In photography, I’m a firm believer in the mushy lump (i.e., the photographer) behind the camera rather than the fanciness of the kit he is shooting with. Great results can be had by just about camera these days but one of the most common questions I get from you guys is regarding my camera gear and workflow for the photos on Handcarry Only. So, instead of replying to each person by email, I figured I might as well write a post about it.
The days of chunky black cameras
For the longest time, since I first started ‘serious’ photography (meaning: photography as more than a means to ‘prove’ my participation in various events and holidays), I had been shooting with a SLR camera. First, the Canon 50E (yes, it shoots film), then the digital Canon 10D, Canon 5D and finally, the Canon 5D mark II. I have always appreciated the vast range of lenses available, the good ergonomics, and most of all, the image quality from these big, black, chunky metal boxes. Nevermind that I would often have red welts on my shoulders from lugging these anchors and their requisite variety of (equally heavy) lenses around whilst travelling. One had to suffer for his art right?
Enter the Fujifilm X-Pro1
When I made the decision to go on sabbatical in 2012 to travel to Africa and South America, I started to think long and hard about my willingness to carry my 5D mark II and L lenses on what would be a backpacking trip, probably one involving numerous journeys in sometimes more than a little dodgy buses and nights in hostel dormitories. Also, the sheer weight of the metal and glass, hauled over long distances by foot, might actually do more than a bit to detract from the enjoyment of the trip. With that in mind, and the then recent release of the Fujifilm X-Pro1, I ended up selling my Canon 5D mark II and getting the Fuji. The X-Pro1 promised a DSLR equivalent image quality, with a minimal weight penalty. The fantastic Fujinon primes that launched with the X-Pro1 sealed the deal.
I went ahead and bought all three of the initial prime lenses, the XF 18mm f2, the XF 35mm f1.4 and the XF 60mm f2.4 to go with my new Fujifilm X-Pro1, giving me the full frame equivalent focal lengths of 27mm, 52.5mm and 90mm. I would have loved a 35mm equivalent but as of now (April 2013), the 23mm from Fujifilm has let to be released.
Lens cap? What lens cap?
The X-Pro1 and all 3 lenses fit in a beautiful Billingham Hadley Pro with room to spare (for extra batteries, maps, a water bottle, passport, mobile phone, wallet and various other unidentified crumpled pieces of paper which have lingered in the pockets for far too long. I have dispensed with the fiddly lens caps on the 3 Fuji lenses, using only the lens hoods and B+W UV filters for protection.
Post Production Workflow
For a good number of months since I first got the X-Pro1, I shot in jpeg only as my image editor of choice, Aperture, did not support Fujifilm RAF files. At some point, I got tired of waiting and switched to Adobe Lightroom, which despite initial quality concerns with the RAW conversion, supported the RAF files produced by the X-Pro1. By all accounts, Adobe have since improved the quality of the RAW conversions, although I don’t pixel peep enough to notice the difference, but I’ll just take the word of the internet tech experts for it.
I use VSCO Film presets to treat most of the images, as I like the softer, more organic look it affords the digital images, not quite the same but reminiscent of my days shooting film with my favourite stocks like Fujifilm Reala, Provia 100, Velvia 50, NPH 400, Neopan 1600 and Kodak 100VS and Portra series of films. I usually tweak the settings a bit to taste and level out horizons but generally don’t spend too much time post processing the images.
I believe in ruthless culling of photos, only the relevant ones that tell the story of the destination or my experiences in the place get online. I hate viewing all 534 of someones vacation photos and try my utmost not to put Handcarry Only readers through the ordeal.
Let me know if you’d like to know anything else in the comments below and I’ll be glad to share.
I left my job as an advertising Creative Director in August 2012 to travel Africa and South America for a year with my wife, documenting these beautiful places with my Fuji X-Pro1. View the rest of my RTW adventures on Handcarry Only and follow me on my journey by subscribing/following/bookmarking.