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5 minute read

A Vision of Life with the GF30mmF3.5 R WR

Justin Black has spent decades creating beautiful landscape images that put the viewer in the position of an explorer. We speak to him about how the FUJIFILM GFX system and new FUJINON GF30mmF3.5 R WR wide-angle prime lens make this easier than ever before.

It’s just after sunrise in the Potomac Highlands of West Virginia, and seasoned landscape photographer, Justin Black, is taking in the view from Bear Rocks. Sitting at the north end of the Dolly Sods Wilderness, this east-facing escarpment rises in places to over 2000ft, affording views over the Potomac River and mountain peaks and ridges well into Virginia and the Shenandoah National Park.

It’s a good example, Justin says, “of why working along edges – edges of changing weather, edges of light, edges of the land or water – is so rewarding in the quest for compelling landscape compositions”. He explains that these situations create shapes, lines, and depth in his photography. “But of course,” he adds with a smile, “it helps that this is one of the most beautiful landscapes in the Eastern United States, too.”

Whatever the time of day, it’s the kind of view that deserves to be captured properly – and shared. To do that requires an explorative spirit, clarity of thought, and the right technology – and that’s something Justin has spent years combining. “On a fundamental level,” he says, “I’ve loved witnessing what nature does when left on its own. Everything from pure quiet serenity to the dynamic aspects of weather and changing light excites me, and I think it’s critical that we bear witness to the natural world, both to share our personal experiences and perspectives, but also to inspire and inform others.”

Curious about nature from an early age, he recalls: “I spent a lot of time exploring and looking into the world intimately, turning over rocks, inspecting the details of leaves, flowers, and spiderwebs, and staring in wonder at natural light, reflections, shadows, and so on. Today,” he adds, “I’ve made exploring the world through photography a big part of who I am and how I experience life. It’s raised my awareness of the world, empowered me to see more deeply, be more observant, and pass through life better attuned to the rhythms and cycles of nature. I can’t help but see pictures everywhere I go, and it seems natural to share my personal vision and experience with others.”

To capture these visons, for many years, Justin created his landscapes using 4×5 film cameras. “But even after switching fully to high-resolution DSLRs,” he admits, “the bulk of my landscape images were made from three or more stitched frames, often with tilt-shift lenses. This gave me both the resolution I wanted for making large prints, as well as the squarer proportions I prefer. To my taste, the 3:2 proportions of the traditional 35mm format are too oblong and sit uncomfortably between a classic rectangle and a true panorama.”

Landscape photographer, Justin Black tests the FUJINON GF30mmF3.5 R WR

Photo © Justin Black | FUJIFILM GFX 100 camera and GF30mmF3.5 R WR lens, 480 sec at F16, ISO 100

It’s no surprise then that the GFX system’s 4:3 proportions fit him like a glove. “Immediately,” he says “GFX offered me a more straightforward way of achieving the framing and resolution I’d been getting with DSLRs, but without the cumbersome stitching. And as a brand-new lens system, it benefited from advances in optical design and manufacture, so the optics are perfectly matched to a superb large sensor.”

Now, after more than three years as a GFX system user, Justin’s still hooked. “It’s melded perfectly with my creative vision,” he explains, “and helps me make my work look its best. I’ve been immensely impressed with the way Fujifilm has maximized and continuously improved performance and image quality, matching the development of a superb new lens line with large, high-performance sensors. I appreciate the ergonomics, menu setup, and user interface, and generally find it a pleasure to work with.”

Landscape photographer, Justin Black tests the FUJINON GF30mmF3.5 R WR

Photo © Justin Black | FUJIFILM GFX 100 camera and GF30mmF3.5 R WR lens, 4 sec at F22, ISO 100

The trip to Bear Rocks, which Justin took to scout locations for his workshops and generally enjoy the seasonal conditions, saw him pairing his GFX 100 with the GF30mmF3.5 wide-angle prime lens for the first time. So, what stood out about the lens for him?

“The GF30mmF3.5 is a very welcome addition to the expanding lens lineup, which maintains the high standards of quality and performance that Fujifilm has set,” he says. “Simply put, I need to be able to rely upon my lenses to perform to a high standard in all sorts of adverse conditions. This includes having great optics, great performance throughout the aperture range, durability to the elements – like rain, spray, dust, heat, and cold – good ergonomics, and quick, accurate autofocus.”

“As expected, the GF30mmF3.5 performed perfectly in all those regards,” he continues. “It’s an immensely useful, easily portable, tough little wide-angle lens designed and manufactured to a spectacularly high standard. As is the case with all the GF lenses I’ve used, I was really impressed with its performance at all apertures, including at the smallest, where optical diffraction is very well controlled indeed. That, in particular, is especially important in making the most of the GFX system’s high-resolution sensors. In fact, it was even better than I anticipated, considering Fujifilm has set a high benchmark for itself on other GF lenses.”

Landscape photographer, Justin Black tests the FUJINON GF30mmF3.5 R WR

Photo © Justin Black | FUJIFILM GFX 100 camera and GF30mmF3.5 R WR lens, 1.5 sec at F22, ISO 100

Why is this level of quality important? For Justin, it’s all about creating the most natural view possible. “A naturalistic rendering of a scene,” he explains, “one which doesn’t show optical aberrations and defects, simply helps the viewer connect with the subject matter and composition. Basically, this means I want a lens that delivers sharpness, contrast, and fine detail corner to corner, with excellent correction of distortion, chromatic aberration, coma, and so on. Sometimes a photographer will want to add effects like vignetting in post-processing, but they should never be imposed on the creative process. In that way, and plenty of others, FUJINON GF lenses have performed flawlessly for me.”

“That’s not to say,” he concludes, “that optical perfection is always the most important thing in the creation of a meaningful photograph. A picture that doesn’t move the viewer can’t be saved by the best lens in the world, and great pictures have been made with poor-quality lenses or pinhole cameras that have no lens at all! But fine image quality contributes to the sense of being there and connects the viewer to the scene. In that way, a great lens gets out of the way and just does its job in the service of the photographer’s vision. And that’s what the GF30mmF3.5 does for me.”

The GF30mmF3.5 R WR is coming soon to your nearest FUJIFILM Authorized Dealer. Learn more and read the full specifications here.

Landscape photographer, Justin Black tests the FUJINON GF30mmF3.5 R WR

Photo © Justin Black | FUJIFILM GFX 100 camera and GF30mmF3.5 R WR lens, 4 sec at F22, ISO 100


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