Seeing What I Don’t See

Sunset at a Chicago "L" station. (Photo: Lukas Keapproth)

During a presentation of his work, photojournalist W. Eugene Smith famously responded, “I didn’t come here to talk nuts and bolts” to an audience question asking what type of camera, lens and film he used.

Those who know me know that I’m not much of a “gearhead” when it comes to camera equipment. I put gaffers tape over logos and use plain camera straps so people don’t bother me about what kind of gear I’m using when I’m out shooting. I don’t like getting into talks about megapixels and low-light performance and lens sharpness tests. And yet, I’m here to talk about some new gear I got. I’m such a hack.

Way back in June I was at the University Photographer’s Association of America annual conference where all the major camera manufactures were present, eagerly hawking gear in our faces to try for free. I obliged.

Not going to get too far into the weeds here, but mirrorless cameras have completely changed the still-photography landscape over the past 4 years or so. As someone who doesn’t care too much about gear, I hadn’t given them a try, only observed friends and colleagues who made the switch.

So when a Fujifilm rep sat across a table from me and handed me the (relatively) new Fuji XT-2, I was pretty excited to give it a try for the week during the conference.

The four days with the XT-2 were the most fun I’ve with a camera since I first handled a DSLR when I was 16. I had to get this thing.

A big part of photography’s allure for me when I first started taking pictures was it gave me a way to see the world completely differently. I could freeze the world and just stare at it. Or I could take this tiny subsection and abstract it to look like something else. But once you’ve done that a few hundred thousand times, it loses its luster.

The biggest asset of the XT-2 (well, all mirrorless cameras really) is its electronic viewfinder that allows the photographer to see the exposure before it’s even made.

My style the last few years tends toward heavy shadows and contrast, but my XT-2 allows me to push that even further. In especially bright scenes, I’m able to bring down the exposure so much that only the brightest parts of the image are even visible. I feel that this gives me a whole new approach to different scenes, even scenes that, to my naked eye, appear boring. But when I pull the viewfinder up to my face and push the exposure down, I’m able to see what I can’t see. Especially in my position as a university photographer where I cover the same stretches of campus over and over and over, being able to force myself to see familiar areas literally in a new light keeps me creative.

(Photo: Lukas Keapproth)

(Photo: Lukas Keapproth)

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A late summer sunset in downtown Chicago. (Photo: Lukas Keapproth)

(Photo: Lukas Keapproth)

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(Photo: Lukas Keapproth)

(Photo: Lukas Keapproth)

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(Photo: Lukas Keapproth)

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