I booked a trip to Peru with my son for the April vacation. Over the course of nine days we will take in Lima, Cusco, The Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, and Lake Titicaca. Even though the trip is four months away, I have begun obsessing over what Fujifilm gear to take with me. One one hand this is a photo trip of a lifetime and I want to be prepared for all photographic situations, real or imaginary. On the other hand I am looking forward to quality time with my son, which is my focus for the trip, so I want to keep things simple.

Beer, beer, and more beer on a Taste Test Saturday! A friend and I scheduled a tour at the Foolproof Brewing Company (http://www.foolproofbrewing.com) in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. For anyone who hasn't been on the Foolproof Brewing Company tour, I highly recommend it. For $10 you get an hour long tour with a Foolproof beer glass with which to sample three different Foolproof beers.

We kicked off Taste Test Saturday with a pre-tour taste of my first batch of homebrew Oktoberfest. After a month of waiting (two weeks in the fermentation bucket and two weeks in the bottle), the beer was, according to the recipe, minimally ready. Bottle opened, poured, and my first taste of my first homebrew was...underwhelming. What I brewed and waited a month for tasted more like Oktoberfest flavored cola than beer. More time in the bottle was definitely needed.

Last weekend I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon and evening in New Hampshire. I drove up Sunday for an conference Monday, and a perfect excuse for a little photography.

Before going someplace new, I check Google Maps for street views and other people's photos of an area, to scout locations and map my route. My conference was in Bedford New Hampshire where I started my Google Maps search. Pictures of waterfalls and street views of mill towns focused my area of exploration. Google suggested a route that took me on secondary roads though Massachusetts, west of Boston through Fitchburg, and into southern New Hampshire to the town of Mt. Vernon. What a find! It was a perfect late autumn afternoon when I reached the town, had a walk around, then hit the Purgatory Falls Trail at the Upper Falls.

Periodically my son and I schedule a "Boy Day" in which the two of us take off and do something together. Unfortunately, as he gets older, Boy Day with my son happens with less frequency. Feeling the loss, I brought Boy Day back with a vengeance last Sunday and booked us bus tickets from Providence for a day in New York City.

Boy Day in NYC with the 14mm, my son...and 7,000,0000 people.

Of course Boy Day in NYC came with the requisite photo nerd gear anxieties: What camera(s) do I take? Will I have the right lenses? Will it be too heavy?

I am not sure when I began thinking about acquiring a vintage lens to use with my Fuji X cameras, but once their was thought, there was obsession. And so began the quest to find a Meyer-Optik Görlitz Oreston 50/1.8 lens. What I really wanted was the Trioplan 100/2.8 with its distinctive soap bubble bokeh, but the price was more than I really wanted to pay. So I settled.

While searching Ebay and KEH for the Oreston, I decided to take a quick check of my local Craigslist and to my surprise I saw the exact same lens I was searching attached to an old Praktica for sale in the next town over for $20. I texted the seller, met the seller, and had a new lens to play with.

That was then....

I took a little drive to the Rolling Hills Asylum in Upstate New York, reportedly one of the most haunted places in America. I wasn't so much interested in a ghost hunting adventure (although it sounded fun) as much as I wanted the opportunity to tour and photograph the building. The Rolling Hills Asylum did not disappoint.  

A quick Google search brought me to http://rollinghillsasylum.vpweb.com which perfectly matched my criteria: The Rolling Hills Asylum was reachable (only a seven hour drive from Rhode Island) with an interesting history and plenty of photographic potential. I booked the 6pm to 9pm "Psych Hold" tour for a very reasonable $30. 

Over the years my photo life, gear, and process has simplified. I now have my Fujifilm cameras and lenses and, for processing and publishing, a tablet and the cloud. Basically I've substituted a desktop/laptop plus Lightroom and Photoshop for an Android tablet with Google Photos, Snapseed, and ocassionally Polarr.

Is this all I really need?

I've been wanting an ulrawide lens for a long time and was ready to pull the trigger on the Rokinon 12mm when a confluence of events altered my wide angle destiny: 1) I found myself with a "spare" $300. 2) Fuji started another round of rebates. 3) I found a minty used copy of the 14mm on Amazon for $540. This price put the Fuji closer to the $320 of the Samsung/Rokinon. Decision made. I ordered the Fuji.

While I may have lost 2mm, I gained compatibility with my current filters as the Fuji takes 58mm filters vs the Rokinon's 67mm filter thread. The reviews for this lens support my initial experience in that the 14mm is very sharp with minimal distortion.

This weekend I took my new/used lens for a spin around my neighborhood with walks around Stillhouse Cove, Salters Grove, and Gaspee Point.

Peaks Island is only a fifteen minute ferry ride from Portland, Maine. During our week long stay at Cape Elizabeth, I spent a couple hours on the island with my family, my sister and her husband, my mother and stepfather, and a X-T1 and 35mm lens.

Fog, 35mm shallow DOF, and Classic Chrome film simulation combined.

When people go on holiday it is usually their cue to sleep late. Not me. During a family vacation to Cape Elizabeth, Maine, I snapped awake every morning at around 4:00 AM. Time to capture the sunrise. With a Fujifilm X-T1, XF 18-55 F2.8-4 lens, a B+W 10 Stop ND filter, my ancient (before Manfrotto) Bogen tripod, and a cup of coffee, I positioned myself for the 5:15 AM sunrise.

From two mornings at Portland Head Light:

My favorite picture from the vacation. Portland Head Light.
I typically limit using an infrared filter to the winter season. While I like the blackened skies and crisp and contrasty whites and grays of infrared, I find the green => white rendering of foliage a forced distraction. Winter allows shooting infrared and producing very dramatic, but still natural looking, B&W images. Spring and summer infrared looks unnatural.    

But perhaps that is the point. Over the past week I re-discovered infrared and embraced the unnatural, dream-like quality of the images it produces. 

House in Pawtuxet Village framed by "frosted" foliage
Several months ago I abandoned a PC and Lightroom in favor of a Chromebook and Google+ for my photo storage, editing, and publishing needs. With great anticipation I watched the new Google Photos revealed at Google I/O. It was like Christmas and birthday all rolled into one.

I am an obsessive idiot. After spending hours considering, and blogging about, the perfectly minimal (yet complete) camera and lens combination to take with me on a family holiday in the UK, I ended up doing something entirely different.

In my previous post I wrote about taking to the UK two camera bodies, the Fujifilm X-T1 and X-E1, and two lenses, the Fujinons XF 35mm and 18-55mm, in anticipation of every photographic possibility. I was proud of this perfect travel kit.

Before we left for the airport, I slid the XF 27mm f/2.8 pancake prime lens into my bag. "Why not?" I thought, "It is small enough."

This impulse decision proved to be a game changer.

As I did in September when preparing for my Iceland trip, I am now obsessing over which gear to take with me for an upcoming trip to the UK. Unlike the Iceland trip, which was a solo photography event, the UK trip will be a family holiday. We will be visiting my wife's family with day trips in Somerset and Wales and a two day driving excursion to Cornwall.

Photographically, a family holiday means travelling light. There will be no telling my wife or kids to stop and wait while I swap lenses. No tripods are allowed.

I am determined to bring minimal gear and still anticipate most photographic situations, real or imaginary. This translates into taking one small bag, my ink-stained Domke F-803 Satchel, into which which will fit two bodies with two mounted lenses.

I have a X-T1 and X-E1 so the bodies are already chosen. Of the lenses I can choose from the 27mm, 35mm, 60mm, the 18-55 and 55-200.

During my Iceland trip I used the 18-55 most often. The Fujinon XF 18-55 a great zoom lens that is reasonably fast, sharp, quiet, with optical image stabilization. So the 18-55 is an easy choice for the UK.

While I strongly considered taking the 55-200, extending my range and picking up where the 18-55 leaves off, I did not relish the additional bulk and weight. I will leave it home.

Of my primes, the 27, 35, and 60, I most favor the 35 for low light situations, night, pubs, and I on this trip I want to try out the X-T1's electronic shutter allowing wide apertures outdoors during the daytime.

Decision made. Here is my UK family holiday travel kit:

Not pictured: Charger. polarizing, ND, R42 filters, and a clear shower cap and rubber bands for rainy day shooting. 
I like having two camera bodies. When traveling I have the confidence of having a backup body and I also enjoy not having to swap lenses. I had my X-E1 mothership and X-M1 shuttlecraft and all was fine. That is until a new mothership entered my orbit.

I bought the Fujinon XF 55-200mm a year ago last March when Fuji was running an amazing series of rebates. Since then, I've used the lens perhaps a dozen times. This is both photographically and financially disappointing. So, after all the research and intentions and cost that went into acquiring this lens, why is it so lightly used?

The lens is big, and when fully extended, ridiculously so.

I usually walk around with the X-M1 and 27mm prime or travel with the X-E1 with 18-55 zoom. Compared to these very portable combinations, the 55-200 feels awkward on either body, although using the accessory grip on the X-E1 helps with handling.

Last weekend I revisited this lens and brought it with me as I walked around the East Side of Providence. I figured I'd use the little outing to decide if I would use the lens more, or sell it.

Here is what I came back with:

What started as a long term experiment, and is now a preference, I am now using a Chromebook at work and home. My work holdout in this conversion to the cloud was Microsoft Excel, now comfortably replaced by Google Sheets. At home it is Lightroom.

Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop are staples for many photographers, both professional and amateur. I've been processing my photos in Lightroom since version 3 of the software. Lightroom is a fantastically powerful and flexible program allowing me to edit and tweak, recover detail, convert to B&W, and in every way control and shape any image to my vision for that image. I have thousands of images organized and published through Lightroom. Lightroom has become integral to my photographic workflow.

Lightroom, unfortunately,  does not run on a Chromebook.

For several months I have used my Chromebook with a Remote Desktop connection to the family's Windows PC. Through a RDP client, I can sit on the couch with my Chromebook and remotely edit photos in Lightroom on the PC. While the setup worked well from a technical standpoint, I found it occasionally awkward and lose track of what window and machine I was working in, as the base image and editing was on a remote PC, but I was working in social media and Blogger on my Chromebook.

Lightroom on a Chromebook via a Windows Remote Desktop client
Using a Chromebook has simplified my computing experience but has complicated my photographic post processing process. Could I find a way to simplify my photography experience by streamlining and moving my entire workflow - editing, managing, publishing - to the web, and not compromise the final product?
Sometimes I even annoy myself so I can only imagine what I put my wife through. Last week I suddenly became obsessed with acquiring a used Fujifilm X100s. I felt I had too many camera bodies and too many lenses, that I needed to get back to basics and reduce my kit.

In order to raise the money for the X100s, something had to go. I pulled out my X-M1 and X-E1, and looked at them, touched them, activated the shutter, navigated the menus and considered which one to put on Craigslist.

Double Grip-athon!