I was part of the Fujifilm travel documentary web series!
Early this year, I had the opportunity to travel to Zhuji, China, with Fujifilm and X-photographer William Chua to film a travel documentary web series. And I got to use the GFX 50R! Really loved the rangefinder form of the camera, and it was surprisingly light for a medium format camera! If you haven’t watched the videos, I’ve shared them here. The videos are also on my IGTV channel. I have also shared photos from the trip on my Instagram, and will be sharing more long-form content on my Stories page.
I must say everything about the trip was challenging! Exploring a new genre of photography in a new country, with a new lens (8-16mm) and new camera (GFX 50R) was not comfortable at all. How do I shoot street/documentary with an ultra wide lens? Do I really have to get that close to people? Why is it so cold? Talk about stepping out of my comfort zone - this trip really took me out of all of my zones. But it was definitely one of the best experience I had as a photographer.
Things I learnt:
Light and shadow - specifically, how light falls on the subject, and how shadows make the scene more dynamic and interesting. Before this trip, I used to only look out for good light. Now, aside from good light, I look for interesting shadows that are cast on buildings and floors in harsh sunlight. Shadows are like pauses in music, we don’t always notice or seek them out, but they are always there; always part of the whole.
Colours - I love colours, which is why I hardly shoot in Black and White (but I’ve changed my perception of B&W since - will talk about this below). I’m not a technical shooter at all, I tend to go with the “feel”, and even though I have people telling me how they like the aesthetics and colour of my photos, sometimes I don’t understand what is it that they like because I don’t intentionally look out for anything when I shoot. But after the trip and lessons on how to work the colours in the scene to create a monotonous image or one with complementary colours, it has become something that I now look out for.
Distance to subject + focal length of lens - going close to a stranger and shooting with a wide-angle lens not only brings out the emotions of the subject, it creates tension that is passed on to the viewers. If you’ve seen images that make you feel uncomfortable like you’re sitting at the edge of your seat, that is definitely a good photo.
Black and White - Humans are drawn to intense colours (like red) and the brightest part of the image first. Sometimes, a scene can be so colourful that it draws attention away from the main subject. Most people tend to convert images to B&W for the sake of it, but without good light and shadows, B&W photos are as flat as it can be. After being trained to look out for good light AND shadows, and seeing how B&W images can be so evocative, I guess I will be shooting more B&W photos from now.
Space - give each subject the space they deserve in the frame. Even if the setting is messy and complicated, the subject deserves its own space and should not be blocked by another.
Final note - if you have GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome), don’t try out the GFX, or good luck convincing yourself that you don’t need one. 😂