Recently, I had the opportunity to take the GFX 50S and the GF23mmF4 lens on a two week test drive from New York through the American Southwest for some hands-on experience. Being that the GF23mmF4 has an effective focal length of 18mm, that made it perfect for my style of cityscape and landscape photography.
Beginning in New York, I immediately visited one of my all-time favorite locations to capture the Manhattan Skyline. Made quite famous by photographers, it’s an area called The Brooklyn Bridge Pylons. It combines an incredible view of the city along with a phenomenal set of foreground elements that make it a wonderful place for long exposure photography.
One of the new features of the GFX 50S is the ability to set in-camera timed exposures of up to 1 hour. Previously, most digital cameras had been limited to timed exposures of only 30 seconds without entering ‘Bulb Mode’ and manually engaging and disengaging the shutter. Since I’m constantly dragging my shutter speeds to smooth out the water and skies in my scenes, this is a great and time saving new feature.
I always enjoy photographing New York City since it has one of the most classic looking skylines in the world. There are also plenty of locations that provide unique and interesting views from above, including the top of the Rockefeller Center. It’s one of those views where a wide angle lens comes in extremely handy as the scene itself is immense in scale.
Another cool thing about shooting medium format is working in a 4:3 aspect ratio. This means that you’ll end up getting much more in the top and bottom of your frame than a full frame or APC-C sensor that shoots in 3:2. Using a 4:3 aspect can help to create very interesting compositions.
From New York, I flew out west to visit some of America’s most iconic and beautiful landscapes including the incredible Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park. When conditions are clear, it’s possible to capture a star burst effect as the sun first rises above the mountainous horizon. Not only was the 23mm a great focal length for this shot but the lens itself also produces a very nice star burst effect when the f-stop is adjusted anywhere between 11 and 32. The closer you move towards f/32, the more pronounced the effect becomes.
This was also a great way for me to test the dynamic range of the GFX 50S. In post-processing, using a single raw file, I was able to recover both the highlights and shadows necessary to display all of the detail in the scene.
While visiting Upper Antelope Canyon, I must admit that it was much more crowded than I expected. That meant that I needed to get into position, compose, and shoot the scenes as quickly as possible. Thankfully we planned our visit during a time of day when the incredible light beams shine through the canyon walls. When the beam appeared, I was already setup very low to the ground to capture the moment.
Very close by to Antelope Canyon is Horseshoe Bend near Page Arizona. Having seen so many beautiful photos of this location, I was very excited to visit myself. When I arrived, I couldn’t believe how large the area was in person. After a bit of exploration, I decided to walk around quite far to the right to find a quiet spot all to myself, and as the sun set below the horizon, I was delighted to see a strong amount of ambient light still illuminating the fascinating landscape.
My entire visit to the Southwest United States was spectacular but I have to say that one of my favorite locations to photograph was Monument Valley. The overall magnitude of this landscape is intense, and while the composition itself can seem straightforward, that made me excited to try something a bit different than usual.
After sunset, I waited for the last of the cars to leave the national park and while they drove by, I captured a few 30 second exposures in order to create a light trail effect as the headlights moved through the frame. Using the 23mm wide angle lens, I also decided to shoot a vertical composition in order to display the iconic landscape, the light trails, and the unique patterns of clouds in the sky.
This fun trip across the United States was the beginning of my personal GFX story but it definitely won’t be the last. Since my trip out west I’ve been shooting all over the world as well. The GFX 50S isn’t just powerful, it’s actually quite portable and completely weather sealed which makes it very well suited for world travel photography.