Welcome to the Second Series of Through a Photographer’s Eye. In this series, we continue to learn about Australian photographers and how they use X Series Cameras to photograph their world around them. Our fifth interview in Series Two is with Sydney based photographer, Clèment Breuille.
Clément, what do you most like about Australian landscape photography and how did you end up shooting with a Fujifilm X-Pro2?
I’ve grown up in France and never really got the chance to travel before I was twenty. During my master in design at l’Ecole de Design Nantes Atlantiques, it was mandatory for us to do an internship abroad. And this is where everything started. I’ve found my internship in Sydney, which is the farthest destination possible from France (17000km).
I think this is what the internship was all about, getting out of your comfort zone: discovering a new way of living, new language, new perspective, etc…
It’s a great thing as a designer to do this exercise as it does open your vision on the world. People understand the role of the designer only from a graphic approach, someone who is creating something visually attractive. This is not entirely true. Design is a process, a way of approaching a problem and developing a solution. I think this is why I’ve started photography. Not only as a hobby but as an exercise with rules and processes.
Landscape photography is my favourite subject down under. First of all for the challenge, but also for the magnificence of it.
As a European growing up in France for pretty much my entire life, I’m always amazed by the diversity and richness of this country, and this is even after two years of living here. As a designer, a photographer requires the appropriate tools to succeed. This is why I’ve ended up shooting with a Fujifilm X-Pro2 after having been Canon user for the last four years.
The X-Pro2 is a compact and lightweight camera, which is exactly what I need when I have to endure a long hike to access my dream locations. Additionally, the great details and quality produced by the camera are perfect.
What do you like most about the Fujifilm X-Pro2 and what do you like the least?
The capability of the Fujifilm X-PRO2 is just incredible for a camera of its size. I can literally bring it with me everywhere each day with the ability to shoot within a few seconds.
I think this is what I like the most after using the camera for the last year. The capability of knowing what you are doing at all time and being able to obtain the best possible shot straight out of the camera with its viewfinder is just incredible for a photographer like me.
For me, the weakness of the X-Pro2 is visible when you mount it on a tripod. When shooting landscapes you don’t always have the luxury to get the camera at your height and in front of you, and for this reason, I’d love to have a tilt screen. Managing your settings and especially your ISO could be challenging. You need to pull up the ISO selector on the top of the camera, which sometimes can create a little vibration creating blur in your image. These two points were solved on the Fujifilm X-T2, but I wish that the features will be considered in the next generation of the X-Pro2.
We noticed you photograph quite a few long exposures, can you show us one and tell us the story behind the image?
Recently, during the Vivid Festival 2017. Josselin Cornou and I were photographing at Circular Quay. We were quite surprised at just how clear was the sky was. We decided to check the position of the Milky Way by using the Photopills app, as we knew that it was the perfect time to observe and shoot the stars. Josselin tried it first using his Fujifilm GFX 50S, to have as much detail as possible and check if the shot was worth trying. We didn’t wait long as the first attempt was a success.
Following that shot, we had been shooting continuously for at least two hours before. At the festival, there were many lights moving around making it hard to get that “perfect shot”. After a long shoot and a long process in Photoshop, I finally was able to produce this one.
I never post-process my shots that much, as I tend to have the best possible image straight out of the camera. I was quite surprised at just how much detail I was able to get back from the X-Pro2 even when I pushed it to the limit.
Of course, we are now comparing an image from a medium format camera, against an APS-C Sized sensor. But seeing the two final shots and forgetting about the two post-processing styles, I do think that the Fujifilm X-Pro2 holds up against its bigger brother.
As an expat living in Australia what artistic, environmental or logistical challenges have you found when photographing ‘down under’ compared with your homeland?
Australia is a great country for a landscape photographer. There are many opportunities to shoot here all time of the year. To capitalise on this, you need to be ready.
In France, it is quite different as everything is ‘close’. Here in Australia, you need to plan where you are going, and when you are going to leave. You can be isolated and most of the time without mobile reception.
Taking the above image as an example, the plan was to go at Stockton just above Newcastle for sunset. After a long day driving and shooting at some spots on our way, @Adriano, @Josselin and I finally got to our location. After a quick one hour walk, we arrived in front of the dunes just on time.
We were there on time, but we didn’t take into consideration that we had to climb the massive dunes that were separating the track from the actual sand area where we wanted to shoot. It took us a good twenty minutes to climb the high dunes with all of our gear and equipment. In the end, we were only able to capture some of the last light due to the unexpected obstacle.
Looking back, the thought of driving, walking and climbing just for one shot was quite insane, but totally worth it.
Luckily enough, the conditions were perfect. During our stay in the dunes, we spotted a lot of nebulas and shooting stars that were clearly visible with our own eyes. When you arrive, you certainly feel small as Stockton is massive. You are surrounded by sand, and as we were walking, we started losing the notion of distance or time.
Around 3 am, we were all tired and cold. We weren’t sure exactly how far the was car, so we made the decision to sleep on the dunes. Without a tent, we used our camera bags as pillows and used the clothes on our backs to warm us up. That was certainly some of the longest hours I’ve experienced in my life! Waiting for the cold and the wind to dissipate before the sun warmed us up.
I remember us looking for another spot to ‘sleep’ as the first one ended up being too windy. We were walking like zombies in the dark hoping that this would end up soon. And that was the time the sun camera up, bringing with it a mysterious fog.
The journey to the dunes certainly was an amazing experience. Putting aside all the great moment and images it could have ended up turning for the worst. For example, running low on water, getting cold in the dunes without mobile reception, these things were avoidable if only we didn’t rush and instead equipped ourselves with all the information we needed to succeed in our trip.
Photography is a passion that requires a lot of time and effort, but you should never put yourself in a dangerous situation. Remember that at the end of the day (or night in our case) it’s only an image and it is not worth breaking your equipment for the shot, or worst losing your life.
In summary, my advice would be to know where you are going and what the weather will be, bring a lot of water and food, and let people know where you are.
How do you find the colours produced from Fujifilm X Series cameras compared with previous brands you may have used?
The colours straight out of the camera on the Fujifilm X-Pro2 are just amazingly correct! I used to shoot on a Canon EOS 60D for a long time, and I remember always having to change the white balance to get the shot looking natural in camera. With the X-Pro2, I may sometimes just increase the saturation and that’s it.
As a landscape photographer, it’s a great thing to be able to trust your camera as you are not always able to post process on the go. The Fujifilm cameras have an excellent advantage; they boast a broad range of film simulation, which makes your shot ready for social media or printing SOOC (straight out of the camera).
If you have some advice for someone starting out in photography what would it be?
The great thing about photography is that you have a lot of different genres to explore. For example, someone who is an excellent portrait photographer might find a new challenge in landscape photography. That’s why I love photography. You always have news technique and things to learn, it never stops.
My first piece of advice would be to not invest too much money in your gear. The most important aspect of your gear is to understand how it works. For that, you should bring it with you daily, take it to work for instance. Shoot as many different subjects as possible, until you learn what settings are best. There’s no need to have a professional camera body to start off with. I’ve seen a lot of people investing in professional cameras without even understanding it.
My second piece of advice would be not to limit yourself and your creativity. Recently I’ve participated in a creative meetup at the Vivid festival in Sydney. The purpose of the event was to produce an image based on the particular brief. By participating in meetups like this, you will find your creativity. As a designer, I’ll never be able to produce something if I didn’t have direction from the client. The same should be said when it comes to your photography. Try and push your ideas so that they develop into photos.
My final advice would be to stay aware and connected. With the chance to live in a connected world, where it’s easy to share and learn from other people it’s a great place to learn. I have watched a lot of tutorials on YouTube and other social media platforms to understand how to achieve things in my photography journey.
Share your work and ask for feedback. Even if the feedback is negative, remember people are judging an image not you. By listening and exploring your creativity, you will only improve your work.
If you could give Fujifilm any advice on future camera models what would it be and why?
Fujifilm designs their product very well and understands their end user. You can feel it when you have one of their cameras in your hand. However as I’ve mentioned, I’d love to understand why some of the features of the X-T2 such as the dedicated ISO selector and the tilt screen are not available for the X-PRO2. I’m also disappointed to see a particular range of L-Brackets and battery grips for the X-T2, whereas the X-Pro2 is lacking in the accessories arena. Reading this, you might be thinking why didn’t I purchased a Fujifilm X-T2? The reason is simple, at the time of buying my X-PRO2 nothing was communicated about the release of the X-T2.
I know that Fujifilm love to keep their product secret, but maybe a better communication for the next generation might be necessary.
Can you share any insight into any post processing techniques other Fujifilm users should explore?
When it comes to post processing, everybody has their preferences, the most popular programs I hear about are Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom.
As a personal choice, I only use Photoshop and Camera RAW which is part of Photoshop.
The important thing for me to remember is to keep the final image ‘natural’. It is good to think about this sometimes when you work on a picture. I find taking a break and returning to the edit later can be beneficial. The reason is when you process you might make a mistake. Having a fresh eye on your workflow will give you the ability to notice and improve your way of working.
For my editing process, I’ve followed some tutorials produced by Jimmy Mcintyre. I must say they have helped me on this difficult photographic journey. I will not get into details as I don’t want to steal the credit and effort that he put into his techniques, all I will say is you should check out his YouTube channel.
I’ll use this image shown below to explain how I best process an image.
The basic idea I like to use when processing one or multiple images is to use luminosity masks. The great thing about Fujifilm RAW files is they have a lot of image detail information in them. This gives you the ability to recover shadow or highlight details in a picture easily without affecting the final image. I must say though if you want to use multiple images, remember to use a tripod when shooting.
For this particular image, I used two photos: the RAW above and another image slightly more exposed for the fence. After the blending here is the results:
Once you have all blending completed and have one final image, move onto enhancing the image. This is a subjective step, and you can go as creative as you want, but I recommend for landscape photographers always to remember to be conservative and keep it ‘natural’. For this image, I enhanced the contrast and colours and finished with a soft vignette to lead the eyes to the subject.
Other interviews in this series