LUTETIA - Travels in France with the X100 | Remnants. Odds & ends. A final word.

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In a way our trip finally ends today, with this last post. Over the past month I’ve revisited every stop, scrutinized every picture, reflected and written on cities and sites with both distance and time as my ally.

In french we call it recul - a step back.
It’s been an amazing journey.

I entitled the series Travels in France with the X100 because this was my first true test of the camera without anything else to fall back on. My entire gear stayed home, an ocean away. I didn’t have a choice of lens, I didn’t have a choice of bodies… for better or worse the X100 was IT, no turning back. A big gamble considering this trip was an opportunity that won’t present itself every year. Three kids and a mortgage will do that to you ;)

How did it fare? It’s made me even more enthusiastic, which says a lot.

There were some low points mind you: on our first full day in Paris (after a night’s sleep to shake off jet-lag and regain my hearing) the battery went dead… just after lunch! It went from “Hey! I’m a little low” to “Oops! Sorry!” in about five minutes. Did I have a spare? Nope. Was I pissed at myself? Yup. We spent that entire afternoon walking through Paris and I didn’t have a camera to shoot with. Good god, the insanity. I was framing stuff left and right in my mind and couldn’t do anything about it. My girlfriend kept telling me to just enjoy the day… And we did but man, what a nightmare. It never happened again. Charging this battery became my religion for the rest of the trip.

There were also some odd slowdowns, usually when the card was getting full. Startup times would suddenly jump to almost 10 seconds — an eternity. But while it was a bother during our stay, this issue has completely disappeared with the latest firmware update. In fact startup as a whole is now much faster.

But niggles aside, what the X100 added to the experience was much more important than a few technical glitches: freedom.

For me, it was liberating to carry this small silent camera, to make the best possible use of that 35mm focal length without second guessing or reaching into my bag for something else. Knowing I could trust Auto ISO at up to 3200 was icing on the cake. I shot Aperture Priority pretty much all the way, mostly using AF-S but sometimes pre-focusing in MF using the distance scale. Let me stress this point here again: I had zero focusing problems. Nothing out of the ordinary. Period.

The stealth aspect of this camera has been mentioned tons of times all over the web but it bears repeating:

It. Makes. You. Invisible.

And when you’re invisible you can get away with a lot more. Shooting from the hip is literally worthy of the best spy flicks, but even when people notice you taking a picture it’s a non-threatening event: here’s a weird guy with his great-uncle’s old film camera… Whatever. On the street and especially while travelling in a foreign country where laws are stringent, it’s a serious asset. As far as I’m concerned the X100 passed all tests with flying colours. Call me crazy but I’d leave for China tomorrow with nothing but this little thing around my neck.

So now I’m leaving you with these last shots, the remnants. Some didn’t make it in time for the first run of a city, others didn’t fit in the narrative or were simply from places that didn’t warrant a whole post.

It’s a little sad ending this.

But then there’s so much left to do.

Later.

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LUTETIA - Travels in France with the X100 | Nice, the colour files.

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It’s over. Our thoughts are already floating across the Atlantic’s vast expanse, floating back to our kids and to our lives. Home. Today we breathe in the light and colours one last time. I find myself missing all this brightness already, even as we hunt for a spot of shade. I miss the blues and reds bleeding over everything. I miss the fire and the sea.

Tomorrow it all changes. We’ve asked for a 3:00 AM wake up call.
And they’re calling for rain in Montreal.

Next: Remnants | Odds & ends. A final word.

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LUTETIA - Travels in France with the X100 | Nice, the mono files.

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It’s close to noon when we drive into Nice, our final destination. On our way in we passed St-Tropez and Cannes where local radio ads offered services “to best manage your fortune”. We’re in the French Riviera all right. As we step out of the car the light hits us like a razor blade, so sharp it’s almost tangible. Men in black three piece suits roam the promenade while women lie naked on the beach.

Fifty feet from a luxury hotel a man sleeps right there on the sidewalk, fiercely holding his young son to his chest — as if hanging from a precipice. My throat tightens up as we walk past and my hands let go of the camera: this image won’t be on the card.

It’s now part of a hidden archive.
The kind you can’t format away.

Next: Nice, the colour files.

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LUTETIA - Travels in France with the X100 | La Ciotat

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I’m always longing for the ocean. It’s been that way for as far as I can remember,  as though I spent lifetimes before this one asleep on empty shores — listening to some lonely siren’s song.

Beaches here are small rocky enclaves nestled against the busy road.  We keep expecting space where there is none, silly north americans that we are. La Ciotat is a city of closed shipyards. It’s the birthplace of cinema.

And I see frames at every turn.

Next: Nice.

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LUTETIA - Travels in France with the X100 | Les Baux de Provence

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Another beautiful medieval village buried in some other crisp, whitewashed mountains. Are we this jaded already? As pretty as it all is I can’t help but feel I’ve now seen it before. Perhaps it’s the tourists, all moving in that same airy and dislocated way — aimless as we all are. Or the pervasive Blanc du Nil boutique selling the same wares town after town, a blanket of fashionable white linen to cover the grit of centuries.

We stay a few short hours on our way to La Ciotat.
It IS beautiful. Of course it is.

Next: La Ciotat

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