A few months ago, I picked up the the Fuji GW690ii, affectionally called the “Texas Leica” by many. The nickname suits it quite well. Similar to a Leica, it is an all mechanical (no batteries!) true rangefinder camera — but way bigger because this camera makes massive 6×9 medium format exposures. This is the largest size you can get before you enter the land of large format photography.
Despite it’s potentially off-putting size, the Texas Leica is a joy to shoot. The fixed mount lens is a 90mm f/3.5 (which is roughly about a 50mm f/2 in full format). The lens creates a unique look to my eyes and it’s liberating not having to deal with additional lens options. Another meaningful constraint is only 8 shots per roll of 120mm film. This constraint really slows you down and I can feel myself relax when I’m out making photographs with this camera. Operating the camera (loading film, adjusting shutter, aperture and focusing) is super simple and straightforward. The rangefinder patch itself isn’t nearly as bright as the Mamiya 7ii or a Leica M but it’s totally functional.
The most significant drawback for me is the camera doesn’t have bulb mode. So long exposures (>1 second) requires the photographer to set the camera to T mode. Then after your desired exposure time, you have to turn the shutter dial to stop the film exposure. It works but it’s super odd.
I am still getting a feel for this camera and honestly not sure if it will replace my beloved Mamiya 7ii. But for now, I am having a lot of fun with it.
(All images made with the Fuji Gw690ii and Kodak Portra 400 film)
We have always wanted to see Alaska. We have made several attempts to travel to Alaska over the years but for one reason or another we had to postpone
At long last we were able to make it work. Alaska is over 2x the size of Texas but with only 700k people. It’s hard to get your head around the size of the state and getting around isn’t easy if you want explore various parts of the state. You can only access about 20% of the state by car so you need to see other areas by bush plane, boat or train
Our trip had three parts: three days in Denali National Park, three days in Kachemak Bay/Katmai Coast and then a week of southeast Alaska.
This post is about our time in Denali National Park. I’ll write up two more posts later this month about the rest of the trip.
Getting to Denali was quite a journey. We flew from Boston to Seattle then to Fairbanks. We spent the night in Fairbanks and took a five hour train to the park entrance. Cars aren’t allowed past the visitor center. To get to the lodge requires a four hour bus ride from the park entrance or a 1 hour bush plane. We took the bus in and plane out to get the full experience and I’m glad we did.
Lodging is limited in the park if you aren’t camping. We stayed at the North Face Lodge which is minimalistic. Each room has the essentials and nothing more. There is no wifi in the park or cellular connectivity anywhere. But the setting of the place, staff and food were truly fantastic. The days were magically long with 20 hours or more of full sunlight followed by a few short hours of dusk. We spent our days hiking and relaxing over a book after dinner. One of our most memorable days was getting away from a wandering grizzly bear.
Denali Park is absolutely stunning. I do not know how to adequately describe it properly and my photographs below do not fully capture the beauty of the place by any means. But one thing is for sure, Alaska has the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen in the United States.
All photographs taken with a Hasselblad 503cw and Leica M3 and Kodak film. Other gear in my backpack here.
Less than 72 hours. That’s all the time we had in Dubai. Not nearly enough time for our first visit to the Middle East. We were headed to Maldives for the December holiday but we wanted to break up the long flight so we took an extra day and night in the beginning and end of our vacation to rest and do a little bit of exploring in Dubai.
Dubai is a fascinating place with massive construction and build out during the last 20 years, with much if it taking place over the last 10 years or so. The enormous airport, the largest mall, the tallest building, all the hotels and offices. All new. The scale is hard to grok for a first time visitor.
Since our time was limited we could explore a few things. So we chose the spice market in the city and a trip to the desert about an hour or so outside the city. Both are bit on the touristy side of things but it still felt a million miles away from home.
The spice market was a packed with vendors with various foods and spices from the region. We brought back some saffron,pistachio nuts and local candies.
We really enjoyed the desert exploration. We rented buggies and went off roading. We road camels to dinner. The desert was so beautiful especially as golden hour approached. The colors so soft and warm.
Earlier this month we spent four days in Eleuthera. The island is quite long, over 110 miles long. While I’m told the northern part is developed, we headed south. The southern portion of the the island is thoroughly remote. The nearest market or restaurant is about a 40 minute drive or so. We didn’t see any a single souvenir shops. Our rental car was provided by a resident, a gentleman named Robert. We paid in cash. Folks that grew up and live here will tell you that at one time this was a bustling island. But that has changed. All of that tourism has since moved to Nassau. Life on Eleuthera is quiet and remote.
But the thing that struck me the most was the kindness from everyone we met. Lauren compared it to going to our first trip to Ireland and talking with the locals. All the stories, life challenges, rich history and island beauty. Although we got a lot more hugs in Eleuthera than pints in Ireland :)
We were quite taken with this place. And have already made plans to visit again.
(All photographs made with a Hasselblad 503cw and Kodak film. Developed and scanned at Richard Photo Lab).
Last month we made our first family trip to South America. We spent most of our vacation in Uruguay.
Getting to Uruguay from the United States requires a long flight but it’s only a two hour time difference which makes jet lag a non issue. After a 10 hour overnight flight from Miami, we arrived well rested.
The drive from the airport to our hotel in Jose Ignacio was about a 2 hours. A rental car is a must. The Jose Ignacio region of Uruguay is along the east coast of the country. While nearby Punta del Este is bustling and tends to get more attention and fanfare, we personally were happy to stay in the Jose Ignacio region. It’s hardly a secret area but it is laid back with a chill vibe, and a place that offers beach, some shops, a gorgeous countryside and some wonderful restaurants.
It is summertime and the weather was quite hot during our week. We spent a few hours each day at the beach. The Arctic currents make the ocean really quite cold but after a few moments we got used to it and it’s quite refreshing. Getting on bikes and exploring all the little streets of Jose Ignacio was a nice way to see more and escape the heat as well. My wife and daughters love horseback riding and its a gorgeous place to ride. Sunset in Uruguay is mighty fine.
One week in a new place is not enough time to do it justice. But I can tell you that we want to make a return trip one day.