How to Photograph and Still have a Family Vacation.

f/6.4, 1/680 sec, at 14.5mm, 200 ISO, on a X-E2

A view of Florence from atop the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore or Il Duomo di Firenze.

Florence is the capital of the  Tuscany region of Italy. The city is viewed as a cultural, artistic and architectural treasure. Florence is also known as the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. It is the home to such wonders as Michelangelo’s David and Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus and countless other historic works of art. Of course, when you are on a family vacation the goal is to see all these wonders and stuff yourself on gelato, pizza, prosciutto and still have time to shop.  If you’re like me you also want to try to grab time to take memorable photos in the midst of all this.

I often get emails from photographers asking me how do I balance taking photos with the need to focus on the family while on a vacation? One answer is marry an understanding wife. My wife Alou, is more than accommodating with my need to take photos at every place we visit. But the other answer is don’t confuse your family vacation with a photo workshop. For me the vacation always takes precedence over the need to photograph. This is not just a bunch of photo ops for you, it’s family time. So I don’t stress out the family to get photos. Better to schedule a photo workshop (try my Rajasthan workshop in Feb. 2015 ;-) ) than to obsess over your photos opportunities.  The truth is, if I see a photo as we walk from one museum or cathedral to the next I stop and take it. If I can work out a photo from a viewpoint that we all want to see then I do – otherwise I let it go. Let me encourage you to do like me and enjoy your family and relax. If you make this your priority then more than likely you will still walk away with some great and memorable photos from your trip.


f/8, 1/10 sec, at 19.1mm, 200 ISO, on a X-E2

A view of Il Duomo di Firenze from street below.


f/16, 1/140 sec, at 56mm, 200 ISO, on a X-T1

A view of the Great Synagogue of Florence or Tempio Maggiore from Il Duomo.


f/5.6, 1/4000 sec, at 56mm, 800 ISO, on a X-T1

A view of the Tuscan hillsides with the Basilica di Santa Croce in the foreground.


f/6.4, 1/640 sec, at 22.9mm, 200 ISO, on a X-E2

The terracotta roofs of Florence.

f/6.4, 1/350 sec, at 24mm, 200 ISO, on a X-E2

A view of the Ponte Vecchio, a Medieval covered bridge over the Arno River.


f/14, 1/18 sec, at 86mm, 800 ISO, on a X-T1

Cherubs glow in the setting sun reflect in the windows of an apartment across from the San Gaetano Church.


f/11, 28 sec, at 24mm, 200 ISO, on a X-E2

A view of the Florence Central Market from our apartment balcony.

Buongiorno From Roma

Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona


We left Rome today and are now in Florence for the next few days. Rome was everything I had dreamed it would be. Well, almost. Everyone said the coffee would be the best I have ever tasted. So far I have not had a bad cup of coffee. But I don’t find it head and shoulders above the rest of the worlds cappuccino’s and espressos. Now the gelato… that’s another story!  I am sure there is no better ice cream on the planet!

I think literally half of Rome is under construction. Most of what we wanted to see was under scaffoldings. Seriously, the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, The Spanish Steps and more all under renovation. Oh well, looks like we will just have to visit again! Here are a few images from Roma! Arrivederci Roma,


Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona


Our neighborhood Trattoria.

Our neighborhood Trattoria.


Inside, St. Peter's Basilica.

Inside, St. Peter’s Basilica.


One of the smaller domes of St. Peter's Basilica.

One of the smaller domes of St. Peter’s Basilica.


A pano of Rome from atop St. Peter's Basilica.

A pano of Rome from atop St. Peter’s Basilica. ( click to view larger)


Light hitting a piller collum the Roman Pantheon.

Light hitting a collum inside the Roman Pantheon.

The Colosseum.

The Colosseum.





I Don’t Know


On the set of Indian Summers.

On the set of Indian Summers.


Recently, I listened to a Freakonomic Radio podcast by Stephen Dubner and Steve Levitt. This episode was titled The Three Hardest Words in the English Language. So what are these three words? Not “I love you” and not “floccinaucinihilipilificationpseudopseudohypoparathyroidism and pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis“. According to Dubner and Levitt they are “I don’t know”.  I think I agree.

Why do we have such a hard time saying these words? I can only assume it is because we don’t want to come off ignorant. Everyone wants to appear competent. Fair enough. Let’s face it, we do need to be good at what we do. We need to put in the many hours it takes to become an expert or at least well qualified in our field. Then do we risk coming off as ignorant and incompetent if we say I don’t know? I guess to some people we might. But I have found that often the people who can’t admit to others that they don’t know something live in self doubt about their own abilities and struggle with their own esteem issues. We should not let others control the way we act and think. If you have put in the time and are obviously good at what you do, when the moment comes, and someone asks you something you just don’t know, I think it shows maturity and confidence to answer truthfully.

I know a few photographers who would never admit they don’t know or understand something about photography. These photographers are talented and are very good at their craft, so what do they lose by using these three words? In my eyes, nothing. In fact they gain everything. They now gain a truly humble demeanor and are much more approachable. If there is anything I want besides being good at my craft, it is to be approachable by people.

Several times on the set of Indian Summers I have found myself in situations that are unfamiliar to me. If I am honest, my first reaction has been to fake my way through. But maturity got the better of me, and I found myself just admitting, this is the first time I have shot something like this. It’s OK. Everyone has firsts. We learn from firsts. If I would have pretended to know all about set photography, I would have risked looking even more the fool when I made the inevitable mistake. Instead, I ask questions, and have found people understanding and ready to help.

By fearing these three little words, we risk more than by the admission of them. Of course, living in ignorance is not acceptable either. We can’t take pride in not knowing. That’s just silly. So, we have to strike a balance. Work hard at learning while admitting where you lack or fall short.

One of the biggest areas of weakness in my photography is in the use of flash. I can never get my head around the numbers and values. Yet, once I admit that to myself and others I can freely and honestly seek help. I even got a camera flash maker excited because I am not the expert. They figure, if a hack like me can use their product anyone can. By the way, they are really easy to use. But that is for another post.


Horses for Courses – Mr. Johari Lee


Me in 1989 a Park Ranger in Waco, Texas. I am riding “Poppie”.


I love riding horses. Up until Monday it had been around 20 years since I have sat on anything other than a shepherd’s pony. If you are a friend of mine on Facebook you might know I got a small (two lines) part in an English 10-part series being filmed here in Penang. It is a period piece set in 1932 during the British Raj. I play a military riding instructor. I got he part, not because I am a good actor, but because they needed a Caucasian actor who could ride. In the early 1980s I was a Park Ranger in a huge municipal park just on the edge of Waco Texas. Cameron Park had 400-acre of wooded land that I patrolled daily on horse back. Continue reading

Sometimes It’s Not About The Photograph.

f/22, 20 sec, at 18mm, 100 ISO, on a X-T1

Sometimes it’s not about the photograph. It’s about the moment.

For the last few nights the sunsets here in Penang have been nothing short of spectacular. On Friday, as I was leaving the house to head to the drugstore to pick up some medicine, I stepped out into a sky that seemed to be on fire. The next night it looked the same. So last night, Alou suggested that Jessie and I go out and take some sunset photos, thinking we might get one more crazy sunset. After all, things often come in threes, or so they say. Continue reading

The Popup Flash: A Pro Tool?

f/7.1, 1/8 sec, at 14mm, 1000 ISO, on a X-E2

f/7.1, 1/8 sec, at 14mm, 1000 ISO, on a X-E2 rear curtain sync

I came close to titling this post as “Pro Sho – Who says?” I have read so many Facebook posts, blog posts and Twitter tweets about what a “pro-camera” should have on it that I am ready to scream. At this point I could get all esoteric and say, any camera you make money with is a pro-camera. This is true, but that is not really what we are talking about. I think I want to be a little less obtuse and more to the point. When I say “pro” I am talking with the same mind set you might have when you go into a hardware store as ask for pro tools. These are tools that can be abused and often have more “horse power” or specialized features. The same goes with cameras. In my view a pro-camera needs to have very little for this classification. Just as the pro-drill needs to be able to take hours of constant use and abuse so must a pro-camera. It would need to be able to survive a high shutter count and would need some sort of metal alloy body construction to help it buffet physical abuse. That’s about all I would say that it would have to have. After that everything else is just rhetoric or personal opinion. Continue reading

A Podcast: A conversation on the Fujifilm X System with Piet Van den Eynde #02

Piet and I checking out the menus of the X-E2 and X-100s.

Piet and I checking out the menus of the X-E2 and X-100s. © René Delbar


Last year after the Rajasthan Photo Trek, Piet Van den Eynde and I decided to take a few minutes to talk about our experience with the X-series cameras in the field. Piet is a brand ambassador for Fujifilm Belgium, an Adobe Lightroom Guru and an e-book author with Craft & Vision. More importantly he is my co-leader of the Digital Trekker Photo Treks. Last year after our first Photo Trek together Piet and I thought it might be fun to do a podcast about the Fujifilm X-Series gear we used. You can listen to that conversation HERE. That podcast turned out to be one of my most listened to podcasts and quite a few people had asked for a sequel… So, always eager to provide the content that people want, we though it might be fun to do this again… sort of a part two. This year, after the Photo Trek was officially over Piet and I huddled under a blanket together – no really it was the only way to deaden the sound in our cheap concrete day-rooms – and recorded this podcast. We talk about the latest gear and how we have been using the X-system since our last podcast. I hope you enjoy this conversation. Continue reading

Review: Fujifilm Instax Share SP-1 Smartphoto Printer

fujifilm -instax

Probably one of the biggest surprises of this Fujifilm Rajasthan Photo Trek was my last minute purchase of the Fujifilm Instax Share SP-1 Smartphone Printer. This printer opened so many doors with people to photograph that it should be considered a must have for any photographer traveling to new places.

Continue reading