Renowned photographer Luca Bracali likes to travel light – and he finds X-series cameras perfectly suited to his nomadic lifestyle
Based in the tiny city of Pistoia in Tuscany, Luca Bracali is a man with a mission and international reach. Now aged 48, he’s spent the last 25 years of his life shooting, filming and documenting our planet in all its glory, and often works up to 15 hours a day. His obsession with travel is so consuming that it extends to his family: when his youngest daughter was ten years old she’d already visited 30 countries, accompanying her father as he captured images of every sort of creature from lions on the savannah to bears in the American wilderness.
Taking his first black & white photo at just six years old, Luca has always been creative, bursting with ideas since he was a child – but a gift of a 50mm F1.2 lens from a photography professor got him hooked. After high school, Luca started work as a photojournalist following car and motorcycle events. “My first assignment was a motocross race,” he laughs, “and I still remember the words of my director who told me: ‘Luca – not so bad, but to get a good picture out of your roll we need to stitch together two frames: one for the front wheels, the other one for the back wheels…’”
While learning the ropes Luca drew inspiration from the great Renaissance painters, studying their mastery of light and form and combining this with the attention to detail and observation that the young photographer learned from his father. “Caravaggio was the great master of light,” he says. “The challenge for me now is discovering something new or looking at something in a different way – perhaps from an eye-catching perspective, or using the evocative and hidden brushstrokes of light.”
Luca earned his stripes as a motorsport photographer, then moved onto fashion and beauty before discovering that travel reportage was his real passion. Since then he’s published three books (with a fourth on the way soon), won four international photo prizes and had nearly 20 exhibitions of his work in museums and galleries. “A few years ago I was employed by Rai 1 (a major Italian TV network) as a director – and the environment, nature and the Arctic region are my main topics,” he says.
Nowadays Luca’s motivation is to travel across the planet to “discover its infinite beauty and using the power of photography to wake up people’s consciences.” The photographer is passionate about conservation, and his wide-ranging portfolio is testament to his self-appointed mission.
Luca travels with such frequency that he’s away from home at least once a month, and the Fujifilm X-Pro1 has found a place in his camera bag. In fact, it was his nomadic lifestyle which first attracted the photographer to the Fujifilm X-Pro series of cameras. “With the new airline regulations you cannot travel carrying so many kilos,” he said, “but I still needed quality.” Luca is self-described as picky, and prior to switching he was on the lookout for a mirrorless camera that fulfilled the following criteria. “It had to be lightweight, with a sensor and an algorithm able to produce hi-res and quality images comparable to the best reflex camera and, in some cases, maybe even better,” he said, so the X-Pro1’s class-beating performance was an ideal choice. Luca was also impressed by the camera’s workings, and found an emotive link to the cameras and pictures of his earlier years. “The camera’s X-Trans sensor with unconventional array gives me the pathos of film photography with more depth of colour shades and reduces the moiré effect,” he continued. “Also, the Velvia style picture that’s selectable by the Q-button interface is one of my favourite custom colour settings – it reminds me of the vivid and bright tones of the film I preferred and used until 2003.”
Though the X-Pro1 is Luca’s camera of choice, he’s also had an advance look at the new X-E2. “I found it a really surprising camera,” he says. “There are a lot of very interesting features: the first one that comes to my mind is the panoramic setting. You can take a superb 180° picture, which saves a lot of time in post-production. It also enables the image stabiliser function during video shooting, and the buffer is large and fast enough to let you take burst pictures easily.”
Telling a story
During Luca’s many adventures he’s famously travelled to every continent and used nearly every form of transport, so asking him to select a single shoot that stands out from the rest is – as he puts it – “like asking a mother of ten children: ‘Which is the best?’” Luca is fond of all his images, but singles out a shot taken in the northern-most territory of Canada as perhaps one of the most memorable. “I waited for almost six hours at -11°C standing with my nose and fingers frostbitten until that little snowy cub woke up,” he said. “The interaction between mother bear and pup lasted only five seconds but that shot, of one of the most endangered animals on earth and the icon of a slowly vanishing world, was really worth all the sacrifice.”
Despite Luca’s abilities at seemingly all genres of photography, there’s a few he’s not so keen on.
“Wedding and still-life photography are not my favourite genres,” he says. “I like catching people in the most natural way and showing their real expressions, motion and lifestyle – and in my experience, weddings are the opposite. Still-life images are also anything but natural: you don’t get to play with natural light, searching for it where a second can be different from the previous one. When you’re in a studio with good technical knowledge and equipment, you can almost make miracles happen!”
Luca’s advice for those keen for a life as a travel photographer acknowledges the difficulties that lie ahead – but it’s not impossible. “Unfortunately this sector has become very challenging, due to the high cost of travelling and the fact that almost everything has already been seen and photographed,” he admits. “The only way to work now is having a great idea and creating a project which stands up alone – or having a partner or sponsor to cover your travel expenses.”
Besides taking great pictures, Luca suggests that new photojournalists and documentary makers remember that the story is of equal importance to the shots themselves. “Beautiful pictures are too easily taken,” he says. “The story makes the difference and your work unique, impossible to buy from a stock agency that’s full of tons of beautiful single shots.”
With most of the world under his belt already, what could possibly be next for this adventurous photographer? “Everything – I don’t know – it’s something I’m also keen to discover,” he says excitedly, before packing his bags and heading off to the USA, Fujifilm X-Pro1 in hand, to capture new documentary work in the country’s national parks. He’ll also be blogging this new experience for Fujifilm, so keep your eyes on their Facebook page and watch this space…