Our Family took an extended May Long Weekend to go to Spruce Woods Provincial Park in Manitoba. It just so happened to be only 2.5 hours from where we live so no big deal, even with the near 1 year old baby in tow. I brought along my Fuji Film XPro-2 and all three “Fuji Cron” lenses (23, 35, 50 ~ 35, 50, 76). But I shot the whole trip with only the 23mm (35mm) lens. Mainly because I am used to that focal length from my X100s fixed lens camera. But also because I believe that 35mm is the most versatile focal length for travel photography.
What makes Spruce Woods awesome is that it is a gorgeous sandy desert . . . that happens to have an incredible forest of Spruce, Aspen and Juniper trees growing out of it! As I surveyed the landscape, I was bombarded with “How can this place exist?” It seems like a twilight zone time warp walking around there! We took a Belgian horse drawn wagon tour which was really neat and then did some hiking the next day around the dunes. The two main natural attractions are the dunes and the little spring fed lake called “The Devil’s Punchbowl.” But the whole place truly is something to see.
Back to the Fuji kit. The XPro2 is my fav camera of all time. So compact and versatile in and of itself and when coupled with the little 23mm lens offers a perfect mix of portability and capability. I shot primarily in JPG as I always do with Fuji because the files are THAT good. I switched to RAW for a couple shots where I wanted extended dynamic range if I wanted to make a print later. But the JPGs are so brilliant I usually only shoot that format. There’s quite a bit of latitude for editing even the JPGs but I nearly never have to do anything to the files. They come out of camera so, so sweet. Colours are amazing. Detail is crisp and clear. What’s not to love?
So 35mm. It’s truly a versatile place to live when shooting travel (especially with kids in tow). It’s a ‘pretty wide’ way to the view the world without being toooooo wide, although if you were going for straight landscapes you’d want to be wider perhaps. I’d highly recommend this one lens/one focal length approach for your next trip. See what the restriction brings! 😎
Back in early December we took a family trip to Las Vegas. It was my in-laws’ 40th wedding anniversary and we commemorated the milestone by spending a few days in the wild metropolis of Las Vegas. It was an awesome trip!
Photographically it was the first chance I had to really concentrate on the X-Pro2. It never left my side and I shot it all day everyday. I brought the 18-55 “kit” lens (which, despite my lack of liking zooms, is a really versatile travel lens) and the 35mm. That’s it. Everything fit in a pocket. I didn’t carry around my bag at all. Couple of extra batteries and away you go. I really didn’t miss a full frame camera for other than a few instances in the dark where perhaps it would have been advantageous. I love that people don’t take you seriously when you shoot the X-Pro2. I shot photos inside the casinos and nobody once questioned me or harassed me because it didn’t look like a giant “professional” DSLR. That’s sweet. You can shoot incognito all day long. Also on this trip I concentrated on shooting street photography – a genre I have zero experience with as we don’t really have “street” in the small town I live in. It was a metric tonne of fun looking for light, colour and gesture on the streets.
Also, we took a day trip to the Grand Canyon which was really exciting. Most notably, my youngest sister in law got engaged at the Hoover Dam! It really made the trip 17% better! 😉
The kit lens was on the camera pretty much the whole time at the Grand Canyon giving the versatility of pretty wide to modest telephoto. I was very happy with the results of the photos when I got home and had the chance to look at them on the big screen. Of the 1554 shots I took, here’s around 70. Cheers!
2017 has been the year of the road trip! Not only did we do our big epic Waterton/Montana/Cypress Hills trip, we also did a few other smaller trips, including our inaugural visit to Grasslands National Park. For Canada’s 150th birthday, all the Federal Canadian parks have their
exorbitant entrance fees waved. We tried to take advantage of that as much as possible this year. I had been wanting to go to GNP for quite some time. But it’s a really different park experience. There is hardly any development in the park, let alone the region. We might associate things like playgrounds, swimming spots and beaches, ice cream stores and the like as “attractions” that will draw people to an area. Grasslands has none of these typical things. Instead, the park itself is the attraction.
The interesting (untold) history behind the creation of Grasslands is documented in the book “Dams of Contention” by Bill Redekop. The book centres around the creation of the Rafferty & Alameda Dams in South East Saskatchewan. The only reason I read the book is that I knew/know Ed and Harold Tetzlaff personally. I have a signed copy of the book in fact. As I read the book, Grasslands National Park was mentioned. In a convoluted and heavily political deal, GNP basically was created as a consolation prize for Saskatchewan after agreeing to translate Saskatchewan’s laws into French & appease/make a good impression for Quebec to sign the Canadian Constitution. This was all during the Mulroney days & the Meech Lake accord (p.131, 165). What a mouthful! When I went to Grasslands, I talked with one of the landowners who had sold their land to the government at the time of the creation of the park. She had no knowledge of this untold back story of the park’s creation.
Regardless of what actually took place in the park’s creation, it is one amazing place. For years it was a ranchers paradise. And by that, I mean it was a darn tough place to make a living. The land is dry and to sustain livestock you need a metric tonne of land. So the ranches in the area go on and on as far as the eye can see. Now the park does too. You feel about 2 inches tall walking around as the landscape is absolutely enormous and unruly. As you drive around and hike, the magnanimous quality of the area becomes abundantly clear.
The park exists in two blocks, West and East. The West has more development but the East is rapidly catching. The park has a very free quality about. Most National parks are tightly regulated. You can’t go off trails. You can’t do this, you can’t do that. Grasslands is free-for-all. You can go hiking. You can go horseback riding. You can drive. You can go where you like. In fact many of the hikes aren’t on trails of any kind. You can blaze your own trail which is refreshing. It’s a glorious dark sky preserve as well with no light pollution to speak of. We had rain every night we were there though. No stars for us. But the blessings of this wild and untamed landscape are also a bit of a double edged sword. Development and services are very scarce. If you go to Val Marie, I STRONGLY SUGGEST you fill up your gas tank. On our way to the East block we though we could fill up at Wood Mountain. Nope. We were panicking on our way to Rock Glen to get fuel!
One of the hikes we did with the family was the 70 Mile Butte hike. What a glorious walk it was. Of course we were on high alert so that the children didn’t get eaten by rattlesnakes. But the scenery is fantastic and well worth it! It was ridiculously hot but as you climbed the butte trail, the winds picked up and it was excellent! Apparently the aboriginals used the top of 70 Mile Butte for get togethers rather than the valley where there is no wind and insects galore. I stitched a panorama together of the view from the top in Lightroom. The photos still don’t do the view justice.
For accommodations, we stayed in the oTENTiks that the park has. You can bring a tent or camper but we elected to stay in the permanent structure. Glad we did. A heinous storm with gale force wind hit that night. The whole time I had visions of the oTENTik being carried off like Dorothy to the magical land of Oz! With no trees on the horizon to slow down the wind, it comes at you with full force! The park also has Wigwams that you can rent and camp in as well. All the sites are primitive camping and you need to bring your own water.
Grasslands National Park is a photographer’s paradise. The landscapes are vast and the perfect place for ultra-wide lenses. But even they fail to capture it all. Also, the opportunities for wildlife photography are endless. There are many unique species of animals from Bison to Prairie Dogs to Ferrets to Rattlesnakes and many others. It’s almost like being on a foreign safari shooting photos in GNP. My gear of choice with the family in tow was just my Nikon Df camera and my 24mm f/1.8 AF-S lens and the 70-200 f/4 AF-S lens. That’s it. It was a simple kit but I wanted to be as light as possible and still use full frame. It did the job admirably. I probably could have brought the 16-35 f/4 though for some extra wide angle goodness.
On our last day we decided to head over to the East Block and check it out. As mentioned previously, FUEL UP when you can! Otherwise there is basically nothing along the way. This aspect of non-development is an obstacle that tourism Saskatchewan should really look at addressing in the near future. The East Block has a lot more badlands than does the West. It was more reminiscent to Big Muddy to us. There are many cool hikes we would have liked to pursue but will have to wait until our kids are a bit older. The Valley of 1000 Devils will definitely be a must see! Grasslands National Park truly is another Saskatchewan diamond in the rough. Get off the beaten trail and goto Grasslands. It’s scenery and landscape are one of a kind. They define the wild spirit of the Land of the Living Skies! 😎
Day 9 saw us travel home from our epic Road Trip. But first, we made one last stop in Eastend, Saskatchewan!
Day 8 saw us travel from West Glacier, Montana USA to Cypress Hills, Saskatchewan Canada. We got searched at the Canadian border (of course) but the border guard took one look at our vacation-smelling mini-van and let us go. LOL. 😎 (more…)
Day 7 was laden with awesome water-based adventure! It all began around 11:15AM with a scenic float down the flathead river, courtesy of Montana Raft Co! It involved one excited 7 year old jumping overboard to his heart’s delight!
Every day of this incredible road trip just got better and better. We thought we had seen the most incredible stuff the day before and then we encounter more mind-blowing scenery and unbelievable vistas. That was Day 6 in a nutshell!
So Day 3 of our epic road trip took us from Waterton, Alberta to West Glacier, Montana. The route took us over the most incredible drive I’ve ever done the Going to the Sun Road. It was created in 1932 solely for tourism. The road only has one switchback and follows the contour of the mountain the whole way. It’s absolutely majestic and words can’t describe how incredible the view is. It is an absolute MUST SEE bucket list trip! (more…)
So Day 2 of our epic road trip took us to Waterton Park. It was only a few minutes from our campground and we spent the whole day there taking in the sights. Pictures and story after the jump.
Everyone knows that you don’t go on vacation when you have small kids. You go on trips. For the elaboration on the topic, read this essay. 😉 So our Road Trip this year was exciting and elaborate! The big picture trip was from Oxbow, SK to Waterton Park, Alberta then to Glacier National Park, Montana, then to Cypress Hills Provincial Park, Saskatchewan, Eastend, Saskatchewan and then home again! We were gone for a total of 12 days and they were all amazing! For the entire trip I used only the FujiFilm XE2 camera with the 18-55 f/2.8-4 lens. And then also the iPhone7 for a few water-based photos. Travelling light is the only way to go when you are on a trip like this with the kids. Bringing all my heavy Nikon DSLR gear would have been a real drag. The super light weight of the Fuji mirrorless was the cat’s PJs. I shot the bulk of the trip in Velvia simulation because I love that ultra saturated look for landscapes. But without further adieu, heres the pictures from the first leg of the trip. (more…)
I’m ultra behind in the blogging but I wanted to do an update. A mirrorless update. I’ve been a Fuji fan for quite a number of years now, using my omnipresent X100s camera all the time. Always JPEG. It became my high volume camera, especially for family trips where I refuse to lug around all my huge Nikon gear. But I want more quality and control than my iPhone camera gives me. The X100s was always the perfect companion. I love the 35mm equivalent field of view, especially for travel. It’s fantastic!
But it can be quite limiting. Which is almost always a good thing. Except for when it’s not. I found that all my travel photos, being the same focal length, were, well, the same. So I hummed and hawed about it and ended up getting a smokin’ deal on a FujiFilm XE2. I was going to buy the XPRO2 but didn’t (another blog post about that later). I got the XE2 with the “kit lens” which is an amazing lens, the 18-55. It’s a stunner. It’s sharp, it’s fast and it’s made of metal. Using Fuji is an experience in quality to say the least. Anyways, I’ve since picked up the 35mm f2 it’s a dream. But all summer long, all I shot was the 18-55.
I wanted to showcase the versatility of this compact mirrorless setup. These photos are travel photos from our cross Canada tour this summer. Western Manitoba all the way to Tofino, BC and back again. 4 provinces, thousands and thousands of kilometres traveled, Ocean, Waterfalls, Mountains, Forests, Prairies, all with one camera, one lens. Not only was it a versatile combination but it made the editing workflow nearly non-existent. By that I mean the XE2 utilizes a WYSIWYG viewfinder. The exposures seen through the eye piece are what you get in camera. Literally 97% of the time, it’s bang on. Very little editing has gone into these photos. The X system allows you to get it right in camera the first time, let alone the colour tweaks available through the film simulations. Fuji colour is the best, bar none! Anyways, here’s some photos.
I’m always on the look out for photography gems and insights. This is one such gem! Very cool video. Worth the watch.
Things have been exceedingly chaotic for the last little while but are now starting to even out again. I’m quite behind in blogging and have lots of posts upcoming, even though they will be slightly delayed. I thought I would start the catch up practice with a post on a mini “stay-cation” we did back in the first part of July.
Enter: The Big Muddy. What a sensational place! It’s a lesser known gem of Saskatchewan. In fact, when we asked people in our area if they’d ever made the 300km trip west, it was largely a big No. It’s a provincial treasure though. Really different badlands style terrain and really cool history! Outlaws, live stock thieves, Native heritage sites. This stuff should be taught in school! We took an 8 hour van ride tour out of Coronach, SK. There were 9 different stops along the way. Our kids 3, 5, & 7 did amazingly well. There is lots of terrain to cover but so much cool stuff that it kept them entertained the whole time. The tour gives you a scenic view of the region as well as the ability to look at sites not publicly accessible.
We admired that the place hadn’t largely become “touricized” – turning the natural beauty of the place into a fools paradise of fences and signage. You can access some sites, like Castle Butte, just by driving up to it. You can climb all over it, go to the summit, take pictures and have a grand ol’ time. It’s fantastic! Other places you have to have permission to access. Or, take the tour we did because they are on fenced private land. The tour is the way to go because you get the low down on the area from local people. They leave out of Coronach, SK and have a variety of options to choose from. Check them out on this website.
Besides the “non-stereotypical Saskatchewan flat landscape” of the area, there is such cool history from the NWMP to the horse thieving outlaws who used the region to steal and sell livestock. Tamela Burgess of the Circle Y Ranch does an incredible job of highlighting the Outlaw Stories through her amazing artwork and story telling. By far this was one of the most interesting aspects of the tour. And, they’ve filmed a couple episodes of ManTracker on the ranch! It’s a very beautiful location.
If you haven’t gone and seen the Big Muddy, I highly recommend it. It’s a seldom seen provincial treasure! Check it out! The gallery contains a few photo highlights of the area all shot on the FujiFilm X100s.
We just got back from a mini vacation to the Southern State of South Dakota. 🙂 It was an amazing journey! We were able to do lots of fun stuff as a family, taking in some great attractions but also soaking up the beautiful South Dakota country side. I’m not going to write about all the gory details of our family trip, but rather I’m going to focus on the only camera I took on the journey, the FujiFilm X100s. (Small caveat: we also had our Nikon 1 V1 in tow but only for family video). As a dad of 3 kids 5 and under, I don’t get to actually “do photography” whilst on holidays. It’s more of a taking photos as you go and do things as a family. There’s a huge difference. If I was going to Yellowstone to take photos vs. going to Yellowstone for a family vacation, it’s a completely different mindset. For dedicated photography, I’d want my D800 with full array of lenses. For family stuff, I want as minimal a kit as possible but still be ready for mostly anything. The X100s fits that bill perfectly. As a travel camera, this thing is a boss. It’s size alone makes it super convenient for travel and taking shots on the fly with the kids in tow. But the image quality means I don’t have to sacrifice images like I would with a crappy point and shoot. The f/2 lens and sweet high ISO performance mean that even in the low light of Rushmore Cave, 1 mile underground, I still got shots I was totally happy with.
The camera totally gets out of the way. Its truly a photographic experience unlike any other. And the best part is of course the color. Fuji has the best color reproduction of any camera I’ve used. I shot the majority of the landscape shots from the trip in Velvia film simulation. I love that super saturated look that really brings out all the subtleties of tone.
With only 1 focal length, you are forced to be creative with your shots. The camera pushes you at the same time as it makes taking photos a breeze. It’s an odd juxtaposition that I love! The macro capabilities mean you can get great up close shots without having to switch to a different lens like you would on a DSLR system. As a travel camera, it’s ideal. It’s truly ready for anything you can throw at it, even some off camera flash photography at the spur of the moment!
Another thing that is tremendous as a travel camera is having that built in 3-stop ND filter to kill ambient light. It makes shots like this possible to capture smooth water. Stopping down to f/16 with the filter engaged means I could get shutter speeds of over a second to really get dreamy water and maximum detail. 😀
I never once missed a DSLR. Ever. The fact that the camera is a compact powerhouse of image quality and ability more than makes up for the fact that I did miss a few shots due to limitations. But I just don’t care! I used to think travel photography had to be a big gear gong show. And carting around all that stuff on hikes with the kids was a total pain. Now, I sling the X100s over my shoulder and I actually enjoy travel photography! It’s fantastic and I can’t recommend it enough. I have a whole set of images up on flickr if you want to check ’em out. There’s a wee smidge posted here. 😎
I was super fortunate to be able to take my new Fuji X100s for an extended tour of duty as a travel & event photographer. It was precisely for these two applications that I bought this camera, but after using it, it is quickly becoming my “go to” camera. I’ve never owned or shot any traditional film rangefinder cameras and I’m coming to the X100s from a D800 and other Nikon DLSRs. So it was a new experience and a nifty learning curve but this camera fits like a glove. All the reviews of the internet celebrity bloggers like Arias, Hobby, and others have lauded this camera and all I can say is that everything is true. It is THAT good. Even if your friends accuse you of down grading from a DSLR, just smile and nod. 😆
You can look up the tech specs on Fuji’s website. This review is about the user experience and the pure can of whoop @$$ this camera packs into such a sweet little package. Firstly, it is a dream to use. It’s an extremely tactile camera, everything clicks. Nicely. The buttons have a great feel to them and are easy to use. The only gripe I have is that the on/off switch can easily be flicked unawares when putting the camera into a pocket. But that is an extremely minor gripe. The new “Q” button is really, really handy for making changes on the fly. Also the 3 custom user modes are perfect for events as you can switch back and forth to customized presets without having to burn through tonnes of menus. LOVE that feature. During my trip we attended a friend’s wedding and I shot the X100s in Black and White mode mostly because I love the look of the files (and being able to tweak the tonality of shadows and highlights is the bees knees). But, I could switch back to Provia colour in a button flick. It’s a really great experience all round in using the camera. The one fixed 23mm f/2 lens is super sharp and you don’t have to worry about changing lenses. Ever. 🙂
I found that the camera truly was ready for nearly anything. Not even once did I wish I had my D800. The low profile of the rangefinder style is really unique. I found that people were less nervous getting their photos taken by it. The camera changes the photographic relationship if that makes sense. It certainly makes you push in closer to get the shot, which was a bit uncomfortable at first for me. I’m naturally “telephoto eyed”. I love my 85mm 1.8 and I take mostly everything with that. So the 35mm equivalent made me get closer and in so doing created a photo and look that I really enjoyed. While at the wedding service, the paid pro was walking around with a loud Canon 5D Mwhatver and the shutter sounded like a Clydesdale horse plodding through the mud “Clug-clock, clug-clock, clug-clock!” Meanwhile my X100s set to silent mode was like a ninja’s shadow! Truly, it’s totally silent and unobtrusive. Thank you leaf shutter! 😎
The image quality is outstanding. I shot the camera at 3200 ISO nearly the whole time I was at the different events on my trip and when I got home to look the files over, they blew me away. The files aren’t D3s clean but there’s no noise. It’s a silky grain that adds to the character and personality of the camera. The color. The color is unbelievable. I can’t get over how amazing and beautiful and rich and vibrant and . . . you get the idea . . . the color is. I love color and the Fuji files pop off the screen with scrumptious tonality. The photo of the roses was shot in a Costco under those heinous “sodium-vapourizer-punch-your-auto-WB-in-the-face” lights. Auto white balance and like all the photos on this review, SOOC JPG.
This window light portrait was shot at ISO 400, f/2.8. I really love the over all look of the files. The skin tones are amazing, the colors pop. What more can I say?! The files are gorgeous straight out of camera, as is my smokin’ hot wife. 😀
I feel about the X100s the same way I felt when I got my first DSLR (Nikon D40) – Romeo & Juliet. I’m in love! 😎 But the best part is, we’re not star-crossed in any way. The camera is a finely revised version of an already great model. It brings the thunder in every way. It’s no nonsense. The user experience is great. The autofocus speed is slick. The files are pure awesome. It’s literally anything anyone would want in a compact travel/event camera in nearly any situation. If you are a rangefinder retro-style junkie, buy this camera. If you have an X100, buy this camera. If you want a camera that you can pick up and feel that it is an extension of your photographic creativity and skill, buy this camera. It’s a 5 out of 5 star camera only because I can’t give it 6 out of 5. It’s cooler than the other side of the pillow. 😀