Many people know that Columbus is home to one of the best zoos, so we decided to take a group out for a Field Study class this past weekend! Being the first sunny day in what seemed like weeks, I was stoked. In honor of this rare rainless shoot, I brought along the handy-dandy Fuji X-T1 with its new firmware update (get the firmware update here) and a 50-140mm lens to test out the improvements made by Fuji.
Our instructor began the day with some helpful hints on
shooting photographing animals. I’ve shot at the zoo before, but never really considered how I was framing the animals or the environment around them.
Our first stop were the Amur Tigers. Usually I go to the zoo in the middle of the day when the tigers are sleeping, but this morning, they were rather vocal and active! I practiced framing and using the environment to tell the story and show the tiger’s personality. Even with the wires and fencing, the Fuji was flawlessly focusing on the tiger, which was perfect when I didn’t want to manual focus. This may be due to Fuji’s new autofocus accuracy which helps in low light (the tigers were mainly in shade, so this was ideal!).
I set the X-T1 to B&W so that I could focus on contrast and light, rather than the color. Because I was shooting in RAW, I was able to choose between black and white and color, but I ended up keeping them black and white while editing.
The ultimate focusing test was the cheetah run. We were lucky and got front row for it, but my worry was freezing these 60 mph cats. The first run went so fast, I didn’t realize it had already started. I honestly didn’t have time to even think about the composition, I was just trying to see if the camera would focus as fast as I needed it to as the cheetah was chasing it’s snack around the track. I lucked out and got the shot above on the first run. Although there was a little motion blur, the camera focused in on the cheetah, resulting in a really cool action shot. I wish I could’ve gotten more of the environment and contrast of the background, but thought this was pretty good at representing the cheetah’s body and movement.
The cheetahs were pretty active and were chasing each other around the watering hole, it was pretty amazing how well the Fuji was keeping up. I wish I had a better memory card, because the continuous shutter speed would’ve been better with a faster write speed. Had the cheetahs been slower, I would’ve loved to have experimented with a smaller aperture to get more in focus. I’ve always been a fan of Fuji mirrorless systems (I wrote several blogs last year on them) but was disappointed in the original firmware’s autofocus.
This camera, in my opinion, is now capable of much more with better tracking and autofocus. I was also worried about camera shake being so far away and hand holding the longer lens. This occasionally caused problems with some pictures if I wasn’t stabilized on a fence or monopod, but overall, it did a superb job!