LUTETIA - Travels in France with the X100

Today I’m beginning a series entitled Lutetia - Travels in France with the X100. This series will chronicle the fifteen days we spent traveling across France from June 9 to 24, 2011. All pictures were taken with a Fuji X100 camera. This first post offers a bit of a backstory and some technical details.


It’s amazing how our eyes get used to our surroundings. They grow weary and somehow, eventually, we stop seeing. We glance. We no longer register what’s in front of us.

Last year I drove through Canada on a solitary journey, from Montreal all the way to the Pacific Rim in an effort to kickstart my sense of sight — amongst other things. Somehow my country offered a mirror to my own solitude, long empty highways of endless wilderness, no one in sight for hours on end. Like falling into space. I think the resulting pictures reflect that sense of loneliness.

This year was quite different: my girlfriend and I spent 15 days in France, our first real time together without the kids in… over seven years?

Travelling with someone immediately changes the dynamics of photography. You notice certain things through the other one’s eye, you tend to steal moments here and there in a more discreet and furtive manner. You become at once bolder and more timid, reacting differently to various situations. It’s a good change. It stirs things up.


When preparing for this trip one thing became very clear, very quickly: I did not want to carry a full complement of DSLR gear. As much as I love my Nikons and lenses, I wanted something smaller and stealthier. Enter the Fuji X100.

I won’t recap all that I’ve written on this camera — it already has its own menu item on this site if you’re interested. Suffice it to say I now know I made the right decision. Not only did it perform splendidly, it allowed me to shoot subjects I would’ve had trouble nailing with a big DSLR. When it comes to discreetness, the X100 is a street shooter’s dream: you just blend in. France is known for its very stringent privacy laws in relation to photography and I was warned about this by several photographers before leaving. The X100 was like Harry Potter’s Cloak of Invisibility.

Did I feel constrained by the fixed 35mm lens? Sometimes. But I’d made my peace with this before leaving. In my mind, my eyes were set to 35mm. I didn’t spend a single minute thinking how this or that shot would’ve looked with my Nikon 70-200 2.8, or 17mm, or fisheye. I also did not think about raw. I basically gave myself a set of parameters and stuck to them — like choosing a specific film stock.

The setup? Aperture priority, Auto ISO (max 3200, min 200), Auto Dynamic Range, AF-S, Provia film simulation. That was it 98% of the time. Extensive use of Exposure Comp dial obviously.

As for reviewing and editing on the road, I’ve already talked about it in my Snapseed review: an iPad with the camera connection kit and Snapseed. An amazing setup that allowed me to sketch out an overall look and vision as we were moving through the country. It gave me confidence in what I was shooting as well as a good vantage point moving forward. I think it very much contributed to the final results.

While the Snapseed images can perfectly stand on their own, everything I’ll be posting in this series has been edited from scratch in Aperture 3. This is for technical reasons (6MP resizing in Snapseed due to my iPad 1). But I’ll be posting those Snapseed versions on Flickr at the end of the series.

Tomorrow we begin the journey with Paris. I hope you’ll enjoy the photography.
I, for one, have returned with eyes open.