Fuji XPro 1 on Location at the Park - Robert Hamm Photography



Fuji XPro 1 on Location at the Park

  • XPro 1 Rokinon 85 f2 1/60 ND 8 stop

Photography is a labor best experienced through the lens. Conducted properly, it lends the onlooker the eyes of the photographer. Practiced poorly, however, memories are lost in time. The sobering truth is that the masterful few who tell stories with their images are not photographers at all, instead they bear the burden of an historian, always balancing the scale of honesty and vagueness, to help us understand and appreciate our past.

I photograph the things which mean most to me in life. Out of all of my assignments, personal projects, and commercial work; it is photographing my children that give me the greatest joy in life. I am so proud of my kids- I love them so dearly. It is with the skill of photography that I do my greatest work. I tell their story. This is of the utmost importance to me, and it is a duty I revel in. I would like to share with you a very short glimpse into my more intimate moments with my children at the park. I hope to inspire you to take it as seriously as I do. Please enjoy.

Upon announcing that we were going to our favorite city park, Robert and Ira were abuzz with excitement. Being a cold winter day my children went scrambling for long sleeve shirts, thick socks, and over coats. Ira, studying his older brother’s contemplation of which skate board to bring, took to deep consternation over which scooter to carry along as well. I, myself, was also in deep thought. 

I wanted to bring a camera which would challenge me as well as offer superb images. I wanted something with its own characteristic. Now, I possess many cameras for which the job could be accomplished as beautifully and as easily as any other, from film to digital, my choices abound.

Looking over my instruments I felt drawn to the Fujifilm X-Pro 1. This manual digital camera with its first generation X-Trans Sensor has its own quirks and qualities perfectly suited for portraiture. What I love about the X-Pro 1 is its soft contrast gradients and warm tones.

No Fill Flash

XPro 1 Rokinon 85 f2 1/125 ND 8 stop

XPro 1 Rokinon 85 f2 1/125 ND 8 stop

Fill Flash

XPro 1 Rokinon 85 f2 1/125 ND 8 stop

XPro 1 Rokinon 85 f2 1/125 ND 8 stop

"Looking over my instruments I felt drawn to the Fujifilm X-Pro 1. This manual digital camera with its first generation X-Trans Sensor has its own quirks and qualities perfectly suited for portraiture. What I love about the X-Pro 1 is its soft contrast gradients and warm tones."                                                                                -Robert Hamm

Having chosen the perfect camera for the outing, I set my sights upon a lens. Shooting mid day on a camera body with a flash synchronization speed of 1/125th of a second means that a neutral density filter will be an absolute must even if I didn’t want to use an external flash. Simply put, since I wanted to photograph outdoors and I would want to have beautiful blue skies (as opposed to blueish to white skies) I would have to use a neutral density filter. Add to that my desire to cut shadows under the eyes and nose to a minimum, I would have to use flash.

Intruments of Creation

At this point my flash choice had been made. The Yongnuo YN560iv. This is a great high power manual flash and it pairs perfectly with the X-Pro 1. As for the lens, the not-so-obvious choice was my Rokinon 85mm f1.4 nine-blade aperture lens. I could have chosen my Fuji 35mm f2, or 55-200 Zoom, each of which have auto focus and would have worked a treat with the camera. Instead, I took up the challenge of the manual focus Rokinon. It was a wonderful choice.

The problem with the X-Pro 1 and Rokinon 85mm lens is not an issue with image quality. Instead, it’s an issue of performance. The X-Pro 1 is a camera designed to work with Fujifilm’s own system of XF auto focus camera lenses. And, although the X-Pro does have manual focus peaking, it’s implementation is difficult to see in the viewfinder on a bright day. This is especially true if the operator, like myself, wears glasses. However, I was up to the challenge.

One of the beautiful things of this set up is the natural blue and yellow that the Rokinon lens renders on the X-Trans sensor. The color is excellent without any fringing and images are tack sharp when stopped down to f2.8 (please keep in mind that the maximum aperture is f1.4). As we loaded into our Volkswagen Eos and headed to the park, the kids were almost as excited as I was.

Upon arrival Robert and Ira busted out of the car and headed for the swings, then the slides. Only a few moments passed before watch had made a new best friend. Introductions followed and high-fives were exchanged. The park was packed and an energy was in the air. If you have ever photographed children and kids at play, then you know what I mean- the park was almost electrified with laughs and cheers. Games of tag were being played while parents drank coffee and shared stories among one another.

I walked around and found some obvious locations for candid imagery to be made. Finding these spots was very important because children move fast, and my set up is slow without autofocus. So, I went to work setting my aperture to f2.4, shutter speed to 1/125th of a second, and my flash to 1/1power zoomed to 105mm. After adjusting my neutral density filter to the proper exposure, I put the camera on a two second delayed shutter and began to wait. I didn’t have to wait long before Robert showed up in my focal zone. I clicked the shutter. It was a beautiful shot straight out of the camera.

Fill Flash

XPro 1 Rokinon 85 f2 1/60 ND 8 stop

XPro 1 Rokinon 85 f2 1/60 ND 8 stop

No Fill Flash

XPro 1 Rokinon 85 f2 1/60 ND 8 stop

XPro 1 Rokinon 85 f2 1/60 ND 8 stop

It is very exciting to photograph in such a chaotic environment because it forces the hand of perfection. If anything is off, then the only thing to do is reshoot and/or attempt to fix it in Lightroom. That may be ok for a model session, but with children, a lost smile is lost forever. It is very important to work as methodically as possible. It’s important to know the gear you are using and have enough experience with it to understand its capabilities and limitations.

I have used my X-pro 1 and Rokinon many times and clicked off thousands of images with it. I know that the XT-1 would have been much better suited for manual focusing the Rokinon lens, but it would not have been as much fun for me nor can the XT-1 produce the same kind of image that the X-Pro does. There is absolutely nothing displeasing with the XT-1. It’s just my personal preference with the Rokinon to use the X-Pro 1 because it reminds me so much of Fujicolor Pro 400H film. When I need to work quickly with the Rokinon I use the XT body. When I can work more slowly I use the X-Pro. It’s that simple.

Fill Flash

Another thing to consider is the use of flash and the neutral density filter. This set up may be unfamiliar to many people, but it is an excellent way to photograph outdoors in the bright sun light. The simple tip to remember here is to use the filter to allow you to expose for the skies or background, then use the flash to espouse the subject within the scene. As with anything, this technique will take lots of practice, maybe 10k frames or more before you can read the light intuitively.

The last thing I would like to leave you with is a feeling of empowerment. Begin to think of yourself as an historian. If you see a building in your town being town down to make room for something new, photograph it. Once the building is gone, it’s gone. Same thing with a local coffee shop, or the gritty town diner. Get out and photograph it. One day it won’t be there. If not you, then who. Finally, make images of the things which bring you the most joy in life. For me, it’s my children. They are the pride of my life, and when I’m long gone, they will flip through their photo albums and see through my eyes how much I loved them. This is the gift of the photographer. It’s love.


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