This past weekend, Kathy & I made one of our periodic visits to Waynesville, North Carolina. Waynesville is our favorite mountain town to visit for a weekend, because it is easy to get to, there is a nice little motel right in town that we like to stay at, and there are a number of excellent hometown restaurants that we enjoy checking in at.
As it turned out, Saturday was supposed to be a craft fair, where they close Main Street for the day and fill it with vendors and craftspeople. Unfortunately this year’s show was a bit of a washout, although I understand the craft vendors did very well in spite of the rain, but the food vendors didn’t fare as well because no one wanted to eat standing in the rain. Can’t blame them!
I did manage to take some photos around town, and on Sunday we drove to Asheville for the afternoon. That will be the subject of another post, because I have a completely different set of photos. So for now, here is a little taste of fall from Waynesville, North Carolina, courtesy of me!
This may not be of interest to many people, but I’ve gotten several questions regarding my impressions of the Fuji XT1 and figured that summarizing my thoughts would be potentially interesting. I’ve rather enjoyed the process of choosing, buying, learning and setting up a new camera. It’s a lot like buying a new house or car, just on a much smaller scale. I’ve enjoyed the little bit of customizing that can be done to personalize the camera. There isn’t a lot you can do with a camera other than straps and covers, but that’s enough for me.
The first decision to be made was which lens to buy. When I decided to buy the camera I was figuring that it would be primarily my travel camera until I decided to part with my Canon gear. For travel my choice was between one of the two excellent “kit” lenses, either the 18-55 f2.8-4 or the 18-135 f3.5-5.6. I had rented them both when I was trying out the XT1 earlier in the year and liked them both. The 18-55 is small and compact, and the f2.8-4 aperture range lets in a lot of light. I opted for the 18-135 because of the range of focal length. I really like to have that much “reach” in a single lens, and the slower f3.5-5.6 aperture was less of a concern, because most of the “walking around” photography I do is at f5.6 or smaller in order to have plenty of depth of field.
I probably could have stopped there and would have had a lens to cover 90% of everything I shoot. But once I decided to make the XT1 my only camera, I wanted to be sure and have lenses to cover the other 10%. Once I knew how much I was going to get for the rest of my Canon gear, I realized that I would be able to buy a few more lenses. I was tempted to opt for the 16-55 f2.8 and the 50-140 f2.8 because they are the so-called “pro” lenses in the Fuji lineup. But they are nearly as large as the Canon lenses they would be replacing, the 16-55 lacks the amazing Fuji IS, I hardly ever shoot at f2.8 and with the 18-135 I pretty much already had that range covered. So for about same money as one of those two lenses, I opted for the 55-200 f3.5-4.8 and the 10-24 f4. The best part? My camera and three lenses fit neatly into a little shoulder bag that I can take anywhere. No more backpacks!
I did decide that I “needed” a prime lens to round out my kit and have ordered a 23MM f1.4. It arrives later this week.
My one complaint when I first tried the XT1 with the 18-55 lens was that it was pretty small for my hands. The larger 18-135 helps with that a lot for the left hand, but there still isn’t a lot for the right hand to hold on to. To correct that problem I ordered the Fuji grip, opting for the larger version, and a thumb rest from Lensmate. The thumb rest doesn’t help as much as I thought it would while shooting, but it does give me a comfortable place to rest my thumb while I’m carrying the camera. And the grip is great! It provides a nice gripping surface for my right hand and doubles as a quick release plate to work on my RRS ballheads. The only downside of that grip is that it is not an L-bracket, and I use an L-bracket a lot for landscapes. I don’t much care for the RRS L-bracket and it is pretty pricey, so I have ordered one from Photomadd in the UK. It is currently enroute and I’ll report on that once I have it and have tried it out.
I went round and round about straps. I really like using a wrist strap, but there are times when a shoulder strap is a better option. So I was looking for a system with easily interchangeable straps. I considered a number of options and finally decided on the Peak Design system. It is a very nicely designed system with quick releases that you can actually work one-handed, and they sell a kit that has both a wrist strap and a shoulder strap, along with some extra quick releases so you can use it with more than one camera. It was a little tough to thread the quick releases through the little holes in the strap lugs, but I found that a piece of dental floss helped to thread the needle. I can carry whichever strap I’m not using in a pocket or fanny pack and change it out easily whenever I need to.
The camera comes with a little accessory flash, which is probably OK for occasional fill but is not something I would want to use for paying clients. So I bought Fuji’s EF42 flash but I haven’t used it yet. I’ll definitely get it out and work with it before something important comes along!
Batteries! The only downside I’ve come across so far is that the camera eats batteries. I bought two extra ones when I ordered the camera, and recently added two more for a total of five. Even with the EVF turned to auto and the back screen off, it still eats power like (choose your analogy), and I can get maybe 200 shots on one charge. There are times when I’m not sure 2-3 batteries will be enough, so better to have more than less. I thought about the battery grip, but it’s big and expensive. Plus I don’t think it would eliminate the need to carry extra batteries.
The thing that most attracted me to the XT1 is the quality of the files. I can’t really put a technical finger on it, but I think a lot of it is due to the excellent quality of the lenses. The colors, the contrast and the sharpness are “just right” to me, and have a feel to them a lot like what I saw from my Mamiya 7 using Velvia slide film.
I’ve read a lot about how finicky Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw can be in processing the RAW files, especially sharpening and noise reduction. I’ve found this to be pretty much a non-issue. I have set up a couple of Develop module presets using Adobe’s version of the Fuji film styles with a few of my custom tweaks, and find the files to be excellent. I have been shooting RAW+JPEG in order to have the JPEG files as reference, and am about ready to switch over to RAW only. The good thing is that I could easily shoot in JPEG only and would have very usable files, perhaps with a bit less of the exposure latitude I can get with RAW files. I’ve never had much success with Black & White, and admittedly don’t have much experience with it, but I find that the Fuji B&W profiles are very appealing to my limited aesthetic. The camera’s dynamic range is very good, and I have had very few issues getting what I want out of a file. One thing I have not done yet is make prints, and it will be interesting to see how the Fuji files translate to paper. Soon, I hope!
Controls and Menus
I haven’t had a chance to do much customization, but in general I’ve found the controls to be well laid out and easy to use, and there are a lot of menus but the navigation is not too difficult. The Fuji allows for a lot of options for the functions of various controls. As far as exposure goes, at first I found myself shooting in Auto mode a lot and with Auto ISO, because I was interested in seeing what the camera will do. It works great for outdoor shooting, but indoors or in low light, I find that the camera is biased toward larger apertures before it cranks the ISO, and there are times when I need a smaller aperture. Even though it is a so-called “crop sensor” camera, the APS-C sensor still provides for pretty shallow DOF at larger apertures. I’m looking forward to seeing what the 23MM 1.4 can do!
So while I dipped my toe in the water early, I quickly decided to jump in head first! I have a lot more room in my closet, have several backpacks that I may or may not use, and have a really nice ThinkTank rolling bag that I may have to convert to regular luggage! 😉
We all get attached to our equipment in one way or another, and the more we use our cameras and get familiar with them, the more attached we become. But over time our needs change, technology improves and we end up making a switch. Sometimes making that switch can be hard, sometimes it can be easy.
I tend to be a pretty loyal guy by most standards. Kathy & I will be celebrating our 35th anniversary later this year, although that probably says more about her willingness to put up with me than it says about me! I tend to drive cars much older than most of the people I know, and I wear clothes until they are hopelessly out of style. I used Canon digital SLRs from my first one in 2005, and my first digital camera was a Canon G5 point & shoot. Over the last 4 years I have owned 4 Canon bodies and a bunch of lenses.
Full-sized and full-frame SLRs have become the standard for a lot of photographers. While there are and have been real and demonstrated advantages to larger sensors over the years, a lot of the so-called conventional wisdom has been as much marketing driven than anything. And that marketing was very effective, because the quality was very good, and because none of us wanted to be left behind. Over the years, the price tags of these big cameras and their accompanying lenses got bigger and bigger. The cameras themselves didn’t get bigger, but new lenses added to the collection and didn’t replace anything. Old bodies became backups or converted to infrared, and our camera bags and our closets kept getting more and more full.
A lot of people have more camera equipment than I used to have, and some of them actually use it all! But once the gear I was using stopped fitting into a big Think Tank rolling bag, I knew it was time to make a change. The big bag was hard to get in and out of the car and took up a lot of space. Traveling by air with a lot of equipment is no treat, as it is physically a pain and can be challenging with all the security rules. I knew that the airlines were very unlikely to let me take my rolling bag onto a plane, so I got what I could into a backpack and carried it on.
Our recent vacation to Colorado was probably the turning point for me. I had already been contemplating a move and had rented an Olympus OMD EM1 and a Fuji XT1, which I actually rented twice and was pretty sure I wanted to buy. The trip to Colorado proved to me that if I was going to continue to travel the way I want to, I was going to have to make a choice, and that choice was probably going to result in carrying less stuff. That combined with the fact that the next Canon camera was likely to render all of my ancient lenses obsolete, it made sense to start making the change now rather than waiting.
My original plan was going to be to sell off just my surplus gear and replace it with the Fuji and a single lens. I would continue to use the Canon 5D Mark III as my primary camera and would have the XT1 as a backup, instead of the old 5D. Made sense and I was ready to roll. I had previously decided to just sell my stuff to B&H, because I didn’t want to mess with Ebay or Craigslist. I did offer my stuff to a few select friends that I thought might be interested, but getting no takers I filled out the online form with B&H, liked the prices they were offering and sent off a box of old gear to the B&H used department. About two weeks later I had a gift card worth enough to pay for the Fuji, a lens and some extra cards and batteries. Sweet!
Back to that loyalty thing again – I’ve never been fond of owning different types of cameras and always having to decide which one to take with me and which one to leave at home. My philosophy has tended toward buying a camera that best suited my needs and using it for everything. Why bother with a camera that isn’t my best camera? That way I never have to worry about it – I always have my best camera with me, so if there is a shot worth taking it is worth having the best camera for. Despite our best guesses, there is no way to know ahead of time what kind of photographs will present themselves and whether the camera I chose to take with me was suitable. If I only have one camera, I always have my best one with me!
So between processing the Colorado photos from my Canon cameras and waiting for the Fuji to arrive, I started looking back through the photos I had taken with the two rental Fujis. I was and am very impressed with the quality of files out of that camera. I think before the UPS package even arrived I had decided not to wait. I did wait, but decided that I was going to sell the rest of the Canon gear and buy as much Fuji stuff as I wanted. And as it turned out I sold off all my Canon gear, bought the XT1 and four lenses and still have a little money left over!
So there’s that story. I know the real questions are about how I feel about the XT1. But that will need to wait until my next post. Fear not, though. It is mostly written, so I just need to come up with a few more photos!
Kathy & I paid a visit to the Charlotte Regional Farmer’s Market yesterday. We don’t get there often enough, and every time we go I’m reminded of the availability of fresh foods from local and regional farms. It’s also an interesting place to take photographs, although from a few of the pictures, a few of the people didn’t look too happy to see the front of my camera. Maybe they were Nikon or Olympus fans. 😉
It probably wasn’t the best place to use a wide angle lens, but I hadn’t had much time to use the 10-24 and decided to use it there. All in all I think the photos came out pretty well.
I have this need to do a new wallpaper periodically. Sometimes I post them, sometimes I keep them to myself. This one looks like one to share. Taken over Labor Day weekend in Swan Quarter, NC. It’s a place I return to often, and there’s something about these boats that attracts me. Sometime maybe I’ll need to talk one of the captains into a tour. And maybe a fishing trip.
Kathy & I spent an extended Labor Day weekend visiting eastern North Carolina, generally the towns of Belhaven and Washington, NC. We’ve become friends with Andy & Karen Fisher who own Belhaven Water Street Bed & Breakfast in Belhaven, and we like to get out there a couple of times a year. We checked our records when we got home and realized that we’ve been going to Belhaven and staying at this B&B since 2007. And I like to joke that, even though we are friends with Andy & Karen they still charge us to stay there! Of course I am completely joking – it is worth every penny, plus I think she does give us a discount.
Other friends James & Yvonne McKelvey operate Wine & Words…& Gourmet in Washington. Just like it sounds, they operate a wine store with used books & music plus yummy food items. We make the trek to Washington a few times a year because James specializes in good wine at good prices. Our palates are very similar and we can count on his recommendations being spot-on. It’s a long way to go for wine, but it’s just another excellent reason to head out that way.
Another reason I love to visit the Belhaven area is that I have a number of favorite photo spots. I’m a firm believer in re-visiting places, and there are a number of places in the area that we visit every time we are there. This time, I had some new equipment to try out, and what better place to try new equipment than a place I have come to know and love?
We usually spend at least part of a day walking around downtown Belhaven and Washington, and this year was no exception. While much of the scenery doesn’t seem to change much, every so often I come across something new and interesting. And sometimes just the change in light and shadow creates something I haven’t seen before.
Another place we like to visit is Swan Quarter. While known to most people as the place to catch the ferry to Ocracoke, we’ve come to know it as a place with interesting fishing boats. About the only time we visit the ferry terminal is to use the restroom, because there aren’t a lot of alternatives in that area! Swan Quarter is home to Hobo Seafood, and a number of boats dock there. There seems to be something new every time we visit.
Another place we enjoy returning to is Englehard. It is home to several fish houses and has a fairly good size harbor with a lot of boats. It is often a good spot in the late afternoon, but this time we were there closer to mid-day. Fortunately it was a day with good clouds, so with good timing I was able to make some photos I am happy with.
Something new for us on this adventure was a visit to Aurora & Oriental, across the Pamlico River from Bath & Belhaven and accessible by road or ferry. We took the 30-minute ferry ride over and back. It is a fun way to travel and a nice break from driving. Plus the ferry itself always has a few photo ops! While we were there we came across RE Mayo Seafood in Hobucken, NC and another batch of fishing boats. We had lunch in Oriental and spent a little time exploring, but decided that we needed to head there for a whole day when we had more time. So it is on the list for a return visit!
I’ll write later about my thoughts on the Fuji X-T1, but suffice it to say that I am very happy with this little camera and have no regrets at all about making the switch. I’m still learning the ins and outs but every time I use it I feel like I’m working with an old friend.
Just when you thought we were done with Colorado photos, I came across this collection that I had held back from the Fort Collins photos to do a separate post on our tour of New Belgium Brewing Company. We had a great tour leader and he told the story of the history of the company as well as a lot about the current plans for expansion and new products. It sounds like a great place to work!
I had a conversation recently with my favorite bartender Brian about different versions of cocktails. I had asked him to make me a Negroni, because I had never had one before and I knew that “his” version would be a good example of what the drink was “supposed” to taste like. Brian likes to tweak ingredients and often makes his own. The classic Negroni is made with one part gin, one part vermouth rosso (red, semi-sweet), and one part Campari. Pretty basic, and if you made one with just the bargain basement variety of ingredients, you’ll get the classic cocktail. But add in Uncle Val’s Gin, Carpano Antico Vermouth, Aperol instead of Campari, and you kick it up a few notches. Brian’s comment to me was that when making a cocktail, if you didn’t start with good ingredients it didn’t matter what you did but just wouldn’t get a good drink.
I think a good photograph also needs to start with good ingredients. You can’t take a boring photograph and turn it in to something amazing using only software. I recently read a caption on Facebook that had me shaking my head:
“I processed the five image HDR via Photomatix Pro with deghosting, double tone-mapping, and a Photograph subset. Final editing in Nikon Capture NX2. This was a tricky situation as I was at the site at high noon when there was so much contrast and haze in the sky. I also did a Black & White subset adjustment to the final image as well.”
What that tells me is “I was there at the wrong time of day, the light was terrible but I took a photograph anyway, hoping I could turn it into something interesting in software.” What that tells me is that it was time to find something more interesting to shoot, or else go have some lunch.
Sorry, just a bit of a rant, but I had a really good bartender story and this seemed like a good way to tell it. Oh, and I also have a few new photos to share. Enjoy!
It’s about time I wrap up the Colorado posts and move on to something new. I think this pretty much takes care of the highlights from our visit to Colorado, so unless I come across some other gems or find something that is appropriate for another topic this will just about do it.
I’m always a bit disappointed in myself when I realize that for all the time I spend walking around a town, I’m always paying attention to the “Tom” shots but I forget about the “tourist” shots! I did a better job in Grand Lake and Estes Park, but I don’t have a single “street scene” from Fort Collins, and it was my favorite town that we visited!
I did end up with a pretty nice collection, and I know someone will say that I did a good job of capturing what I saw. But I also saw a lot more, but I can’t prove it because I didn’t take any pictures!
So anyway, tourist photos or not, please enjoy this tour of Fort Collins.
It’s been nearly two months since we got home, so it’s about time to be done processing and posting photos, and time to move on! Alrighty, I’m on it! 😉
These are a few lingering photos from the “East” side of Rocky Mountains National Park. It’s easy to see why the Estes Park side of the park gets a lot more visitors than the Grand Lake side. There are a lot more “destination” places on the east side than there are on the west side (so named due to their relationship to the Continental Divide).
When we arrived on the east side of the park, we stopped at the Fall River visitor center and asked a ranger for advice on some of the less traveled areas of the park, since while we wanted to see the highlights, we also wanted to see some quiet places. While he indicated that there weren’t many truly “un-busy” places there were a few.
Most of these photos are from the Bear Lake area and the Grand Basin area. We found, just like in most other parks, the farther we got from the parking lot the fewer people there were. So that’s probably the secret – assuming you can find a place to park, find a trail and go!
Here’s the story on the Aspen photo – a little embarrassing but here goes. I had been on a bit of a quest for photos of Aspen, and I had a vision of what I was looking for. I wanted a good motion blur shot, but I also wanted a shot that showed the trunks against the green background. Since we weren’t there in the fall for yellow leaves, that would have to do.
I saw this tree and knew that it could be what I was looking for. I took two shots with my camera, checked the LCD and was convinced that I had gotten what I wanted. We had been hearing thunder for a few minutes and it was just starting to rain, but at the last minute I took out my phone and took another shot of the tree.
As it turns out, I hadn’t checked the settings on my camera and forgot that I had adjusted it for slow water photos. The two camera photos were shot at 1/15 and 1/25 second and are a little soft, too soft for my standards – a rookie mistake! Fortunately my phone saved the day and I ended up with a pretty decent photo. I may even try to print it!