Shooting Action with the Fuji 18-135mm lens

_DSF8424-2Summer leaves town in a real hurry as soon as September hits Alaska. As much as I hate to see the warm weather and long days depart for the year, fall does mean the start of cyclocross season, so that’s a tradeoff I’ll take with excitement.

During the past couple years, it’s been lots of fun to both race in and photograph the Arctic Cross series here in Anchorage, and I’ve been especially looking forward to this fall because it’s my first season to shoot cyclocross with the Fuji X-T1 camera.

This past week, I shot with only the new XF 18-135mm weather sealed lens, and while I would have preferred using a faster f/2.8 telephoto zoom for long shots inside the dark forest, Fuji’s high ISO performance is pretty darn good, so the speed loss is not as big of an issue as it could be. Shooting wide angle makes it even less of an issue. That said, I’m very curious to try out the new XF 50-140mm f/2.8 lens that’s just been announced.

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Cyclocross is indeed a fast action sport that offers a diverse number of perspectives and compositional opportunities. For that reason, I was very curious about how well the X-T1 and 18-135 lens would do with regards to autofocus performance.

As with my previous tests using the 18-135mm lens, I found it to be more than capable enough to acquire and track the bikers. The very lightweight linear motor that’s built into the 18-135 makes it one of the fastest focusing lenses in the Fuji lineup, so if there was a limitation here, it wasn’t AF, it was lens speed, as I mentioned above. That said, limitations are a great spark for creativity. You may not always have the perfect gear, but you can take what you have and run with it in whatever direction works best.

All of these were shot as straight JPEGS, and as much as I like the Fuji colors, I really love the black and white film simulations. I think they’re perfect for subjects like this; BW seems to impart a timeless quality, and it certainly has more grit, especially when you crank the ISO way up. (Most of these were shot at ISO 1600 and higher.) You can check out more photos from this week’s race here.

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20 Instagram Photographers That Will Change The Way You See The World

I’m proud to be featured this week within an amazing group of image makers. Branding and social media coach Jane Ellen wrote a post called 20 Instagram Accounts Of Photographers That Will Change The Way You See The World and stuck me in with giants like Joe McNally and Corey Rich. 

One of the most popular blogs on the internet, Lifehack.org is read by over 5 million readers each month. Thanks for the huge props, Jane! It’s always great to be recognized and get a little love from your work, especially on such a well read website!

Check out the post and be sure and follow me on Instagram here.

Hiking on the Lake George Glacier, Alaska

Learn Photography Online with the Pros

_DSF8335In my next life, I might decide to be a glacieologist. I’m awed by the overwhelming magnitude of these immense rivers of ice and the sheer power they have to carve out entire mountain ranges. Of course, they do all this in slow motion. Occasionally you see a huge chunk calve off at the bottom, but you can’t really see them move in real time.

Living in Anchorage, Alaska, I have a number of glaciers within about 50 miles of my house. In the summer time, I love to use my little Cessna bush plane to explore the Chugach Mountains and find places to land near the glaciers. It’s harder than it seems, because, even though you can get within a couple miles of some of the glaciers, the crux is finding one where you’re on the same side as the rives that drain out of the bottom.

Last year, I managed to find strip that gave me hiking access to the Knik Glacier, and lately, I’ve been trying to find a way to get out to the Lake George Glacier, which is up the valley from the Knik.  Last week, while scoping out the area, I spotted a new bush strip that looked like it would give me relatively easy access, but ran out of time to do any serious exploration.

After waiting out a few days of rain and wind, I went back yesterday to check it out. After flying low over the strip at 70 mph, I counted it out to be about 750 feet long (at that speed, one second equals about 100 feet) and inspecting it for any obstructions, holes or large rocks, it seemed pretty smooth.

Coming back around, I lined up on final, dropped my 26″ bush wheels onto the hard packed mud and grass just as I crossed the small creek at the end of the strip and rolled to a stop. After pushing the plane off to the side, I unloaded my gear, which included trekking poles, ice axe, shoe spikes and bear spray, and started hiking up the gravel bar.

_DSF8074It ended up being about 3 1/2 miles up to a small creek bed that wound up through the brush before finally opening up right up against the side of the Lake George Glacier. Usually you have to navigate wide moraines or iceberg filled lagoons in order to get up onto the ice, so it’s a real treat to have the access be this easy.

Unlike many glaciers, this one is relatively flat out at the edge. I’d seen this during my arial reconnaissance, which is one of the reasons I’d wanted to check it out up close. It was surprisingly easy walking, and I hiked about a mile and half, stepping over the small cracks and weaving my way around the larger crevasses.

I came across a couple of interesting holes where the ice had simply collapsed, leaving a sinkhole surrounded by a circular pattern of big cracks. This happens when the glacier moves over a section of running water or a big air pocket, and it looks pretty cool.

_DSF8102As I got farther up, I saw a few more collapsed sections that were created by the river that runs out at the side of the glacier. These are massive holes that you would never be able to escape from if you were to fall in. Stay down there long enough and you’d probably get crushed by one of the massive ice blocks that keep cutting loose. It’s really loud when this happens, although I guess if you dropped anything that’s as big as a car or house, it would make a thunderous roar as well.

_DSF8309_DSF8289For camera gear, I carried my Fuji X-T1 and the new Fuji XF 18-135mm weather sealed lens. I’m blown away by how sharp this lens is, even out at the edges, and at all focal lengths- wide angle to telephoto zoom lenses are not supposed to be this good! You can read my full review of this lens here.

This lens was perfect for shooting a variety of landscapes, and the weather sealing benefits of both the  X-T1 and the lens really came in handy. Although it was dry out, glaciers are covered with dirt and mud that’s been carved from they mountains, and this super fine silt can get everywhere.

In addition to being water resistant, the XF 18-135mm has a gasket inside the barrel which prevents dust and small grains of dirt from being sucked up into he lens when you zoom in and out. During the course of the day, quite a bit of this find glacial dust accumulated onto my body and lens, so I was glad they were both filled with gaskets to keep this stuff out.

I also love the compositional versatility that the XF 18-135 lens has. There’s so much interesting stuff to be found in these kinds of environments, and having a lens that goes both wide and tele lets you capture a huge variety of subject matter, both up close and far away. Rocks, Cracks. Ice towers, mud. running water. You could spend days photographing here and never get bored.

However, I was just out for the day, so when I began to see warm colors on the mountain peaks above, I knew it was time to start heading back. Once off of the ice, it took me about two hours to hike back to the plane in the shady gravel bar. I crossed a number of moose tracks and even a few bear footprints, but never saw any wildlife during my 7 hour exploration.

The only other photo gear I carried in my Lowepro Photo Sport 200 photo pack during this outing was my Joby Gorillapod, which is what I used to shoot the self portrait of my feet. I never go anywhere without this little gem, it’s so useful and it hardly weight anything. I just tuck it into the straps of my pack, and if I don’t end up using it, it’s not like it weighted me down at all.

Note: These are all RAW files processed with Capture One Pro 7.

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Full Review of the Fuji XF 18-135mm Weather Sealed Lens

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A few weeks ago, I posted a first look review of the new XF18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS WR lens, which is Fujifilm’s first weather resistant lens. Although it can be used on any X-Series camera body, the 18-135 was designed in conjunction with the … Continue reading

New Photo: Sunset Over the Cook Inlet, Alaska

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I shot this photo the other night during one of my Sunset Photo Safari workshops with Alaska Photo Treks. We’d been searching for good light throughout the evening, and with predominately overcast skies, the majority of our time was spent shooting … Continue reading