Travel Adventures with the FUJIFILM X-T20

Travel adventures with the X-T20

A long time ago, when I got my first digital camera with its staggering 3MP sensor, I found that I almost exclusively used it to visually document my travels whether they be at home in Scotland or further afield. I found it satisfying to sift through my images and share them with friends and family. As the years passed and I invested in more capable camera equipment, I realised that I’d taken a fair number of images but I wasn’t quite sure what to do with them…then I joined Instagram. I started using Instagram as a means to share my travel images and interact with fellow travelers and photographers from around the world. It became my main creative outlet and source of inspiration with respect to editing styles and subject matter. Looking back, the platform definitely played a huge part in encouraging me to take photography a little more seriously.

In 2011, I decided to buy my first DSLR camera. I immediately noticed the jump in quality and the increased control over how I captured my images. I loved being able to record my adventures with my new setup but I was slightly aware that I’d sacrificed some level of portability for higher quality images, something that I gladly accepted at the time. Fast forward to mid-2014 and the mild issue of portability became more of a problem when my wife and I embarked on a 7 month long round-the-world trip. We were lucky enough to explore some fantastic places but the burden of lugging around a hefty DSLR and supporting lenses each day took its toll. Don’t get me wrong, the trip was incredible and I will forever cherish the images captured during those 7 months. But when I returned, I had a peek at the camera market to see if something more portable was available, which didn’t sacrifice image quality.

Hello Fujifilm X Series!

I was introduced to the X series when a friend let me borrow his X-E1 for the day. I took it out for an afternoon in the Scottish Highlands and fell in love with it. The lightweight body was perfect for hill walking and travel and image quality was far from sacrificed – it was excellent. I went on to buy an X-E2 for myself at the next available opportunity. The small form factor, retro styling and the superb X-trans sensor had me hooked. Soon after, I sold my DSLR and lenses and chose to shoot exclusively with the Fujifilm X camera system. In early 2017, when the FUJIFILM X-T20 was announced (featuring a touch enabled flip screen and the new 24MP X-trans sensor) I grabbed one as soon as it went on sale and immediately noticed a number of performance gains. The autofocus system was much faster and more accurate and the controls and dials felt more comfortable to hold, use and customise. Last but not least, the new sensor was simply superb and generated some beautiful vibrant and sharp images straight out of the camera.

Over the following few months, with an improved lightweight camera, I thought it best to put it through its paces and test out the travel-ability of the camera.

Swiss Mountains & Cities

In April 2017, my wife and I packed our bags and travelled to Switzerland. Having never really explored the country before, I was super keen to wander the historic streets of the iconic cities and take in some of those famous mountain views. Our journey started in Zurich and Lucerne before we made our way to the mountains and lakes of Interlaken and Lauterbrunnen.

I guess that because I was brought up in Scotland with easy access to endless dramatic mountains and stunning coastlines, my instinct is to gravitate towards landscape photography. Because of this, I never really flex my urban/street photography when I explore the towns of Scotland. Of course Scotland has some beautiful cities, Edinburgh being one of them, but I find that I struggle to view Scottish urban areas objectively from a photography perspective. So when I travel abroad, I find new and unfamiliar cities fascinating and I tend to shoot in urban environments more readily.

The Swiss cities were a joy to explore. The narrow buildings and characteristic architectural styles are very photogenic. During our visit however, it seemed we’d brought some of Scotland’s famed overcast and rainy weather with us. The dull flat light and constant drizzle made it quite a challenge to get the shots I’d planned. However, one thing that living in Scotland has taught me is that overcast and moody weather can prove to be advantageous from a photography perspective. With that in mind, I put the X-T20 to the test and made use of its excellent low light performance to capture some atmospheric shots of the Swiss cities we visited.

Leaving the cities behind, we jumped on one of the panoramic trains and made our way to the mountain towns of Interlaken and Lauterbrunnen, near the heart of the country. The route was breath-taking with the train weaving between expansive lakes and passing at the foot of dramatic and imposing mountains. Being up in the mountains made me feel right at home as I quite enjoy hiking in the Scottish highlands. I also felt right at home diving back into the world of landscape photography to capture the snow-capped mountains, the beautiful lakes and the iconic rural cottages.

Italian Streets

In May 2017, I hopped on a plane and made my way to the ancient city of Genoa in Italy. As part of a social media excursion, I had the pleasure of spending the weekend taking in the sights of the world renowned city with some fellow Instagrammers. I love Italy and any excuse to go back there is welcomed. The trip also gave me another opportunity to try my hand again at street photography with the X-T20. Most of the weekend was spent exploring the back streets admiring the colourful and photogenic buildings and alleyways. The tightly packed buildings made for some atmospheric lighting when the sun was out and was casting shadows down the lanes. The X-T20 handled the conditions with ease. It’s very satisfying being able to raise the ISO of the sensor to capture the dark streets without fear of adding noise to the image.

Needless to say, the X-T20 has impressed me over the last few months and it’s likely to continue to do so on future adventures. As someone who loves to travel and hates lugging around bulky and heavy equipment, the camera is the perfect fit.

….Now I just need to plan some new adventures to test it out further. If you’re interest in following me on my adventures then check out my Instagram page at www.instagram.com/poetic_mouse

Exploring Lake Como with the X-T2

Travel Diary: Lake Como with the X-T2

In early July 2017, my wife and I broke out our suitcases once again and made our way to the region of Lombardy in northern Italy. Our final destination was a cosy apartment on the banks of Lake Como, overlooking the impressive lake and the surrounding mountain towns. Ordinarily I’d pack my FUJIFILM X-T20 to visually document the trip, but on this occasion I was lucky enough to get my hands on the FUJIFILM  X-T2! So I charged up my batteries, wiped my memory card and dug out my sunglasses. Let me take you on a mini photography themed trip around this iconic Italian lake, sharing with you my thoughts of this thoroughly impressive camera.

By the Waterfront

After a smooth flight from Edinburgh, our adventure began in the city of Milan. We picked up our hire car at the airport and immediately headed north towards the mountains and lakes. The industrial backdrop of outer Milan slowly faded away as we ascended up into the hills; it wasn’t long before we arrived in the bustling city of Como at the southwestern tip of the lake.

We simply passed through the city of Como and joined the winding mountain roads that flanked the calm and tranquil lake. I’ve driven a number of times in Italy but the lakeside roads of Lake Como were something else. Quite often the roads would squeeze into single lanes to pass through the compact villages and towns. It made for an interesting journey.

When we finally arrived at our final destination on the first evening, the light was fading fast so I unpacked the X-T2, grabbed a couple of lenses and took a stroll down to the lake to watch the sun fade away. This was my first real hands on experience with the X-T2 but because there is a comforting consistency with the Fujifilm X Series, I immediately felt at home as the controls, menus and buttons were all so familiar.

As daylight was in short supply and I forgot to pack my tripod, I was forced to shoot at a slightly higher ISO to capture the scenes around me. For those familiar with the X Series, the X-trans sensor still produces beautiful noise free images at higher ISOs so this simply isn’t a problem.
Changing ISO on the X-T2 is very straight forward too, with the addition of a dedicated ISO dial on the top of the camera. Something my X-T20 does not have. I won’t lie; this addition is very convenient as it helps get the camera ready to capture a scene that little bit faster.

Despite the fading light, the X-T2 handled the conditions perfectly and I came away with some lovely low light images from the lake side. I particularly loved it when the sun illuminated some of the hillside towns just before it dropped behind the mountains. The iconic clock towers look extra special when the light strikes them on one side.

Morning Light, Steep Slopes & Isolated Chapels

The following morning, the forecast revealed that we were in for a lovely day full of sunshine. I opted to get up a little bit earlier than planned to grab some images as the sun was rising. The early morning light is always perfect for photography and I seized this opportunity. Our apartment overlooked the lake and a beautifully ornate clock tower surrounded by trees and flowers. Interestingly the clock tower was clearly in need of repair as it chimed at some very unusual intervals throughout the day – despite this, it still looked good as the sun crept over the mountains to the east.

2.1.jpg

Whilst researching the area on places to visit and explore, I found some images of a picturesque hillside chapel located near one of the villages not far from our accommodation. So after a spot of lunch we hopped in the car and went in search of Chiesa del Soldo. The church was accessible from the hilltop village of Palanzo, so we navigated the very steep and winding roads up to the top. From there we set off on foot up a rugged and very overgrown footpath. It was a very hot afternoon so I packed light only taking a couple of lenses and the X-T2. In a previous blog post, I praised the Fujifilm X Series for its portability. It’s one of the many key reasons I love using the system. Carrying the X-T2 and some lenses up a hill in 30+ degree heat is no problem at all thanks to the lightweight nature of the system.

After a 20 minute climb we reached a clearing and got sight of the beautiful and isolated church. Luckily we had the whole area to ourselves with some very pleasing views down the lake overlooking bell towers below.

Colourful Lakeside Towns – Nesso

A few days into our trip, we decided to leave our car behind and take one of the public ferries towards some of the northern lakeside villages. It’s a fantastic way to get a different perspective of the lake and the steep mountains that surround it on all sides. One village that proved to be a highlight of our trip was Nesso. Often when I think of Italy, I immediately think of brightly coloured buildings and streets. For me the vibrant colours are very characteristic of the country. I was delighted to find that Nesso was jammed packed with bright vivid colours that kept me distracted taking photographs for some time that afternoon!

Hello Varenna

As our trip drew to a close, we took a day trip to the lakeside towns of Varenna. To get there, we drove to the town of Bellagio and hopped on a ferry. It was a perfect afternoon, strolling along the water front with an ice-cream in hand and wandering through the colourful streets and squares. I deliberately packed my ultra wide lens, the FUJINON XF10-24mmF4, knowing that I was likely to encounter some narrow streets. The field of view with the 10-24mm is perfect for the back streets of Italy. I particularly liked being able to capture the iconic floral archway with this lens, the converging lines were very pleasing on the eye.

The X-T2

Having shared some of my images from the trip, this leaves me with one more thing left to do….share my impressions of the X-T2.

Well, looking back, our trip to Italy was a perfect test for the X-T2. I was able to put it through its paces by photographing a wide range of subjects, ranging from street photography to landscapes, from brightly lit subjects to dark shadowy streets. With every scene and condition, the X-T2 was flawless. As an owner of the amazing X-T20, the little brother to the X-T2, I was 100% confident in the camera’s ability to capture superb quality images. And the field test confirmed my expectations. I guess the aspects of the X-T2 that impressed me most lie with the construction of the camera itself. The build quality is superb and extra weight certainly makes this feel like a professional level camera. If I were to pin down a few favourite features about it, I think it would be diverse control dials, especially the ISO wheel.

The designers of the X-T2 have placed a focus on ergonomics and have added the necessary dials and buttons to help the user prepare the camera that little bit faster. This can make a huge difference when time is of the essence and every second counts.

All in all, I had a pleasure using the camera whilst in Italy but I sure will miss that ISO dial when I switch back to my X-T20.

Thanks for tagging along on my adventure to Italy with the X-T2, feel free to follow more of my adventures over at www.instagram.com/poetic_mouse.