When I was booking my trip to Australia, other than planning my Visual Poet Experience Workshop in Melbourne, I knew I would like to rent a car and drive along the Great Ocean Road. That is when I started to ponder my gear choices for this trip. After all, my swimming shorts were already in the bag and I had acquired my own Akubra.
First, I thought about the GF 110mm F2. There is no question that this fast lens has quickly became the favourite of many, including me, for good reason. It’s fast with beautiful rendering, the right dose of micro-contrast and magical bokeh (nice eyes – sorry, can’t see the eyebrows). Indeed, it’s one of the best lenses I have ever used.
Then I thought about the GF 120mm F4 OIS Macro lens. I really like this original offering from Fujifilm. I think this lens has been getting a bad rap and it deserves more love. It’s bitingly sharp, if not the sharpest of all GFX lenses, with some even arguing it could be too sharp (can you believe it!?). I found it great for landscape, travel and some portraiture, especially because it comes with an excellent OIS system. When I find an image stabilization, lens or in-camera important, such a mechanism takes on another meaning in medium format where the slightest movement affects the quality of the image in a big way.
So, as I was scrutinizing my choices, Fujifilm came out with the GF 100-200mm F5.6 OIS lens. Yes, I thought, that is exactly what I would like to take to Australia other than the GF 32-64mm F4 zoom. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Koalas and kangaroos watch out!
BUILD AND MECHANICS
The first thing that struck me when I opened the white box and held the lens in my hands was its size and weight. For the medium format telephoto zoom lens it appeared to be very light and quite small, especially after shooting with a brilliant but enormous GF 250mm F4 OIS a few weeks earlier. In fact, the lens weighs almost the same as the GF 110mm F2 (around 1 kilogram) – not bad for a medium format zoom. When inspecting the lens more closely, I found it feels as solid as other GF lenses with no apparent shortcuts in its build.
The lens has the WR label, which means weather-resistant – sealing that I tested quite extensively with other XF and GF lenses during my R-A-I-N project, never experiencing any problems other than uncontrolled sneezing and coughing. Of course, I wouldn’t submerge either the lens or a photographer, but even heavy rain should not cause problems. Given the main purpose of this lens, there is no need to panic if a sudden storm catches a lost soul by surprise.
For technical devotees, the lens consists of 20 elements in 13 groups including two super Extra-Low Dispersion Glass lenses and one aspherical lens to reduce chromatic and field curvature aberrations. The lens has been designed to use with the 1.4x teleconverter (GF1.4 TC WR) for those who want to extend the range to 140-280 (that makes it a 111-221mm range in 35mm terms).
There is no question that the F5.6 ruffled some feathers to say the least. When the lens was announced, the online forums went berserk crying “wolf.” How could Fujifilm produce such a slow lens? Was I taken by surprise? Certainly not.
First, the F5.6 on the medium format system is not the same as the F5.6 on full frame or APS-C. Second, many people who cannot live without a high-speed glass and spend hair-raising amounts of money acquiring one (F2 or faster, I guess), usually go out and then shoot at…F5.6 or F8, rarely if ever going wide-open. I have seen this over and over again. Keep in mind that at F2, there is already a challenge getting just the eyes in focus. There is certainly a trend in claiming to own the fastest lens ever. Third, we have to be realistic. A super-fast medium format telephoto zoom lens would be huge – I mean gigantic and super heavy. I won’t even mention the cost of such a beast. As much as we all like to be exhilarated, few of us could afford it or use it in real-life situations. It reminds me of a friend who owns a super car but almost never drives it because it is so unbearably uncomfortable.
So let’s get back to the GF 100-200mm lens. With the F5.6 aperture, Fujifilm managed to keep the lens very affordable and relativity light and small, which clearly suggests that Fujifilm has been aiming at landscape and travel photographers, leaving them the change for a plane ticket or two. How considerate!
Indeed, I became a travel photographer when I packed my gear for the 16-hour flight to Australia. No, I wasn’t flying 737 Max – I wouldn’t risk my lens!
After shooting for a while with the GF 110mm F2, it was such a relief to put the image-stabilized lens on my GFX 50S, especially because I am not the most stable person out there in terms of posture or visual interests! When shooting I get easily excited when I find the first piece of a visual puzzle that fits the narrative I am trying to convey. As you can imagine in situations like this, my shooting discipline goes out of the window. Fortunately, the OIS on the GF 100-200mm came to the rescue again and again, providing at least 4-5 of stops of correction.
It works really well. I haven’t experienced any problems with the lens not being able to lock focus. Having said that, I am a very slow photographer, so most lenses are much faster than I am.
After shooting hundreds of images and reviewing them carefully, I concluded that the GF 100-200 F5.6 is not as razor sharp as the GF 120mm F4 or GF 250mm F4 and it doesn’t render as gently as the GF 110mm F2 (for obvious reasons). Wait a minute! No need for an internet meltdown! The GF 100-200mm has its own unique look, which is a good thing. It is even-tempered and calmer than the GF 120mm F4 and it works really beautifully with landscape vistas. This is quite apparent in images shot along the Great Ocean Road. The Twelve Apostles (I know it is now seven for those who insist on accuracy) show this lens’s gentle temperament quite well. As such, it works marvellously for what was intended – landscape and travel.
When I was photographing people, I clearly missed the magic of the 110mm F2. Having said that, it doesn’t take away from the GF 100-200mm but rather reconfirms the brilliance of the GF 110mm F2 for portraiture work. Yes, even portraiture can be done using this lens during your travels. Don’t believe me? Check out these images taken by Damien Lovegrove.
In recent years, gear review sites went crazy over A to B and C to D comparisons regardless of the price of the product or the intended audience. So medium format is being compared to APS-C and Porsche to Toyota. Remarkably, some people find no difference whatsoever. Well, if I was looking for a car with four wheels as my only criteria, such comparisons would work for sure. After all, those comparisons, regardless of how insane they can be, are a magnet for internet eyes – many of them, and this brings in advertising revenue. What’s wrong with me then? With the US$1,995 price tag for the telephoto medium format zoom, this lens becomes a no-brainer and I am certain it will find its way into the bag of many travel and landscape photographers. It’s a medium format lens at the price of a full frame zoom.
Those who are waiting for the elusive $10,000 F2 zoom lens in medium format will never be satisfied with this offering, regardless of its intended use. For those who want to have in focus a little more than the top of the nose of their beloved pet, this lens is a true workhorse. Next time when I head out to photograph Australia’s outback, the hills of Palouse or details of Paris architecture, it’s exactly what I would like to pack with me, other than sunscreen.
For those who want to travel light (in MF terms) the GF 100-20mm F5.6 lens completes the package. Now as the GF 100-200mm F5.6 lens joined the GF 32-64 F4 zoom, there are no more excuses for travel and landscape photographers but to go out and capture the vistas and cities of the world without any limitations.
HOW I SHOT WITH THIS LENS
Winter in Vancouver
Before I left for Australia, I had the chance to photograph a very unusual snowstorm here in Vancouver. I drove to the top of Burnaby Mountain and took the following imagery.
Here is an example of the urban exploration I did with the GF 100-200mm. I could reduce my minimum shutter speed to 1/125 sec (I could easily go even further) and hand-hold my camera, allowing OIS to police my shortcomings.
12 Apostles (7 to be exact)
The 12 Apostles is clearly the number one attraction on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia. While I usually try to avoid this sort of tourist spot, I found the view simply spectacular. We only had one chance to photograph the site and we were incredibly lucky. When we drove from Melbourne to the coast the sky was cloudy and dull. The moment we arrived at the viewing platform, the clouds opened and the sun hit the rocks. The stormy blue skies completed the show for us. The viewing platform was quite limited in terms of position so the 100-200 zoom turned out to be very handy. We were standing there for about an hour admiring the ever-changing light and experimenting with different focal lengths. Magic! I shot from F5.6 all the way to F16 without any problems. Here are some images from the Twelve Apostles.
AROUND THE HOUSE
One afternoon when vising a friend in Adelaide, I decided to shoot some imagery around the house. It was a great visual exercise walking around his backyard and finding these pieces of seeing. All images were handheld and due to excellent image stabilization, they all turned out to be sharp.
Finally, here is the promised photo of a kangaroo 🙂
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Medium format photography has never been so alive and well. This is apparent in the stunning work you will find in the February issue of the Medium Format Magazine.
A fascinating interview with Damien Lovegrove begins the issue. This must-read conversation with one of the most accomplished and celebrated photographers is an account of a remarkable journey of visual and business mastery in today’s difficult world of professional photography.
In the next article, Alex Tseli takes his brand-new Hasselblad X1D on a photographic trip to a colourful and visually-rich Morocco. His honest and well-written account of the trip and his experience of using the X1D makes this piece an intriguing read.
Don Craig, a professional photographer from Victoria, works for the government of British Columbia as a designer and photographer. He shares with us his experience of using the medium format Fujifilm GFX system in his work settings. I am confident many of you will find his article useful and thought-provoking.
This month, Ming Thein tackles the issue of art and photography. Those of you who have been following Ming Thein and his “In Pursuit of Transparency” know what to expect – deep, thoughtful writing. Make sure to turn off all distractions.
As you turn the page, you will encounter a trip to an unexpected but fascinating place. Michael Zahra takes us into the strictly controlled area around Chernobyl, site of one of the largest nuclear disasters in the modern era. When reading his account, vivid memories of my childhood in communist Poland, just across the border from Ukraine, came back to me. I well remember the time when the first news about the disaster hit the airwaves and the government started distributing the Potassium Iodide solution to me and my schoolmates. Make sure to read Michael’s fascinating account of this trip and see the stunning imagery captured with his medium format camera.
Lloyd Chambers continues his insightful series about maximizing image quality with shot discipline. This time Lloyd tackles the issue of optimal exposure. As usual, in his no-nonsense, to-the-point piece, Lloyd educates us on how to reap the full benefit of our medium format gear.
This month Ibarionex Perello in his “Beyond Medium Format” column talks about “Feeling What You Are seeing.” He takes us inside a famous recording studio and shares his experience of shooting a recording session with great musicians. It is not only about the images!
Holger Nitschke shares his stunning portraiture work and asks a series of important questions about medium format and photography in general. His way of working with models and capturing unique portraits is something to admire and learn from.
Finally, Alex Burke, our new columnist, introduces himself and writes about his large format photography. As we work to expand medium format film photography coverage, I am very pleased to have Alex with us and I’m looking forward to his series about film photography.
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The Medium Format Magazine is not the only publication available to our members. We also publish the PDF Exclusives – high-quality, in-house designed educational and inspirational pieces on a variety of subjects related to medium format film and digital photography. Our subscribers have already downloaded and enjoyed a number of such exclusive publications. Vincent Lions authored one about still life photography and Lloyd Chambers about the technical aspects of shooting digital medium format. The latest production was from Patrick La Roque – the master storyteller and visual virtuoso. In his “9 Frames – On Being Moved and Why” Patrick deciphers nine images and shares his mechanics of seeing and capturing them. It is a revealing and fascinating read. Here is one of the images with accompanying text by Patrick La Roque.
For years, I’ve worked with an architecture and design firm that creates stunning spaces. I have a shed load of images from these projects that I’m extremely proud of and could have included here. But I keep coming back to this rather muted image. When I shoot spaces I’m always looking for small vignettes that tell a story beyond any grandeur. Sure, I’ll capture the spectacular super wide frames as part of the job, but I also try to find innocuous views, the kind you’d vaguely notice from a bed or a sofa while reading a book on a lazy afternoon. Because these, to me, feel like life as opposed to stagecraft. And this is one such image: I love the light, the angles, the tones and the leaves on the outside porch. It seems unintentional and real.
A small aside about general technique: 99% of my interior work is shot in available light as in whatever-light-is-part-of-the-space, natural or otherwise. In high-end designs, lighting isn’t random: every lamp, spot and window is intentional. Capturing this intent is something I consider important because it’s part of the initial vision. The trick is to remember that timeis also part of our gear because with a still subject and a tripod, the camera shutter can remain open for as long as it takes. So I keep my ISO low and set the camera to aperture-priority, turning the exposure compensation dial until I get an exposure that provides the look I’m trying to achieve. I use the built-in timer to delay the shutter (to avoid any sort of shake) and click away.
Unless we want to re-lighta space, there’s no need to overcomplicate matters in this type of situation. I do bring a small flash with me just in case and I’ve used it to create different moods. But as I said, this is the exception rather than the rule.
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Working on an interview with Nina Gorfer and Sarah Cooper, known as Cooper and Gorfer was a truly amazing experience. The imagery is absolutely beautiful, rich in colour and texture but most importantly so abundant in meaning. Sally Jennings, who worked with me on this interview writes in the introduction: “These people were real. I felt that this was how we should live. This was who we really were. Instead, we impose on ourselves a world that’s pragmatic and disciplined and mechanical and we ignore the sweeps of our giddy brain. I want to leave my world and enter theirs.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. The body of work produced by Nina and Sarah is remarkable not only in its artistry but also in its intellectual richness. Below please find an excerpt from this interview.
Who are Cooper and Gorfer in their own words?
Two women searching and changing, and communicating this through art.
How did you meet, get together?
We met in grad school and over several beers decided to create a book together. This became our first body of work. The rest, of course, is history.
Nina – what is so special about Sarah that you decided to work so closely with her?
Sarah and I share a lot of inspiration and often have the same visions. Sarah is a doer. I like her forward energy and drive; she has an ability to make things happen almost effortlessly; it seems to be part of her DNA. She is an incredible artist and creative thinker and one of the best people I know to brainstorm with. She is also one of the most compassionate and positive people I know. We are very similar in many respects, but we also complement each other really well. Most importantly, after 13 years of intense collaboration, we are still best friends.
Sarah – what is so special about Nina that you decided to work so closely with her?
This is an important question to reflect on after over a decade of working together. I’ve joked in the past that Nina is the Mother Ship. And I suppose we have both been each other’s lifeline over the years. But through Nina, I’ve been able to achieve a level of creativity, performance and confidence that I’ve seldom encountered on my own. She has the ability to create an overview of clarity on many of the things we do artistically and strategically. Nina is a person that searches for change, inspiration and knowledge. She pushes you to be your best and, in turn, she gives you her best. I always look forward to our brainstorming sessions or just free-flowing conversations over a long meal. She is fearless with humble vulnerability which is mirrored in my own actions and way of being. She is my friend.
What are the difficult, surprising or rewarding aspects of your collaboration?
It’s important to keep the friendship alive and remember why you think the other one is so damn cool. The path to success is a tough one and if you aren’t having fun, it can be daunting and simply unbearable. We’ve noticed that the most rewarding aspect of our collaboration is probably this sharing of ideas and the braiding of ambition and competition. But ironically enough, considering that we work so much with issues of identity, it is just this shared identity that can also make things so difficult, where you can almost feel lost. So, as much as we love the joint “No Ownership” aspect of our work, it’s important to regroup and celebrate the individual, our own selves. You have more to give to the pot of ideas, if you have more to give.
What inspires you? How do you translate that inspiration into your visuals?
This can be different between us. Inspiration comes through learning and reacting to what excites you. At times, it can be more existential and/or personal questions about life, or a fascination with a person’s biography or the arc and energy of a place. Sometimes it is just innocent curiosity about the mundane moment. It can be a great book, a work of art, some fantastic music, or a ridiculous experience. We are collectors.
When we’ve decided a certain theme will be the foundation of our next artwork, we use a rather journalistic research method, including interviews and the gathering and creation of imagery. We create an inspiration pool, a collection which we react to and then execute our artwork.
What visual storytelling techniques do you use as part of your process?
Our books are the brainchild and thesis behind our work. This is where we are able to present the perfect symbiosis of text, research, biography, imagery and flow. For our physical artworks we have used everything from the cinematic progressions of imagery to the compositional iconography of symbols within the work to tell the story.
On your website, you said: “We re-imagine the tradition of portraiture by visually examining and deconstructing the narrative of those you portray.” Could you please expand on that?
Our work is inherently traditional, in that we are portraitists. We are not the first and we won’t be the last. But what we can add is our personal encounter with those we portray. Our images are always based on an interview process where we seek to define a narrative of that person based on their own words or the circumstances that surround them. What we ask and then choose to focus on is subjective and what is shared and remembered by our subject is selective. In the end, it can create multiple ways of defining that narrative and the arc of one’s life. Time is also a factor and as we are dealing with stationary imagery, the artwork is always a collapsing of these many layers in time, and how we choose to see and understand this is also selective. We are inspired by the act of portraying something that is real, but the way in which you define that collection is sensitive to the non-linear memes of memory.
Could you please expand on your idea of hybrid portraits?
We have always felt that our artworks are on the edge of photography and, as a result, have never thought of ourselves as photographers in the traditional sense of the word. Our work is more about enabling the image that we are striving to create to come forward, and we use any means to achieve that. The hybrid refers to this blend. It can be purely technique, the collaborative effort of the portrayed and the portrayer, and the duality of our collaboration as artists.
There is no question that your imagery is grounded in strong research and close cooperation with your subjects. Having said that, there is also a very strong “visual deconstruction” process where your imagination (or may we call it visual intervention) enriches the final imagery. How far are you willing to go with this intervention? Is there a balance between staying close to the story and enriching it through creative means?
Yes, there is definitely a balance. Because our projects involve so many lives, quite literally, there is a struggle to honour the truth. But in the end, it is about giving back a sense of empowerment to those we portray, and a sense of personal wonder or perplexing contemplation for those who encounter our artwork, not a transcript. Our images are about the play between the reliability and unreliability of memory. A visual intervention can sometimes be about destroying the image or distorting the way in which one views the subject and or artwork.
What idea have you tried that you thought would work but, in the end, you decided not to pursue it?
We don’t want to burn any “ideas” at this moment as we are in the middle of a project. We’d say it is more that you put ideas on the shelf. Save them for that day when you feel you have the lust, time and or right circumstances to do it well. Sometimes the idea is good but the subject matter doesn’t suit the technique or vice versa. We always do continuous small experiments. Often, they remain in the understory of a final body of work.
What advice would you give to those who are seeing their own visual voice?
You have to really want it, as it takes a ton of dedication. But try and enjoy the path. It can be interesting to map your goals and pinpoint and envision how you should feel in these goals. Sometimes you won’t always believe in the work or yourself, for that matter, but it’s important to move ahead as if you have blinders on. Our studio tends to be our cave for creation.
Your images are very sensual in a symbolic way, but how do you avoid generic over sensual imagery?
We have alarm bells or one of us will zoom out and remind the other that “that thing you have been working on for the past two weeks, it just isn’t working.” But we try to not think about this too much. We’ve noticed that so long as we as artist or the artwork and/or the process is always grounded in something we are generally interested in (whether subject matter or composition) it leads to some exceptional work. Not everything we do is perfect, and sometimes the artwork is terrible. Creating art is emotional and it’s hard to know how to edit the ideas of your mind, and if you even should.
How do you see women in art and why your imagery is different?
Women in portraiture are in a continually vulnerable state of being looked upon. Our images are about the weakness and wonder humanity has for that which is beautiful, and using it as a tool to attract the viewer. We are women who are artists, portraying other women, and we are constantly subjected to the dilemma of how we choose to see ourselves or others. This is the result of centuries of definition fiascos, instigated by both sexes, ending unfortunately in the marginalization and objectification of women. Our images are often attraction masks for the complexity of what lies beneath. These are not sexualized women, they are empowered, staring back or hovering in a moment of sensitivity. We choose to depict women in the way in which we hope to see ourselves.
You chose a medium format camera to shoot your recent project. Why?
We need quality and Hasselblad completely delivers for our work.
You print large and present your work in print, and then embellish it. Is this where you find the strength of medium format?
Yes. Our work is often oversized and towering. We need a camera that can give us a filmic colour range with high resolution grain. This enables us to create more embroidered imagery without the distraction of digitalness.
Where can we see your exhibitions?
We will be premiering the full body of work that we are presently working on (Utopia or the Mistake of the Intellect) with Fotografiska at one of their international venues in early 2020.
Interruptions will be shown in Sweden in the autumn of 2019 at Lidköpings Konsthall from19 October to 31 December 2019.
The full The Weather Diaries exhibition (toured by The Nordic House Iceland) will be touring the Baltics throughout 2019 beginning with the Latvian Museum of Art, continuing to the Lithuania Art Museum, and lastly the Estonian Museum of Applied Art and Design.
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My name is Olaf and I am editor-in-chief of the Medium Format Magazine and the PDF Exclusives series. I created this community and the Magazine with photographers like you and me in mind. Like you, I care deeply about the craft of photography. I value great imagery and exclusive, substance-rich and thought-provoking writing. So I contacted the best medium format photographers and writers in the world, teamed up with a professional English editor and the best layout designers. I did it all because I wanted to make sure you open each issue with anticipation and excitement and close with renewed zest for crafting great imagery. I would be delighted if you joined us today and became what we call ourselves – Medium Formatters!
The January issue of the Medium Format Magazine is here!
@ Cooper & Gorfer
Sally Jennings and I had a pleasure interviewing Nina Gorfer and Sarah Cooper, known as Cooper & Gorfer. Copper & Gorfer’s imagery is absolutely beautiful, rich in colour and texture but most importantly so abundant in meaning. Sally writes: “These people were real. I felt that this was how we should live. This was who we really were. Instead, we impose on ourselves a world that’s pragmatic and disciplined and mechanical and we ignore the sweeps of our giddy brain. I want to leave my world and enter theirs.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. The body of work produced by Nina and Sarah is remarkable not only in its artistry but also in its intellectual richness. Indeed, a must-read interview!
Jonas Rask in his column “Keeping it Alive” makes a case for the panoramic format and shares stunning imagery to prove his point. After all, we all love cinema but somehow we stay fixated on the formats imposed by our camera viewfinders.
Take Kayo, a frequent traveller, shared his thoughts about “The Joys and Pains of Travel Photography.” Take’s great writing, the streets of Hong Kong and the medium format camera – you cannot go wrong with that.
In this month’s edition of “In Pursuit of Transparency” Ming Thein tackles a fascinating question: “Does composition change with format?” I must admit that when I read this title for the first time I couldn’t wait to dive into his piece. It will make you reconsider any preconceived ideas. This is what great writing is all about.
This month yours truly writes about “The Palouse Effect.” Even though my forte is street and travel photography, every year I try to make a visual pilgrimage to the Palouse region in Washington if not for the remarkable landscape, certainly to refresh my seeing and break the visual patterns imposed by big cities. I hope you enjoy this piece and the imagery.
Our guest this month, Sandy Ramirez, shares his experience of shooting with the Pentax 75/2.8 SMC 645 FA lens on the 645z medium format camera. Sandy takes us behind the scenes of three photo shoots – all with the same lens. A great account of a professional at work!
Lloyd Chambers continues his technical series about “Maximizing Image Quality with Shot Discipline.” This month Lloyd tackles the important subject of camera vibration and handheld shooting. As a notorious hand-shooter, I found his advice eye-opening and very useful especially in terms of shooting with highly demanding medium format gear.
Who would be a better person to “Search for the Why in Photography” if not Ibarionex Perello? Indeed, Ibarionex in his column “Beyond Medium Format” passionately and eloquently challenges us to go deeper into our photographic self. In his article, he asks the questions which everyone needs to ask in order to become a more articulate photographer.
Finally, we have the Readers’ Exhibition with stunning work selected by us from all submissions. Seeing these images in print has been such a treat. I am convinced you will like them too. Here the image submitted by one of our readers, Cam Garner and taken with the Phase One XF IQ3-100.
Over the course of the next few months we will try to expand our coverage and bring aboard new medium format photographers. We are already working on two fascinating interviews, which will be in the magazine shortly. Also, keep in mind that the PDF Exclusives are part of your subscription package. They are designed to be educational mini-magazines, which I am sure you will find entertaining and educational.
My team, the contributors and I hope you will enjoy this issue.