In my kit are two Fujifilm cameras: an X100V and an X-E4. The X100V is capable of saving seven recipes, while the X-E4 is capable of saving eight, which means that I could have had as many as 15 different film simulations ready-to-go between the two cameras! Of course, with the Fuji X Weekly app, I had access to many, many more, which I could have quickly programmed if I had wanted to. I ended up using 10 different recipes: two on my X100V and eight on my X-E4.
While I could have used as many as 15 recipes, and I ended up using 10, I think no more than eight film simulation recipes for one trip might be a better strategy. It would have made a lot of sense to have the same ones programmed into both cameras, just for consistency. Still, it’s fun to see how different recipes do in various situations, so maybe consistency isn’t as big of a deal as enjoyment is—there’s something to be said for both, so maybe it’s important to find the right balance, and that number is likely different for each person.
On my Fujifilm X100V I had seven film simulation recipes programmed into the camera, but I only used two on this trip. I ended up using the X100V a lot less than I thought I would, mostly because the X-E4 had just arrived, and I was trying to put it through its paces. If I had shot with the X100V more, I likely would have used more than just two recipes with it. On my next trip I plan to program the two cameras with, for the most part, the same recipes.
Of the eight film simulation recipes that I programmed into the X-E4, two are currently early-access recipes only available to Fuji X Weekly Patrons on the Fuji X Weekly app: Vintage Negative and Lomochrome Metropolis. These two recipes will eventually be free to everyone, but right now only Patrons can access them.
The recipes that I used the most are Fujicolor Superia 800, Kodachrome 64, and Kodak Tri-X 400. If I only used those three for the trip, I would have been happy, I think. But it’s fun to try different ones. For example, Lomochrome Metropolis and B&W IR aren’t always easy to use, but in the right situations they can produce stellar results.
I recently set out to create an “ultimate” Fujifilm travel kit.
Over the last couple of years, as I’ve collected more and more gear, traveling with my cameras and lenses has become cumbersome, which has lead to frustrations and reduced productivity. More isn’t always better; in fact, less is often more—this is especially true when traveling. I realized that my gear wasn’t nearly as ready for adventure as I was, and I needed to make some series changes to my kit before embarking on my next road trip.
What makes a travel kit bad? If it’s big and heavy and gets in the way, it’s not good. My travel kit consisted of a backpack camera bag filled with multiple bodies and as many lenses as I could stuff inside. I went to Montana last fall, and in my bag there was an X-T1, X-T30, X100V, and X-M1, plus a handful of lenses, including the Fujinon 100-400mm and Fujinon 90mm, which aren’t small or lightweight. I hardly used any of them, except for the X100V, which I could easily carry with me, and so I did. Because I had it with me, I used it often. The rest of the gear just got in the way—literally, the backpack took up too much space in the car, and it become a point of frustration. I would have been better off just bringing one or two cameras and maybe a few small lenses—gear that might have actually been used.
I was afraid that if I didn’t have a certain camera or lens, I would regret not bringing it, if at some point I thought I might need it. You never know what you’ll need, so it’s better to be prepared, right? What I discovered over the last few trips is that the majority of what I was carrying with me I didn’t use. Or, for some of it, if I did use it, it’s only because I forced myself to use it when it wasn’t really necessary. Having too much gear actually made me want to photograph less, and made me less creative when I did. My best photography most often happened when I had limited gear—perhaps one camera and one lens—and left the rest behind.
What makes a travel kit good? It should be compact and lightweight, yet versatile. One camera and one lens is often enough, but not always. The X100V is a great travel camera, but sometimes I need something more wide-angle or more telephoto—it’s not always versatile enough, even though it is often my camera of choice. I think two bodies and a limited assortment of lenses in a small bag is good. Small enough to not get in the way. Lightweight. Something that you don’t mind having with you, so you do. A good travel kit strikes a comfortable balance between practicality and petiteness.
I put together what I hoped would be a great kit for travel photography. I was able to put it to the test on a road trip to Arizona—was it actually going to work for me?—and I discovered many good points and a few things that still need to be worked out. Let’s take a close look at this “ultimate” Fujifilm travel kit that I assembled for myself, piece-by-piece.
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It might seem strange to begin with the bag, but in my mind it’s just that important. The camera bag needed to be very small, but it also had to be able to hold everything. Finding one that I felt was just the right size and design turned out to be a challenge, but after much research I stumbled across the National Geographic NG2344 Earth Explorer Shoulder Bag, and for only $40! The dimensions of this bag are roughly 8″ x 7″ x 6″, yet I can fit two cameras and six lenses inside. I was thrilled to learn that the bag fit into the middle storage console of my car, so it is completely out of the way on road trips, yet is easily and quickly accessible.
I subdivided the main compartment into four, using the soft dividers to create “hidden” storage under the cameras, which I use for lenses. The bottom-right holds two Fujinon lenses, and the bottom-left holds three third-party lenses. Two cameras fit on top, just as long as the interchangeable-lens camera has a pancake lens attached. The small front compartment holds charging cords, extra batteries, SD-cards, etc., while the two tiny top pockets (which are probably more for looks than anything) hold lens-wipes. While everything is packed in, I don’t feel like it’s overstuffed—there actually is a little room for more, should I need it.
One thing that I don’t like about this bag is that the shoulder strap is permanently attached. I might modify it at some point to make the strap removable, as I think that would improve it. Otherwise, the bag seems pretty darn good for the travel photographer.
I already owned a Fujifilm X100V, and that camera was going to be in this kit, no doubt about it. The other camera was a question mark for me. It needed to be small yet an interchangeable-lens model. I thought that my X-T30 might be too big, so maybe the X-E3, but it has the older sensor. I really wasn’t sure which camera was going to be the right one. Then Fujifilm announced the X-E4, and I really hoped that it would be the correct camera for this kit, so I immediately preordered it. After several weeks of waiting, and just a couple of days before my Arizona trip, it arrived at my doorstep. And it fit perfectly into the camera bag.
The Fujifilm X100V, which I’ve had for about 10 months, was a birthday gift from my wife. It’s such a great camera and I absolutely love to shoot with it. The X100V has a permanently attached 23mm lens, which is 35mm full-frame equivalent—a very useful focal-length. The compactness of it makes it especially great for travel.
There are some X100V features that are unique in my bag. It’s weather-sealed, has a nearly silent mechanical leaf shutter, built-in high-speed-synch fill-flash, optical viewfinder, and built-in neutral-density filter. I could photograph with this camera 90% of the time and be very happy, but the X100V isn’t always the right choice. It has strengths, but it also has weaknesses that limit its versatility.
If I could only have one camera, it would be the X100V; however, I believe that this camera demands a partner. If you have this camera, you also need an interchangeable-lens option to accompany it. That’s why I have two cameras in my kit, even though the X100V is oftentimes all that I need.
Below are a few pictures that I captured with my Fujifilm X100V on the Arizona trip.
The Fujifilm X-E4 is the smallest interchangeable-lens camera with an electronic viewfinder offered by Fujifilm. The compact size of the X-E4 is an important aspect of this travel kit. I have an X-T30, which is a small camera that’s a little bigger than the X-E4, and it does fit into the camera bag, but barely—it’s much more snug than I want it to be. In a pinch it would work, but the X-E4 is a more comfortable fit, and a better choice because of that.
When the X100V isn’t the right tool, the X-E4 fills in nicely. It adds great versatility to the travel kit. I can go more wide-angle or telephoto by changing the lens. It can store one more film simulation recipe than the X100V. It has some new JPEG features that the X100V doesn’t. Even though 90% of the time the X100V is all that I need, I found myself using the X-E4 much more than I thought I would. It’s a fun camera that’s easy to have with you because of its compact size.
Below are a few pictures that I captured with my Fujifilm X-E4 on the Arizona trip.
In the camera bag I have six lenses—seven if you count the one permanently attached to the X100V. This provides versatility for whatever photographic situations present themselves. The lenses must be small, or else they won’t fit inside the bag.
Would a 100-400mm zoom be nice to have as an option? Yes, for sure! But it’s too big, and it would add a lot of weight—if it’s not going to be used much, it’s not worth bringing along. The Fujinon 90mm f/2 is one of my favorite lenses, but it’s also big and heavy, and not used often enough, so it’s not in this kit. A zoom lens would make a lot of sense, perhaps something like the 18-55mm f/2.8-4, but I prefer primes. My philosophy as I put this travel kit together was smaller is better. Zooms are often smaller than a few primes put together, but are rarely smaller than a singe prime. If a lens attached to the X-E4 made it possibly pocketable, that was a win. The more compact the camera and lens combo is, the more convenient it will be for travel. With those goals in mind, I chose six lenses to place inside my camera bag.
Fujinon XF 18mm f/2 R
The Fujinon XF 18mm f/2 R is Fujifilm’s second smallest lens, which makes it a great option for travel. The 18mm focal-length, which is 27mm full-frame equivalent, is very useful—great for walk-around photography and landscapes. This is my primary wide-angle lens in this kit. The 18mm f/2 is a little loud and a bit slow, but it captures beautiful pictures. The compact size and lovely image quality are what makes this lens great.
Most of the time when I want a wide-angle option, the 18mm focal-length works well; however, occasionally I would like something a little wider. I think a 14mm or 12mm lens would be preferable sometimes, but unfortunately there’s not an option that’s small enough for my camera bag—for example, my Rokinon 12mm f/2 is just a little too big. Thankfully, this lens is often a great choice when I want to shoot wide-angle, so it gets used a lot, and is an essential part of this travel kit.
Below are a few pictures that I captured with my Fujinon 18mm lens on the Arizona trip.
Fujinon XF 27mm f/2.8 R WR
The Fujinon XF 27mm f/2.8 R WR was my most used lens on the trip to Arizona. It’s Fujifilm’s smallest lens, so I knew that it would be an essential element of my travel kit, but I didn’t know just how much I’d love using it. The 27mm focal length, which is 40.5mm full-frame equivalent, is the closest to a “normal” lens on Fujifilm X, yet it is slightly wide-angle.
If I wanted to really simplify things, I could be happy just bringing this lens and the 18mm f/2 to pair with the X-E4 (plus the X100V). That would be a lightweight and uncomplicated kit. Expanding the focal-length options with a few other lenses is a nice bonus, but the heart and soul of the camera bag are the two camera bodies and the 27mm and 18mm pancake lenses.
Below are a few pictures that I captured with my Fujinon 27mm lens on the Arizona trip.
Fujinon XF 35mm f/2 R WR
The Fujinon XF 35mm f/2 R WR has been my most used lens over the last two years. The 52.5mm full-frame equivalent focal-length makes this a slightly telephoto “standard” prime lens, often referred to as a “nifty fifty”. There’s a little redundancy between this and the 27mm, as they’re both “standard” lenses, but the 35mm has some advantages: quieter autofocus, larger maximum aperture, slightly superior optics. Despite that, I found myself using the 35mm f/2 less often than I thought I would.
Because I have the 27mm lens, this lens isn’t an essential part of the travel kit. Since there’s room for it and it’s been a favorite lens of mine for a couple years, I decided to include it anyway. I did use it a little on my trip, but more because I forced myself to and not so much because I needed to. I might rethink its inclusion in the camera bag, but for now the 35mm f/2 lens stays.
Below are a few pictures that I captured with my Fujinon 35mm lens on the Arizona trip.
Pergear 10mm f/8 Fisheye
The Pergear 10mm f/8 Fisheye lens is quite limited in its usefulness, but occasionally it comes in handy, such as when I visited Horseshoe Bend, which demanded an ultra-wide-angle option for the dramatic landscape. The Fujinon 18mm lens wasn’t nearly wide-enough, so the Pergear 10mm came out and did the trick. The strong barrel distortion makes it tough to use, but it’s definitely useable in a pinch.
This compact pancake lens takes up almost no space in the camera bag, so its inclusion is a no-brainer. Even if it was only used a few times, and otherwise remained in the bag unused, it’s worth having around for those rare occasions when this lens comes in handy. It’s so small, lightweight and cheap, it just makes sense to have it in the camera bag, providing a more wide-angle option than 18mm.
Below are a few pictures that I captured with my Pergear 10mm lens on the Arizona trip.
Asahi Pentax-110 50mm f/2.8
The Asahi Pentax-110 50mm f/2.8 was the last lens that I added to the travel kit. Why did I include it? Because, since it’s a tiny lens, there was room for it, and I really like how it renders pictures. This lens has a fixed aperture, which makes its usefulness limited, but when I do use it I enjoy the pictures that I capture with it. This Asahi lens is the only vintage lens in this kit.
I wish that I had used this lens more, but it had competition, so I ended up using it less than I should have. Next time I will use it more. This little 75mm full-frame-equivalent lens has a special quality and takes up so little space, so its inclusion in the travel kit should have been obvious. The Asahi Pentax-110 50mm lens is going to stick around awhile.
Below are a few pictures that I captured with my Asahi Pentax-110 50mm lens on the Arizona trip.
7artisans 50mm f/1.8
The sixth lens in my travel kit is the 7artisans 50mm f/.8. This fully manually lens is good and all, but there are two reasons why it will be replaced: I already have a 50mm lens that I like, and focusing on distant objects is more difficult than it should be. Otherwise this a decent lens, and it has several advantages over the Asahi 50mm: closer minimum focus distance, larger maximum aperture, adjustable aperture, less vignetting—technically speaking, it’s a superior lens, but it’s missing the great character that is oozing from the vintage Asahi lens.
The reason why I selected this particular lens for this kit is because it’s the smallest 50mm X-mount lens available. I did discover that there’s actually a little more room in the bag for something slightly bigger. Ideally I’d like to replace this with a longer focal-length lens, but at the moment I’m just not sure what it will be, or when I’ll replace it. I do know that the inclusion of the 7artisans 50mm f/1.8 lens in my travel kit won’t last long.
Below are a few pictures that I captured with my Asahi Pentax-110 50mm lens on the Arizona trip.
How ultimate is my “ultimate” Fujifilm travel kit? It’s not perfect, but it’s significantly better than what I was traveling with before. The bag is ideal. The two cameras are wonderful. There are some excellent lenses to choose from. No doubt about it, this is a really good kit for travel photography.
If anything, it’s the lens selection that’s not quite perfect. I like the 18mm and 27mm. The 35mm is great, too, but a little unnecessary since I have the 27mm. The X100V, with its built-in 23mm lens, is awesome. I like the Asahi Pentax 50mm lens, but it’s not especially practical for everyday photography. The 10mm Fisheye is good to have around, but not especially useful most of the time. Those two lenses take up very little space, so it’s easy to keep them in the bag just in case I want to use them, but I know that I won’t be using either of them all that often. I don’t need two 50mm lenses, so the 7artisans will be replaced.
Should I replace the Fujinon 35mm f/2? If so, with what? The 16mm f/2.8 is the same size, so it’s a logical option, although it creates the same redundancy problem, just at the wide-angle end, which actually might be slightly more practical. Maybe the Fujinon 16mm f/2.8 and the Fujinon 50mm f/2 would be good options to replace the 35mm and the 7artisans models. The 50mm f/2 is a little bigger, but I believe it would fit. The Fujinon 60mm f/2.4 might be an option instead of the 50mm, which would be preferable because it has a longer reach and is also a macro lens, but it might be a tad too big for the bag. Maybe I should consider a vintage model. Or maybe replace two primes with a zoom. There’s a lot to consider, and I think replacing one or two lenses will make this “ultimate” travel kit even better. I’ll let you know when I make that modification, and how it goes.
This trip to Arizona that I recently returned from was photographically so much more pleasant than my other travels over the last couple of years. A small camera bag filled with compact and lightweight gear—a purposeful assortment of cameras and lenses—is a night-and-day difference from the heavy backpack stuffed with everything that could fit that I used to haul around. Practical and petite is preferable when it comes to travel photography. Less is often more. This might not yet be the “ultimate” Fujifilm travel kit, but it’s pretty close, and will only get better.
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While I’d passed this famous photographic landmark a handful of times, this was the first time that I’d actually stopped to take a look myself. It’s a part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and sits a little ways northeast of the Grand Canyon and just southwest of Lake Powell.
Despite visiting during the “off season” it was surprisingly crowded. There’s a small entrance fee, and it seems well maintained. A well-marked trail leads to an epic overlook of the Colorado River. The steep drop-off has railings at one spot but otherwise there’s nothing to keep visitors from falling except for good sense—it didn’t seem as though everyone was exercising good sense while I was there. The red rocks were dusted in red sand, making footing unsteady at times. Be careful if you should visit.
The reward is an incredibly amazing view! There’s a similarly amazing place in this region called Goosenecks State Park that’s much less crowded, which is briefly featured at the beginning of my Monument Valley video. If you have a chance to visit Horseshoe Bend or The Goosenecks, be sure to do so. Don’t wait until the seventh or eighth time passing by before finally getting out of the car and heading down the trail. It’s worth your time, and your photographic attention.
Follow along with me as I photograph Monument Valley! The video above, Monument Valley with Fuji X Weekly, is a behind-the-scenes look at my photographic adventure to the incredible desert formations of southern Utah and northern Arizona on the Navajo Nation. It was a thrill to experience Monument Valley. It really is an amazing place!
This was my last trip before the worldwide pandemic shut down all of my travel plans. So far I’ve had to cancel two trips, and there’s likely one or two more that won’t happen. I hope that this video will bring you some joy. I hope that it reminds you of some recent travels that you’ve done. I hope that it inspires you to dream of where you’ll go and what you’ll photograph when you can once again go places.
My wife, Amanda, and I created this video. Actually, she did the majority of the work. Amanda recorded the clips. She did all of the editing. She coached me through the narration. I have a face for radio and a voice for print, yet somehow she made the video look great! Her vision, her storytelling, and her talents are what made this happen. Thank you, Amanda!
Evening at Monument Valley – Monument Valley, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Rokinon 12mm
This article marks a significant milestone that I wanted to point out to you. This is the 500th post on Fuji X Weekly! Many blogs never make it to 500 posts, either because they publish too infrequently or they simply give up before it’s reached. What it means for you is that there’s a lot of content on this blog! If you haven’t been following Fuji X Weekly since the beginning, there are a ton of articles that you might have missed. There are perhaps many posts that could be helpful to you and your photography that you’ve never seen. I invite you to explore the older articles. The best way to do this is click the four lines on the top-right of this page, and either search a topic or browse the archive. Anyway, thank you for being a part of Fuji X Weekly! Without you, the 500 Posts milestone would not have been reached. You are appreciated!
Nobody pays me to write the content found on fujixweekly.com. There's a real cost to operating and maintaining this site, not to mention all the time that I pour into it. If you appreciated this article, please consider making a one-time gift contribution. Thank you!
Evening at Monument Valley – Monument Valley, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Rokinon 12mm
I just got back from Monument Valley, which sits on the border between Arizona and Utah on Navajo land near Four Corners. Situated on the Colorado Plateau, Monument Valley features large rock formations and red desert sand. It’s a lonely place; there are only a few very small towns scattered nearby. Despite being in the middle of nowhere, it attracts many tourists from across the world. Monument Valley is the iconic American West landscape, and it is nothing short of stunning!
You’ve seen Monument Valley before, even if you didn’t know what you were looking at. Certainly you’ve seen pictures of it in calendars and magazines and on social media. Many different movies have had scenes filmed in Monument Valley. Forest Gump concluded his cross country run there. Marty McFly went back in time to the old west in Monument Valley. Clark Griswold drove his car off the road at this place. Many “westerns” were filmed in Monument Valley, including a few starring John Wayne. In many ways Monument Valley still looks and feels like the rugged and wild American West, so it’s easy to understand Hollywood’s draw to this location.
Monument Valley was on my photographic bucket list for a long time. I’ve wanted to visit and capture the iconic landscape for many years. I’d seen the black-and-white prints by Ansel Adams and the color pictures in Arizona Highways magazine that showcased this incredible landscape, which made me want to experience it for myself. I had to make my own images. I needed to get to Monument Valley. Honestly, though, I didn’t realize its exact location until recently. I knew it was in northern Arizona somewhere. Or maybe southern Utah. As it turns out, most of it is in far northeastern Arizona, and a little of it sits in far southeastern Utah, but all of it belongs to the Navajo Nation.
Butte Between two Boulders – Monument Valley, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm
I was only able to stay in Monument Valley for one day. I had one day to capture the pictures that I wanted, or at least as many of them as I could. I planned the trip carefully, doing much research ahead of time so that I would know what to expect. It paid off because I believe I made the most of my short time there. I didn’t come away with every picture that I had hoped for, but I came away with a good group, and that means I had a good day. I’ll have to return, hopefully soon, for the rest.
Something that struck me about Monument Valley is how quiet and peaceful it was. You can set your own pace and take things slow. The wide open spaces allowed for moments of true serenity. You can find yourself alone. Monument Valley is sacred land to the Navajo, and you can feel that while there, permeating from the stone and sand. My visit was during the off season, and I’m sure the atmosphere during the summer months can be quite different.
All of the Navajo people that I met and spoke with were exceedingly friendly and helpful. They seemed quite proud of this place, eager to share its beauty with the world. One lady, who was selling jewelry along a dirt road, was happy to tell me about her favorite photograph, which had been on the cover of Arizona Highways, that featured a nearby tree, which has since died because it was struck by lightning. I felt like I was an invited guest, and the Navajo people were happy to have me there.
Mitchell Mesa – Monument Valley, AZ – Fujifilm X-T1 & Fujinon 35mm
But I could sense another side. This is private land. Among the rock formations are little houses. There are ranches scattered throughout Monument Valley. Visitors are allowed in only very specific places, which are clearly marked, unless you have an official guide. At one stop I overheard a guide telling his group that he was not allowed to take people to one particular spot because the occupant of a nearby house “doesn’t like white people.” I can certainly understand that past hurts might still sting. The Navajo haven’t always been treated well by America. This is their home. This is their sacred land where their ancestors lived and died. They don’t have to allow anyone in. They could keep Monument Valley to themselves, and not welcome visitors. I’m sure there are some who would prefer that. I was a stranger in a strange land. I was the outsider. Gratefully, I was welcomed in and treated kindly.
From what I could tell from my short visit, the Navajo way of life is slower, simpler, quieter, and more free than my own. There are no Walmarts or McDonalds or Starbucks within 100 miles, probably further than that. I didn’t see any signs of commercialism and consumerism. I’m sure life in the dry desert can be difficult, but to the Navajo it is worth dealing with those difficulties in order to live life their way; to be who they are. Their culture is preserved by living out their traditions.
The photographs in this article were captured with a Fujifilm X-T30 and Fujifilm X-T1. The lenses I used were a Fujinon 35mm f/2, Fujinon 100-400mm and Rokinon 12mm f/2. On the X-T30 I used my Velvia (except color +4), Kodachrome 64, Dramatic Monochrome and Agfa Scala film simulation recipes, and on the X-T1 I used Velvia and Monochrome. The challenge when visiting a place like Monument Valley is creating something unique when it’s been photographed from every angle imaginable. That’s an extraordinarily difficult task, but not completely impossible. While most of my pictures have been done before by others, I think a few of them are fairly unique; at least I’ve never seen one identical. I hope that you enjoy them!
Monument Valley – Monument Valley, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm
Mittens in Monochrome – Monument Valley, AZ – Fujifilm X-T1 & Fujinon 35mm
Mitchell Mesa in Monochrome – Monument Valley, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm
Reflection on a Dirt Road – Monument Valley, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm
Navajo Flag – Monument Valley, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Rokinon 12mm
Four Flags – Monument Valley, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 100-400mm
Shrub on the Edge of the Wash – Monument Valley, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Rokinon 12mm
Rocks & Mitten – Monument Valley, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm
Forest Gump Was Here – Monument Valley, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 100-400mm
Highway Through The Hole – Monument Valley, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 100-400mm
Dying Tree in the Red Desert – Monument Valley, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm
Yucca – Monument Valley, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm
Red Ripples – Monument Valley, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm
Puddle In The Sand – Monument Valley, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 35mm
Evening Mittens – Monument Valley, AZ – Fujifilm X-T1 & Fujinon 35mm
Last Light on the Mittens – Monument Valley, AZ – Fujifilm X-T1 & Fujinon 35mm
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Many years ago, Ansel Adams photographed the Arizona desert in black-and-white. Many people might be unaware that he was a regular contributor to Arizona Highways magazine back in the day. Adams’ photographs of the desert have been an inspiration to me even before I captured a single exposure in Arizona. Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not trying to compare myself with the legend. What I am saying is that Arizona and black-and-white photography go together like peanut butter and jelly. There’s something timeless about it that just makes me feel good on the inside. It brings me back to those classic pictures by Ansel Adams that I carefully studied back in the early years of my own picture-making. As colorful as Arizona can be, to me it looks best in black-and-white.
Downtown Phoenix From North Mountain – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm f/2
Saguaro In The City – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm f/2
Monochrome Desert Hill – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm f/2
River & Rays – Lake Mead Nat’l Rec. Area, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm f/2
I love Arizona! It is perhaps the most beautiful state in America. Some might disagree with that sentiment, thinking that the desert is dull and brown, but I find it to be a colorful and diverse landscape. Others might consider California, Colorado or my current home state of Utah, or perhaps another state like Maine, Alaska, Hawaii, etc., to be more majestic, and they are each certainly majestic, but to me Arizona is at the top of the list, and my heart belongs there.
My family and I like to travel to Arizona whenever we can, which is usually once or twice each year. A few weeks ago we visited some family of ours in Phoenix, and of course I brought my Fujifilm X-T30 along, with a Fujinon 35mm f/2 attached to the front. I appreciate this setup for travel because it’s small and lightweight enough to not get in the way, yet can produce some stunning pictures. The film simulations I used were Velvia, Kodachrome 64, and “Classic Negative” (for Quit My Job). This wasn’t a photography trip, but as always I captured a number of pictures. I hope you enjoy!
In It Together – Surprise, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm f/2
Gravel Road Above The City – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm f/2
Desert Above, City Below – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm f/2
Desert City – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm f/2
Almost two years ago my family and I visited the McCormick Stillman Railroad Park in Scottsdale, Arizona, and I captured it with a Fujifilm X100F. The McCormick Stillman Railroad Park is one of the best city parks in America (it’s actually been ranked #1), and it truly is a neat place to go. If you are in Phoenix, Arizona, with your family, I highly recommend that you stop by this park. It’s especially magical around Christmas, as they elaborately decorate it for the holiday season. Last week my family and I returned to the McCormick Stillman Railroad Park, but this time I had a Fujifilm X-T30 and Fujinon 35mm f/2 lens to photograph the visit.
What I love about this park is that there’s something for everyone. There’s a large playground for the kids. There are barbecue grills and pavilions and large grassy areas to throw a ball or Frisbee. There’s a gift shop where you can buy ice cream in the summer and hot cocoa in the winter. There’s a museum. There’s a carousel. There are scale trains which you can ride that loop around the park. It’s both modern and historic. You can feel mindfulness and nostalgic simultaneously. It really is unique. And, of course, it can make an interesting subject for photography. I used my Kodachrome 64 film simulation recipe for most of these pictures.
Trains Boarding – Scottsdale, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30
Santa Fe Sun – Scottsdale, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30
Aguila – Scottsdale, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30
Happy Train Riders – Scottsdale, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30
Looking Back – Scottsdale, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30
P&P 42 – Scottsdale, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30
Train Rides Today – Scottsdale, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30
Little Trolley Rider – Scottsdale, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30
It’s Not Too Late – Scottsdale, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30
Rays Over Colorado River – Lake Mead Nat’l Rec. Area, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm f/2
Along U.S. Highway 93, about 12 miles south of the Hoover Dam, there’s a scenic view pullout, which offers tremendous views of desert mountains and canyons and a glimpse of the Colorado River at Willow Beach. This is part of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. It’s easy to drive right on past this spot, as I have done many times before. Those who do stop here are rewarded with an incredible vista. It’s not the Grand Canyon, but it’s like a small glimpse of the Grand Canyon. It’s a quintessential Arizona landscape. Actually, you can see both Arizona and Nevada, as the river marks the boundary between the two states.
When I was at this scenic pullout last week, there was a storm passing through, which provided a dramatic sky with streaking light rays from the peeking sun. It was an amazing sight, yet short lived. I had my Fujifilm X-T30 with me, alternating between a Fujinon 35mm f/2 and a Fujinon 90mm f/2 attached to the front. A more wide-angle lens might have been nice, but these are the two lenses that I had with me. I captured a number of frames, then the great light disappeared as quickly as it had come.
Because I had a camera with me, and I decided to stop, I was able to witness and record this beautiful moment. Many cars zoomed down the highway, perhaps witnessing the scene quickly from behind their windows, or perhaps not noticing it at all, and only a few stopped. I’m thankful that I was one of the few who stopped, and what a great reward I was given for doing so. Sometimes the journey is the destination, especially if you are a photographer.
Light Streaming – Lake Mead Nat’l Rec. Area, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 90mm f/2
Light & Mesa – Lake Mead Nat’l Rec. Area, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 90mm f/2
Shining Down – Lake Mead Nat’l Rec. Area, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 90mm f/2
Pouring Light Over Desert – Lake Mead Nat’l Rec. Area, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 90mm f/2
Dramatic Desert Sky – Lake Mead Nat’l Rec. Area, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm f/2
Rays Over The Desert – Lake Mead Nat’l Rec. Area, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm f/2
Rays Over Willow Beach – Lake Mead Nat’l Rec. Area, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm f/2
Last night when I checked the mail, waiting inside the metal box was the September issue of Arizona Highways. For those who may not know, this magazine has a long history of publishing great photographs, and many renown artists have been found in its pages throughout the decades. The newest issue of Arizona Highways features many pictures from the 1950’s and 1960’s, including the cover photograph by Allen Reed, so I found it especially interesting.
As I was flipping through the pages of the magazine this morning while sipping coffee, I was drawn to the Kodachromes, which can be seen many times in this issue. I was impressed with how well my Vintage Kodachrome film simulation recipe mimics the aesthetics of these pictures. It shouldn’t be too surprising since I consulted (among other things) some old Arizona Highways magazines when I created it, but it is a bit surprising that it’s possible to get this look right out of camera. Studying this issue was good confirmation that I got those settings right, and it made me want to shoot with it more. Perhaps later this week I’ll use Vintage Kodachrome for my Film Simulation Challenge.
If you can, pick up a copy of the latest issue of Arizona Highways so you can view these pictures for yourself. Look carefully at the vintage photographs captured by Ansel Adams, Ray Manley, Chuck Abbot and others. Esther Henderson’s pictures were especially impressive, and this was my introduction to her work. It was great inspiration for me, and perhaps it will be for you, too.
When most people think of Arizona, they picture dry dusty deserts and sprawling cities. It’s hot. It’s brown. It’s inhospitable. There are endless rows of look-alike stucco homes. Many people might be unaware that the desert bursts with color in the spring. Arizona isn’t just brown, there are vibrant greens, blues, reds, yellows, purples and other colors, especially in the spring, which is my favorite season in the state.
Arizona isn’t all desert, either. While it may be best known for the Grand Canyon, you might be surprised to learn that the largest ponderosa pine forest in the world is in Arizona. There are tall mountains and even winter skiing. The state is full of surprises. It’s one reason why I love Arizona and appreciate visiting whenever I can.
Yellow Palo Verde – Black Canyon, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 35mm
I used to live in Arizona. Back when I was barely an adult, the Air Force sent me to live in Arizona. I met my wife there. My first two kids were born there. I have a deep fondness for the state. I would love to live there again someday. It’s a wonderful place for photography. I highly recommend grabbing a subscription to Arizona Highways magazine to see many wonderful pictures of the state. A fact that you might be surprised to learn is that Ansel Adams was frequently published in that magazine back in the day. Many great photographers were, and still are.
The photographs in this article were captured a few weeks ago. I used my Fujifilm X-T30 camera with a Fujinon 35mm f/2 lens and a Fujinon 90mm f/2 lens, which are both excellent examples of Fujifilm’s great glass that they’ve become renown for. I hope that you enjoy this variety of photographs that demonstrate there’s more color in Arizona than one might initially think.
Pine In The Sky – Flagstaff, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 90mm
Green Leaves – Surprise, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 35mm
Agave Green – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 35mm
Cactus & Blue Sky – Surprise, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 90mm
Palo Verde In The Windy Blue – Surprise, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 90mm
Palm – Surprise, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 90mm
Vultures In A Tree – Wickenburg, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 90mm
Wildflowers & Stone – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 35mm
Warm Rock & Blue Sky – Sedona, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 90mm
A couple of weeks ago I passed through Sedona, which is an incredibly beautiful town in northern Arizona. Sedona is surrounded by amazing red rock formations. The place feels like it should be a national park, but it isn’t. It’s a tourist town, and people come to see the rocks. It’s the subject of many photographers’ attention. You’ve likely seen pictures of Sedona in magazines and calendars. I had the chance to stop in Sedona in the early afternoon for lunch while travelling between Phoenix and Flagstaff. I didn’t stay for nearly long enough, only to eat and capture a handful of pictures. Sedona is one of those places you want to see over and over, and I wish that I lived closer to it so that I could photograph it more often.
Some would say that the middle of the day, when the sun is high in the sky, is a terrible time for landscape photography. The golden hour is when you should be out with your camera. While it’s true that around sunrise and sunset is a great time for photography, anytime can be a good time. Just because the sun is high, drenching the scene in harsh light, doesn’t mean that one can’t capture a decent picture. Today’s cameras, such as the Fujifilm X-T30 that I used for these photographs, have a great dynamic range latitude, and can handle the bright highlights and deep shadows surprisingly well. While it’s best to attempt to capture a subject in the best light possible, if that’s not practical you do the best you can with the light you have.
Something that I did have going for me were clouds. I prefer a partly-cloudy sky over an endless blue sky for landscape photography. Even an overcast sky can sometimes be more interesting than a cloudless one. Clouds add interest to the scene and can sometimes have a positive effect on the light.
I hope that you enjoy these color photographs of Sedona, Arizona!
Dead Tree & Red Rock – Sedona, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 90mm
Hint of Red on a Green Hill – Sedona, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 90mm
Green Shadow & Highlights – Sedona, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 90mm
Illuminated Rock – Sedona, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 90mm
Red Rock Behind The Treetops – Sedona, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 90mm
Red Rocks of Sedona – Sedona, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 90mm
Red Rock Formations – Sedona, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 90mm
Clouds Behind Red Rocks – Sedona, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 90mm
Light Red & Dark Green – Sedona, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 90mm
Train Ride Through The Christmas Tunnel – Scottsdale, AZ – Fujifilm X100F
There are many reasons to photograph. It might be because someone is paying you money to do so. It could be because you want to hang a pretty picture on your wall. Perhaps you want to share what you ate for lunch with your social network followers. Maybe you have a message you want to photographically convey. Or it might be because you are compelled to create art. There are any number of reasons to take a picture.
Ever since I purchased my Fujifilm X100F, I have found myself much more than ever before using the camera to chronicle my family and the adventures we have. I’m documenting us, the Roesch family. This is something I’ve always done, but never to the extent that I’ve done over the last six months. I’ve captured a heck-of-a-lot of family snapshots lately.
There are several reasons why I’m photographing my family more, and it comes down to gear. The X100F is the perfect chronicle camera. It’s small and lightweight enough to fit in my pocket, so I carry it around with me and it’s never in the way. The image quality is nothing short of fantastic. Many of the different film simulations are great for people pictures. The leaf shutter and built-in fill-flash are great for portraits. It produces wonderful pictures right out of the camera that don’t require editing, so I’m not bogged down with post-processing.
That last point is an important one. I used to spend hours and hours and hours sitting in front of a computer screen editing RAW files. That’s time spent away from family. My workflow was constantly backlogged. I found myself purposefully not capturing images because I knew that meant editing them, which required time that I didn’t have. In fact, I still have thousands of RAW exposures sitting on hard drives that I never got around to post-processing.
Joyful Johanna – Scottsdale, AZ – Fujifilm X100F
With the X100F, I not only have more time to capture pictures, but I’m also not worried about the time that I would have to spend with each image after exposure. I click the shutter and the image is done. It’s ready to be uploaded to the web (which is where I backup my pictures). I’ve saved so much time, and I believe that this more than anything accounts for why I’m now taking more family snapshots.
Years from now these pictures will be worth more to my family and I than any of the other ones. These will be the cherished photographs. I have an old box of slides that my grandparents captured, mostly in the 1950’s and 1960’s. There are images of Yosemite and Yellowstone and such in that box, but the pictures that are most interesting are the family snapshots. Pictures of my dad and his siblings as young kids, or my grandparents when they were young adults, are particularly fascinating.
The photographs in this post are from our family trip to Arizona last Christmas. There’s a really neat place in Scottsdale called the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park, which is just an incredible place for any train enthusiast (and what kid isn’t a train enthusiast?). We spent an afternoon at the park, and these are the family snapshots that I captured. The kids had a blast! It was a really good couple of hours. Because I chronicled it with my camera–the adventure was documented–my kids and their future kids will have these treasured exposures. This will be meaningful to them.
The Fujifilm X100F is a great camera because, among other things, it makes family snapshots easy, producing excellent results without fuss. I’m so glad that I purchased it six months ago. I can’t wait to use it to chronicle the next family adventure, wherever and whenever that might be.
Looking Out The Bright Window – Scottsdale, AZ – Fujifilm X100F
Christmas Joy – Scottsdale, AZ – Fujifilm X100F
What Time Does The Train Leave? – Scottsdale, AZ – Fujifilm X100F
Leaving The Station – Scottsdale, AZ – Fujifilm X100F
Learning Scale – Scottsdale, AZ – Fujifilm X100F
Joshua At The Train Museum – Scottsdale, AZ – Fujifilm X100F
Trolley Driver – Scottsdale, AZ – Fujifilm X100F
Bottle Time – Scottsdale, AZ – Fujifilm X100F
Happy Holiday Baby – Scottsdale, AZ – Fujifilm X100F
Happy Girls – Scottsdale, AZ – Fujifilm X100F
Joy On The Lighted Path – Scottsdale, AZ – Fujifilm X100F
Christmas Bulb Reflection – Scottsdale, AZ – Fujifilm X100F
Our Arizona Christmas – Scottsdale, AZ – Fujifilm X100F (captured by a stranger)
One thing that I did on my Christmas visit to Arizona was photograph cacti. You can find cactus all over the place there. The spiky shrubs are common in Arizona landscaping, and a short walk into the desert will reveal even more. There are over 60 varieties of cactus that grow there. I only photographed a few different types, including Organ Pipe, Saguaro, Barbary Fig, Cholla, and a couple others that I couldn’t identify.
The ten photographs in this article are all camera-made JPEGs; however, I used X RAW Studio to process the RAW files (if you aren’t sure what X RAW Studio is, be sure to click the link), fine-tuning my Across Push-Process Film Simulation recipe. For most of these I increased the shadows to +4, and for some of them I reduced highlights to +3. I adjusted the exposure by 1/3 stop (either plus or minus) for a few of the pictures, as well.
I love the film-look that the Fujifilm X100F produces. A few years back I captured some cactus pictures in Arizona using a Minolta XG-1 and Kodak T-Max 400 film. What I get from the X100F using Acros and what I got back from the lab using the film gear are surprisingly similar. You can achieve film-like results with any digital camera using software, such as Nik Silver Efex or Alien Skin Exposure (both of which I’ve used extensively in the past), but with Fujifilm you can get it straight from the camera if you want.
People have told me, “I don’t get your fascination with film. I don’t like the film-look.” Different strokes for different folks. I personally don’t like pictures that look digital. I compare it to listening to an MP3 file versus an analog record. The MP3 will be more cold and clean, while the analog sound will have more warmth and character. Digital music is way more convenient, and that’s why it is so common.
Digital photography is way more convenient than analog photography, but that doesn’t necessarily make it better. I appreciate the characteristics of film, and the ability to achieve that look while enjoying the conveniences of digital is something I’m thrilled about. One thing I especially like about Fujifilm is that they maintain their analog soul in the digital age.