Since childhood, I have been fascinated by natural and urban landscapes and dreamed of travelling around the world like the characters from the books that I read at the time. As you can imagine it wasn’t easy for a child to fulfil this dream so I had to wait a couple of years and finally began to travel in my late twenties.Both my grandfather and father were photographers but despite their efforts I wasn’t particularly interested in photography as a child and then teenager. I only discovered my biggest passion while travelling as an adult. At first I just wanted to bring back home some of my best memories, print my photographs and hang them on the walls in my room. From my first big journey abroad to United States I brought back some beautiful postcards and quite a few clumsy pictures taken with my first analog point and shoot Fuji camera. I remember comparing those lovely postcards to my own work felling somewhat disappointed. I decided I can do better than that and for my next trip I bought another Fuji. This time it was digital Fujifilm FinePix s5000, with impressive 3-megapixel sensor and lovely colour rendition. I wish I could tell you I did proper research and compared it to competition before choosing Fuji. Not at all, I simply bought it for it looks. I didn’t say anything to my father. I think I wanted to surprise him with my photographs and when I finally come back I can proudly say that I did. This is how my travelling with Fuji started. I am afraid I may disappoint some of the most dedicated FujiLove readers and Fuji fans but for the next couple of years I was travelling with quite impressive collection of Canon gear.
Over time, travelling and photography become one for me. In fact, I couldn’t imagine one without the other. After all what’s the point of having fancy and expensive gear if you do not travel and what’s the point of travelling if you can’t take home with you your experiences and the places that you visited? I know it is easy to find flaws in this logic but this is how it works for me.
Over the years I visited more than 30 countries and in most of them I was carrying heavy backpack filled with my Canon gear. Every single day nearly 10kg on my back. It was fine at the beginning but after a while I found myself packing less and less in my backpack which then was a bit lighter but still quite heavy by today’s standards. It was always dilemma, which lenses I am the most likely to use, not to mention long consideration if I should take backup body to any of my trips. I never did, it was simply too heavy to carry around all day.
At first there was no alternative. If I wanted decent variety of quality photographs it required heavy full frame dslr in combo with massive and heavy lenses. On the top of it heavy tripod, various filters, spare batteries and a lot of miscellanies items each travel photographer carries for their travels. I am sure a lot of FujiLove readers remember these glorious days.
Suddenly mirrorless cameras become a thing. At first we’ve seen rather simple models that lacked speed and image quality but at least there was hope something will eventually change and I’ll be able to finally travel light. First camera that catch my eye was Fujifilm X-Pro1. I thought it was brilliant but still not a lot smaller and lighter than my backup dslr. Few months later X-E1 hit the market and that was it. I bought one in bundle with 18-55mm kit lens and 35mm 1.4 and added Samyang 8mm fisheye as my temporary wide angle solution and toy lens for a “special effect” photography. I thought it will be great addition to my Canon gear and a backup system for some of my less important and less demanding weekend trips. At the time, I still couldn’t imagine taking this lovely little camera for a serious travelling. It wasn’t weather resistant and it was “only” APS-C. I read some ecstatic reviews of the Fuji X Trans sensor but in my mind since it wasn’t full frame it could only be addition to my serious Canon gear.
Initially I used Fuji only for my short local trips around Ireland where I live. It proved reliable and quite weather resistant for a non-WR-body. It did very well while photographing during harsh Irish weather and what is the most important for me images were quite impressive for such a small toy like camera body. Surprised with excellent image quality and handling I decided to finally take it abroad to Morocco and leave my “serious” gear back home. At first I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea but my backpack finally felt light. Eventually during this trip, I was carrying camera with 3 lenses in a small bag hoisted to my belt. Finally, nothing on my back! It was such a relief. Pictures that I took there only convinced me this is the way I want to travel. I still had my Canon gear (in fact I still have It) but the truth is that I did not take Canon to any of my travels afterwards. Since then I visited more than 15 countries with my Fuji gear. I still use Canon occasionally for my portrait work but since I acquired Fujinon 56mm f1.2 even for a serious portrait photo shoots I take either both systems or just Fuji.
X-E1 was my first Fuji X camera and I have used it for over 4 years. I can honestly say that I never looked back to my old gear while travelling. Suddenly hiking and trekking (especially in the mountains) wasn’t such a big deal and I also found solution to one of my big fears – losing opportunity to take amazing photograph due to the camera damage or failure. In the old days, even though I had backup camera I was leaving it at home because it was making my backpack way to heavy. These days I travel with two Fuji cameras X-T20 and X-T1. This way If one would fail me, I still have a backup. It has another benefit as well, especially in cold, windy and rainy countries – you don’t need to change lenses that often (or even at all) which might be tricky and a bit risky in harsh weather conditions.
I had a chance to test this “two body system” for the first time during my autumn trip to Meteora in 2016. When I travel, I tend to walk a lot – quite often 10 to 15km a day and I never stop for long since there is always so much to see. Stopping and changing lenses even during summer takes time and a bit of effort. Having two bodies solves this problem and protects camera sensor against dirt. Don’t we all hate those little dark dots on our pictures? In dslr’s sensor is less exposed to elements since it’s hidden behind the mirror so dirty sensor is a lot bigger problem for us mirrorless users. In the past I was changing lenses quite often since I always wanted to show place that fascinated me from different perspectives. Same object may have completely different character when photographed on different focal lengths.
In the old days while trying to capture beauty of Meteora Monasteries I would shuffle between zooms. This time I had 18-55 on the X-T1 and 50-230 on the X-E1. It was such an easy and elegant solution. It proved even more practical during my winter trip to Poland when I visited Giant Mountains – Karkonosze. With minus 10 degrees Celsius, strong cold winds and occasional snowing I was happy I didn’t have to take chances with my gear not to mention changing lenses in harsh weather conditions without gloves. During this particular trip I used 12mm on my X-E1 and 18-55 on the X-T1.
Same concept and gear setup I was using during my most recent trip to Iceland but this time I took with me X-T20 instead of X-E1. Even though neither of those cameras is weather resistant I didn’t have any problems with them while photographing in harsh conditions in both Poland and Iceland. The Iceland trip was especially interesting since the temperature was changing every day and I experienced between -5 to 10 degrees Celsius. On the top of it I’ve seen all types off weather including cloudless sky, snow, hailstones, strong winds and all types of rain one can only imagine.
What I missed the most when I first travelled with my X-E1 was articulated screen. I was virtually lying on the rocks while taking photograph of Azure Window on Gozo (unfortunately, this beautiful arch is now gone for ever). Since I prefer to travel light but still love to take long exposure photographs occasionally I need a tripod while travelling. If I go to “not very windy” destinations I always take Gorilla Pod which is small, super light and supports my camera well. The only problem is it is not very tall so if you want to photograph from the ground level you simply need the articulated screen.
Another benefit and the reason why I have chosen Fuji was the fact that I don’t do RAW very often. I enjoyed Canon 5D mk II for many years mostly because of its great jpegs. When I was looking for small backup mirrorless body I was looking at different brands but Fuji was already famous for its straight from the camera jpegs as well as unique ergonomics so the choice was very simple. As to other benefits, small, analog-retro looking body may help you break the ice with local people and they might be a lot more natural and spontaneous when in front of Fuji then professional looking dslr. I also think that this kind of camera is a lot less likely to be noticed by some shady types and because of that you might be safer when photographing in certain areas or countries. Taking all this into account it is very difficult for me to imaging better company for my photographic journeys. In my opinion Fujifilm makes one of the best cameras for travel photographers.