Traveling with Fuji Cameras

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I recently returned from a trip to Paris, where I shot for 9 days.  This has been an amazing year of travel photography for me, with trips to Seattle, San Francisco, Hawaii, and Paris.   As I unpack my gear, I thought I’d take some time to reflect on several years of experience  traveling with the Fuji X series cameras.

I’d like to start by saying that I love photography, love looking at photographs, and fully believe in the statement “you don’t take a photo, you make one”.  When I shoot I go to great lengths to capture the best image I can, and having the right gear is an important part of that.

Having said that, far too often I see people that look like this when I travel:

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That is just insane to me.  It is a vacation,  not work.  Actually, even if it was work it is still insane.

David Hobby recently created a series called The Traveling Photographer, which is available on Lynda.com.  I have referenced this series before, which has been highly influential on me this year.  Two of the mission critical things he says in that series are:

  1. “If you aren’t being paid to take travel photos, the vacation comes first”.  I can’t, for the life of me, understand why people would walk the streets of Disneyland with multiple camera bodies, huge lenses, a backpack full of gear….. on a family vacation to boot.  What is the point?
  2. “Every possession is a burden”.  This is entirely true.  The more you bring, the more you need to worry about.  The more you bring, the larger a target for theft you are.  The more you bring, the more you need to pack around all day long.

These thoughts have helped shape my approach to travel photography.  When I travel my goal is to take as little gear as possible, but to not compromise the photographs I want to take.  To accomplish this I research my trips a lot before I get on a plane.  I use Flickr, 500px, Google Maps Street View, Trip Advisor, timeanddate.com, etc to figure out many of the shots I want to take, where I want to be when I take them, when I need to be there, what focal lengths I need to bring, etc.  We research our hotels, we research our airfare… why not our images?

Go back and look at the first image in this post.  Unless I need more that is my go to travel kit.  That is all I took to San Francisco.  That is all I took to Seattle.  I didn’t take another carry on.  I didn’t have any checked luggage.  Nothing.  Nada.  Zilch.

That bag is the Think Tank Photo Airport Essentials backpack, which will fit under the seat of all airlines.  In it I have:

  • The Fuji X100t
  • The 2 conversion lenses for the X100t (providing 28, 35, and 50mm fields of view)
  • An SD card wallet
  • 3 extra batteries
  • A remote release
  • The Fuji EF-X20 flash
  • A B&W ND filter
  • 2 camera chargers, my computer charger, and my phone charger
  • A travel tripod
  • My 13″ Macbook Pro
  • 3 changes of clothes
  • The usual toiletries

The Fuji X100t provides amazing image quality.  Absolutely no compromise there.  Add in a variety of focal lengths, equipment for long exposures, a small flash and a tripod and virtually all of my photographic needs are met.

With this kit I walk onto the plane, I walk off the plane.  No worrying about a ton of gear.  No waiting for a suitcase.  It is travel bliss.

Sometimes when I am out shooting I will stuff the accessories into my pockets, and sometimes I will bring a small Think Tank Photo Mirrorless Mover 20 shoulder bag to put them in:

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That bag fits inside the Airport Essentials backpack, meaning I still only travel with the one bag on the plane.

From that light kit I get images like these:

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One tiny little camera.  One fixed lens.  One travel tripod.

No bad back.  No worrying about where all my gear is.  No huge target for theft.  And, most importantly… no compromise in image quality.

Now, there are times when my research shows me that I need a wider or longer lens for the shots I am after, and some decisions will need to be made.

Many photo enthusiasts have a pile of gear that looks something like this:

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Confession:  I took out the accessories, and may have arranged it a little for the photo.  🙂

When this is the case I will pick and chose what I need for the trip.   I’m definitely not going to bring my whole kit “just in case”.

For both Hawaii and Paris a wide lens was going to be important, so I brought the Fuji X-T1 (since replaced with the Fuji X-Pro2) and the Fujinon 10-24mm lens with me.  A long lens was also going to be mission critical for a few of the shots, so I brought the Fujinon 55-200mm lens with me too.

Throw in my ever present Fuji X100t and the total kit, packed into the Think Tank Photo Retrospective 5 shoulder bag, looked like this:

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In that bag you will find:

  • The Fuji X100t
  • The Fuji X-T1 (since replaced with the Fuji X-Pro2)
  • The Fujinon 10-24mm lens
  • The Fujinon 55-200mm lens
  • An SD card wallet
  • 6 extra batteries (3 per camera)
  • 4 chargers (2 per camera)
  • Assorted filters, a remote trigger, etc

To me this is traveling heavy, but when you consider it is all packed into the small Think Tank Photo Retrospective 5 shoulder bag (yes, I have 3 camera bags… it’s a problem) you realize the true beauty of these Fuji cameras:  They provide outstanding image quality, yet are small, compact, and easy to care all day long.

The results?  Here are a few:

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To sum up:

Like many, I travelled often with DSLR equipment before I switched to the Fuji X mirrorless system.  I remember the sore shoulders, the awkwardness of long zooms, and the many ways I annoyed my family with my gear.

Investing in the Fuji X mirrorless system has allowed me to create images that make me happy, with gear that is light and non-intrusive.   For a frequent traveller this is a welcome and wonderful thing.  For a father and husband it means I can have no-compromise gear with me at all times, but gear that does not get in the way of enjoying time with my family.

If you are still lugging around a backpack full of DSLR gear on your vacations I highly recommend you look into the small mirrorless systems.  They are more cost effective, much lighter and easier to carry, and offer amazing image quality.  You won’t regret it.

In my next post I’ll be sharing some images from Paris, truly one of the most  beautiful cities in the world….

Cheers,

Ian

Vancouver Music Photography

ClintPic1(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 zoom lens)

I can’t believe it has been over two weeks since my last post.  It has been an insanely busy summer of shooting, and I have so much to write about (travel, street, portrait sessions, etc).  Today I’d like to share photos from a session with a musician, discuss things that go through my mind during a portrait session, and, of course, share a lot of pictures.

As always, each image can be clicked to view in larger resolution.

Not many people know this, but before my creative life shifted to photography I was a professional musician, playing the usual circuit of pubs, weddings, corporate events, etc.  I love music, love the guitar, and loved every minute of being on stage.  Being able to bring these two worlds together (music and photography) on this shoot was a rewarding experience for me.

This was also an opportunity to continue working with several items I am reviewing for Fuji Canada right now, namely the new Fuji X-T10 camera body, and two of the pro level zooms Fuji offers:  The Fujinon 16-55mm f/2.8 and the Fujinon 50-140mm f/2.8.

Let’s get started:

Whenever I am discussing a shoot with a client I always ask what they are looking for.  In this case Clint wanted some portraits for his website that showed him as open and collaborative.  He  then uttered that phrase that all creatives love to here:

“Other than that, go nuts with whatever you want to do.  I am putty in your hands.”

YES!!!

We shot on location, and in studio, to capture some of the following images:

ClintPic6(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 zoom lens)

ClintPic5(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 zoom lens)

Clint4Version2(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon XF 50-140mm f/2.8 zoom lens)

ClintPic3(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon XF 50-140mm f/2.8 zoom lens)

What you see in the above 4 photographs is really want you get with Clint.  He is the nicest guy you’ll ever meet, and a lover of all things music.  It is impossible not to see his passion for it.

Although focused on getting the above images, we also took the time to be a little more creative.  Moving the light to the side and shooting profile got us something like this:

ClintPic10(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon XF 50-140mm f/2.8 zoom lens)

I love this kind of thing.  A clean background, contrasting outfit, side lit… simple and beautiful.

The last thing we did in studio was to bring in 2 small flashes up high on each side, crank the aperture down to get a starburst effect from them, and placed a gridded flash just on Clint’s face.  Oh, and we added a leather jacket of course.  It is rock’n’roll after all.

That gave us this:

ClintPic8(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon XF 50-140mm f/2.8 zoom lens)

It’s cliche, but I love this kind of thing.

In previous blog posts I have said that I love working with actors, dancers, and athletes because they understand their physicality, and usually aren’t shy about putting themselves out there.  You can definitely add musicians to that list.  We put on some tunes and Clint just jammed along while I shot:

DSCF1960-Edit(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 zoom lens)

ClintPic9(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 zoom lens)

The final shot of the evening was the one at the beginning of this post:

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Where we also shot this:

ClintPic2(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 zoom lens)

What an awesome way to end the evening.

You don’t need a lot to shoot compelling portraits.  These were shot in two places only:  My living room, and an industrial park.  I used one camera, 2 lenses, and a light or two.  That’s it.

That’s just the technical though.  Portraits are about so much more.  Portraits are about the person you are photographing.  Once you have your technical down you need to forget about the camera, make a connection with your client, and build a level of trust where they can relax and enjoy the photoshoot.

For example:  Clint is in his comfort zone on stage.  He owns it:

DSCF1289(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon XF 50-140mm f/2.8 zoom lens)

DSCF1324(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon XF 50-140mm f/2.8 zoom lens)

That definitely made my job easier, but a portrait session is still different.  It is just the two of you, maybe an assistant or two on a bigger job.  It is more intimate, and capturing emotion in a still frame is always more difficult than feeling it during a live show.  As photographers this is where our focus needs to be during a portrait session, and something I am constantly striving to get better at.

Cheers,

Ian

p.s.  Readers of this blog will know I am a prime lens shooter through and through.  I cannot tell you, however, how amazing the Fujinon 50-140mm f/2.8 lens is.  My full review is coming at the end of August, but this is an incredible lens to work with.