When humanitarian photographer, Rebecca Gaal, embarked on her project documenting the tireless work of the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network, she chose FUJINON XF professional zoom lenses. Here’s why.
“I enjoy working with people who are trying to better the relationship between humans and the environment,” Rebecca tells us. “Taking photographs is actually a rather small portion of my work, I like the ability to think and research issues that are important to me. The fact that I then make use of a process I love to provide something for others to enjoy makes me feel blessed.”
It was exactly this process that led Rebecca to pursue her latest project. She has been volunteering with the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network for the past six years. What began with her looking after the animals, has since developed into a passion project: a book that aims to educate people on wildlife rehabilitation and how to coexist with nature. She tells us that, right now, the work these volunteers undertake is as important as ever.
“Wildlife hasn’t received the memo there is a pandemic. The center has admitted more than 1000 patients in 2020. While we shelter in our homes, dozens of ducklings, stinking (but adorable) baby skunks, and baby opossums arrive — all in desperate need of help,” she explains. “They require warmth, nutrition, medication, and around-the-clock care. They need humans when their parents encounter cars, fishing hooks, poison, cats, tree trimming, and the many other dangers in the urban world. The center relies on hundreds of volunteers to help, but Covid-19 prevents many of our volunteers from doing so.”
“I enjoy working with people who are trying to better the relationship between humans and the environment”
However, Rebecca feels there are some positives to take from this tragic time and she hopes her photography can help illustrate this. “I think that one positive effect of the lockdown is the added awareness of a breathing Earth. Many creatures that we may not normally think about are important for a healthy ecosystem and, as we’re currently experiencing, animal to human diseases are important to take stock of,” she explains. “The better we can serve injured and sick animals, the better the health possibilities are for human populations.”
It’s well known that photographing even well-trained animals can be a challenge, so Rebecca made sure she was prepared for any situation by packing the XF8-16mmF2.8 R LM WR, the XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR and the XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR lenses to accompany her FUJIFILM X-T4 camera. Covering an overall 35mm equivalent focal range of 12-213mm with a constant F2.8 aperture throughout, there was very little she couldn’t frame with this awesome trio.
Rebecca admits she is super picky when it comes to choosing the right lens. “I’d rather invest in good glass than the latest camera body. Quality lenses last a lifetime if you’re using the same camera system. It’s part of the equation. I want the lens to be an extension of what I’m trying to convey,” she explains.
Each of the three FUJINON XF professional zoom lenses helped Rebecca in the various situations she faced.
“The XF8-16mmF2.8 lens is superfast,” she enthuses. “I loved using this for the pelicans to get crisp fish-catch shots. The F2.8 aperture allows for seamless transitions between the other zoom lens images and the perspective worked for animals and landscapes without looking out of proportion.”
The XF50-140mmF2.8 also came into its own when photographing the pelicans. “I could stay far enough away while still getting great detail in their feathers,” she smiles. “The stabilization is incredible handheld. As someone who doesn’t always carry a tripod, this is a must. It’s lightweight for what it offers, durable in mixed conditions and has the F2.8 that I love.”
“Always crisp, fast, and durable. I don’t have to worry about ghosting, flare or distortion. It’s ideal when I’m not sure what kind of situation I’m walking into”
However, Rebecca’s go-to lens is undoubtedly the XF16-55mmF2.8, which was invaluable on this project. “This is my idea of the perfect lens,” she says. “Always crisp, fast, and durable. I don’t have to worry about ghosting, flare or distortion. It’s ideal when I’m not sure what kind of situation I’m walking into.”
She continues: “Working with animals is tricky, especially ones that are sick or injured. You don’t always know what’s going on with them, so you need to allow extra space. It’s also critical not to frighten the animal, so if you’re not sure how far away you need to be, I like to go with something in the middle. This lens is small on the scale, lightweight, easy to maneuver, quiet, and fast.”
“The glass doesn’t age and I get to experience that with each updated camera body model! I feel my kit is complete with these three. They cover everything I need”
While acknowledging that it takes more than just a great lens to create a great image, Rebecca believes it is integral in expressing different aspects of a scene. “It’s one of those things that you might not believe makes a big enough difference, but it does. Like having a song with the same tonal notes, the combination of lenses adds dimensions and helps support what you’re trying to express with different images,” she explains. “It helps show the viewer what’s important. What you want them to look at.”
Rebecca believes it’s always worth investing in a high-quality lens. “I’ve used all three lenses with four different FUJIFILM camera bodies throughout the years and will continue to use the same lenses as the bodies continue to advance,” says Rebecca. “The glass doesn’t age and I get to experience that with each updated camera body model! I feel my kit is complete with these three. They cover everything I need.”
She concludes: “The FUJIFILM system is like my favorite pair of jeans. It’s simple, elegant, and timeless. I can use the system for travel, landscapes, wildlife, food, you name it.”
Rebecca’s book focusing on the work of the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network is planned for release next year. Stay tuned to her website for all the latest updates.
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER
Rebecca Gaal is a humanitarian photographer who likes to explore the intersection of public health and the environment. Most recently she has been working with organizations to craft narratives and strategize how to use photography to share important messages with the world.