Probably the biggest challenge for any photographer heading on a trip is what camera and lens combination to pack. Our latest holiday saw an epic trip to Western Australia taking in the city of Perth and the stunning Margaret River coastal region. As this was very much a leisure trip I was traveling light but wanted a combination that wasn’t going to limit the opportunity to document our great Australian Adventure.
After much deliberation, I concluded my much loved Fujifilm X100F and my Fujifilm X-T2 with the 16mm f/1.4 and the 35mm f/2 lenses would work best for the trip. That was it, no filters, no tripods just the camera duo and a couple of spare batteries. The X-T2, I set up RAW/JPG and the X100F was set to just JPG shooting so that I could employ the digital tele conversion system.
For the three week trip I carried either the X-T2 or the X100F but never both. To be honest I ended up using the 35mm much more than the 16mm, mostly as on a family holiday the focus is going to be on people. In total I captured 282 photos with the X100F and 514 photos with the X-T2, 104 of these being with the 16mm.
The combination of the 35mm (50mm (ish) equivalent) on the X-Pro2 or X-T2 is brilliant for pretty much everything documentary. It is a great lens for isolating a subject from the background and for working with a shallow depth of field. Whilst walking through the city of Perth a gentleman spotted my camera and asked me to take his photo. I obliged and we chatted for fifteen or twenty minutes about the city. The 35mm combination captured his character in stunning detail and clarity. He informed me the photo would be worth lots of money in the future; I can but hope.
The walk around Perth evoked the internal turmoil every photographer faces, I had left the 16mm where we were staying so I missed the opportunity to effectively capture the contrasting Perth architecture. As you can see below the 35mm worked to a point but you miss the scale of the skyscraper in the background.
The next day I put the 16mm into my coat pocket to ensure I was equipped for every eventuality. A trip to the stunning King’s Park and I was met with the Perth vista and the turmoil continued. Going straight for the 16mm I captured the cityscape in it’s vastness.
The 16mm focal length felt disconnected and too distant from the actual reality of where we stood. The 50mm (equivalent full frame) focal length offered by the 35mm lens is closer to how we see as humans and thus the lens achieved a more engaging photo from this vantage point.
Perth is a remarkable city and although it was technically winter we still made our way to the stunning Swanbourne and Cotteslow beach. It was here the 16mm really shone, in some ways lens choice is actually a combination of what is being shot and how we actually want to communicate the subject. The 16mm is a stunning lens and it captured the sheer space and drama of Swanbourne beach.
The 16mm also excelled at capturing the famous Indiana Teahouse on Cottesloe beach. I was able to remain close to the building and still capture the scale and architectural detail whilst including the sea and beach.
Following a week in Perth we took the three hour drive to the stunning Margaret River area of Western Australia. The area offers a stunning portfolio of product, famous for wine and beer it also has a successful chocolate and silk industry and farm a plethora of livestock.
The beaches and coasts are simply breathtaking. The colour, surfing, and hiking are a photographers paradise, that is, once you get used to 6 feet kangaroos jumping out from the bush when you least expect it. I sincerely found them petrifying especially given the size and speed of which they move, that said I think they feared me more, although not for the same reasons. I have to mention the coffee in the White Elephant cafe on Gnarabup beach and the Candy Cow in Cowaramup for a vast array of homemade confectionary, if you visit once, you will visit twice. It’s impossible to go wrong in Margaret River and most of the brewery and vineyards have restaurants attached.
The X100F was my photographic companion on more casual outings along the beach and we were lucky enough to witness Margaret River rising high enough to make it to the sea. I have set my X100F to JPG only so I can use the digital tele conversion option, this allows me to dial in two additional levels of zoom with the camera capturing the same size JPG through upscaling, this feature was especially useful for family days out. Be aware if you capture JPG only you are locked to whatever film simulate that is selected at point of capture but it easily enough to gauge from a scene which simulation will work best.
Hiking the Cape to Cape
We couldn’t miss the opportunity to take in part of the famous Cape to Cape hike and our 2okm section took in dense bush, kangaroos, stunning cliffs and beaches only accessible via the hike. It was a fantastic experience to be the only people on a vast coastline of beach. There was only a single point on the hike accessible from the road, the famous Redgate beach, and it was here we stopped for lunch to take in a group of local surfers. On the Cape to cape I carried the X-T2 and both the 16mm and 35mm lenses, the 35mm locked on the camera by default with the 16mm coming out only when really needed. In terms of safety it was also great to have my Garmin Fenix 5 tracking our route with it’s ‘take me home’ feature given the vastness of the area we were exploring…. and also nice to have some Australian routes on my Strava account!
The skill of the surfers was as amazing to watch as the waves crashing in against the rugged coastline. Hiking on sand is exhausting but the views more than made up for the experience.
The Southern Cross
Traveling to the other side of the world obviously limits what you can pack and I wish I had have picked up a cheap tripod in Perth as the Margaret River night sky was something to behold. Completely ill prepared for astrophotography I still fought to capture the sky above our house. The juggle of mobile phone torches to see the camera and vain attempts to keep it steady long enough resulted a few sub-standard images but kept as reminders of the view. [Click to view large].
This post covers a very thin layer of the great Australia adventure. I have over 900 (holiday) photos from the trip of which you have been spared. I thought it would be advantageous to share just a few of the highlights and I am sure other photographers reading this will empathise with the lens debates and struggles of what to pack and what to leave behind. If there are three learning points from the trip they would be:
- Australia is a stunning country on so many levels, geography, culture, wildlife, weather. It’s welcoming and friendly and I already want to to go back.
- Experiences are more valuable than things. Invest in experiences.
- You need to take a camera! Photos are great at the time and a few months later but their true value comes with time. For the last twelve years I have created an annual photo book (See: The Importance of Print). The power of a photograph is allowing experiences to be relived.