Lemons? Lemonade!

More action photography with the XF100-400mm lens

A little context. First, I am not an action photographer, nor do I see myself going in that direction. However, earlier in the year, I proposed to a race organizer that I would be one of two on-the-water photographers for his world-cup paddling race on the Columbia River Gorge. He agreed. Next I contacted Fujifilm Canada to request the use of the XF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 telephoto lens. They agreed. Married to the X-H1, this promised to be a killer action sports combo (it is).

So, everything was in place last week, for me to capture fast moving paddlers in really big water. At the race start, conditions were truly epic. In fact, conditions were so extreme that 290 paddlers, out of over 700, opted to not race due to safety concerns. I paddled a portion of the same river earlier in the week, with big-but-not-that-BIG conditions. It was great. And I was on the edge.

Unfortunately, the opportunity to capture epic images evaporated as my photo boat developed electrical problems. I was stranded on the beach as the race started. Lemons. Lots of lemons. My next option was to travel to a spot a few miles from the finish, to a location appropriately named Swell City, with the hope that the paddlers would hit this section and provide me with good images. A good idea, except the best line for the race took the racers along the opposite side of the river, rendering them small, not-so-thrilling dots, even with a 400mm lens. More lemons.

Ah, but here comes the lemonade. Right in front of me were much more photogenic windsurfers zipping back and worth, inviting me to capture them. No boat to follow the race meant no obligation to provide race images to the race organizer.* So my focus shifted to the colourful forms of spray-spattered sailboards and sailors. I settled in to capture images and keep the camera as steady as I could in the 40+ mph gusts. A monopod helped. Judicious positioning, and the loooonnng lens hood, also kept spray from hitting the front of the lens, most of the time.

As mentioned above, the combination of the X-H1, with IBIS, and the XF100-400mm lens, with image stabilization, was great for capturing fast moving subjects. I shot in continuous focus mode to track subjects coming at me, away from me and across the frame. The lens seems to make it’s best images up to around 100 meters or closer. I am very impressed with the quality of images captured. Because of the bright (really bright) conditions, I could shoot at f/8 to f/11 at 1/2000 of a second, and keep the ISO at or below 1600. The XF100-400mm lens is heavy and large, but given the equivalent full-frame focal length of 150-600mm, it’s not too big. Really helpful to use a monopod, particularly in very windy conditions. I have returned the sample lens to Fujifilm Canada, however, I am considering purchasing my own XF100-400mm. It has been fun capturing water sports photos with it and who knows, I may be asked to cover another royal visit someday, and the extra reach would definitely help.

Yep. The lens and X-H1 turned lots of lemons into lemonade. Definitely, lemonade!


While I had the lens, I took the opportunity to make a few images of a friend and his sailboat. The reach of the lens enabled me to take tight and wider shots of Ron and Truant, as they sailed near the waterfront.

Truant sailingTruant sailingTruant sailingTruant sailing

*NB: Overwhelmed race organizers do not a professional photography experience make.

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