When it comes to Travel Photography I hear a lot of questions which gear may be the best. Should You switch to a DSLR and a whole parade of lenses, or is something small and compact better?
Being Familiar with Your Camera
I prefer to use the gear that I am already familiar with and wouldn’t switch anything. In Berlin, I use the Fujifim X100F and even though You might be scared to only have a fixed-focal-length camera with You and might miss some shots, this isn’t really a problem. I am facing the same “problem” while photographing in Berlin and so far I have not run into a scene, that was impossible to photograph with this camera.
Instead of buying new gear just for a journey, use the camera that You are already familiar with and use it its maximum potential.
My first stop was Hanoi and I absolutely love this city and its small alleys as well as the characteristic of the sun.
Hanoi is famous for its train track which allows for some great leading lines, but also coffee and relaxation. Especially in the morning or evening hours when the sun is lower, the long drawn tracks are a great opportunity to get decent shots.
Normally, Hanoi is a very busy place and the train tracks are a great change of pace.
In this city, the Fujifilm X100F can also show its great versatility. Whether You are out shooting on the markets in old-town, the train tracks or visiting the Hoan-Kiem Lake at night, the camera always performs well. Crowded places, low light situations or directly into the sun, the X100F is suitable for all these situations.
The hardest Challenge in Indonesia
After Hanoi, I visited Saigon and Jakarta, which were great cities also, but not that different from Hanoi when it comes to travel photography.
On the contrary, in East Java, a real adventure waited for me and my photography. I planned to stay for a few weeks in the Indonesian Jungle and wanted to document the life in a remote village, as well as the miners at the Mount Ijen nearby.
Already on the second evening, my homestay’s host invited me to the wedding of his cousin. I didn’t know what to expect and how a traditional Indonesian wedding would look like. So I brought also my external flash with me because it gets dark very early there.
It was the right choice and in combination with the X100F, I managed to get some decent shots of the bride & groom, as well of the wedding party.
On the technical side, I like to pre-focus my camera to around 1.5 ~ 2 meters and use an aperture of f/8 or f/11. In low-light, the auto-focus can be a little weak, but by pre-focusing, I can circumvent this problem and still get my shots.
Then I arrived at the main reason of my journey – the Mount Ijen.
The mountain is best known for its “Blue Fire” at night and the reason why tourists, usually go there at the evening and leave in the early morning hours.
My purpose was different as I wanted to document the miners and their incredible hard job.
Mount Ijen is a volcano mountain and home to one of the largest sulfur source.
The miners carry manually up 70kg of sulfur on their back up and down the crater. What is already a difficult path without the weight on my shoulders and takes more than an hour, is even more of a challenge for the miners.
But they aren’t satisfied with this one load, they do this tour four times during a work day, bringing around 280kg to the buyer.
Going down the crater and photographing at the same time is a huge challenge. From the bottom of the crater, toxic sulfur smokes rises and the wind is very unpredictable.
Apart from my own health, I was already afraid how my X100F would work in this environment. I didn’t take any precautions for the camera aside from a new lens hood.
Of course, I wanted to get close and dive right into the scene, which meant that the camera was also exposed to the sulfur smoke and the dust.
Gas masks are mandatory when descending to the bottom of the crater, but my camera didn’t have any additional protection.
Arriving at the bottom I photographed the direct mining of the sulfur, which normally no tourist is able to witness. Standing for around 20 minutes in the smoke, I could feel my lungs and eyes burn, but at the same time was very happy with the performance of the camera.
Escaping this surreal place I was very afraid that the camera would have taken damage from a long time in the smoke & dust.
Two months later, the camera still performs very well and has endured this tour very well. Some buttons are a little stiff, but this is honestly not a big problem for me and I am confident that with a little more time they will also improve again.
My conclusion is now, that it doesn’t take a lot of gear or different equipment for such a journey where You are facing a lot of different places and events. For me, my Fujifilm X100F was more than sufficient and even survived toxic sulphur smoke.
I am sure, with any other setup I wouldn’t be as happy and wouldn’t change anything for the next trip.”