Over the moon with my Fujifilm X-E2

I’d fallen for the Fujifilm X-Pro 1 through reviews and pictures of it, but when I saw the real thing in BIC Camera in Shinjuku when I was in Japan earlier this month, I realised it’s just too big (wide) for me. But I spotted the X-E2 in the same shop, read up on that one and by the time I returned to Amsterdam, I knew I had to have one sooner or later.

I’d barely hit the tarmac and was already searching for a second hand body, preferably with a lens that suits my style. I got lucky, found what I wanted (a black body with the Fujinon 18mm/2.0 wide angle), made an offer which got accepted and I picked it up last week.

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It’s hard to explain what exactly makes the X-E2 such a joy to shoot with. It’s the right size. The retro look is sexy. I love the odd shape of the 18mm/2.0’s lens hood. I love looking through the EVF and the way it freeze frames the shot you take. I love the so very Fuji colours this camera spits out and the incredible sharpness of the lens in combination with the camera’s sensor.

The Fuji X-E2 has returned the joy of shooting to me. I’m excited in a way my SLR (which I haven’t touched in a year or more) hasn’t made me feel in a long time. I’m reading up on photography again, I’m listening to the “On Take Pictures” podcast and I am making plans during the week to shoot on the weekend.

Mirrorless, baby!

Japan, Day 2: five minutes of shouting over dead fish

Tsukiji, the district in Chūō, Tokyo where the fish market is located, is fantastic. Everything about it is exciting. The mix of old and new, the plethora of sea food, the signage, the fact that it’s fish, fish and more fish and it doesn’t smell of it. But the one thing this area is famous for, the tuna auction, is a bit of a let down.

In short: you queue up at 3am (Yes, three o’clock in the morning. Not five, as the tour guides still say or you’ll find you’re too late to make it into one of the 2 groups of 60 that are let in) then wait two and a half hours to stand in a tiny crowded space for 20 minutes watching men prod dead, frozen tuna for a while before the auction starts. Then two of them start jumping and shouting a bit, and the lucky bidders tow away their frozen catch. That’s it. A very strict security officer tells you to leave. Then you’re supposed wait till 9 am to be allowed into the rest of the wholesale market.

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i’ll spare you the story of my two hours in the waiting room with 20 drunk, loud, rude Canadians. My advice: get some sleep, don’t queue, just get there by 9am to explore the inner and outer market.

Quite groggy (not sure how long I had been up by that time) I picked up my JR Rail Pass at Tokyo station and caught the 10.30am bullet train to Osaka. I’d hoped to catch a glimpse of Mt Fuji on the way, but I fell asleep almost immediately and woke up two hours later, when the sweet little old lady next to me tapped me on the arm to make sure I didn’t miss my stop.

Japan, Day 1: Narita to Tsujiki, Ginza

The hotel I’m booked into for tonight is built on fish. Perhaps that’s why it’s got one painted on the side. I’m not joking, it’s right on the edge of the Tsujiki fish market. The next door neighbour is a sushi restaurant. So is the next one. Across the road is a little temple. Everything else… sushi. It’s like my ass landed in a pile of Christmas. If Christmas was made of fish.

Tokyu Stay Hotel

Coming over on the flight, I was sat beside a woman who spoke no language I knew or recognised, mostly because she only communicated in grunts. She didn’t look too happy. Just prior to landing we were given landing cards to fill in and she tapped my arm and made the international sign for ‘can I borrow your pen’. I gave it to her, but it turned out she wanted me to fill in her card. We’d both been given Japanese ones, since the Dutch purser on our flight had a bad case of the “all look same“.

I’d asked him for an English one for myself and did the same for the woman next to me. She had shown me her passport, mumbled “Claudia” and tried to give me the pen and card to copy the details from her passport. “Lima, Peru”, it said. Perhaps she couldn’t write.

I wondered briefly whether she was related to Gimmeabreakman, a Peruvian-American J-vlogger on YouTube, who lives in Nagoya. Oddly, she never said a word in Spanish. In the end, I told the crew she was having issues and wasn’t communicating and got them to fill in her card for her. I wonder what she was going to Tokyo for. Nanny? Slavery? Who knows. A story I’ll never know.

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All hail Japanese efficiency. From touch down to customs (finger prints, photo, lots of konichiwas, arigatos gozaimases and sumimasens) to getting my luggage from the belt took about 20 minutes. From Narita I took the N’EX train into Tokyo Station (cheap rate for foreigners), grabbed myself a Pasmo card (equivalent of the British Oyster card), jumped on the Maronouchi line to Ginza and from there the Hibiya line to Tsujiki station. My hotel was just around the corner from Exit 1.

It sounds like a smooth ride and it was, but it felt like climbing Mt Everest what with the jetlag fogging my brain and the subtropical weather. 30 celcius? Wasn’t it supposed to get cooler this week?

Just before I left I found out from Dave Powell’s ShootTokyo blog that the Tokyo Photo fair is on this weekend. Today would have been the only day for me to squeeze in a visit, but by the time I was settled in my hotel it was 3.30pm, the fair closed at 6 and I didn’t feel like making the trek back to Tokyo Station. Shame, I would have enjoyed looking at lots of vintage and rare Leica’s I can’t afford to buy.

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So instead I doused myself in mosquito repellent (no Dengue for me, thanks), scouted the area around the hotel (see “Christmas, pile”) and ended up scoffing a bowl of rice topped with various sorts of tuna. No pictures, it actually wasn’t the best looking plate. But the guy next door wore a fetching head scarf.

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I’ve got the alarm set for 3.30am. Which is when the queue for the tuna auction starts. Bring me more fish….

Things that struck me this first day:

  1. The seats on the N’EX train can be turned around so that they always face the right way.
  2. The train is cleaned before you’re allowed to board.
  3. I’ve already started copying the bowing and the handing over documents, money, etc with two hands rather than one.
  4. All the Japanese little old ladies and gents remind me, physically, as well as how they’re dressed – must be some kind of old fashioned Asian thing – of my grandparents and thus how much I miss them.
  5. I’ve already lost count of the times I’ve heard, and said, ‘Sumimasen’.

Previously >

Japan, Day 1: AMS -> NRT

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This evening at around 5.00 pm I will be boarding flight KL863, arriving at Narita, Japan noon the next day.

It’s 10am in Amsterdam right now and I’m considering heading to the airport already, because the house next door is being renovated and I think they’re about to drill right through my wall. Which isn’t the most zen situation to start ones journey.

My trip starts and ends in Narita/Tokyo (on October 14) and I’ll be visiting Osaka, Kyoto and perhaps Kobe and Nara. Definitely Yokohama. I’m interested in modern, urban life more than traditional so I may skip Nara if I’ve had enough of temples in Kyoto. My itinerary may also change due to a ‘Super” typhoon that’s apparently heading for Japan and is expected to hit the mainland this weekend.

If I don’t succumb to jetlag, expect my first posts from Japan to cover the fish market in Tsujiki as I intend to join the queue for the tuna auction at 4.30am on Saturday morning and then enjoy a sushi breakfast before catching the Shinkansen to Osaka.

Fujifilm X-Pro1 appreciation post

It wasn’t too long ago that I declared I must have a Sony RX1. A full frame sensor on a compact body? Yes, please. But its 2800 euro price tag is prohibitive.

Enter the Fujifilm X-Pro 1. It may not have that full frame sensor, but it’s terribly handsome. It has exposure compensation and shutter speed dials. Dials. An actual viewfinder. And at less than half the RX1’s price?

I must have it.

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Barcelona, Sitecore Symposium

I went on a unexpected trip to Barcelona for work last week, attending the Sitecore Symposium at the invitation of our organisation’s strategic partners, the Factor.e. We have only recently started working with Sitecore, a CMS, and have yet to employ many of its features.

Barcelona is one of those places I’d been reluctant to go to before, because of some misconceptions and fears I have about travelling to places I don’t know and where I don’t speak the language. Added bonus: I have only minimal interest in Spain or Spanish culture, and am more or less neutral on Spanish food. On top of that, I had no concept of the city, what it looked like, and had never looked at pictures other than Gaudi’s Sagrada familia. I didn’t know it was… like Paris at the beach.

Before I left I spent some time doing Spanish lessons on Duolingo and got to level 7 quite quickly and easily. Since the conference was all in English and I saw little of Barcelona itself, I didn’t get to use the language much, but when I did, it went very well. I ordered coffee, a croissant and an orange juice in a little coffee shop, and negotiated the type of orange juice (the girl asked me if I wanted fresh or bottled) without having to resort to English.

The conference itself was interesting and enjoyable. Commercial, yes. Within minutes of the first day’s keynote I had tired of the word ‘experience’, the cringe-worthy Tell Sell-acting of the Danish-English-American Sitecore team and the happy, loud MOR soundtrack. But it was, at times, also down to earth, driven and informative. I left with as many answers as new questions, which I think is a good result. One thing I learned… we didn’t buy a CMS, we bought a marketing tool. And if we don’t make use of all of its features, it would be like driving a Ferrari to do the weekly grocery run.

Both of the nights I was there, we were driven to rather lavish evening events in town at interesting locations: first the Moritz bar in an old beer brewery, then the Maritime museum. And that’s all I got to see of Barcelona, plus the ‘Aerobus’ ride to and from. Enough to know I want to see more. Barcelona’s now on my shortlist of places to visit again.

Kate Bush – the Musical

Many people have asked me what I thought of Kate Bush’s show “Before the dawn”, which I saw in London on August 27th this year.

At my harshest and most succinct: Kate Bush the Musical as produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber, performed by the Hammersmith Elementary 6th formers, with musical arrangements by Sting.

“Before the Dawn” seemed more a showcase for her 16-year-old than a celebration of her own accomplishments. And I wasn’t there for Bertie’s audition, I was there for his mother. So I was disappointed. Not by the lack of ‘hits’, I don’t care about that. I think singers should sing what they feel like singing and if that’s a choice of their more obscure titles, that’s fine by me.

I was disappointed with the show and the band (very Peter Gabriel/Manu Katché-esque) which all screamed very 80s MTV production to me. It makes sense, if you imagine Kate Bush’s involvement and experience in stage productions effectively came to a halt 35 years ago. Projecting images of water on a bunch of sheets… it just felt very school play.

The sound was terrible where we stood. Our tickets were the cheapest and it turned out all they’d done was sell the space of the back aisle and the side stairs, rather than create a proper standing area.

I have liked Kate Bush’s work for decades, but this comeback has made me wonder whether the careers of 1000s of Bush-inspired artists were maybe launched off the back of a myth. The myth that this 17-year-old girl warbling Wuthering Heights who surprised us all by featuring dance and mime on her first tour was and would remain a visionary genius. That perhaps we were blinded by her lithe beauty. That perhaps it was all a fluke? I do not want to think this. But I did.