I’m not a trend-setter. I’m 31, pudgy, married, and writing this from my modest ranch hidden among 5000 other modest ranches in a suburb about 90 minutes outside of New York City. I shop at Big Y, buy my clothes at Khol’s, and look forward to Sunday Night Football every Fall. I’m also not really a trend-follower. Ultimately, I spend my time under-the-radar, paying my taxes, and mulching my lawn. Which makes my switch from Nikon to Fuji pretty remarkable.
“I Been a Long Time Leavin’...”
I started with Nikon in 2004 when I took a job shooting as a freelance photojournalist for a local newspaper in my home state. I was a Canon shooter, until my editor gave me the code to access the lens closet at the paper. There stood before me an entire utility closet of Nikon glass. Nearly a hundred lenses, and I could use any one I wanted… provided I had a Nikon body. I sold my Canon and bought a Nikon D100 the very next day.
I didn’t put much more thought into switching, and I stayed with Nikon for another decade. When I started shooting weddings I added a D80 into my bag, and off I went. Here’s a list of the Nikon bodies I’ve owned and worked with over the years (not necessarily in order):
I’ve put about 1.4 million clicks of the shutter through my various Nikon bodies over the years, and I’ve owned all the glass you could imagine to go with them. I know the Nikon system inside and out.
"...But I'll Be a Long Time Gone."
I didn’t leave Nikon for Fuji because Nikon had suddenly started making poor-quality products. Except for the notorious banding issue on the 750 (which I was lucky enough to experience twice, on two different bodies at the same wedding), I never really had a problem with my Nikon gear. The lens lineup was great, I had a collection of Sb-910 flashes that I still love to this day, and Nikon cameras just seemed to work.
Then one day a friend of mine brought over his Fuji Xpro-1. What was this small, strange looking, Leica-esque camera he just placed in my hands? I borrowed it for a couple of days and I fell in love. It was weird and new, as clunky as it was nostalgic, and it threw me right back to the days of firing off Portra 160 when I was a kid. I wanted in.
If you know me personally, you know that once I decide that I’m doing something, I do it at 150% until it’s done. I did the same thing with switching from DSLR to mirrorless. Within four months of picking up my first Fuji I owned an entire system, backups included, and switched to shooting my weddings with my new kit full time.
It’s Not Just About Specs
There are lots of tangible, calculable reasons why switching to mirrorless makes sense for a wedding shooter. The weight and size of the gear notwithstanding, the image quality, colors, and ability of these cameras and lenses to focus wide open is outstanding. There are also lots of reasons to not switch. The lack of a solid, well-integrated flash and lighting system being the big one. However, I switched because it changed the way I feel about photography.
Something about this kit, some indefinable quality that can’t be measured or described has reinvigorated me as a creative professional. It’s put the spark back in my work that I haven’t felt in years. I shoot a lot of weddings… probably more in a year than most do in three or four. So if you want to tell me I was burning myself out I probably can’t argue too much. This Fuji system has changed everything for me.
The first wedding I shot on a Fuji I found myself caring more about my composition than ever before. It slowed me down. I went from shooting an average of 3500 images per wedding to about 1200. I was more in tune with the pace of the day, and I felt seamlessly intertwined with the cadence of each wedding than I had ever felt before.
I also shed all of my gear. No more big bags, no more lens belts, or duel-shouldered straps. I’ve actually never owned a lens longer than an 85, but the idea of dropping all that bulky, clunky equipment is what did it for me. I finally felt like I could get the images I envisioned. Why did it take a switch to mirrorless for this to happen?
I have no idea.
What is an Artist?
Someone in the Fstoppers boards once told me they likened the use of the word “artist” as a descriptor of oneself to using the word “master.” I decided to start referring to myself as a creative professional instead. The Fuji system has pushed me closer to truly being the artist that I want to be than any other change or integration to my workflow.
“The best thing about a picture is that it never changes, even when the people in it do.” - Andy Warhol
We are tasked, as photographers, with this enormous challenge of capturing the subjects we shoot as they truly are. We have to create a timeless and honest representation of that moment that will withstand time, life, and death. For me, the switch to mirrorless helped me reunite with the passion I started with when I shot my first wedding nearly 300 weddings ago.
I remember that feeling, when I opened the lens closet at the struggling newspaper. Beat up and blemished lenses that, if they themselves could talk, would pen a million different stories told by all the photographers who had come and gone before me. I was like a kid in a candy store. There was no assignment I couldn't tackle with this kind of equipment. For the first time in my young career I really believed I could do this.
I felt that same rush of excitement and determination the first time I picked up that Fuji. That’s why I switched, and that’s why I have never looked back.