MESSENGER RACE WITH THE FUJIFILM X-T1
AUSTRIAN CHAMPIONSHIP 2015
Today I want to do something complete different. As I usually do reports about my travelling, I decided to share some experience and do a review of some gear this time.
A few days ago a friend of mine asked me to shoot a cycle race. My free time during weekends is a bit limited but this was a possibility to extend my skills to some new areas of photography. I haven´t done any sports photography before so I tried to get some ideas from a web search. Most of the things I found were about panning and how to find the perfect location for your masterpieces during a big cycling tour. For me it was different. This race was the Austrian messenger championship which took place in Vienna.
The main race was a 4 hours checkpoint track which took the racers from one side to the other while completing a list of checkpoints and accomplishing different tasks.
MAP of THE RACE AREA
Maximale Höhe: 170 m
Minimale Höhe: 159 m
Gesamtanstieg: 120 m
Gesamtabstieg: -117 m
As the distances between the different parts of the race were too big to walk I decided to bring my bike. Before the start of the race I was scouting the area to locate some nice spots to shoot from. There were many ascending and descending slopes, bridges and stairs which required the racers to carry their bikes.
When I was putting together my equipment in the morning, I was not sure how it can handle the challenge I will put it through. And for the first time I wished I hadn’t sold all my DSLR gear.
I had to carry the gear all day long, so tried to set it up as lightweight as possible. All of it had to fit my backpack next to some food, my camelbag, weather resistant clothing and some other small things.
- Fujifilm X-T1 – my main camera. The new autofocus system should provide me enough speed to catch the action. With the mounted tele I always used the phase detection zone focusing in the center in continuous AF-mode. The camera and Lens were always ready to shoot on my right side. I used a black rapid sports strap to carry it safely all day long.
- Fujifilm X-E2 – my backup body. This one was mounted to my backpack shoulder strap on the left side with the peak design capture pro camera clip. The 16-55 was on this camera and I didn´t change that during the day.
- Fujifilm XF 55-200 F3.5-4.8 R LM OIS – my one and only tele lens was mounted to the X-T1 for 95% of the images I took with that camera. As I don´t own the 50-140/2.8 this was my only option to get the shots I wanted. To be honest, for this situation it was the best choice. First it is a lightweight lens compared to the fixed aperture lens. Second, it has that 50mm benefit when it comes to range. As you can´t always get as close as you want, I’ve been happy with that lens.
- Fujifilm XF 16-55 F2.8 R LM WR – next to XF23 this is my favourite lens. The image quality is superb and in this case it gave many options next to the tele range. The 16mm is wide enough to get nice wide shots and at the long end I was able to get close to the action as well. The X-E2 doesn´t have the advanced autofocus system of the X-T1 (which will change at the end of this year), so I basically used it in singlepoint AF-S. I decided to prefocus for actionshots and it went well.
- Zeiss Touit 12mm F2.8 – I brought this lens for two reasons. First it is small and light and did not add any noticeable weight. Second, I wanted to take some nice low and wide angle shots with it.
I ended up with approximately 1.000 images from which two thirds were done with the X-T1 and the rest with the X-E2. Same goes for the lenses, with a minor part (60) done with the Zeiss lens.
When you check my blog and website you’ll see that I usually do landscape and city photography and some portraiture, but I haven’t any experience in sports. So I was fully relying on the X-T1´s autofocus system to work with the XF 55-200.
To catch all the action in the tele range I set all parameters manually except the ISO. The aperture was set to 5.6 for 90% of the shots and the exposure time was around 1/800 sec. The weather that day was a mixture of sun and clouds so the lightning was in a permanent change. Also I had many shadow areas which needed a higher ISO setting. The Auto-ISO did a fantastic job getting me nearly perfect exposure in all shots. As you can see from the ISO count below it was spread all over the range from 200 to 6400. Same goes for the focal length used but the biggest numbers were located at the long end.
Autofocus Tracking Abilities of the X-T1 with the XF 55-200
Around 85% of the shots were in focus or only minimal off reviewed in 100%. For me this was a much better result than I expected. I’m sure some of the bad images are result of user interaction or bad camera handling but there is something I noticed. Most of the time when the AF missed a shot it was because of a busy background and a lack of contrast between it and the racers. So if you find yourself in that situation try to increase that contrast when possible. I had much more consistent results when tracking them on the street or in front of buildings than in front of some trees.
The X-T1 was used with a 64GB Sandisk SD card which was sufficient for the whole day. I never had any failure with SD cards, so for me there is no need to use a few smaller sized cards instead of a big one. The X-E2 was running on 32GB Sandisk SD card. At home i copied the complete set to the internal SSD of my MBPr and and all images again to an external HDD for backup purpose.
After importing the images to lightroom i usually do a quick sorting. So about 10-15% of the images went directly to the trash because of technically imperfections. The rest of them gets rated with stars and only the five star images were processed. After this i ended up with 315 images left…
In Lightroom CC i did some minor exposure adjustments and a correction of the white and black point. For almost every image i use the classic chrome setting in the camera calibration section. After that i export them to Iridient to apply sharpening as i don’t like lightrooms sharpening methods. In only a few of the results i tweaked the the white balance settings for highlights and shadows separately which is only possible in Iridient. After importing them to lightroom again i applied a radial correction from time to time. I used it to highlight the racers with a -0.6 EV for the surroundings like demonstrated below.
Overall it took me 10 hours to finish the full set of over 300 images. Because a few of them were needed for some local newspapers i did everything the day after the shooting.
It was real fun to shoot this race. While it was hard work for me to ride around the track and get all the snaps i really enjoyed the attractive competition and the crazy but nice people. For one day i had an idea of this bike messenger world they were living in.
The Fujifilm X-T1 and the X-E2 paired with the mentioned lenses made it a pleasure to shoot all day long and gave me much better results than i expected beforehand. The new autofocus system worked incredibly well except those few situation where it failed because of busy backgrounds. The auto-ISO did a great job and there was no need to adjust settings all the time which made it possible to concentrate on the action.
If you´re interested in more result you can review the complete set of images over here.