Fujifilm X-Photographer, Andile Bhala recently took the GFX100S with him on a cycling trip to Lesotho. He tells us his story of overcoming his fear of shooting black and white, and finally shooting on the GFX.
Through my photography I like to preserve as much as I can through respect of unity, space, people and time. The series of images I have made on a recent trip to the mountain kingdom of Lesotho explores the landscapes and individuals I have met along the way. I shot this using a documentary approach on the medium format Fujifilm GFX100S, telling myself that whatever happens, happens – I will view and edit images only when I get back to South Africa.
This trip was quite different since alongside the Bicycle Stokvel crew, we cycled 423 km from South Africa to Lesotho. The time spent in the saddle helped me figure out my fear of shooting black and white. I have been reluctant to shoot monochrome simply because of how intense it is for me, especially for documentary works. The idea was to allow my eye to learn to listen before I could jump into black and white. This would be the first time I’ve overcome and enjoyed that fear, using the GFX with a GF110mmF2 R LM WR lens.
The images taken each have their own individual moment and story, yet I feel they also have an incredible relationship between their past and future. In this case, nothing is new under the sun, African stories are the same, and we all try to create work that speak to the current times for future reference.
Lesotho people are agriculturalists, respectful, good manners and willing to accommodate and teach. It was a beautiful experience to listen to people like Ntate and Justice teaching us about their history and way of living.
This also helped my photography, since my approach to my work has always been conversations that end with a picture. For me, it helps to build a relationship with those I photograph, with the images I made a reflection of the teaching and talks we had.
Shooting this body of work, I tried to think in black and white, engaging the space and people this way. Even the GFX was set to monochrome for me to visualise my photos correctly. What I found worked was to not be too hard on myself, to learn through my own creative process and see how things work together. For example, the contrast and the highlights.
It has taken me a few years to get to shooting on the GFX system. Having the larger format to play around with provided the ideal opportunity to challenge myself by going on a trip with only one body and one lens. Also, I was interested to see how well the 110mm portrait lens coped with creating environment portraits.
I like the fact that the GFX100S is actually quite lightweight and compact, at least for a medium-format camera. It need not be said that it excels in the image quality department, and I was blown away by the medium format look of the images.
Combined with the 110mm lens, it really offers a lot to love, especially for portraiture. This lens provides a 35mm equivalent focal length of 87mm, being exceptionally sharp with an incredible amount of detail all across the frame, even at F2. While editing I found that I did not need to correct pincushion distortion, plus the lens provided a mild amount of bokeh that is nicely linear in nature, complimentary in many situations and easily correctable in others. There is no way to describe the presence that this lens gives to every photo. It is a wonderful compliment to the amazing sensors in the Fujifilm medium format cameras.
The Fujifilm GFX100S camera and the GF 110 f/2 lens combine to offer a 102-megapixel sensor camera with a 110 mm lens that provides fabulous resolution. I suspect I would have enjoyed the lens and the system even more if I stayed longer in Lesotho.