PHOTOGRAPHERS: GRITMEDIA (Kaleb White and John Hafner)
BASED IN: Nebraska & Montana, USA
KNOWN FOR: Commercial, editorial, wildlife and documentary photography
SHOOT WITH: FUJIFILM GFX 50S Camera, X-T3 Camera. FUJINON GF32-64mmF4 R LM WR Lens, GF110mmF2 R LM WR Lens, XF16mmF1.4 R WR Lens, XF23mmF2 R WR Lens, XF35mmF1.4 R Lens, XF56mmF1.2 R Lens, XF80mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro Lens, XF10-24mmF4 R OIS Lens, XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR Lens, XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR Lens, XF200mmF2 R LM OIS WR Lens, MKX18-55mmT2.9 Cine Lens, MKX50-135mmT2.9 Cine Lens
Together, Kaleb White and John Hafner make up GRITMEDIA, a two-man photo and video collective that produces content on behalf of clients across the world. We caught up with Kaleb and John after they took the FUJIFILM X-T30 on a road trip in Texas to catch up with old friends, make new friends and explore this beautiful, unique and welcoming part of the world.
As commercial photographers, Kaleb White and John Hafner spend their working lives sticking to tight shooting schedules. Although they thrive on such high pressure, for this shoot, they wanted to put the X-T30 to the test in an arguably more challenging environment: unplanned and on the road.
“This project was unique for us in that there really was no story. No plan. No script,” says John. “It’s nice to hit the road with no plan other than to document the ‘what, who and where’ of an unscripted road trip like this one. It was an exercise in the impromptu; an attempt to work outside our comfort zone.”
Kaleb and John chose the town of Childress and its surrounding area as the location for their shoot. “Childress and its neighboring small towns – rural gems packed full of charm and character unknown to most non-Texans – proved to be a perfect backdrop,” explains Kaleb, telling us they particularly enjoyed the authentic and unmistakable Texan personality present around every corner. “It is a unique mix of rural America; the warm, friendly people and wide-open spaces that only the Lonestar State can offer,” he says.
The guys teamed up with a friend of theirs who lives locally and acted as their personal tour guide. “Like most native Texans, our friend Russell Graves takes great pride in his state and his town,” Kaleb says with a smile. “He’s always eager to play tour guide, and to share what he loves most about the people and places in his backyard. As visitors to these places, it was fun for us to ride shotgun, snap pics and convey a sense of place in an unfamiliar landscape.”
While shedding ties and letting the shots come to you is great, you have to be ready to capture them. For Kaleb and John, the X-T30 was the perfect tool. “One of the biggest challenges with shooting in new environments is being ready for the ‘decisive moment’, John explains. “When an interesting photo op unfolds in front of you, you and your camera have one chance to get the shot. The X-T30 did just that.”
He goes on to commend the camera’s speed and ease of use: “There was no start-up lag, no missing focus, no issues whatsoever. It quickly became an intuitive extension of our eyes, helping us tell our story and document our road trip with ease.”
For this shoot, Kaleb and John split their photo and video responsibilities. John used the X-T30 to shoot stills, while Kaleb paired it up with the FUJINON MKX18-55mmT2.9 cinema lens to shoot video. “This ‘divide and conquer’ approach works well on our commercial shoots, and it proved equally effective in this case,” says Kaleb, highlighting the camera’s professional-level performance as a key factor. “The X-T30 was very responsive. Focus tracking, high ISO performance and other features we require in a camera did not disappoint.”
In addition to such great features, the camera’s portable body also made an impression. “The X-T30 is the ideal travel companion. Offering many of the same great features as the X-T3, it takes up virtually no space in our packs, and delivers performance worthy of more expensive bodies,” he says. “In short, Fujifilm has packed a lot of tech into a very small camera.”
In fact, it is this aspect of FUJIFILM design that stood out to the guys at GRITMEDIA when they first moved across to X Series gear. “As relatively recent converts to FUJIFILM from the big and bulky world of DSLRs, we’ve been blown away by just how compact, lightweight and packable our X Series kits are,” says John.
Kaleb adds that it has dramatically changed their workflow: “We often find ourselves in far-away places like Africa, Costa Rica, Argentina, or Australia where carrying massive amounts of heavy equipment just isn’t an option, so X Series gear has proven to be the perfect setup for us.”
This portability, durability and ease of use fits perfectly with Kaleb and John’s committed approach to their work. When asked how to create imagery that can be enjoyed long into the future, they advise us to always go the extra mile: “Think way beyond ‘just taking pictures’ – way beyond ‘good enough’. Strive to do something different, be unique and find your vision,” Kaleb tells us.
John agrees, explaining that in the end it comes down to hard work, dedication and preparation. “Do your homework, roll up your sleeves and get to work. If possible, wait for great light, be there before the action unfolds, and be ready to capture it. If you have to sweat a little, stay out late or get up early, you’re on the right track.”
Throughout this shoot, and the rest of their work, the GRITMEDIA team holds authenticity above all else, saying that in such a visual world they feel a responsibility to photograph stories with unapologetic realism. “If that means we get dirt under our fingernails and our cameras and lenses take a beating, so be it. We’ve never expected the world to beat a path to our doorsteps, but rather, we choose to get off the couch and get busy shooting authentic imagery that resonates with our clients,” says Kaleb.
John agrees, telling us that he believes this undying hunger for the best shot is what forms the foundation for building a legacy. That, and a willingness to learn from mistakes. “If we compromise our standards or if we don’t evoke a visceral response with our work, we’ve failed. And we recognize that failure isn’t necessarily bad, as long as you learn and grow from it,” he explains.
“Our legacy is a genuine attempt to thrive in the trenches – to work with tunnel vision focus to capture compelling stories, to shoot with heart and purpose, and to tell our clients’ stories in dynamic, authentic ways.”
Follow the X-T30’s journey and find out more about this amazing camera on our dedicated X-T30 page.
GRITMEDIA is a FUJIFILM-compensated professional photography and videography collective.
To see more of GRITMEDIA’s work, visit the website.