - ISO 800 F/1.4 - 1/2400
X-Pro1 – XF23mm – ISO 800 F/1.4 – 1/2400

The quick, sharp focusing that this lens offers is down to the internal focusing (IF) technology, which delivers speedy and discreet autofocus – let’s face it, you don’t want the lens to be buzzing away as you try to find focus during a candid street photography situation. Because of this internal focusing, the front of the lens doesn’t rotate. This benefits landscape photographers who use graduated filters.

X-Pro1 - XF23mm - ISO 500 F/8 - 1/60
X-Pro1 – XF23mm – ISO 500 F/8 – 1/60

When it comes to results, the XF23mm really delivers. The lens is sharpest at F8 and when I say sharp, I mean razor sharp – professional photographers looking to invest in a lens of this type will not be let down by the results.

Excellent build-quality, simple ease-of-use and results to die for; what more could you ask for?

Enjoy the bokeh…

X-Pro1 - XF23mm - ISO 800 F/1.4 - 1/2000
X-Pro1 – XF23mm – ISO 800 F/1.4 – 1/2000