Claire Rosen’s trip to Jordan began with the oryx – an animal feared to be virtually extinct since the 1970s, but which is now making a reappearance thanks to conservation efforts across the Arabian Peninsula. She took the FUJIFILM GFX 50S on location with her, aiming to add to her project The Fantastical Feasts. We caught up with Claire on her return, keen to hear about her experiences shooting medium format on the move and to find out how she went about tracking down the elusive oryx.
Claire Rosen“The oryx is the national animal of Jordan, a country I knew very little about until my sister moved there last year. Eager to visit, I decided to investigate this magical faraway place. With the medium format FUJIFILM GFX 50S in hand, I began an unexpected adventure, with the Indiana Jones theme song in my head. The oryx seemed like the perfect addition to my ongoing project, The Fantastical Feasts, a conservation-minded series of whimsical panoramic photographs depicting animals reveling around elaborate banquet tables. The series utilizes the icon of the feast and The Last Supper and aims to encourage viewers to consider those in the animal kingdom in a more humanlike way."
“Everyone wanted to help me find the oryx, but no one seemed to know exactly where they were. I had used my exhaustive network to come up with many leads, but still had nothing concrete. So we decided to camp in the desert in Wadi Rum, without knowing exactly how we would find these elusive creatures.
“That first night, with the moon rising over an expanse of delicate waves of sand, I forgot about the oryx entirely. We took out the GFX 50S to see what it would capture in the darkness. I was truly surprised that, in the middle of the night, with only the moonlight to illuminate the landscape, the GFX 50S was able to capture this scene. Shooting at 2 secs at F4, ISO 2000, there was very little grain or digital noise.
“The next morning, we had every intention of setting out early to meet a contact who claimed to have access to the oryx, but thanks to a miscommunication that resulted in us being stranded in the middle of the desert with no cell phone reception, we missed the window to connect.
“Once finally back in civilization, we spotted a coffee stand by the side of the highway and headed over to regroup and caffeinate. A bit discouraged, we discussed whether to abandon the oryx or keep trying. The owner politely interrupted in Arabic (which was translated by my sister): “Are you looking for oryx? My cousin used to work in the breeding program, he can bring you there.” The project was explained, showing examples of other images in the series on my iPhone, and within 15 minutes we were riding in the back of the cousin’s truck, to pick up the keys to a private oryx breeding sanctuary.”
“When the oryx began to approach, I was grateful for the camera’s silent, mirrorless shutter, which was critical in not scaring them away. I shot lots of frames and the best expressions were later combined to create the final image, with the help of retoucher Becci Manson from The Post Office in NYC.
“After an incredible shoot with the oryx, we headed back. Our new friend suggested Arabian horses, and no sooner had he said the words we were headed to a new location. But there was just one problem: after a frantic search, it became clear that the charger for the camera was still somewhere in the desert!”
“As the sun set on Little Petra, the GFX captured rays of light and held detail in both the highlights and shadows of the Nabataean architecture and the extravagant dining table I set out for the small band of camels. I shot with my camera set to 1/125 sec at F13, ISO 250 and captured this incredible vibrant earthy color using the Velvia Film Simulation mode. Again, the camera’s battery still had plenty of charge, even after hours of shooting.
“There is a magical way that things just seem to fall into place when I’m working, and the FUJIFILM GFX 50S was the perfect companion to turn these opportunities into beautiful photographs, which will make epic large-scale prints.”
Claire Rosen is a FUJIFILM-compensated professional photographer.
To see more of Claire's photography, including images from her project The Fantastical Feasts, visit her website. To learn more about her creative process, check out her book, IMAGINARIUM: The Process Behind the Pictures
Behind the scenes photos: Wesley Noonan-Sessa and Lillie Rosen