With low raking light, crisp clear air, lingering morning mists, beautiful frosts and (hopefully!) a covering of pristine white snow it’s no wonder that winter is a photographers delight. The icing on the cake is that at this time of the year sunrise and sunset are at civilized times of the day so you can enjoy a lie in and be back for a family meal at the end of the day.
What to shoot
You will not be short of subjects to photograph in these conditions but you may have to be quick as the light or the mist may only be present for minutes or even seconds. From big sweeping landscapes, to isolated trees or barns, to detail shots of frosted grass, icicles or bubbles under the ice there are shots everywhere.
As well as shooting trackside and pitlane action, FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) and European Le Mans Series (ELMS) official photo agency Adrenal Media are always looking to provide some very special images from each of the events.
Creative Director and Fujifilm X-Photographer John Rourke invited German race team Proton Competition to bring both of their Porsche 911 RSR 991 race cars to La Source at the recent ELMS weekend at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium to photograph their car using a rig and a Fujifilm X-T2 to capture a shot of the two race cars from an unique vantage point.
The rig is a 6 metre carbon fibre four section boom made by UK firm Car Camera Rig that is fixed to the car using high powered suction clamps.
The camera, which is a FUJIFILM X-T2 fitted with the XF10-24mm ultra-wide angle zoom lens, is then fixed in position to the end of the boom. To achieve the correct exposure the camera is fitted with a Formatt Hitech filter system, in this case a Polariser and an ND Grad and then an ND filter to extend the shutter speed to around 10 seconds. This allows Adrenal Media to take images from a position that would not be possible to take when the cars are on track racing.
Using a long shutter speed of between 8 to 10 seconds the movement in the shot is achieved at walking pace by team members pushing the cars and the result is an image that makes it look like both Porsches are moving at racing speed.
“We started asking teams to provide us their cars back in May for these special images but this shot with Proton Competition is the first we’ve done with two cars from the same team,” said John Rourke. “The reason we use the rig is to take images of the cars from a vantage point that would be impossible to do in the real world.”
“Each shot takes around 20-30 minutes to complete once the rig is attached to the car,” John continued. “The rig itself is lightweight thanks to the carbon fibre construction so it doesn’t take long to put in position, the biggest issue we have is finding a place to attach the suction clamps to the bodywork of the car. Some cars are wrapped, so the suction clamps don’t have a perfect seal, so we usually do a pre-shoot recce with the team to ensure there are mounting points where the rig can be securely attached to the bodywork of the car.”
Mounting the suction cups
Mounting the suction cups
“The X-T2 is the perfect camera for this type of shot. The 24mp X-Trans III sensor gives us high resolution images to work with and the tilt screen is a real help when the camera is attached upside down to the end of the boom.”
“The biggest challenge with shooting with two cars was keeping both Porsches moving at the same speed and we did the shot a few times to make sure we had one that we were all happy with.”
Once an image is selected, it is then edited by John to remove the boom and other elements that shouldn’t be in the final shot. The result is a dramatic image that highlights the excitement of racing in the European Le Mans Series.
FujiGuy Marc meets with X-Photographer Chris Upton to speak about his current exhibition: Thoresby Colliery: The end of the mine.
Details of the exhibition
Exhibition: Thoresby The End Of The Mine features around 50 framed images Venue : Mansfield Museum, Leeming Street, Mansfield NG18 1NG Dates : 9th January – 27th February 2016 Open : Monday – Saturday 10am – 5pm Admission: Free
When I’m heading out for a long day(s) in the outdoors this is the kind of equipment I usually take with me. Now it may be more than you would ever need, but for those looking to get into landscape or wildlife photography, particularly those about to head out on safari – this blog is for you.
A bag for your gear
There are too many camera bags in the world, meaning that the choice available is verging on ridiculous! If there is one item that ignites G.A.S (gear acquisition syndrome) over anything else it is probably camera bags. I’m currently using a Pelican 1510 hard case with a Thinktank Ultralight (discontinued) that fits inside the case. This basically acts like a backup backpack as it isn’t the comfiest bag for long treks, so it generally acts as a safe and secure place to store gear. I took this set up to Costa Rica because I’m based there for such a long time so the pain of travelling with such a heavy pack was negated by the benefits it offers me over the six months away, namely water-tight, lockable security.
For when I’m out and about I have two non-camera bags to choose from: Millican Dave, a great hiking bag that when combined with a cheap padded insert becomes a very good camera bag. Or a dry bag backpack which I often use on light treks where the conditions are looking a little ominous. This isn’t to say that Dave isn’t up to the challenge (he’s pretty good at being water repellent and has rain cover), but out here in the rainforest, when it rains, it pours! And having a bag that can in fact be submerged helps to ease the mind. The advantage of both of these bags is that they are easy to stuff lots of items into. One of the issues I usually have with camera bags is that once all of it is padded, it has lost of significant percentage of space for misc items. Misc items are usually seen as add ons with certain bag companies, leaving little room for other helpful items, so hiking bags can be really helpful non-camera gear.
What photography equipment do I take?
2 x X-T1 (fantastic all-round cameras, definitely brought the X-Series to a wider audience, and very much looking forward to trying out the new X-Pro2!)
X100s (Out of all the Fujifilm cameras I’m lucky enough to have this is the one I’d probably sell last! Does everything very well, wonderful lens/camera, makes you think much more about your photography. Above all else, it is small enough to carry around everywhere. So some of my most treasured photos are taken with this because otherwise it would have been left to my phone. Combined with the wide angle and telephoto adapters, makes for a brilliant little system. I haven’t had the chance to work with the T yet.)
XF10-24mm (Almost perfect – fantastic lens, hoping for a WR version in the near future.)
XF16mm (Generates so much creativity, from the extremely close focusing to the fantastic depth of field control, 24mm equiv. is quickly becoming my favourite focal length.)
XF16-55mm (Fantastic workhorse of a lens, built to last and equipped with image quality to make any prime-lover happy.)
Soon to be – XF35mm F2 (when I get back to the UK this is high up on my list – 50mm equiv. lens, small, fast and discrete WITH WR!)
XF50-140mm (My most used lens – can’t really say a bad word about it, produces the goods every time, simply fantastic!)
Nikon 300mm F2.8 ED Manual focus (The elephant in the room, because my current role is focusing on birds, I needed something longer than 200mm equiv. As the much anticipated:
XF100-400mm Isn’t quite out yet I opted for a quirky alternative… Yes it is heavy, yes it is manual focus, but thankfully peaking assist and a sturdy tripod help to make this a viable option. Nevertheless, my back is looking forward to Fujifilm’s new super telephoto zoom!)
Fujifilm extension tubes and Nikon 2x teleconverter (yep, that gives me a 900mm equiv. lens… Absolutely bonkers!!)
Filter system (Depends on what you prefer to photograph but I highly recommend a neutral density graduated filter set up and a circular polariser.)
Flash system (Lots of options out there, depends what you can afford/prioritise – space or power output.)
Things to always keep in your bag
Get some silica packs and store some in your backpack, these can be the difference in saving your precious lenses. Many believe that fungus is an issue reserved for older lenses, unfortunately this isn’t the case, and in particular non-weather resistant lenses are vulnerable so please look after your expensive investments! Bearing that mind, always have some lens cleaner and lens cloths in your bag. You never know when a speck of mud or raindrop will ‘attack’ your lens. Though easy to deal with they can easily ruin a photo, so best to deal with any artefacts asap.
Other items I have in my bag:
Duck tape (If you use lights in particular duck tape can be invaluable to secure lights in obscure locations to light your photos or simply to repair your watertight gear)
Pen knife (Always ends up being useful for different things but of course be mindful of this when travelling internationally.)
Table top tripod (Lets face it, tripods are always annoying to carry around and generally always scream PHOTOGRAPHER, but they are invaluable for certain situations. Nevertheless on some occasions you might not be carrying around a full size tripod so as a small, light back up is generally a good idea, so have a little tripod in the bag.)
Remote trigger (I have a variety from wired to wireless, all with their own pros and cons)
Rain cover (Generally not for me as in the tropics it is nice to get rained on! But I have a cover for my camera if I’m still shooting in moist conditions.)
Rogue Flashbender (A relatively inexpensive flash accessory, easy to pack and very effective, especially when used off-camera to help quickly improve a portrait.)
Food and water (Especially if you are trekking, these are the most important items to have on you!)
Insect repellent (Insects love me so I usually carry some form of bug spray, DEET is the best but pretty grim stuff to cover yourself with so I have a natural remedy that I prefer. Also a form Vitamin B is meant to be good for repelling mosquitoes so if you know you’re off to a problem region then start some Vitamin B pills or alternatively marmite.)
Hat and layers (Yes suncream helps to fight off sunburn but a hat can make all the difference when you are out all day. Depending on where you are, the weather conditions can change quickly so it is important to have spare clothes if it is likely to get cold.)
Rehydration sachets + general medication (You can never fully guarantee what is going to happen when you go out and about so it is best to carry some simple things with you to negate any ‘niggles’ that could hamper your day.)
Communication (Generally a normal mobile phone to contact anyone if necessary. Not for selfie usage!)
Scarf/shall (This might sound strange, being described as a ‘must have’ item, but they have a wide range of uses, from portable shade, towel, dust remover, etc.)
Thick straps, and a comfy all-round design. Makes long days so much more enjoyable!
Other items to pack in the hold:
Sensor cleaning kit (I’ve made the mistake far too many times of not bringing this with me and regretting it pretty quickly. The X-Series is very good for countering this problem, especially considering how often I change lens, but it’s best to pack safe.)
Spare chargers/cables (This may well be over the top for certain trips but if you are going into very remote regions the last thing you want is to not be able to charge your batteries or download your photos.)
Kit care in the tropics
Taking a look at the gear I have brought with me to Costa Rica. From camera gear to items keeping the cameras working, I hope this will give you a good visual representation of what to take on your next adventure!
Keep your kit dry
If visiting the tropics or areas where conditions can often be very humid then it is important to figure out a way of keeping your kit dry, generally wiping away any moisture and having some silica gels in your bag should be fine but for my current placement I created a form of ‘dry space’, an area which I draped a tarpaulin in front of and had a light bulb at the top, this is generally left on whenever it is raining and works as a dry location to keep kit dry, anything slightly damp is kept as close as possible to the light bulb to dry it out and to hopefully kill off any fungus.
My camera bag system is constantly evolving but hopefully this will help some of you looking to take your camera into the great outdoors. First and foremost, remember to enjoy yourself, that is the priority. Cameras are wonderful tools for enjoyment and capturing moments, but don’t let the very item you use to capture moments get in the way of them. If you have any suggestions or ideas for other things to take with you in the great outdoors then comment below.
Until next time, happy shooting!
A little about Ben
Ben is an environmental photojournalist, zoologist and Fujifilm X-Photographer. His passion is showing the beauty and fragility of the natural world. Find more of his work at:
Pygmy elephants are endemic to the island of Borneo, famous for their slightly smaller size, they are endangered with a population of roughly 1,500 left in the wild. This species is increasingly vulnerable to human impacts as a result of deforestation and conflict with palm oil development. They are the least understood elephant and in my opinion the sweetest, with their oversized ears and long tail to keep them cool and usher away insects.
Our first encounter was through an opening where there were about twenty elephants grazing. Our presence obviously wasn’t too big a concern as we were still observing different behaviour which is only seen in relaxed environments, such as play fighting and suckling.
We moved on in our boat and headed around to a more suitable location and the view that greeted us was unbelievable!
I didn’t think the XF16mm would get much work but I was wrong. Having that mounted on one X-T1 and the XF50-140mm on another, sometimes switching to the XF16-55mm too, made for a brilliant set up.
One set up that proved to really work was the XF10-24mm and the X-T1 on a monopod fired via wireless triggers. Using the electronic shutter mode meant that I could have the camera really close to the elephants with no sound being produced so they stayed nice and calm. I couldn’t have done this with an SLR or in mechanical shutter mode. Using that set up on a monopod meant that I could shoot from a really low (or high) angle and still stay on my feet incase I needed to move. The tilting screen meant that I could see exactly what was in the frame and I used continuous auto focus as I trusted it to keep the focus on the subject. the wide perspective really worked well with these large animals, they may be called pygmy elephants but the adults still stand 2.5 meters tall! The other advantage of this lens was the OIS which worked fantastically. Considering I was holding the camera on the end of a 1.5 meter poll, in a busy environment and still getting sharp photos at 1/60sec is a testament to the OIS.
However when the conditions were particularly gloomy and I didn’t want to push the camera past ISO3200 (ISO6400 is fine but on this occasion I decided not to) I switched to the ever-present XF16mm and utilised the F1.4 aperture. Though the angle of view was much narrower the benefit of the faster shutter speed was huge. This was particularly important as when the sun was shinning it would often create very strong dappled light which would often result in blown highlights. As a result the best results were usually from overcast conditions as it meant that everything was correctly exposed, but this meant there was less light available.
To get some close ups I used the ever-present XF50-140mm utilising the wonderful sharpness at F2.8.
This was a truly incredible experience, one that I will never forget and I am so pleased that the X-Series produced photos to do the interactions justice. From the XF50-140mm to the XF10-24mm, the Fujinon lenses were exceptional across the range. We were even lucky enough to see the elephants beside a river just as the evening light reached its vivid climax.
I hope you have enjoyed this series of photos, let me know your thoughts. The X-Series is developing into a great, lightweight wildlife system, I can’t wait for the forecasted XF100-400mm to complete this fantastic system!