The journey to mastery of landscape photography in the deepest sense, is paved with spirituality. It is about finding resonance with nature’s theatre, visual discovery, self-expression; fundamentally, landscape photography is a metaphor for the human condition. I make no apology if this all sounds a little romantic, landscape photography deserves to be romanticised; when done well, it can capture emotion in it’s most primeval guise and preserve it for eternity.
There’s an overwhelming preoccupation with gear in much of the photographic press, and for good reasons. If the commercial cogs keep turning and camera clientele consume, then design develops, technology thrives and we all continue to benefit: that’s how consumerism works. For many of us though, this perennial obsession with the latest cameras and accessories can become a little distracting, some may even say ‘irritating’. We would suggest, that it’s not the camera you use, but the photographs you make with it that count, or that the best camera is whichever one you have with you, or that photographer’s make photographs, not cameras, right?
All these arguments hold some truth, but personally, despite my indifference to the latest gear and gadgets, I cannot deny the creativity boost that accompanies the exciting acquisition of a new camera. When I first saw the Fujifilm X100, I was smitten by the design, a nostalgic reminder of the days of film with it’s ‘mechanical’ selection dials and aperture ring. When I first acquired one, it quickly became apparent that this was a game-changer; for street photography, I can’t think of anything better than the X100 series. However, this was not a camera for landscape photography, not for me at least; the fixed focal length lens is too restricting for my personal shooting style.
By the time the X-Pro1 was announced, I had already fallen in love with the idea of such a camera. When I acquired one, I wasn’t disappointed. I loved the same tactile selection dials, the usability, the way it felt, the emancipation and practical benefits facilitated by it’s perfect size and weight.
All those initial attractions of the X-Pro remain valid, and they have resulted in the acquisition of some images that would not have been made as easily with my full-frame SLR bodies, or even not made at all. The switch from full-frame to compact system is truly liberating; my entire kit comprising a camera, three lenses and a full Lee Seven5 filter kit all fits into a lightweight waist pack; everything is instantly accessible without ever needing to remove the camera bag or find somewhere dry to lay it down while photographing. All this would have previously come with the significant cost of a noticeable reduction in image quality (IQ), but the technological advances being made by all manufacturers over the past few years have resulted in huge improvements in the IQ now achievable from APS-C sized sensors. I now have complete confidence that the IQ of all my X-trans images surpasses the thresholds required for the creation of large exhibition prints.
For all these reasons, I have found myself moving increasingly towards using X-series exclusively for all my work, first with the X-Pro1 and now the X-T1. However, there is a further massive fatal attraction that has me falling head-over-heels and eclipses all the elements mentioned so far. This particular feature harks back to my romantic introduction and my realisation of it’s true gravitas was an epiphany. In the good old analogue days, we would select our film stock depending on the desired style and ‘feel’ of our intended photographs. Our film choice would flavour our photographs with subtle ‘filmic’ nuances; it was one of the techniques employed to mould the mood. Digital sensors are no different, they have their own subtle unique characteristics: different digital cameras produce images with a unique and characteristic ‘feel’.
This concept is what I like to call ‘image-feel’, it’s incredibly subtle. Scientifically, ‘image-feel’ depends on a variety of image attributes like colour rendering, white-balance, saturation, contrast and dynamic range; artistically, it becomes more difficult to articulate, it relates to the ‘spirit’ and ‘soul’ of the image. ‘Image-feel’ comes from both the sensor and the software used to process the images, it’s something that can only truly be experienced when looking at exhibition prints. The image-feel I’m now consistently achieving from a combination of Fujifilm X-Trans and Adobe Lightroom is something that has previously eluded me, it transcends any marketing driven technological obsessions, it’s breathtaking, and I love it.
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