Wat Chedi Luang, Chaing Mai Thailand

Any visit to Thailand must include a tour of the Buddish temple of Wat Chedi Luang in historic Chaing Mai. Construction of the temple started in the 14th Century, and was not completed until the mid-15th Century. In 1545 an earthquake caused the collapse of the upper 30m of the 82m high structure. In the early 1990’s the Chedi was reconstructed financed by UNESCO and the Japanese government.

 

Yes – These are ‘typical’ tourist photos. There isn’t any human connection, just pictures of scenery. My only excuse is that this was at the start of a 10 month adventure, to Thailand, Cambodia, Australia, Nepal, Turkey, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.  The cultural differences between my native Canada and Thailand were, to say the least ….Enormous. At this stage in my adventure, I was simply overwhelmed – and did not have the courage (the ‘balls’) to interact with the local people. That did change – and within a few weeks I had the courage to photograph people on the street, and even to use hand signals – pointing at them, and then at my camera to indicate that I wanted to photograph them. Once I had this courage, my photographs improved, the image had life, had a personality.  

It just took a bit of courage…

 

All photographs taken using a Fujifilm X-E1 with XF14mm lens or XF55-200mm, and Fujifilm X-Pro1 with XF18-55mm

Sunrise on the Mekong is full of life an full of color

Sunrise on the Mekong is full of life an full of color. Even before the sun rose over the bridge over the Mekong River at Kampong Cham Cambodia, the fishermen were out in their tiny boats.

 SHSA3969x2Photographed with a Fujifilm X-Pro1, with XF55-200mm. Exposed at 1/350 f/13 ISO400

SHSA3920x2Photographed with a Fujifilm X-Pro1, with XF55-200mm. Exposed at 1/30 f/13 ISO400

SHSA3972x2Photographed with a Fujifilm X-Pro1, with XF55-200mm. Exposed at 1/350 f/14 ISO400

December 8th, 2014, 6:17am. 

Two and half years with the Fujifilm X-Pro1 and X-E1

Welcome to a blog post about my experiences with a Fujifilm X-Pro1 and X-E1 and X-mount lenses while traveling through 10 countries between September 2014 and July 2015. This is not a hands-on review – there are already tons of reviews online, and, both the X-Pro1 and X-E1 have already been replaced by the X-Pro2 and X-E2 respectively.

For the past 10 or so years, I have been a hard core Nikon gear user – with two full frame DSLR’s (D-700’s) and a range of lenses from ultra wide angle to 400mm. From experience, I always travel with a 3 to 5 lenses (or more) and when on extended travel, or to challenging environmental conditions – I always bring two cameras; one as a backup in case one is dropped, or malfunctions, and also the flexibility of a wide angle lens on one camera and a telephoto lens on the other camera. A year off work to travel changed all that.  The size and weight of even one DSLR and a range of lenses was too much, even carrying a single D700 with a 50mm lens is bulky and heavy – and does not allow the creativity of different lenses, or a second camera. There was simply no way that I could carry my normal camera gear for 10 months international travel.  Bottom line – I needed a smaller and lighter camera with near SLR capability.

 

Approximately 8 months before the start of my year off work, I started to look really closely at the developments in mirror-less technology.

My basic criteria included:
1) Small size and light weight.  I don’t want to look like a pro photographer with a couple of DSLR’s dangling from my neck. My goal was to be able to carry all my camera gear in a non-descript messenger bag.

2) Ability for inter-changeable lenses.

3) I needed a system that would provide excellent image quality.

After a lot of research at mirror-less system Olympus, Sony, and Fujifilm, I settled on the Fujifilm. At the time, the Fujifilm choices were between the X-Pro1 and the X-E1. I bought an X-Pro1 for the electronic and optical viewfinder, and since I did not have previous experience with electronic-type viewfinder.  The X-Pro1 with the large buttons and dials has the look of a vintage rangefinder film camera.  Still wanting a second camera as a backup – the other logical choices was the X-E1. The X-E1 is smaller and lighter than the X-Pro1 and doesn’t have the optical viewfinder. Both cameras use the same “X-Trans” CMOS sensor – so image quality is identical. The two cameras do have slightly different ergonomics – with practice I would learn how to automatically adjust the buttons and dials on each without removing my eye from the viewfinder.  

 

With the X-Pro1, and X-E1 my lenses included the XF 14mm, XF 18-55mm, and XF 55-200mm, which all fit easily into my Timbuktoo shoulder bag. All this gear (camera and lenses) was less bulk, and weighed significantly less than my Nikon D700 with a 17-35mm land and 70-200 VR1 lens.

 

During the 10 months of travel, we experienced high humidity in Thailand and Cambodia, dusty and hot conditions in Western Australia, experienced cold temperatures on the mountains of Nepal, were blasted by sand storms in Dubai, snowed on in Turkey, and chilled on the damp beaches of Normandy (France), and in Holland. The X-Pro1 and X-E1 and my and X-mount lenses performed without problem – mostly. The X-E1 had a hate relationship with the XF 14mm, the rear LCD screen would flicker and then the camera would lock up. Only after pulling out the battery would the camera cooperate – until you pressed the shutter – and then it would lock up again.  I didn’t have any problems with any other lenses. Mysteriously, the problem was “cured” after dropping the camera on the street. The X-E1 worked fine (even with the XF 14mm lens), though the XF 18-55mm lens didn’t fare so well (it has since been repaired by Fuji Canada).

 

Now, almost 15 months after starting the year-long journey and nearly two and half years since I bought them, both the X-Pro1 and X-E1 are showing signs of wear and tear. There are small dents, and in some areas the black paint is worn off. There are a couple of flakes of dust on the sensor, even some inside the lenses  – nothing major. The cameras and lenses are still working well. During the travels, they were not ‘babied’ – simply dropped into the messenger bag, lens caps were never used, and even at times, the lenses were changed in less than ideal conditions. I have taken tens of thousands of images X-Pro1 and X-E1, and by now can speak comfortably about the positives and negatives.

Like most cameras, the X-Pro1 and X-E1 do have little quirks that could be annoying. My only major negative comment is the slow focusing. Actually, focus speed sucks.  Do remember that focus speed has been significantly improved in X-Pro2 and X-E2.

Other quirks are the all-too-easily turned exposure compensation dial, and the fly-by wire Fuji XF lenses that do not remain set to a specific focus distance after the camera has been turned off and back on again.  

 

  • I do like the large buttons and dials for adjusting the aperture, shutter speed, and exposure compensation.
  • I also like that the X-Pro and X-E1 are small and compact, and do not spook or intimidate the subjects as much as a large DSLR, giving me more freedom and access than if I had a large DSLR around my neck.
  • I bought the X-Pro1 for the electronic and optical viewfinder originally thinking that I would not get used to the electronic viewfinder. Instead, I hardly ever the optical viewfinder, only in low light situations.
  • I also really like the fact that the eyepiece is not centered as in DSLR (and X-T1). Instead, the viewfinder is on the left side of the camera. My nose is not squashed against LCD screen.  My right eye in viewfinder, left eye is not blocked – and can view the scene.
  • I also like that the cameras look retro, or old-school. Many people have asked me if the camera was an old range-finder type film camera, or a Leica M9 !. Although the Fuji’s do use the Fuji-X lens mount, with adapters I can attach old film camera lenses (M39 and M42 lens mount) along with Pentax, Canon and Nikon lenses.  While in Holland,  I bought a couple of old manual focus russian lens (Industar, and Helios). Their optics are not nearly as good as the Fuji-X lenses, though they do have a unique look.
  • I also like the build quality, image quality and weight of the Fuji-X lenses – especially the 14mm, 35mm and 55-200mm.
  • I love the quality of the images. Even though though the X-Pro1 and X-1 are now several years old, compared to newer cameras, the quality of the images is still amazing. Images straight out of the camera are sharp with bold vibrant colors.

 

So – will I sell my DSLR camera gear ?

The Fuji X-Pro1 and X-E1 are unique cameras, and not necessarily for everyone.

There are some things that the Fuji X-Pro1 and X-E1 simply do not do well. As any artist knows, it is a matter of using the right tool for the job. Photographing things that move quickly; children, wildlife or trains – are easy with a large DSLR, and is a challenge for the X-Pro1 and X-E1. The X-Pro1 and X-E1 are great for static subjects, or where you need a lightweight and more discreet camera for street and travel photography. Back at home, I can use my X-Pro1 and X-E1 for studio work, with my (for Nikon) Pocketwizard Mini TT1 and Flex TT5 controllers.

Finally, my experience is biased, since I have not yet tested the newer X-Pro2, X-E2 or the X-T1.  

 

In Ottawa: Russian with Love (Fuji X-Pro1 and X-E1 and Russian lenses)

 

I am visiting Ottawa for a couple of days. I feel bit like a spy – Wait don’t call the RCMP just yet !. What ever you do – Don’t call me Igor Gouzenko. It is actually just my camera gear I am using – a couple of Russian camera lenses on my Fujifilm X-Pro1 and X-E1.

Yes, Fuji does make some really awesome lenses for their X-Series cameras including the ones that I own; Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8 R, Fujinon XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 OIS, Fujifilm Fujinon XF 35mm f/1.4 R Super EBC, and the XF 55–200 mm f/3.5–4.8.

For this trip, I am going nostalgic. I grew up in Ottawa, and lived there for many years. This short visit is also somewhat nostalgic, in that I am vising many of my old favorite places. Back when I lived here, I used manual focus lenses (autofucus was still in its infancy), so going manual focus for this trip isn’t out of line.

So – on my Fuji X-Pro, and Fuji X-E1 I have a L39-FX adapter for the Industar 55mm f/2.8 N-61 lens, and a M42-FX adapter for the Industar 50-2 f/3.5 50mm, and Helios-44-2 58 f/2.0 lens. Oh – I know what you are thinking – Why not stick with the Awesome Fuji lenses ! – They are small, light and Autofocus !.

The old Russian lenses are fun to play with, they are cheap, and they are not optically perfect. There are imperfections in the glass that give the lenses a unique look. It is also so much fun to just play ;>

DSCF5375Industar 50-2 f/3.5 on Fujifilm X-E1

SHSA5440Industar 55mm f/2.8 on Fujifilm X-Pro1

SHSA5444Industar 55mm f/2.8 on Fujifilm X-Pro1

DSCF5378Industar 50-2 f/3.5, on Fujifilm X-E1

DSCF5382Industar 50-2 f/3.5 on Fujifilm X-E1

DSCF5384Industar 50-2 f/3.5 on Fujifilm X-E1

DSCF5390Industar 50-2 f/3.5 on Fujifilm X-E1

SHSA5454Industar 55mm f/2.8 on Fujifilm X-Pro1

2016 Snowking Winter Festival XXI

March 1, 2016 – The Grand opening of the 2016 Snowking Winter Festival XXI. Check out the official Snowking Winter Festival webpage ….http://snowking.ca/

These are a couple of sneak peak images and panoramas from inside the castle and from the roof.

Yellowknife snowking

To view the 360 degree animation. Click Here. Use your mouse or swipe the screen to look around. This requires the QuickTime Player. Click the icon on the upper right corner of the animation to get a full view. Depending on network speed, the image may take a moment to load.

 

Yellowknife snowking

To view the 360 degree animation. Click Here. Use your mouse or swipe the screen to look around. This requires the QuickTime Player. Click the icon on the upper right corner of the animation to get a full view. Depending on network speed, the image may take a moment to load.

 

 

Yellowknife snowking
Yellowknife snowking

To view the 360 degree animation. Click Here. Use your mouse or swipe the screen to look around. This requires the QuickTime Player. Click the icon on the upper right corner of the animation to get a full view. Depending on network speed, the image may take a moment to load.

 

2016 Snowking Castle – Nearing Completion

Have a look around inside the 2016 Snowking Castle – it is almost Done !

DSCF5255 Panorama-2

Click Here for a Larger Image

To view the 360 degree animation. Click Here. Use your mouse or swipe the screen to look around. This requires the QuickTime Player. Click the icon on the upper right corner of the animation to get a full view. Depending on network speed, the image may take a moment to load.

 

2016 Snowking XXI Castle – in Progress

This is a quick n’dirty post – just to see if I can still remember how to photograph, generate and post 360 virtual reality panoramas.

Seems fitting in a way – as I haven’t done this in two years, and this image is of the yet to be completed snow castle for the 2016 Snowking Winter Festival in Yellowknife.

SHS_6458 Panorama-2

Click Here for a Larger Image

To view the 360 degree animation. Click Here. Use your mouse or swipe the screen to look around. This requires the QuickTime Player. Click the icon on the upper right corner of the animation to get a full view. Depending on network speed, the image may take a moment to load.

 

How Has Extended Travel Affected Your Life?

          When asked ‘How has 10 months of travel affected my life?’. I usually ended up saying something short ….“It was an amazing trip!”, and maybe add a few extra words….fun, interesting…. the let my voice trail away as their eyes glaze over. A more meaningful answer takes extra time to describe, as without a doubt, the 10 months of travel had a tremendous impact on my life. It’s hard to know where to begin….

 

          But I think the best ones to answer this question are my two young daughters (then age 9 and 11). For them, among other things, it was a year out of the usual day-to-day school routine although we did follow their school curriculum. They also had hands-on lessons in geography, history, social studies, math (currency conversion), add in impromptu lessons in geology (my background is in geology), biology (field trips with local guides learning about local flora and fauna), meeting and visiting with people and learning about their culture.  Most importantly, and not part of any formal or informal lesson, the kids had an opportunity to meet and live with people and learn about their stories, their culture – daily rituals, customs around meals, families, music, spiritual beliefs. The kids have developed a social conscious – becoming aware that each country in the world and its people are diverse, each having its own history and cultural values  – some of which may appear wrong though inexperienced eyes.

 

          For me – I had not traveled very much around the world prior to this trip, but in a nutshell, travel has had an enormous impact on me.  I’ve gained so much appreciation for the world; seeing, touching, hearing about ancient and more recent history in other countries, distant landscapes, interacting with people from other cultures and making connections with them. Having been there, lived there, seeing, eating, smelling, hearing with my own senses – is far richer in terms of gaining social and cultural wealth than reading or watching a documentary on TV about other cultures. Traveling to distant countries and experiencing different cultures has also taught me about my life. It is as though my eyes are now looking inward – instead of outward. I see and think differently now. Travel has taught me to be more open-minded and ‘see’ new with opportunities instead of simply following the same ruts.

 

          Travel has also instilled a feeling of being grateful – grateful that I am healthy enough to travel, and also grateful that I live in a part of the world where we have the opportunity to go to school, to get an education, to get a well paying job and have the opportunity to travel. In many of the countries that we visited – those opportunities simply do not exist !. Extended travel has also helped me overcome the stresses of daily life. I remember how relaxed other cultures are, whereas back in the home environment, I notice the fast paced and stressful life experienced by my neighbors. There seems to be an endless list of things-to-do, driving kids to and from after school activities, and a fair amount of ’keeping up with the Jones’.  I have simply stopped stressing about many things.  I no longer feel the urge to be always on the go, to rush out to participate in every activity that comes along, or sign my kids up for every activity. Nor do I feel the urge to make a large addition to my house, or even buy a new car, or even buy more stuff.   I have learned to be Content. I have lived with people that had a much smaller house than mine, did not even have a car, had much fewer personal possessions and did not rush around trying to do everything. They were Content. During the 10 months of travel, there were many situations that did not go as well as planned. We had our share of mistakes and misadventures, and my hard learned travel lesson was that patience, acceptance and the ability to go with the flow are the among the greatest of life lessons.

 

          There is a downside however. I didn’t really travel until the age of 46 – much older than most. At my age, it is hard to go back to life as if nothing happened. That trip as caused a mixture of restlessness and contentment. Why didn’t I travel at a younger age, instead of pursuing a couple of academic degrees ?.  If – only I had…. .  That said, I am still young and healthy enough to travel. This first extended travel has teased me into new opportunities. It is now up to me to find a way to escape the need to sit in an office working for somebody else and staring at a computer screen while life passes by. There is now the temptation to quit my “safe and secure” job, forgo the perks of a comfortable chair in a warm office, pension and a medical benefits plan. Big decisions, and there is still the need to pay the bills and make money.  Without a doubt, it is hard to slide back into a regular life after a life-changing extended travel experience. For now, I will use my new-found life skills; Contentment, Patience, Acceptance and the ability to go with the flow – and start planning the next trip.

 

How about you—how has extended travel affected your life?

 

My NEW Organizational Strategy: De-clutter My Space to De-clutter My Mind

For the past couple of months, I have been getting rid of a lot of things around my house. Having all these extra things is a burden. I used to have to move five things to get to the one thing I wanted. My closets and shelves were full of things I haven’t used for years. Having a cluttered house makes for a cluttered life.

Ten months of traveling with 2x pairs of pants, and 4x shirts, pair of running shoes, camera, and a laptop, and a lot more other stuff in my over-size and over-weight backpack that I lugged through 10 countries. Did i really need all that stuff ?. Now – back home, my closet is stuffed with 8x pairs of pants, 27 dress shirts and 5 pairs of shoes, not counting the underwear, single socks, and t-shirts.

While traveling it was easy to decide what to wear – the choices were limited. Now, as I stand in front of my closet, I find myself picking a combination, then another combination, switching  pants, then switching different shirts, and then, usually wind up wearing one of the same four pairs, and only 10 of the dress shirts – the others simply collect dust in my closet. !

The purge continues for all the clothes that I don’t wear. Anything that hasn’t been worn in the past year gets donated. The purge also includes books, magazines, tools, even computer and camera equipment. I could invest in new (and more efficient) organizing and storage products. But – Why ?. Why hang-on to stuff that you don’t use ?.

Now, on the fourth round of de-cluttering in the past six months. As I pack things into bags to donate I discover long lost treasures. This is an enlightening and liberating organization strategy; De-cluttering my space to de-clutter my mind.

Have you ever felt the need to de-clutter your space to de-clutter your mind ?. Let us know.

The Post Vacation Blues

Apparently, is is quite common for folks returning after a long journey to experience some “Post-Vacation Blues”, “Post-Travel Blues”, “reverse culture shock”, “re-entry”, even “travel detox”. They all mean the same thing, a type of blue mood or depression. Depending on how hard it hits you – there are a number of things you can do to get back into the swing of things.

Re-live the sights, the smells, the sounds, of your trip by including some culturally-specific motivators into your day-to-day life.

  1. Keep the memories of the experience alive. Reminisce and and be nostalgic. Review the photos and videos that you took during of your trip.
  2. Make a conscious connection to bring the culture of the countries that you visited back into your life. Watch movies or documentaries that show the culture. Eat at restaurants that remind you of your vacation, take a cooking course or cook traditional meals. Join a art class, dance class, or learn the language.
  3. Meet people that are from the countries that you visited. Open up your home to by offering to host travelers, join travel organizations such as www.couchsurfing.com or similar sites. Being around other travelers will help learn about the inside-scoop about those countries and cultures, and can help you get ideas for your next trip.
  4. Volunteer for an organization that works with people from the country where you had a vacation. Whether it is helping a village support a school, protecting wildlife from poachers, or even eventually joining an organization that sends aid workers to developing countries, you will be less of a tourist and more of an overseas friend.
  5. Plan your next trip. Pick the next place you would like to travel to and start dreaming about it. Having a plan for your next vacation will certainly help to overcome the post-vacation blues.
  6. Consider a local adventure. Start in your own hometown and discover places you haven’t see before. Go for a walk on a new route, try a new restaurant, take a bus to a random stop. Open your eyes, and actually ‘see’ the things that you haven’t noticed before. Make it a challenge to observe things that have always been there – but you haven’t noticed. With practice – this will make you more observant, a skill that will help you on your next foreign trip.

 

Personal: To help get back into the routine and back into the swing-of-things there are a number of important You things (physical and mental health) to take care of.  These include:

  1. Go Slow. Slowly ease back into your pre-trip daily routine. Just because there are 100’s of new emails in your inbox – doesn’t mean they all have to answered one your first day back to work.
  2. Take a Break. It is tempting to race to catch-up on the backlog of all the things to do. They don’t have to be done right away. Take some time for yourself. Read a book, take a walk, be sure to resume your usual exercise routines as soon as possible.
  3. Sleep. Get plenty of sleep, you probably skipped a few times zones coming back home. Your body needs sleep.
  4. Eat well. This goes without saying.
  5. Reach out to friends and family. Being away means your contact info (phone number, email) has been removed from all the usual lists, so you might have to ask around to be added back into the lists. Be warned – they will roll their eyes when every sentence that comes out of your mouth starts with, “On my trip I…” or “When I was in…”.  Also don’t expect any sympathy for post-vacation blues – since you were the one traveling and they were stuck in the daily routine. Your excitement of traveling may be met with comments such as …’did you watch the Hockey game last week ? ’. They may simply not be able to make the connection to your experience in a far away place.
  6. Reach out to meet new people. Remember the excitement of meeting new people during your trip. Keep doing it.
  7. Share your experiences. Do a presentation (slide show) at the local library, or community centre. Keep it short, and not too many details. Your photos might be exciting to you, but no one wants to sit through all 1600 of your photos. Post your travel experiences and photos on a blog, or on social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter.

 

How to Overcome the Post Vacation Blues

For some people getting back into the pre-trip routine isn’t as easy as sliding back into the old routines, back into the swing of things, or back into the old life. Some of us seem to be more affected or influenced by the travel experience or the thought of resuming the same life as we had prior to the trip and feel the need to reevaluate the status quo. The actual cause of the need for change might differ based on the actual experiences during the trip, or the realization that you simply do not want to go back the the same old routines. No matter the cause or reason, somewhere deep inside there is a realization that you need to make a change to your life. For these people, the “Post Vacation Blues” may be more than a passing difficulty of just managing a little low spirits after getting back to their pre-trip life, rather it might be a life-changing opportunity for a change.

There may be a one – or several changes. On-line travelers that have experienced the Post Vacation Blues describe this need to change the way they live, how they act, what they consume, who they notice and interact with, re-evaluating commitments, deciding on what is important to their life, eliminating the things that get them down – and adding ‘uplifting’ experiences do their daily, or weekly schedule. Some describe it as a need to give-back (ie. to your community), and a need to make decisions on what to do with this next chapter in your life. Some changes can happen almost immediately, whereas others may require time to soak them in, ponder, and require a long-range plan spanning a year, or even a couple years.

In my case, the immediate change included a de-cluttering of my house and living with less. During the 10 month travel, I discovered that a backpack full of clothes lasted through many adventures. Do I really need a closet full of clothes, or shelves loaded down with books that I haven’t read, or kitchen appliances I no longer use?.  My financial priorities have also changed. Instead of a new car, new computer or new camera, I’ve put my hard earned cash to buying a new bike and a pair of skis. Exercise has suddenly become a priority, which may be a result of returning to a desk-job. Quality time with my children is also more of a priority, with emphasis on short weekly adventures and most of all, having fun – no matter the situation. I have also been re-thinking my passion for photography – not dropping, but changing direction. Another change is wanting to give back, give back to society, and finding ways to give to those that do not have the the opportunity to travel as I did. At some in the future, there are plans for a career change, but that takes a bit of planning…

Do you have any experiences with Post Vacation Blues ?

 

Tags: family, homecoming, reflection, Travel, Life, Post Vacation Blues, Post Travel Blues, reverse culture shock, re-entry