Fear not, I am still alive! A few months ago I started a YouTube channel, youtube.com/wflbc. I’m 19 videos into the world of filmmaking and I am hopelessly addicted.
It’s a lot of the same things you’re used to seeing here.
Food stuff (trust me, there’s food in this one)
Everything WFLBC has always been about, now with 100% more Scott’s face! I mean, who isn’t on board with that?!
I would love it if you’d subscribe to my channel and/or give some of my videos a like. It helps the channel grow and pushes my videos up the search results. I will be posting here as well. Brief overviews of my weekly video with an imbedded link so you can watch them here if YouTube isn’t your jam.
Stay tuned for more content, I post 1 video per week. This week I went underwear shopping. Not the most glamourous video but it was fun to make.
When I got my first Fujifilm X Series camera, an X-A1 I received as a birthday gift, a lot of my photography friends wondered why I wanted a Fujifilm camera. Why not a DSLR or a micro four thirds camera they asked. Surely the lens selection for those choices were far more extensive. At the time they were right, but there was something about the look of the all black X-A1 that made me ignore their advice and dive into a relatively new system. Looks are probably a shallow reason to buy a camera (hello Leica shooters!) but the X-A1 was more than just a retro toy, it produced stunning images.
Fast forward a couple of years and the Fujifilm X Series has grown to be a formidable player in the world of photography. The lens lineup is outstanding and the recently released X-Pro 2 (review coming soon) and the upcoming X-T2 and X-A3 have pushed the apsc sensor mirrorless X Series to a whole new level. The biggest hole in the lens lineup was a super telephoto for sports and wildlife photography. The XF100-400mm F/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR (that’s a long name) has addressed this need and Fujifilm Canada was kind enough to lend me one to take on a recent Alberta road trip.
I paired it up with the X-Pro 2, also loaned to me by Fujifilm, and my trusty X-T10. I took it to some great destinations including Mount Robson, Drumheller, Dinosaur Provincial Park, Banff National Park, and Lake Louise. The full frame equivalent focal length works out to 152-609mm on the apsc sensor. It’s the longest lens in Fuji’s arsenal, the next closest being the XC50-230mm F/4.5-6.7 OIS II. The optical image stabilization (OIS) is said to provide 5 stops of stabilization meaning you can shoot handheld at longer shutter speeds. It works great, even at 400mm.
Paired with the X-Pro 2 it’s a bit of an awkward match up. The hybrid viewfinder is pointless past 50mm but the electronic viewfinder is fantastic. It’s ultra fast refresh rate and high resolution make shooting with this super zoom a breeze. The X-T10 is a better match for this lens with its SLR style centre EVF. The upcoming X-T2 with its battery grip will be the best thing to pair with this lens. The OIS tends to eat up batteries and the X-T2’s extended battery life would make a day out in the woods a little more bearable.
Speaking of bears, I only saw one on my trip and it was running away from me. I suppose that’s not a bad thing. I managed to find a moose, magpies, ravens, chipmunks, mountain sheep, and lots of mosquitoes. Shooting wildlife with this lens is a delight. Autofocus is quick and accurate, colour and sharpness are great, and mechanically everything feels solid and well built.
You can set focus from 5 meters to infinity to help with auto focus speed for far away subjects or set it for the the full range if need be. There’s a manual aperture ring and a switch on the lens to switch to auto aperture. The focus and zoom rings offer nice resistance and are covered in ridged rubber for extra grip. There’s a removable tripod mount which can be positioned at any angle and locked into place with a set screw.
The WR stands for Weather Resistant so you can shoot in the rain or snow as long as you’re paired up with a WR body (X-Pro2, X-T1, X-T2)
Tracking autofocus is decent when used with the X-Pro2 or the X-T10. I would’ve liked to try some sports photography with this lens but I simply ran out of time. I was able to get some action shots of a few Bald Eagles soaring above Two Jack Lake though.
There is one weird quirk I noticed during post processing. At 400mm the JPEG images come out a bit sharper/better than the raw files. Fujifilm is known for excellent JPEG files but I still would’ve expected the raw results to be the better of the 2, even if only marginally. In all honesty the majority of my workflow is still JPEG with Fujifilm, they’re that good.
Fujifilm has become a real option for professionals looking to move away from bulky DSLR gear and the ever growing lens lineup can only help that trend.
This is a lens I will be adding to my camera bag in the very near future. It is a bit large and heavy for a mirrorless system but compared to an equivalent Canon or Nikon lens it’s quite compact.
Watch for my upcoming review of the X-Pro2, possibly the sexiest camera I’ve ever used.
I don’t like the word “Powershot.” When I hear that word I picture a $99 pocket sized point and shoot that can’t compete with your everyday smartphone camera. I mention this because the Canon Powershot G5 X is not a cheap, pointless point and shoot. It is a heavily featured camera with specs aimed at the semi-serious photography enthusiast. Just call it the “Canon G5 X” and ditch powershot for all but the bargain basement models.
The G5 X is smaller than it looks. I don’t have the biggest hands and it felt very small to me. Within that small frame the G5 X is feature packed. Large 1 inch sensor with 20.2 megapixels, 24-100mm equivalent f1.8-2.8 lens, 1080p 60fps video, image stabilization, multi angle LCD touchscreen with touch shutter. high resolution electronic viewfinder, wifi, and much more.
The lens is fast and sharp at all focal lengths and manages decent shallow depth of field with good looking bokeh, something that other 1 inch sensor cameras struggle with. The G5 X offers a background defocus feature but it looks artificial at best and you don’t really need it.
Built in image stabilization allows some fairly low shutter speeds in lower light without needing to crank up the ISO value. That being said ISO speeds up to 1600 were very usable despite the 1 inch sensor. I found the G5 X had better ISO performance than the Panasonic Lumix LX-100 and its larger micro 4/3″ sensor. It’s nowhere near APSC or Full Frame ISO performance but it was surprisingly good.
Macro shooting with the G5 X was a delight. Canon lists the close focusing distance at 2 inches (5cm) but I managed to get a bit closer with manual focus. Other than dedicated macro lenses I still think smartphones are hard to beat for shooting up close although you get shallower focus area with the lager sensor in the Canon.
Metering in tough lighting conditions is a breeze with the G5 X. It handles backlit conditions very well. you can half press on your desired exposure, recompose, and shoot. Auto mode is decent too if you need to hand the camera off to someone to take a shot for you.
For all of my food photography pals out there the G5 X is a nice little alternative to your big gear or smartphone. It shoots RAW as well as lovely jpeg files that require little editing. Transfer the images to your smartphone via the Canon app and upload to your favourite social media site for everyone to see.
The RAW files are as good as you’d expect from a company that’s been making cameras as long as Canon. Not much else to add really, they’re great.
The control layout of the G5 X will appeal to the control freak in all of you. There are customizable dials and buttons all over the place including a control ring around the lens, perfect for aperture or zoom control. The controls were my biggest source of frustration despite the excellent dials and front ring. The buttons on the rear, especially the menu button the the wheel around the D pad, were too easy to accidentally push with the base of my thumb while shooting.
Battery life was better than expected although the battery indicator is typical small camera terrible. It stays at a full 3 bars for quite some time then drops to 2 bars for what felt like 25 shots, then 1 bar for even fewer shots, then dead. Why is it so hard for camera makers, not just Canon, to use a percentage based battery indicator?
The Canadian Grand Prix is a bucket list item that I have now checked off. The 7th race of the 21 race 2016 Formula 1 calendar took place from June 10th to 13th on Isle Notre Dame at the Circuit Gilles Villineuve. My dad and I took in all three days of racing in varying amounts with Sunday being our longest day at the track. In our off track time we tried to explore as much of Montreal as possible on foot.
The race itself was as enjoyable as I’d hoped. Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes took the top spot after a race long battle with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. My favourite driver and team, Jenson Button and McLaren Honda, didn’t make it to the end suffering an engine failure bu the MP4-31 looks and sounds great.
Getting to the track was a breeze on the Metro. We stayed a few blocks from Berri-UQAM, the central Metro station. From there it’s a short one stop trip under the river to Jean Drapeau Station and a short walk to the track. We bought 3 day Metro passes for $18 and had little trouble navigating the system.
There are free festivals that coincide with the GP weekend. Mural Festival, a massive street festival on Saint-Laurent Boulevard, and Francofolies, a 6 stage music festival centered around the Place Des Arts along Rue Sainte-Catherine. They’d be reason enough to visit Montreal on their own let alone the Grand Prix.
Old Montreal was my favourite part of town. The Saint-Sulpice Seminary being the oldest building dating back to 1687 and the Notre-Dame Basilica (1829)… I have no words to describe how beautiful and grand it is. Narrow cobblestone streets lined by old buildings give a European charm to the area. One could be forgiven for thinking they were in Prague or Paris. Restaurants, shops, bars, the area has a great vibe and was in full swing over the race weekend. Make sure to check out the Old Port of Montreal while you’re in the area.
There are 2 places you simply have to go if you want an authentic, old school Montreal meal. First is Schwartz’s Deli, the quintessential spot for Montreal Smoked Meat and Poutine. It’s been serving the hits at 3895 Saint-Laurent Boulevard since 1928. Be prepared to line up and wait, which is totally worth it.
The second place is Bar-B-Barn, a chicken and rib joint that has been frozen in time since 1967. Dark wood, dim lighting, amazing ribs and chicken, and all the nostalgia you can handle. Come hungry or be prepared to leave with a doggy bag.
Street art, both visual and performance, are everywhere in Montreal. Epic murals, street performers, musicians. Buskers in Metro stations have dedicated spots and seemed to be doing quite well playing for the massive GP crowds that swept through the stations daily.
A few tips. Try to speak French, even if you’re terrible. Everyone we dealt with, minus our airport bus driver, spoke fluent English but we noticed a marked improvement in service if we attempted to speak French. A simple Bonjour or Merci will get you a long way. That being said, service in Montreal was disappointing on all fronts. It was a busy weekend but I was surprised that things took as long as they did in restaurants and bars, some not full at all.
Learn the Montreal Metro system before you go. It uses a tap system similar to a lot of major transit systems but only requires you to tap in, not out. Learn where the stations are, where you can get to, look up the 747 Airport Bus, a cheap and decent way to get from Trudeau Airport to Downtown Montreal.
Montreal is a wonderful place that I am anxious to return to. So much history, so much culture, so much potential. I’ve only scratched the surface and I can’t wait to return.
Thanks to my wife Lyndsey for arranging the Grand Prix tickets and my dad for arranging our flights. All photos in this post (minus the food photos) we taking using Fujifilm X series cameras and lenses. Thanks to Fujifilm for their continued support (they let me borrow stuff, it’s awesome).
It’s been 3 months since I was in New Zealand and this is my first post about Wellington. I connected with Wellington in a way I can’t explain. These are few photos I took, I hope you like them. I honestly can’t find the words to express what Wellington meant to me.
Tours… They usually suck. Hop on/hop off bus tours suck. Tours with meals included suck. Tours run by cruise ship companies suck. You end up paying a highly inflated price for something locals usually do for very little money (or no money at all). I was hesitant to book any tours in New Zealand, but I was also hesitant to drive on the other side of the road. Enter Oh Yeah! Tours.
I had seen pictures of Piha Beach during my pre trip planning and I had to go there. The only problem was public transportation couldn’t get me there, a taxi would’ve been $$$$$$, and the whole driving on the left thing. I found Oh Yeah! Tours through a quick Google search. $55 NZD for a half day tour from Auckland’s Central Business District (CBD) to Piha and back with stops at Kare Kare waterfall, the north side of Piha Beach, optional drop off at the Kite Kite track to Kite Kite waterfall, then a few hours to explore Piha Beach on your own.
The day of my tour was rainy and windy. A couple of hours before my pickup time I received a text from Oh Yeah that advised me the weather in Piha was even worse than the weather in Auckland. They asked if I wanted to delay my tour until the next day which I did. WFLBC travel tip, unlock your smartphone and get a local SIM card when you travel. It makes life a lot easier abroad.
The next day Oh Yeah! picked me up on time in a spot that worked for me. They’ll pick you up at your hotel anywhere in the CBD. The bus was full that day so I was picked up by a guy in a Prius and there was no one else with us. A private tour? Nice! My guide was from Chile but had lived in New Zealand for 10 years. He was friendly, easy to talk to, very knowledgeable, a fantastic tour guide.
After seeing both waterfalls, checking out Tasman Lookout, Lion Rock, taking a ton of photos, dipping my toes in the Tasman Sea, and grabbing Lunch at Adey’s Place it was time to head back. My guide arrived on time in the place we had agreed upon. On the drive out we had chatted about beer and when I hopped in the car there was a cold Tui IPA waiting for me. Best tour ever? I know that my experience isn’t typical and most people won’t get the kind of personalised service I did. That being said Oh Yeah! went out of their way to make sure I was looked after following a weather cancellation. I can’t say enough good things about the service.
Oy Yeah! offers tours to some must see locations on the North Island as well as tours in Bali if you’re headed that way. I highly recommend Oy Yeah! Tours, so much so that I wrote my very first Tripadvisor review about them. Piha is a must see location and Oh Yeah! Tours is a great way to see it.
The countdown officially begins today. WFLNZ starts in 1 month with a flight to San Francisco and a short layover before heading for Auckland. I’ve had some interesting responses from people regarding this trip. A lot (and I mean A LOT) of men have asked me how I’m able to go on a trip like this without my family. Well that’s an easy one to answer, it’s because we don’t control each other. There will be lots of trips with the family in years to come. Hayley and I travel around BC a bit now and the three of us have been away a few times. We’re thinking of going to Europe in the spring, who knows. Besides, Lyndsey’s been to Bali without me so I guess I’m due for an adventure of my own.
I have switched up my camera gear a bit from the post I wrote about going mirrorless for travel. I traded my Fujifilm X-E1 for a Fujifilm X-T10 which is the latest X series camera and I am pretty darn happy about it. It’s fast, compact, produces fantastic images, and it looks pretty sexy. The rest of my set-up is the same, X-A1 body as a spare, kit lens, 35mm prime lens, and 50-230mm zoom, iPad Mini Retina, Samsung Chromebook, and an LG G4. Everything is small, light, and very handy for social media and blogging on the road.
I’ll be checking out the transit system in Auckland. The ATHop card looks similar to Translink’s Compass card system. Yes, you have to tap on AND off buses there too. I’m a little apprehensive about renting a car but I want to get out of the city a bit if I can. We’ll see how I feel about it when I get there. If I rent a car I can see things like Cathedral Cove and Piha Beach. I’m only in Wellington for 3 days so I’ll most likely be staying pretty central.
Ah 70 Mile House, the gateway to Green Lake and a place you’d probably miss if you blinked while driving through it on Highway 97. 70 Mile House isn’t known for much but that is about to change. There’s a new spot about a mile past the general store that feels like a slice of Quebec in the middle of rural BC. The Sugar Shack has everything your inner Quebecois desires. Tourtière du Lac-St-Jean, Poutine, Montreal Smoked Meat, Maple baked beans, Cretons, Maple syrup, Maple toffee, Maple bacon… They also do some kick-ass breakfasts and make maple sweetened coffee.
I stopped in to check out their smoked meat sandwich and poutine. The poutine is very good. hand cut fries, house made gravy, and real cheese curds. It’s up there with anything you can get in Vancouver and wouldn’t be out of place in Quebec. The smoked meat sandwich was just ok. The meat is very salty and a bit dry.
The maple sweetened coffee and poutine make The Sugar Shack a “must visit” kind of place if you ever find yourself in this picturesque part of BC.
As most of you know I’m off to New Zealand in November. As a photography enthusiast I’ve been having a hard time deciding what kind of gear I want to bring along. Film was out right away because that’s too much work. It was down to my Pentax DSLRs or my Fujifilm X-series mirrorless cameras. When I really thought about what I wanted to accomplish in New Zealand the choice was easy, mirrorless all the way.
My X-series cameras offer the same sensor size and resolution as my DSLRs but take up a lot less space which is a big consideration for air travel. A DSLR body, a prime and a zoom lens take up the same space as 2 mirrorless bodies, a prime, and 2 zooms. That means a smaller camera bag that can be your secondary piece of carry-on baggage. My editing/sharing tools are an iPad mini and a Chromebook. Both are light and compact and if they get lost, stolen, or damaged they’re not worth a ton of money.
The Fujifilm X-series is a fantastic camera platform. My little X-A1 (now replaced by the X-A2), the black camera pictured above, is a perfect starter camera for anyone who wants to get better shots than a smartphone or a point and shoot can produce. My X-E1 (now replaced by the X-E2) is aimed at more advanced shooters with greater manual control and a slick electronic viewfinder. I have 3 X-series lenses. A 35mm prime lens for portraits or street photography, a 16-50mm zoom for wide angle and general shooting, and a 50-230mm zoom for wildlife and telephoto shots.
Most days I’ll just carry the X-E1 with either the 35mm or the 16-50mm on it. I don’t want to pack a bag around unless I think I’ll want more options depending on my destination. I’ll pack a tripod in my checked bag just incase. Taking 2 bodies isn’t 100% necessary but if one body breaks of malfunctions I have a backup.
Mirrorless in New Zealand, That’s what’s for lunch.
Editors note – My flag logo will be out of date soon as New Zealand is currently in the public consultation phase of picking a new flag.
First things first, park your preconceptions about this restaurant and everything you may have heard about it. Granted most “Revolving Restaurant” tourist traps are all flash and no substance. I could forgive your preconceptions about SkyCIty. I had those very same thoughts when I found out that I’d be spending my Saturday night in Seattle 500 feet above the ground with a bunch of people I didn’t know. It turns out SkyCity is very, VERY good and my dinner companions were fantastic company.
The ride up takes just over a minute and the views from SkyCity are amazing. One revolution takes 47 minutes which means you’ll see the whole view at least one time and when your finished your meal you can access the observation deck which is 20 feet above and offers windowless views of Seattle and its surroundings. Try and plan your visit around sunset so you see daytime views as well as night.
Executive Chef Jeff Maxfield has created a menu featuring world class ingredients that is influenced heavily by Seattle and the Pacific Ocean. Is SkyCity expensive? Yup, very. You do get the amazing view along with access to the observation deck but it’s a pricey meal for sure. Is it worth it? Let’s find out.
The Hokkaido Scallops ($49) are big, perfectly seared and seasoned and the little dab of caviar on top is perfect. Did I mention it was perfect? For $49 the plate could’ve been wiped down a little better but I’m grasping a straws to find something negative about this plate. The celery root purée and the cippolini agrodolce (basically sweet and sour onions) matched up well with the scallops and the roasted veg was top shelf.
The Pacific Halibut ($47) (flown in from Alaska that day) was super fresh, seared and seasoned just right and was moist and… Ok the superlatives are getting to be a bit much. This is a solid dish with some interesting twists, like the shrimp and pork dumplings that had an Asian character. Again, $47 is a lot but you’re paying for an experience and it just happens to come with great food.
After dinner we wandered upstairs to check out the open air views, have a look.
So is SkyCity worth the money? Yes, yes it is. There’s a $35 minimum per guest but that’s pretty easy to get to given the menu prices. The bill for me and a guest was just under $140 before tip and that included drinks of the adult variety. The wine list is nicely varied and they even have a few tasty local beers in bottles.