16.03.2021 Kiko Arcas

Springing into life with your wildlife photography

Kiko Arcas

Vigo, 1975

I am a photographer from Vigo and a bird enthusiast for more than twenty years, many of which I have spent as a scientific bander, collaborating in ornithology courses with the University of Vigo. I have also done various scientific works on the ecology of species like the common sandpiper or the red-backed shrike, all of this together with my brother José Arcas, doctor in Biology and a nature artist.
My photographs have been published in different books and publications, such as El Rio de la Vida, Fotografiando Aves, Ptaki Otop, Visión Salvaje and Guía de las Especies Marinas de Canarias, among others.

I am currently a contributing photographer to the prestigious nature documentary producer NaturaHD Films. I also work with FUJIFILM España, giving presentations all around Spain, such as at the Delta Birding Festival, Urdaibai Bird Center and the International Ornithological Tourism Trade Fair in Extremadura, among others.

A year ago, when Fujifilm España asked me to make the change over to mirrorless cameras, I contemplated it as a big personal challenge. Not only because I have been using reflex equipment for more than 20 years now, but also because everything that goes along with it: a new system, electronic viewfinder, smaller equipment, and so on. After this year, this challenge has turned into satisfaction, comfort and guaranteed success to tackle any job. The qualitative (and let it be said, quantitative) leap has been more than remarkable.

I improved in terms of quality, but also I lightened the weight of my equipment by a few kilos, which is really important in nature photography, because we spend a lot of hours with backpacks on our backs. It has been a year in which I was able to try the X-T2 and X-H1 bodies, as well as the excellent and famous FUJINON lenses. All this was under the most challenging conditions in the field and different weather conditions, which have led to my unwavering conviction to use FUJIFILM equipment.
As a photographer of nature, and especially birds, I use the X-H1. It’s a camera that provides me great ruggedness, grip and quality, which combined with the XF100-400mm zoom lens, guarantees unbeatable image quality. 

Awards: Some photography awards in prestigious national and international competitions: Montbarbat 2003 and 2005. Finalist and fourth prize, respectively.
Ateneo Ferrolán 2008. First prize.
Parque Nacional Islas Cies 2009.
First prize. BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2010. Finalist.
Montphoto 2011. Second prize.
Glanzlichter 2011. Honorable mention.
Narava 2012. Finalist.
Festival de l’Oiseau et de la Nature 2015.

Kiko Arcas is passionate about the natural world and Fujifilm kit. Who better to help you take better images this spring?

There’s more than a hint of spring in the air. The weather is turning warmer, daylight hours are gradually increasing and the outdoors has become a hive of natural activity. As the world awakens from its winter slumber, photographers are dusting off their gadget bags in preparation for the delights ahead. And what delights! Because when the natural world wakes up, it’s a sight to behold.

Spanish nature photographer Kiko Arcas knows this only too well. Ever since he was young, he’s had an avid interest in nature, particularly birds, and over the past 20 years, this interest has taken flight to become not only his passion but his vocation, too. “It all started when I was ten years old; together with my brother, I began to observe and study birds. From there it was a natural progression to photograph them. Today, I’m passionate about them and being able to photograph birds from just a few metres away gives me enormous satisfaction,” Kiko enthuses.

FUJIFILM X-T4 + XF70-300mmF4-5.6 R LM OIS WR - F8, ISO 1600, 1/140 sec

Photographing birds is something that takes a combination of great skill, in-depth subject knowledge and great patience. The amazing images that Kiko produces with Fujifilm equipment are never left to chance; they’re the final part of a jigsaw that can take some time to put together. “Observing, organising and planning ensure the final image is as successful as possible,” he tells us.

“Spring is an explosion of life. Plants start flowering, the trees are filled with new leaves that will protect us from the sun as well as provide food and protection for hundreds of animal species,” Kiko continues. “The birds wear their best clothes; breeding plumages that delight any bird photographer. Life is everywhere and that is simply wonderful for a nature photographer.”

He’s right. Now is the time to get out and make photos of the world in all its bright, vibrant glory. Naturally, you don’t have to focus all your attention on birds; there are more static subjects that won’t disappear as you approach them, but these make for equally photogenic subjects. And when it comes to choosing the right lens to photograph the myriad subjects, there’s a new kid on the block that is worthy of attention: the FUJINON XF70-300mmF4-5.6 R LM OIS WR.

FUJIFILM X-T4 + XF70-300mmF4-5.6 R LM OIS WR - F8, ISO 1600, 1/80 sec

With a 35mm equivalent focal length of 107-457mm and the option to further boost this range with the FUJIFILM XF1.4X TC WR and XF2X TC WR teleconverters, XF70-300mm is a versatile optic that suits nature photography perfectly. Its weather-resistant build is perfect for withstanding spring showers, while up to 5.5 stops of Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) provides confidence in the hand. It’s also the lens that Kiko used for each image displayed here. “Fujifilm’s optics are the perfect size and weight for my field trips. The XF70-300mm in particular is light, handy and offers brilliant optical quality. It gives me total confidence, guaranteeing perfect images with optimal bokeh,” he beams.

Having great equipment is one very important part of the image-making equation, while the other is fieldcraft – the techniques used to get the results. Kiko favours two approaches.

“The first is using some form of hide, where I can wait, unnoticed by the birds I want to photograph. The second option is to stalk; hanging my camera over my shoulder walking along a beach, through a forest or in the countryside and photographing all the opportunities that come my way,” Kiko reveals. “Stalking is less laborious and doesn’t require as much planning, but both techniques enable me to create images with great impact.”

FUJIFILM X-T4 + XF70-300mmF4-5.6 R LM OIS WR - F5.6, ISO 1250, 1/170 sec

Whether hiding or stalking, the addition of XF70-300mm to the lens lineup means Kiko now has plenty of options within the Fujifilm system to realise his vision of the natural world. “X Series cameras are well suited, thanks to their speed of focus, light weight and handling,” he asserts.

“In my view, FUJIFILM X-T4, FUJIFILM X-T3 and FUJIFILM X-S10 are the best options for nature photography. They are very fast focusing and well balanced when used with the FUJINON XF200mm, FUJINON XF100-400mm or the new XF70-300mm.”

These outstanding images are enough to get any photographer fired up to get out and make the most of the opportunities that abound at this time of year. But Kiko plays much more the observer than the creator, using his Fujifilm kit and copious amounts of skill to record the natural world as it unfolds in front of him. “Nature is art,” he concludes, “and it is waiting for us to go out with our cameras to frame it in images.”

Want to make nature images as stunning as Kiko’s? Try out these techniques!

FUJIFILM X-T4 + XF70-300mmF4-5.6 R LM OIS WR - F7.1, ISO 1250, 1/420 sec

When to focus manually

Fujifilm cameras boast fantastic autofocusing, but there are times when it’s better to use the manual focus mode instead. A couple of these occasions arise with nature photography.

Kiko often focuses on a specific branch and waits for the bird to arrive, for example. In these situations, using AF runs the risk of the lens hunting when the bird comes into the frame. By working manually, you can set the focus accurately where required and leave it there.

Similarly, although autofocusing in macro lenses has improved greatly, it still pays to switch to manual when working very close up to small subjects. The depth-of-field available at such distances is very narrow indeed, and the extra precision provided by focusing manually makes all the difference.

FUJIFILM X-T4 + XF70-300mmF4-5.6 R LM OIS WR - F5.6, ISO 400, 1/55 sec

Working with teleconverters

The XF70-300mm, along with selected other X Series lenses, is compatible with teleconverters. Autofocus and auto exposure both work as normal, so there’s no compromise there. However, a teleconverter decreases the intensity of the light that reaches the sensor by the square of its magnification. Plus, the teleconverter’s added glass also reduces the light reaching the sensor, so when one is fitted, there’s a decrease in the available maximum aperture.

Listed below are X Series lenses compatible with these teleconverters, including the focal lengths and changes in maximum aperture that you can expect from each different combination.

Lens nameWith XF1.4X TC WRWith XF2X TC WR
XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR70-196mm F4100-280mm F5.6
XF70-300mmF4-5.6 R LM OIS WR98-420mm F5.6-8140-600mm F8-11
XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR140-560mm F6.4-8200-800mm F9-11
XF80mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro112mm F4160mm F5.6