My name is Nick St.Oegger, I’m a documentary photographer from California.
I recently completed my major project as part of a Master’s degree in Documentary Photography at the University of Westminster in London. I was part of a collective who traveled to Port Talbot, Wales to produce different stories about the town, which has been in a state of crisis since the owners of the nearby steel plant announced plans to sell off all their UK assets last spring.
I shot the entire project using an X100T I recently acquired after my Leica was stolen.
Despite an initial hesitation based on previous experiences with the first X100 and early Fuji X cameras, I found the camera an absolute delight to use for the project in terms its light weight and beautiful color output. The whole multimedia piece can be viewed at: www.ptbypassed.com
The Port Talbot Bypass was Wales’ first motorway and the first part of what would become the larger M4. Conceived in the 1930s but finished in 1994, the M4 provided a much-needed economic link between England and the historically depressed south of Wales. It served as a major upgrade to the previous main route between the two countries, the A48, which offered motorists a slow, often perilous journey along winding roads. When the 4.5 mile long stretch was opened in 1966, the town was still experiencing a boom period due to the nearby steelworks, which employed close to 20,000 people. Issues with traffic had been worsening due to an increase in motorists and a growing shift to road based shipping routes. Traffic jams through Port Talbot were a common sight, made worse by a railway crossing that periodically halted traffic, making simple trips across town burdensome.
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I thought I’d set out to share my journey in digital photography with the good folks here at Fuji Rumors. Perhaps some of you have a similar experience and the story will resonate with you, but maybe not. I actually think that at this point I have a somewhat unique perspective on the worth of Fuji and gladly extol their virtues to the nations. Here we go…
I was raised on film. I’ve enjoyed shooting here and there since high school, but my interest really took off in college. I took a photo class, and as many of you may know, the joy of being in the darkroom can be superlative. Developing your own film, inspecting the frames on a lightbox, enlarging them creatively with the likes of dodging and burning, and finally the wonderful smell of fixing agents…incomparable memories! Especially when the picture comes to life in the chemical bath, it’s like magic! I was even privileged to have a darkroom at my house in an unused bathroom. These vivid experiences cause allegiances to be formed and so when digital came along, I was like, “Nah!”
Enter Fuji. When digital hit a reasonable price and the 4MP mark, I dove in and purchased a Fuji FinePix s5100. It got me through an amazing Europe trip to the Netherlands and France. Tons of images, easy functionality, super convenient, and absolutely terrible noise. At the time, though, excellence of image quality alluded my appetite, which was great since it dodged my budget too. The SLR-like bridge model was a perfect fit, and I was hooked on digital.
As my interest grew, especially in landscape photography, a DSLR was needed for image quality, and more megapixels would have been nice too in case I ever wanted to print…imagine that!? I decided on Nikon, and still love the ergonomics of Nikon over some other brands. I used a D80, D200, and then D300 for over 100,000 images (easily), from 2008 to early 2015. This was almost exclusively for landscape photography. Most of the landscape images at my website are from the D200 and D300. They were valiant and strong soldiers for me, but have now been mercilessly auctioned off in the halls of cyberspace. I’ll always have fond memories!
One may ask, “Well, why no more Nikon?” Glad you asked! The main reason is that my photographic interests started to diversify. In 2013 my family took a trip to Philly and Quebec with some dear friends. I knew it would be mostly urban photography, walking around the city with my crew. The idea of having my rather large D300, bouncing around my neck, my huge bag-a-bouncing, and scaring potential subjects away, was not pleasant. Plus, the fastest glass I had was a 50mm f/1.8 lens, which had a 75mm equivalent after the crop factor… no thanks.
Re-enter Fuji. I Googled “retro digital camera” and a thing of beauty was before my eyes. The X-E1 with a real leather half-case. Fugetaboutit! I had to have it, and my wife let me (did I just say that?!) So before leaving for the East Coast, I bought the X-E1, the 50mm f/1.4, and the 28mm f/2.0. Oh, and also some sundry manual focus Russian lenses that are so handsome in trying to emulate the look of Leica lenses. I ended up not using them too much (or was it not at all?), but you gotta admit, my X-E1 looks amazing! Who wouldn’t want to shoot with this in your hand?!
It was so fun! The camera inspired truly soulful and fun shooting, prompted interest from people around town (“Oh, you shoot film!?”), and was very discrete compared to a DSLR. I was blown away by Fuji’s regular updating of firmware, amazing lens quality, and ambitious lens roadmap. It felt like the place to be.
But when I got home from that trip and wanted to do some landscape shooting it was back to Nikon where I had kinda forgotten the feel of the camera. It came back soon, though, and all was fine…until. Until we went on a trip that had both city shooting opportunities and landscape. Alternating between two systems was getting to me. Plus, I was exceedingly unsatisfied when I’d use my Nikon 10-24mm on my Fuji with an adapter. Plus, it would be nice to buy gear, a battery at for example, that could serve both interests. Oh, if only Fuji had a camera that was fit for landscape shooting also!
Enter the X-T1. It was weather sealed, had a very sharp 10-24mm available, and had a form factor that was conducive to landscape and street shooting. I mentioned earlier that I felt like my satisfaction and usage of Fuji was a bit unique, and it’s in this: probably more than others, I use my Fuji for a wider swath of artistic imaging. Really, it has encapsulated the unifying theme of the artistic vision over at my website, WILDNESS & ARTifice. (and @medees on Instagram)
When I’m street shooting, I grab my stylish leather hip-bag, X-T1 body, 18mm, 23mm, and 35mm primes, batteries, and then rock ‘n roll. Fuji fits the part. At my site, which I hope you will frequent with great care (shameless plug!), over 95% of the urban street images are from my Fuji gear. Only a few are from my previous system.
But when the clouds light up a fiery red, all I do is grab my X-T1 body and batteries from my street kit, throw them into my clunky photo backpack with the, already-to-go, Fuji 10-24mm and 18-135mm lenses… boom, done! For what it’s worth I still have my Nikon 100-400mm and 90mm macro lenses with adapters. I can’t afford the changeover on those yet, but maybe someday. I’m very happy with the X-T1 as a landscape camera, with only one gripe in case the off chance that somebody from Fuji is watching: the exposure bracketing burst range is bunk! I’ve requested a firmware change (twice through the official Fuji site) that would enable a burst of 7 to 9 frames, but to no avail. Bummer, because it makes my job harder when the action is fast in the last moments of sunset, for example. I forgive you, Fuji.
And so there you have it. Started with Fuji, went off to another love, and back again. My wife inherited my handsome X-E1, and I have the more robust X-T1. Definitely a match made in heaven… me and my wife of course ;-)