Why I Took Photos of Rocks With A $2000 Fuji Lens

FujiFilm Australia sent me the 56mm f/1.2 APD lens back in November to test out for a couple of months. The lens has an additional coating on one of the pieces of glass inside the barrel that creates creamier bokeh or softer backgrounds. The lens retails for around $1800AU at the moment.

The 56mm f/1.2 APD is a portrait photographer’s dream lens. Unfortunately I’m a landscape and wildlife photographer and can rarely find subjects to be my portrait victims besides my cat!

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(Alaska the Cat – Fuji XT-1, 56mm APD, f/1.2, ISO640, 1/30sec)

I’ve had this lens for almost two months and I need to send it back to Fuji soon. Rather than chase my family around the house shooting them as unwilling subjects or taking more cat pictures, I choose to take it out with me to a local beach. If you measure beach beauty by the amount of white sand and palm trees, Kitty Miller Beach is not the prettiest beach. It’s got a little sand but mostly it looks like an apocalyptic wasteland of volcanic basalt, columnar basalt and volcanic tuft. It’s a rockhound’s and landscape photographer’s dream beach!

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(Basalt Beach – Fuji XT-1, 56mm APD, f/1.6, ISO200, 1/500sec)

I resisted the strong urge to swap off the 56mm APD for a wide Fuji 10-24mm or 18mm lens. I really wanted to test out what makes this lens so incredible.

Believe it or not, geologists say that there was volcanic activity around Kitty Miller up to 5000 years ago. That’s not a very long time in geologic terms. To the East side of the beach large expanses of black basalt with local protrusions of reddish volcanic tuft is visible. The basalt was laid down as magma flowed across the area and cooled. The Tuft was formed by successive layers of volcanic ash. I headed East.

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(Volcanic Tuft and Basalt – Fuji XT-1, 56mm APD, f/1.6, ISO200, 1/4000sec)

This is a seriously rugged place. The basalt has eroded in jagged formations with no level spots to place a foot. I can assure you I was a little nervous scrambling around here with a high dollar lens swinging from my neck as I hopped from craggy bit to narrow crevice.

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(Basalt Craggy Bits – Fuji XT-1, 56mm APD, f/1.6, ISO200, 1/500sec)

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(Basalt Crevice – Fuji XT-1, 56mm APD, f/1.6, ISO200, 1/1000sec)

Other than testing this lens, the reason I ventured to Kitty Miller was to search for agates on the East side with my daughter and her boyfriend and have a look at the columnar basalt on the West side of the beach.

As lava cooled here, small gas bubbles formed inside. Over time, these hollow circular chambers were filled with crystalline substances. It’s in these gas bubble chambers that agate can be found today. Out in the Eastern basalt field, agates can be found either embedded in the basalt or by themselves, eroded out of the rock and washed in cracks and crevices like little agate marbles.

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(Gas Bubble Agate – Fuji XT-1, 56mm APD, f/5.6, ISO200, 1/60sec)

While sifting through the rubble beds, they found some interesting specimens of rough agate and chert.

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(Rohan Found Some Chert, Fuji XT-1, 56mm APD, ISO320, f/1.2, 1/500sec)

After showing them where the best places to find interesting stones, I started to make my way around the little bay and check out the columnar basalt on the other side.

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(The Tenacity of Life, Fuji XT-1, 56mm APD, f/1.6, ISO200, 1/1000sec)

As I picked my way back around, I began to notice lichen on the rocks. I am always amazed and humbled by the tenacity and resilience of life. Did you know lichen that is bright yellow or orange indicates the presence of animal feces or bird guano.

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(Obviously A Popular Bird Hangout – Fuji XT-1, 56mm APD, f/1.6, ISO200, 1/000sec)

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(Life Finds A Way –  Fuji XT-1, 56mm APD, f/1.6, ISO200, 1/2000sec)

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(Pushing Through – Fuji XT-1, 56mm APD, f/1.6, ISO200, 1/1000sec)

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(Cascading Ruby Saltbush – Fuji XT-1, 56mm APD, f/1.6, ISO200, 1/1000sec)

Between the basalt on the East and West side, there is a little patch of sand that could be called a beach. I found a few interesting things there like this pink seaweed. It’s seriously very pink! If you know the specific kind of seaweed or can tell me why it’s pink, please let me know.

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(Unidentified Pink Seaweed – Fuji XT-1, 56mm APD, f/1.6, ISO200, 1/4000sec)

And there are always an abundance of Neptune’s Necklace around beaches on Phillip Island.

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(Neptune’s Necklace – Fuji XT-1, 56mm APD, f/1.6, ISO200, 1/4000sec)

And to seriously show off this 56mm APD lens, I got down low and tight for this shot. Check out the shallow depth of field and the beautiful creamy foreground and background.

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(The Necklace Low & Tight – Fuji XT-1, 56mm APD, f/1.6, ISO200, 1/4000sec)

Walking over to the West side of Kitty Miller’s you’d think you were in a totally different place. There are no protruding red tuft beds and the basalt is not craggy and treacherous. As a matter of fact, it looks like someone has assembled black legos or better yet, packed black pencils next to each other. It’s very structured and ordered.

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(Columnar Basalt – Fuji XT-1, 56mm APD, f/1.4, ISO200, 1/2000sec)

This type of basalt structure is called columnar basalt and is caused during cooling of the lava and some stress is placed on the lava causing it to crack in a hexagonal pattern.

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(The Moss & It’s Hexagonal Home – Fuji XT-1, 56mm APD, f/1.4, ISO200, 1/4000sec)

There were areas just visible at low tide where it was very easy to see this patterned fracturing.

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(Basalt Puzzle – Fuji XT-1, 56mm APD, f/1.4, ISO200, 1/2000sec)

And where the basalt has been exposed to the elements (and birds) it gets pretty dramatic looking.

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(Columnar Basalt Roost – Fuji XT-1, 56mm APD, f/1.4, ISO200, 1/3000sec)

At this point, feeling like an addict, I switched to the 10-24mm and took some wide shots of these rock formations. After about 5 minutes of shooting my wide angle shots I became a little frustrated with myself and the fact that I had switched lenses when I intended to shot the whole trip in 56mm APD. I quickly switched back to the 56 and confessed my sin to the Beaked Mussels in full 56mm APD style.

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(Beaked Mussel Choir – Fuji XT-1, 56mm APD, f/1.4, ISO200, 1/2000sec)

I felt a lot better after that. I felt at peace. I could now return home knowing that I put the 56mm APD to good use and had some sample shots to show for it.

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(Rocks & Bunny Tails – Fuji XT-1, 56mm APD, f/1.8, ISO200, 1/4000sec)

Would I recommend this lens. You bet. Have a look again at the images from my hike today. They are beautiful in sharpness, tone and bokeh. If I were a portrait photographer, this lens would be on my ‘must get’ list.

As I reflect, I realise that although I don’t really need this lens, it taught me something today. It taught me to always challenge my perspective of the world. To not think in terms of ‘Landscape Wide’ and ‘Wildlife Zoom’ but to get down on my knees or stomach and consider the beauty right under my nose (or feet) and be more patient and considered when out with my camera. I found shapes in rocks, lichen, seaweed and even mussels that I had not appreciated before.

Thank you Fuji Australia for the opportunity to try out this lens.

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(New Perspectives – Fuji XT-1, 56mm APD, f/1.6, ISO200, 1/2000sec)

Why I Took Photos of Rocks With A $2000 Fuji Lens
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