Episode 1 : Pre-travel PrepThis is the first in a series that I’ll be writing to chronicle my photography project through Spain, France, Poland, and the Czech Republic over 3 weeks in the spring of 2016. Click on this TAG to view all of the articles in this series.
I’m heading to Europe on May 19th for a 3-week long photowalk through some of my favorite cities. I’ll be moving through Barcelona, Cadaqués, and Figueres in Spain and will have a day or two to drive up into France to visit the town of Céret where Pausha and I lived for 2 years, as well as the Mediterranean port towns of Collioure, Banyuls and Argelès-sur-Mer.
From there I fly off to Kraków and Katowice in Poland to attend the wedding of my mother-in-law. I’ll have 5 days to explore some industrial areas in southern Poland, visit Auschwitz-Birkenau (which is always quite an experience) and drink truly exceptional beer before hopping a train into the Czech Republic for 8 days in Prague.
With the exception of one day attending (and presumably shooting) the wedding, the remainder of the time is dedicated to urban exploration, finding exceptional eats, and getting my travel tog on. I’m excited for the entire trip, though I’m actually feeling nervous about the first leg and what that experience might be like for me.
Having spent two years living in French Catalonia, I know that region very well and I’m already very well-acquainted with Barcelona and the towns I’ll visit along the coast on the way up and back from France. I’ve also got a loose shot list prepared. And while I am familiar with the area, and I know what is there, I return to the area with a much different eye and as a very different photographer than I was when I lived there. This is both terrifically exciting and mildly terrifying to me.
My travel companion will be my younger (unofficially-adopted) brother Kazdyn, who has visited French Catalonia before, but who has never visited Poland or the Czech Republic, so that’s going to be very fun for us both. And since we’re both Fuji X Shooters, there’s been a good deal of discussion around what equipment will be in our respective bags for the trip.
I mean seriously, 3 weeks will see a lot of different shooting scenarios
I like to travel light whenever possible, in fact, the last time Pausha I were in Prague I totally blew it. I was so tired of lugging a big-ass heavy Canon DSLR around with me, and just sick and tired of photography in general that I only shot a handful of snaps with an iPhone. Well, I’m over that, I’m back in action, and ready to work.
If I were pursuing a single genre it would be easy, but I’m not. I’m shooting for cityscape and landscape prints. I’m shooting a good bit of industrial architecture. I expect to have full days where all I shoot is people on the streets. I’m shooting a wedding…
And then there are the locations to consider. Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia is the most mind-blowing bit of architecture I’ve seen in my entire life and I’m still not entirely clear how I’m going to shoot it. And then there’s Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oświęcim, Poland. Shooting Auschwitz-Birkenau is going to require a light hand, lest I return with the same images everybody else has made there.
I went back and forth on gear for over a month before finally coming up with a solid plan.
What to bring?!?
The Main Course
Okay, let’s start with the main gear. Here’s what I’m working with:
- Fujifilm X-Pro2
- Fujifilm X-T1
- Fujinon XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4.0 R LM OIS Zoom Lens – This is by far one of the best, sharpest and lightest walkaround lenses I’ve used. I do my street photography with primes in most cases, but when the centuries old cityscape is as much the focal point as the people I’m shooting, I prefer to have a zoom to lock in better (more saleable) compositions. I’ve done some incredible things with this lens, at night, as “slow” as it is.
- Fujinon XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS Wide Angle Zoom Lens – A bit on the big side (all things being relative) but this lens brings the drama when desired. Again with the zoom approach. I could bring Fuji’s 14mm prime (which I sold to get back into this wide zoom) but this zoom has an incredible OIS feature on it (Optical Image Stabilization) so I don’t even care that it’s 1 full stop slower than Fuji’s 14mm f/2.8. And since the X-T1 and (especially) the X-Pro2 can see in the dark, I can do with f/4 in the evening.
- Fujifilm 18mm f/2.0 XF R Lens – This is my favorite street photography lens. I shoot wide, and while some streettogs go for a 50mm equivalent, I find that to be far too long. I even feel that a 35mm equivalent is too long. For me, the 28mm equivalent is perfect for street, and that’s just about where this one sits on Fuji’s APS-C sensor, give or take 1mm.
- Fujinon XF35mm f/2 R WR – Fast, crazy sharp, weather-sealed. This one’s a great portrait lens for the wedding. I don’t want to bring my Fujinon XF56mmF1.2 R as it’s bigger and heavier and would only come out at night or at the wedding. I’m feeling the need to cover my bases in the most versatile way possible. I have no fear taking this and either the X-T1 or X-Pro2 out in the rain to shoot as both camera bodies are weather-sealed and a great match for this lens.
- Rokinon 8mm f/2.8 UMC Fisheye – Okay, this one will very likely stay in the hotel on most days, but it’s definitely going with me into Sagrada Familia. I’ve tried to shoot that cathedral with a 35mm equivalent before and seriously, I was not up to the task at the time. Perhaps I am now. We shall see.
- BONUS: Fujinon XF 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 R LM OIS Zoom Lens – Kazdyn wants to use this lens for a short list of high-vantage cityscape shots that we plan to do in the early morning in various locations. I’m lending him this one on the singular condition that he has to carry it. So that’s really not on my back. It’s a good lens and far lighter/smaller than the Fujinon XF 50-140mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR, which I do not own or feel a desire to own. Again, I’m a wide shooter, and I’m actually kind of surprised that I bought the 55-200mm at all. It’s nice to have and I’ve had some need for it but it lives in my camera case and gets dusted off every week but very rarely leaves the house.
- Fujifilm Instax Share Smartphone Printer SP-1 – Okay, I love this thing. It’s brilliant. My Polish is horrible and I won’t be able to communicate very well with 99% of the people at the wedding, but for my brother-in-law who speaks English very well. I intend to print out portraits as I shoot them and hand them out as favors to the guests. I think this will be a fun thing for everybody and will serve to keep people smiling while I’m shooting them in the face. I’m bringing 5 10-packs of prints for it too. This is going to be a lot of fun.
- Nissin I40 Flash – Small, compact, powerful. I almost don’t feel it in my bag.
- Peak Design Field Pouch (x2) – This is one of the best-designed accessories made for photographers. Hell, everything they do is brilliant.
- Peak Design Slide Lite straps for Mirrorless (x2) – Love these. My favorite straps.
- Peak Design Cuff wrist strap – I tend to wear the X-Pro2 on a Slide Lite and keep the X-T1 in the bag with the wrist strap on it with my secondary lens attached. I used to go all Rambo and wear both bodies at the same time but that got old really quickly, and anyway nothing says MUG ME like wearing two expensive camera bodies on you on the streets of Barcelona.
- Ona Bowry Bag – What can I say about this. It’s great, small, hip, made of waxed canvas and leather with closures in all the right places. I love this bag.
- Think Tank Shape Shifter, Photographic Backpack – Okay, this one is a must have for any traveling photographer. While this bag will not be my daily carry, it enables me to pack all of my camera gear, and my 15″ MacBook Pro, iPad, and all of my travel documents and a change of clothes into an airline-ready carry-on bag. This thing is unbelievable. It’s made for larger DSLR camera tech, but it works just fine for a mirrorless system, expands and compresses as required, and is remarkably light, fully-loaded.
Obviously: Chargers, 6 batteries, 10 SD cards, backup Lacie hard drive, etc.
What’s conspicuously missing is a tripod or monopod.
I plan to buy one in Poland or Prague, but I don’t want to have to pack and fly with one, though I may well change my mind. I own the excellent MeFoto Roadtrip Travel Tripod and I love it a lot. I also have the smaller MeFoto Backpacker Travel Tripod. For that matter, I also have the MeFoto Walkabout Monopod/Walking Stick. I may end up dropping one of these into my cargo suitcase, but don’t want to have to deal with the TSA thinking it’s some sort of weapon. I’ll think on this further.
Additionally, I’ve decided to leave my film cameras behind. Too much. It would be fun to shoot film on the trip, but it’s just too much of a hassle, especially when I can simulate it so well with today’s tools and with the Fujifilm jpg film simulations.
And there you have it.
That’s it! I’d love to know if you think I’m missing something that I’ll regret forever if I don’t bring. Let me know in the comments section.
Check back over the next few weeks, as I’ll be updating this blog with travel updates and lots of images of my travels as I’m able to input, edit, and post-process them.
Cheers, and thanks for reading!
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