I am back from an almost three-week-long journey to Peru. While this was not my first time traveling and shooting the Fujifilm X system, this trip kind of served to show that I am embracing it more than ever. Although I started shooting Fuji about two years ago and I made the full switch just last year, I’ve made several trips with them, including Thailand, Vietnam, Bhutan, Iceland and Italy, and with every new adventure, it seems to be a confirmation that I’ll be committed to Fuji for years to come.
I was initially drawn to start trying a mirrorless system basically because I wanted a compact system, something that I could take along with my DSLR cameras on trips. There were situations where I was tired of lugging the gear all day, and there were situations where a big camera was not the ideal tool. I just wanted to carry less, enjoy more and still able to make great photos, and with that, the Fuji X system fit the bill for me. I started with the Fujifilm X-E2 and I was immediately hooked with the quality of the photos and ease of use. Then the X-T1 was announced and I upgraded.
The X-T1 is the perfect camera for my style of shooting. It is compact, but agile and quick. All the commands and dials are there at your fingertips. I can shoot manual and change settings without having to go into complicated menus; it is all there. But besides that, I love the Fuji philosophy. They are not launching new pro bodies every six months. Instead, they just make the one you have better by introducing firmware upgrades. Yup, they listen, they get feedback from the users and they introduce new features to the cameras while with most other companies, you’re forced to buy a new camera to get them.
So I’ve built my kit around two similar bodies for more flexibility. Having two identical bodies makes everything easier. Both are set in the exactly same way. At times I carry both with different lenses, making it very easy to pick up one or the other depending on what I shoot. But depending on what I am doing, I might just carry one body and one lens in a small bag/pouch. Basically, having two bodies is not only good for quick changes, but also means that I have a backup just in case.
So this is what equipment I took to Peru:
Everything was packed into the F-Stop Sukha. This is a big pack, and of course I had room to spare; that was used for carrying clothes for portions of the trip where I was just carrying one bag. In addition, I had the Pacsafe V-18 as my daily carry-out bag. Both bags were amazing and I especially liked how easy the Sukha was to carry and manage. I had the orange one, and at first I thought it was a bit flashy, but ended up loving the color.
Peru was incredible. This was my second time visiting it; however, it was the first time I got to wander it from north to south. My prior trip was in 2014 on assignment for Photographers Without Borders. Back then, I just stayed in Arequipa most of the time, but I knew I needed to come back to see it all.
I started the journey spending four nights in the Peruvian Amazon in a small lodge that was managed by a local family in Port San Miguel, a native village on the shore of the Ucayali River. Making it there was an adventure itself. First to Iquitos, only connected to the outside world by air or boat, then a two-hour drive to the Port of Nauta, and from there three hours by boat to the lodge. It was all well worth it; I spent the days with a fantastic guide wandering and getting to know the jungle and its people.
From there I went back to Arequipa. How couldn’t I? The so-called “White City” is simply great. I love the overall ambiance, the historic monastery of Santa Catalina, the San Camilo Market, the food, and of course, going back to visit Hoop in Flora Tristan for even a short afternoon and give back with the power of photography.
Then it was to Puno for a visit to Lake Titicaca. I was there for a day last year; it was a short visit so I knew I was going to go back. There was a quick stop visiting the floating island of the Uros and then into a homestay on the Island of Taquile. Most people go to Amantani, but for me, Taquile offered the most opportunities in terms of photography. Sure enough, despite the basic accommodations, I enjoyed the island, especially once all the tourist boats were gone. You see, most of them just come here for a day trip, arriving mid-morning, having lunch and leaving early afternoon, so I really enjoyed wandering around photographing the locals, the vistas, and even also shooting star trails over the iconic arches of the island.
Next stop was the Sacred Valley, from Cusco to Ollantaytambo via Chinchero, and back to Cusco via Pisac. I had a wonderful driver/guide, so getting to the sites and villages was fairly easy. The Sacred Valley is really worth a second visit; there are so many archeological sites to see, so many villages and places that just a few days is only enough for a snappy glimpse. I spent about four days in the region. Unfortunately, I was stranded for three nights in Ollantaytambo due to a strike in the area of Cusco that paralyzed all kinds of transportation for two of them. Still, making photos of the people and the historic sites was great. I am somehow grateful for the strike; it served me well to slow down and rest a bit in one place.
The icing on the cake was Machu Picchu. I’d dreamed of visiting this wonder of the world for several years, and the wait was well worth it. It is hard to describe in words or show in pictures what I felt when I saw the citadel for the first time. I can now comprehend why this is one the seven wonders of the world, and of course, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Overall I am very happy with the performance of my “twins.” I am thankful for the weight and factor size more than ever. I can’t even begin to wonder what it would be like to attempt so many mountain treks and walks with regular-size cameras. The Fujis are no doubt the best travel cameras you can think of. As I am planning adventures to Cuba and India for early 2016, these two are going to be in my bag for sure.
That’s all for now. Stay tuned and sign up to receive updates via email as I post the rest of the photos from my Peruvian adventure in the coming weeks.
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