My journey started back in 2009 when I stole my wife’s camera (her birthday present no less) and fell in love with making pictures. I am now a commercial photographer who specializes in portrait, sport/action and composite imagery. Currently we are roaming the country as family of 5 in an RV…seeking good lighting and a great cup of coffee!
A tool that inspires
As a working professional making stills and video, Aaron Anderson needs tools that he can rely on. But FUJIFILM X-H2S is also an inspiration for telling stories through images
It was a busy few days for Aaron Anderson. Tackling an ambitious creative project in Pearblossom, east of Los Angeles, he photographed portraits and action images from dawn ’til dusk, burning up miles of dusty desert roads, visiting lonely motels and gas stations, and working under sunlight and electric lamps to get the job done. But it’s OK: professionals like to be busy.
What they don’t like to be is disappointed, unsure, hesitant, or ill-equipped. Professionals prefer to be in control. Experience and skill play a major part, and so does using the right gear. Joining Aaron for this project was the new FUJIFILM X-H2S, a camera designed to deliver on all counts – and it certainly did. “X-H2S was a hybrid powerhouse that could tackle any subject it faced,” he confirms. “It dealt with everything we threw at it. And believe me, we put it through the wringer out there.”
Aaron created a set of images with X-H2S that closely followed his signature style. “We made this story following Indian Motorcycles ambassador, Carolina Cora, as she drove the back roads, exploring these quiet places. I want these projects to look like cinematic stories, where we get a brief glimpse into someone’s day, the experiences, wherever it takes them… so I really needed a camera that was adaptable.”
Adaptable how? “Well, photographically it’s all about dealing with the different situations that help tell the story. These are the things that give it context, so if you’re unable to photograph those moments the story is incomplete. On this project we were making portraits with strobes, LEDs, and in low natural light. And we were doing vehicle-to-vehicle action shots out on the road. As a hybrid creator, there are also times when I’ll be asked to create video as part of the brief. So, you need a tool that can do it all.”
From its cutting-edge moviemaking capabilities to class-leading features for stills, X-H2S is spec’d to do exactly that. The first camera to feature the fifth-generation X-Trans Sensor and X-Processor technology, X-H2S has a 26.1-megapixel stacked BSI chip, delivering not only the pure detail and faithful color that X Series users have come to expect, but also incredible speed in focus and frames-per-second.
“We used Velvia Film Simulation mode throughout,” says Aaron, “which gives it a lot of contrast and beautiful colors. I like to stick to a profile throughout a project like this, as it’s similar to working with a consistent color grade in moviemaking, tying everything together, even if the images were shot in all sorts of situations. ”
ISO performance from the X-Trans sensor design was everything he expected, too. “I pushed it pretty hard, probably harder than I normally would. I feel Fujifilm always stands apart in terms of noise performance, and X-H2S is no different. Even at very high settings, the noise feels like the texture of film grain. It’s not ugly or unappealing, but looks like an organic texture, all of which means you can actually enjoy it as an aesthetic of the image.”
Having the freedom to work unrestricted at higher ISOs opened up all sorts of low-light opportunities for Aaron, and also confirmed X-H2S’s hybrid appeal. “When you’re on a project that straddles both stills and video, you’ll often be using LEDs alone, rather than strobes,” he says. “And of course, they don’t offer the same power. So being comfortable at higher ISOs is a must, as is opening up the aperture.”
That’s where another stand-out feature of X-H2S comes into play. “The biggest thing for me was the speed and accuracy in focusing,” he continues. “I felt like it adapted to any situation without skipping a beat, and we pushed its abilities in some pretty weird ways – not just in low light, where it’s rated down to -7EV, but in haze, strong backlighting, and through layers of foreground. Like I said, working wide open using lenses like XF56mmF1.2 R is normal in these situations, and X-H2S was locking on and giving me sharp eyes every time.”
With X-Processor 5 accelerating focusing speed to three times that of its predecessor, X-H2S has unmatched performance in its class, and uses an autofocus algorithm with deep learning for subject acquisition and tracking. In short, it also takes any action sequences in its stride, as Aaron explains. “Part of the story was about Carolina’s love of her motorcycle, so that meant photographing her ripping along these desolate desert roads. I was hanging out of a car with the camera below me, composing on the vari-angle screen and leaving X-H2S to get her in the frame, which it did brilliantly. It’s been programmed to find motorcycles in its Subject Detection AF, along with cars, planes, trains, birds, horses, dogs, cats, and of course people!”
Aaron also felt the impact of the In-Body Image Stabilization of X-H2S, rated up to seven stops, and its lightning-fast 15fps mechanical and 40fps electronic burst modes. “Even at 1/80 sec and being bumped around on that gnarly road, I was getting clean and clear results, although there were times when I could have done with some stabilization on me, too! And with the drive mode set to 40fps in electronic shutter mode, I was able to look through a whole set of images where the vast majority were sharp, then pick out the best angle or lean of the bike.
“Working at 15fps,” he continues, “I could basically fire off frames until the card was full, and that helped lead the project in a slightly different direction creatively. I had a great time, making these stop-motion style sequences from the stills, like you’d get from an under-cranked film camera. There was a really interesting, glitchy feel, and got the atmosphere across in a way that was somewhere between stills and video, while pushing me to think differently about how I was telling the story.
“So, in that way X-H2S was a shining example not only of reliability, quality, and efficiency, but also of being a positive influence on my work,” he concludes. “Everything I asked for, it delivered. There wasn’t a single time we had to scrap an idea or rethink because the camera couldn’t keep up. In fact, with stuff like the stop-motion effects, it was enhancing me as a creative and giving me new ideas of what was possible. That’s something pros and enthusiasts alike are going to love.”