Photographing with the Fujifilm X-T1 in Parisby Dave Burns | Posted in Trip Reports |
[ This post was originally posted to Hunt’s Photo and Video’s blog on June 13, 2014. They have kindly agreed to let me cross-post it here. – Dave ]
When I lead one of my photo safaris to Tanzania, I’m used to taking a lot of heavy gear. By the time I put more than one DSLR in my bag along with several big lenses, it’s common to take over 30 pounds of it. Because of this, I’m always on the lookout for ways to reduce baggage size and weight.
I’ve been following the development of Fujifilm’s X system because of its reputation for being small and light but with high image quality. When I had the chance to travel again to France a few weeks ago, I knew it would be a perfect opportunity to leave the big gear behind and try using the Fuji system for street photography.
The X-T1 is significantly smaller and lighter than a full-sized DSLR and that extends to Fuji’s lenses as well. I brought a kit with the X-T1 plus 4 lenses: 14mm, 35mm, 18-55mm, and 55-200mm. All performed beautifully and even though the 18-55mm is a kit lens, it showed excellent sharpness. The entire kit weighed 7 pounds including a few extra batteries and other accessories in my bag. A far cry from my safari gear!
Walking around Paris always starts at the River Seine for me. The river flows through the middle of the city and you can walk out to the middle of myriad bridges for a sweeping view in any direction. There are always people sitting, thinking, and relaxing near the water and capturing them gives a great sense of scale.
It was just my (bad) luck though that, the week I was there, Paris was under a smog alert and even on sunny days I had very hazy skies. Unlike my past trips, I found that my selects for the trip tended to be smaller scenes with cafes or just one or two people.
One of the ways the X-T1 differs from other cameras in the X series is that its LCD screen can flip up 90 degrees. Like shooting a TLR from decades ago with a waist-level viewfinder, this allows you to shoot more discretely since your subject never sees you raise your camera to your eye. I expected to be indifferent to this feature but it turned out to be my biggest surprise. I used it constantly.
Wandering up the narrow, winding roads to the top of Montmartre, I saw plenty of artists and street musicians performing. Using the 14mm allowed me to get in close to this bass player and exclude other people nearby. Be kind when photographing street performers and throw in a few coins before you leave: they have performed for your camera as much as they have performed for everyone else.
One of the things I love most about Paris is its cafe culture. Anywhere you go in the city, you’ll see cafes up and down the street with outdoor seating filled with Parisians. These can be great scenes to capture up close but can be intimidating for photographers uncomfortable with photographing people. One of the innovative features of the X-T1 is a companion mobile app. The app runs on my iPhone, connects to the camera, and provides remote control including a live view of the image and the ability to adjust controls like shutter speed and aperture. For this photograph of a man working on his crossword puzzle, I rested the camera on my table and pointed it in his direction. To any onlooker, it appeared as if I were checking my email while I enjoyed a glass of wine. Instead, I was waiting for him to put his pen to paper so I could snap the shutter (while enjoying my glass of wine).
With Paris as busy as it is, I always try to capture an image that conveys the level of activity I feel when I’m there. I spent 20 minutes standing on the corner of a hectic intersection trying my luck with panning shots to capture bicyclists with a blurred background. I chose the side of the intersection that gave me a backlit shot so I could also get a strong shadow in the foreground. Slowing the shutter down to 1/15 and using the lens’s stabilization gave me the shot I wanted.
If you head out early in the morning to shoot, I recommend the Jardin des Tuileries by the river. Start at the west end near Place de la Concorde and walk towards the Louvre. The sun will be in front of you and if the conditions are right, you’ll get beautiful light coming through the trees. I was very pleased here (and throughout the trip) with the Fuji’s metering system as it exposed a scene with difficult light just right.
Don’t miss out on walking through the Rive Gauche, the area south of the river. It’s a combination of the new and the old; shops and ethnic restaurants crowded with students alongside historic buildings, churches, and the sprawling Luxembourg Gardens. Walking past the Church of St. Severin, these trees near the cloisters’ arches caught my eye.
Paris is full of infinite photographic opportunities and anyone who loves street and cityscape photography should make it a point to go one day. There is a lot of ground to cover there so plan your camera gear wisely. I wondered if shooting with the X-T1 in Paris would perform well and give me great image quality – without a sore back at the end of the day. When the week was over, I was satisfied I had my answer. I found the X-T1 system perfectly suited to shooting in Paris. Hmm…I wonder if it would work well on one of my safaris…