After having our last international trip to New Zealand and Australia cut short in March or 2020 my wife and I have been jonesing to get back on the road again. We are lifelong travel partners who love to explore new places together. Of course I always have a camera with me which can sometimes be a bone of contention. After 45 years of marriage I’m still working on how to make this for both of us and think I’m close…I think.
We’ve remained close to home for 2 1/2 years which was way too long. Like millions of other Americans, we finally took a trip overseas, this time to Portugal and Spain. It was both delightful and exhausting. But it was a breath of fresh air to finally go someplace new to experience other cultures. We’ve been home for only a week and I’m just now beginning to cull my photographs and process the experience.
Pre-travel gear anxiety
I try to keep my camera kit fairly simple, for example right now the only cameras I use on a regular basis for my Fuji X100v, a Fuji X-Pro2 with a collection of prime lenses and a Leica Q2 Monochrom for street work.
I’ve been using the Fuji X 100 series cameras since 2011 which has been the only camera that I have ever taken on overseas trips ever since. But that hasn’t stopped me from stressing out over what gear to take when I travel. My only caveat is one camera and one lens.
While I really wanted to take the Leica to Europe I didn’t want to limit myself to monochrome in a new place. Also I was venturing into cities famous for pickpockets and petty thieves, and I didn’t want to risk losing it. So, it stayed home and I’m glad it did.
But my experience shooting with the Leica Q2M and a Q2 before that caused me to prefer shooting with a 28mm on the street. It just feels right for some reason. This was the root of my most recent bout with pre-travel gear angst.
The Fuji X 100v (and it’s predecessors) is a fixed 35mm equivalent. Although I’ve used it for many years has begun to feel a little long. When I use it now I often feel too close.
So I got into this quandary, do I just take the X100v and live with the 35 or should I take my X-Pro2 with the 18mm (which is a 28mm equivalent). This sounds silly because it is.
I could have purchased the brilliant WCL II 28mm adaptor for the X100v but it makes the camera feel heavy in the front, is almost as heavy as the X-Pro2 and breaks my self-imposed 1 camera 1 lens rule (which I could have easily broken).
I didn’t decide until I was packing the night before. And I chose the X100v like I’d done every trip over the past 11 years. Sort of like Steve Jobs’ wardrobe. My justification? The new 2.0 lens on the V is really good and it has a flip up screen (which I rarely use).
Also I had my iPhone 12 to use for wide shots when needed. I turned out that I shot with the iPhone more that I usually do and really like the experience and images. Although they sometimes look a little plasticky for my taste. And on two full-day excursions it’s the only camera I carried…with no regrets.
On the plus side the kit is small and light, no lens or camera changing possible and very familiar. The only negative is that zone focusing with the X100v stinks because it is easily bumped out of focus. No comparison to the manual zoom on a Leica lens with that big focus tab. But there’s always a tradeoff.
Non-photographer travel partner
My wife and I met our freshman year of college and we connected mainly because we had friends who attended another university 200 miles away. The first thing we did together was hitchhike to that school to visit our friends (don’t tell my kids). And we’ve been traveling together ever since.
Travel is one of the great loves that we share in life and really enjoy doing it together. Only today, instead of using our thumbs, we travel by plane train and automobile.
We love to explore new places by walking everywhere and will easily cover 10+ miles in a day. This is also a perfect opportunity for street photography…sort of. Because we are constantly on the move my wife and she doesn’t like to stop and wait for me to “work a scene”. And I don’t blame her. After all this is something we do together.
So when we’re together I adapt. I stay engaged in the travel experience but also keep my eyes open for “a moment” or something that captures my attention close by. If we’re near a famous landmark or landscape I often look for other peoples’ reactions to it. Then I’ll make a few quick photos and move on. It’s not ideal but it satisfies my desire to make photos and keep the peace.
My wife has zero interest in photography but has become accustomed to my carrying a camera everywhere. This is the main reason I always travel with a single body and lens. It prevents me from fiddling with gear and forces me to make do with what I have.
However she has an excellent eye for composition and light. Whenever she says that something would make a good photograph I stop and take the shot. She’s usually right (like almost everything else). Sooner or later I’ll get her to pick up a camera.
In Seville, Spain one evening we visited Plaza de España which was originally built for the Iberio-American Exposition of 1929. It’s an amazing work or architecture and even better when lit up at night. It was a beautiful Saturday evening alive with families, friends and tourists.
Suddenly a large group of white clad rollerbladers wearing lights and playing disco music skated through the walkway in front of the buildings. It was rare photo opportunity. I started to walk into the group try to try some close shots of the skaters using a slow shutter speed. I had this vision in my head and I really needed to do it.
But as I neared the group my wife grabbed my arm and pulled me back saying you’re going to get somebody hurt. I immediately thought, “damn I’m missing a great photo opportunity.” But then, that evening was also our wedding anniversary so I let it go. Smart move.
I made a few frames from a distance, none of which are keepers. They would have been more interesting had I been in the thick of things. But we have to make choices in life and I made the right one on this time.
If you’re ever in Seville, be sure to visit Plaza de España at night, it’s a really cool experience. Bring your camera of course.
What I learned from my most recent travel experience
- Next time I travel I’m going to with a 28mm. Deciding how is something new to stress over.
- Leave the camera in the hotel more often and shoot with my phone.
- Keep listening to my wife when she sees a good photograph.
- Enjoy the ride and don’t worry about the photos.
Like golf, photography is a game of inches…the 6 inches between your ears.