My camera bag

I have always been an enthusiast when it comes to photo taking. In other words, lots of enthusiasm but not a lot of natural talent or learned skill.

I thought that a better camera would allow me to take better photos. Up to a point that is true but you need to spend time working on your skills; be passionate enough to insert yourself into times of the day that you would often prefer to be doing something else (like sleeping) and be patient  enough to just sit and wait for that perfect moment. Learning how to use the manual settings to get a better results, well in general taking the time to just learn how to use the camera.

cliff14 (1)
One of the first photos taken on my Olympus and it was taken by someone else! – Tahiti 1975
A long time ago and taken by my sister on the box-brownie that I later inherited – Desert Road New Zealand

My enthusiasm has resulted in a long and often troubled history with cameras. My first 33mm roll film camera was a Konica (an inherited “Box Brownie” was the weapon of choice up to then) which I purchased soon after getting my first job in 1970. It was traded for an Olympus 33mm before embarking on a 12 month journey in 1975. The Cliff / Olympus relationship was fairly brief after it was stolen, along with many rolls of undeveloped film, in Seville in Spain. Well everything was stolen except my passport and what little money I had, my remaining possessions (the ones too tatty for even the thief) fitted into a plastic supermarket bag for the remainder of the trip.

a “selfie” taken in Macedonia (then Yugoslavia) in 1975, sit the Olympus on a bag and use the delayed timer

The challenge with the old 33m film camera was that you had to perfect your composition before you took the shot (no post shot cropping and enhancements) and the cost of film and development meant that you were a little more selective about the subject before clicking the shutter. You actually had to work a little harder on your photography and had to wait for a long time to see what the results were. It could take weeks to shoot a 24 shot roll of film. Well it did on my travel budget.

A cool drink at days end – Zadar in Croatia 1975 – one of the last shots on the Olympus

The love of photography waned for many years after that “Seville heist” until I inherited a Minolta SLR in the 90s. But the car – thief – camera scenario intervened yet again while traveling, this time in New Zealand. The only satisfaction that came out of that encounter with the “dark side” was that the thief was a moron and left his wallet, complete with identification, at the scene of the crime. He was caught, but not before moving the camera along.

The Minolta in action at Cape Reinga in 1996

As the saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining and the replacement was my first digital camera, a Fujifilm Finepx 5500. Suddenly all the old constraints were removed, you could shoot until you dropped and sort out the keepers later. Instead of accumulating physical albums and shoe boxes full of photos you could now store them on a computer, but be warned, this comes with its dangers. In fact this blog post has resulted from many painful hours of trying to sort out my photos following the replacement of my computer. A have found photos that I forgot even existed.

The Fuji FinePix withstood the salt air and a few near dips in the water – at Kawau Island 2006

The Finepix was a great camera, seeing me through to 2007 before I upgraded to my first (and only) DSLR. The Finepix was used by Ruth’s daughter Anna for another seven or so years doing a tour of duty in Europe. A real “work horse” of a camera.

One of the FinePix’s last outings on the Coromandel – 2007

Surprisingly,  the Sony DSLR has not been stolen and is still going strong but it only travels with me when weight and space are not an issue. After lugging it along on several biking and hiking trips I decided that it would stay at home whenever we traveled out of NZ, it takes up too much precious space, its too big and heavy and screams “tourist” when you are carrying it around.

We had plenty of room in the boat for the Sony DSLR – passing Little Barrier Island en route to Great Barrier Island in the Hauraki Gulf – 2008
The Sony DSLR seemed to be able to compensate for my limited skill set – Coromandel 2011
A rare Pateke duck cadges a ride on our dinghy on Great Barrier Island 2008 – the Sony snapped it perfectly.

Before our trip to Europe in 2013 I purchased another Fujifilm camera, an FX 1. Stylish little compact camera that fitted in the pocket and took a good photo. The only problem was that it did not handle my style of traveling very well. Throwing myself over the handlebars of the bike not only damaged my body but also the camera and the last month of that trip I had to revert to using a iPhone 5. The phone’s photos were good but it just did not seem to give me the same sense of satisfaction, it is well, too “point and shoot” for my enthusiasm.

The FujiFilm FX 1 in action in Saarburg Germany 2013
The iPhone5 was called into action in Italy (when the FX 1 failed) and compensated for my “shake” after a climb to the top St Peters – 2015

I reverted to using the Sony DSLR back in NZ but dusted off the FX1 for our six month trip in 2015. It lasted 1 week before suffering a terminal problem in Amsterdam.

golden gate
Probably the last photo taken on the FX1 – San Fransisco 2015

I had been given a GoPro when I left my job to undertake the trip. But again, the though of using either a GoPro or the iPhone 5 for the full duration of a trip just did not sit well with my photographic enthusiasm. Ruth had the iPhone6 Plus and was rapidly threatening to become the photographer of record for the trip. She showed me photos that looked extremely good, in fact better than the ones I had been taking but, well, that was probably because the FX 1 was terminally ill.

Interesting architecture
Getting to know the X30 in Amsterdam – 2015

So, with six months of travel still ahead of us, I had to do something drastic. We searched Amsterdam for a camera shop and I was soon sporting a new Fujifilm X30. Yes, I should have been wary of getting another Fujifilm camera but the deal clincher for me was that the controls were very similar to the FX 1. I did not have to learn how to use another camera, worse still, try to learn it “on the job”.

Really starting to get the feel for the X30 – Chania Crete – 2015

The X30 proved to be ideal, finally I had a camera where I had mastered the manual settings and, despite throwing it and myself off the bike again, it was still working when we got back to NZ. Well for a week, then it too decided to malfunction.

It has been repaired and still sits in my ever expanding camera bag which now has a Sony DSLR plus additional zoom lens, a GoPro with various attachments, a Fujifilm X30 and the reliable iPhone5 which is effectively my “always with me” camera. The biggest challenge that I now have is ensuring that they are all charged. Every time I reach for the GoPro it lacks power in the battery.

The advantage with the GoPro is that I can take it into situations I would not think about with my other cameras – Matauri Bay Easter 2016

Ruth has turned into a real photographic professional with her iPhone 6 plus and with her photos appearing in my photo stream I can see that enthusiasm is no match for natural artistic talent. I hope she does not read this post because I have not shared that little bit of information with her. Keeping my “powder dry” should I need a good argument to get another camera before our next trip.

Ruth proves that the iPhone6 Plus is no slouch when it comes to taking a good photo  – Cambodia 2015







  1. Love this post and the photos through the years. Getting really good photos depends on such a combination of factors, and the actual camera used is just one. We enjoyed seeing what you (and Ruth) did with each model.


  2. May I recommend you consider the Sony Rx100. I have used it almost exclusively for the past two years traveling around the world. It is light weight, small enough to fit in a pocket, takes good pictures in low light, and very easy to use.


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