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Nov 182014

Travelling with the Nikon Df

By D.J. De La Vega

Hi Steve,

It has been nearly two years year since I had the privilege of sharing my photos on your site from my photogenic road trip to Tuscany with my Leica X1. In that time I began to lust after a camera with a better optical viewfinder. The 36mm Brightline viewfinder on the X1 is a lovely piece of glass and a joy to use, but unfortunately as it is completely passive, it is not very practical and requires a lot of patience and compromises (and a lot of missed opportunities). This lead me to have a “Moment Back with my D7000″and since then I have not looked back and upgraded to the Nikon Df and have not regretted the decision for a second.

Meanwhile the time was upon me again for what has become my annual photogenic road trip. This year after many deliberations and alterations it eventually ended up being Tuscany again, only this time with a stop off in Barcelona on the way. No longer would my trusty X1 accompany me on my travels, as the Df is now my go to camera day-to-day. Initially I was concerned the added bulk and weight would impact upon my journey as my camera is strapped around my neck every minute of the waking day. In reality however I found if you are prepared to lug a camera with you all day regardless of the size, it is the practicality of actually carrying it not the physical exertion that is the issue. The Df is actually way better suited to life around my neck (not tucked away in a bag or wrapped in leather armour like my X1) and I can absolutely confirm it is a robust piece of kit for its size and weight. I have banged it around quite a bit and even inadvertently tested the weather sealing by spilling a cup of Coca-Cola all over it!!!

In use, I find the Df to be a magnificent camera. The dials are exactly where I want them to be and like my X1, I can look down at my camera and adjust the settings at a glance without raising it my eye. This comes in really handy when walking the streets in built up areas as the light can change from street to street depending on whether the low winter sun is obstructed or uninhibited. As I turn a corner, I will instinctively change the ISO on the top plate depending on how the street is lit, and found in bright sunlight I often used the L1 ISO to facilitate shallow depths of field in bright sunshine. At all times I am aware and can see what the camera is set to in case an opportunity should present itself.

So that is enough of the technical side of my gear, to my results. As I mentioned, my first stop off was Barcelona. This was serendipity as to get the best deals to flights to Tuscany I got to spend a day and a night in the capital of Catalonia. I admit, this is nowhere near enough time to explore such an expansive City, so I concentrated all of my time around the Gothic Quarter and food markets. These were wonderful locations for taking in the culture and atmosphere of the city and they presented me with countless opportunities for my photography.






For street photography the Df is as responsive as you would expect any DSLR to be. It is no super fast sports camera, but for spotting an opportunity, lifting the camera to your eye and shooting, it is about as instantaneous as you could possibly hope for. Certainly without hyperbole a hundred million times faster than my X1.

From Barcelona to Pisa and then Siena: This time around I did not want to recapture the same photographs I achieved previously. By focusing on this philosophy I was able to explore a lot deeper than before, ignoring the local landmarks and focusing on the people and the ambiance of these underrated cities.






For me, the pièce de résistance of Tuscany is the incredible city of Florence. This time around I made sure I had ample time to really soak it all up and immersed myself over three days and nights aimlessly wandering the charismatic streets. I do not posses an adequate number of superlatives to begin to describe the culture, art, architecture and culinary delights of this amazing place.









(I genuinely only took this shot of the chap shooting the street with the M9 for this site to see if he was a reader or to see if any readers knew him?)


I hope you have enjoyed my results even half as much I had making them!
DJ De La Vega

P.S These are the links to the relevant articles mentioned at the start of the post. 


You can Buy a Nikon DF at Amazon or B&H Photo

See Steve’s Review of the Df HERE.

Feb 262014

A moment back with my Nikon D7000

by D.J. De La Vega

I’m a long time (and compulsive) reader of the site and am pleased to see it continue to grow year by year! I haven’t sent anything in for a while as I really haven’t been trying anything drastically new worth writing about.

That is until recently when I have found myself doing something I never believed I would really ever do again… I have begun actively reaching for my dusty old DSLR to take out shooting for the day (I pretty much exclusively shoot with my trusty Leica X1 normally).

I’ve always shot Nikon DSLR during my life as a semi-pro freelance photographer. Always carrying one semi-pro camera with a smaller back up: FM2n/F80, D200/D70, D600/D7000. However for my personal work, for years I’ve ditched the bulk and carried the compact. I’ve never once found myself wanting in the image quality department, but speed and the use of a good optical viewfinder are something I crave and it has has been slowly eating away at me.

Here are a few shots I’ve taken recently, most of which would have been impossible with the X1 due to the start up time and focusing. With a DSLR, the speed of spotting something, whipping it to your eye (whilst turning it on), focusing and shooting is literally just a blink of an eye. This is something the new range of CSC’s are beggining to equal, but I can not find one that ticks all of my boxes to persuade me to upgrade the X1. Personally, I would like a Fuji TX1 with an optical or hybrid viewfinder or a down scaled Nikon Df closer to an FM2 size and dials.

Until then I’m happy with my X1 and on the odd days the mood takes me, my D7000.

Thanks for looking

D.J. De La Vega







Dec 242012

Photographic Road Trip II: Tuscany

by D.J. De La Vega – His Flickr HERE

It has been over a year since my photogenic adventure, traveling around New York State. The itch once again had to be scratched so I set off on another deliberately photogenic road trip, this time around Tuscany, Italy. The age old dilemma about which camera and kit to take had been put to bed a long time ago and as was now accustom, I set off with just my trusty and arguably antique Leica X1. The only thing that has changed with my steadfast companion is that the X1 has now been converted to “travel mode”: i.e. for this journey I have removed the viewfinder and grip to make it as portable as possible and I have it wrapped in the fantastic JnK half leather case. I can not recommend this style of case highly enough. They make what is undoubtedly a delicate camera sturdy and robust, allowing you to be a lot more gung-ho!

With the little Leica hanging from my neck, sufficiently protected in its trendy leather jacket my plane landed in Pisa. I had heard a few mixed reports about Pisa, mostly playing down how much there was to see and do aside from the Cathedral and “Leaning Tower”. Undoubtedly the main tourist attractions, (the Cathedral, Baptistery and Bell Tower) are the highlight of the compact city center, and deservedly so. They are a triumph of medieval / Romanesque architecture and are endlessly photogenic. However as I previously talked about in my first road trip article, at such iconic places, it’s hard to get a result different to that of any postcard readily available within 10 yards of said attraction.



I like to engage in a mix of photographic genres in these circumstances. A few “postcard” keepers and then explore more thoroughly the environment with a fusion of documentary and street photography. At this point I have to reiterate how perfect the X1 is for this kind of work, if anyone out there is in the market for a small high quality compact, you can pick these things up for buttons second hand and IMHO they still wipe the floor image quality-wise with many/most shiny new cameras and they come with a free red dot that gives a pride of ownership nothing can compete with :-)





Apologies, now firmly off my pedestal, I continued on my journey… From Pisa I jumped on a train south to Sienna. I promised Steve I would keep this article short and sweet so I will try not go into the historical and cultural ins and outs of each place, just briefly comment on a few of the photographic opportunities that presented themselves to me in each location.



As the day progressed, the sun’s rays struggle to work its way through the towering architecture to fully illuminate any given subject. I was drawn to the lines and shadows this created by and chased the last glorious beams of the day to this secluded and peaceful square behind the Duomo.


I also found at night the wonderfully illuminated sculptures and buildings contrasted magnificently with their formerly sun lit/shadowy selves.


So far I had traveled by plane and train so it was now time for the obligatory automobile. A cramped but worthwhile bus ride to an outstanding hill top town called San Gimignano was next on the agenda. This small, walled, medieval town was a fantastic place to walk the winding cobbled streets with a camera at hand. I found the surrounding scenery to be as equally enjoyable as the well preserved towers and buildings perched precariously atop the hilly landscape, reaching for the sky.




The next day, more buses and trains ensued and the birthplace of the Renaissance and the capital city of Tuscany was next on my list: Florence. They say Florence has more great works of art per capita than anywhere in the world and you can readily see this wherever you explore. An endless array of beautiful paintings sculptures and architecture is the reward for your endeavours.



I found Florence to have a different ambiance to the other places I had visited so far. It is more of a working, busy city and less of a tourist filled, pristine world heritage site. This helped me remove my postcard hat and focus more on street photography.



From Florence to Lucca, I began to see a see a theme developing in my images. There were arches of all descriptions dispersed all around Tuscany, begging to frame subjects for me.


Lucca is another walled medieval city, masterfully preserved and awash with a labyrinth of cobbled streets. Unfortunately for me and my X1, at this time on my travels, torrential rain had set in. This made for a few interesting street captures, but mostly it made for stopping indoors with my now close acquaintance Birra Moretti.


The only time the sun managed to bless me with its presence, I grabbed one last shot of the Piazza Amphitheatro. This is the main square in Lucca, and remarkably for a square, its oval. I could not get over how magical the scene was as the sun lit up the glorious colours of the buildings in the Piazza, whilst the black stormy clouds still lurked ominously in the distance.


Those awesome clouds, as beautiful as they were evil… Continuously threatening me and my X1 with their hellish watery cargo. After that final ray of light in the Piazza, there was no further let up in the rain. That unfortunately and abruptly brought my time in Lucca to an end, and to complete the round trip of Tuscany, I returned to Pisa to fly home. My only thoughts were now of where my next adventure may be… I hear Bavaria makes nice beer :-)

Thanks for reading, and thanks to Steve again for the privilege of sharing my thoughts and shots on his awesome site!




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