6 minute read

Grabbing Your Chance

Portrait and documentary photographer Lanna Apisukh on how X-H2S helped her land the latest chapter of her skatepark diversity project

Sat at Los Angeles’ Venice Beach Skatepark, Lanna Apisukh drinks in the soft Californian sunshine. We begin by shedding light on her own story. How did she come to skating in the first place? “At high school,” she remembers. “I soon realized that the skaters were a little different, and I liked that. They were cooler than the preppy kids, more like outsiders, and I loved their style. How they would be happy throwing tricks off steps or railings, or homemade ramps. I wanted some of that, so I borrowed one of my brother’s boards, and I was in.”

Two young women posing with their skateboards against clear blue sky

Photo 2022 © Lanna Apisukh | FUJIFILM X-H2S camera and XF35mmF1.4 R, 1/2000 sec at F4, ISO 160

Heading to college in the late nineties, and hoping to keep up her skating, Lanna was in for a striking realization, however. “As a girl, I knew I was in the minority,” she recalls. “And there were actually a few women coming out to skate there, but in a campus of 30,000 people, you could literally count us on one hand. Even back then, I thought, this is crazy!”

Young woman skateboarding on small ramp in skatepark

Photo 2022 © Lanna Apisukh | FUJIFILM X-H2S camera and XF35mmF1.4 R, 1/3200 sec at F2.8, ISO 400

That reaction sat with her until she moved to New York, and was working on her photography career, finally emerging as a project when she re-engaged with skating. “I’d taken time away from the parks, but returning to skate a few times, I noticed something cool was happening. It was around 2016, and there were female-led groups organizing events and meetups where women, non-binary and trans skaters could enjoy having fun in that space, and I loved it. I started photographing those events, and that’s how ‘Everybody Skates’ was born.”

Group of young women skateboarders posing in skatepark

Photo 2022 © Lanna Apisukh | FUJIFILM X-H2S camera and XF56mmF1.2 R, 1/6400 sec at F1.6, ISO 400

Back to present-day LA, and the tools of Lanna’s trade are proving an inspiration. “I’m definitely glad we got to continue the project here with the FUJIFILM X-H2S,” Lanna smiles. “Not only because it’s an amazing camera – but also because it was 20ºF in New York! Working here in Venice and Stoner skatepark, on the westside of LA, has been fantastic.” Balancing documentary, portrait, and event photography – while also contributing regular features to The New York Times and Wall Street Journal – she loves story variety. Especially when covering the cavalcade of fellow skaters, plunging down halfpipes around her.

“It’s amazing how much growth there’s been in this community, and it’s something I’m so passionate about revealing,” she continues. “Everybody Skates is a portrait of a community that’s found its place in what can be an intimidating, male-dominated, and occasionally aggressive environment. Sometimes guys can try to snake you or put you off, because they don’t think you’re up to it. Or they might just be mad and cursing because they didn’t land a trick. It’s enough to create a space that’s not always comfortable for a young person to learn, regardless of whether they’re a boy or girl, non-binary or whatever.

“The power of photography can help change perceptions and show that women, non-binary, and gender non-conforming skateboarders do exist and thrive in those spaces. Representation is extremely important to me, and I want to be able to inspire the next generation of young women – or anyone – who’s interested in getting on a board.”

Woman skateboarding in concrete skatepark bowl

Photo 2022 © Lanna Apisukh | FUJIFILM X-H2S camera and XF23mmF1.4 R, 1/2000 sec at F3.6, ISO 160

When it comes to breaking into those spaces as a photographer, Lanna is aware that her cultural experience is important. “It definitely helps that I’m invested, and not an ‘outsider’ of some kind,” she smiles. “And although I skate – and will often be there just to be on my board – I’ve found you don’t necessarily need to participate. You can just show up and support other people.

“Skate culture is generally very accepting of being filmed and photographed, because there’s a style to it – and skaters often film their progression anyway. The idea is to make clips to share online – maybe even get sponsored. In that way, it’s different from other sports, where it’d be almost impossible to grab your camera, run in there and start photographing. Skating is informal, there are few rules, and I really think of it as more like a culture, a lifestyle, or a community. And while most of my images are at skateparks, which are free, it can happen at any location – the street, your driveway, steps in town, or anywhere with a railing to grind!”

Young woman skateboarder performing ollie down concrete stair inside California skatepark

Photo 2022 © Lanna Apisukh | FUJIFILM X-H2S camera and XF35mmF1.4 R, 1/2000 sec at F4, ISO 200

Despite its relaxed, often candid look, Lanna’s keen to point out that her approach to skaters is nothing like traditional street photography. “I definitely think of it as more of a collaborative relationship,” she explains. “I’m not a photographer who takes a photo and runs away. I want to give that photo back, like returning a favor for the effort they’ve made.” Around 95% of the time, people are willing. “Skaters are into it. I always ask for consent, maybe capturing them doing a few tricks, then working my way up to requesting a more traditional portrait.”

Young woman skateboarder performing board grab in mid air on California skatepark ramp

Photo 2022 © Lanna Apisukh | FUJIFILM X-H2S camera and XF23mmF1.4 R, 1/1000 sec at F5.6, ISO 200

In the need to record action, candids, and regular portraits, Lanna has found the perfect partner in X-H2S. “I’ve been using X Series cameras since 2016,” she says. “Small, and light, but high quality, they’re great for documentary and event assignments. So, getting to know X-H2S was very easy. The button layout was familiar, and I instantly liked the large grip, as it helped me use the camera in one hand and a flash in the other. The readout on the top-plate is great, too. It lets me see info like ISO, shutter speed, and aperture at a glance.”

Young woman in pink jumpsuit skateboarding on California skatepark ramp

Photo 2022 © Lanna Apisukh | FUJIFILM X-H2S camera and XF35mmF1.4 R, 1/4000 sec at F3.2, ISO 200

“I certainly don’t consider myself a sports or action photographer,” she continues. “But there’s no way I’m turning down a camera with 15 or 40fps, like X-H2S has. Those kind of frame rates are wonderful tools for nailing the best poses of a skater pulling a trick, but also in my other work, where someone could be moving about a restaurant with plates, or doing their job in the kitchen. For instance, with this image of Jennifer at the top of the ramp (above), I wanted the moment she was right at the peak, and that position in her arms looks like she’s floating effortlessly in the air.”

X-H2S also features powerful new Adaptive Ai autofocus, which Lanna tried out on both moving and static subjects. “I used face detection on moving skaters and eye detection for portraits. Both gave me all the sharpness I needed, even when working wide open to give the skaters separation.” Nor did color and detail from X-H2S’s new X-Trans 5 sensor disappoint. “I just used the JPEGs, knowing that Fujifilm colors are always beautiful right out of the camera.”

With a superb range of X Series lenses to choose from, X-H2S isn’t short of creative options either, and with her documentary and events background, Lanna didn’t stray far from her favorites. “I used XF35mmF1.4 R a lot, as it’s really my go-to documentary lens. Then I have XF23mmF1.4 R for wider views, where I want a bit more context of the park. For portraits, I almost always use XF56mm F1.2 R. I rarely go with zooms, maybe because I’m more than happy to move my feet up and down the concrete.

Young woman in yellow hat sitting on ramp with skateboard

Photo 2022 © Lanna Apisukh | FUJIFILM X-H2S camera and XF56mmF1.2 R, 1/8000 sec at F1/8, ISO 160

“I can certainly see X-H2S making its way into my bag and helping me continue Everybody Skates,” she concludes. “Its features mean it can tackle almost any subject, which is vital for the variety within documentary or events work.” But best of all: “It’s a really fun camera to use, and didn’t get in the way of what I really love: being at the park and in those moments. That’s been another really important part of this project – reconnecting with what took me to the skatepark in the first place. Whenever I go there to photograph, I’ll always end up skating. I can’t go without a skateboard – it’s too much fun.”

FUJIFILM X-H2S is coming soon to your nearest Fujifilm authorized dealer. Learn more and read the full specifications here.


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