#536. The Agonies of Indecision

#536. The Agonies of Indecision

Author Chris Gibbons is a journalist, radio and TV broadcaster and marketing/management consultant, living in Knysna in South Africa.

 

Morocco was imminent. I’d not been there before but Lonely Planet’s guide book laid out a tempting array of delights for the casual travelling photographer. Apparently I could take my pick from vast swathes of desert or the dramatic peaks of the Rif and Atlas mountains, to the elegant Art Deco restorations of Casablanca and the bustling medinas of Fez and Marrakech. Definitely what our American friends call a ‘target-rich environment’. (An unfortunate phrase that always leaves me thinking of Cruise missiles and drone strikes.)

 

Olives, Marrakech. Fujifilm 90mm f:2 1:60s

Olives, Marrakech. Fujifilm 90mm f:2 1:60s

 

My primary photographic interest is wildlife – birds in particular – but that subject was not going to be available on this particular journey, which was being made at my wife’s behest to celebrate the arrival of a Big Birthday. Shopping, walking around, sight-seeing, more shopping. Yes…that kind of trip.

 

A number of things flow from this. First, the big Nikon and long lenses would stay at home. Good – the rig seems to get heavier and heavier each time I use it. My Fuji X-T1 would therefore be the primary weapon (sorry, it’s that ‘target-rich’ thing again) but what to put on the front?

 

Metalkworkers souk, Marrakech Medina. Fujifilm 23mm f:4 1:60s.

Metalkworkers souk, Marrakech Medina. Fujifilm 23mm f:4 1:60s.

 

Kitten, Chefchaouen, Morocco. Fujifilm 23mm f:4 1:60s

Kitten, Chefchaouen, Morocco. Fujifilm 23mm f:4 1:60s

 

I used the same camera last year in Portugal on a very similar trip. Then, the only Fuji lens I owned was the 18-55, the basic kit lens. As many have observed elsewhere, it’s a truly outstanding performer, with great build quality and excellent results. I also found it liberating to carry just a single unit in a tiny Think Tank digital holster. Until the day in Évora when I saw the White Storks. An 18-55 isn’t much use when Ciconia ciconia is nesting picturesquely atop a church spire about 40 metres away.

 

These birds are common migrants to South Africa, where I live. They leave Europe around October and head south for the warmth of Kenya and South Africa. Although I had photographed them in places like Kruger National Park, I had never noticed them before in Europe. Thus, as soon as I had returned home, a 55-200 was added to the Fuji bag. Granted not quite the same as a Nikon 500 or 600, but you don’t take that kind of monster on a casual city-centre walkabout-and-shopping. Well, not with my wife, anyway.

 

So there I had the perfect travel combination – yes, yes, it could be wider, longer, faster but a very good compromise, I felt. An old Lowepro lens case hooked very nicely onto the side of the Think Tank, and I was set. One camera, two lenses. Sorted, as they say.

 

Hand-painting pottery, Fez, Morocco. Fujifilm 23mm f:4 1:60s

Hand-painting pottery, Fez, Morocco. Fujifilm 23mm f:4 1:60s

 

Hand-painting pottery, Fez, Morocco 2. Fujifilm 23mm f:4 1:60s

Hand-painting pottery, Fez, Morocco 2. Fujifilm 23mm f:4 1:60s

 

But then, just before Morocco, something happened.

 

I would call it the fulfilment of a burning need to extend my artistic and creative photographic horizons. You would just recognise it as just a severe case of G.A.S. In less than a month I had splurged on the Fuji 23 1.4 and the Fuji 90. I rationalised the former by telling myself that I would need it for all the low light situations that I would encounter in Morocco, and the latter as a lens that I would use for the regular conference work I do for a client in Johannesburg.

 

As new acquisitions, both would obviously have to make the trip to Morocco. But wouldn’t that mean leaving one or both of the 18-55 and 55-200 behind? That wouldn’t work either, because I’d probably need the extra width of 18mm in the mountains and the telephoto just had to make the trip in case – just in case, you understand – I saw a bird or two.

 

Wile E. Coyote came to mind, as I paused in mid-air, credit card still spinning, and looked down to find a camera bag that now had four lenses in it.

 

So how did the story end?

 

Food stall, Djemaa el-Fna, Marrakech, Morocco. Fujifilm 18-55m f3.6 1:140s

Food stall, Djemaa el-Fna, Marrakech, Morocco. Fujifilm 18-55m f3.6 1:140s

 

Cat, Metalkworkers souk, Marrakech Medina. Fujifilm 23mm f:4 1:60s.

Cat, Metalkworkers souk, Marrakech Medina. Fujifilm 23mm f:4 1:60s.

 

Yes, all four lenses made the trip and all four were used. I carried the camera plus one in the little Think Tank bag, and the other three in three Lowepro lens cases that I carried loose in a normal office-style laptop backpack. Each day in Morocco, I would try and pre-visualise the shooting experience and take just two lenses with me. The remaining two would stay behind, locked in my hardshell suitcase.

 

By and large, the plan worked. Back home, sifting and selecting, it was clear that the 18-55 and the 23 had seen the most work, as you would expect, given the nature of the trip. In the often low or varied lighting of the medinas, the 23 was the standout, living up to its reputation as a ‘special’ Fuji prime.

 

The 18-55 remains extremely competent and went toe-to-toe with the 23, except in the most challenging conditions.

 

The 55-200 played beautifully on occasion, useful for compression in medinas and also on a day walk in the Atlas mountains near Marrakech.

 

Berber village, Imlil Valley, Morocco. Fujifilm 55-200mm f4.4 1:2000s

Berber village, Imlil Valley, Morocco. Fujifilm 55-200mm f4.4 1:2000s

 

But on the day we did run into a major flock of white storks, just outside the walls of the Royal Palace in Fez in excellent early morning light, gathering late in the year to fly further south, this lens was back at the hotel, under lock and key. How did that happen?

 

The 90 delivered some interesting results – mountains of olives, nicely compressed. But of the four, it’s the one that could have – should have? – stayed at home.

 

I’ll know for next time. Won’t I?

 


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4 Comments

  1. Avatar
    jean pierre (pete) guaron December 10, 2016

    I adore the photos – not fussed about how you took them, Paul – some of my maternal grandfather’s ancestors came from Morocco so it will always hold a place in my heart, and I can’t see enough photos of it. (It’s quite common for the spanish to share moroccan ancestry). And as they say in l’Occitan, where my father’s family originated – raça raceja !! (Pascal can no doubt translate that for you 🙂 )

    Is it just me, or is there a fresh wind blowing? I find it rather tiresome when people go nuts over particular gear and look down their noses at the equipment other people are using. We can’t all afford some of this stuff, for one thing – and if a professional with Ming Thein’s standing can tell us all that you can take perfectly acceptable photos with mirrorless half frames, who is the presumptuous know-all who wants to tell us we can’t?

    You sized up what gear you would need, to take the photos you wanted, and went with it. The photos prove you were right. The end.

    I think they are fantastic. Did you take any others, that you can share in another article?

    PS – I’m jealous – everyone else seems to make it to Morocco, but I’ve never managed to – there’s always some reason “why not” (and the next one is a trip I’m planning back to Pascal territory, starting in Béziers and ending up in Lyon, before heading home via Paris. Did you notice the quality of the craftsmanship? – it’s quite incredible how they make things like the pottery in Fez – if I tried, the lines would end up all over the place 🙂

    • Avatar
      paulperton December 10, 2016

      Pete, as I said at the top of the post, I should get no credit – I’m just the blogger. Chris (Gibbons) is the author.

      • Avatar
        jean pierre (pete) guaron December 11, 2016

        Oops – sorry Chris !!!

  2. Avatar
    pascaljappy December 10, 2016

    Wonderful, Chris, thanks.

    The stork migration you mention happens to pass right over our house, in the South of France. I work from home and once noticed a strange noise outdoors, rushed out with my camera and an 85 and sent the pics to a neighbour who’s very active in local birding circles. They counted 114 individuals, a first in the region which they previously never flew over. I’ve seen/heard them since, but not every year.

    Thanks for the great write-up and really inspiring photographs. Looks like you made all the right decisions. Missing a shot or two is nothing compared to what you did bring back.

    Hope to read more from you soon. Feel free to share more when and wherever 🙂

    All the best,
    Pascal

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