On my recent 25th Anniversary trip to Italy, I promised my wife that it wouldn’t be a photography trip and we were on a tour about half of the time, so I was a bit constrained. Also I was traveling light with only my Fujifilm x100t which has a crop sensor and a fixed 23mm lens (35 mm on a full frame).
So there were challenges to say the least – wanting to see everything but making sure to come back with a few great images among all of the snapshots.
Cultural overload certainly was a factor as we went from Rome to Volterra to Lucca to Cinque Terra and Florence. In dimly lit museums and out in the harsh shadows of midday. The trip was fantastic but there are times that I wish I had lugged around my big heavy Canon 6D and tripod. Then again the whole trip probably wouldn’t have been as enjoyable.
One mistake I made was putting the Fujifilm x100t on “A” too often during the guided tours. I figured I didn’t need to be too distracted with camera settings while trying to listen to 100s of years of art history and the creation of western civilization. The Fujifilm x100t often defaulted to f2.0 as an aperture and for close objects the results were simply too soft to be usable. The camera maxs out on sharpness around f5.6 which is probably what I should have set it on. On the positive side I found out the camera can handle some really high ISOs like 1600 without any noise.
For most part the focal length being a slightly wider than normal (around 43mm on a full frame is considered a normal view) worked out. If anything I found myself wanting something a bit wider for buildings but in reality running around town trying to capture buildings without a tilt-shift lens and tripod is mute. Photographers living in the area with the time to do it right are going to get better shots any way.
Then there was the timing. With jet lag and walking all day on hard surfaces and having great dinners at night, I wasn’t exactly going to jump out of bed early in the morning. Plus just about every day we had a tour or bus to catch at 8 am – breakfast, packing, or just figuring out how the shower worked took time in the morning.
Every other night we had a group dinner which usually started at 7 pm. By that hour we were exhausted and needed a break any way, plus my wife would have been nervous hanging out in some strange neighborhood waiting for the sun to go down.
You do what you can when you are on vacation with non-photographers. Right? We’ve all been there I assume. You have to make compromises and balance out the desires of the group. This is why I tend to like vacations where we rent a place for a week right on the beach or some other location where one can walk out in the morning and capture early morning light or the sunset.
Usually we plan our own vacations but this time we took the “Heart of Italy” tour from Rick Steve’s. It was a nice balance of being a group tour with plenty of free time. The small group of 28 stayed in each location two nights so you were not on the bus all the time. Every other night was a group dinner and the rest of the time you were on your own (breakfast was included in the hotels). Every hotel was small and in a great location for exploring. Having the logistics handled by someone else, the great tour guide and having all the tickets ready made for a very informative, easy and efficient way to travel with enough free time to explore on your own. The only trouble is in a place like Rome or Florence, there is simply too much to see in a few days. You could spend weeks there.
People in the tour probably thought I was crazy but some of the things I was most attracted to was old Fiats parked in impossibly narrow ancient alleyways, bikes, laundry – things the provoke a feeling of the place, rather than the landmarks that have been photographed so many times before.