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6 minute read

A View to a Thrill

Inspired by the Pacific Northwest’s striking landscapes, Mio Monasch finds framing freedom with FUJINON XF70-300mmF4-5.6 R LM OIS WR telephoto zoom

The Pacific Northwest is an area that’s not easy to pin down in geographical terms. Opinions vary, but if you were to draw a rough ring around it, it might cover the Rocky Mountains in the east and the Pacific coast in the west, as well as the temperate forests of northern California up to the frosty peaks of British Columbia. What’s not difficult to define is the range and scope of its beauty. From the rugged sea stacks and empty sands of its thousands  of miles of coastline, across green plains, thick woods, and tremendous mountains, it covers an amazing range of habitats, even extending to areas of wild desert. In short, it’s an extraordinarily varied and emotive landscape to photograph.

Photo © Mio Monasch.

That undeniable beauty was what brought FUJIFILM Creator, Mio Monasch, back to his birthplace of Seattle. “Having lived away for many years, I wanted to reconnect with the wilderness that surrounded me as I grew up,” he explains. “I wanted to bring back all the emotions brought on by its natural beauty – those feelings that made me want to pick up a camera in the first place.” After a stint working for Apple, he built his career as a commercial and landscape photographer. “I realized that being out in nature is still the ultimate release for me, and I’m very fortunate to be able to do a lot of my work in those spaces,” he enthuses.

Recently, Mio has been testing the new FUJINON XF70-300mmF4-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens, a telephoto zoom. But wait a second – many people wouldn’t associate a telezoom with landscapes. Shouldn’t scenic photographers be locked to a wide-angle lens? “Anyone who thinks like that is really missing out,” laughs Mio. “Lenses like this have so many advantages for landscapes. To go from 70mm to 300mm is just such a massive range that, if you compare the pictures, each one tells very different stories.”

Photo © Mio Monasch | FUJIFILM X-T4 camera and XF70-300mmF4-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens, 1/80sec at F8, ISO 5000

“Wide-angles have their place, of course, and I use them, too,” he clarifies, “but only when I’m right on top of a subject. Especially for landscapes, wide-angle lenses often make for very busy images, because the angle of view is so large. That can confuse what you’re trying to say with an image. With a telephoto zoom trained on the landscape, you can be more selective in your storytelling, picking out certain details, and making simpler, more effective compositions.

Photo © Mio Monasch | FUJIFILM X-T4 camera and XF70-300mmF4-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens, 1/500sec at F7.1, ISO 800

“With a lens like this,” he continues, “there are other benefits, such as the way it can give different senses of scale to subjects or help you create layers and separation in an image. I have this obsession with layers, and it’s something I think almost all decent landscapes contain. As a viewer, you want to feel the depth and see not just a single mountain, but all of the foothills that lead up to it or recede into the mist behind. You can get a sense of its place in the world and how it’s grown there over millions of years. That’s where you get all the light and the magic, and that’s what a telephoto can give you for sure.”

Photo © Mio Monasch | FUJIFILM X-T4 camera with XF70-300mmF4-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens, 1/250sec at F5.6, ISO 800

What about those benefits in scaling? “That’s all about the weighting you play on between your subject and the rest of the scenery,” he elaborates. “Say you’re putting a person in front of a mountain, a lens like XF70-300mmF4-5.6 gives you choices. Is it the story of this little person in front of a massive mountain? Or is it about their face with all of the details scaled behind. Those choices are just so unique in that creative process.”

Mio spent the majority of his time with XF70-300mmF4-5.6 out on the Olympic Peninsula – west of the Puget Sound – which is a national park area with lush, misty rainforests, soaring peaks, and a rugged coastline. “I kind of wanted to go back to my roots a little bit with the new lens,” he explains. “I wanted to get a mix of those experiences of being in the outdoors, along with that emotional hit I get from being there. And that area has a really amazing range of sights. But as much as it’s beautiful, it’s also volatile and exposed in terms of the winter weather, so we had to move around a lot.” For Mio, working with the conditions became part of the fun. He found places that worked, like forest roads. Out on the coast, he used the sea mist and spray against the towering sea stacks. “We also did some kayaking images,” he recalls, “which were very moody, with sunlight hitting the mountains and contrasting with the black clouds and rain.”

Photo © Mio Monasch | FUJIFILM X-T4 camera and XF70-300mmF4-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens, 1/1250sec at F6.4, ISO 1000

As well as its versatile zoom range, the lens’s design and build stood out for Mio. As a seasoned backpacker, size and weight are an obvious concern for him. And it was this that prompted his original urge for a lens that fits the smaller, lighter bodies of X Series. “I used X-T4 with XF70-300mmF4-5.6, and I also have X-T3,” he explains. “I switched from larger DSLRs, because like everybody who’s doing backpacking and back country landscape travel photography, I was trying to get the smallest and lightest system I could, while maintaining sky-high quality. For that,” he continues, “this partnership with XF70-300mmF4-5.6 is very welcome. I often carry my XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR, a few primes like XF23mmF2 R WR and XF35mmF1.4 R, and also XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR. This new lens certainly rivals the latter. It’s half the size and half the weight. And while I may lose some options between 55mm and 70mm, this is offset completely by gaining all those options between 140mm and 300mm.”

Photo © Mio Monasch | FUJIFILM X-T4 camera and XF70-300mmF4-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens, 1/160sec at F5.6, ISO 800

Throughout the project, the lens came up against the harsh weather conditions that parts of the Pacific Northwest are known for. “We definitely wanted to encounter weather – for atmosphere and to test the new lens’s weather resistance,” he chuckles, “and we weren’t short of it at all. I used it through a lot of rain, as you can see in the pictures here, and though it got completely drenched, it held up like an absolute champ. Details in the design make a big difference, too. For instance, the lens hood is long enough that the rain doesn’t come anywhere near the front element.” For Mio, like anyone who creates images no matter what the weather, cleaning isn’t something you want to keep doing and the durable nature of the lens left his sessions uninterrupted.

Photo © Mio Monasch | FUJIFILM X-T4 camera with XF70-300mmF4-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens, 1/80sec at F5, ISO 800

“I was really impressed with the image quality, too – especially at this price point,” says Mio. The sharpness is just incredible.” He even managed to get some pictures of eagles, thinking at that long-zoom end, he’d experience some shake. But the lens’s OIS held steady and, Mio was impressed with the results. “The eagle was pretty far away from us and the images I ended up with were crisp and clear. That F5.6 maximum aperture at the long end offers really good separation, and you definitely won’t pick up unwanted details in frames like that.”

Photo © Mio Monasch | FUJIFILM X-T4 camera and XF70-300mmF4-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens + XF2X TC WR, 1/200sec at F11, ISO 1250

“My goal,” Mio concludes, “is always to make photos that are as close to my experiences as I can – those moments I took in and what I felt out there in the wilderness. What’s amazing about XF70-300mmF4-5.6 is that it gives me so many ways to do that. I didn’t really expect to get everything that I realised I can out of this lens for its size, weight, and price, so it’s been able to change my perspective in more ways than one.”

Photo © Mio Monasch | FUJIFILM X-T4 camera and XF70-300mmF4-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens, 1/80sec at F5.6, ISO 800

FUJINON XF70-300mmF4-5.6 R LM OIS 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 Mio’s creative process with this exclusive behind-the-scenes video!


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