Vacation Photography with Only Two Primes

· 1.December.2015

I love photography, but I am not a fan of vacation photography. Let me explain. Unless my vacation is a photo destination trip (it rarely ever is), taking pictures is secondary to relaxing with my wife. It becomes more convoluted  when vacationing where we have family and relatives with obligatory visits and gatherings. I also review cameras for a living, so you can see why taking pictures on vacation can easily become stressful and complicated. This is why I am very selective when choosing my photographic equipment. Size and weight is actually more important to me than megapixels and focus speed. Equipment familiarity is just as important. For the Fujifilm portion of my equipment selection I chose the X-T1 body, the new XF 35mm f/2 WR and the XF 14mm f/2.8. Now let’s get shooting!

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I have access to any Fujifilm camera body or lens so why choose two primes? Wouldn’t two zoom lenses and one fast prime be way better for vacation? Perhaps the XF10-24mm f/4, the XF16-55mm f/2.8, and the XF56mm f/1.2? Nope. Not interested. Too big, too heavy, too much equipment. Both the XF35mm f/2 and the XF14mm f/2.8 are compact and light, and both focal lengths are very purposeful. The XF35mm (or 50mm equivalent) is a classic focal length for street photography and the XF14mm is the classic 21mm equivalent ultra-wide angle lens. This is all that is necessary in terms of lens choices. However, because I have 2 legendary focal lengths, this does not guarantee me great images still. Why not?

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The more lenses I review, the more I realize that it matters less about what you shoot with and more about shooting with what you already have. This is why the less lenses you have, the better images you can create with the lenses you do have. If I owned and brought the XF16mm and XF23mm instead of the XF14 and XF35, these lenses would have defined my style prior to the vacation and helped me create great images when I am far away from home. My point? Don’t buy a specific lens or body for an upcoming vacation unless you learn to shoot with it long before your trip. You do not want to waste your vacation trying to learn how to shoot with new equipment. Although I prefer the lighter weight and compact size of the X-T10 body, I chose the X-T1 since I was more familiar and comfortable shooting with it. When I shoot with the X-T1, I know exactly where everything is and how it will behave while shooting under pressure.

DSCF9712-1 copy What do I mean by shooting under pressure? As I mentioned initially, I find vacation photography stressful. The best way for my photography not to interfere with my vacation is to either incorporate my wife into the images while walking (look at my first and last image of this article), or else I shoot in short spurts of time while my wife is temporarily distracted (very easily achieved in Hong Kong). Because I learned to shoot under pressure (wedding, commercial and sports photography) I was competent at shooting quickly and within a very limited time frame. I did have the option of shooting alone and free of distraction by getting up very early in the morning, and I did so on a few occasions. My best pictures? When I was shooting under pressure and randomly while with my wife. You can tell that all my images were spontaneous and conceptualized very quickly. There was no time to think!

DSCF9779-1 copyAs a side point, I must admit I felt obligated to bring the X-T1 and the new XF35mm f/2 WR (check out my previous post). I had the pre-production lens and was one of the few reviewers who would post a review on the day the embargo was lifted on the XF35mm WR. However, this still coincides with my original statement about being ‘forced’ to shoot with what you have. Because I ‘had’ to shoot with the XF35mm f/2 and X-T1, I was forced to learn to shoot with this combination, which helped me take better pictures. I also decided to bring one more lens to compliment the XF35, my favourite ultra-wide XF14mm f/2.8 (check out my review here).

Moreover, knowing ahead of time what each lens could do for me in the field, I shot quickly but with ease. I could ignore the gear and focus on getting my images since I knew the limits and strengths of each focal length. I also knew the limits of the X-T1 body. However, within these limits I had complete freedom from overthinking any of my shots. I saw, I shot, I moved on. I rarely chimped.

DSCF9753-1 copyMy final thoughts about vacation photography? As much as I say I was stressed and under pressure while shooting, I really did enjoy the challenge. I did not want to fumble with equipment so keeping my kit small and simple was the key. If you have multiple lenses and bodies, choose the lens and body combination you are most familiar and comfortable with. Try not to learn new equipment while on vacation. To me, that’s like trying to train for a marathon while running a marathon. Vacation time is so limited and the time you spend shooting is even more finite. Focus on creating images, not on learning new gear. Happy shooting.

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