talkin bout camerasa blog by Branden Frederick

Designing A "Look"

Published 25 Jun 2018 – Updated 25 Jun 2018

Deciding a Travel Kit

One of those recurring topics in photo enthusiast conversations is the grand decision of what gear to bring while traveling. Obviously you can't bring all your great, for you simply have too much. And you probably want to bring your newest gear, to "try it out" in the field. You may even want to ~invest~ in new gear, since none of the gear you own is adequate for this new demand. This decision requires immense ponderance and careful deliberation – a wrong decision could tear right through all your years of experience and training, rendering your photos prosaic monuments to what could-have-been if only you had brought the right gear.

I know these thinks, because I have done these thinks.

There's a few basics when it comes down to choosing travel gear which get repeated to death, but just to be thorough I'll cover them here, quickly. You don't need to "cover" all focal lengths. Extreme lenses are large, heavy, and not very useful. No matter what gear you bring, your creativity is what's important.

But let's focus: the real decider for your travel kit should be, what is the purpose of this trip? Is the trip specifically for photography? If it is, you bring as much gear as you want, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. But if, like most of my trips, photography is only ancillary, the question then becomes, what photos are you looking to make?

What photos am I looking to make?

This is where designing the "look" comes in. I was privileged to be the official photographer for a youth trip recently, and the requirements were clear: the parents wanted to see photos of their smiling children having fun traveling together, and they wanted to see them daily, on the blog.

This requirement, set so clearly, gave clear drive to gear choice. The camera had to be digital, which for me means the Fujifilm X-Pro2. The X-Pro2, for those unfamiliar, has built-in processing to help stylize photos in-camera, a feature that I take advantage of regularly. For this situation, I knew I wanted bright, clean, cheerful photos. To this end, I used the Classic Chrome film simulation, set the Dynamic Range boost to 200, kept my white balance warm, set the image ratio to square, and defaulted the exposure compensation to +1 (although I did fiddle with it constantly).

The accessories I ran with were two batteries, a wrist strap that connected to the tripod socket, a LensPen and a rag, and a ThinkTank Mirrorless Mover camera bag. I left behind all filters, flashes, tripods, widgets, and doohickeys – those items would just slow me down. For lenses, I brought only the 16mm and 50mm (with hoods instead of front caps). Here's why:

The XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR

XF 16mm f/1.4 WR – This lens is my heavy lifter, and dished up 90% of the photos. It is amazing in its flexibility and utility, especially in the constantly shifting demands of documenting a gaggle of children. This lens flows seamlessly from shooting activities, group photos, action photos, environmental portraits, and every crazy situation we came across. Yes, this lens is wide, and this means I've got to be comfortable walking right up to people and pushing the camera in their faces, but after a day or so of this, the both the kids and I got into the groove, especially when I showed them the photos we were together making. Also, with a wide angle f/1.4 lens and a camera that can shoot at ISO 6400 without batting an eye, there was no situation too dark for me to get good photos out of.

The XF 50mm f/2 R WR

XF 50mm f/2 WR – Filling in the remaining 10% of the photos is this little workhorse of a long lens. As comfortable as we all become around the camera, there are times where you just can't get close enough for a 16mm lens to be effective. And so, rather than pussyfooting around with a 23mm or 35mm lens, I went whole-hog and brought this amazingly-compact short telephoto. For all those times where compression suited a scene, or where spontaneous moments would be broken by a camera in people's faces, or where a more traditional portrait was called for, this lens was on ready duty.

The combination of these two fast, weather-resistant, light weight lenses was all I needed for this trip, and I never wanted for more. I, and more important the kids and parents, was happy with the photos.

But not all cases are so straightforward...

Coming up, we have a family vacation planned. And so again into the arena enter [all my camera equipment plus anything in my budget to buy or rent] and only a small collection (the size of which is determined solely by my restraint) may exit. Because it's a family vacation, and I have an infant, traveling light and not switching lenses often is again a priority. The camera settings will be similar to before, since again I'm trying to convey a fun, happy experience. But unlike before, I hope to also take plenty of landscape and cityscape photos. To accommodate that, the lens load-out I'm considering is the XF 18mm f/2 paired with the XF 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 OIS. The 18mm lens is much more compact than the 16mm lens with a similar view, so I expect this lens to see 90% of the action. The telezoom is in the bag to round out all those awesome compression landscapes I hope we get to see – this lens doesn't get much love online, but as I've said in the past, it is truly Fujifilm's best long lens for my needs. Added to the bag this time would be a circular polarizer for the long lens, but not much else.

The XF 55-200mm f/3.8-4.5 R LM OIS

about Branden Frederick

I am a photographer: I have fun taking photos, and I always have.

I've had a camera in my hand my whole life, a 110 camera as a kid, and the high school's 35mm SLR later. In 2008 I spent six months doing nothing but taking photos and loved it. From that point on I've had my camera surgically attached to my hand (I lie). I went digital in the year 2000, and I came back to film in 2013. My parents tell me my photos are "nice".

bf@branfred.com