"The pictures you make are like a connect-the-dots game that becomes the line of your life, as real and vibrant as the lines on your face and hands. We tell stories with our pictures. In turn, our pictures tell our story - what we did, and how well or poorly we did it, and very significantly, if we stuck with it." - Joe McNally
Back in 2011, I posted some cool images of Navy F/A-18s generating vapor cones during the annual air show at MCAS Miramar. Those photo were made with my Canon 5D Mark III and a 70-200mm lens. This was the longest lens I own, and even at that length, there was quite a bit of post-processing needed to clean up these photos and render them faithfully to what I saw that day.
After the fiasco of budgetary "sequestration" that sidelined the Blue Angels from air show appearances for a year, I was happy to go back to Miramar this weekend to take in the show. And having added my Fuji system to my photographic inventory, I decided to bring the X-T1 and a couple of lenses, and focus on a different aspect of the show. As I've said before, the X system isn't the best for action, so that wouldn't be my goal. However, after completing the task I gave myself, I did turn the X-T1 and the oft-neglected 18-135WR lens on the Blue Angels to see if I could get anything worth keeping. I was pleasantly surprised that I could, in fact, maintain focus on fast moving jets, once focus was acquired (that's the tough part). But none of those images could compare with the flight photos from 2011, for reasons not due to shortcomings of the Fuji gear, but rather due to atmospheric and weather conditions this weekend. Nevertheless, there are a few worth sharing, at the end of this post.
Instead, I would concentrate on photos of the static displays and the aviators who own, fly, or maintain them. As such, it would be an exercise in environmental portraiture. Now, to do this job "right", the strategy should be to carefully assess the scene, manage it within reason, pose the subjects carefully, and light them if necessary. But in the context of an air show, with environmental conditions less than optimal (e.g. harsh sun) and lots of crowd that can't be managed, and no lighting gear, you do the best you can, utilizing as much knowledge and skill as you have to get images that are worth sharing.
First up, the cockpit of a B-52, made with the Fuji XF 10-24mm lens at 10mm, through the very small open window. Because I was just one guy in a line of maybe one hundred people climbing up a staircase to look through this window, the challenge here was to estimate the proper exposure (in manual mode) for the interior of the aircraft, without being influenced by the nuclear sunlight outside. My total "time on target" was probably 10 seconds. Get in, get out. Score.
VMFA-121 is the first squadron in the Marines to fly the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter. Here's Captain J.P. Stuart on the flight line with the F-35B.
To get this shot, all l had to do was ask Capt. Stuart to move a few feet closer to the nose of the jet, and turn his gaze to give me the loop lighting on his face that I wanted. Of course, I couldn't have the foil sun shields removed from inside the cockpit, nor the three spies trespassing behind the jet. Same 10-24mm lens.
This is an old, Vietnam-era Huey helicopter, used primarily for search and rescue missions. Still armed with machine guns and rocket pods, there were little kids all over the thing. I asked this crewman to stand precisely where I wanted him, and waited for a four year-old to finish firing the machine gun. Immediately after this snap, he was back blasting away.
Another helicopter on display is the CH-53E Super Stallion, the largest and heaviest helicopter in the US military. It can carry up to 16 tons and can retrieve downed aircraft, including another CH-53. For this shot, I simply asked the crew member to don his helmet. He asked, "Can I put on my vest, too?" Sure.
Cal Fire, the state's wildland fire management agency, utilizes a wide variety of aircraft in its fire suppression mission, including this Grumman S-2T, originally tasked as a carrier-based anti-submarine warfare platform. Today, it monitors fire activity and drops retardant.
The F/A 18 Super Hornet:
The C-17 Globemaster III is simply huge. It can transport two M1A1 Abrams tanks inside its massive hold, though for weight reasons, it typically will carry only one. The cargo bay was filled with visitors, and Sgt. Trowbridge was there to manage the crowd and answer questions. My only question to him was to see if he could move about one foot to his left, enabling the light to fully illuminate his face. Three elements make this photograph for me: the filtered light on Sgt. Trowbridge, the girl looking at him on the right, and the illuminated back wall of the C-17, courtesy of a door to the left, a window on the right, and an escape hatch on the roof of the plane.
When I first saw this biplane, I had to stop and look at it twice. It's the largest biplane ever produced. Moreover, it was first built in 1946, after the Second World War at the beginning of the jet age, and it was built in Russia. It's the Antonov AN-2, and it's still in use in some third world countries today.
The TBM-3E Avenger was a carrier-based torpedo bomber extensively used in the Pacific theater during World War II. It was the heaviest carrier-capable plane of its time, carrying one huge torpedo under its belly in addition to two machine guns and a crew of three. The Avenger was credited with the sinking of the Japanese super battleships Musashi and Yamato.
This is the AirGyro Cavalon, a European gyroplane. It's a two-seater (with luxurious leather seats), claims to be able to fly long distances through weather you'd never want to fly it in, and able to land on a dime. You can have one for 86,000 euro.
Here are three members of the eight-man Swiss Breitling L-39 Jet Demonstration Team, walking quickly across the tarmac. This is a total grab shot, as they were practically running at the time. I raised my camera and snapped off a couple of frames before they began mugging for me.
Though my goal was to capture some decent environmental portraits of these aviators, and without much expectation of impactful flight photos, I was fairly impressed with some of my Blue Angels photos. Here are four that I thought worked well.
Karen and I decided to go down to what some folks think is San Juan Capistrano, but really isn't, to the Blenheim Equestrian Center, to take in the annual Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo. The event is hosted by the Rancho Mission Viejo Company, under the stewardship of the Moiso family, who are wonderful members of the South Orange County community, and developers of the massive Rancho Mission Viejo planned community that begins just across the street from the Equestrian Center.
But the development is a totally different story from the Rodeo. The rodeo is staged by Cotton Rosser and the Flying U Rodeo Company. As he says in his message to the attendees in the program, "I love people, I love horses, I love rodeo, I love showmanship and I love my country!" And he certainly does. So it's a perfect match for South Orange County.
My original intent was to cover the whole day, focusing on the people. I knew there would be real cowboys and cowgirls, plus an assortment of families, vendors, musicians, and best of all, Orange County poseurs - folks who wouldn't know one end of a horse from another, but could rock a hat, $500 boots, shades, and a logo tee. They were all over the place. But that was the problem. My thought going in was to shoot the event street-style. But it quickly got way too crowded to do that stuff. Plus, nearly everybody was two-fisting beers, and I didn't want to invade anyone's space, especially under those circumstances, if you get my drift.
That plan went out the window as soon as we took our seats in the grandstand, about six or so rows up. I hoped to grab a seat that would enable me to move down to the front of the grandstand easily and get some action shots. I had shot the rodeo several years ago, going to the event alone, and working my way around the arena where I could to get decent angles without a press pass. I shot that rodeo with my trusty Canon gear, and got some good takeaways. But because of my now-aborted plan to shoot the event as an exercise in street photography, I had my Fuji gear, and a perch not close enough to get in tight. And I didn't want to stand in front of others in their seats and block their views. So I'd have to settle for obstructed views and mostly fairly aggressive crops after the fact. Thankfully, my Fuji X-T1, not known as an "action" camera, performed remarkably well.
The rodeo started with what you might expect, an exhibition of trick riding by four really talented ladies, who stood upright on the saddle and did other tricks you may have seen before, like this:
But I was totally unprepared for this action, a girl who upended herself and dragged her hair through the dirt, her face inches above the ground. I have no idea what prompted her to think of this cowgirl version of the Zamboni. Fortunately, she did it successfully, and emerged with nothing but dirty hair.
When I looked at this in-camera, I thought maybe I could get some decent action shots with the X-T1. And I did. I began doing single frame captures. I still believe that the Fuji has a delay that makes action shots something of a crapshoot. But when the action is non-stop, it's a pretty safe bet that you're going to get something good. For the saddle bronc event, I wanted to capture the horses at their peak of extension, tails, chaps and legs flying, and cowboys hanging on for dear life.
For the roping and steer-wrestling events, I wanted to capture the teamwork between the riders and their horses.
I especially like the horse slamming on the rear brakes. Sometimes the steer got the best of the cowboy.
These were all single frame captures. But when it comes to bull riding, the action is so quick and so violent, there's no shame in shooting a burst. Most rides (launches?) are over before the Fuji's buffer fills up, so you can capture the whole thing. And for me, while watching the action live, or on video after the ride, is thrilling, I think the frozen moment of a still photograph captures the danger and excitement better than any other way of seeing. You see the cowboy in a precarious position, some with helmets and some without; you see the bull snot flying; you see the cowboys on the fence and the rodeo clowns doing their thing to protect the rider. To me, these are compelling images, even if they're not made from inside the arena with a 400mm bazooka at f/2.8.
It was a fun day, followed by dinner at Lucy's El Patio cafe, down in Capo Beach, a hole in the wall Mexican joint that has been there since the 1930's. A perfect ending to a fun and rewarding day.
Last week I took the opportunity to drive (very, very slowly in rush hour traffic) up to Long Beach to see the Jet Set Quintet, aka the Tony Guerrero Quintet when they perform music from, or inspired by, the swingin' jazz sounds of the fifties and sixties. They performed on the Veranda of the Long Beach Aquarium after closing hour as a part of the weekly series of concerts produced by Owen Kirschner. I always like to see the Jet Set Quintet for a variety of reasons. First, I'm a big fan of band leader Tony Guerrero, who's a smart, creative, and thoughtful guy with a load of talent on trumpet and flugelhorn. Second, I'm a big fan of the music they play as the Jet Set Quintet, ranging from straight ahead jazz, to calypso, to show tunes and TV themes from that era. As a band, they're very tight. And last, but certainly not least, they are a fun bunch of guys, with a great stage presence and relationship among each other and the audience. As laconic as Tony Guerrero is, drummer Matt Johnson is equally expressive, which always guarantees a target-rich environment for music portraits.
I brought the Fuji X-T1 with three lenses to the show, the 10-24, 16-55, and 50-140, and used them all. Not having been to the Veranda before, I wasn't sure what to expect in terms of orientation to the sun at that time of day, 7:00 to 9:30-ish. As it turned out, the audience faced pretty much due east, with the sun setting behind the Aquarium, placing the band in 100% shade, and the Shoreline Village background in nuclear sun. There was about a six stop difference between subject and background to start, making available light photography an exercise in what to get and what to give up on. Also, the first row of seating was about three feet from the band, making it difficult to change positions without being a distraction to the audience. I never want to be a distraction to others who have paid good money to see a concert, especially in an intimate setting like this. So I took up a position in the front row, right, and stayed put, letting my lenses change my point of view. Another creative choice I made was to capture these images using the Classic Chrome film simulation that is available on the X-T1.
One casualty of this choice was Robert Kyle on sax and flute. From my vantage point, Robert was pretty much pegged to a spot in front of a speaker, with a wall behind that to camera left. That wall had an exit sign and some other kind of fixture that I didn't want to include in my shots, so the 50-140, racked all the way out, was the best I could do.
It's a proper exposure, but that's about all I can say about it. Definitely doesn't do him justice.
Not so with drummer Matt Johnson. He takes turn on the mic with Tony, and is a very cool guy. Also super expressive. Whenever I had a clear shot in this tight stage area, I lasered in on Matt. I was looking for expressions like this, and was not disappointed:
Tony Guerrero is pretty rock solid when he's playing, and there's not much difference between one look and the next. However, at this particular moment, the setting sun was bouncing off the glass wall of the Hyatt Hotel in the distant background, and I leaned this way and that to catch the reflection just wrapping around his coat, to provide a little extra something to the photo:
As I said above, the dynamic range from shadow to highlight here is so vast that you can't even see the hotel back there. It's totally blown out.
Joining the group for the first time was bassist Dave Enos. He was directly in front of me, but unfortunately so was a music stand, so I never had an unobstructed view. But never mind, as Dave often crouched tight up against the neck of the bass, whether to play the high notes, or to read music, I'm not sure. But he was fun to shoot.
Dave Siebels manned the Hammond B3. I'm a sucker for the B3; I just love the tones it makes and the music it's often performed with. The spinning Leslie speaker provides this great tremolo that I really love. But getting an evocative photo of a keyboard player when you don't have unimpeded access all around is difficult, so here's the best shot I have of Dave, hitting and maintaining a high note as the Leslie wails:
As the night fell, I decided to switch to black and white, not because the Fuji can't handle color on stage - it does so quite well, but I didn't care for the choice of red light - but because I thought the mood of the music would lend itself to black and white. So these images are straight from the black and white-with yellow filter setting on the X-T1.
As I said above, Tony Guerrero's expression while playing doesn't really change much, but Matt Johnson's does, so while I'm focusing the camera on Tony, my eye is glued to Matt, and this is exactly what I was looking for.
Likewise, this shot of Dave Enos and Matt is a blend of focusing on Dave while choosing the point of capture based on Matt.
Finally, a wide shot showing the entire quintet; once again, my moment of capture should by now be obvious.
This was a very enjoyable evening of great music and some fairly successful photography. I'm so glad I'm using the Fuji X system for gigs like this.
It's been about two months since my last blog post, two months of crazy shooting, travel, and massive editing of images made during this time. So I want to catch up a bit, starting with my favorite photographic and music event of every year, the annual KSBR Birthday Bash, held on Memorial Day weekend in Mission Viejo. I'm fortunate to have excellent access to the artists as they perform and backstage, so it's a target-rich environment.
It's also a physically demanding day, juggling equipment and angling for position in ways to avoid blocking the views of audience members who pay serious dollars to support KSBR and see these amazing artists up close. In recent years, I've come away with excellent images with my Canon gear, but also with significant back and knee pain from photographic gymnastics during the day's and evening's performances. So as part of my ongoing migration from a heavy DSLR kit with monopod to a less-hefty mirrorless kit, I shot this year's Bash with my Fuji X-T1 and three lenses, one on the camera, two in small belt pouches, and no monopod. My lenses of choice were the Fuji 18-135 variable aperture lens for daytime shots, the 10-24 f/4.0 for wide and evening shots, and the 50-140 f/2.8 for evening closeup work.
The 18-135 on a APS-C chip is a 24-203mm equivalent on a full-frame camera, giving me excellent range from wide to tele. The aperture varies with focal length, which is usually a deal-breaker for performance work, but under daylight conditions, shooting wide open isn't necessary, so this is a versatile, do-anything lens that frees me from changing lenses except when ultra-wide perspective is called for. Image quality is fine. Here are Chuck Loeb, Tom Dante, Vincent Ingala, Jay Gore, and Brian Bromberg during an early part of the afternoon's concert. Easy, done deal.
Done deal, but nothing really special either. I wanted this shot, because it's the first time I've seen the legendary and incredibly talented Chuck Loeb live, even though the musicians here are supporting the featured artist for this number, Keiko Matsui, off-camera to the left, behind a TV camera blocking my view from this angle. So it's not really the kind of image that I specifically look for. Increasingly, I try to capture what might be termed as the musicians' personal moments, not necessarily those moments that are meant for the audience. For example, one of my favorite shots from a previous Bash was of pianist Freddie Ravel, who punctuated the final note of a rocking song with a jump at the keyboard, both feet off the ground, one hand on the keys and the other in a fist held high. A great shot, but also very predictable. I just knew it was going to happen, and I caught it. This is the kind of concert photography that most shooters (and magazines) want to get. Another kind of music shot that most people get and love are of the musicians looking at them. Usually posed in a quick grab shot, these images are found all over the place; they bore me. They are "forensic" shots; they prove that the photographer was there at that place at that time, and not much else.
So what kind of images speak to me?
For some reason, I like photographs of musicians looking off camera, and away from the audience as well. They are truly private moments, some contemplative, sometimes even bored, but almost always interesting to me. I always ask myself, what's going through their minds at this particular moment?
Similarly, I like tight images of performers alone with their instruments. I have quite a few of these, one of my favorites from this year's Bash is Tony Guerrero, at the beginning of his performance of Prince's "Purple Rain". This number is just building at this moment, and Tony is solely focused on his trumpet.
There are word-class musicians around him, and thousands of people in front of him, but Tony is alone with his trumpet.
At the other end of the spectrum are photos of the musicians totally engaged with each other, and not with the audience. The format of the Birthday Bash lends itself to these photos easily, as the hallmark of the gig is that headline and session musicians are thrown together to support one another with little or no time to rehearse together. So there are always moments of searching, discovery, and serendipity as artists lead, follow, and blend together to create live music. To me, the best set of the day was the aforementioned "Purple Rain", led by Tony Guerrero, and featuring a solo by sax virtuoso Michael Lington, and an epic guitar battle and duet by Adam Hawley and Jay Gore. These guys were totally into it with each other, and it showed. This was a true "holy shit" moment.
The final note, with everyone looking at drummer Tom Dante for that last crashing beat. There's true commitment and joy in this shot. They just killed it. Jay Gore's grin, Peggy Duquesnel's smile at the keyboard, Michael Lington's intensity. The performance has been perfect and that last note has to be perfect. And the ever-laconic Tony Guerrero is actually animated.
You can also find these moments when two performers are intently watching and listening to each other. Here's Michael Lington totally focused on Greg Vail. The pre-eminent photographer of our times, Jay Maisel, tells us that impactful photos are comprised of light, gesture, and color. Here, the gesture is Michael Lington's eyes. They are the first and last thing you see in this image.
Another opportunity I look for is instrumental technique. This is hard to capture with most instruments, particularly wind instruments, and photos of keyboard artists usually show the artist but the keyboard itself is blocked. But with stringed instruments, you can see the artist's technique. And when the artist is bassist Brian Bromberg, the opportunities are boundless:
A quick digression… One of the big surprises of this year's Birthday Bash, at least for me as a photographer, was how well the Fuji X-T1 handled the worst kind of mixed light there is. For about 30 minutes in the late afternoon, as the sun comes close to the horizon and the stage lights are just beginning to take effect (and they are damned LED's to boot), shooting into the westerly direction produces a miasma of crappy tones. In the past, with my Canon gear, my only recourse was to render photos made under these conditions as black and white. However, the Fuji handled this vile soup quite well, as these straight-from-the-camera shots of Grace Kelly and Terry Wolman show:
Back to technique and my choices for moments I like to capture… As the ubiquity of phone cameras has grown, I find myself drawn to images of people taking photos with their phones. I absolutely hate selfies, but for some reason, I love taking photos of people taking selfies. They are genuine moments with people engaged with each other. And sometimes they take place under the strangest circumstances, such as artists using their phone cams during a performance (not between numbers, but during a song!). Here's Eric Darius using his phone cam during Brian Bromberg's epic bass solo:
Tony Guerrero, trumpet in one hand and phone in the other, recording the artists and the audience during the big finale:
And my favorite image of the Bash, Tony and Dean Grech:
I have no idea what Tony's phone cam photo looks like, but to me, this image is priceless. It speaks to the joy and friendship among the musicians, KSBR staff, and audience that makes the KSBR Birthday Bash the special day that it always is. I'm blessed to have this opportunity each year.
Springtime is the busiest time of year for me, photographically speaking, what with dance recitals and the attendant portraiture, graduations, and other end-of-school-year events. So it was a rare thing to have five days of "free" time, having completed all previous commitments. And with five days of free time comes the intense desire to get outta town. Travelocity presented Vancouver as a relatively inexpensive option, given the last-minute nature of this booking, so I jumped at it. I'm no stranger to Vancouver, having twice traveled up there to shoot ballet and contemporary dancers with Canada's best dance shooter David Cooper, plus a couple of other visits for work-related or other purposes. With only one full day of shooting, and a forecast of one day of good weather, I was off.
On arrival, I checked into my hotel, then took off to Granville Island, a half-hour walk over False Creek. It's a touristy place, but a nice way to spend a couple of hours, especially with the threat of rain. I spent some time listening to Jim Meyer, who plays a twelve-string Chapman Stick, an electronic instrument that looks like a wide-neck guitar without a body. I've never seen a street performer who was camera shy, but Jim was, so I got only a couple of snaps with his permission. The most interesting aspect was his gloved hands, playing in the cool afternoon. A duo-toned black and white rendering revealed the textures best.
On the way back over the Granville Bridge, as the light was falling, I took a look back to the east, and saw Mount Baker, bathed in light, looming in the distance in the State of Washington. I had never seen Mt. Baker from Vancouver, and it transfixed me. I stood on that bridge, stopping everyone who came by, pointing out this marvelous scene. For the locals, this was apparently no big deal. So I snapped away, changing my exposures to try to capture the full tonal range and color temperature of this scene. But the dynamic range between the darkness of the fore-and-middle ground and the mountaintop 70 miles away pretty much kicked my butt, and without a tripod, a high dynamic range approach wasn't really feasible. Instead, I got this.
As David Hobby says, when you're working in the blue hour, you might as well take your photograph in that direction. This wasn't specifically during the "blue hour", as the sky reveals. But the foreground and middle ground were decidedly blue in hue, the sun having already receded below the horizon. Here, I took it further toward the blue, which had the added benefit of taking some of the high-elevation late afternoon yellow out of the snow-clad mountain.
The next morning dawned dark and dreary, which lasted til the noon hour. I was frustrated that my day was going to wind up gloomy and wet, but I went out for a walk, without cameras, and found myself watching the grand announcement of the members of the Canadian women's World Cup soccer team, the finals of which will be played in Canada. It was a big deal, and the locals were stoked, and getting soaked. I trudged back, hoping for clearing skies.
So I packed up my gear, which, by the way consisted of my Fuji X100S, my XT1, and two lenses, the 18-135WR and 10-24 f/4, my travel kit I intend to use in Europe while photographing subjects other than performers. This would be a test of the utility of this minimal kit. I boarded a local bus to the end of Davie Street, and ended up in glorious sunlight on the outskirts of Stanley Park. Hallelujah! I decided to walk the entire Seawall, a nine kilometer hike, and capture the various directions of this loop, along with the changing light that the afternoon and evening would present.
One of my goals in this exercise was to ensure that there were people in my photos. Too often, travel photos are sterile, devoid of the people who actually live there. Ask yourself, how many times have you wanted to take a photograph of a place and waited until the people left the scene? After all, they're nobody you know. But they provide a sense of scale and a reason to be there. So the trick is to find the right moment to make the photo. Are the people engaged with each other or focused on their destination? Is their stride attractive? It's very easy to include awkward moments in shots like this, so shooting a small burst can really help get you a nice composition and have the people look good, too. Put the people in a nodal point and they become an important element of the photo. Though I did not direct anyone, there is nothing random about the placement of elements of this photo. Instead, I placed myself where the elements would come together. All I did was wait for the right moment.
The Seawall trail around Stanley Park is an almost 360-degree loop. Beginning at around 2:00 p.m., I was ensured of getting a variety of light conditions and compositional elements. Here are a few of my favorites, with some additional commentary.
I knew that Lions Gate Bridge connecting Vancouver to points north would provide a dramatic element from a variety of locations. It soars over the entrance to English Bay due to the high promontory of Stanley Park as well as the need to provide clearance to ships. Putting people in the frame also adds to the sense of scale.
I waited under the bridge in hopes of capturing one of the many seaplanes that come in and out of Coal Harbor nearby. My choice of lens, in this case 10 mm, enabled me to intentionally distort the geometry of the bridge and bring in some trees. It also renders the passing seaplane overhead very, very small in the frame. Although the plane occupies maybe .5% of the image, my eye immediately goes to it. A great photo? Probably not. But I like it nonetheless.
Stark geometry and bold colors are accentuated in directional, mid-afternoon daylight, as these examples show.
One of the strangest sights on this walk is a small statue erected about ten yards off-shore entitled "Girl in a Wetsuit". It was meant to commemorate scuba diving, which was big back in the day in Vancouver (for whatever reason), but for me, it's just a humorous perch for seagulls, and the resting place for a girl who can't do anything about it:
Just around the bend, the sweeping vista of the Vancouver skyline comes into view, and your choice of lens determines what elements you want to emphasize, whether it's the skyscrapers of downtown, or the bright orange cranes of the harbor, with Mt. Baker looming in the distance.
Panning to the west at this time of day reveals the beginning of the "golden hour" as the light gets warmer and subjects are more directionally-lit.
I stopped for dinner right after this, knowing that I'd finish right about the time when the "golden hour" transitions to the "blue hour", that time of day David Hobby calls "mix light". It's perhaps the best, most dramatic time of day for scenic photography. In Vancouver, it's a target-rich environment, a time when the light enhances all of the elements of a good photograph, making great photographs out of what might otherwise be snapshots.
And finally, blue hour. By now, most people have packed it in. Too bad, because this can result in some of the most dramatic shots of the day. I didn't have an opportunity to get to a vantage point to capture the entire Vancouver skyline at this time of day, but these scenes can be just as impactful.
At this point, I did pack it in, and walked the rest of the way to my hotel. Altogether, I walked about 17 miles that day around Vancouver, and had a very rewarding time.
A couple of final notes. If you're a person who enjoys traveling with your camera, you owe it to yourself to check out David Hobby's fantastic series "The Traveling Photographer" on Lynda.com. He offers invaluable tips on when and where to shoot, how to look for and make the most out of your many opportunities. While the series is focused on specific cities around the world, the principles and lessons are applicable anywhere.
Lastly, some commentary on the equipment I used in Vancouver. Although I brought my Fuji X100S, all of these images were made with the XT1, and most were made with the 18-135WR lens. All of these are almost straight-from-the-camera jpgs, with minimal tweaks in Lightroom - mostly straightening and cropping. With a few months of experience with the Fuji system, I'm becoming increasingly fond of the rendition the Fuji's give me. They handle available light extremely well, no matter what the available light is; outdoor conditions, indoor conditions, stage light, you name it. I tried various white balance settings during this afternoon walk, including auto, daylight, and cloudy. In most cases, auto worked just fine, if not best. Other than the black and white/duo-tone conversion of the street musician, the only photo I adjusted color temperature in post was the photo of False Creek and Mt. Baker at the top, moving it more to the blue to neutralize the late afternoon yellow snow on Mt. Baker (nobody likes yellow snow, right?)
The only frustrating limitation of the Fuji XT1 is the apparent shutter lag, or perhaps it's the link between the electronic view finder and the shutter. Though it almost always nails focus, sometimes that shutter lag results in missed opportunities. It's common understanding that the Fuji system isn't for sports shooters who need the absolute critical, split-second timing to capture the peak action. It also isn't for dance shooters like me, who need the same split-second timing. But I've come to the conclusion that just about any subject that requires that split-second timing will not be shot with the Fuji system. Getting the timing down for capturing a specific point in a pedestrian's stride was an exercise in predicting the shutter lag. I'm shooting a runway fashion show this weekend; the Canon gear will be coming out for that for the same reason.
Nevertheless, I invested in the Fuji system to minimize the size and weight of my gear for traveling and other assignments where the Fuji system excels. I do not regret that decision at all. I'm eagerly looking forward to documenting a choir performance tour in Ireland in a few weeks. I know that this kit, augmented with the 40-150 f/2.8 and 35 f/1.4 lenses, will give me great results, and my back and shoulders will enjoy the trip as much as my eyes and ears will.