Living in Northern Ireland you can’t always guarantee the weather especially when venturing up into the Mourne mountains. Weather sealed lenses and cameras are essential even in the height of summer. I was recently tasked to captured the Garmin Mourne Skyline MTR race, a gruelling 35km run with a total elevation of 3370 meters; it would be a challenging race in the dry but throw in Storm Brian and the challenge is acutely concentrated.
Fortunately, I wasn’t running it but documenting the start and latter stages of the race although this still involved climbing one mountain and suffering the challenge of Storm Brian. Equipped with one of my trusty X-T2s, the Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR and the X50-140mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR I knew I had every situation covered.
Partnered with the X-T2 both lenses offered fantastic performance. I set the X-T2 in continuous focus mode so was able to track the runners as they appeared through the mist. The X-T2 offers 5 default continuous focus settings and a 6th option that can be completely customised by the user.
To be honest I haven’t had the need to venture beyond setting 1, the all-round multipurpose mode. Mode 1 was perfect in the trail running setting and back at the computer I didn’t discard a single image due to focusing concerns.
One of the challenges of shooting in fogging or misty conditions is having enough contrast for the autofocus to perform accurately but the X-T2 excelled. The biggest challenge with shooting runners descending a mountain through a cloud was keeping rain and moisture from the lens especially. It wasn’t long until nothing was dry and my lens cloth was saturated within the first few minutes of arriving on Donard’s saddle.
No matter how confident you may feel about the letters WR every photographer will still make every effort to ensure their gear stays dry but this was simply impossible as we reached mid-afternoon and the throes of worst of Storm Brian. That said, it was reassuring to arrive home and dry off and re-check my gear to find everything perfect.
I shoot a combination of RAW and JPG and I suspected that the mist would have impacted massively on the contrast and blacks. At the computer, I was ready to disregard the JPG files and focus on the RAW images but I was wrong, the JPG files are so good from the X series camera I often wonder why I both with the RAW option at all. I was able to draw out the contrast and blacks from each JPG with very little effort using Lightroom.
You can see that on the start line I was able to use the JPG files SOOC.
Later at the top of the mountain the JPGs needed just a little adjustment to balance the shadows.
XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR
The XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR has to be my first choice for any general documentary project or general walk in the mountains. It’s a remarkable versatile lens with a constant f/2.8 aperture it’s ideal for live music photography in small venues and the wide 16mm focal length is ideal for mountain landscapes. It’s stunning.
The combination of the two lenses meant I had the ability to shoot wide at 16mm all the way through to 140mm (200mm full frame equivalent). Combining this massive focal length range with the continuous focus system on the X-T2 really is the ultimate for sports photography. I am looking forward to the next Garmin Mourne Skyline race, again definitely behind the camera!