Street Photography in Wide Angle with Fujifilm XF10

In case you have missed out, I recently got myself a compact wide angle Fujifilm XF10 (click here), and just before the lockdown/movement control order was imposed in Malaysia, I managed to bring the camera out for a few spins on the familiar Kuala Lumpur streets. I did purchase the Fuji XF10 with the intention of using it for wide angle street photography specifically, as it would motivate me to force myself to use the fixed length at 28mm equivalent, with no distractions and other options to switch to my usual longer focal lengths when I am out there shooting. Thankfully I went out almost every single day in the first week of January and managed to get myself sufficient content to continue to blog here, share my photography and experience, and update my YouTube channel. 

On the channel, I am sharing the exact same images from this session, but I made a video with a different topic. Instead, I was sharing my Black and White Photography tips there! Check the video out here (click). 

Wide angle is not my favourite weapon to use when it comes to street shooting. I fully acknowledge that the traditional classic street photographers generally prefer to work with something wider, 35mm, 28mm, or even 24mm, to have more context within a frame, to be able to go close to the subject and yet fit as much as possible within the composition. I get the idea and concept, but I personally prefer to work with something much longer, say 50mm, or even all the way to 100mm to selectively frame my subject. I just don't want to have so many things inside my frame, I am a simplistic person and I always go for minimalism when I compose my images. However, I do admit that giving myself such excuse means that over time I have accumulated less experience using wide angle. It is not that I am bad at using wide angle, or I refuse to use it. When I need it, especially for my professional jobs (weddings, portraits, products, events), for example to take a group photograph, I will not hesitate to switch to wide angle. In a situation where necessity is not an issue, if I have an option, I have always opted for longer focal lengths. 

Therefore, starting 2021, I did want to explore my lesser used focal lengths, and why not start with wide angle? That was where the Fuji XF10 comes in. I was genuinely intrigued by what this tiny little camera can do, and honestly I am not too concerned about the slow AF (I am getting way too much unnecessary flak from disgruntled users hearing me complain about this, but the truth is the truth), I am ok with the flaws of the camera. All I wanted was a good wide angle lens to work with, and a small, beautiful camera that I want to bring out and shoot. Without the ability to change lens. I am NOT buying into another mirrorless system at this moment (so please stop suggesting X-Pro, X-T or X-S whatevers, I AM NOT INTERESTED thank you for your kindest concerns). 

And just because I got the XF10, that does not immediately make me a Fuji fan. Please people. You don't feed a person sushi once, and expect the person to like it forever. 

Having said all that, my experience shooting on the street with the Fuji XF10 has been generally very positive. There are problems, I do admit, I did miss shots due to the slow response time (on top of the slow AF), and I could not burst as fast as I did with my OM-D system, but it got most of the shots. The most important thing was me being forced to see in wide angle, something I am still learning, something that I am still adapting to. I may not be all great in shooting wide angle yet at this moment, but it is work in progress. It takes time, and I am willing to put in the effort. 

I think the biggest challenge for me, having used longer focal lengths over the years as a preference, was to be extra mindful of things that creeped into the frame. It was so easy to just look at the main subject within the wide angle composition, consider how near I was, how straight the horizon was, and how balanced the images looked before I pressed the shutter button. Then there was accidental inclusion of some elements or background that could potentially ruin the entire image, like a rubbish bin, or distracting road sign which I could have done something if I paid more attention in the first place. And generally to get the images to look right was more of a challenge, because wide angle fits in a lot more, and to make sure all elements work together and balance off each other was no easy feat, at least not for me. 

I see a lot of people claiming wide angle is superior when it comes to street photography, but at the same time I am also seeing too many sloppy composition. While some shots work better on wide angle, some clearly benefit from longer focal lengths, that is just a plain simple truth that die hard wide angle users refuse to admit. A slight tilt in the wide angle frame can change the perspective so much, the shift in angle can produce an awkwardly skewed image, the face of a person may look badly distorted, or the body does not look proportionate. This effect is less consequential when longer focal lengths like 50mm is used. It is not that easy to use wide angle, and I find that not many people care that much, or they don't see how bad wide angle can be if not carefully executed. 

I don't consider sneaking up to a person pointing a 24mm lens inches away from the face and the "boom" a flash direct into the poor stranger's eyes a work of art. That is DISGUSTING. Don't ever do that. That is utterly disrespectful, intrusive and it gives street photography a bad name. I know a lot of popular big name photographers live and die by this technique, but I beg you to please reconsider and remain respectful to human subjects, always. Be kind, don't be a jerk. That is a bad, bad use of wide angle and all those stupid excuse of getting "instant reflex" or "genuine reaction" are just pure bull. They don't make compelling photography. They are just lazy, and quite frankly, poor in taste. 

I'd love to do a lot more portraits but unfortunately, everyone was required to wear their masks now (rule mandated by the government) and I don't want to ask anyone to take off their masks, with the risk of being arrested by the officials/police. There are security cameras everywhere, and there are plain cloth authorities/policemen running around. Not being able to shoot that many human portraits allow me the opportunity to find other interesting things to frame. Not a big issue for me, as I am always in love with the streets and I am happiest when I am out there with my camera. The entire Kuala Lumpur city is my playground. 

Why did I do everything in black and white? Well, I did want to make a video to share my black and white photography approach, that was the main reason really. I don't mind shooting anything in color or black and white, I like both. I generally lean to color, because I like the skin tone of people, and in Malaysia we have such diverse mix of different people living together, it is often fun to have a series of portraits with different skin colors. Nevertheless, doing everything in black and white further pushed me to really pay attention to my composition as I can't use color as the main attraction in my images. I have to really see the light, shadow, lines, patterns and overall framing. 

Malaysia is still currently under lockdown, and it will be quite a while before I can go out again and be able to capture similar images as shown in this blog entry. I miss going out for shutter therapy sessions. What else can I do, but to stay put in my own tiny little room, be a responsible citizen, so I don't end up in jail and pay unnecessarily hefty fine? My soul hurts for not being able to do street photography, but I guess we do what we have to do, and hopefully the lockdown is eased or lifted sooner rather than later. 

I hope you have enjoyed my sharing of shooting in wide angle, with Fuji! Let me know your thoughts!

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  1. Although I tend to prefer colour photography, too, I think the upward shots of the tower blocks and the sky really work well, with the sky and clouds having what Olympus might call "dramatic tone". Great pictures!

  2. If you could get your hands on one, a comparison to the Ricoh GR iii would be VERY interesting.