From Venice to the Dolomites With the Fujifilm XF18-135mmF3.5-5.6

· 15.August.2019

This summer, I had the intense pleasure and ‘awe’ experience of leading one of my photography retreats through two completely different parts of Italy.

The event: ‘The Artist’s Voice: Venice & The Italian Dolomites’. It was attended by a group of Artist’s Voice alumni, who were game to take the whole idea of ‘think and see different’ to whole new levels. Our theme: ‘Storytelling & The Power of Awe’.

Getting there was my problem; travel restrictions seem to get tighter every day! Less weight, smaller packs and suitcases…what’s a packrat to do?

Enter my Fujifilm XF 18-135mmF3.5-5.6. This is an older lens that, in my opinion, is an unsung hero. Those of you who already use it know exactly what I’m talking about. This little weather-resistant lens rocks my world. My back, neck, shoulder and creative muse are simply in love with it! One lens, many stories…who could ask for more?

Normally, it’s super challenging for me to photograph for myself when I’m teaching, but this lens may have just changed all that. I never had to think about which lens to use — it was already on my camera!


It was hot, muggy and buggy.  I sure as heck didn’t feel like lugging two cameras around or changing lenses every time I saw things from a number of perspectives, which I tend to do. “Keep it simple!” is my motto – and I love narrowing my options to one lens wherever possible. Let’s hear it for artistic constraints! In my opinion, simplicity and constraints are key to focusing creative vision. For me, that meant it was just me, my X=T3 and trusty XF18-135mm on the loose in the floating city of Venice.

Water: it defines this place. Whether floating in it or swirling above it, buildings, boats and laundry each have such poignantly illustrative stories to tell.

X-T3, XF18-135mmF3.5-5.6 ISO 320, f/13, 1/105 sec Handheld

X-T3, XF18-135mmF3.5-5.6 ISO 200, f/22, 18 secs Really Right Stuff travel tripod LucrOit 10-stop filter & holder system

People on the fly? I normally prefer primes for that sport, but the 18-135 was so quick and sharp I never had to hesitate!

X-T3, XF18-135mmF3.5-5.6 ISO 2000, f/10, 1/18 sec Handheld

But what about birds on the fly? In the pocket, my friend!

X-T3, XF18-135mmF3.5-5.6 ISO 400, f/16, 1/350sec, Handheld

I wondered how it would handle my beloved intimate views. They’re such key elements in how I see the world and the stories I love to tell. Thing is, I don’t want to drop out of my ‘creative zone’ to fuss with gear. I just want to see it and capture it — no muss, no fuss.

But I needn’t have troubled my mind for a moment…

X-T3, XF18-135mmF3.5-5.6 ISO 320, f/5.6, 1/450 sec, Handheld

Add that signature Fujifilm colour representation to the mix and photographing on the island of Burano became pure joy, despite the heat…

X-T3, XF18-135mmF3.5-5.6 ISO 500, f/13, 1/420sec

By the way, I love messing about with filters and settings. In fact, I change Highlight Tone, Shadow Tone, Color and Sharpness (found in the Image Quality Settings) so often that I keep them in My Menu for use on the fly. White Balance has its own dedicated button.

Fujifilm has always opened my mind to possibilities and artistic license, which is one of my favourite things about my ‘artistic paintbrush’. This inspiration extends beyond the camera and into post-processing, which I found surprising when it first started happening.

X-T3, XF18-135mmF3.5-5.6 ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/50 sec, Handheld

The Italian Dolomites

Next, it was off to the mountains. For this part of our artist’s journey, I brought along the Fujifilm XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8 — another oldie but goldie. I used this one maybe ¼ of the time. I’m definitely glad I had it, but I relied mostly on the 18-135 even there!

From the broadest and grandest landscapes…

X-T3, XF18-135mmF3.5-5.6 ISO 500, f/16, 1/160 sec, Really Right Stuff Travel Tripod

To the more intimate views…

X-T3, XF18-135mmF3.5-5.6 ISO 500, f/10, 1/200 sec, Handheld

My rangey, sharp, light and versatile 18-135 took it all in its stride and kept my load so light I felt like I was floating, even on the uphill climb!

X-T3, XF18-135mmF3.5-5.6 ISO 640, f/5/6, 1/3000 sec, Handheld, Photo taken by Thomas Buergi with my X-T3 and 18-135mm

My card filled every day with images and stories of an incredible range of awe-inspiring moments, without ever losing stride or changing lenses.

While I was at it, I put Fujifilm’s Advanced Filters to work for some one-stop altered reality goodness. This one is the Miniature filter:

X-T3, XF18-135mmF3.5-5.6 ISO 400, F/9, 1/350 sec, Handheld

Just like the quiet little 18-135mm, we artists are often underdogs, the overlooked, the underestimated. When we express our true creative vision, we are certainly disruptive to the status quo. I think this is a wonderful thing! (Check out Seth Godin’s talk, ‘Your Job Is To Make Art‘. Or forget for a moment that these words aren’t about a company but imagine they describe YOU.

In this way, we are always in service of a greater vision, which is the whole point, isn’t it? That’s why I love my little unsung hero, the XF18-135mm, so much — and Fujifilm in general . They are both invitations to be the truest artists of our hearts, minds and souls. To be disruptive to the status quo and to limitations in all the best ways — and to see the wild beauty of our world with fresh eyes.

My journey has become immeasurably more fun and awe-inspiring because of them both.

Karen Hutton

Karen Hutton is a professional Fujifilm X-Photographer, and international landscape and travel photographer. Through stunning imagery, humour, thought-provoking ideas and a genuinely positive outlook, she inspires people to discover their artistic voice in photography, while making it all feel like an unforgettable and eye-opening adventure.

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