X-H2S: Bull Race x Ulet Ifansasti

Documenting Art and Tradition with X-H2S

My name is Ulet Ifansasti, a photojournalist and documentary photographer from Papua. Presently, I live in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

It’s my fondness for traveling that led me to dive into the photography world for the first time. During that time, I was still pursuing my bachelor’s degree.

Traveling has opened my eyes and perspective toward numerous things. Especially when I go to places around the Archipelago that I haven’t visited before. In those places, I discovered how prosperous and diverse Indonesia is.

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I want to cherish those traveling moments. I want to be able to look back and share it with others.

Photography provides me the chance to accomplish it. By photograph, I can convey memories of my trips as being frozen in time, therefore people could also feel my trip to captivating places around Indonesia. From those traveling experiences, I prompted self-taught photography. My first camera was a Fujica analog that belonged to my Dad.

Since I joined the professional photography world in 2006, I always have had a keen interest to capture images correlated to human interest. In the Archipelago of this beloved Indonesia, the diversity of cultures harmonized beautifully. The culture reveals the consonance of human activity and their viewpoint. Sometimes it’s really ravishing, despite considerable social and environmental issues within the society.

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From that human interest themes, I chose photojournalism and documentary. Through this photography scope, I can be the eyes of many people to portray humanity phenomena including the dynamics and hardships. Through visual language, I can narrate to the world what is happening.

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Photography – with all its strength – made me fall in love. I could freeze unexpected and instantaneous moments through photography. From this point, those frozen moments could be the time documentary and historical archive of a nation, including the cultural values.

In the same manner, it was exactly what happened when I documented the traditional culture of Pacu Jawi and Silek Lanyah with a FUJIFILM X-H2S camera.

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Pacu Jawi and Silek Lanyah are the traditional cultures of the people of Minang. It represents their art articulation and identity. By adrenaline-rush sport in Pacu Jawi, along with their mesmerizing body defense in Silek Lanyah, Minangnese people who are agriculturists, conduct both traditional cultures in the rice field.

Pacu Jawi has been preserved in Tanah Datar, West Sumatera, for hundred years. It encloses a cow racing festival through a muddy paddy field before being plowed for rice harvesting. Pacu Jawi is performed from one Nagari to another Nagari every week.

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There is no specific jury in Pacu Jawi. Each of the spectators is the jury. The best predicate will be awarded to the cow who races fastest in a straight line on the track provided. Anything could happen at this cow racing festival. It’s remarkably natural and unpredictable.

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Meanwhile, Silek Lanyah is the traditional culture of body defense Pencak Silat, adapted from Silek Tuo Gunuang moves. Likewise, Silek Lanyah is also executed in a muddy paddy field like Pacu Jawi. No wonder, this Minangnese traditional martial art performance is indeed tough and exhausting. The Silek Lanyah has always been a notable tourism attraction at Kubu Gadang village, Tanah Datar, West Sumatera.

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Definitely, it’s not a walk in the park to capture the ambiance, vigorous, moments, and outstanding actions from Pacu Jawi and Silek Lanyah. But through the FUJIFILM X-H2S camera, I could overcome the challenges when seizing the moments.

For example, when I set the autofocus. I think the autofocus feature is so challenging because in Pacu Jawi the subjects captured move really quick. Even less, the subjects are often covered in mud splashes.

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Nevertheless, the subject detection feature in XH2S could adjust the focus precisely on human faces and even animals, the point of interest in fast-moving moments. It was impressive and made me reassured because I could grasp the high-speed moments perfectly. The watery mud splash didn’t disrupt the subject detection feature in XH2S while detecting the facial expressions and locating the focus in each moment.

Additionally, X-H2S also allowed me to capture really high-speed moments. The high capacity buffer feature in X-H2S made it feasible for me not to miss one single moment, thanks to the burst mode with 40 frames per second speed. The electronic shutter in this camera didn’t even blink when I pressed the continuous shooting (burst mode). The only constraint is the limited memory capacity.

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Similarly, when I took the pictures of Silek Lanyah, I could portray the energy and elegantly charming moves of the fighters. The mud was splattered when their body fell to the paddy field and was captured flawlessly through the burst mode of this camera.

In addition, I didn’t need to worry about massive mud and water splashes during this tradition, thanks to the fantastic weather resistance feature in this camera. I just need to wipe the mud and water with a soft cloth or tissue.

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This camera presents me the possibility to stay focused on framing the moment that needs to be captured, while the XH2S is working to assure the face detection focus in my target subjects. With all the excellent features in this camera, I won’t overlook a moment by virtue of the burst mode.

When I captured the high-speed movements in Pacu Jawi and Silek Lanyah, I didn’t need to use a tripod or monopod because the X-H2S has the 7-Stop in the In-Body Image Stabilizer (In-Body IS). This feature performs effectively in damping the shock when I used the telephoto lens. Besides that, the noise control of this camera is working awesome too when capturing high-speed movements. With the latest sensor from Fujifilm, I get detailed, sharp, and high-quality colored photographs.

In addition to what has been said, with the X-H2S camera, I have lighter stuff to bring. The body of X-H2S is light and compact, hence my flexible mobility. I could move faster and more agile when capturing spontaneous moments in Pacu Jawi and Silek Lanyah arena.

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With a qualified supporting device, I feel really delighted to treasure two traditional cultures preserved up to this point. This is the genuine evidence of how the local people of Indonesia, just like Minangnese people in West Sumatera, are doing their best to conserve the tradition of their ancestors. Through photography, I could signify to the world the abundance and diversity of Indonesia through the traditional art culture. Through those portraits, I could promote to the world that Tanah Datar in West Sumatera is a tourist destination worth visiting. Especially, for those who like to experience traveling to an agricultural country.