Back in the autumn Teresa and I spent two weeks in the Dolomite mountains amongst some of the most beautiful landscapes in Europe. The gateway airport is Venice, a 2 hour drive away from Cortina d’Ampezzo and it seemed silly to pass through the airport and not spend any time in the city. I’d never actually spent any time there and Teresa had been back when she was inter-railing in her 20s, so we booked a few nights in a hotel after we returned from shooting in the mountains.
Venice is one of those cities which you hear so much about and have seen so many images of that you feel that you know it before you’ve even been there, and yet arriving by vaporetto is undeniably thrilling. The city appears on the lagoon and pretty soon you’re entering it’s canals and it hits you how beautiful a city with no cars, no roads, no bikes, just canals and pedestrians really is. We hopped off the vaporetto, dropped off our stuff and then just dived into the city with no real destination, just the intention of getting lost in the streets and seeing what we would find.
I’d spent the previous two weeks shooting landscapes with the X-T2 and my 10-24mm and 55-200mm lenses, and while I love how light the Fuji kit is I was determined to try to shoot Venice with just one camera and one prime lens so I wouldn’t have to carry a bag, just the camera with a wrist strap. The X-T20 really is a tiny yet powerful camera, and with the 18mm f2, a lens I particularly like because the focal length as is wide enough for street shots and environmental portraiture, you can pretty much fit it in your pocket.
Heading out onto the streets of an unknown city with just one camera and one lens is actually quite liberating and I can understand why so many people love the Fuji X100. It’s so small and light and there’s no thinking about which is the best lens or focus length to use, rather you have to think more about how you’re going to compose the scene with the one focal length that you’ve got. I found that this opens up a degree of creativity, focusing on details and abstract parts of a scene, and the controls of the X-T20 really help with this by being able to make rapid changes to the settings through the dials whilst seeing what effect that has on exposure through the EVF.
As for the city, well it’s absolutely amazing. I’ve heard people say that Venice is overcrowded and has too many tourists, and while it is incredible busy in the main streets the same can be said about every major city in Europe. Certainly my home city of Lisbon is the same, but in Venice it seems to be alleviated somewhat by the fact that, as I said above, there are no cars, no busy roads with traffic zooming past, no buses or trucks, just canals with their assorted boats and it makes the city automatically feel more peaceful than almost any other city I’ve been in. Not only that, but we found that it’s relatively easy to escape the crowds and find relatively quiet parts of the city. The main thoroughfares channel everyone though the city passing the major tourists spots like the Rialto bridge before opening out at Piazza San Mar, but duck into a side street and take a couple of turns in the neighbourhoods of Cannaregio, Santa Croce or Dorsodouro, and it’s easy to find yourself away from any crowds, wandering quiet streets and through squares with children play after leaving school. I was amazed by the city, it has so much character, and was genuinely surprised to find neighbourhoods which were still inhabited and thriving in pretty much the same way that you imagine they have been for centuries.
Taking photos with just one fixed prime soon became second nature and a lot of fun. The X-T20 excels for this kind of shooting; it’s so small that carrying it in my hand all day is practically unnoticeable, and it’s super responsive making it really quick to get up to my eye, frame, expose and focus in an instant in scenes as they were unfolding around me, whether it was a num walking past a wall, a kid playing football in a square, or a gondolier ducking to fit underneath a bridge. The camera is so quick and intuitive, as well as being inconspicuous and a lot of fun to use. The XF18mm lens is contrast-y and while not being the sharpest lens Fuji make it’s plenty sharp enough for this kind of shooting, and while the AF can hunt a little I don’t remember missing a shot because it failed to focus on what I wanted it to focus on. I do miss the joystick on the X-T2, which is superb for focusing while the camera is pressed up to the eye but I managed fine with the touchscreen just fine.
There were however a couple of occasions when the 18mm simply wasn’t wide enough, so for the classic shot of gondolas at sunset in San Marco and for the church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli where I needed to shoot wider, the 10-24mm was rolled out.
It was a lovely couple of days in one of the most incredible and beautiful cities on the planet, and a perfect way to finish of our two weeks in Italy.
You can see images from my trip Italy in my Italy gallery here