Like many photographers, I often complain about photographing my home town. Because we’re constantly immersed in it, we can’t see what others see with fresh eyes. Objectively speaking, I know Vancouver is a beautiful place to live, work and photograph. I look around and see the majestic mountains, ocean and forests, and I understand why tourists come here for vacation. However, I find it a struggle to motivate myself to photograph here, especially after returning from visiting another part of the world. I recently got back from Toronto and Montreal to attend two Fujifilm events, and I came back with a plethora of great photographs. Once I got home, I really had to force myself to continue shooting here again. Because I need to continually photograph for work as I test new cameras and lenses, I don’t really have the option to not take pictures on a regular basis. I recently got a hold of a production copy of the new Fujifilm XF 16-80mm f/4 R OIS WR and the X-Pro3 in DR Black, but lacked the motivation to test it right away. If only I could fly to Hong Kong or back to Montreal, surely I would get better photographs? Reality set in and I knew I would have to stay and photograph right here. This is the story of how I captured these following photographs in just one night.
I was working late one evening at my studio and was driving home when I decided that I had to get started on my lens review of the XF16-80mm. Because it was dark, I was going to test how slow a shutter speed I could hand-hold before getting a blurry image (the featured image was captured 1/4th sec f/4 @ ISO 3200). Although we’re getting up to 6 stops of stabilization, the lens’ maximum aperture is only f/4, so I still had to bump the ISO up to 1600 for the majority of the images. If I had one of the Fujicrons ( xf23mm f/2, XF35mm f/2, XF50mm f/2) on the X-H1, I would be getting the same images at ISO 400 at the same shutter speeds but at f/2. That would make a big difference in IQ and image noise. However, working with a zoom has its advantages, especially in inclement weather or when it’s inconvenient to be constantly changing lenses. For this night I appreciated having the zoom lens as I didn’t really know what focal length I wanted to shoot.
In the opening image of the Cadillacs you can see there’s no fog. I drove just a block down to the rooftop parking lot of a local shopping mall and the fog rolled in quickly. It was surreal. It immediately changed the entire mood and aesthetic of my scenes. Strong points of light became soft boxes and smoothed out the shadows and highlights. Because I had a zoom lens, I could play with various focal lengths from wide angle to short telephoto. The -6 EV autofocus on the X-Pro3 coupled with the 6 stops of stabilization on the XF 16-80mm F/4 was great for night photography. Having my Favourite Classic Neg. film profile was also a treat, giving a film-like mood that worked really well with the fog. I was finally excited to shoot and couldn’t stop clicking.
I ended up revisiting the Cadillacs, knowing the fog would add a completely different vibe to the previous set of images. Having a car and being able to move from point to point quickly really helped. It would have been no fun walking around for hours looking for something to photograph in the middle of the night. Because I live just outside Vancouver in the suburbs, it’s not always easy to find interesting things to photograph, but I find shooting at night really helps. What I see during the day looks completely different at night. For instance, I see the rooftop parking lot all the time, but it’s always filled with cars and people. At night, it looks completely different and the fog added another unexpected quality to my images. Again, I was motivated to shoot. I quickly moved to my third location of the night, a nearby park. I’ve noticed this area gets fog easily and I was positive I would get some epic images. I was right.
Again, having 6 stops of stabilization in the XF 16-80mm helped me shoot without a tripod, something that would have completely changed the vibe of shooting this particular night. Because it wasn’t raining, I could have brought a compact travel tripod with me, used a much slower ISO, and captured less noisy images. However, this night was about moving from point to point quickly. I didn’t feel like setting up a tripod at an abandoned shopping mall parking lot (security did come while I was shooting but left after I explained what I was doing), a residential street or a public park. I wanted to get in, get my shots quickly, and then get out. Having the XF 16-80mm was like having 6-7 lenses, but not having to worry about switching lenses. That’s the advantage of having a zoom lens.
From beginning to end, I think I shot for just over an hour, and the area I covered was well within 5 minutes from my house. Although I consider the areas I photographed mundane and ordinary, I knew it well because this was my neighbourhood. Because I knew how these places looked during the day, I could envision how it would look like at night and with fog. My hunch was correct at all 3 locations and I was able to capture some decent images. It’s not the same excitement I get when I’m in Hong Kong or Montreal, or even shooting downtown; but I was satisfied with the results. The lesson I constantly learn about my photography is to shoot even when I don’t feel like it. As I mentioned in the beginning, reviewing gear forces me to photograph even when I’m not motivated to do so. I think this is actually a blessing in disguise. Being forced to be creative because of a deadline leads to motivation and inspiration. It also leads me to grow as a photographer and gain insight on the gear that I review in a variety of circumstances that I wasn’t expecting. My conclusion is that the X-Pro3 works very well at night at low light levels, and the XF 16-80mm lens has great stabilization with shutter speeds as slow as 1/2 sec in duration. Both body and lens are rugged and weather-sealed for professional use, although I do think the lens balances better on the X-T3. Look for my long term review on the XF 16-80mm and the X-Pro3. Thanks for reading and happy shooting!