Being an X-Photographer, can give you some wonderful little perks! For a starter you can get your hands on some of their cutting edge equipment before all of the internet speculation begins! It’s like being a tog spy! Awesome!
In November 2016 I was given just this opportunity, to be one of the first to try out their new upgrade of the very popular X-T10.
It arrived in a lovely neat little bubble wrapped package, so small that I didn’t think a camera was even in there! But sure enough, a bright shiny prototype X-T20 was ready to show me what it could do!
My initial impressions were, “good god how small is this thing?!” Is it really going to come up to scratch, and give me the same quality that I have come to expect from my Fuji body?
The very next day I was on a long haul flight to Nepal, heading up to the epicentre of the devastating 2015 earthquake, Barpak.
I was part of a small team of photographers, documenting the wonderful work of the British Gurkha Welfare Trust and their amazing part in the rebuild of this extremely remote town in the middle hills of the Himalayas.
In my travel kit was my trusty X-T2, (with battery grip) XF16-55mmF2.8, XF50-140mmF2.8, XF56mmF1.2 R APD, and the XF90mmF2, and of course my new little friend the X-T20, and my aging 17 inch Mac-book pro, all fitting into my Billingham, and managing to get passed the weigh in at check-in - PHEW!
Our two-day journey was long and very bumpy, giving us a real insight to how difficult the rescue and regeneration of the town would have been in the aftermath of the earthquake.
The warm Nepali greeting of Namaste could be heard from every corner on our arrival, with smiles abound and keen to see the work that had already been completed, we headed straight out into the town.
Having just been given the body, and keen to get shooting, I did a quick set up and coupled the lens and set off, I didn’t even have time to attach the strap, but with the lightness of the body, I really didn’t need this anyway.
In fact I found that this seemed to be an advantage, I was able to approach each subject with a smile and some pigeon Nepali, and they weren’t even aware of the camera at all. For me as a portrait photographer this became a real advantage, as I did not have to work quite so hard to get some natural and warm expressions.
I loved how easy it was to just pick up and go! I was already very used to the dials and menu’s as they are very similar to those of the X-T2: aperture control on the lens, shutter speed on top, these all make sense, I just assigned one of the back buttons to control the ISO, and was ready to go!
With the Auto switch to the right of the shutter speed dial, I could have given all decisions to the camera, but I am a bit too much of a control freak to relinquish all power, but I could see some situations where this ability could have been useful.
I set up to shoot in Jpeg mode, with the PRO Neg.Hi profile, as I love the soft skin tones that this profile gives my work, and just suits the tones of the villages of Nepal.
With the body being that much smaller I was aware that the wider lenses would fit more ergonomically, making the body feel more balanced.
Initially I opted for the XF56mmF1.2 R APD, and what a BEAUTY of a lens that is! I also tried out the XF16-55mmF2.8 on a few of my golden hour walks and again this fits nicely in the hand, and just gives a little more option when framing and composing in certain situations.
After a few hours and seeing the quality of the XF56mmF1.2 R APD, it developed into my go to lens of the trip. It is a triumph, and pin sharp, even wide open! The quality paired with the sensor in the X-T20 was sublime! And it just seems to fit with my style of travel work perfectly.
Focusing was fast, and hit the spot, even with constantly moving subjects; those Nepali’s can run fast! (Hence the Gurkha connection!) The depth of field was gorgeous and perfect for my style of portraiture; I was more than delighted, with the results.
When it came to the end of the day, and reviewing the images, the touch screen was a real treat, and obvious in its handling, swiping to move on and pinching to enlarge, the ease of checking focusing, and composition was intuitive, and a feature that I hope will be introduced in future models.
After three days in Barpak, we sadly had to carry on our journey, but to see the growth and regeneration of this amazingly resilient town, was a real insight into the human spirit, and to do it with a piece of kit that is pushing boundaries in its own field was a real treat, it will certainly be accompanying me on my future adventures!
Saraya Cortaville is an award winning portrait and social documentary photographer.
She has received two fellowships (one of only two women in the uk to have achieved this) one for studio portraiture and most recently social documentary for a project she completed in 2015 whilst living in Africa.
She was awarded the Peter Grugeon award for the best fellowship portfolio of 2015, and a gold award in Visual Arts in the professional photography awards 2016.
Saraya’s passion for travel and people has pushed her career in to a more adventurous phase and she has recently lived and worked abroad for various international NGO’s documenting social issues in countries as far as Tanzania and Nepal.
Saraya skillfully manages to draw out her subjects emotions and feelings, in a sensitive and empathetic nature, her portraits are an observation and moment of connection, between two people, rather than photographer, subject.
When not abroad Saraya shoots primarily location portraiture specializing in children and documentary weddings.