Wedding photographer, Ben Chrisman talks about how FUJINON XF18mmF1.4 R LM WR makes the perfect tool for framing all aspects of life.
With a background in documentary photography, covering everything from crime scenes for his local police department, to the devastation of the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004, Ben Chrisman has always placed huge value on being in the thick of it.
“For the quote that appeared under my high school yearbook photo, they asked me why I wanted to be a photographer and I said: ‘Because I want to be close to the action’,” recalls Ben, and it’s a philosophy that never changed.
“That’s why I like weddings, because you’re in the middle of chaos all day, and you’ve got to figure out how to channel that and make it look interesting,” he continues. “No matter how much a coordinator thinks they’re going to plan the whole day perfectly, things always go wrong. I love those moments, because I like it when people get thrown off a little bit and they’re more honest and real.”
In order to frame these authentic moments, and indeed to achieve his unique style, Ben made an early decision to stick within a certain focal range, incorporating wider primes to force him to get in close. “In Fujifilm terms, I carry four cameras at all times, fitted with XF23mmF1.4 R, XF56mmF1.2 R, XF18mmF2 R and XF35mmF1.4 R. This gives me a 35/85mm 27/53mm equivalent,” he explains.
“That was a conscious decision when I started photographing weddings. I knew I was going to miss certain photos not having a telephoto zoom, but I also knew I was going to be able to make different photos because of it.”
For Ben, XF18mmF1.4 R LM WR takes the place of XF18mmF2 R to complete his set of ultra-fast primes, and he welcomes its F1.4 aperture with open arms. “Having an F1.4 version is everything to me, because I shoot at F1.4 literally almost every picture I take, unless I go to F5.6 when I want to give the foreground and background a little more context. Those are basically my two apertures. And the cool thing about Fujifilm is that if you shoot at F1.4, you know it’s going to be dead sharp,” he reveals.
He goes on to talk about the role the 28mm equivalent focal length plays in his work. “The XF18mmF1.4 R LM WR gives me a lens that I’ll always carry because I feel like the 28mm equivalent focal length is a little bit more creative than 35mm. The 35mm is like a workhorse – it’s very documentary, it shows exactly what it is. Whereas, at 28mm, you have to get a little bit closer, so it forces you to tell a story,” he explains.
“That said, 24mm equivalent is too wide for me, too much distortion, so XF18mmF1.4 is like a borderline between too wide and getting into the zone that I really like, which is 28mm to 35mm.”
Creating at such close quarters comes with its own set of focusing challenges. However, Ben tells us that XF18mmF1.4’s linear motor, close focusing distance and outstanding resolution gave him the freedom he needed.
For this project he specifically wanted to take a variety of images from all aspects of life to illustrate the versatility of the lens. “I’ve tried to make pictures that almost any photographer can relate to. I’m a wedding photographer, but I’ve tried to show way more than weddings. For example, I did some portraiture and used it show people that this can be an everyday lens to carry around.
“However, a lot of what I’ve been doing is either getting really far back and showing more of an epic landscape, which is what I love doing, or getting close, using minimal focal distance. I wanted to show off how close this lens can get and how interesting it is to have that perspective,” he explains.
A perfect example of the lens’s capabilities in close quarters was an encounter with a seal when photographing a wedding in Mexico, which was made possible by XF18mmF1.4’s AF speed, accuracy and near-silent operation. “That seal let me get six inches from its face. So, I was using Eye Detection to focus on a seal’s eyeball, which was weird,” he chuckles.
“Wedding and documentary photographers should be all over this lens,” concludes Ben. “I made 21,000 images at a recent wedding – more than half were with the XF18mmF1.4 – and there’s probably only a handful of photos that were out of focus from the whole day.
“I’ve been hoping for this lens for a long time, because I wanted something that kind of opens me up a little bit. That lets me feel like I can let go and just shoot for the fun of it,” he continues.
“I feel like the 28mm equivalent gives me the freedom to be a little bit more out there. So, I’m really happy I now have something that has the F1.4 aperture, but is still small enough to carry around every day.”
Watch our exclusive video to go behind the scenes and discover how Ben used XF18mmF1.4 R LM WR to create these awesome images!