One of my favorite things about photography these days is the extremely wide range of creative looks I can achieve right inside the camera. Back when I was a strict RAW shooter, I captured everything flat and then spent time later on tweaking the colors, tones and other visual effects of the scene in order to produce a captivating, final image.
Thankfully those days are long gone.
My preferred style of shooting now is to make creative decisions right there on location, when I’m immersed the mood and environment of my scene, adjust my camera settings and capture a final JPEG that matches my own mood at that time.
Fujifilm shooters know just how good the straight JPEGs look that come out of the X Series cameras. In addition, the Fujis contain an awesome set of creative tools, film simulation profiles and other effects that let you come up with unique looking images without having to resort to later processing.
In fact, most modern cameras produce great looking JPEGs and they all have some internal settings that allow you to modify the look of your scenes.
This approach helps keeps your creative process in the moment when you have your camera in your hands. It also keeps your photography rooted in the actual picture taking process as opposed to the “sitting at your computer process.”
Although I recognize that some photographers love the digital darkroom aspect of photography, I’ve found wonderful satisfaction in the fun challenge of trying to walk away with a finished image that I love.
To give you an idea of the kind of style diversity I enjoy with my photography lately, here are a few recent images all captured with my Fujifilm X-T3. For most of these, I’m using different film simulations, varying between rich, bold colors, subdued colors and the warm/cool monochrome settings.
I spent last week documenting Rebecca Rusch’s fat biking adventure along the Iditarod Trail Invitational, a 300+ mile ultra winter endurance race that crosses the Alaska Range and traverses through vast sections of wilderness in brutally cold temperatures.
This was a first for both of us. Despite being a champion cyclist and world-class endurance athlete, this was Rebecca’s rookie year in the ITI and her first time racing in extreme cold conditions for days and nights on end. And despite my two-plus decades as a pro photographer, this was my first real video project.
Although I’ve dabbled with shooting and piecing together short clips for social media, I generally don’t consider myself a video shooter. Up until this point, I have resisted jumping in the pool, for two main reasons: one, because I’m endlessly fascinated by the power of still imagery, and two, because I’m terrified of the huge time and equipment commitment that video requires.
However, I took this project on for two main reasons: one, because I’m endlessly fascinated with Rebecca Rusch, and two, because the Fujifilm X-T3 is a highly capable video camera. Oh yea, and because when a client comes knocking at the door, your answer is ALWAYS “Yes, I can!”
No, this was not my X-T3. You can tell because there’s no snow and no bike riders in front of it.
Last year, before Fujifilm announced the X-T3, they commissioned a full 9-minute cinematic film called A Different Beyond. The project was shot entirely with the X-T3 camera system and Fujifilm cinema lenses and directed by Matthew Libatique, whose credits include Black Swan and this year’s highly acclaimed movie A Star is Born.
A Different Beyond is a gorgeous film, and it highlights just how capable the X-T3 is for shooting high-end video and film productions. With amazing 4K, 60p 10-bit, 400MB/s video specs, the X-T3 is clearly Hollywood ready, as you can see in the picture above.
Although I’m light years removed from this kind of project, I was blown away when I watched A Different Beyond. Even with my limited experience, I was very intrigued by the quality and door-opening possibilities of what today’s cameras technology offers.
That said, my approach to the Rebecca Rusch/ITI project was much more simple, and it closely matched my “fast and light” style. Much of the time, I shot with the X-T3 body and one of my Fuji primes, like the XF35mm f/2, XF50mm f/2 or XF23mm f/1.4. A few times, I used the workhorse XF50-140mm f/2.8.
Often, I used the vertical grip for the X-T3, simply because it gives you those two extra batteries. Shooting video drains them much more quickly; add in sub-zero temperatures and it almost becomes a necessity, especially if you’re shooting longer clips. Then, during downtime, I could charge two batteries together by plugging the grip into the wall via the include 9v AC adapter.
Although the X-T3 shoots gorgeous 4K video, I shot entirely in 1080p Full HD at 200 MB/s. (4K requires much more resources, computing power, card space, battery power, streaming bandwidth, etc…) Full HD on the X-T3 still looks amazing and it’s perfectly suitable for most outlets.
I used the stock ETERNA film simulation, which looks great and offers very wide dynamic range. It’s also highly suitable for color grading, which is often done during the post production stage.
Before the shoot, I spent some time on the phone with one of the Fujifilm Professional Markets Training Managers. He gave me some very good tips to get me started with regards to basic capture settings. That helped a lot.
Keep in mind, these are are all screen grabs in this post, shot at 48 frames per second, with ISO varying between 160 and 3200. I could have shot at higher frame rates, but then you lose the “film” feel and it starts to look like a TV sporting event.
For audio, I mostly used the Fujifilm MIC-STI Stereo Microphone, either in the camera’s hot shoe, or extending it with a 10′ cable, sticking it on a Manfrotto Justin clap and clipping it to anything I could find that would offer me closer placement.
I also used an Insignia brand lapel mic, which came in handy for interviews. I monitored sound via a pair of BOSE headphones that were plugged directly into the X-T3’s headphone port. Yes…! My audio engineering training finally comes in handy!
After starting with the pre-race activities, I shot at the start, the halfway checkpoint at Rainy Pass Lodge, and at the finish in the town of McGrath. My traveling/producer companion was Ally Davis, who is Rebecca’s Media/Business partner, and we spent the week traveling by bush plane, hanging out in the cold in remote Alaska and capturing different aspects about the ITI.
Although I’m a video newbie, I felt comfortable working in this new format. I feel that my photography experience with light, framing and being able to recognize key moments as they unfold translated well and helped me capture some great clips.
As with my regular “still style,” I often shot handheld and moved around quite a bit. However, depending on the lens and framing, certain shots required a tripod to avoid an overly shaky look to the video.
Throughout the project, I made use of a number of the X-T3’s video features, including AUDIO SETTING, the ZEBRA SETTING highlight warning, which I kept at 95%, and AF-C CUSTOM SETTINGS, which lets you adjust how the autofocus performs with regards to acquire speed and “lock-on.” When shooting stills, you always want the fastest acquire possible, but with film, you sometimes want a slower acquire so that it doesn’t look too jumpy.
I also used the HIGHLIGHT/SHADOW TONE settings quite often. In fact, I stuck all of these settings into the X-T3’s MY MENU so I could quickly adjust parameters on the fly. And since it has a separate video settings for photo and video, I could easily switch back and forth when I needed to capture stills.
Overall video performance of the X-T3 was incredible. It worked fine in the cold, down to -20F, the autofocus did great, although to make sure it didn’t “hunt” during a low-movement scene, I often locked on, then switched to Manual Focus with RED/HIGH peaking, and I made use of FACE DETECTION AF whenever possible.
Even though I’m new to this world, I shot with confidence and I feel good about the footage we got. After all, it isn’t really the shooting part that keeps me away from doing more video, it’s the additional time involved. The reality is that I’m afraid I’ll really like it and right now, I can only afford to like it so much.
Fortunately, I won’t have to do the editing. We documented Rebecca’s Alaska adventure for Outside TV and Red Bull, so their in-house production departments will handle all of the post.
Originally designated for 10 minute shorts, we have enough video for a much larger project, so we’re hoping that this will be extended to a full length feature/episode on their channels. I’ll be very excited to see how it all ends up.
Bottom line, the X-T3 is an amazing video camera, and it will handle any kind of project you throw at it.
Of course, the real question is, did I suddenly become a video shooter? Am I hooked? Let’s just say I’m intrigued. The main reason I took this on is because I have a very good working relationship with Rebecca Rusch and a special admiration (ahem… professional crush) for what she does. I wouldn’t have done this for just anyone, and when it all comes down, I still love the magic and power of still photographs.
That said, it was a fun change of pace, a good exercise and a new challenge to dip my toe into this world. I learned a lot, I gained some valuable experience, and as an X-Photographer and X Series guidebook author, I suddenly have a lot more insight when it comes to shooting video on the Fuji cameras.
With my newfound skills and confidence, I’m sure I’ll transition into doing more video. I do enjoy putting together short pieces to score myself, mostly because it gives me an excuse to play music at my desk and call it work.
Check out Rebecca’s Instagram to read detailed and personal accounts of her ITI race experience; they’re quite compelling. And stay tuned for the final film, I’ll let you know as soon as it’s released.
One of the coolest features found on the Fujifilm X-T3 is a setting called PRE-SHOT ES. Found in the SHOOTING SETTINGS Menu, this powerful setting is included specifically for photographing fast action and subjects that move very quickly.
However, being a brand new setting that is only described in the manual with a single, confusing run-on sentence, that doesn’t leave new X-T3 users with very much to go on. It took me a bit of experimenting and a few messages to my Fuji contacts to figure it out myself, but now that I have a handle on it, I’m happy to share with you exactly how PRE-SHOT ES works and what you can do with it.
The first thing you should know is that PRE-SHOT ES only works when using the Electronic Shutter and CH mode. That’s because it takes advantage of the X-T3’s highly improved electronic shutter and faster processor, which allow for much faster read rates than what the ES offered on previous models.
PRE-SHOT ES is designed to compensate for the lag time between when you “see” your ideal shot, and when you actually press the shutter. With extremely quick subjects, that delay can easily cause you to miss your ideal moments, especially if your subjects are moving between obstacles, as seen in the shot above.
By enabling PRE SHOT ES, the X-T3 will lock onto the subject and begin tracking at high speed as soon as you press the shutter halfway down. You’ll see the autofocus sensors start to track your moving subject.
As long as you keep your finger pressed halfway down while you’re tracking, the camera will start recording images into the buffer. It will continue to refresh so that you always have up to 20 frames stored in the buffer.
Then, when you press the shutter all the way down, the camera will actually write those buffer images onto the memory card, essentially saving those frames that were recorded during the period of “half press,” as well as the new frames that are captured right when you start shooting. It will continue to capture and write new images the card as long as you hold the shutter.
In effect, PRE-SHOT ES allows you to nail your sequence and capture the entire series, including those initial moments, even if you end up pressing the shutter a little bit late. Normally, those momentswould be lost, since it’s nearly impossible to recognize a passing moment and take the picture. Combine this with CH frame rate options of 10, 20 and 30 fps, this becomes a very powerful tool in your bag of tricks.
To capture the forest scene above, I aimed my camera and started tracking the rider while she was still relatively out in the open. I used AF-C Custom Settings option #2: Ignore Obstacles and ZoneAF so that the X-T3 would keep the focus locked, even as she appeared through gaps in the tight trees.
It’s a little confusing at first, but once you understand how this setting works, you’ll see that it can be an incredible tool to help you capture extremely challengingscenes. It helps you nail the perfect body position, the perfect placement in the frame, or the perfect fleeting expression, running wildlife, flying birds, frolicking children, the list goes on…
I’ve done extensive testing with PRE-SHOT ES and I’ve been highly impressed with how well it works. Combined with incredible speed at which the X-T3’s autofocus system can acquire moving subjects, PRE-SHOT ES has given me an amazing mechanical advantage for shooting action.
I’ll position myself where I think the peak of the action will unfold and put my camera on AF-C and Zone AF, setting the AF box size and position to match where the subject will enter the frame. I might do a couple of “practice pans” before the subject arrives, just so I know what I’ll be working with.
Then, when I’m ready, I’ll go beyond my estimated pan so I can acquire the subject(s) when they get close. Again, I do this before I reach my idea spot so that I can get a good lock with the AF. As soon as they’re in my view, I’ll half press the shutter and start the buffer rolling while the AF keeps tracking the subject. When I think I’ve got a good lock, I’ll go ahead and press all the way down while I follow them through my scene.
You don’t need to pan in order for this to work, you could keep the camera positioned at the “ready spot” with your ideal framing set. Then, as soon as you see the subjects enter your frame, press the shutter all the way. PRE-SHOT ES and CH will do the heavy lifting and take care of you.
With improved sensor technology coming out each year, this is sure to become a common feature on more high-end mirrorless cameras. Nikon had something similar on one of their “action cameras” a few years go, but it wasn’t implemented or advertised very well, and it went nowhere. Fujifilm has done an amazing job utilizing and refining this technology and rolling it into an already awesome and powerful camera.
I encourage you to play around with PRE-SHOT ES, even if you aren’t a dedicated sports shooter. There are a multitude of subjects and moments that unfold very quickly, and this feature can help you start nailing them with more accuracy and confidence.
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