Through a photographer’s eye is the first in a series of interviews featuring Australian photographers. In each interview, we learn about the person behind the camera and how they use Fujifilm X Series cameras to photograph the world around them. Our ninth interview is with Sydney based photographer, Benjamin Lee.
Benjamin, tell us about yourself and how photography has impacted your life.
Photography has played a huge role in my life, shifting the direction of my career and lifestyle. Just over two years ago, I was working a regular, boring office job straight out of university. I wasn’t even working in a role I went to university for. The pay was great and steady, which made it hard to break out of that comfort zone. I finally built up the courage, and just quit on a whim. I knew I had enough savings to not worry too much.
I knew I wanted to spend a good six months being willfully unemployed and so I did. I spent my mornings at cafes, days visiting galleries and hiking national parks. With all my free time spent doing fun things and going to interesting places, I wanted to learn how to take photos and document it all.
That was when I bought my first camera – the Fujifilm X-Pro1 (w/ XF35mmF1.4 & XF18mmF2). I started sharing my photos to this brand new app called Instagram, and not long after that, Instagram put me on their suggested user list. My following grew quite significantly because of that and it set me on this path to where I am today.
Fujifilm X-Pro2 with XF35mmF2 R WR – 1/550 – F2 – ISO400
You started with a Fujifilm X-Pro1 and had recently used the X-Pro2. For those not familiar with Fujifilm products, what did you find to be the biggest change between these models and do you think Fujifilm X Series cameras are heading in the right direction?
The first thing I immediately noticed was how quick the autofocus was. Paired with the XF35mmF2 and the XF16-55mmF2.8, the X-Pro2 never missed a beat for the two weeks I was testing it.
Some other differences I liked were:
⁃ Dual SD card slots: This feature really brings the camera into the modern professional standard.
⁃ ISO performance was surpassingly good. It was comparable to some of the full frame cameras I’ve used before.
⁃ Megapixels: the extra megapixels (from 16MP to 24MP) meant I could crop heavily in post processing.
⁃ The added weather sealing is a must for me, as I shoot a lot outdoors.
⁃ The subtle button redesign on the back of the camera is great. I can mostly operate the XPro2 with one hand now that the buttons have been moved to the right side of the camera. I think it’s amazing and commendable that Fujifilm has listened to the needs and wants of its customers and made small changes to perfect an already great camera.
Fujifilm X-Pro2 with XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR – 1/4700 – F2.8 – ISO200
How do you find social media helps your photography career? Did you find using the Fujifilm Camera Remote App helpful when paired with the X-Pro2?
I started photography around the same time social media really started to pick up. It really played an integral role in growing my career to the point it’s at today. Instagram spurred my interest in photography. It has helped in enhancing my visibility as a photographer. From that visibility, I have met and worked with a lot of amazing people and brands.
Fujifilm X-Pro2 with XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR – 1/100 – F2.8 – ISO2500
Best of all, I fully control the distribution of my work and have a direct line to communicate with my audience. I didn’t really get a chance to play around with the Camera Remote App. My workflow is with RAWs, so I prefer the traditional method of editing via computer and transferring to my phone that way.
If you have some advice for someone starting out in photography what would it be?
⁃ Shoot everything and as often as possible
⁃ Explore all types of photography, take note of the genre’s aesthetic of photography that really motivates you and hones in on it.
⁃ Consume and view as much photography and art as you are producing (if not more). This will really help you refine your taste and personal aesthetic.
Fujifilm X-Pro2 with XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR – 1/5400 – F2.8 – ISO400
Can you tell us the story behind your favourite image captured using the Fujifilm XF16-55mmF2.8?
This is my favourite photo that I took over the two weeks I had the X-PRO2. It was shot with the XF16-55mmF2.8 on the longer range of the lens. A few friends and I went to the city to shoot some street photography.
Fujifilm X-Pro2 with XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR – 1/500 – F2.8 – ISO400
We found this intersection where the sunset light was hitting just right, the buildings had strong character and the rush hour office folks were busily crossing the street trying to get home.
I’m a bit of a bokeh addict and like to blur out my subjects against interesting backdrops. I like how it adds a sense of mystery to the subject. The fast F2.8 aperture on the XF16-55mmF2.8 definitely helped with this effect.
In this particular photo, I like all the layers of the scene, from the blurry man with the hat, the fire truck & the couple, to all the layers of buildings that fill the entire frame. I like how this image has that full; big city feel – kind of like NYC.
I also really like the complimentary colours: fire truck reds, oranges and yellows too!
Based on your style of photography, if you could put any improvements into a future X Series camera what would they include?
I love the size and discreetness of the X-Pro2 and Fujifilm systems in general. You don’t get hassled as much while taking photos out in public and can usually fly under the radar.
I would love improved battery life. I’m often shooting for long periods (both photos and videos) and the latter really seems to chew through batteries.
Another possible feature might be in body stabilisation. It has it’s pro’s and con’s but it would definitely be handy in my use cases. I’m not a fan of tripods and like to be agiler in my photography.
It would also mean that lenses could be made without IS, or possibly even used in conjunction (dual IS).
Do any photographers inspire you to ‘think outside of the square’ and shoot differently?
Other photographers constantly inspire me. I’m just as big as a fan of photography as I like taking photos myself so I’m continuously browsing the work of others.
Although my list of favourite photographers is constantly changing, here are my current favourites:
Fujifilm X-Pro2 with XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR – 1/2500 – F2.8 – ISO200
Along with the X-Pro2 and XF16-55mmF2.8, you also used the XF35mmF2 lens. What did you find the main difference(s) between the wide angled lens and which lens out of the two did you prefer to shoot with?
It’s hard to beat the lure of a quality zoom lens – especially one that covers the 16-55 range. The convenience of a zoom lens brings versatility to it that allows you to be able to be flexible and react quickly to changing conditions.
If I were to pick one walk around lens out of the two, I would probably go with the XF35mmF2. The XF16-55mmF2.8 is a little heavy and large relative to the compact X-Pro2 body.
The XF35mmF2 is tiny! Coming from a larger DSLR system, using a lens that is this small is kind of mind blowing. Best of all there is no compromise with image quality, speed AND it’s weather sealed. Kind of hard to beat, when it comes to an everyday walk around / travel lens.
Fujifilm X-Pro2 with XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR – 1/1250 – F2.8 – ISO400
Other interviews in this series