How I Packed For The Lake District

A Brief Personal Story

This summer has been an adventure. Back in May, we had booked a trip back to the Lake District for the beginning of September. Lakeland is probably our favourite place on earth. The density of glacially carved mountains and lakes, and village cafe and pub splendour is unmatched. After publishing my review of the X-H1, I got to work on my XH1 vs. X-T2 article. It was coming along great, and as a bit of a spoiler, I was excited to finally shoot in The Lakes with Fuji cameras,1 and eager to put the XF 16-55mm F/2.8 WR to work on a stabilized body.

But in early June, one of our 4 cats got sick. Real sick. My wife and I spent 11 weeks exhausting every possible resource and sparing no expense trying to nurse our beloved cat back to health. After multiple opinions, and even more trips to veterinarian services, we decided there was no choice but to cancel our trip, believing we would still be getting Charlie back on his feet.

Things didn’t pan out that way, and sadly, we had to let Charlie go on August 19, 2018.2

A few days later, my wife and I talked about what we would do with the vacation time we had already booked off work. No way we could go away, right? But then, what were we going to do otherwise, sit around at home? We decided to look into what was still available, and incredibly, everything we had previously booked still was, so we will be walking the fells of North West England in tribute to Charlie.

Back To Photography Stuff

Now, with all that time lost, I had to figure out what the hell to bring. It’s been a bit of a scramble the last couple of weeks, but given I leave today I’m settled on my photographic gear selection.

In the grip section of my X-H1 review, I noted that I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to deal with the heft of a gripped X-H1 and an L-plate, or stick to a body-only L-plate. As it turns out, I ended up getting both. The convenience of 3 batteries was too much turn down any time I wanted to use proper support, but I knew a gripped and plated X-H1 would be too big to travel with. Not only is it big and heavy, the size also has an affect on potential carry options.

Carry

The last time I was in the Lake District, I packed my Nikon gear in a newly acquired LowePro Photo Sport 200 AW→ after quite a bit of agonizing. I still love this bag. It’s crazy light, super adjustable, and has superb straps, both for your shoulders, and your waist. It is an excellent bag for hiking. Note that this is the first version of the bag. I have not yet tried the LowePro Photo Sport 200 AW II,→ but it looks like they haven’t fixed unbroken things.

Camera(s)

Based on the main camera compartment of that bag and my memory, the X-H1 with L-plate is fairly similar in size to the Nikon D700 I had in it before. It fits perfectly, where a gripped body would not.

I always thought when I traveled back to The Lake District, I’d bring something along the lines of my Invincible Landscaper kit. I’ll be bringing the lenses, but I won’t have a body dedicated to each. Instead, my second body will be an X-Pro2 with a weather sealed prime mounted for casual documentary shots.

Lenses

The X-H1 will mostly have the XF 16-55mm F/2.8 WR mounted on it. The section below the main camera compartment in my bag is just large enough to hold an XF 50-140mm F/2.8 WR without the tripod collar attached. It’s not ideal, but it seems about as sturdy to have the camera mounted on my tripod as it would be using the rather flex-prone tripod collar.

When I last took in these dramatic landscapes, I went wide with the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8. This time around, 16mm on APS-C—24mm in 35mm equivalence—is the widest focal length I’ll have with me, and instead of going wider, I’m going much longer. This should open up my shooting possibilities a fair bit, but I’m wondering if I’ll miss the wide end.

Now, if this trip were happening a few months from now, there’s a very good chance I would repeat my focal length choice from last time with the XF 8-16mm F/2.8 WR.

The XF 10-24mm F/4 OIS sadly wasn’t even on the consideration list because weather sealing. If that lens came with those two magical initials, “W” and “R,” there’s a good chance I’d be bringing that lens instead of the XF 16-55mm F/2.8 WR along with a set of 72mm filters, rather than 77mm plus a step-up ring.

On my X-Pro2, it should come as no surprise that I’ll have the XF 35mm F/2 WR mounted. I’m tossing around the idea of leaving the second body at home, but I really think I would regret it.

Support

I’m pretty shameless about going overboard on the support side of things. Luckily the tripod is one area that has gotten considerably smaller, and lighter. The TVC-23 and BH-40 I had for the full frame DSLR, protruded from my backpack a ridiculous amount. The TQC-14 I have now is much better suited for travel. I’ve thought about moving to the TFC-14 for travel for less weight, even more compactness, and to get closer to the ground, but the Quick Column is extremely convenient for quick (yes, quick) adjustments to height without having to reset 3 tripod legs and my composition. When it comes to getting low to the ground, I have one of Really Right Stuff’s Pocket Pods. And finally, when a tripod with won’t fit or isn’t allowed, I also have their Travel Clamp, which is proved to be remarkably versatile. Finally, I have a mobile phone clamp for capturing time lapses from fell tops and or while shooting long exposures.

Accessories

I’ve stepped the XF 50-140mm F/2.8 WR up to 77mm via a Breakthrough Photography 72-77mm step-up ring so I can use a single set of 77mm filters— also from Breakthrough—for both Red Badge zooms. 3-stop, 6-stop, and 10-stop NDs as well as a Circular Polarizer are all in a tiny Tiffen filter case. They say it’s only for 58mm filters and smaller, but I get 77mm filters in there no problem.

The step-up ring means I need to go hoodless with the XF 50-140mm F/2.8 WR, so I won’t be able to use it if the rain goes sideways. It’s a tradeoff I’m willing to make.

Hiking

One of the main reasons for our trip is to seriously get our hike on. For that, a good pair of boots, waterproof jacket, an accurate set of maps, and a compass are imperative. I’m new to Harvey “Superwalker” maps, but I already like them better than the OS maps I’ve used before. I find them so much clearer. For guided navigation, and to avoid the bother of a working smartphone, we use a Garmin Oregon 600, which has served us very well on trips to Europe in the past. We’ll see how it fairs on the minor roads in the Lakes.

The Whole Kit

Fujifilm

Really Right Stuff

Breakthrough Photography

Other

See you in a couple weeks.

  1. My last trip to The Lake District with DSLR bulk on my back was the impetus for wanting to downsize in the first place. ↩︎
  2. Charlie was our first pet together, and if I may, the best little cat you could imagine. He would come when called, speak when spoken to, and more often then not, if we were sitting, Charlie was sitting with us.

    90% if the content produced for this site was with Charlie on my lap for at least some of it. I’d say “Charlie, time for work.” and he would dutifully hop on and keep me company. He was an awesome cat, and we are still very sad to lose him at only 13 years of age. ↩︎

Fuji XF 35mm F/2 WR Review Posted

Barely made it in before the end of the year.

The XF 35mm F/2 WR is a weird lens to review for me. In some ways it is inferior to the XF 35mm F/1.4 (you can read lots more about that in my comparison here), but nevertheless, it’s still the lens I prefer to have mounted on my camera the majority of the time. Typically I would have some kind internal struggle in situations like this. “This lens has better optics and a larger aperture, but it could rain so…”. In the case of the XF 35mm F/2 WR, I just mount it and go with hardly a second thought.

It’s nice to have two options at 50mm equivalence to recommend. Here’s the review.

X70 Pricing, X-Pro2 Ship Date

For any of my American readers who were on the fence about preordering an X70, it seems to have dropped $100 from its original price of $799 to $699. I’m not sure if it’s a temporary thing, are a price adjustment as of yet.

That’s the good news. The bad news is shipping dates are either slipping, or demand for the X-Pro2 is outpacing supply, as both Amazon and B&H Photo are showing a ship date of February 25 for the X-Pro2 instead of the original February 4. Bummer. The X70 looks to have also been pushed back, but not quite as much to February 15, according to Amazon.

For my Canadian readers, our plummeting dollar might be making you sad, but you can dry your tears when it comes to X-Pro2 pricing. At just $1,899, our price is pretty awesome compared to the American MSRP after conversion.1 You can stick it to the dollar even more by preordering from the folks at Aden before February 4th and get $150 knocked off the price of an XF 35mm f/2 WR, which was pretty much made for the X-Pro2.

  1. $1,699 USD = >$2,400 CAD, or, put another way, $1,899 CAD = just over $1,300 USD. Folks close to the border might be asking themselves if $400 is worth a warranty in the country of residence. ↩︎

Lens Got Flare

When I write about flare, it’s typically not with a negative connotation, unless the lens in question comes with coatings intended to reduce it. Flare is part of what gives a lens its character, and can play a huge role in its desirability.

Charlene Winfred has a great piece on how much she likes the flare from Fuji’s new XF 35mm f/2 WR:

... I’ve never had a lens that flares as downright cinematically as this one. Those distinct diagonals and ghosting that appear when it is pointed at strong, directional light sources are simply gorgeous.

It’s helps to possess the photographic talent Charlene does, but I’ve enjoyed shooting my XF 35mm f/2 WR directly into light myself. She’s got plenty more great sample images on her site.

Flare example from the XF 35mm f/2 WR, courtesy of  Charlene Winfred

Flare example from the XF 35mm f/2 WR, courtesy of Charlene Winfred

35mm Reviews

Lots has been written about the new XF 35mm f/2 WR, but a few reviews have risen to the top for me.

  1. First is Jonas Rask’s. His reviews are always chalk full of excellent sample images, and drool-worthy gear shots. If you’re on the fence with the XF 35mm f/2 WR, his review will likely shove you violently over to the purchase side.
  2. Second is Kevin Mullins, the guy I attempted to emulate at a family wedding I shot last June. If you’re looking for insight from someone in a professional space, look no further.
  3. As it happens, Mullins suggests my latest inspiration candidate, Patrick La Roque, for further reading on the XF 35mm f/2 WR.

35mm (and where I’ve been)

XF 35mm f/1.4 vs. XF 35mm f/2 WR

After weeks of testing, my extensive comparison of Fuji’s 35mm primes is now online. See how well the new normal compares against the old normal.

Where I’ve Been

As a bit of an aside, regular visitors have likely noticed a serious lull in content and updates. Looking at my last post that happened in August, I can hardly believe it’s been that long myself. What happened? A combination of things.

First of all, I found new employment approximately 5 months ago. It’s been a big transition from my previous freelance gig, and the ups and downs of a new job on top a huge multi-month project, had all but squelched my capacity for creative photography, let alone photographic analysis. Fortunately, things have settled down considerably.

Secondly, I decided early last year to take control of my physical wellbeing. This started out with the standard physical fitness, but quickly morphed into an obsession with restoring mobility and range of motion I’d lost from 15+ years of sitting for 8-15 hours a day. It’s been hard work, and took up almost all my free time, but it was well worth it.1

Anyhow, it was always an internal struggle for me. I felt bad neglecting the site outside of replying to those who emailed or tweeted, but it was the right thing to focus on.

TL;DR

I’ve been busy with work and life, but plan to get content on the site more regularly now. It’s good to be back.

  1. Physical health is hardly a topic for this website, but if you’re at all interested in restoring your own capacity for movement and how good movement can apply to photography, I recommend Kelly Starrett’s CreativeLive Class. Simply being able to squat properly behind my camera (ass to ankles, heels on the ground, toes pointed forward) has increased my enjoyment of photography, and saved me from putting more bad loads on my knees. If you can relate to that last part, you owe it to your lower extremities to restore full range of motion in your hips and ankles.