I've owned my Fuji X100T for a little over a year now and absolutely love it for its portability, stealthiness and image quality straight out of camera. But it wasn't until tonight while walking about Minneapolis' annual Art-A-Whirl festival did I think of using the remote shooting feature available via Fujifilm's Camera Remote app. My use of this app in the past has been limited only to using wi-fi to transfer images from my camera to my iPhone. I have to say, though, the remote shooting feature is really cool. For my use, I simply had my X100T sling-strapped around my neck and hanging chest high just in front of my right arm pit. I then rotated my body while watching the live view, adjusting aperture and exposure compensation with the app. The shutter release button is big and red, easy to find and press for the shot. Not that I really needed any more reasons to love my X100T, but I found one nonetheless. Highly recommended.
Drove from Saint Paul to La Crosse this morning. Temps were hovering just around freezing, conducive to winter fog. Made for beautiful landscapes ... and dangerous driving conditions ... at the same time.
First, let me admit the obvious -- the photos posted here aren’t flawless. I made plenty of mistakes using my new Fuji X100T on our family’s recent trip to Italy. In looking at some out-of-camera jpegs on a larger screen, it became clear that I hadn’t mastered focusing technique. For example, too often I used servo-mode autofocus with too-shallow depth of field (e.g., aperture priority f4.0). Since returning home, I’ve read about zone focusing and other ways I could have achieved superior results. However, I’m not hung up on these technical errors. Instead, I’m absolutely thrilled with the instant memories these images have created for me and the possibilities of the Fuji X100T as a street photographer’s dream!
Italy is a feast for the eyes. Around every corner lies a spread of visual delights. Ancient ruins, medieval fortresses, marble statues, Venetian canals and rolling Tuscan hills greet you in gasp-after-gasp splendor. But it is the people of Italy who truly bring this country to life!
The richness and depth of their culture is reflected in the expressive eyes of everyday Italians. To capture their visages, I had my X100T on a Peak Design Clutch wrist strap 90% of the time, making the camera instantly accessible. In some cases, I did request my subject’s permission for a photo. In most instances, however, I shot in more stealth fashion, holding the camera in my right palm at waist-level, with my thumb on the release and the lens aimed 90 degrees to the left. The compactness of the X100T made this ergonomically feasible -- something I could never do with my Nikon D600. I had the X100T set on silent mode so there was no audible click upon shutter release, an invaluable feature in street photography!
My favorite photo of the entire trip, excluding those that feature my family, is the one I’ve dubbed “Monterosso Matriarch”. I had observed this lovely older woman in the fishing village of Monterosso Al Mare in the morning carrying groceries up steep stairs to her home. I spotted her again later that evening, seated on a bench and still wearing the same recognizable cotton house dress. She stared ahead with a piercing gaze, seeming a bit lonely. Her weathered skin, walking cane and visible veins suggested a long tenure here – and thousands of accumulated stories. I have since regretted not engaging her in conversation and can only hope to amend this mistake in the not-too-distant future with a return visit.
On Monday, the family split along gender lines, with the boys taking a day trip to Siena and the girls staying in Florence to shop. We slept in a bit and had breakfast at Hotel Roma, then Sam and I walked to the train station to buy tickets to Siena. We took a stubby regional train that had only four cars and moved as fast as the steam engine from Petticoat Junction, stopping in about six towns along the way. The slow speed wasn't necessarily a problem, as it allowed for good views of the Tuscan hillside.
Upon arriving in Siena around 12:30, Sam and I took a series of escalators from the train terminal up the steep hill, arriving at a shopping mall. Sam was hungry, so he had a quick slice of wood-fired pizza in the fast food court. The closest thing resembling American pepperoni pizza here is one with some type of salami. He can't wait to get back home to get some authentic Jack's frozen. We then walked a bit, first through the gates of the medieval wall and then directly to the town's main square, or campo. Rick Steves says this is the best piazza in Italy. It slopes gently from back to front in amphitheater-like fashion, with the tower and city hall acting as impressive backdrops for what would be center stage.
Our mantra for the day was to relax. We didn't want to get caught up in any line-waiting, so we decided to skip the bell tower climb and opted instead to find a seat in the shade on the campo. We did some people and dog-watching, spotting a cute little pup near us napping at his owner's feet. One of the running family jokes on this trip is that we comment how every dog we see looks like our dog Wally. In that regard, Wally has been likened to pomeranians, german shepherds and pit bulls. In this case, though, the furry little beast actually did look a lot like ours and had us beginning to think more of home. After resting on the campo, we walked to Siena's famous cathedral. Now with the benefit of hindsight, I commented to Sam how I wished we had gone to the cathedral first to visit its interior and climb its facciatone to get panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. By this time, though, the lines were long and we were getting antsy to get back to Florence. We took a few photos and then started heading back downhill toward the train station -- or so we thought. Instead, we ended up at the city's main parking area, needing to return back up the hill, surviving out-of-order escalators to do so and then retraced our steps back to the train terminal. Our late afternoon train put us back in Florence around 6PM.
Back at Hotel Roma, Sam and I rested while waiting for Kristin and Sydney to return from their day on the town. They arrived about 45 minutes later, having done more window-shopping than actual shopping. Monday night was the only night of this trip that Kristin and I took the opportunity to dine sans kids. Syd and Sam were comfortable with the idea of staying in for the night, chowing down paninis in our hotel room and watching the Italian version of MTV, which actually shows music videos ... unlike its American counterpart. Kristin and I ate at Toro Alla Brace.
Tuesday was our last day in Florence. We didn't have a set itinerary, so purposely let the day develop based on our moods and energy levels. After hotel breakfast, we walked the short distance to Mercato Centrale, Florence's large indoor/outdoor market where leather goods can be found outside and a variety of food items and sundries inside. I'm not a huge leather guy, nor do I resemble Tom Cruise, but that didn't stop one of the hawkers from telling me how good I'd look in one of the Mission Impossible jackets. On the second level, they have several casual restaurants in a large open and airy space. Here, we sampled granite, which is a slushy-like shaved iced from Sicily in fruity flavors. Tangerine was the best. Heading back south, I spotted an OVS department store. We had to check it out and see how this Italian-based chain compares to Macy's. With the assistance of a store clerk, Kristin had some fun using Google glass here, where discounts were calculated by simply looking at items' bar codes. A jacket and scarf and only 47 Euros later, we were out of there.
After a short stop back at the hotel, we decided to take in one last museum, the Bargello, primarily to see a little more Michelangelo. On our way there, we grabbed sandwiches on the street and ate them on the shady steps of a church. The Bargello wasn't crowded whatsoever and offered up close views of Donatello's David and side-by-side comparisons of Gibherti's and Brunelleschi's bronze sculpture submissions in the contest for Santa Maria del Fiore's baptistery doors.
We returned to Hotel Roma mid-afternoon for a short siesta. I realize it sounds like we rested a lot on this trip, but trust me, all the walking we were doing was taking a toll on our legs and feet. Nonetheless, I wasn't going to let a little plantar fasciitis prevent me from achieving the next goal -- climbing the steps of Giotto's bell tower. While the kids continued to lounge at the hotel, Kristin and I headed back to the duomo area and paid our 10 Euros for the opportunity to scale 414 stairs. True to the guide books, the stairwell space is a little claustrophobic the higher you go, but once at the top you have a bird's eye view of Brunelleschi's dome right next door and the rest of Florence. Hey, you could see our hotel from here! Back at ground level, we came upon the ironic scene of Hare Krishnas dancing in the street near the Roman Catholic landmark. Kristin was taken aback by the direct request for a donation by one of their "monks" without the courtesy to first make even a mild attempt at conversion.
Back at the hotel, we showered and then dined at Ristorante Lorenzo del Medici, a place that had recent favorable reviews on Trip Advisor. The food was ok, not great, but the staff was very friendly, which counts for a lot. For the most part, hotel and restaurant staffers have been quite nice in Italy. But oftentimes, we've found the cashiers of the small stores to be somewhat unfriendly -- perhaps it's just us. And don't ask them to make change from a larger denomination bill! We finished our day with a stroll back to the hotel, stopping for Sam's gelato and Sydney's keepsake Italian perfume on the way. We listened to live music in Piazza della Repubblica and watched kids ride the merry-go-round there. All of us really enjoyed Florence and its slower pace relative to Rome.
Yesterday, we traveled from Venice to Monterosso, from Italy's eastern coast to the west coast on the Ligurian Sea. Including a brief train switch in Milan, the entire trip took a little over six hours. This allowed us to catch up on some rest and have a friendly chat with a mother and daughter from Sydney, Australia. Did you know the Aussies refer to what we call Sprite as "lemonade"?
We are staying at a great little place in Monterosso called Il Timone. It's been the cleanest and brightest room(s) yet. The owner, Francesco, is a young hard-working entrepreneur with great customer service skills.
Monterosso Al Mare is the northernmost of the five villages that constitute the Cinque Terre, or "five lands". The walk from the train station here to our room was a bit of a hike and I felt the effects of that last night with a raging headache from carrying Sydney's slightly overloaded backpack.
We spent day one here getting acquainted with this fishing village and enjoying a snacky-type dinner overlooking the water. Of course, we left room for gelato at Eden's, Monterosso's best according to our new friend Francesco. And this small town is safe enough to leave two teenagers back at the room so mom and dad could enjoy an adult beverage at Enotica de Eliseo, a very good spot from which to people-watch.
On Friday, I got up a little earlier than the rest of the family and went exploring Monterosso on my own for a couple hours. First stop was the town's church near the main piazza, San Giovani Battista. The black and white striped columns and exterior drew my attention. I then blindly followed an alley and found myself ascending higher and higher through the town and then quickly into an area of lemon trees and then a vineyard. The views were becoming increasingly better with each asthma-inducing step. Taking a hairpin left turn, I continued the climb to the town's cemetery, where the dead are entombed in above-ground vaults. Just beyond the cemetery was the Church of San Francesco - Capuchin Friars Monastery. Another church! Everywhere you turn in Italy, you are blessed with the surprise of a new one. And each church offers something unique and interesting.
Arriving back at Il Timone, I found the troops showered and ready to roll. After a quick breakfast of pastries and coffee, we headed back to the train station and bought hop-on-hop-off tickets to visit the other four villages of the Cinque Terre. And that's what we did. We spent time in each in order of north to south: Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomagiorre. Ultimately, it was a little grueling to do these in rapid succession, but it gave us a chance to quickly compare each to one another. We barely skirted a major fine when we accidentally took the wrong train from Corniglia to Manarola. The ticket-taker stared at us and for some reason granted us clemency. We were grateful to jump off at Manarola with no hit to the money belt.
We collectively agreed that Manarola was our favorite of the remaining four towns (excluding Monterosso), offering the greatest diversity of views and activities. We bought some focaccia here for a quick snack, watched brave/crazy divers leap from steep and high rocks into the water and reciprocated photo-taking with a nice gentleman from Beijing.
After Riomaggiore, it was time to take the direct train back to Monterosso and hit the beach. Forgetting my Speedo in Minnesota, I opted to stay fully clothed and take photos instead. It was relaxing and cool seaside. The beach here is not fine grain sand. It's a mixture of pebbles and rocks. The kids had fun in and/or near the water while Kristin read one of her Kindle mysteries.
We ended the day with dinner at San Martino and more gelato, followed by some live jazz in the town piazza.
One of the charms of this place is how even amongst all the tourists, you can spot the local residents and observe some of their traditions. The older women walking arm-in-arm during evening stroll or socializing on benches and the local teens preening and acting no different than what we see back home -- a little crazy in a good way.
The Cinque Terre is like Venice in that I could use one more day here to begin to feel like we are doing it justice as visitors.
I have a touch of what some photographers call GAS, or Gear Acquisition Syndrome. It was just last fall that I persuaded my wife how important a Nikon 70-200mm VRII lens was to me and how it would propel my hobby headshot "business". This completed my personal holy trinity of Nikon lenses, which also included the 16-35mm VR for "real estate" photography and the kit 24-85mm VR. But to be honest, my day job in finance doesn't leave a whole lot of time, or perhaps energy, as to allow the natural inspiration and inclination to lug my D600 and lenses around on a frequent basis.
Over the winter, I continued to look more at photos and gear online than I did actually creating my own images. In early spring, though, something significant happened. Our family of four, which includes two teenagers, booked a trip to Italy for this coming June. Instant inspiration!
There's nothing quite like booking a European vacation to start the juices flowing with mental imagery of what to see, what to eat, how to pack, etc. And what a great opportunity to further satisfy my Gear Acquisition Syndrome. There was no way I'm lugging a full-frame DSLR around Italy, so certainly I was going to need a new camera for this trip! For you see, I've read all the blogs and articles over the years by the likes of David Hobby, Zack Arias, et al and had secretly desired a more minimalist and less weighty camera setup. I lusted for the Fuji X100S, but was able to keep my credit card in my wallet and my wife's ire at bay for a couple years. But this trip changed everything and created the perfect opening to pursue the new object of my desire ... Fuji's X100T!
The moment of purchase came on a night a couple weeks ago when I was stranded at the office working on a project. As a treat to myself, I hit the buy button on B&H's website just before I left for home. The X100T arrived at my door last Tuesday and I took it out and immediately began to shoot. And I've continued to shoot for an entire week now.
I don't have the patience or knowledge to provide a deep technical review, but I can provide some sample images and my first thoughts. The fact that I'm blogging at all about this camera should give you some foreshadowing of my overall impressions.
After one week, here's what I think about Fuji's X100T:
- I want to take it everywhere! All the blogs you've read are true. You'll want to take this camera everywhere you go. And you aren't going to feel conspicuous.
- It makes me less shy as a photographer -- something I wasn't necessarily expecting to feel, but a welcome surprise. For whatever reason, I've always been a little self-conscious when using a big camera with a big lens. I'm a hobbyist, for god's sake. Sometimes a DSLR feels a little too pretentious. The X100T is small and stealth.
- The camera will make you take more photos. I haven't counted my exposures, but I can guarantee I've taken more shots in 6 days with the Fuji X100T than i have in the past 6 months with my Nikon D600.
- The camera will make you walk more and thus, lose weight. The Fuji X100T is a catalyst to get you off your butt and walking. I've averaged over 15,000 steps the last 3 days with it hanging by a sling strap over my shoulder. And I don't have any neck or shoulder pain!
- X100T's wi-fi, coupled with the Fuji's iPhone remote camera app, make it super simple to transfer images to your phone for sharing and social media.
- The f2 lens has incredible bokeh.
- Multiple viewfinder options allow for a variety of ways to interface and compose shots.
- It will inspire you to use your DSLR more. Okay, this one is a little bit of a future prediction, but I can see where using this camera more will re-ignite some creative juices and cause me to reach for my D600 when I need a little more reach than the 35mm-equivalent focal length lens on the X100T will give me.
I'm continuing to learn about the X100T's options so I'm ready to hit the ground running when we land in Rome!
Now for some sample images. All Fuji X100T images below are jpeg taken straight from camera. Most are utilizing the Classic Chrome film simulation.