Advance warning! May contain Geekery!
It was a few months ago that one of my picture editors asked if I fancied covering Festival No. 6 in North Wales for them. After taking a quick look at the festival website, seeing the kind of festival it is and finding out that the venue was (obviously) Portmeirion, I agreed but suggested that I cover it more as I want to as opposed to just being there for the music acts (as I was for V Festival).
Shortly after that I had a meeting with Nathan from Fuji UK to look at and discuss their latest offerings. A quick play with the X-T1 and 56mm lens and an idea formed in my head; Festival No.6 would be the perfect event to trial the X-T1 and lenses (especially as Portmeirion is built on a steep hillside).
So this is how I found myself travelling to North Wales for my last festival of the season as many of my friends and colleagues headed south to the Isle of Wright for Bestival. In the back of the car were my X-Pro1, X100 along with a loan X-T1, lenses were the 10-24mm, 14mm, 23mm, 56mm and 55-200m added to my 18-55mm and 35mm lenses (all in a single backpack). I took a bit of a risk, packing no SLR back up at all as I am a firm believer that when testing, if you give yourself a backup as soon as something (however simple) goes wrong, the backup will come out and nothing will be learned.
So after sorting the tent and pass(es) it was time for a wander around. It was soon clear that a) many were already enjoying themselves and b) this was going to be good fun.
The first test on the main stage was Neneh Cherry and it was here i experienced my first problem: the quite well known “frame number full error”. I sort of remember the fix having experienced it on my own X-Pro1 when I first got it but could not remember the solution fast enough, so I resorted to the Pro1 with the 55-200. Before the problem though I took this on the T1 with the same lens.
After the set, the problem was quickly solved and I carried on. Moral? Always check settings on any loan equipment thoroughly (I had replicated the shooting settings from my Pro1 but nothing else).
The rest of the weekend carried on without any major issues although there were a few niggles (lets get them out of the way here):
So how come the EVF is not on the list? (surely as EVERYONE hates the EVF to start with!) Well actually, there is a slight lag but I found I got used to it within a few hours and am pretty sure that most of the shots I did miss, could not be attributed to it. It does change how the subject is viewed though the viewfinder though, it does add a layer, almost obstructing the relationship with the subject, however what it adds is objectivity and the ability to know the shot will be as you intend (exposure/depth of field) before you take it. This led to me taking far less images with the resultant editing being far far quicker (due to having to do less to the images),
An early start on Saturday morning (after breakfast).
Wandering around photographing more atmosphere as it really is the events and cameos that take place away from the stage in the village that make this event really special (of course coupled with the surroundings).
Given the location and the name of the festival, there had to be some "Prisoner" related action which included The Six of One Society (fans of the TV series The Prisoner) re-enacting a famous scene featuring human chess.
My favourite of Saturday though was without doubt the quirky and mysterious "Lampshade Ladies". Photographed well into dusk and beyond this act was a photographers dream, the surrounding crowd though was of course the opposite; a photographers nightmare. Lucky the smaller cameras made moving through a crowd far easier as despite carrying 2 cameras and 5 lenses, all my equipment was on a Think Tank belt.
Both these images were shot on the 56mm/F1.2 on the XT which along with the 14mm on the Pro1 had become my standard walk-around setup (I did not really have any focus issues with the kit shooting this which might have been expected).
The next morning, more bacon and more walking which included some general library views of the Village and Hotel (including the 1st image above). It's easy to forget that whilst all this was going on, there were a number of stages dotted through the woods, on the seafront and of course the main stage in the field. As you will have gathered by now, it's not only music at this festival and in the picturesque woods i found "Sanctuary", an interactive immersive soundscape by award winning artist Caitlin Shephard where participants listen in the woods.
The main stage included the classic "Martha Reeves and the Vandellas" on the Sunday afternoon.
Finishing off on the Sunday night was a parade featuring "Spark!"
Again, a really difficult crowd to move throughout getting a position rewarded me with a really good set of images, with the 14mm on the Pro1 and the 56 on the XT. I had the X-Pro set to 3200ISO as I knew this was a good setting where the images would be more than good enough, however I turned the XT up to 5000 and the 6400 and I have to say once i got the images back to the pc, I was astounded. This image has a very slight lift in exposure and cut in hilights, other than that it's a JPG shot from the XT (I only shot Jpegs all weekend as I know these files are fantastic from these cameras).
I learnt a few things over the weekend, the first of which is that Festival No. 6 is a "must do" addition to the calendar.
As for the XT and lenses? I think I can summarise that the XT is far better than I thought. Thinking with the caveat of what I was shooting and how I work, my belief before that weekend was that it was likely to be 2 generations away from being able to replace my DSLR's, it's not, if Fuji listen (as they have been listening in the past few years), the next generation could nail it.
My next surprise was that my "walk around" set-up became the 14mm on the X-Pro and the 56mm on the XT. Most of my working time my cameras have zoom lenses mounted for flexibility but here, despite testing the 10-24 and having my 18-55 with me, I automatically opted for these 2 primes.
The biggest sticking point for me (and I think most press photographers) is the flash and hotshoe. We could do with a slightly faster sync speed but the nail in the coffin for the red carpet events I cover is that the flash is not enabled in the continuous shooting modes.
However for many events I cover, these little systems would be an absolute blessing; the lenses are crisp, the colours and files are lovely direct from the camera and in difficult lighting (focussing aside) the EVF is a real boon in getting it as you see it quickly. In fact I have an event I am booked for in the 1st of October where I know I will miss the X-T1 and 56mm, or maybe I won't ... lets just see what transpires...
A full gallery of images from the Festival can be seen here..