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4 minute read

A Stunning Solo Performance

Chris Knight enjoys all of the performance with none of the crew as he challenges himself to recreate the romance and style of a night out in the Theater District of New York City on a run-and-gun session with FUJINON GF80mmF1.7 R WR

Chris Knight is an advertising, fashion and portrait photographer who likes to push the limits. While he needs the higher resolution of large format, his style of photography often uses lower light to tell a story. This presents obvious challenges that many larger format systems would not be able to handle.

Such challenges have only been amplified in these socially distanced times where it is not possible to bring large numbers of people together to assist on photo sessions. While this may have caused many to write off the idea of making handheld images at night with mostly available light on a large format system, Chris saw it as an opportunity.

A Stunning Solo Performance

Photo © Chris Knight | FUJIFILM GFX100 camera and GF80mmF1.7 R WR lens, 1/40 sec at F1.7, ISO 250

“The point of this is I just really wanted to push GF80mmF1.7 R WR to the absolute limit and do things with it in terms of speed, functionality, and versatility that you wouldn’t necessarily think of doing with a larger format system,” he explains.

“I was inspired by a couple of old Gordon Parks images,” Chris continues. “One was a beautiful image of a couple coming out of a theater at night and I was set off on a path. So, we chose the Theater District and went for this really cinematic look.”

Chris was aiming to create a predominantly fashion portrait but editorial set of images, while also making it feel like a stylized wedding or engagement session. He tells us that he hopes the images show people that, even in these troubling times, New York City has lost none of its charisma.

Chris paired GF80mmF1.7 with the 102MP GFX100 and reveals that in such conditions, the large format GFX system really came into its own. “You can clearly tell it’s designed and crafted by people who understand a photographer and a photographer’s needs. There are other brands out there that make incredibly technologically capable systems, but I always found that some of them – even though they were technically great – felt more like they were designed by engineers,” he says.

“These systems can often require so many people or so much complexity to operate,” continues Chris, “and photographers usually want to do it in a more controlled setting, whether it’s in a studio or with a full crew. However, for the vast majority of this project, it was me just doing a run-and-gun.”

This was made possible by GF80mm’s combination of portability and wide aperture, which makes it the world’s fastest-ever lens with autofocus for a medium or large format mirrorless digital camera system.

Chris praises the ability this gave him to use separation to tell his story. “When shooting at full body or three quarter, I can get a good, clean separation because it’s a really shallow focal plane, which is really nice. And then the bokeh elements are clean, which I liked,” he explains. “The Theater District is one of the busiest places around, so we wanted to show how you can create that separation, using the lens to isolate people and make it feel like they’re in their own kind of world.”

Additionally, of course, the freedom the fast aperture gave him to work in such challenging light was a big advantage. “I went kind of extreme with low light. It was a dark, empty street and the only thing providing lighting were the overheads,” he recalls.

Chris also praises the versatility of the lens’ 63mm equivalent focal length. “It gives a lot of characteristics of a more traditional 85mm. But it opens up the field of view a little bit so you can get away with more environmental elements,” he reveals. “I photographed a lot on the GF63mmF2.8 R WR as it’s a good mid-range lens, and I photographed a lot on the GF110mmF2 R LM WR as a really nice portrait lens. And this sits beautifully between the two, giving you the best of both worlds.

“Sometimes GF110mm is just way too close and sometimes GF63mm isn’t intimate enough, so the fact that GF80mm lets you go a little bit longer, but then also opens up to F1.7, is incredibly useful.”

Overall, Chris was very impressed with how GF80mm handled the challenges it was faced with.

“My goal for this project was to create the hardest possible photographic situation,” he says. “It’s basically me doing large format at night, almost completely wide open, relying on the face tracking autofocus while I’m moving, the subjects are moving, other people are walking into the frame, and it’s constantly backlit.

“With all of the advanced technologies in the system, I don’t have to worry as much about the extreme technical considerations of making images like these. That means I can focus more on directing my subjects and getting emotion and story out of the image,” he explains.

“I think if you are a portrait photographer or a wedding photographer, it is a tremendous portrait lens,” concludes Chris. “It’s just lovely. It’s really great to work with.”

FUJINON GF80mmF1.7 R WR is coming soon to your nearest FUJIFILM Authorized Dealer. Learn more and read the full specifications here.

Find out more about the project, the lens, and Chris’ creative process with this exclusive behind-the-scenes video!


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