Iceland with Fujifilm
X-T1 and X-E2
After returning from Iceland in summer 2016 we did some kind of travel diary in german language. Now i want to focus on the photography experience with my Fuji X-System which is usually not the first choice for landscape photographers. Within this article i want to write about the equipment i brought there and how this tools worked for me in the Icelandic conditions. I also will write down my in-the-field workflow for backup and a little about my postprocessing when i was back home.
Since i needed top pack everything into a duffle bag and my carry on backpack, i had exactly 31kg of weight to spare. All sensible pieces went into the carry on luggage and the rest was checked in.
My carry on luggage photography equipment:
- Fuji X-T1 Body
- Fuji X-E2 Body
- Sony RX100M4
- 12mm Zeiss Touit F2.8
- 16-55mm Fujinon XF F2.8
- 35mm Fujinon XF F2
- 55-200mm Fujinon XF F3.5-4.8
- MacBook Pro Retina 13
- 1.5 TB standard external hard drive
what was in the checked in luggage?
- Giottos VGRN carbon tripod
- mini tripod
- ND-Filters in a lowe pro pouch
- Pol-Filters in hard cases
- 500 GB SSD Drive
- spare batteries
- dual battery charger
- cleaning tools
After all the photo equipment i still needed to pack for 2 weeks of outdoor life. This includes:
- light hiking boots Salewa Alpine Trip
- heavy hiking boots Lowa Camino
- flip flops
- 3 pair of outdoor trousers
- hiking socks
- rain trousers and jacket
- a few merino base layers
- two more rain and wind resistant jackets
- two functional vests
- few cotton shirts
- car charger for all USB powered devices and my camera batteries
- Cumulus Lite Line 400
- Thermarest pro lite plus
- tent and camping chairs have been in a seperate piece of luggage
The carry on backpack was a little above the allowed 8kg, but i was carrying my laptop inside, so it was not a problem at all.
We have been travelling with two Mitsubishi Pajero off road cars and tents. So there was no way to charge my batteries in the hotel room every night.
The car charger was plugged to the outlet inside the luggage compartment and gave me power whenever we were driving. It is equipped with four USB power ports and most of the time all of them were in use. As i was recording a GPS track with my iphone, which sucks a lot of battery, one port was always occupied with the phone charging cable. The second one was feeding my power hungry batteries for my electronic cigarettes. The third one was refilling the battery of the Sony RX100M4 directly in camera and the last one was used with the dual battery charger for my Fuji cameras.
One of my third party batteries didn’t survive the flight and was slightly blown up. I recognized that while having a hard time putting it into my X-T1. Luckily i was able to get it out with the help of my knife, but the battery was dead. This wasn’t a problem as i still had four batteries left. None of them should die within the following two weeks. So two of them were sufficient for most days and the other tow were charged during the daily driving.
Although i brought two spare batteries for the Sony, i never used them, because in camera charging did the job. Nice to know that my new X-T2 has the same option.
In the Field Backup
Before the trip i was thinking about the backup of my photography quite some time. Should i buy a external hard drive with built in SD card reader and its own power supply? Buy more SD cards and copy the data back home? Use my MacBook Pro as Backup device?
In the end i decided to take two external hard drives and my MBP. I collected about 220 GB of data (170GB photo, 50GB video).
Every night i copied all files of the day to each of the two hard drives, a standard 1.5 TB disc and 500 GB SSD. After that i wiped the data on the SD cards and was ready for the next day. The battery of the MBP was at 60% when i charged it on day 10 of our trip at a camping site near the Geysir. The two drives were stored separated from each other as good as possible. Basically one was in my backpack all the time, while the other one was stored in the car.
I checked the images and videos from time to time while the copying was in progress, but i didn’t do any processing during the trip.
The GPS track of each day was uploaded to the cloud, so i was safe to have them available once back home.
My Fujifim X-T1 has been the workhorse on this trip. Together with the also weather sealed XF 16-55 F2.8 it was used for most of my shots.
As you can see from the Lightroom Meta Data more the 2/3 of the images were done with that combination. As the weather changes quickly in Iceland, i’ve been on the safe side with this setup, even in the worst conditions. The rest of my lenses were used on the X-E2. The 12mm Zeiss Touit was the favorite here. While the 16mm on the wide end of the 16-55 were great in most situation there haven been scenes that asked for an even wider angle of view. Only a few times i switched for the 12mm on the X-T1. In that cases i wanted to use the tilt screen to get some low angle shots.
Also the tele, a XF 55-200mm was married to the X-E2 when in use. Mostly when the long end of the 16-55 wasn’t enough to reach my needs i switched to the tele, which wasn’t the case too often as you can see by the numbers of shots done with that lens.
The XF 35 prime was used only for a few shots, i could have left it at home, but the weight on this lens isn’t an issue and my intention was to use it as a low light weather sealed solution. In the end, i used my tripod in this situations.
Circular Pol Filters (67mm & 77mm) were on the lenses most of the time. The 67mm filter was switched between the 12mm Zeiss and the 55-200mm tele and the 77mm was on the 16-55mm in most situations. In my field pouch i had my Formatt Hitech filter holder set, a soft and a hard ND-Grad filter and a 10 stop ND.
My filters had a hard time in Iceland as there was no day without cleaning them. Waterfall spray, rain or dust were present everywhere. So it is a good idea to have a dry cloth in your pocket. I had two of them with me all the time. A big one for the camera and a small and finer one for the lenses and filters.
I exclusively used a set of Yongnuo remote trigger whenever it was needed. They did a fine job as always and one pack of AAA batteries lastet for all remote shots.
The Giottos carbon tripod was with me all the time and never disappointed me. Even in stormy conditions it was stable to nailing my rather heavy (for a Fujifilm setup) gear to the ground.
The tiny Cullmann was never used. It came with me as a video tripod but video was shot handheld only (which was a mistake).
The Good and the Bad
So what were my take home lessons from this two weeks?
Let’s take a look at the bad things first:
- i wish the X-E2 has a tilt screen for very low angle shots (this wont be a topic after selling it for a X-T2)
- 16 MP is not the highest pixel count you will find in typical landscape setup nowadays. For some images i was hoping for some more fine detail.
- third party batteries are cheap but a risk as i’ve experienced
- the XF16-55 is heavy when carried all day long but – take a look below…
and the good?
- the XF16-55 serves well as an multi purpose lens with great Image Quality and nearly perfect focal length although a bit heavy (we all want that lightweight 12-150mm f2.8 lens…)
- the X-T1 and the X-E2 generate great Image Quality most of the time and the colors are just gorgeous.
- especially the X-T1 is a breeze to use in the field – no worries about moisture or dirt especially when combined with a weather resistant lens.
- the Zeiss Touit is a gem, small, light and superb image quality
- the XF55-200 is light and offers lot of details when stopped down to f5.6, image stabilization comes in handy when handling long focal length and having coffee stabilized hands like i do.
My first action back home was to copy all files to my photo storage, a 3TB external HDD with RAM boost. A backup is stored on an other 6TB external drive.
During the import process i applied the Classic Chrome film simulation and some minor, more X-Trans fitted, sharpening to all the RAW files. After importing to Lightroom i started to add the GPS data that was collected.
The number of images created gives you a rough idea of our route through Iceland.
In the end i processed about 600 images. The typical steps on all this images include:
- Correct white balance – some images needed a little warmer touch, others, mostly icy scenes, asked for colder white balance settings
- Adapt highlights and shadows – Classic Chrome creates deep shadows and sometimes a bit to much for my liking. Highlights adjustments are mostly done for overexposed parts of the sky. With the dynamic range the Fuji camera gave me, even in high contrast scenes, i was able to achieve good results without exposure bracketing.
- Apply some clarity and vibrance adjustments
- Apply a tone curve (i usually reduce contrast here and push it more in the mids with the clarity slider)
- adjust saturation of specific colors (most of the time its about blues for sky, as i’m not always happy with the blue that classic chrome applies to the sky)
- local adjustments – graduated mask for sky and clouds – the reduce hace slider does a good job here when used not too much. Also the possibility to correct the mask with the brush is a welcome change in LR 6 or CC.
- hand over the image to Iridient Developer for detail adjustments – although LR CC is way better in handling sharpening and raw development of X-Trans files than previous versions, for me the Iridient Results still looks better when it comes to fine details.
- Bring back the image to my Lightroom libary.
- ready for export – i always store a full resolution jpg to flickr for backup
When i think back to the days when i was carrying around my Nikon setup, the Fuji System is a blessing to my back. Some simple math:
Nikon D7100 body 765g
sigma 18-35 f1.8 810g
Nikkor 70-200 f4 850g
sigma 10-20 472g
nikkor 60mm 425g
Fuji X-T1 body 440g
XF 16-55 655g
XF 55-200 580g
Zeiss 12 272g
XF 35 170g
total 2117 g
Even when i throw in a second body with the X-E2 that adds another 350g, i end up with a weight reduction of around 1 kg. When carried all day long, this 1 kg makes a difference.
The X-System does everything i expect from my camera gear and i’m already looking forward my first trips with the X-T2. I guess i will do some comparison between the X-T1 and X-T2 when they were in use side by side in the future.