Preparing to Shoot Cross Country

I’m not someone who likes to stick to the status quo when it comes to photography — I prefer to see if there are some ways to improve something, so, as my daughter’s cross country races are approaching, I started preparing for carrying all the equipment for the job. In this case, since I quit my Canon 7D kit cold turkey, I’ve got to figure out how to make my Fuji X-T1 work the way that I want it to, and I encountered some surprises along the way.

Problem #1: The X-T1 + 50-140mm (my preferred combo) is front heavy

I’ll explain the details in another post, but the solution is surprisingly simple — attach the tripod collar to the lens, then rest the tripod mount in the palm of your hand.

It still seems awkward to me, but it works surprisingly well (but I have long fingers so your mileage may vary).

Battery grip vs no battery grip

With the Canon 7D, I liked using the battery grip for cross country (shooting vertically), but with the Fuji X-T1, the battery grip just doesn’t feel right with long, heavy lenses. Even after using the tripod collar for support (see above), the shallow grip still feels inadequate as I still have to dig my fingertips into the grip rather than use my whole hand to grip the camera (as I did with the battery grip on my 7D which made it fit like a glove).

However, shooting vertically with the X-T1 + MHG Large hand grip (not the battery grip) is surprisingly good. Similar to shooting with the 7D, so this is how I will go.

20160830 211534 DSCF0744 X-T1_Crop_DCE3

Now, when I shot zip lining of an entire troop of Girl Scouts (nearly 2 hours of shooting vertically), my right arm died shooting the Canon 7D without a battery grip which is why I got the battery grip, but I’m not shooting every cross country runner, so my shooting is in bursts as runners that I know come into view.

**Update** I ended up trying to shoot every runner from my kid’s school as they passed and this setup worked very well.

Tracking moving subjects with an EVF

When I first got my X-T1 over a year ago, I had a hard time tracking moving subjects with its electronic viewfinder (EVF) AFTER I held down the shutter button for several shots in a row. The EVF is fine before, but the black out period between shots is not quite good enough for an optical viewfinder (OVF) user.

Jump to more than a year later and having shot spring kids (non-competitive) soccer with only the X-T1. For me, this kind of soccer is in very short bursts. Players on my kid’s team don’t keep the ball long and I was fine getting good shots.

To warm up for cross country, I shot my younger daughter’s soccer practice like I was shooting cross country and found tracking moving subjects dramatically easier for consistently moving subjects. Not perfect every time, but not as frustrating as it was when I first got the X-T1.

20160830 191139 DSCF0684 X-T1 continuous focus 5fps evf

(The above is zone focus, continuous focus, 5fps, no cropping (straight out of camera), moving from 69 to 54mm according to the EXIF.)

The brain is amazing. It adapts to its environment which is why many of us tell new shooters to just shoot your camera a lot.

For irregular movement, the X-T1’s EVF is still much harder to use than OVF, but I hear the X-T2’s blackout period is much shorter (which makes the X-T2 very tempting to me).

Let me emphasize again that shooting action with the Canon 7D’s OVF leaves you feeling very confident, but I was unhappy with the results that I got from the Canon. Shooting with the X-T1 requires practice, but I like the results better (and with less processing needed).

(FYI I found that both the Canon 7D and the Fuji X-T1 had the same number of out-of-focus shots, but I hear that the focusing system on the X-T2 is much better. I have no experience with the Canon 7D Mark II to say anything about it.)

Carrying

Last season, I did not have my DIY dual camera harness which is similar to Hold Fast Money Maker dual camera harnesses. Instead, I tried two methods:

  • I tried just using a sling strap, but the pressure on one shoulder (with the heavy, long lens I was using) eventually hurt quite a bit.
  • I also tried a backpack with a Peak Design Capture Clip on its strap. This is a good option when we are out walking around, but cross country has a lot of standing and waiting, so this would get hot on my back and also hurt by lower back.

This season, I’m planning on using my DIY dual camera harness so I can shoot both wide and tight using both wide and telephoto zooms. This is also how I shoot events.

Spiderlight Hand Strap

You may have noticed the red Spiderlight Hand Strap in some of the pictures above. Although, I technically don’t need it since I’m carrying the camera with a harness. I’m also not going to bother removing it, so I can avoid having to re-attach it for other use. It stays out of the way and isn’t a problem so far.

Wish me luck in this setup.


**Update**

Everything worked great.

Tracking runners wasn’t as easy with the X-T1’s EVF, but doable. If I shot action for a living, I would definitely be eyeing the X-T2, but the X-T1’s lower cost works fine for my family photography.

I also had to get in the habit of NOT zooming when initially focusing with the X-T1. That confused the autofocus system and it wouldn’t shoot right away, but locking focus first, then zooming worked mostly fine.

I’ll post some photos soon.

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