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iTravel LTE – Be Cool. Be Compact.

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Travel light: I love to move. I love to explore. I love to be on the go. I love to discover new places, even if its just down the street from where I live. What comes with me is only ever one backpack, if that. A small backpack. With small things. And a small camera. And a tiny gorillapod that fits in my palm. And that’s all.

It’s both trendy but also truly liberating to “travel light” in this decade. Big and bulky is not cool anymore, thanks to the birth of an “ultra-portable, lightweight” gear industry. Small just got too big for its britches, was tired of being put in a corner, and wanted more. Nobody puts small in a corner!

These are my thoughts on to travel light but I have these just about all the time. Not only when you want to make those trendy “what’s in travel my bag?” posts, or challenge yourself to go on a long trip with a 30L backpack. To travel light is a way of thinking, not just a trend. It’s a perspective that follows you through your day to day as well as your holidays. It’s very philosophical too. Reducing the heavy baggage (literally and figuratively) in your life and camera kit. That’s a topic for another day. 🙂

Me, I don’t even have a purse, and for a woman that is something a little out of the ordinary where I live. There are only a couple of backpacks and one camera bag in my closet. I only have small ones too. I don’t even have a “camera backpack”. Just a tiny Tamrac messenger bag that only fits one camera and lens (not even a tablet or computer!). And I like that. And I have a few reasons why…

I don’t like to be weighed down. I don’t like to be obtrusive. I don’t like to be tired and I don’t like to be distracted. I hate bringing things I don’t use around with me. But that’s my style and everyone’s style is different. I will always say…

Be Cool. Be Compact. 

A – Your body will thank you

B – Others will thank you

C – Your photography will thank you

D – Your savings will thank you

We (as a collective society and majorly based on trends and experience) are increasingly paying more and more for things in this decade that are getting smaller and smaller. With the exception of the new iPhoneX (what a beast!). I still have the iPhone 5 and don’t want an “upgrade”.

Anyways, how does that make sense?! We took small and elevated him to a giant times-square-esque platform supported by loads of moola (that’s money). I’m not complaining, I love it. Well, let me rephrase that. I love packable, portable, ultra-light things. I DO NOT LOVE paying an arm, a leg, and my left eye for it. However, I understand how we got to this premium that the market has put on these types of products. Thank you capitalism!

“Small” “Thin” “Lightweight” “Portable” “Packable” “Lean” “Compact”

The Names of the Game. In the manner of a confession, secretly those words make the wheels in my massive gear-head start turning. Who doesn’t love a teeny tiny “budget” friendly camera that fits into your pocket but yet packs the punch of serious “pro” cameras?!! YES please. And truth be told – there’s something to it. Remember when we (and I mean we as in me and all y’all if you have had this experience) used to lug those GIGANTIC DSLRs around?! Those crazy heavy zoom lenses?! When “we” thought that made us cool and serious photographers? When we thought we needed a gigantic camera to get good photos?! Ya – I know it wasn’t only me 🙂 I see you there 🙂

Enter stage left – Fujifilm X Series…

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Yes, I am one of thosethose x-heads…those cult people...a self-confessed unashamed convert…heck, I even named this “b-word” with a play on words that can be interpreted many ways, but one of them is xherexthere (x as in x-series)…

I used to have large Nikons, Canons, etc. After a few years, this thing called the Fujifilm x100s came into my life and let me tell you – I was a goner! Still am. Dunzo. Totally head over heels. It was as if I had been in a dark hole and Fuji dug me out with their magicalness of portability and lightweight fantastic-looking “retro” mirrorless camera.

Cue gospel music!

Don’t be deceived…this might seem like an Ad for Fujifilm X Series, but trust me, I advertise for NO ONE. I am also NOT a hipster. I don’t sling a film camera around my neck because I think it makes me look cool. This is not one of those travel blogs where I write enthusiastic praise words about products I don’t use or care about or don’t have a burning desire in my blood to use them everyday of my life because they give me such joy and happiness. (fist pumps in the air). Alright, I admit, now that sounds a little materialistic. For the record – I could use a disposable camera, I don’t care – photography is an art form – not a product of what kind of camera you have. It comes from your soul, your imagination, your practice, etc…

I’ve used Nikon, Canon, Sony, Pentax, Fujifilm, etc. I’ve purchased and used a lot of different types and brands of camera. I’ve used DSLRs, point and shoots, and mirrorless. I’ve also shot a lot of film and digital both. I even cheated on Fujifilm for a year or two with a Sony a6000 (which is still a great camera). They brought me back with the x100F and XT2. I know there are many great cameras out there, from many different engineers and designers. In fact, I don’t think anyone can go wrong if they just close their eyes and chose a camera at random. However, I’ve found that there is none that I like more than the Fujifilm X series and way the technology is able to materialize and produces my actions into a beautiful digital file. It’s feels like magic (even thought I know it is science). 

Returning to the topic – iTravel LTE with my Fujifilm X Series cameras. I currently run around with the XT2 and an XA3. I only bring ONE of those wherever I go though, not both. But what about a backup? Well, maybe if something happened to my camera that rendered it inoperable, the universe is trying to tell me to take a break and that’s ok with me. I can still take photographs in my head. Unless I want to realllllly take photos and then I always bring the Fujifilm XP120 (it costs about $140 and I love it). 🙂

(those links to the gear are affiliate links, which means you can shop normally on Amazon and support this site at the same time. 🙂 Both you and I will appreciate it because I will be able to fund spending more time on this project, and you can spend more time reading/looking at pretty pictures, thanks!!) 🙂 

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For lenses – I have the 27mm pancake, 35mm F2 WR, and the 18-55mm. Most of the time, the 27mm is on my camera. I don’t really like carrying around the 18-55mm, because even that feel heavy to me. Remember, I shot with the x100s/t/f for the longest time. With the 27mm, it feels like the camera is nothing and I am taking photographs with an extension of my hands.

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This is liberating. I’m sure you have heard this before. But let me say it again. It’s liberating!! I feel free, free to be just me, unencumbered by unnecessary burdensome baggage. Free to only take the camera, one lens, and nothing else. Maybe for long days, just the tiny Tamrac apache (smallest) bag. And I don’t even like carrying that around. 

A – Your body will thank you

If we want to take better photos, we have to be fully present and concentrated in the moment and in the energies we absorb and emit between our internal and external environments. Not distracted by a heavy bag that makes us tired.

I have way more energy taking pictures with a tiny camera than a super-charged IBIS body with a gigantic all-encompassing-zoom-lens. I also tend to keep the camera out of the bag and on my neck or in my hands. I don’t put it in the bag most of time, like I did with larger cameras because my neck hurt.

I also only take one camera, and one lens. I don’t want to have the choice to change lenses, because for every angle, I will be wondering which lens I want to use, and that shit is distracting!

B – Others will thank you

I don’t see anybody on the street with a large DSLR and massive zoom lens as cool anymore. My perspective has evolved to this over time. Unless you are a professional sports or wildlife photographer, don’t stick your massive 70-300mm lens around the streets or anywhere for that matter. Just. Don’t. Take that shit on safari! (for the record – people are NOT a safari, despite what some photographers think and how they act on the streets).

There is a reason why sports photographers usually have a designated area at the game. There is a reason why wildlife photographers usually shoot, alone, in the middle of nowhere far away from their subjects. Because people, myself included, don’t want to be hit in the face or feel a long tube extending in their peripherals (this has happened) from some idiota’s burning need to zoom in so he can see the tiny little mustache hairs on your face and the crumbs on your chin as he snaps a shot of you putting that scrumptious croissant into your mouth.

C – Your photography will thank you

What do a lot of writers do when they need or want to write something? They rid their environment of distractions. Art is often compelled in the quiet. Too much noise and focus/concentration or inspiration is lost. Unless you find focus or inspiration in noise. And then, my friend, I salute you.

So many people I have talked to about this have confirmed my suspicions and my experience. Me, I photograph better with the most minimal gear possible. One camera, one lens. I get more creative. I get more active. I make due with what I have. When you have too many options or too many tools, it becomes more about the decision of which tool to use, rather than how to use it. It’s distracting.

Now, for different occasions, you might need different tools. But chose one tool for the occasion and be done. Leave the rest at home. If you are going on the street, take one pancake lens. If you are going birding, take one zoom lens. That’s all. Unless you are a professional photographer on assignment or a client job, you don’t need backup gear. Most of us have our “smart” phones as well. Did I mention this post is not directed towards pro photographers (and by professional, I mean people that make a living from photography)?

D – Your savings will thank you

How much does a Canon 5D Mark III cost? Or a Nikon D-blahblahblah…I know I know, mirrorless/small cameras, especially Fuji can be expensive depending on the model/glass. Leica is small too but unreal expensive. I don’t jive with Leica’s price tag, but to each their own.

However, compared to the full frame ones with large lenses, small/mirrorless are more friendly on your savings plan. You can absolutely blow your paycheck on small cameras, that’s true. I’m speaking here to small lightweight cameras that DON’T cost you an arm, a leg, and your left eye. It’s all in the decisions made and what you think you need versus how you can do more with less.

For example, Fuji has expensive lenses that are quite large and heavy. I don’t waste time drooling over those when I know I want to keep my kit light. They actually make their smallest lenses cheapest. The 27mm – cheap. The 35mm F2 WR – cheap. The XA-3 – cheap. The XP120 – cheap. The XT2 – cheaper. “Cheap” compared to the range of lens options. Inexpensive for the value when you compare what it can do and the quality of Fuji’s glass, even the inexpensive ones. The glass is really freakin good, damit.

One more thing on this – I always buy my gear USED. Never new. Cameras are like phones, a new version comes out every year. People are always upgrading so there is always a market for cameras that are one or two years old selling for a huge discount. You can get a really good, practically new, hardly used camera for $500 less than sticker price if you had bought new.

I didn’t intend to write a book with this article, but it seems I got carried away! By the way, if you have read this far, you are incredible. Want to be friends?

As an aside – I am not a travel blogger that likes photography. I am not a photographer that likes to travel. I am just a regular person that likes to make things…art…and my favorite medium is photography. I photograph. I travel. It’s more simple to describe what I do and let you interpret that than to start putting labels on myself. I hate labels. I would just like to make that nuance known. K. Cool. Glad we got that down 🙂

Have I convinced you to chuck that DSLR yet and travel light -er?