Jan Gonzales is a photographer based in the Philippines who describes his work as modern conceptual fine art portraiture. He first took up photography as a way to avoid military training at college. However, he developed a love for studio photography and the art of using lighting to achieve his visions. We spoke to Jan after he put the FUJIFILM GFX 100 to the test in this controlled photographic environment.
“I started doing photography around 1990 when I was in college,” recalls Jan. “I applied to be the personal photographer of an officer for our citizen military training, which is required in our curriculum.” However, back then, it wasn’t necessarily for the love of photography – more out of convenience. “Doing photography gave me an opportunity to be exempt from Sunday training under the sun,” he laughs. “I did it for two years, then quit right after I finished the course!”
It wasn’t until much later in 1997, when he received a digital camera for his birthday, that Jan really began to develop an interest in photography. He became fascinated with the use of artificial light and how it can influence a shot. “I always wanted the dynamic look that lighting can give to a photograph, so I began underexposing the background and lighting the subject,” he explains.
Jan first picked up a FUJIFILM camera in 2013 and since then he hasn’t looked back, telling us that Fujifilm’s trademark color tones were what inspired him to develop his unmistakable style. “I was blown away immediately and with that, I started admiring classic-looking portraits influenced by filmic colors and a light that comes from one source,” he explains. “I began working on a personal series called When Angels Become Mortal, inspired by fine art masterpieces with a twist of modern portraiture.”
Jan’s style of photography relies heavily on detail and dynamic range, two areas that he was particularly interested in exploring with the GFX 100. “I decided to shoot two layouts that I thought would highlight the GFX 100’s strengths,” he explains. “The first was portraiture that involved one subject and a lot of details, including a flatlay set with me shooting from above. The second involved multiple models in a set, so that the subjects became the details in the overall image.”
As Jan began exploring the camera, it soon became clear that he had been underestimating its capabilities. “My plan was to shoot my group of eight people by portions, lighting them one by one or maybe in small groups to get uniform exposure, then blending them in post,” he explains. “But it was completely unnecessary, I accomplished it in just one exposure by lighting them with one main strobe and a very slight fill!” he reveals. “When it comes to resolution and dynamic range, this is by far the best camera I have ever worked with.”
Jan paired up the GFX 100 with the FUJINON GF45mmF2.8 R WR, GF120mmF4 R LM OIS WR Macro, and GF32-64mmF4 R LM WR lenses for the shoot. This outstanding quality combined with his talent for lighting made for spectacular results. “Lighting for the group shot involved two lights,” Jan tells us. “The main light included a zoom reflector around 45° from my subject and for the fill, I bounced off a 20x20ft scrim suspended from the ceiling above.”
For the portrait shots, Jan opted for the GF120mmF4 R LM OIS WR Macro lens with one light on a large deep diffused umbrella and a second on an XL deep white diffused umbrella for shadow fill.
The lake concept shot was a little more complicated, with Jan using four lights in total. “The main light was a Profoto D2 1000w on a large deep diffused umbrella positioned high and angled slightly to create the Rembrandt-style lighting on the face” explains Jan. “The second light used a Cinefoil snoot to focus on the flowers, while a third was positioned above the model’s head on an XL deep diffused umbrella to create the reflection in the water and catchlight on the eyes,” he continues. “The final light was positioned on the left-hand side for fill,” he concludes. And the results speak for themselves.
Such intricate lighting and set design inevitably take time to create, and it was here that the GFX 100 once again excelled. “The biggest challenge for me in this shoot was time,” says Jan. “The GFX 100’s dynamic range played a huge role for me on this shoot. Capturing my concept in one exposure saved a lot of time both on the day and in post-production.”
He goes on to highlight the advantages of the camera’s 16-bit RAW files when it comes to dynamic range and tonal graduations, adding that the In-Body Image Stabilization (IBIS) helped to ensure that the sensor’s 102-megapixel resolution was used to its maximum effect.
Overall, Jan sees the GFX 100 as a great option for professional photographers looking for a high-resolution tool. “The GFX 100 is the best camera yet. Image quality and performance is top-notch, it fits in my hands perfectly and is well-balanced when partnered with my favorite lens: the GF110mmF2 R LM WR,” he explains.
“From a professional point of view, its affordable price means a faster ROI with no sacrifice in quality and performance,” he concludes. “I think this is the perfect larger format solution.”
Jan Gonzales is a compensated FUJIFILM X-Photographer. To see more of Jan’s work, visit his website.