Photowalk with a Pro and a Model: The Fujifilm Photowalk Hosted by Kara Mercer

The other day I received an opportunity usually reserved for working or aspiring professionals: The chance to have a guided shoot with a Fujifilm X Professional Photographer FOR FREE! Fujifilm Pro Photographer Kara Mercer hosted the event, bringing along a metric ton of lendable gear, but more importantly, a wealth of knowledge and an outgoing attitude you usually don’t find between photographers in the pro photo world. What you usually will find is that photographers are great at communicating with strangers and models to help get the shots they want but they immediately close up when an aspiring photographer approaches. Kara was none of that. She was ready and willing to share every bit of knowledge she’s attained and did well to explain what her eyes and brain see in the moment, effectively communicating those details for everyone to understand.

For someone like me, my brain doesn’t see things in a creative way. Standing outside the circle of people who attended allowed me to listen in on the conversations she had with others. It offered me the chance of a lifetime to interpret the way she sees the world through one eye and use it immediately to observe things in a different perspective.

Since you don’t know me, I’m in this for landscape photography. For me, it’s supposed to be relaxing: to get away from people and slowly photograph the sights around me. It allows me to extend my creative ability by working on composition and trying to see things differently. It’s relaxed and enables me the freedom and opportunity to create. Exercising my right hemisphere to try and counteract years of traumatic brain injuries. Photographing people is stressful to me and the way my body processes stress differs from most; I become pragmatic and all creativity goes out the door, along with other symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress. However, this opportunity was just too beneficial to pass up.

Group shot. Model: Rachel Noe (IG: @rachienoe). X-T2, 50-140mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 200, SS 1/420
Group shot on the dock. Model: Rachel Noe (IG: @rachienoe). X-T2, 50-140mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 200, SS 1/170

The event, for me, started great, fell off, then hit a high point near the end. I got there early and ran into Kate Hailey, another pro photographer who’s been instrumental in helping me observe more intently and helped to take my abilities up a level or two. My early appearance ensured my chance to try out the Fujifilm GFX50S, the main reason why I chose to attend. I wanted my experience to be short and sweet to ensure others had a chance to use it, so I immediately set up my tripod and walked off to capture a range of test photos with it. And that’s where the whole thing came off the rails… the group moved on to another spot in the park. After becoming separated from the group, an hour had passed before I was able to get in contact with Kate and eventually meet back up with them. By them I’d had the GFX for an hour and a half and I was feeling guilty as hell.

Model: Rachel Noe (IG: @rachienoe). X-T2, 50-140mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 200, SS 1/300

I immediately turned in the camera and lens, unpacked my personal X-T2 and 50-140mm lens, and hovered around the group while trying to listen in on what Kara had to say. While others snapped away at Rachel Noe, our professional model hired just for the event, I used my setup to shoot at a distance, not once communicating with Rachel, wanting to let the other photographers get in all of their shots as the guilt of holding the GFX for so long paralyzed me.

Model: Rachel Noe (IG: @rachienoe). X-T2, 50-140mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 200, SS 1/250
Model: Rachel Noe (IG: @rachienoe). X-T2, 50-140mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 200, SS 1/320

Despite the time coming up on 1900, with the event scheduled to end at 1930, Kara wanted to take us down to a public dock that sits in the shadow of the Aurora Bridge. On the way we stopped at a public bench lined with a row of hay and took more shots of Rachel. I took a few more shots, again from a distance like a paparazzo.

Model: Rachel Noe (IG: @rachienoe). X-T2, 50-140mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 200, SS 1/250
Model: Rachel Noe (IG: @rachienoe). X-T2, 50-140mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 200, SS 1/340

Once we arrived at the dock, I’d wished I’d had the GFX again. Instead of bothering others for the camera, I swapped lenses on my X-T2 and took a few shots from the tripod, getting one of the better landscape shots I’d shot all day and an opportunity to learn how to create a composite image.

Model: Rachel Noe (IG: @rachienoe). X-T2, 50-140mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 200, SS 1/220

After the event wrapped around 2000 and everyone had left, Kara and her husband were left with a huge pile of camera gear. Because the event was free and witnessing how much Kara and Kate had put into teaching, I stuck around to help sort the gear and get it packed up for return. I felt an extra half-hour of work was a small payment for the opportunity I’d experienced.

George Washington Memorial Bridge, aka Aurora Bridge. Fremont, WA. X-T2, 16-55mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 200, SS 1/30
We’re heron the dock… X-T2, 16-55mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 200, SS 1/900

A day later, I finally went through the photos taken during the event. While most of the shots were technically fine, only a couple came out that I truly liked, but that’s how it goes. The knowledge gained far outweighed the results coming off my memory card.

I want to thank Kara Mercer for hosting the event and really sharing everything and anything she’s learned over her years of photography. A thank you to Kate Hailey for helping me get back on track once I got separated from the group but also for helping make the event run smoothly. Without her, we would’ve had a lot less time shooting and  valuable perspective during the shoots. At least in Seattle, Fujifilm has done a great job in selecting photographers that not only have vision, but great skill and desire to share what they’ve learned with others.


All images copyright © 2018 oakie. All Rights Reserved. Images may not be used without written permission.

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