Camera Woes, People Highlights, Vietnam Astounds Me!

Sometimes being human really irritates me. Today while packing my backpack to move to another place, my beloved Fuji X100F fell out of the bag and onto concrete about 5 feet below. This camera has been rained on and soaked and had condensation and gone to places with me here and there. But it would not power back up. I replaced batteries, left the battery out to hopefully let it do a cold start, but nothing revived it. Facing my daily walks with no camera was not a good thing. Part of the routine of this Mike is photography for my own edification and learning. I don’t want to just take photos with a smartphone. There is no learning there. I find something with the iPhone and snap away. Its all good. I want the learning. Like:

  1. How does light affect the triangle and what should I set for an aperture on a cloudy day but with mist, a blue sky day, an evening at the golden time. With no camera I cannot experiment with light.
  2. How does setting an ISO besides auto ISO affect the images? I am still experimenting and learning to move off Auto ISO
  3. When and where to use exposure compensation? Another thing which requires experimentation and play.
  4. Finally when to shift the camera to manual focus and zone focus on an area and then wait at a market or store or park and let people come to me.

Here are my needs and then I will tell you what I did. I need a camera that I can learn on but is configurable, fun, funky, and has soul. The X100F had all those things for me. It was very forgiving of weather, condensation and fogging, and rough treatment in a carry on bag on the road. I also need a camera that will do travel photography. So what in the world is travel photography you may ask? I believe its recording the sights, places, people you come across when traversing a city, park, whatever. I want to do street photography at times. I like capturing people at their essence. So a Nikon with a 12 foot long telephoto lens will just not work. I want to be unobtrusive and not have the LED light over my head saying ‘TOURIST AHEAD. Finally, I want something to grow into. I want to feel that the camera represents a move ahead for me. I want to find things that challenge me and make me read about how it works.

So enter another camera. I bought today a new FujiFilm XT2 with the 18-55 kit lens. This camera is a step up to a new place on the stage for all the photography I like to do while remaining consistent with Fuji’s design philosophy of making a camera that’s fun to use and learn. Its a bigger expense but I judged it to be worth it. I will get years of enjoyment from it traveling and vagabonding the world. It gets me away from the soul free iPhone photo taking approach. Grab a selfie stick, snap away. Its all good.

The XT2 also has interchangeable lens so if I ever wanted something other than the 18-55 kit lens I can do that too. The camera shop here in Da Nang treated me well and tossed in a tripod, a bag, extra batteries, an SD card. They are a nice group of people. Hit me up on the contact page if you want their information. They also provide the standard Fuji warrantee and offer discounts and the guy did everything for me including upgrading the camera firmware to the latest and showing me all the knobs and dials and made sure I was happy. Even with all this, the price of the camera was on par with the states and I think I got the best post sales support ever from these guys. My salesman wore the FujiFilm team shirt as well as the camera shop logos. He knew the camera really well and used one to take a picture of the sale.

So now, I have something new. A thing to start learning on like from the start and I have weeks in Da Nang to wander and learn and have fun with it. I will never edit images, will never shoot RAW files, will never get Lightroom. It simply is not worth it. If you cannot produce an image from the camera that you like, why go to all that to get something from some editing process you may like? For me , I do photography for my own benefit. If you see an image and you like it great! If you don’t, sue me.

The Fuji X system produces some of the most beautiful JPEG images with the fun and funky film simulations and now I have a camera with inter-changeable lens if I want. I probably don’t. While in Da Lat I talked with this amazing young guy who does street photography and spent weeks touring Vietnam north to south doing that with the XT2, and he only had the one lens. But having the freedom to experiment and learn is priceless.

I gave this thought today while eating at a wonderful place my friend Ha told me about, meeting her best friend, and then arranging to have that person be my friend on facebook. It was all so much fun and spontaneous. Smiles and hugs and welcoming me like a long lost friend to the restaurant. I sat there and considered how it all works. How my workflow or lack of one works. I want immediate photo gratification. I want to switch on the Classic Chrome Simulation or Acros or whatever and see the result. I don’t wanna pour over the images in Lightroom. Its immediate gratification for me!

There you have it. I’m just a rank amateur but I know what I want. Photography is not some mystic science of arcane applications that take RAW files and transpose them. Its an active thing. Its you and the street and the scene unraveling before you. The building with the wonderful shades and shadows that you know would look great with Acros+Red because of its contrast rules. Or the beauty of the waterfall done in Velvia.

Then there’s the other things I discussed. The other things important besides spontaneous travel photography with no editing. I want a few quality relationships that tide me over long distance on the road. As it happens sometimes, the people in your blood family are not the ones that fulfill it. I have a philosophy and belief about that. I personally think we are meant for greater things than blood families. The ties that integrate us are bigger webs that stretch sometimes sight unseen into new worlds and places. So the other thing has slowly become something more. But I also want the solo travel. The no demands travel where no one captains my ship and tells me which way to turn on a day. The days I want solitude, I want it. If I want Pho and she wants Bun Cha and we cannot have both at the same restaurant, I am not the captain of my ship. So, what happens instead is you keep the treasured family but you add more people to an extended family. Here in Vietnam, I’ve found the keys to that in the long, slow travel I do. I’ll put in a final plug for the second thing. Consider staying long in places. Get the longer visa. See the places a month at a time if you can. If you only count the countries where are the people? Nothing will change in September when I move to Cambodia. That will even be slower because the visa laws are different and I automatically qualify for a retirement visa for multiple entries for a year.

So there are the things to recap. Enjoy what you do to capture your moments on a camera whether its a phone or something else. If that enjoyment means editing RAW files and you are really into photography for a more serious reason, great. But, if you are like me, and the photography is only a personal statement, that is good too. In one case you have yourself and perhaps others to satisfy. In the other, you have only yourself. I’ll be honest though. What I hate to see are photographs that are obviously highly edited to bring out something in such a significant manner that its overwhelming. Sometimes I think I can spot these quickly. I guess people feel that by bringing out the blue in the ocean to an overwhelming level, putting a bison in a photograph that was not there before, adding curves to sharpen things to such a point that its obvious, is the way to go.

The final recap is the personal one. Be the way you want. I am a solo traveler first and foremost. I travel not to arrive but to see. I move slow because I can. A day in Da Nang can be wondrous at this level. I sit here now in my bed in a cheap hotel room, listening to the horns honking on the streets below. There is no place I have to be. But… I also have this new family thing which has become just as an integral part of things. Its this quality of Vietnam I feel. It has a certain characteristic of people and belief that makes me happy to have found it. Then there are the wondrous and open and funny and friendly people that make it up. All of this meant that I have made friends from Hanoi south. Many are on facebook with me.

So, in rather lengthier blog, there you have it. Camera, travel, people. Each one touches the other I think. My final advice? I have none. Sorry. Not my day to give advice.