6 minute read

The Freedom to Discover

With his photography style embracing an invigorating mix of exploration and wildlife, Seth K. Hughes finds XF70-300mmF4-5.6 a natural fit

As the sun slips over the western horizon, drenching southern California in golden light, the San Diego coastline bursts with color. Ocean spray veils the distant headlands into pastel shades, and bright, wading birds flock to the mirrored sands and pools, unperturbed by the passing surfers. It’s within this west- coast wonderland that X-Photographer, Seth K. Hughes, has come to try out the new FUJINON XF70-300mmF4-5.6 R LM OIS WR.

“As always out in nature, you don’t know exactly what you’re going to find – but you know it’s going to be something beautiful,” Seth begins, smiling. “All up the coastline, there is rich and varied wildlife, as well as a serene mix of steep cliffs, open sands, and sheltered lagoons.” And the landscape proved Seth’s every word. His day with the lens offered up some stunning scenery and wildlife, including a chance encounter with a burrowing owl. “That’s one of the things I love the most about photography,” he enthuses, “how the promise of something special helps get you out there and connect with nature. If I were at home on the PlayStation, I’d never have had that experience!”

© Seth K. Hughes. FUJIFILM X-T4 and FUJINON XF70-300mmF4-5.6 R LM OIS WR, 1/1000sec at f/5.6, ISO 3200

Getting out into nature is close to Seth’s heart, and he’s made sure it’s a huge part of his life both during and away from work. “For many years, I was an in-house photographer for a major retailer,” he explains. “It was a constant stream of ad campaigns and the creative ceiling was pretty low, because we were limited to making certain kinds of images, over and over, and over again. It was a great learning experience, but considering my current work, I don’t miss it at all!” Spending just a few minutes with Seth, who is certainly charismatic about what he now does, makes this clear.

“I eventually put in my resignation,” he continues. “I broke free of those constraints, and now I get to explore all the places I want. I still do commercial work, but it’s for adventure and outdoors companies, like clothing, hiking, and camping brands. I guess that advertising has also changed a lot – people want a more natural and authentic approach. That suits me just fine.”

Away from the specific needs of his clients, Seth’s approach sees him traveling and hiking, always with his Fujifilm body and accessories at hand. “Hopefully, I can frame glimpses of what makes a place special. Every region has its own character and charm, whether it’s the inhabitants, the ecosystem, or even how the light differs, and that’s what I try to draw out,” he explains. It’s an approach that requires a lightweight but powerful kit, and this is a point that Seth agrees with. “That was probably the main reason I switched to Fujifilm about six years ago,” he says. “In my commercial background, we always carried around huge, heavy production tech. I ended up feeling like I had nerve damage in my neck and shoulders. So, you can imagine – picking up an X Series body for the first time felt like I was holding air!”

And that’s where the new FUJINON XF70-300mmF4-5.6 R LM OIS WR excels. “Portability is definitely one of its huge benefits,” says Seth. “It’s a lens that you can just grab and go without hesitation. Of course, I have XF100-400mm and XF50-140mm, too – and don’t get me wrong, they’re amazing – but the new optic is about a third of the size and weight. That means that there’s no debate about whether it’s appropriate to carry all day. You just grab it, put it in your bag, and are off.”

© Seth K. Hughes. FUJIFILM X-T4 and FUJINON XF70-300mmF4-5.6 R LM OIS WR, 1/500sec at f/5.0, ISO 1250

Another strength of smaller and lighter products that photographers often highlight is their ability to allow the imager-maker to stay in the moment. And this is a viewpoint that Seth also shares. “When it comes to tech suited to the outdoors and exploration, it should be designed in a way that doesn’t hold you back. Lenses like XF70-300mm help you stay out longer and get greater enjoyment from the creative process.”

The lens also allows huge versatility in framing, and as someone who often uses telephoto zooms for his work, it was immediately in tune with what Seth wanted to create. “The range of focal lengths in a single optic is useful in so many ways,” he enthuses. “It allows me to compress the layers in the scene, or isolate subjects, and while 70mm can still give broad enough views, the long end lets me reach into the landscape and pull out little features. Combined with its close focusing, that enables a diverse range of angles and perspectives, which adds real texture to my storytelling.”

© Seth K. Hughes. FUJIFILM X-T4 and FUJINON XF70-300mmF4-5.6 R LM OIS WR, 1/450sec at f/5.6, ISO 160

XF70-300mm’s close focusing abilities certainly stood out during Seth’s adventure with the lens. “It opens up this world of possibilities, because while you’re seeing things that are miles out, you can also capture things that are right up close. The lens has a magnification of 0.33x at the long end, so I got near-macro images of seashells and clifftop flora.” As he recalls these photos, Seth laughs about how the performance even surprised him. “I was racking the focus all the way to its minimum and it just kept coming further and further back. Next thing I knew, I was focusing on flowers that I could actually reach out and touch.”

At the long end, XF70-300mm let Seth pick out some beautiful images of birds, feeding at low tide. “The sheltered lagoons here are known for their coastal birdlife, and it was great to find snowy egrets fishing in the shallows, as well as colorful common yellowthroats and, back in the brush, I got a rare glimpse of a burrowing owl. Again, because of its weight, it’s the kind of lens that opens up these kinds of fleeting opportunities, because you might otherwise have thought twice about packing a lens with that reach.”

© Seth K. Hughes. FUJIFILM X-T4 and FUJINON XF70-300mmF4-5.6 R LM OIS WR, 1/640sec at f/8, ISO 400.

Seth also saw the benefits of the lens’s OIS that, combined with X-T4’s in-body image stabilization, enables a 6.5 step advantage. This is vital for crisp and clear images at the lens’ 450mm equivalent view. “The laws of physics mean that super telephoto focal lengths show up more shake, but it was hardly an issue with this new lens. It was so easy to get a stable view in video and tack sharp photos. Often, lighter lenses can feel less stable than heavier ones, but XF70-300mm just wasn’t like that. We also used it with XF2X TC WR teleconverter, which creates a huge 140-600mm range (210-900mm equivalent). That gave us some great images and was where image stabilization became even more important,” explains Seth.

“Between XF50-140mm, XF70-300mm, and XF100-400mm, there are now some incredible telephoto options within X Series,” Seth concludes. “The new model sits nicely in the middle. It’s got the greatest zoom range, and so it’s a really great choice for people like me, who want to travel with it. Travel is a broad term, but this lens’ appeal is broad, too. It means you’re free to create landscapes, wildlife, portraits, and even detailed closeups. When I have travel assignments, or I simply want to tell the story of a place – with texture and perspective – that’s exactly what I need.”

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 Seth’s creative process and his thoughts on the lens with this exclusive behind-the-scenes video!