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Germany too

While in Belgium and Flanders visiting WWI sites, we visited a German cemetery. Similar to others we would visit, it was in farmland. The vibe was very different (as most cemeteries we visited were, all had a vibe; difficult to explain, but it was there).

The German one was very sombre and low key. Interestingly, there was wifi available here, however, it was very restricted such that one could only access an app that would describe the site. That’s fine. I found it interesting to have that technology to learn about the location, accommodating the next generation to keep history alive.

The Brooding Soldier

The Brooding Soldier is a memorial to Canadian soldiers in Langemark, who fought in the second battle of Ypres. This was the first time the Germans used gas. Of the nearly 6000 Canadians in the battle, 2000 were casualties. They did hold the line.

This is one of those monuments I’ve wanted to see in person for a long time. Our trip to Belgium included this, and it was fantastic to see. The location is in a small village on the edge of farmland. Not only is the memorial here, but a small garden area as well. We went first thing in the morning, and it was very peaceful. Looking around, the entire area was at one time a battlefield, which is a recurring theme in this area.

 

The Menin Gate

We stayed in Iepre (Ypres) a short two minutes from the Menin Gate. Every night at 8pm, they play the last post. The monument is dedicated to the 54,395 British and Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in the Ypres Salient of World War I and whose graves are unknown.

The time we were in there, it was coming up to the 100th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge. On this occasion, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) were there. Of course. I go half way around the world to see Canadian Mounties.

The structure is humbling. Everywhere you look there are names in this quiet little town.

Cloth Hall

As mentioned in previous posts, I was off to Belgium and France to visit WWI and WWII sites.

Our first stop was in Iepre (Ypres) where we stayed to visit the battlefields of Flanders. This is my main interest, and something I’ve read and studied for many years. I was happy to be in this location. Our hotel was steps away from the Menin Gate and Cloth Hall.

Cloth Hall was a place to be in the medieval times if you wanted textiles. When the first world war broke out, Ypres was a target and the Cloth Hall was pretty much destroyed. The Belgians, after the war, rebuilt the hall with existing stone and drawings to its former glory. These days its a museum to the battles fought in the region, and the building itself is beautiful.

Time constraints within our itinerary and the times it was open prevented me from getting inside. Next time. I loved Iepre (as its now called) and I hope to get back again.

All photos were taken with the Fuji X100T and the wide-angle converter.

Travel results

In my previous post, I indicated a trip and what I was taking for camera gear – very minimalist. Now that I have returned, the verdict it in, and it was a success….basically.

Having the small Fuji X-100T and complimentary converters was light-weight, and never a burden or pain to carry. Even the small bag proved to be easily accommodating to include sunglasses/reading glasses and a flask of water. The bag, a ThinkTank Retrospective 5, had plenty of room, and the bonus of velcro seals for the opening, meant that I never had to worry about someone reaching in and stealing my stuff, especially when in Paris.

The only downside was the lens converters. The screw on feature was a bit cumbersome, as sometimes I was switching them on a regular basis. And with the 100T, I have to tell it when it was using which converter or not. On many occasions, I simply forgot for a number of shots. At least with the X100F, that is now automatic and certainly a great feature. I tried to keep to one converter for a while, but that never really worked. Again, the screwing it on and off was not very fluid. As for focal length, it worked out fine. A few times I would have liked an ultra-wide lens, and only once a longer telephoto.

The other small thing, if you look at the last post, I had a shutter release button thing on the camera. Yes, I said “had”. As I expected, it eventually came off as there is no to keep it on without gluing it. Each time I used the camera, I found myself automatically tightening it. It may be in the camera bag, I haven’t checked, or its on the streets of Paris near Notre Dame cathedral. I won’t be getting another one. As nice as it was, its too pricey (with shipping) to have to replace or constantly check on it.

Other than that, the camera was great. I brought along three batteries and I could have fared well with two. I was concerned about the overall battery performance, because I haven’t used the camera for a full extensive day and didn’t know the longevity of it, and I have read that it wasn’t great. I don’t know what other people are doing, but the battery lasted a couple days before I needed to switch it out.

I also shot entirely in JPeg Classic Chrome. On quick inspection, the photos came out great. there will be some tweaking, as there always will be, but the images look great.

Stay tuned for updates as I put up photos of the trip.

What to take?

If you lurk around the camera and photography forums, you will inevitably come across the post “What camera/lens/gear to take to location X”, where the person is wondering what type of camera gear they should take to where ever they are going. The worse ones are where they say they are going to location X and will be purchasing gear, what should they buy.

The inevitable answers are a range from take a 16-300 all encompassing lens, to just take two primes, three zooms and three camera bodies, to the question, “what type of things do you like to shoot?”

Ugh.

Its like they can’t make up their mind, so the faceless of the Interwebs will decide for them. My thought is, research the location, decide what you want to shoot, and take a chance with what you bring. Its either that or a veiled question that basically says, I’m going here, who else has been there and what should I expect if I want to take pictures.

Which now sets focus on me. I will be heading to Belgium and northern France for a trip to various Canadian WWI and WWII locations. I decided some time ago, that I would go really simple.

Some background. Back in 2010, I went to England and took a Nikon D700 with battery grip, 24-70 f2.8 and 16-35 f4 lens, even bought a sling bag to carry it. At one point during the trip, I left it all at home. Too heavy. A couple years later, I went back and included Scotland. I took a Fuji X-Pr01 and two prime lenses (35mm 1.4 and 18mm 2.0). I loved the second option. Did I miss some shots? Probably. Does it matter? Not really. I really enjoyed the camera and the 18mm stayed on much of the trip.

So for this trip, I’m going even lighter. Here is what I’m taking with me:

A Fuji X100T, and the wide angle and telephoto converter lenses, extra battery and the Fuji container will have three cards. So that gives me three focal lengths: 35mm, 28mm and 50mm (full frame equivalent) That’s it. I can hear photo nerds concerned. No telephoto!? No ultra wide?!? How will I get the photos?

I might not. Its about the complete photo opportunities as it is lightweight and portable. I’ll get great photos. Its about using the tools available.

I can’t wait to get some shots.

Lego in the snow

I have a collection of Star Wars Lego. Some of it is from The Empire Strikes Back, specifically, the scenes from Hoth, the snow-covered planet. For a few years, I’ve been itching to photograph the items in the snow. Usually its too cold, too windy, too dark or not enough snow. The AT-AT wouldn’t stand up if it was too windy or the snow not soft enough to set it in.

Today, besides the wind (which seemed to not be a problem) was an ideal day. So I took it to task to get some shots! The sun was in a good spot when I did this to make some great shadows. I’m very pleased with the results.

Photos done with the Fuji X-T1 and 60mm macro lens.

Tree line

While waiting for the train mentioned in the previous post, I had some time to kill (in the hopes I didn’t miss the train altogether). With camera in hand, one looks for interesting patterns, shapes or compositions. Thus, when looking up I saw the outline of wind-swept trees, giving a very northern Ontario/Canadian look. So I framed it up and took the shot. A little monochrome treatment worked well with the dark tones of the tree and bland sky background.

Shortly after the shot, I heard the train horn, and my attention was shifted.

Shot with the Fuji X100T.

Chasing trains

I believe I’ve mentioned before about the lack of railroading in Ottawa. Let me iterate; there is very little in Ottawa for a railfan/train person to see beyond VIA trains, which are very typical. In fact, most trains in Ottawa are typical and predictable. So one must make the most of what little there is.

I live near the main track that VIARail uses, and passenger trains just don’t do it for me. I like freight trains. Again, there is very little in Ottawa as I mentioned here. Where I work, I do have a limited vantage of the track going up to Arnprior. There is a weekly local that takes some tank cars up there and that really is the only thing to see. From my cubicle, I can hear the train coming and watch it trundle up the line. Its about a five hour turn to come back, and if its a later train, I can make a stop after work and wait for its return. Of course, the camera comes with me every Wednesday, just in case.

Such was my luck last week. It was a late one going up, meaning I could get to a spot to see its return. Being winter and all, I kept to a spot that I knew I could access easily with all the snow (although, not as easy as I’d imagined). After a short wait, I heard the tell-tale horn and got ready for some shots.

I brought my Fuji X100T. Not the best for variable shots, but I like the camera, and I can learn to make do. As it approached the level crossings, the bells and lights went off. As it came around the corner it blew its horn. As it went under the highway bridge, the echoes made it very loud.

And shortly thereafter it came by. It goes at a fairly slow pace, so there is time to get ready for the picture.

The consist is typically three to four tank cars from (and to) the Nylene plant. Again, very predictable. Even the engine is typically the same. Sometimes there is two locomotives, which I suspect is only because one has had some repairs, and it is sent up the line with the other as a backup should the “fixed” one fail.

And within 30 seconds, the train has passed, and I wait another week to possibly see it again.

Fleeting as it is, I look forward to potentially seeing this train each week. As the warmer temperatures approach, I hope to catch it in a few different locations and scenery.

A day for a walk

Its been a nice few days. After last week’s snow storms and dump of 50cm of snow, this weekend was well above normal, and freezing temperatures was a happy change. It was Family Day in Ontario, which means a day off from work, so we went to the Jack Pine trail for a bit of time outside.

Others did too, so it wasn’t quite as quiet in the woods as one would like. But still, nice to see people outside and not sitting in their houses watching TV.

I brought along the Fuji X-T1 and wide angle lens to get some photos. I’ve been lacking in photos for a while. While I did get some good shots, a telephoto lens would have been useful for some bird shots. In this area, the chickadees will land on your hand for some seed.