The second day. First thoughts of changing the route. by Fuad Babayev

After the first day full of pictures taken I felt so tired so I barely remember how I came to the hotel at night. The second day was very promising. Before my trip I talked with my Facebook buddy Vladimir Dachevski and we decided to meet in Paris as soon as possible and to go shooting. So we arranged a meeting and I decided ... for the first time in my life to leave the DSLR at the hotel and go shooting only with Fuji Xpro 1. I knew that Vladimir is Leica shooter so as I always been fascinated by the Red Dot cameras it was twice as interesting to me to meet a real hardcore Leica guy and shoot with him. More than that, as mainly a street photographer, Vladimir could show me "his" Paris. So we met at Saint-Germain-des-Prés, had a cup of coffee and went shooting. 

We talked a lot and the conversation was so light and interesting that I did not understand how I got my first memory card full! We were talking and shooting and I suddenly realized that I started to shoot differently. It was not the way I was shooting Nikon. Not at all! I started to look for other things, things that are almost invisible in our everyday life, yet beautiful things. No I was not shooting Leica but who cared? I had no 15 kilo backpack on my shoulders, I didn't think about how and where to put a tripod, instead I was capturing lights and shadows carefully thinking about every single image that I took. It was absolutely unusual to me but instead of thinking about how this or that picture will look in post I was thinking about how it will look straight out of the camera!

This little Fuji camera took me back to the days when we were shooting film and we had only 36 frames to shoot! I used no bracketing and I didn't even think about HDR or post processing! This camera make you think! We are all the victims of the DSLR perfection, where all we need is to press the button (no, not the "masterpiece" button, just a shutter) and the picture will come out almost every time perfectly exposed and all we need is to find a composition that will work. This little beast, I mean Fuji, is something from another world, from the golden past where we needed to play the music but not to just listen to it. When you shoot the Xpro 1, every little thing matters, you are creating not just shooting.

Something clicked inside me, it was real joy to have a great conversation with a great photographer and a fantastic person, walking the streets of the one of the most beautiful cities in the world and taking pictures.

We walked along the river and I was not tired carrying a ton of gear, I was not waiting for people to leave the place to be able to take the pictures, I was taking pictures of people instead.

So now I understand that that click inside me was the first sign of the end of the DSLR days for me.

A day at Trocadéro. The Tower and others. by Fuad Babayev

Well after spending the first half of the first day in Paris at Trocadéro, and taking a few hundred pictures from the point of Gardens of Trocadéro, I decided to take a walk to the other bank of Sienne river. My Nikon did a great job but I wanted to capture some tiny things around the Tower and I decided to put a D800 into my backpack and to wear Fuji X-Pro 1 with its incredible Fujinon 35mm f/1.4 lens. I played with it at home but the time came to give it a hard work abroad. I decided to walk down the Champs de Mars and then to come back to Trocadéro to catch the illumination on the Eiffel Tower. While walking around I started to pay attention to a tiny little things and details that usually left unseen when I'm wearing a DSLR.

A day at Trocadéro. The Tower in the clouds. by Fuad Babayev

As you may know, before any trip, I'm taking a survey about what to shoot and from what point to shoot. My first trip to Paris I was so busy and tired so I made a couple of shots of Eiffel Tower at night from Champs de Mars and that was all I did but I knew that there was another point with the direct view to the Tower so the first day I went there and actually spent there whole day to be able to capture the tower during the day. So here is the first one from the series. I will not post the images in chronological sequence but I promise I will mention that this shot or that one was taken during my first day. These shots were made with Nikon D800.

Changes. On the empty street in Paris. by Fuad Babayev

After I arrived to Paris I thought it will be kinda usual trip with running around the city with the giant backpack and a huge camera, setting up the tripod anywhere and taking a series of bracketed pictures to create HDR images later. I also promised myself to write everyday in the blog, telling you the stories about the trip. But it all turned upside down as soon as I went out wearing not the usual Nikon but Fuji X-Pro 1. It is so small and discrete that it was a real pleasure to walk and shoot. In the evening, the same day I went out with all the heavy Nikon stuff and I understood that something changed. It was heavier than usual, it was annoying and big and I wished to drop it back to the hotel room! That was the first call for changes.

ThinkTank Streetwalker Harddrive. by Fuad Babayev

Yesterday I finally got my new backpack. Guess what backpack is it! Right, this is ThinkTank StreetWalker Harddrive. Big enough for my stuff but it still cannot carry on all my lenses and cameras. 

Transient

What I like most of all is that I'm now free from my laptop bag!

 

All these days I'm running around like crazy getting tickets, visas and preparing for the trip. Now I'm thinking about changing the dates and stay in Paris a few days longer.

Things don't have to be extraordinary to be beautiful. by Fuad Babayev

Yes, these are the words you see every time you stop by my blog. Really, things don't have to be extraordinary to be beautiful and almost in every blog post I'm showing you some extraordinary places and things. This is the life of travel photographer and photographer who is travelling.

Traveling light?

We are walking the streets of foreign cities, shooting buildings of the past centuries covered with the patina of time and lace of the ornaments, capturing the scenes of other culture, faces of other people, we are shooting modern buildings of glass and steel and concrete trying to show them the way no one did before. We are carrying backpacks full of hundreds of millimeters of lenses that weight tens of kilos, we are carrying tripods that are hurting us all day long and a zillion-megapixel camera not to miss a single detail of that statue or this reflection on the water. All our memory cards are full at the end of the day and we are running to the hotel to upload the images to the computer, that, by the way we are taking with us all over the world, and to not to lose a single file, we are bringing an external portable hard drive with us to make a backup copies every time we upload something to the computer. From trip to trip, our backpacks are getting bigger and bigger, heavier and heavier, because we are constantly buying gear or switching from one lens to the other that normally will be bigger and heavier than the previous one.

And the next day we are getting up before the sunrise and run to the location to catch that light and those clouds and that quiet water... And then we wait for the golden hour to catch the golden light of sunset ...

View from the Old City to the Flame Towers. Waiting for spring to come.

But what to do, when the sun is up, the light is harsh or even if the wind started to blow or it is raining? You don't want to come back to the hotel to drop your backpack and camera because, as you know, our best pictures are the ones we did not take, and you know exactly, that you will see something amazing if you're not wearing the camera. But you don't want to walk around the city with 10kg of gear and the tripod that is hurting you a lot and your neck is aching because of the 3kg of a camera and lenses you are carrying. You know, that it is almost impossible to attend several places if you have you tripod with you, and you will spend the good part of the hour showing the insides of your backpack to the security in the museum, so you have two options. After all it is simply dangerous to carry all the stuff with you all the time in some countries and you definitely don't want to give away all your gear to the guy who was lucky to steal it from you.  The first option is, as I said earlier is to go to the hotel and drop your belongings in the room and walk the city having nothing but your mobile phone with you to take pictures and then to cry a lake of tears looking at the dull and faded pictures you took but you will be safe. The second option is  go to the café, bring a cup of coffee, relax, observe, try not fall asleep (remember the guy from the option one? he still wants to steal your stuff), set up your "scene" and wait for the actors to come. Oh, by the way, try not to mess up with the camera settings, remember, you shot for HDRs and did some long exposures this morning, so when the actors will come you don't miss that shot! And what happens when you see something interesting that is taking place in front of you? If you are not very tired, lazy or sleepy, you will bring up your gigantic DSLR and you will capture the scene ... if you are lucky, or if your DSLR is not shouting out loud "Hey! Guys! I'm over here, look into my eye!" ... But most of the time you are too lazy to pick up the camera to capture something that is not the size of the Pyramid of Giza. So, what to do? Is this the end of story? No, this is not the end of the world, you've just missed the shot. Is that a tragedy? No, not at all! There is nothing easier to come back to Paris or London or Tokyo, to find the place, to re-create the scene and to take the shot the second time! Really? Am I serious? Of course not. For us, photographers who are not working in the studio, to miss the shot means to miss it. Forever! End of story! But ... There is the third option ... It is small, it is light, it is relatively fas and makes you shoot everything and more than that, you can walk around the city taking wonderful pictures and capture fantastic scenes without any heavy lifting What is it? We have to dive a bit into the history.

Technology is getting better and better and for the last four years we saw the great progress in the world of photography. Why four years? The first DSLRs appeared on the market much earlier. But this is not the topic of this post. Oh, by the way, a few paragraphs that you were reading before was just an introduction, so get yourself a cup of something, because I'm in the mood of storytelling :)

So! What happened about four years ago if not the new DSLR? Four years ago we saw the first mirrorless camera with relatively big sensor with interchangeable lens. I first met the mirrorless system while being in London in 2010. I saw it in the duty free in Heathrow airport and I liked it a lot. It was small and light and the first thought was "I want to try it!". I came back to London a month later and first thing I did the next day after arrival, I went to Jessop's and put my hands on the camera. I played with it for half an hour and then just bought it. It was not Olympus E-PL 1. It has a crop factor of 2x and a 14-42mm kit lens. At that time I was shocked with the quality of this small point-and-shoot like camera and spent 10 days in London just shooting. But I always looking forward and I started to pay attention to mirrorless cameras that started to appear every day. Then I discovered the jewel. No, wrong! The Jewel! I discovered Leica M9, the digital rangefinder and it has one thing that made me dream of it from the moment I saw it. The camera had full frame CCD sensor and as I looked at the pictures that were taken with it, I started to realize that the images were just different. Guys, I really can't describe the difference between these images and the images that were taken with DSLRs, they had something ... not technical perfection but something like a part of the soul of the photographer, the emotions, I just don't know. But it has something in it that was making it just an object of desire. The price tag. Oh yes, it was and it still is very expensive, and when you are thinking about buying lens for it, you realize that you have to sell most of the stuff you have to afford the lenses you need. 10 000$ for 50mm Noctilux f/0.95? Oh my! I'd buy 3 DSLRs and some lenses for them for the price of one lens! So I stuck with my trusty Nikons, from time to time dreaming of Leica and not even thinking of the mirrorless cameras anymore.

That all changed when the world first saw Fuji X100. Oh my! The photography world, at least most of it was talking only about this camera and its miraculous viewfinder and the super-duper-vinage-retro body. It was really beautiful! And the first thought was "It looks like old rangefinder"! I had the Nikon D7000 with a few lenses at that time and I was mostly shooting the street photography using my Nikkor 24mm f/2.8 lens which in 35mm terms gave me 35mm of view angle, and X100 had non-removable 23mm f/2 Fujinon lens that seemed good enough to use it instead my Nikon camera so I was wanted to give it a try. I did. As the camera became kinda iconic, we got a reverse effect. People started to shoot streets because they bought Fuji X100. As soon as I tried it, I understood, that this camera is definitely not for me, it was slow and laggy, it was quirky and unstable. But people were dying to get it. It became a hysteria. If you'd browse back to April 9, 2012, or just click the link , you can read my post on this. So again, I stuck with Nikons and finally moved to FX (full frame sensor) segment of Nikon DSLRs and bought Nikon D700. As time passed by, my tastes started to change and I moved from street life to HDRs, to landscapes and cityscapes, to fine art photography and nothing disturbed me, just a lack of magepixels to capture more details. 

In 2012 Nikon announced the D800 and as soon as I got it in October of 2012 I had nothing to dream of, maybe better lenses and sometimes the street shooter in me dreamed of Leica.

A few weeks ago I wrote in one of my posts that I'm thinking about getting the second camera, just all-around one, that I can carry with me all the time, shooting pointless things just to share my vision of the things that don't have to be extraordinary to be beautiful. To tell the truth I could afford some used Leica M9 but it was still very expensive. So I started my research and stopped by Sony Nex-6 as the best candidate for purchase but there was one hitch, I could not go to the store and just buy it. It was not available here in Baku. So I contacted a good friend of mine who is selling Fuji cameras and asked for FujiFilm XPro 1 with 35mm f/1.4 Fujinon lens. I saw and tried this camera a few times and I knew that for last 3 years FujiFilm corrected most of the glitches and quirks of X100 and became a really good choice as a second camera for me. After the X100 Fuji corrected almost all the mistakes they made and X100s was born with the new sensor and almost every-single-bug-corrected feature list. But that was still not my camera. It has a nor-interchangable lens (perfect lens by the way) and that fact kicked it out from the short list. then the were Fuji XE-1 which was the twin of the XPro 1 but it was lacking the optical viewfinder and that fact is critical for me because ANY EVF (Electronic ViewFinder) even the best of the best has a lag especially in low light. The new Fuji XE-2 is almost perfect with its phase detection autofocus system and snappy interface but again, lack of OVF was critical. So I had the only one item in my short list and it was XPro 1. Two weeks ago it was delivered to my door and as soon as I opened it and turned it on I saw all the glitches and quirks I read about. Yes it was not the ideal camera that you can take to the streets for shooting out of a box. But as soon as updated the firmware I noticed the difference! Bravo Fuji! You just made it right, I hope you will in the future too. You are listening to photographers and you are making changes, almost instantly. And it is not just when it cakes to bugs and glitche, they are adding small tiny features users asked for. well done.  

It is almost 2 weeks I'm using the Xpro 1 and nothing else. I am very demanding customer and of course the camera has a few flaws that I'd like to be corrected in the feature releases of software, like focus peaking color (it is white and is not very handy) and a few more, it has some flaws in the ergonomics but these are the things that I can get used to and I can live with. It is incredibly sharp. Thanks to the new sensor and fantastic lens (Fujinon 35mm f/1.4) it is relatively fast but most of all it brings up emotions and it makes you carry it with you everywhere and shoot everything you see, from the cup in the coffee shop to the puddle on the street in the rainy day. You really become emotionally attached to this camera. The same was with Leica when I tried it some time ago, it is just different, and again, I can't tell you what exactly is difference with other cameras but this little beast mede me happy.

This is not the technical type of review, you may find hundreds of the reviews on Fuji XPro 1 camera and lenses but this review came out from emotions I have every time I push the shutter button. 

Will Fuji be my first camera? Most probably no. No, I'd say not now. It will not yet replace my main production camera, at least until FujiFilm will create something with 36 megapixel Full Frame sensor, but if you'd go back to the beginning of this looooong post, this is the camera I will be using between sunrise and sunset while traveling, so I now have the third option :)

And I will take it for a major test drive to Europe at the end of March. But something tells me that I will be more than pleased.

All the images in this post were made with Fuji XPro 1 and Fujinon 35mm f/1.4

Foolish and hungry by Fuad Babayev

A few days ago I was talking with my buddy, wedding photographer and showed him a newly processed picture. He looked at it and said: "Nice, but that is not what I expected from you" . Funny, but that made me think. We all photographers, craftsmen, we are spending hours, days, years, ages to develop our own style, our signature, we want to be recognized by a single stroke on "the canvas", and while doing this we are not thinking about being recognized this way, most of the time this is the way we see the world around us and the way we are trying to share the experience with the world. But at the end of the day we are developing not only our own style but we are planting that special way of seeing through our eyes. As we translate the image through the filter of our vision, people who we share our images with are expecting us to use these filters forever and everything that goes beyond these expectations surprises them and not always in a good way. If they don't see what they expected to see, sometimes that means that they don't see anything. As for me I'm trying to keep things shuffled and trying to "stay hungry, stay foolish" © every time I see the world through the viewfinder.

One step to finish. by Fuad Babayev

So, if you are intrigued with the news I'm planning to tell you, let me say I'm almost in one step to finish. Need a few more days to finish things up and to transform emotions and impressions into words and write a post on what I was doing whole last week. As for my travel plans, I'm planning to visit Europe at the end of March, so as my plans will form into something real, as tickets and visa routine I will post the exact route and if someone will want to join me, I'd be happy.

The daily picture today is right about finish line and about crossing it