Confessions of a Photophile (or how to use film simulation recipes to make your travel photographs awesome)

We are halfway through the year already… time to plan some down time, right? Maybe a trip with family or friends – and a camera (or two, or three)? Fantastic idea!

I don’t know about you, but the moment I hear “road trip” I start thinking cameras, countless photo opportunities and family memories for the taking… I want to get packing straight away! And so the “painful” process of what gear to pack and what to leave behind begins. Sounds familiar? Thought so.

Heads up – it’s a pretty long read, but I encourage you to stay with me, because I think it will be beneficial for you.

It is not about the gear

Maybe you are also familiar with the notion that, when looking at your gear, there might be another lens, another accessory or something else you should consider adding to your camera bag to achieve “great travel photographs” and you start a google search. Within seconds you find tons of blog posts, YouTube videos and Reels telling you what camera, which lenses are a must have and heaps of other good advice. Some go so far as even to suggest a list of accessories you must not leave behind. Although there are many fantastic resources out there that contain great advice on what gear you need to achieve great images while on holiday, most of these may make you feel like having (or getting) the gear will be the fix to an epic photographic holiday. I would like to challenge that.

Of course you will need a camera and a lens. Agreed. But I think that rather than spending your money on additional gear, rather focus on how you want your images to look.

Why? Well, because maybe you are going on holiday to have a rest – really, a break from work and the stress of everyday living. If that’s the case, and you obviously want to take photographs, you will have to walk a fine line between dedicating time for your photography interest and being present in the moment to experience precious time with your family, friends or travel companions. You see now?

First the people, then the photos

Unless you are a professional photographer that specialises in travel photography (lucky fish, if you are) and you are commissioned to create breathtaking photographs of stunning travel destinations (and rise at some ungodly hour in order to do so, not so lucky) or if you have booked a seat on a photo safari or you’re going on a trip with like-minded photophiles, chances are that photography (and everything that comes with “trying to get THAT shot”) it is unlikely that the other travellers in your group share this with you. In that case, your camera (gear and your long shot list) have to fit in with everyone else’s plans. And rightfully so! Holidays are short (lucky for you if yours aren’t) and family time is precious, so it’s important to “be present in the present” and not glued to the viewfinder of your camera or the screen of an electronic device during the important moments and certainly not for the bulk of the time.

But now, what am I saying? Should we not take lots of awesome photographs while on holiday??? No, that’s not it at all.

I’d like to show you how you can capture holiday memories and special travel destination photographs AND also still have the time to experience priceless moments with family, friends and loved-ones.

So how on earth do I propose to achieve this? Easier said than done? Really? I’m glad you’ve decided to stick around to hear me out.

My confession

Before I take you on a trip down memory lane, I have a confession to make: I’m a photophile. Through and through. My family and friends will be the first to testify that I LOVE taking photographs. Not only do I love photography and photographs, I love the process of taking photographs. Even my photographer friends remark on this. So I know I “got it bad” and that’s exactly why I’m writing this. A minimalist approach to gear, a fine-tuned workflow and diligent file management have become vital to my photophile existence and the happiness I achieve from my personal photography.

Let’s travel back in time

I used to be that photographer who would return home from a day trip with a sore shoulder caused by carrying a “ton” of camera gear, whose holiday hand luggage (read camera bag) would be heavier than their suitcase and who’d sit up into the wee hours of the night editing photographs taken during the day, while everyone else was fast asleep. Then, I’d try to catch a few winks before the alarm went off before daybreak and the next dash to catch yet another amazing sunrise to add to the ever-increasing number of unedited raw files, only for these to be edited (or not), weeks or months after returning home.

My first “One Camera, One Lens” trip

And then, one day in 2013, my husband challenged me to take a bucket-list trip to Namibia with “One Camera, One Lens”. After that, everything changed! Learn more about that in this article and in this video.

What happened? Well, I took a leap of faith and invested in a high-quality compact fixed-lens camera (yes, a Fujifilm X100s, in case you are wondering) which marked the beginning of a transformation that streamlined my gear, influenced my workflow and changed my photography forever.

Going to Namibia and visiting the spectacular dunes of Sossusvlei with only an X100s was possibly a bit extreme (for 2013), but it opened my eyes to other ways of enjoying photography and gave me the experience I needed – that it was possible to travel light, yet capture great images and have tons of fun while doing so.

Here are some of my favourite shots from that trip:

“Shooting and sharing” from Vietnam

A couple of years later, my husband and I went backpacking to Vietnam for a month. I had to go “lite”, but low and behold, I think went backwards. This time I chose 2 cameras and 2 lenses – my trusty X100s, an X-T1, an XF56mmF1.2 and an XF16mmF1.4. Using this combo, I was able to travel across the entire length of this incredibly beautiful country with one backpack and a tiny camera bag while capturing a stack of images I am very fond of to this day.

To share our favourite moments during the trip with family and friends back home, I used the Fujifilm Camera Remote App to get the images on my phone and edited them using the Snapseed app.

What is most peculiar about my shoot and share workflow at the time was that after both of these trips I still spent quite a bit of time sorting and editing all my images after I returned. But hey, that’s how we did things back then.

As a pro photographer, I spend a lot of time behind my computer on editing for client work. Because of this, I continuously try to find new and more streamlined ways of working and so I had developed an interest in shooting jpegs and getting stuff right in camera.

The end of my editing woes

It wasn’t until 2020 that I discovered Fujifilm film simulation recipes and with that, the end of my editing woes. It was during a trip to the beautiful coast of South Africa’s Western Cape that then marked the start of another phase of my photophile existence: shooting beautiful jpegs straight out of camera with the help of film simulation recipes (I discussed this in Episode 11 of “Photo Chats with Nats”). 

This came about when I discovered Fuji X Weekly – a blog run by Ritchie Roesch who has dedicated his time to shooting and understanding film, Fujifilm and the colour science behind their cameras.

That trip to the Western Cape coast in April of 2021 was when I fully embraced shooting only jpegs. While having a phenomenal time visiting new and familiar places, I was capturing those moments in the fabulous tones of Kodachrome. At the end of the first day, when I transferred my favourite images to my phone and imported them into Lightroom Mobile, I realised that as much as I was ready to edit them, I really liked them exactly how they looked. And that was that.

I still remember my friend’s words when I shared some of my images with her that day. “Your images… how do you get them to look soo… chromey….? This is now more than two years ago. Since then, I have taken hundreds, no, I lie, thousands of images, and I love the ease with which I am able to capture what I want, in a look that I love, in camera. I save hours and hours of editing and screen time (and lots of hard drive space by relying on and shooting jpegs only) which frees me up to be present in the moment, enjoying precious time with friends and family.

An approach fit for commissioned work

I have even used this approach to create commissioned work. You can read this article as an example of when I went SOOC for an entire photo shoot with Fujicolor Pro 400H.

A fix for shooting in bad light

And what’s even better still – I have found a fix for bad light and dreary pictures for those moments when I am at the right place at the wrong time – something that happens often when travelling. It isn’t fool proof and requires a bit of trial and error, but a number of recipes give my jpegs a great look that compensates for harsh light, dreary days or the lack of a certain “je ne sais quoi” and makes them lovable.

The start of SOOC Live

In 2021 Ritchie Roesch and I started our collab “SOOC Live” – a monthly live broadcast series in which we talk about everything and anything Fujifilm film simulation recipes and help viewers to get the most out of their Fujifilm cameras. Over 3 Seasons and 22 Episodes to date, Ritchie and I have shared tons of tips to get more out of your gear and introduced quite a number of recipes.

Fast forward to the here and now. I invite you to piggy-back and take advantage of our experience so that you can make your upcoming holiday an even more memorable one.

A list of my favourite recipes that may be useful, depending on what you are trying to achieve, is curated below.

My favourite film simulation recipes for travel photography

Are you “old school” and would like your digital jpegs to emulate a traditional Film Stock? Give these recipes a try:

Elite Chrome 200 (for X-Trans IV cameras)

Fujicolor Superia 800 (for X-Trans III & IV and newer X-Trans IV cameras)

Kodachrome 64 (for X-Trans V or newer X-Trans IV or X-T3/X-T30 or X-Trans II cameras)

Kodak Ektar 100 (for newer X-Trans IV or X-Trans III and IV cameras)

Kodak Gold 200 (for X-Trans III & IV cameras)

Kodak Ultramax 400 (for X-Trans IV & X-Trans V cameras)

Are you into analog and retro looks? I’m sure one of these recipes will deliver a look you enjoy:

AgfaChrome RS 100 (for X-Trans IV cameras)

Fujicolor Natura 1600 (for X-Trans IV cameras)

Kodak Vision3 250D (for X-Trans IV cameras)

Vintage Kodachrome (for X-Trans III & IV cameras)

Looking for a trusty everyday recipe with a clean look and minimal colour cast? Check these out:

Agfa Optima 200 (for X-Trans III & IV cameras)

Fujicolor NPS 160 Pulled (for X-Trans IV cameras)

Kodachrome II (for X-Trans II or X-Trans III and IV or X-Trans IV cameras)

Make sure you check this one out if you’re planning on photographing epic sunsets: 

Fujichrome Sensia 100 (for X-Trans III & IV cameras)

Want to photograph your family in epic analog-looking colours? Start here:

Fujicolor Reala 100 (for X-Trans IV cameras)

Fujichrome Provia 100F (X-Trans IV cameras) 

Kodak Portra 400 v2 (for X-Trans IV or X-Trans V cameras)

Reggie’s Portra (for X-Trans IV cameras)

In the right place and the wrong time? Add some “fake Golden Hour” or a colours boost to your jpegs with the help of these recipes:

1970’s Summer (for X-Trans V cameras)

Bright Summer (for X-Trans IV cameras)

Cross Process (for X-Trans II or X-Trans III or X-Trans III & IV cameras)

Vibrant Arizona (for X-Trans V cameras)

Vibrant Velvia (for X-Trans IV & V cameras)

The Rockwell (for X-Trans IV & V cameras)

Lastly, you may want to capture some of your special holiday time in black & white. Obviously there are options for you too:

Kodak Tri-X 400 (for X-Trans III or X-T3/X-T30 or X-Trans IV & V cameras)

Ilford Delta Push Process (for X-Trans III & IV cameras)

Agfa Scala (for X-Trans III & IV cameras)

Ilford Ortho Plus 80 (for X-Trans IV & V cameras)

Kodak T-Max P3200 (for X-Trans IV & V cameras)

Thank you

Congratulations on making it here and thanks for hearing me out. Since you are still reading this, I hope I struck a cord. Well, thank you. That is fabulous and I hope you’re itching to get going shooting jpegs SOOC now!

Before you do though, I’d also like to share with you that the next episode of SOOC Live on Thursday, 6 July will be dedicated to travel photography. So, if you have any questions or would like to chat live with Ritchie and I, please join us then. We have lots to share and would love to connect with you.

And that is that. I promise, that’s it. Nothing left to share or say (for now) other than, Thank You for stopping by, have a fantastic weekend, go forth and shoot awesome jpegs!

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