Photography Holiday to Verona
An increasing large part of my business is running photography trips and holidays. These trips are sometimes in the UK, like the wonderful Lake District and Snowdonia National Park. I also run holidays abroad in places like Copenhagen, Paris and Verona.
We just arrived back from a great trip in Verona with a lovely group of people. I truly am very lucky to be able to offer these courses that frankly don't feel a lot like working! Having said that I do put a lot of thought in to them and of course there is quite a lot of planning too. I tend to stress a little bit about whether everyone will enjoy it and importantly whether they will get something valuable from the experience. I shouldn't worry because I get very good feedback and lovely testimonials from my clients.
Some of the trips I am able to run with my wife Samantha. We have children at school so it's not always possible but it cetainly makes the running of the trips much more fun. It's great to have Samantha on board to help make sure things run smoothly and that attendees are happy.
On the Verona trip we spoke about a few different themes and we divised a walking route around Verona that would take in a lot of the cities attractions and sights. The beauty of Verona is that it is actually quite a small place but with lots to see, so this makes it a great place to run a photography workshop.
At the end of the workshop we had a lovely meal and took some time to slideshow everyone's images and there were some fantastic results. Hopefully my feedback was useful to them and it was great to return home and see so many lovely photos uploaded to our private Facebook group for these trips. This is a nice way for everyone to take time looking through each others photos and keep in touch with each other.
I'm going to post quite a lot of my personal photography from the trip here and all images were taken with my X-Pro2. This trip was the third time I have been lucky enough to get away for a few days and use my X-Pro2 and it's a good chance to see how it performs and whether I actually like it or not!? The first trip with the X-Pro2 was to Snowdonia, the second to Paris and now to Verona.
I should give you some history, I have been using Fuji cameras now for over 4 years having jumped ship from Nikon full frame. My first camera was the Fuji X-Pro1 and right back then that camera had a lot of flaws, but for all the issues I still loved it. I heard people talking about using Fuji cameras saying that it was addictive, the camera made you want to pick it up and use it, this is exactly the sort of experience I had with the X-Pro1.
The flaws of the X-Pro1 were numerous, some of which were fixed or partly fixed with firmware updates, well done Fuji, but it would have been better if they didn't exist in the first place. So the big question is, did Fuji address all the issues and improve the camera significantly?
The first thing you realise when you shoot with the X-Pro2 is just how responsive it is, advanced SLR users may not be impressed by this of course, but for this type of camera it does seem much quicker and responsive than any other I have used to date. Everything seems really snappy, start up time, auto focus, image review, the electronic viewfinder etc.
The new button layout works really well and I'm pleased about the position of the image review button and that you can access it with one handed shooting. I sometimes knock some buttons on the rear of the camera by accident, but not often and there is the option to lock the buttons by holding down the menu button for a couple of seconds - this works for most Fujis.
The addition of the joystick to the X-Pro2 is an absolute pleasure to use, quickly selecting your auto focus points is a joy.
The ISO dial is a new one and I like it. I do enjoy being able to pick up the camera and visually turn dials to set up how I want to shoot without even having to turn the camera on. In reality this is just a personal preference and not everyone will see the ISO dial as a benefit.
The X-Pro2 of course has a larger mega pixel count with a 24MP sensor. This will perhaps not be that big of a deal for most people, but I do use mine for landscapes and detail is important to me, especially for larger prints, so this is a massive benefit for me and I'm so looking forward to producing some large prints. I will do another blog post when I have done this, but I really don't think I will be disappointed.
The optical viewfinder of the HVF is so much more usable now, adding the technology from the X100T with an electronic rectangle in the lower right hand side of the optical viewdfinder which can be used to check focus or exact framing, depending on the zoom ratio you set. I'm really blown away buy this, but I realise this won't be for everyone and if you're thinking 'I'd probably not use that much', then there is a big arguement to wait for the Fuji XT2.
I like the size of the camera, it feels good in the hand and the new grip helps with that too. It's not a small camera exactly, but it just feels so right for my style of shooting.
With the size of the camera comes the refinement of the tripod screw placement, now centred with the lens. This means when I use a tripod baseplate it doesn't obscure the battery compartment, which is very useful and I don't have to spend more money on a grip soley to get around this issue.
The X-Pro2 comes with two SD card slots, I don't often shoot commercial work anymore but when I do, it will be very welcomed as a safety net for losing images.
Weather sealing for me is also a welcome addition, I'm still pretty scared to really test this out but from what I have heard it stands up very well and this make shooting landscapes in the wilds of the Lake District or Snowdonia a less stressful experience.
My conclusion is that the camera is greatly improved from the first version and for me, is pretty much my perfect camera for how I shoot. I love it!!
The camera is not cheap though and this will put a lot of people off. If your budget doesn't yet stretch to that of the X-Pro2, then I suggest you seriously look at a good deal on a new X-Pro1 or a used version in good condition. You will get the camera at a fraction of the price and get 1 or 2 lenses and see how you like it. If you decide it's not for you then the lenses will hold their price fairly well and you can move them on and you can use the X-Pro1 as a door stop! However if you decide you really like it you can upgrade to the X-Pro2 when the prices drop a little more. If you decide to buy a used camera, my advice is to look at a respected retailer with a limited warranty.
I have built up a little collection of Fuji prime lenses and most were used to take the images in this blog post.
- Fuji 14mm f/2.8
- Fuji 16mm f/1.4
- Fuji 23mm f/1.4
- Fuji 35mm f/1.4
- Fuji 90mm f/2
If you have any questions regarding lenses, please do drop me an email or comment below.
My Personal Photography from Verona
My own personal photography I suppose could be described as, err... weird, or at the very least, an aquired taste. I'm so lucky that I can get to take the sorts of images that I want to, for myself. Of course it's lovely when others do like my work but those people don't tend to come in huge crowds for these. For me, all the images have some sort of value and that can be as simple as I thought it was strange, beautiful or curious.
Thoughts on Street Photography
As well as these types of images I like to attempt some street photography from time to time. I say that I "attempt" street photography and say this because I know I am not good enough, but I'm trying. You see trying to capture candid photos of people on the street or in public places is a lot harder than you might think, well it is if you want them to be interesting!
Street photography needs something extra, that bit of magic! Whether it's HCB's "decisive moment" or just a look between two people, something funny or just something human. There lies part of the problem you see, it's hard to say exactly what that magic is until it happens! When it does though, you have to be 100% ready to photograph it. Knowing your camera well and choosing settings carefully that allow you to shoot very quickly will definitely help here.
Going one step further, maybe you could learn to anticipate what could happen in your scene - something I learned from Justin Sainsbury, who is someone I hold in high regard for his superbly executed and witty street images. What this means is seeing some potential in a scene and wondering if something might happen and sticking with it until your little bit of magic happens.
I learned that standing still usually doesn't work and to keep moving will make you more unobtrusive and I have found this to be true. Also, if I see something that I want to photograph, I tend to not just take the one photo, but take several of different things, it tends to make the emphasis more about the street scenes in general rather than one individual person or group of people.
One thing is for sure is that it's very easy to take mediocre or boring street images, as some of mine prove. Whilst running another course in Paris recently we had a little bit of rain and I took a few photos of people going about their business in the rain, with umbrellas. Looking back at the majority of those images and some of those I took on this recent Verona trip, I make a general observation... 'If you take photos of peoeple in the rain with umbrellas, you largely get photos of people in the rain with umbrellas'. Meaning there is nothing that interesting about them, it's just people walking and wanting to get to the place they are going quickly without getting too wet. You can definitely apply this to a lot of street photography in general, just photos of people going about their business is not that interesting, you need that magic.
The images below are my better images and like I said, not great, but a work-in-progress.
I quite like the Louis Vuitton image, something to do with the angles of the arms of the lady on the phone and the model in the image. They both have bags and they are both dressed to match their backgrounds. I also like how the lady is using the phone, almost obscurring her face.
Red Bike Guy
The guy on the bike, I love his look, the leather (Italian?!) shoes with no socks and his stance ready to make his way across the busy Italian street. The speeding car in the background adds to the image IMO, if only it were an old Fiat 500 and it would be a true cliché.
The lady taking a tourist snap on her phone I left in, although I do not think it is interesting. I think what I liked at the time was the shape of the phone matching that of the tower in the scene, but I'm clutching at straws here.
The photo of the workman with the no entry barrier and sign was walking towards me and I tried to get the best shot I could. I was shooting too wide angle and didn't get the closeness I wanted to make it work better. I got one more shot closer but was blurred to the extent that it was less of a success and there is a lesson in using faster shutter speeds for street photography. What is interesting, to me perhaps only, is that these seem to be the same sign and barrier in an earlier photograph I took a day or so before (see second image from set above).
Juliet's Balcony x2
I was fascinated by visiting Juliet's balcony in Verona. Of course Romeo and Juliet were fictional characters and there is very very loose claim to the relevance of the balcony, but still many tourists flock and leave letters, notes, graffiti and of course take a selfie. I watched this girl for a while as she attempted to get the right angle and pout.
Double Double Denim
Whilst shooting in the rain on our last day in Verona I noticed a couple parially obscured by their 'Italy' umbrella and loved their double double denim outfits.
I quite enjoyed trying to include my 3€ umbrella in the shots, it seemed to add something visually to the images. Across the street from me was a school tour or something and everyone had brollies, I noticed a guy on a bike also with a brolly and quickly got this shot.
Some people use an improvised rain cover, such as the ladies using a coat to keep dry. I took a photograph and ended up quite liking it, although it still needs something more.
Something that struck me about the people in Verona was that a lot of them were dog owners and they seemed to love them very much. The people in the photograph are carrying their small dog under the umbrella which I thought was quite cute, but more than that I started to be curious about the relationship of the two people, I wasn't sure if they looked like a couple, friends or other.
In adition to these photos are took some more landscape/tourist photos to give a little bit of a flavour of the area. These are useful to me for marketing material when putting together next year's Verona holiday.
If you're interested in future photography holidays please check my website here.