2019 Fine Art Print Sale – 25% Off

To get the ball rolling for the fall holiday season, I am happy to announce a 25% off sale on all of my fine art prints until December 31st, 2019. How this works is very simple, just take 25% off my standard fine art print pricing, which can be found here, and contact me to order the print.

All of my images are available as Fine Art Prints. You can see which of my images are in the Limited Edition category on my website. Any images that are not shown on the Limited Edition page are considered Open Edition prints. Please note that these prices do not include shipping. If you have any questions about print sizes or available images please don’t hesitate to contact me. I will work with you to make sure the final print is the best it can possibly be and will look great mounted on your wall.

These archival prints are painstakingly created by yours truly on some of the finest papers available. I do not outsource printing to a third party printer because I want to have tight control over the quality of the final print, and I have not found a third party printer that can achieve the same level of quality that I can produce here in my office. The prints are made on Epson printers using a variety of papers including both fine art matte papers and baryta photographic papers. The printer and paper combination is chosen specifically for each image so that image will be rendered with the highest possible resolution and the widest color gamut. Our main papers are Ilford Gold Fibre Silk, Ilford Gold Cotton Textured and Ilford Fine Art Smooth papers.

Below are a few sample prints that I have made in the last few months to give you an idea of just how stunning these turn out when framed up.

Please contact me with any questions or if you would like to look at a wider range of images than are featured on my website.

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New Workshop: Reach New Heights with the GFX 100

Workshop Locations:
New York City, New York – Foto Care – October 3-5, 2019 
Salt Lake City, UtahPictureline – October 31 – November 1, 2019

Instructors: Michael Clark and Justin Stailey 

Register for the FUJIFILM GFX 100 Workshop

With the launch of the FUJIFILM GFX 100 there is certainly an uptick in interest about medium format digital photography and especially so considering this new game-changing camera. Working with Fujifilm USA we have put together a very exciting workshop for those that want to learn more about the GFX 100 and also for those that want to dive into advanced lighting techniques, high-end digital workflow, and overall take their photography up a notch.

Part of the appeal with this workshop is that you will get a GFX 100 to shoot with for the three days of the workshop. We will take you through the camera and help you set it up, teach you how to get the best results from the camera, and go out and shoot with it on three separate photo shoots. For the full itinerary check out the Fujifilm website. In both locations we will have a day in the studio, a day out on location shooting either skate boarding or mountain biking, and another day dedicated to high-end portraiture. Elinchrom will also be providing lighting equipment for us to use.

As usual with my workshops, I will be giving as much as possible to the participants and we will discuss a wide variety of topics related to digital photography. This workshop includes image critiques, a discussion about capturing video with the GFX 100, extensive digital workflow tutorials, advanced lighting techniques, and much more.

Workshop Description:
Push Limits. Break Boundaries. Achieve More. Learn the secrets behind Michael’s creative process, his advanced lighting techniques and how he uses the GFX 100 to reach new heights creating one of a kind images. This is a unique 3-day, hands-on workshop with very limited capacity. Each attendee will be issued a personal GFX 100 to use for the duration of the workshop and they will also have access to an assortment of lenses and on-site Fujifilm experts to ensure that every moment is spent learning and capturing incredible imagery.

WHO SHOULD ATTEND:
Advanced Amateurs, Professionals

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Working knowledge of artificial lighting, digital workflow and manual mode on digital SLR or mirrorless camera.

WHY THIS WORKSHOP IS SPECIAL:
Each workshop will feature multiple shooting situations with many opportunities for attendees to create their own images. Each attendee will also be provided a FUJIFILM GFX 100 Large Format Mirrorless Digital Camera to use for the duration of the workshop so that they may get first-hand experience in using the latest in imaging technology. Lighting equipment, additional lenses, and on-site technicians will also be available to students for the duration of the event.

WHAT YOU SHOULD BRING:
Each attendee should bring high-speed SD memory cards, a laptop computer, and a notebook.

Cost: $1,500.00

Go to the Fujifilm website for the specifics and to register for the workshop at either location. If you have any questions about the workshop please don’t hesitate to contact me.

UPDATE: Foto Care has announced a $300 discount on the GFX 100 workshop in New York City. To get the discount use the Promo Code michaelclark300 when registering at Eventbrite.


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Equipment Review: FUJIFILM GFX 100

Disclaimer: While I am not one of Fujifilm’s X-Photographers, I was paid to work with the FUJIFILM GFX 100 on a recent assignment as part of the launch for this camera. I want my readers to be aware of this up front. With that in mind, also know that this system is going to be my main kit going forward. As such, I am certainly biased. I am always looking for the best image quality and the best camera for my needs. For those that need or want this caliber of camera, I highly suggest trying it out to see if it will work for you and your needs.

This article was first published in the 2019 Summer issue of the Michael Clark Photography Newsletter.

As many of my readers have no doubt seen by now, I was one of a handful of photographers selected to create images with the FUJIFILM GFX 100 for the official launch of the camera in Japan a few months ago. Many of my readers have also known me to be a die-hard Nikon user and for a time one of Nikon’s photographers whose images appeared regularly in their marketing materials. Hence, I realize this move is a big one and took quite a few people by surprise. The long and short of it is that alongside my Nikons I have often had a medium format camera kit along with the 35mm cameras. In the film days I used a variety of Mamiya and Hasselblad medium format cameras. Throughout the entire first half of my career my main go to film was the venerable Fuji Velvia and Provia slide films. More recently I worked with the Hasselblad H5D 50c WiFi for four years, which I sold just prior to the launch of the GFX 100.

In my mind, the GFX 100 was originally meant to be a replacement and upgrade for my Hasselblad kit. I never imagined it would become my main camera before working with it on this recent assignment. I slowly realized with every passing day on the assignment that the GFX 100 is not only a massive upgrade for my medium format camera, but also a camera that could work for about ninety percent (or more) of what I photograph, which is mainly adventure sports. It offers something I have never had before—a medium format camera, with large format image quality, that performs like a top-end DSLR.

Late in the day on our scout day for the downhill mountain biking portion of the GFX 100 assignment we spotted this hip jump and both Carson Storch and Dusty Wygle launched off it a dozen times or so. Here, Dusty Wygle is catching some serious air off the jump just outside of Virgin, Utah. Tech Specs: FUJIFILM GFX 100, GF 250mm f/4  lens with a 1.4 GF  teleconverter, 1/2,500th second at f/5.6, ISO 800.

Having worked with the GFX 100 since early April, I have had a considerable amount of time with the early prototypes as well as with the full production level camera over the last few months. In that time, I have explored many of the various options and have learned how to squeeze the most out of this camera for my work.   

ERGONOMICS

Let’s get right to it. This is an all new, built-from-scratch mirrorless medium format camera. Basically the engineers thought through the needs of professional photographers and how best to implement everything into a system that meets those needs and went about creating that camera. There has never been a medium format camera like the GFX 100 ever. In terms of ergonomics and usability, it is more akin to a pro-caliber DSLR than any other medium format camera on the market, which is probably why so many are comparing it to smaller format cameras.

In the hand, the camera feels solid. It is about the same size and weight as a Nikon D5 or a Canon 1DX MII, which is fairly familiar to most professional photographers. The main grip is substantial and the thumb catch on the back of the camera further helps to ensure a solid grip. The vertical grip is not quite as dialed in as the main grip—nor is it nearly as refined as the main grip—but it works just fine. Aesthetically, the camera is quite beautiful with the two-toned black rubber cladding and dark gray top and bottom plates. I did not ask the engineers about the lack of rubber on the bottom grip but I have a feeling it has to do with heat dissipation since there are two large batteries in that bottom grip. 

Above are (left to right) the back, left side, right side and top of the GFX 100. The rear LCD is tiltable and also has a pull-out feature for looking down at the camera in the vertical orientation. The GFX 100 also has two SD memory card slots, and works with the latest and fastest SD memory cards available. The top of the camera is very sleek and Fujifilm users will note the lack of manual dials, which is a nod towards those professionals that have not used dials on top of a camera in decades. 

I know that many of the reviews of the GFX 100 complain about how heavy the camera is, but I imagine they have been using smaller mirrorless cameras for the last few years. Those working pros who have been shooting with the top-end Nikons or Canons for decades will find the weight of the GFX 100 to be very similar to any other 35mm DSLR. Compared to other medium format cameras (save for the less capable Hasselblad X1D), the GFX 100 is quite light and a dream machine ergonomically. In comparison, my Hasselblad H5D felt like carrying a cinder block around. 

While capturing images of rock climbing and downhill mountain biking with the GFX 100, I was blown away by the stellar EVF and the wicked fast autofocus. The GFX 100 sets a new standard for electronic viewfinders. Even with a larger lens on the camera like the GF 100-200mm f/5.6 lens (as pictured above), it still is easy to handle and weighs about the same as a Nikon D5 and a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. 

Coming to the GFX 100 after having shot with Nikons for more than thirty years, it is certainly taking some time to get used to the new camera and the new camera controls. It would be the same scenario no matter what the camera brand. Going from one system to another just takes time to get to know the controls and get used to them. Interestingly, I am already so used to the GFX 100 that when I do pick up my Nikons again I have to remind myself how they work and find my fingers reaching for controls that are not there. I guess that means I have adapted to the GFX 100 fairly quickly. 

Essentially, Fujifilm has created a medium format camera that has no competition within its category. Anything else in the medium format sphere is ancient technology. When compared to the advanced capabilities of the GFX 100, it is a very hard sell to purchase a much slower, less capable camera at three to four times the cost of the GFX 100. That is in large part the reason I sold off my Hasselblad gear. It isn’t that those “old style” medium format cameras can’t work to create incredible photos, they are just seriously lacking in features compared to the brand new GFX 100.

Electronic VIEWFINDER (EVF)

The 5.69 MP EVF attached to the GFX 100 is also an incredible engineering feat. I have not heard many reviewers even mention the EVF but that is a critical part of the camera. And wow, those 5.69 megapixels offer an incredible view. It takes your breathe away when you look through this viewfinder. Up until now, the Nikon Z mirrorless cameras have what I feel is the best electronic viewfinder I have ever seen, that is until I looked through the GFX 100. A key part of a medium format camera is that they typically offer massive optical viewfinders that are a joy to work with and allow for very critical analysis while composing the image. The end result of those amazing viewfinders is that you capture better images because you can see what is going on in the viewfinder. The new ultra-high resolution EVF built into the GFX 100 is nothing short of astonishing and like the aforementioned optical viewfinders makes it very easy to compose and craft the image. If you shoot with mirrorless cameras be forewarned—don’t look through the EVF in the GFX 100 unless you want to incur some serious gear lust. It is just that good. 

The refresh rate is ample, even for action photography. Notably, you can select the Boost Mode to prioritize the EVF resolution, autofocus or frame rate. I have my camera set up so that the top front button allows me to cycle through these options making for a quick transition from action photography to slower, more thoughtful situations where I want to prioritize the EVF resolution. 

In the menu you can add or remove a huge number of different display options for the EVF and the rear LCD screen. At a glance you can have just about any and every camera setting visible in the EVF. Even when selecting a large variety of display options to be visible I don’t personally find them too distracting. The beauty of this EVF—even more so than other EVFs I have used—is that it can be customized to your liking. 

In the end, the EVF built-into the GFX 100 is so good that I don’t even miss the gorgeous optical viewfinder that my Hasselblad had. Add in the fact that it allows me to see the live Histogram (and a whole lot more info) and I feel like I am truly using a modern digital camera.  

In-body image stabilization (IBIS)

Before we dive into the image quality offered by the GFX 100, I first want to discuss the incredible IBIS technology built into this camera. The IBIS system created for the GFX 100 is an engineering milestone that was very difficult to pull off. The way that the engineers isolated the stabilized sensor from the shutter and the rest of the camera body works incredibly well—especially considering the larger format sensor weighs twice as much as a smaller 35-mm (full-frame) sized sensor. Congratulations to Fujifilm, they have created an incredible camera that was extremely difficult to design and build—and mass produce.

The IBIS system created for the GFX 100 is an engineering milestone. As shown above, the image sensor along with the lens mount and the IBIS stabilizer is part of an inner frame inside the camera body. This inner frame is completely isolated from the shutter mechanism and the outer shell of the camera body to reduce any possible vibrations. No other camera manufacturer has used such a complex design like this but the upshot is an IBIS system that works shockingly well. 

As shown above, the image sensor along with the lens mount and the IBIS stabilizer is part of an inner frame inside the camera body. This inner frame is completely isolated from the shutter mechanism and the outer shell of the camera body to reduce any possible vibrations. I know of no other camera manufacturer that has used such a complex designed like this but I have a feeling some of them will be copying this design in the near future. The upshot of this incredible design is an IBIS system that works shockingly well. 

On the assignment for the launch back in April, I worked handheld with the camera and shot at shutter speeds down to 1/20th second with excellent results. I was able to get several sharp images at 1/8th of a second using the GF 23mm f/4 lens but for consistently sharp images I had to bump up the shutter speed to 1/20th second. Note that I am not the steadiest photographer out there so your mileage may vary. Comparing this to my older 50 MP Hasselblad H5D, on the H5D I had to use 1/500th second shutter speed just to have a prayer of getting a tack sharp image and it wasn’t always tack sharp even at 1/500th second. The mirror shock was so violent on that camera that handholding it at all was less than ideal in terms of sharpness. The GFX 100 by contrast is incredibly versatile and the IBIS allows for capturing true 100 MP image detail without having to put the camera on a tripod every time you shoot with it. With my H5D, to get the best image quality, I used a tripod 80% of the time. With the GFX 100, and its amazing IBIS technology, I won’t be pulling out the tripod nearly as much, which gives me a lot more freedom in how I use the camera. 

The IBIS is truly a game-changing feature in this camera. Without it, the GFX 100 would be a very challenging camera to use. As the only medium format camera with IBIS, this gives the GFX 100 a massive advantage over the competition in the medium format space and also makes it a perfect cross-over camera for those coming from 35mm DSLRs or mirrorless cameras. 

Image Quality

I haven’t yet spoken about the image quality, but rest assured those 102 megapixels (101.7 MP to be exact) are simply spectacular. Since I started working with the GFX 100, all of my other cameras seem sub-par. Even my venerable Nikon D850, which still has stellar image quality, just seems passable in comparison. The GFX 100, with the incredible IBIS technology, redefines what is considered excellent image quality for a wide array of shooting scenarios. 

Having worked with the Hasselblad H5D 50C WiFi, a 50 MP medium format camera, for the last four years (which still has exceptional image quality) it even seems “low res” compared to the GFX 100. It is telling that even DPReview proclaimed that the GFX 100 set a new benchmark when it was tested by them—though to be fair DPReview has not tested the Hasselblad H6D-100c nor the 100 MP and 150 MP Phase One offerings. 

The GFX 100 has the option to work in 14-bit or 16-bit. Both modes produce excellent image quality but 16-bit is a huge part of why anyone would work with medium format cameras. The color rendition and tonality produced by 16-bit large format sensors is absolutely incredible. With the GFX 100, when you need speed, simply drop into 14-bit. When you need the ultimate bit depth and don’t need 5 fps, then up the ante and set it to 16-bit mode. Below is a 100% crop of a portrait to give you some sense of the image quality but here in this blog post it is difficult to show the real image quality created by the GFX 100. 

To give some sense of the incredible image quality the GFX 100 produces above is an approximate 100% crop (on a Retina Screen). Also of note, Face Detection autofocus was engaged for this image and it locked onto the eyes creating a tack sharp image even though Carson Storch was wearing goggles. Tech Specs: FUJIFILM GFX 100, GF 110mm f/2 lens 1/3,200th second at f/2.8, ISO160.

Fujifilm also made a big deal at the launch about calling this camera “Large Format” instead of medium format. I know many might call that marketing hype, but the reality is that this camera and all other medium format cameras are producing images with resolutions that are the equivalent of 4×5, 8×10 and 11×14 film cameras of yore depending on the sensor used. Hence, since those were the Large format cameras of their time it follows that these medium format cameras qualify as Large format image quality. No one is actually making a 4×5-inch digital sensor for consumers. In general, I think it is time we update the format names according to resolution. APS-C is the new 35mm film format equivalent (or even better by a large margin), full-frame is the new medium format (and it is better than medium format image quality ever was), and finally medium format cameras are the equivalent of large format film cameras.

Mount Aspiring (also named Tititea by the Māori) at sunset rising above Lake Wanaka on the South Island of New Zealand. This landscape image, captured on a tripod, is a good example of the incredibly wide dynamic range the camera is capable of capturing. Also of note, as with most medium format cameras, the depth of field is so shallow that I had to shoot two images—one of the foreground and one of the background— and composite those two images together to get a fully sharp image from front to back. Tech Specs: FUJIFILM GFX 100, GF 32-64mm f/4 zoom lens, 1.3 seconds at f/11, ISO100.

During the launch, Fujifilm chose one of my expansive panoramic rock climbing images (shown below) and initially showed only a small two megapixel portion of the image, which looked impressively sharp on their 2K monitor. The next slide was the full resolution image showing just how small that crop was and you could hear an audible gasp from the audience. My point here is that this camera offers the ultimate in cropping options. For example, a vertical 4×3 crop taken out of a horizontal image still has 57 MP! The upshot is that there is resolution to spare.

Below is a panoramic image created from twenty different 102 MP images. The final pano is a whopping 174 MP and could be printed the size of a bus with insane detail. It also took three attempts to build this pano as my computer shut down the first two times trying to chomp through the insane amount of data. The file size for that PSD layered image is just under 4 GB! 

This panoramic image of Carson Stroch hitting a hip-jump in Virgin, Utah was created from twenty different 102 MP images and was then built in Photoshop. The final image file was 174 MP and had a file size of 3.97 GB before it was flattened. The detail in this image is completely insane. It could easily be printed the size of a bus and even from close up the image would appear ridiculously sharp. Tech Specs: FUJIFILM GFX 100, GF 250mm f/4 lens, 1/2,500th second at f/5.6, ISO 1600.

The only downside, if there is one, is that capturing 102 MP images on a regular basis, and occasionally at 5 fps, is going to fill up hard drives like never before in the still photography world. On my assignment for Fujifilm, I created 1 TB of images from a six-day assignment—and that is only a little over 3,000 images. Each worked up image file is around 1.5 GB in size. I have just expanded my already giant RAID arrays to account for the expected increase in data acquisition. For those looking at this camera, this will be an issue. Luckily, hard drives are relatively cheap. This is just part of the digital game: the bigger the resolution, the more space it takes up on hard drives. Of course, when you see the image quality this camera produces any worries about extra hard drive space flies out the window.

One last note on image quality, the dynamic range of the GFX 100 seems right in line with other high-end medium format cameras, which is around 14- to 15-stops. I am guessing that this camera is right at 15-stops or just a hair under. At some point when that is measured we will know for sure. Nevertheless, there is ample dynamic range and for the best possible image quality I would suggest capturing images in 16-bit mode as this brings up less noise when pulling up the shadows. 

Editors Note: A lot of hoopla has been made about banding on a wide variety of mirrorless cameras including the GFX 100. To actually see that banding you would have to pull up the shadows at least five stops or beyond in post-processing. I realize for landscape photography we are often opening up the shadows in post because we exposed for the highlights (usually the bright sky) but even then five stops is a pretty massive amount to be pulling up the shadows. So far, I have not seen any significant banding in the GFX 100 images. I tend to go for a more realistic landscape look than the HDR technique some photographers employ so that might be part of the reason, but nonetheless this is most likely a non-issue for most photographers.

Autofocus

For a medium format camera, the autofocus built into the GFX 100 is nothing short of amazing. No other medium format camera on the market is even in the same universe as the GFX 100. It’s autofocus capabilities are much closer to the top-end DSLRs and 35mm mirrorless cameras than any medium format competitor. I have been very impressed with the AF accuracy as well as the AF tracking modes. 

The camera was able to track mountain bikers in pretty much any situation I faced. The mountain biking images included in this review show the cameras autofocus capabilities. The mountain biker in the panoramic image in the last section was tracked using the new autofocus algorithms and the fast frame rate allowed me to capture the height of the action at five (5) frames per second. This is an unusual type of image to be created by a medium format camera. Note this composite only used half the images the camera created! There are additional shots of the rider in positions in-between those shown here, but they didn’t work for the overall image I was going for. 

How does the AF tracking compare to a Nikon D850 or a D5? It certainly isn’t as fast as the venerable Nikon D5. But it feels like it is only a small step below the AF capabilities of the Nikon D850—with the caveat that the Face Detection and AF accuracy of the GFX 100 is far better than the D850. I definitely would not say the GFX 100 has slow autofocus but it can’t quite compete with the fastest autofocus 35mm cameras on the market like the Sony A9, Nikon D5 and Canon 1DX MII. But realize what I just said, this is a medium format digital camera that is only a notch below the best autofocusing cameras in the world—all of which are using a smaller format sensor and smaller lenses!

Above you can see a few of the motocross images I captured with the GFX 100. The top images are the full-frame versions and the images just below are the same images zoomed to approximately 100%. Of course as these images are resized and compressed JPEG screenshots these are not completely representative of what the images look like at 100%. Also, having photographed a fair bit of motocross at the same MX track, I know that images captured with shutter speeds below 1/6,400th second can exhibit some motion blur, making those images look slightly soft or completely out of focus depending on the shutter speed used. Since the GFX 100 mechanical shutter speed tops out at 1/4,000th second, we are very close to the cusp of motion blur wrecking the tack sharp focus we were trying to achieve. Regardless, with the right settings, it is impressive to see the GFX 100 keep up with such a fast paced sport. For extremely fast moving sports like this, the GFX 100 would not be my first choice though it is still a capable camera if your aim is the ultimate image quality. Tech Specs (All Images): FUJIFILM GFX 100, GF 100-200mm f/5.6 lens, 1/4,000th second at f/5.6, ISO 800.

Recently, I had the chance to photograph motocross with the GFX to really see how it handles ultra-fast action. During that test shoot what I realized is that the AF settings have to be dialed in to get the best AF tracking results—as they do with any camera. First off, set the camera to continuous AF and set the Boost Mode for the best possible AF performance. I typically have the camera in 14-bit mode and set to shoot 5 fps when tracking action. The last step is to set up the correct AF tracking mode in the menu and there are six options. For the most part the default AF tracking mode works great but for the motocross shoot I found AF tracking mode 4 to be the best options since the rider suddenly appears in the frame when he boosts off the jump. Before I had all of these settings dialed in, the AF struggled. But once I figured out the best settings, I got a fairly high hit rate—especially when considering the rider was flying through the frame at 40- to 50-mph. This above was a fairly severe autofocus test but shows that when the settings are dialed in, the GFX 100 can track even ridiculously fast moving action. 

[Side note: I have seen a lot of camera reviews where they say that the GFX 100 does not have fast AF and is lacking when it comes to AF tracking. In my experience, as explained above, I would have to say those testers did not know how to set up the AF tracking and this is what gave them the impression that the GFX 100 had poor AF tracking. As already discussed, when set up correctly the GFX 100 AF is incredibly capable even for sports.]

In addition to the incredible AF tracking, the Face Detection and Eye AF is a revolution for medium format cameras. As someone who hasn’t had much experience with Face Detection and Eye AF I was blown away by how well it works in the GFX 100. The image of Carson Storch shown below (see the 100% crop above) was captured with Face Detection and Eye AF engaged and it focused on his eye even though he was wearing a helmet and goggles. For this image I used the incredible GF 110mm f/2 lens at f/2.8. The depth of field was incredibly shallow so this was a great test of the advanced autofocus modes. In nearly every image his eye was pin sharp, which blew my mind since my DSLRs typically need ten to twenty shots at f/1.4 to get one where the eye is sharp. Even when shooting rock climbing with the climber far below me the camera was able to pick up the face and detect the eye allowing me to concentrate on the composition and forget about AF. 

On a recent studio portrait assignment, I had the camera on a tripod, the rear LCD angled up, and I then engaged the Face Detection and Eye AF. In this scenario, I had the image framed up and the lighting dialed in, which allowed me to look directly at the subject and concentrate on him (without putting my eye to the viewfinder). This allowed me to really connect with the subject and capture those moments when his expression changed or fell into place. I have never had such a seamless portrait shoot before, which speaks volumes about how all the various features of this camera work together to help raise the level of the images. 

high iso noise

The GFX 100 certainly has some noise at the higher ISOs, as does every high-megapixel camera, but it is very well controlled and looks quite organic. In my testing, I don’t hesitate to crank up the ISO to 6400. ISO 6400 on the GFX 100 seems on par with the Nikon D850 at ISO 6400. But, and this is a realization I have only made in the last month or so, because of the super high resolution of the camera, unless you are printing massive images (larger than 30×40) you won’t be seeing any of that noise in a smaller print or resized image. The reality with this camera is that for most uses the images are massively downsized, which essentially erases a lot of that noise present at the higher ISOs. In that regard, there is phenomenally little noise at high ISOs—much less than pretty much any camera I have ever shot with. Of course, if your intention is to blow up these images huge, and by huge I mean bigger than five feet on the long end, then I would keep the ISO settings as low as possible. 

Video

Another exciting aspect of this camera is that it is an extremely capable video camera. I tested the camera with a videographer that shoots quite a few weddings. We used an Atomos Ninja V external recorder so we could access the highest quality footage in 10-bit 4:2:2 at 400 Mbps. We tried out both the F-log and Eterna settings, and while both were excellent the camera has such a wide dynamic range that the Eterna film setting was the one that really seemed to be the best option. The roll off in the highlights was smooth and not harsh like that I have seen from a lot of still cameras with a video mode. There is some rolling shutter, as usual with most mirrorless still cameras that shoot video, but it is not as egregious as you might think. From what I have seen it is on par or slightly better than the rolling shutter produced by the Canon 5D IV.

From left to right: Apla has created a new high spec cage for the GFX 100. It comes in both silver (left) and black (center). Of note, the cage also supports a lens converter that allows PL mount cine lenses to be mounted ot the GFX 100. Quite a few Hollywood cinematographers are excited about this setup, which speaks well of the GFX 100 and its video capabilities. At right is the FUJINON PREMISTA 28-100mm cine lens, which has an image circle that just covers the GFX 100 sensor. 

At the launch, Fujifilm had their new large format Premista 28-100mm video lens (shown above) attached to the GFX 100 and the footage from that combo looked incredible. Alpa has also launched a new cage to build up the GFX 100 (also shown above) which looks quite interesting. The Alpa case also has a mount adapter so that PL cine lenses can be adapted to the GFX 100. Of course, one of the main issues using this camera for video is that there are very few video specific cine lenses that cover the image circle of this massive image sensor. Of course the Fujifilm GF lenses cover it but they are not video specific lenses. The new Premista lenses just barely cover it but those are giant $40,000 lenses that will most likely have to be rented. And lastly, the Arri 65 PL mount lenses (which are rehoused Fuji-Hasselblad medium format lenses) can also be rented but doing so outside of Los Angeles or New York might prove difficult. 

Because the GFX 100 can output 4K DCI video from the full sensor in 10-bit 4:2:2 and with Fujifilm’s amazing Eterna film simulation, this gives the video output a very unique look. For most of my video productions we take one or two Red Digital Cinema Cameras with us and while the GFX 100 is not set up to capture motion in the same manner as a Red, it is not far off in terms of image quality. I can definitely see our crew using the GFX 100 on future assignments where we need to capture both stills and video. 

Lastly, I am not a true video geek so I am sure that others will dive deeper into the video capabilities of the GFX 100. Jordan, from DPReview, just posted a video review of the GFX 100 specifically looking at it’s motion capture capabilities and had very good things to say about it. 

Professional Level Durability

The GFX 100 camera body is also incredibly well weather sealed as are the majority of the GF lenses. In hand, and in use, it seems tough and able to take any abuse that my pro-caliber Nikons could take. It is also a marvel of engineering. I can’t reveal my conversations with the engineers but it was quite evident that this camera was technically very difficult to create and they took great pains to make sure it was up to the punishment that pros regularly dish out. 

dust-busting sensor cleaning

As a side note here, I worked with the camera in southern Utah in some of the dustiest locations anywhere. With such a huge sensor I was worried about dust spots showing up all over the place—as they would have with my Hasselblad H5D. In that ten day assignment, I only ever saw one dust spot on the images and I changed lenses fairly often. I don’t know how that is possible or what is going on there—the only thing we could come up with was that the sensor vibration cleaning option does an incredible job at shaking dust particles off the sensor surface. 

Having shot with the camera more extensively since that assignment, I have seen very few dust spots on my images over the last three months that I have been working with the camera. The GFX 100 has a sensor cleaning mode built-in that uses vibration to shake off dust particles when the camera is turned on and turned off. I am not sure what Fujifilm has done here but it seems vastly more effective than any other built in sensor cleaning solution I have ever seen! 

The engineers and tech reps have told me specifically not to try and clean the sensor myself. They told me to send it in for cleaning—so the fact that the camera can actually shake the dust off the sensor is a critical feature for those like me that live in dusty areas. 

Battery life

The GFX 100 comes with two batteries and holds those two batteries in the vertical grip. In use, and with the image review turned off, I average around 1,000 to 1,200 images before needing to change the batteries. Because the camera houses two batteries, I tend to replace a battery when the first one gets low. The camera can technically run on one battery but for the best performance I always keep two batteries in the camera. 

GF Lenses

The GFX camera system at this point is also well flushed out, especially considering it is a medium format system. Fujifilm has an extensive lineup of lenses, all of which are ridiculously sharp. The lens line up is pretty extensive as shown below. From 23mm to 250mm, and with a 1.4x teleconverter that extends that to 350mm, there are enough options for a wide variety of scenarios. The only thing missing for me is an ultra wide angle fisheye lens and a long 600mm f/4 super telephoto equivalent. On the long end, it is easy enough to use the GF 250mm lens with the teleconverter and crop in to gain more focal length. Cropping into the image it is possible to replicate a 500mm lens and still have a 50 MP image. 

All of the GF lenses have the WR designation as well which means they are gasketed and sealed to prevent water from getting into the lens. The lenses fit to the lens mount tightly as well, making for a very nicely weather sealed system. 

When I tested the GF lenses against my Hasselblad H lenses last year I found that in every case the Fujifilm glass was as sharp or sharper than my Hasselblad glass. That isn’t too surprising since Fujifilm actually manufactured Hasselblad’s H-series lenses for the last few decades. In fact, the Hasselblad H lenses can be used on the GFX cameras and they can even utilize the leaf shutter built into those lenses, which is great for working with strobes. I still have a few of my Hasselblad H lenses and have used them with the “Fujifilm H Mount Adapter G” on the GFX 100 in the studio for capturing portraits. When adapting the H-series lenses to any of the GFX cameras they only work in manual focus mode but all of the lens data does come through to the camera. On that note, the GFX 100 can also be mounted on a view camera for the ultimate in tilt/shift studio photography and Fujifilm also makes several view camera lenses as well.

As shown above, Fujifilm has a very complete ecosystem built up for the GFX cameras including speedlights, lenses, lens adapters, straps, EVF accessories, WiFi apps and large format options. In addition to that shown here there are already a wide variety of third-party lens adapters on the market as well, which allow for Nikon, Canon and other manufacturers lenses to be adapted to the GFX cameras using the 35mm crop mode. 

Some have complained that Fujifilm does not have that many fast aperture lenses. In the medium format world, f/2.8 and f/4 is still decently fast and offers pretty shallow depth of field. The GF 110mm f/2 is one of my favorite lenses and it is wicked fast at f/2. Shooting wide open on that lens creates a super shallow depth of field not unlike an 85mm f/1.4 lens. Of course there are some faster GF mount lenses made by third party manufacturers like the Mitakon Zhongyi Speedmaster 85mm f/1.2 but I have not tried those. There is also the manual focus Laowa 17mm f/4 GFX Zero-D made specifically for the GF mount, which broadens the available lenses to a 35-mm equivalent of 14mm. Needless to say, there are lots of options and Fujifilm is releasing more next year including the GF 45-100mm f/4 zoom lens that appears on their lens roadmap and is sure to be popular. 

Conclusion

The GFX 100 obviously has an incredible array of new features including a 102 MP sensor, In-Body Image-Stabilization (IBIS), crazy fast (for medium format) and accurate autofocus, a high frame rate (for a camera of this type), full-sensor read out 4K video, stellar ergonomics, Face Detection with Eye AF, and a host of other stand out features. These all add up to a camera that can be used for a wide variety of photographic scenarios. The GFX 100 isn’t replacing all of my cameras but it will be the camera I work with for the majority of my work.

Most of the reviewers compare it to DSLRs or 35mm (i.e. full-frame) mirrorless cameras because that is what they know, which is totally fine. But, I think that perspective, while totally valid, misses the point. I can certainly see a lot of DSLR or full-frame mirrorless folks who want the ultimate image quality stepping up to this camera because it is so capable and doesn’t feel like an old-school, archaic medium format camera. Alternatively, I can see pretty much every photographer worldwide working with medium format cameras ditching their current gear and pickup this system no matter what genre they work in. Fujifilm just upended the entire medium format industry.

It isn’t any one of the features in the GFX 100 that really makes it stand out but rather all of them combined together in a medium format camera that sets this camera apart from just about any other camera out there. I have barely even mentioned that the camera can fire at 5 frames per second in 14-bit mode. 

There are so many features built into this camera that it is a bit bewildering. This might be the first camera for which I break out the user manual and read it cover to cover. If there is a feature you wish a camera had the odds are good that somewhere deep in the GFX 100 menu that feature exists—or if it isn’t there the Fujifilm engineers are working on it for the next Firmware update. I suppose it wouldn’t be much different if I have never worked with a Nikon camera and picked up a D850 or the Z7. I would have to delve into the user manual to figure out some little known features of those cameras as well. 

I could go on and on about the GFX 100. It is a supremely capable camera for a wide array of photographic scenarios. Not only is it giving me breathe-taking image quality, but it is also changing how I work.  In the end, I think I said it best in the interview entitled “Blazing Trails with Michael Clark & the GFX 100,” that appears on the Fujifilm-X website: “This is going to be the camera to beat in the medium and large format sphere. Nothing else even comes close. For professionals looking for the best image quality and the most usable large format option on the market, this is it. Period.” 

For more information on the FUJIFILM GFX 100 please visit the Fujifilm Global website or visit the GFX 100 Fujifilm-X website, which has even more information. For those that would like to try out the camera check out my upcoming GFX 100 workshops in New York and Utah.

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Summer 2019 Newsletter

The Summer 2019 issue of the Michael Clark Photography Newsletter is now available for download. If you’d like to sign up for the Newsletter just drop me an email and I’ll add you to the mailing list.

This issue includes an editorial entitled On the Run, a full review of the ground breaking FUJIFILM GFX 100, an article detailing my recent assignment for Fujifilm for the launch of the GFX 100, an editorial entitled The Big Switch, and much more.

The Michael Clark Photography Newsletter goes out to over 8,000 thousand photo editors, photographers and photo enthusiasts around the world. You can download the Summer 2019 issue on my website at:

http://files.michaelclarkphoto.com/summer_2019.pdf

If you’d like to check out back issues of the newsletter they are available here.

Please note that the newsletter is best viewed in the latest Adobe Acrobat reader which is available for free at www.adobe.com.

Also, if you are a subscriber and you have not already received the Newsletter, which was email out a few days ago please send me an email with your current email address and/or check your spam folder.

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Fujikina 2019

I am still on the planet. It might seem like I have fallen off the face of the Earth these past few months with no posts here on the blog and no Spring Newsletter. But, I am plugging away. The last five months or so, since early February have been the busiest time of my entire career. I have rarely even been home save for a day here and there to unpack and re-pack. Finally, I have some time at home and I am very much enjoying it. Not to worry, I will get out a Summer 2019 Newsletter here in the next six weeks or so.

In late May, as part of the FUJIFILM GFX 100 launch I was privileged to be a part of both the launch and also a part of the Fujikina photo festival in Tokyo, Japan. It was a great honor to be a part of this historic launch. My role was to give two presentations detailing my experience with the GFX 100 on the assignment I had finished up just a few weeks prior. [See the previous blog post to read more about that assignment.] It was a great honor to see my images used prominently in the GFX 100 launch.

Being a part of this project–and then being flown to Japan to attend the launch–was a career highlight I won’t soon forget. Fujifilm rolled out the red carpet in a way I have never seen by any other camera manufacturer. Their openness and excitement about photography in general, as well as their own products, was refreshing. I was able to make some amazing connections with the heads of the design, engineering and management sectors at Fujifilm. Of course, I cannot share any of those conversations here but what I learned was a) it is crazy difficult to mass-market a digital camera of this caliber and b) Fujifilm listens like few other companies I have interacted with.

As part of Fujikina there was one entire floor of the Cross Dock Harumi building that was a gallery of images created during the GFX 100 product launch. There were a dozen or so photographers from around the world who had created a wide range of images and the best images were printed large and displayed in the gallery. In between some prints the behind the scenes videos were also shown to give participants a sense of what it took to create the images.

Seeing not just my own images printed quite large but also the work of my peers was one of the highlights of the event for me. I was able to meet with several Fujifilm photographers including Russell Ord, a renown Aussie surf photographer, with whom I had communicated for a number of years before the event. Also at the event were Beno Saradzic and Jan Gonzales both of whom created some stellar imagery and video content with the GFX 100.

I am sure that Fujifilm will have some of these stunning prints on display at other photo festivals and shows including PhotoPlus here in the USA later this year. Seeing such large prints, some of which were more than two meters in width, really helps to show just how spectacular the image quality created by the GFX 100 actually is.

My thanks everyone at Fujifilm USA and Fujifilm in Japan for the incredible hospitality and warmth during my stay in Japan. As many readers probably know, Japan is an incredible country and as this was my first time in Japan, I was lucky to have some time after the Fujikina event to travel around and check it out. I will definitely be back!

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FUJIFILM GFX 100 Preview

Disclaimer: While I am not one of Fujifilm’s X-Photographers, I was paid to work with this camera on a recent assignment as part of the launch of the FUJIFILM GFX 100. I want my readers to be aware of this upfront. With that in mind, also know that this system is going to be my main kit going forward. As such, I am certainly biased. I am always looking for the best image quality and the best camera for my needs. For those that need or want this caliber of camera, I highly suggest trying it out to see if it will work for you and your needs.

As many of my readers have no doubt seen by now, I was one of a handful of photographers selected to create images with the FUJIFILM GFX 100 for the official launch of the camera in Japan a few weeks ago. Many of my readers have also known me to be a die-hard Nikon user and for a time one of Nikon’s photographers whose images appeared regularly in their marketing materials. Hence, I realize this move is a big one and took quite a few people by surprise. The long and short of it is that alongside my Nikons I have often had a medium format camera kit along with the 35mm cameras. In the film days I used a variety of Mamiya and Hasselblad medium format cameras. More recently I had the Hasselblad H5D 50c WiFi, which I just sold a few weeks ago.

In my mind, the GFX 100 was originally meant to be a replacement and upgrade for my Hasselblad kit. I never imagined it would become my main camera before working with it on this recent assignment. I slowly realized with every passing day on the assignment that the GFX 100 is not only a massive upgrade for my medium format camera, but also a camera that could work for about ninety percent (or more) of what I photograph, which is mainly adventure sports. It offers something I have never had before–a medium format camera, with large format image quality, that performs like a top-end DSLR.

Since I am one of a few photographers who have shot extensively with a prototype GFX 100, which was final hardware but not quite final firmware, I thought I would post up my experiences here on the blog to help give folks an idea of what this incredible camera is capable of. I might be the one professional photographer who has shot with the camera the most–and with the most recent firmware–as I was one of the last photographers on assignment with a pair of GFX 100 prototypes. In large part, I want to help shed some light on the capabilities of this new camera and where it fits in the industry.

This is not a full-on review as the camera is not even officially out on the market yet and the firmware is still in flux. Because of this, and with Fujifilm’s blessing, I wanted to publish this preview article because it seems that a lot of the reviewers who have worked with the camera for a short time have missed the point of how astounding this new mirrorless medium format camera is compared to every other medium format camera on the market. Most of the reviewers compare it to DSLRs or 35mm (i.e. full-frame) mirrorless cameras because that is what they know, which is totally fine. But, I think that perspective, while totally valid, misses the point. I can certainly see a lot of DSLR or full-frame mirrorless folks who want the ultimate image quality stepping up to this camera because it is so capable and doesn’t feel like an old-school, archaic medium format camera. Alternatively, I can see pretty much every photographer worldwide working with medium format cameras ditching their current gear and pickup this system no matter what genre they work in. Fujifilm just upended the entire medium format industry.

Let’s get right to it. This is an all new, built-from-scratch mirrorless medium format camera. Basically the engineers thought through the needs of professional photographers and how best to implement everything into a system that meets those needs and went about creating that camera. There has never been a medium format camera like the GFX 100 ever. In terms of ergonomics and usability, it is more akin to a pro-caliber DSLR than any other medium format camera on the market, which is probably why so many are comparing it to smaller format cameras.

Essentially, Fujifilm has created a camera that has no competition within its category. Anything else in the medium format sphere as of last week is ancient technology. When compared to the advanced capabilities of the GFX 100, it is a very hard sell to purchase a much slower, less capable camera at three to four times the cost of the GFX 100. That is in large part the reason I sold off my Hasselblad gear. It isn’t that those “old style” medium format cameras can’t work to create incredible photos, they are just seriously lacking in features compared to the brand new GFX 100.

Fujifilm also made a big deal at the launch about calling this camera “Large Format” instead of medium format. I know many might call that marketing hype, but the reality is that this camera and all other medium format cameras are producing images with resolutions that are the equivalent of 4×5, 8×10 and 11×14 film cameras of yore depending on the sensor used. Hence, since those were the Large format cameras of their time it follows that these medium format cameras qualify as Large format image quality. No one is actually making a 4×5-inch digital sensor for consumers. In general, I think it is time we update the format names according to resolution. APS-C is the new 35mm film format equivalent (or even better by a large margin), full-frame is the new medium format (and it is better than medium format image quality ever was), and finally medium format cameras are the equivalent of large format film cameras.

The GFX 100 obviously has an incredible array of new features including a 102 MP sensor, In-Body Image-Stabilization (IBIS), crazy fast and accurate autofocus, a high frame rate (for a camera of this type), full-sensor read out 4K video, stellar ergonomics, Face Detection with Eye AF, and a host of other stand out features. These all add up to a camera that can be used for a wide variety of photographic scenarios–even sports and wildlife. The GFX 100 isn’t replacing all of my cameras but it will be the camera I work with for the majority of my work which should be very telling.

In my experience with the camera so far, I was quite amazed at how fast the autofocus was with moving subjects. The camera was able to track mountain bikers in any situation. The above mountain biking image shows off the cameras autofocus capabilities. The rider was tracked in with the new autofocus algorithms and the fast frame rate allowed me to capture the height of the action at five (5) frames per second. This is an unusual type of image to be created by a large format camera. Below is a composite image showing the full jump from a different angle. Note this this composite only used half the images the camera created! There are additional shots of the rider in positions in-between those shown here, but they didn’t work for the overall image I was going for. This image is also a twenty-image panorama that is a 1.74 GB file and nearly 20,000 pixels long. It is a massive file that could be printed as large as a bus with incredible detail.

The autofocus also worked phenomenally well when I switched into Face Detection and Eye AF. The image below of Carson Storch was captured with Face Detection and Eye AF engaged and it focused on his eye even though he was wearing a helmet and goggles. For this image I used the incredible GF 110mm f/2 lens at f/2.8. The depth of field was incredibly shallow so this was a great test of the advanced autofocus modes. In nearly every image his eye was pin sharp, which blew my mind since my DSLRs typically need ten to twenty shots at f/1.4 to get one where the eye is sharp.

The GFX 100 is also incredibly well weather sealed. It is as capable in the studio as it is in the great outdoors. In hand, and in use, it seems tough and able to take any abuse that my pro-caliber Nikons could take. It is also a marvel of engineering. I can’t reveal my conversations with the engineers but it was quite evident that this camera was technically very difficult to create. The IBIS system is an engineering milestone that was not easy to pull off. The way that the engineers isolated the stabilized sensor from the shutter and the rest of the camera body works incredibly well–especially considering the larger format sensor weighs twice as much as a smaller 35-mm (full-frame) sized sensor. Congratulations to Fujifilm, they have created an incredible camera that was extremely difficult to design and build–and mass produce.

As a side note here, I worked with the camera in southern Utah in some of the dustiest locations anywhere. With such a huge sensor I was worried about dust spots showing up all over the place–as they would have with my Hasselblad. In that ten day assignment, I only ever saw one dust spot on the images and I changed lenses fairly often. I don’t know how that is possible or what is going on there–the only thing we could come up with was that the sensor vibration dust cleaning option does an incredible job at shaking dust particles off the sensor surface. I will report more on this in my full review when I have shot with the camera more extensively.

Rock climbing is of course a relatively slow sport so it did not tax the autofocus, but instead I worked handheld with the camera and shot at shutter speeds down to 1/20th second (using wide angle lenses) with excellent results. I was able to get several sharp images at 1/8th of a second using the GF 23mm f/4 lens but for consistently sharp images I had to bump up the shutter speed to 1/20th second. Note that I am not the steadiest photographer out there so your mileage may vary. Comparing this to my older 50 MP Hasselblad H5D, on the H5D I had to use 1/500th second shutter speed just to have a prayer of getting a tack sharp image and it wasn’t always tack sharp even at 1/500th second. The mirror shock was so violent on that camera that handholding it at all was less than ideal in terms of sharpness. The GFX 100 by contrast is incredibly versatile and the IBIS allows for capturing true 100 MP image detail without having to put the camera on a tripod every time you shoot with it. With my H5D, to get the best image quality, I used a tripod 80% of the time. With the GFX 100, and its amazing IBIS technology, I won’t be pulling out the tripod nearly as much–which gives me a lot more freedom in how I use the camera.

I haven’t yet spoken about the image quality, but rest assured those 102 megapixels (101.7 MP to be exact) are spectacular. The camera has the option to work in 14-bit or 16-bit. Both modes produce excellent image quality but 16-bit is a huge part of why anyone would work with medium format cameras. The color rendition and tonality produced by 16-bit large format sensors is absolutely incredible. With the GFX 100, when you need speed, simply drop into 14-bit. When you need the ultimate bit depth and don’t need 5 fps, then up the ante and set it to 16-bit mode.

During the launch, Fujifilm chose one of my expansive panoramic rock climbing images and initially showed only a small two megapixel portion of the image, which looked impressively sharp on the 2K monitor. The next slide was the full resolution image showing just how small that crop was and you could hear an audible gasp from the audience. My point here is that this camera offers the ultimate in cropping options. For example, a vertical 4×3 crop taken out of a horizontal image still has 57 MP! I made several panoramic images where I cropped off the top and bottom and they still had 60 MP or more. The upshot is that there is resolution to spare.

The only downside, if there is one, is that capturing 102 MP images on a regular basis, and occasionally at 5 fps, is going to fill up hard drives like never before in the still photography world. On my assignment I created 1 TB of data from a ten day assignment. I am going to have to expand my already giant RAID arrays to account for the expected increase in data acquisition. For those looking at this camera, this will be an issue. Luckily, hard drives are relatively cheap. This is just part of the digital game: the bigger the resolution, the more space it takes up on hard drives. When you see the image quality this camera produces any worries about extra hard drive space flies out the window.

The GFX camera system at this point is also very well flushed out. Fujifilm has an extensive lineup of lenses, all of which are ridiculously sharp. When I tested the GF lenses against my Hasselblad H lenses last year I found that in every case the Fujifilm glass was as sharp or sharper than my Hasselblad glass. That isn’t too surprising since Fujifilm actually manufactured Hasselblad’s H-series lenses. In fact, you can even use the Hasselblad H lenses on the GFX cameras and utilize the leaf shutter built into those lenses, which is great for working with strobes. I still have a few of my Hasselblad lenses that I will likely use in the studio for capturing portraits. On that note, the GFX 100 can also be mounted on a view camera for the ultimate in tilt/shift studio photography. Fujifilm also makes several view camera lenses as well.

All told, the lens line up is pretty extensive as shown above. From 23mm to 250mm, with a 1.4x teleconverter that extends that to 350mm, there are enough options for a wide variety of scenarios. The only thing missing for me is an ultra wide angle fisheye lens and a long 600mm f/4 super telephoto equivalent. On the long end, it is easy enough to use the GF 250mm lens with the teleconverter and crop in to gain more focal length. I will have to do some testing to see how well that works.

The 5.69 MP EVF attached to the GFX 100 is also an incredible engineering feat. I have not heard many reviewers even mention the EVF but that is a critical part of the camera. And wow, those 5.69 megapixels offer an incredible viewfinder. It takes your breathe away when you look through this viewfinder. Up until now, the Nikon Z mirrorless cameras have what I feel is the best electronic viewfinder I have ever seen, that is until I looked through the GFX 100. A key part of a medium format camera is that they typically offer massive optical viewfinders that are a joy to work with and allow for very critical analysis while composing the image. The end result of those amazing viewfinders is that you capture better images because you can see what is going on in the viewfinder. The new ultra-high resolution EVF built into the GFX 100 is nothing short of astonishing and like the aforementioned optical viewfinders makes it very easy to compose and craft the image.

Another exciting aspect of this camera, which I have not tested yet, is how well it performs capturing 4K video. A few of the photographers working with this camera created video content and it is apparently a quite capable motion camera as well as a stellar stills camera. At the launch, Fujifilm had their new large format Premista 28-100mm video lens (shown below) attached to the GFX 100 and the footage from that combo looked incredible. Alpa has also launched a new cage to build up the GFX 100 (as shown below) which looks quite interesting. Because the GFX 100 can output 4K DCI video from the full sensor in 10-bit 4:2:2 and with Fujifilm’s amazing Externa film simulation or F-log if you prefer, this gives the video output a very unique look. I am very excited to test out the GFX 100 video options and work with it on some motion projects.

Wrapping up, the GFX 100 is truly an incredible camera. I have one sitting on my desk right now and I am very excited to continue working with this camera and see what I can create with it. I am still reeling from my assignment with it and figuring out how this camera will help me take my work to the next level. It is so capable that there are very few assignments that I won’t be able to take on fully with this camera. It isn’t any one of the features in the GFX 100 that really makes it stand out but rather all of them combined together in a medium format camera that sets this camera apart from just about any other camera out there.

For an inside look at my assignment with the FUJIFILM GFX 100 check out the article they posted on the Fujifilm-x.com site entitled Blazing trails with Michael Clark and the GFX 100. That article also includes two different behind the scenes videos so you can see how I created some of the above images. For a look at the best images I created on this assignment check out the Fujifilm gallery on my website. If you have any questions I will be do my best to answer them below in the comments. Once I have had significant time shooting with the full production version of the camera I will post up a full review. Stay tuned for that…

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Red Bull Supermoon Project

Mike Swanson wingsuit flying in front of the Supermoon above downtown Los Angeles on 20 March, 2019.

The last three months the have been the busiest of my entire career. Hence, the lack of blog posts here and no Spring 2019 Newsletter. On top of that, I have had to revamp the blog from top to bottom as well. Readers will notice the much larger images and easier to read font and text. In lieu of a Newsletter, I thought I would post up this behind the scenes story about the Red Bull Supermoon project, which I was lucky enough to be a part of earlier this year on March 20, 2019.

The idea was that Red Bull Air Force team members Jon DeVore, Andy Farrington and Mike Swanson would fly through downtown Los Angeles in wingsuits and a few other team members would jump off the Intercontinental Hotel, which is the largest skyscraper in Los Angeles, all with the giant supermoon rising right behind downtown LA. Red Bull had been working on this project for months and months before I was called in. The lead producer had been studying the geometry of the rising sun for several weeks and knew exactly where the cinematographers and still photographers would need to be to get the shots they were looking for.

For this project, Red Bull hired two still photographers, Keith Ladzinski and myself, and they also had a giant crew of cinematographers, who would be filming the event from all over the city. Keith and I have a bunch of good friends in common but amazingly we had never met before this shoot. It was great to finally meet him as his work has been incredibly inspiring for so many years. For this project, Keith would be in a helicopter and I would be on the ground. We had a few days before the shoot to scout locations and figure out which would work best considering where the Moon would rise.

The best location on the ground was 3.8 miles away from the Intercontinental Hotel on top of an eight-story storage facility. As you would imagine Red Bull had permits for everything all lined up. To capture the action, we had anticipated being extremely far away, and I chose to rent a Nikon AF-S 800mm f/5.6 lens. This lens is a rare beast as it costs $16,000 and even in LA where you can rent just about anything no one had an 800mm Nikon lens available for rental. Hence we had to have one shipped in specifically for this shoot—and I am glad we did as it was indispensable. On top of the storage facility we had an unencumbered view of downtown LA. In the late afternoon, myself and two cinematographers set up on top of the building (as can be seen below) and waited for the action to begin.

Just to give a sense of how far away we were from downtown LA, the image on the left shows our view from the top of the storage facility. Just before sunset massive clouds rolled in and it rained all around us offering up a few rainbows. The center image shows some of the Red Digital Cinema cameras, and the giant lenses they had mounted to them, that were set up right next to me. With such long lenses attached to our cameras any wind was a huge factor when trying to capture a steady image. Hence the sand bags hanging off the tripods. Lastly, on the far right you can see my 800mm lens attached to a Nikon D850 and mounted on a beefy Gitzo tripod with a Wimberley head so I could follow the action with out any hindrance.

The weather was a major concern for this shoot. The ideal shot was to have the Red Bull Air Force wingsuiters flying through downtown LA with the Supermoon right behind them. Hence, we needed clear skies so we could capture that image right as the moon rose behind downtown LA. But on the day of the shoot, there was a layer of low hanging clouds on the horizon just behind downtown LA, which meant we would not see the Supermoon rise. I can imagine the event coordinators and producers were freaking out at that point. Nonetheless, the Red Bull Air Force are super professional and the show goes on. Jon DeVore and Andy Farrington jumped from the helicopter just after the sunset and had an amazing background of pink light as they flew into downtown LA (as shown below).
John Devore and Andy Farrington wingsuit fly through downtown Los Angeles on 20 March, 2019.

Jon and Andy buzzed the rooftop bar of the Intercontinental. Andy Farrington was in a black wingsuit filming Jon from behind for the entire flight. Andy had two cameras on his helmet and was rolling video for the entire jump so they had a close perspective. As can be seen below, Jon had several tubes attached to his leg that were throwing off huge sparks so he would be visible in the evening sky.

The first person perspective: Jon DeVore wingsuiting into downtown LA. This image was a screen capture from footage captured by Andy Farrington, who flew right behind Jon in a black wingsuit.

After Jon and Andy landed safely on 7th Street, just in front of the Intercontinental Hotel, it was Mike Swansons turn. He was going to fly solo. Because the permit allowed for more time and the Supermoon was not yet visible he waited about twenty minutes after Jon and Andy jumped. From his high vantage point in the helicopter I imagine he could see the moon or at least better envision it peaking out above the low hanging clouds. In any case, he timed his jump perfectly and also swerved way over to where the moon was when it peaked out above the clouds. It was as if he knew exactly where he needed to be for us to get the shot. With the moon so high above the city, we weren’t going to be able to get the shot they had envisioned. But, with Mike’s incredible intuition as to where he needed to be to line it all up for us we got a series of images that looked out of this world. As can be seen below, Mike also had a huge trail of sparks shooting out of the tubes strapped to his legs and since it was darker when he jumped they showed up significantly more in the night sky. The image below gives you a sense of what folks saw from the freeway driving home on March 20th. It looked like a meteorite falling into downtown LA.

I had two cameras shooting simultaneously for this shoot. Aside from the 800mm lens I also had a 300mm lens to give a wider perspective. The above image is from that second camera with the 300mm lens. Through the 800mm lens I had a much tighter perspective as shown below. It was tough to keep Mike in the frame as he was flying at speeds up to 120mph. I tracked him in the whole way and had an assistant triggering my second camera body, which was locked down on an another tripod to keep a fixed composition and it also had the focus locked down as well. Through the 800mm lens I saw an incredible image forming up and kept blasting away while also keeping in mind the camera’s buffer. I didn’t want to blast away too quickly and hit the buffer which would lock up the camera so I squeezed off several shots in a row, then eased up on the shutter release and when the composition was good again squeezed off several more images. When he got close to the moon I mashed the shutter release down as hard as I could and got fifteen or more shots as he flew in front of the Moon.

Working with the Red Bull Air Force you rarely get tons of action images because it happens so fast. This shoot was no different. There was a whole lot of preparation and standing around for a few seconds of action. We got insanely lucky as well. I was lucky to be where I was and with the equipment I had. Of course, there was a ton of planning that went into this that helped us be lucky—and Mike Swanson really made it all come together with his incredible intuition of what would look good. By the time Mike jumped it was very dark and to stop his motion I had to jack up the ISO setting on the camera to ISO 6400, which introduced significant noise. Nonetheless, we were still able to create some incredible images. Check out the video that Red Bull created from this project below.

By the time we got back to the Red Bull offices in Santa Monica, about thirty minutes after Mike Swanson landed, it had already made national news. The social media department from Red Bull came over right away (as we were downloading images) and told us we needed to get something out as soon as possible because lots of folks were confused as to what they saw in the sky over downtown LA. Many thought it was an actual meteorite. The pressure was on. When I first saw these images on the back of the camera I knew they were going to be cool, but I had no idea how intensely people would react to them. Within an hour of Mike Swanson landing (in the middle of an intersection I might add) we had the first images going live on social media. Keith worked his contacts in New York and the images were featured on Good Morning America the next morning. The project exploded on social media. On Red Bull’s instagram account the video got over 1.7 million views. On my own account the top image on this blog post got more comments than any other image I have posted this year. Aside from the social media craziness, this was one of those assignments that instantly created portfolio quality images and I have added it to the front page of my website.

My thanks to Red Bull and the Red Bull Air Force for bringing me in on this assignment. It was amazing to be a small part of this incredible project. As always, it is a blast hanging out with these guys and to see them in action. To find out more about the Red Bull Air Force head on over to their super cool website. To see more images and more behind the scenes images from this project head over to the Red Bull Photography website and read Marv Watson’s excellent article.

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