Bryan Minear is a Midwest-based designer, photographer, father, Star Wars nerd, and pizza connoisseur. From a young age Bryan was inspired by Ansel Adams’ ethereal landscape work, which paved the direction he wanted to go as an artist.
Bryan’s always showed interests in cameras and technology from a young age, but it wasn’t until college where he was pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design that started shooting and developing film in the darkroom. He fell in love with the process and soon picked up a DSLR to supplement his design work.
Before he knew it he was teaching himself to use off-camera strobe lighting for portraits and building a business. After a couple of years, he realized that the business was not something that he enjoyed in the slightest and a creative renaissance started to occur.
In 2015 he decided to pursue fine art photography as a primary creative outlet. Before long, he started gaining some steam on instagram and attracting clients large and small. Since then he has been shooting landscape, lifestyle, and commercial photography as a career while still working a full time job as a Graphic Designer.
His goal is to portray atmosphere and emotion through his work. Whether he is shooting locally in the Midwest or traveling and teaching around the world, Bryan hopes to leave an impact on the world.
Scenic specialist Bryan Minear tells us how FUJINON XF150-600mmF5.6-8 R LM OIS WR meets his every need for long-lens landscapes – and how the leading-edge FUJIFILM X-H2S is the perfect camera to use it on
“When it comes to making landscape and nature images, I often find myself bucking the trend,” reveals Bryan Minear. “And a big part of that is in my choice of lenses. I frequently turn to longer focal lengths for scenics, and the benefits are central to my creative style. So, when I was asked to try out FUJIFILM X-H2S along with the FUJINON XF150-600mmF5.6-8 R LM OIS WR, it seemed like the perfect combination. I wasn’t disappointed.”
With the brand-new X-Trans 5 camera and landmark lens still under wraps, Bryan headed to California’s Death Valley and Sierra Nevada mountains. Harsh environments for both photographer and equipment, but ones he felt would give this kit a decent challenge. “Most of the time when I go out, I’m looking for grand, epic landscapes,” he explains. “They really define these places. These are demanding locations, where the benefits of long lenses and leading-edge camera bodies can really shine.”
But before we get to his thoughts on the new kit, with wide-angle zooms and primes a typical mainstay of landscape photography, why look to longer lenses? “It comes down to two things,” he explains. “Firstly, I’m drawn to simplicity in composition; secondly, I like to push myself creatively. With landscapes, a long lens can deliver both, because not only will it offer a more selective and decluttered frame, it allows you to find surprising new compositions within a wider landscape. For many years I’ve been using XF70-300mmF4-5.6 R LM OIS WR, XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR and Fujifilm’s X Series teleconverters for that very reason.”
With a day job in graphic design, it’s no wonder Bryan is particular when it comes to composition. Whether it’s a magazine page, poster, or photo, the interplay of elements in a frame is like a language to him – and speaking poorly isn’t an option. “Of course, it’s not that a telephoto lens instantly makes a better frame, and wides are great if you’re right up close to a subject,” he clarifies. “But the broader a lens’s view, the more difficult it is to frame a picture without compromises and distractions that muddy the message. For instance, you might find branches or wires creeping into the edge of a scene, or a blank sky that lets the viewer’s eye wander out of the frame.
“The XF150-600mm proved to be a wonderful tool for selective compositions,” he continues. “It’s actually so powerful in magnification, that during my time in California I had to adapt to this new extreme. And with a focal length equivalent of 900mm, it’s often case of discovering elements that would be difficult to even see with the naked eye.”
Success isn’t just about picking the right lenses, but finding a body that can make the most of them. In this way, X-H2S has been developed to complement photographers using long lenses across all sorts of disciplines, including nature and landscapes.
“X-H2S’s In-Body Image Stabilization is a huge factor in that,” Bryan explains. “Combined with the Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) in XF150-600mmF5.6-8 R LM OIS WR, it means I can pretty much dispense with a tripod in most situations. The combined effect is incredible, and I was handholding exposures at 600mm in winds of 30 to 50mph. In fact, the friend I was with was laughing because he couldn’t believe I was getting that level of sharpness from such a long lens.”
“That’s not to say I’m going to start handholding a 600mm lens at 1/2 sec,” he laughs. “It’s more about recognizing the cumulative effect on clarity, and the benefits that IBIS and OIS bring in speed of thought and reaction. There are images I made handheld at 1/20 sec which look like they’re made at 1/1000 sec. But also images at 1/400 sec that look like 1/8000 sec. And in some situations, you don’t even have time to consider locking the camera off on a tripod. Optically, it’s really superb, and the stabilization lets you enjoy every ounce of that quality.”
“What also helps is the build of the lens and the ergonomics of X-H2S,” he explains. “This isn’t a small lens, but it’s nowhere near the size and weight it’d need to be on a full-frame body. It’s also very well balanced. And like its predecessor, X-H2S has a large handgrip that helps you support longer, heavier lenses more easily. It gives a lot of purchase, and that will only increase if you add the VBG-XH Vertical Battery Grip.
“If I do need to mount the lens – for a long exposure, time lapse or video – one of the other things I loved is the oversized tripod foot for easy fitting. Even better, it’s Arca-Swiss compatible, so you don’t need to fit an additional quick-release plate. And if you’re not going to use it, it’s easy to remove, saving space and weight in your bag.”
The X-H2S 26.1-megapixel X-Trans 5 sensor also did a superb job of dealing with the mix of high contrast and subtle color of the mountains and deserts. “The light can be challenging,” he says. “While I wasn’t able to work with RAWs, the JPEGS I got from the camera were stunningly rich in tone and detail. The resolution offers plenty of clarity, and although it’s not the highest resolution out there, for many it’ll be a more efficient way of working.”
Other benefits of X-H2S include “crazily fast and accurate autofocus and incredible frame rates”, he enthuses. “I’m a landscape guy, so it’s not top of the list for me. But I tried capturing birds in flight, because I wanted to push the camera to its limits. It has a specific AF mode for birds and the focus was flawless, which is difficult when you’re zoomed right in. You can see it on the screen, where it finds the bird’s eye instantly and tracks it around. The stacked sensor design also makes it so much easier to keep the subject in frame, even if you’re using the 15fps mechanical or 40fps electronic shutter.”
Bryan also made video and time-lapse content with X-H2S, concentrating on beautiful landscape details, such as sand blowing from dunes and the movement of light across the rocky valleys. “Fujifilm has definitely made a camera that’s great for hybrid photographers. It’s so easy to switch back and forth, getting pro results in both situations. I know a lot of my filmmaking colleagues will love it, because the 4K 120p footage is fantastic. There’s F-Log2 for greater dynamic range and a full-size HDMI port for easier connectivity.”
Bryan reflects on his time with X-H2S and XF150-600mmF5.6-8 R LM OIS WR. “Going into this project, I knew I’d probably want the lens – but I didn’t realize just how much! It’s such a fun lens and so versatile. I’m obsessed with photographing the moon, and that’s definitely something I will try with it. And mounted on X-H2S, it’s such a great combination. The camera has those classic Fujifilm ergonomics – and for a body that’s so complete in features, it’s still a great size. I know it will be on the wish lists of many.”