My 500 Mile, 38 Day Walk Across Spain with my Fuji X100 by Michael Fratino

My 500 Mile, 38 Day Walk Across Spain with my Fuji X100 by Michael Fratino

Hello Steve,

Thanks for your great site and your real world reviews. Last March I embarked upon my 500-mile walk from St. Jean Pied de Port in France up over the Pyrenees Mountains to Santiago Spain on the northwestern corner of Spain. This walk is known as the Camino de Santiago and has been traversed for over 1000 years by people from every walk of life. Last year Emilio Estevez made a movie (The Way) starring his father Martin Sheen describing this journey.

Since weight and space were my biggest concerns, I had to triple think everything I packed. I knew I wanted to take a camera but the idea of a P&S was out of the question and a DSLR was going to be too big and bulky. Last year I purchased the Fuji X100 when it debuted but was so disappointed with it that I sold it.

Fast forward one year and I began to look at the X100 again because of your posts on how Fuji corrected some of the issues with major firmware updates. I knew this was the camera I had to take because of its solid metal design, worked miracles in low-light situations, had mechanical old-school dials, had only one fixed lens and most important… it was quiet and discrete.

Well, I wasn’t disappointed. The camera handled itself almost perfect. The design of the camera is so robust that it survived wind, rain, mud, snow, hail and the rigors of it being used on a continuous basis. So much so that the emblems on the back of the camera wore off. I even dropped the camera a couple of times and it didn’t even dent the metal housing.

I only had two complaints about the camera. The first was and still is battery life. It is so poor that even carrying an extra battery sometimes didn’t even work out right. I had to make sure that wherever I stayed for a night that I was near an electrical outlet and that didn’t always happen (thank God for my iPhone!)

The other complaint is not really even one. For being so small and discrete, the camera drew so much attention from everyone I was around. Many of the Germans I met along the way thought I was carrying a Leica, others thought I was shooting film. Many wanted to just pick it up and shoot a few frames with it. One Japanese fellow was so taken with it that he made copious notes about it so he could purchase one when he returned to Japan. Almost everyone was blown away by the hybrid viewfinder, the ability to shoot in low-light and how silent it was.

For this walk, I carried everything on my back and stopped only for food, drink and a place to sleep. This walk took me 38 days through some of the most incredible scenery I have ever seen. But the walk was only half of it. The people I met along this path from every walk of life were just incredible. I took over 2500 pictures. At first I concentrated on the scenery but after a week or so I realized for me that this journey was about the people who embark upon it for all kinds of reasons. So, I decided to take portraits of some of the people who had some type of effect on me.

While the lens is not necessarily geared towards portraits, I had no problem using it for this purpose. I can’t even begin to tell you how liberating it was to have only one lens. It seriously makes you think about your subject and creative ways around any type of situation.

Attached, please find some of these portraits. I hope you like them and if you have any questions for me, please free to email me. On the technical side, I shot all images jpegs. I used to Photoshop to resize, correct brightness / contrast and to add vignettes. There is no retouching done to any of the images.

Sincerely,

Michael Fratino

72 Comments

  1. Rent X100 for street photography these 2 days.
    Mind sharing some of the technique setting in this X100 street shooting if you know?

  2. Michael,
    To say that you are talented is un understatement. I enjoy the dramatic effect of black & white and you certainly know how to tell a story with it. Not to mention that – the fact that these were taken during your “pilgrimage” along the Camino De Santiago means there is likely much more to the story…
    Touche!
    Tony

  3. Thank you for sharing your pics . . . you’re right. going to a single prime can really be liberating.

    I hope you post some more pics of your trip. The portraits you caught really show the connection you made with these people!

    Cheers!

    jasse

  4. Totally brilliant. I love the story and your shots. If you have time please write some more & show some more pics.

  5. great story! I have a friend and her family doing this now.
    I have an X-100 but I have never tried the monochrome mode. Love how the photos came out.

  6. Beautiful photos, no matter the camera (who gives a damn about Leica ?)
    The X100 is a great camera, indeed.
    I bought it despite all the complaints and negative reviews I read, but it worths every single cent spent.

  7. one thing about such photos is that they could be from almost any caucasian country
    (cant tell its spain)
    really the world is one big family

  8. Great pic and article. You have talent. I like the film like grain b&w.
    I always like to see stuff from the fuji which in good hands (like yours) provide unique photo

    Then again the X2 is something of an attractive beast too…and it seems (Steve correct me if am wrong) that Mr. Huff is using it more often then e fuji.. Which kinda make you wonder if it’s so usable, maybe I should add 800usd and buy it instead.
    Steve ?

    • Thanks for your comment. Honestly, no need to wait. I met many people along the way that were traveling the camino with their children. I even met a young mother traveling with her baby. Also, you do not need to complete the entire journey in one visit. Many people do the camino over a series of years. In my opinion, one of the best things you can do is to share this experience with your family. I wish I did.

    • @ Jeffrey: I don’t get your point. He told us what he did. By implication he means something different with respect to what he sees as retouching than you do. I would guess he might mean cloning out things, blemish removal, etc. So your post has no real comment about the photos–you just want to tell us that you think retouching means something other than what the poster means and make the discussion all about you. I grant you your opinion and I grant Michael his. Do you have anything meaningful to say about the images?

      • Hello John and Jeffrey. Thanks for your comments. I should have said that I corrected the brightness/contrast of the image. What I meant by retouching is exactly what John said.

    • Hi Gary…LOL! Great question. While not on the topic of photography, I wore Merrill boots. However, my feet rejected them and I lost a toe nail and my feet were covered in blisters. I gave them away, purchased a cheap pair of walking shoes and walked 300 miles in them. Wish I had my Nikes with me…Oh well, all part of the experience!

  9. Love your story line & the pics also.
    One gear, one lens, it pushes you to reach your limit.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Cheers.

  10. christer says:
    September 10, 2012 at 9:31 am

    With regard to your portraits, I think you have let the very light background fool your exposure system so to
    render the faces way too dark. But it is all a question of taste.

    First post ever: Great site Steve and commentary, what I love is this post above from christer, constructive criticism without the negativity which can be so helpful to us fledgling photographers. Thank you.

  11. Absolutly beautiful images of a wonderful journey. Wow… do I miss my X100. Sold it out of frustration before upgrades were available. We now know Fuji supports its producs. Your journey just got added to my bucket list. Thanks so much for sharing.

  12. Hi there,

    thanks for sharing this nice Camino experience. I walked most of the Camino too and at the time, I did not own a digital camera yet. I took a very basic Canon EOS 300 with the standard kit lens. I also took a heavy long zoom lens which I sent back by mail not a week into the trip as I couldn’t carry my stuff anymore.

    I shot about 30 rolls of film, mostly colour and two black and white rolls. Back then, I’d have wished for an X100. If I’d walk the thing again, I’d probably still stick with film (not so many battery worries and it slows you down, makes you think – which is what the Camino is all about) and take either my Konica Hexar AF or my CLE with a 40mm M-Rokkor.

  13. Michael — -thanks for the story – now I just need to convince my husband that this is the camera for us 😉

  14. regarding the battery life problem that is extensively reported I seemed to have solved the issues I have. I’ve found that if I leave the battery on charge overnight for about 8-10 hours and not go by the green light indicator the battery life is what I would expect from a battery with that Amh storage. I think it may be that the green light isn’t correctly indicating when the battery is charged. Give it a go and report back.

    I travelled part of the camino last year …. great journey.

  15. Great work Michael!!! I can’t wait to do something like that myself. I just have to save up the money and then go 🙂

    I also love my Fuji X100, mainly because of the image quality and the fantastic lens. If Fuji ever fixes the AF in their X line and comes out with a weather sealed camera, I will gladly switch from Canon for my weddings……..maybe… lol. Or maybe just have it as a second camera.

    Keep up the great work!

  16. Wow, just watched to movie a few weeks ago. Now I really want to go on the walk myself.
    You should self publish a pdf of all the best images with notes detailing your journey. I would buy one. The second image reminds me of Chris Marker’s Le Jetee. Just amazing.

    • Thanks for the great comment. Interesting story about that second shot of my friend “Michelle.” That shot was taken on the very last day of the camino in Finisterre (part of the movie where they go to the ocean). It was a cloudy day but still bright and I thought I was shooting at 400 ISO. WRONG, the setting was at 3200! I thought I blew it but when I got home and viewed it on my monitor, I found the results rather flattering. It almost looks like high-speed film with massive amounts of grain. Just goes to show you that sometimes mistakes can be used to your advantage.

  17. Very nice photo essay, Great epic walk, I’ve seen the Martin Sheen movie about it and I one day will attempt it, God willing.

  18. Great pictures which could be taken for coming out of a Leica. Speaking about “coming out of…”
    You mention that you used Photoshop to resize, correct brightness / contrast and to add vignettes. Does it mean that the pictures already came BW out of the camera? If so, which BW setting did you use? Thanks. Cheers, Valerij (I saw the movie – The Way – three weeks ago, very inspiring!)

    • Thanks for the kind words. I shoot primarily in B&W in the “Monchrome+R Filter mode.” When the files are downloaded into Photoshop they are in B&W but they are in RGB color mode. I then convert to B&W mode. Hope that makes some sense.

  19. Beautiful photos and story! My father did the journey twice and last year I saw the (also beautiful) movie “The Way”, do you have a site with more of the photos ?

    • Try as I might I can’t get my Nikon D7000 to produce files any where near as good as My Fuji X100, a camera that just blows me away time and again. Glad to see another photographer enjoying this marvellous little camera

  20. Grrrrrreat pics, love the tones (and composition, needless to say) !! What are your settings ? Do you shoot b&w or convert your colors ?
    Thanks for the great post !
    Ben

    • Thanks for the kind words. I shoot in primarily in B&W in the “Monchrome+R Filter mode.” For color, I shoot in Velvia mode. As for settings, I’m all over the place. Sometimes I shoot full auto, sometimes I shoot in either aperture or shutter priority. Really depends on the situation. I very rarely used manual focus. For my journey, this camera was perfect!

      • Michael:
        I just finished watching the movie “The Way”. Thank you and I understand and maybe some day I to will make this journey. Again thank you for sharing a part of your experience.
        With Stone in Hand and Kind Regards,
        Howard

  21. Great stuff. I had recently wrote to Steve & asked him which camera he would take on this trip. For me it’s a toss up between the X100 & the Panasonic LX5 / with viewfinder. Still haven’t made up my mind.

    Thanks for those.

    • X100 hands down, though you’re comparing apples and oranges here… not the same price either !
      Cheers,
      Ben

    • Having both cameras (and also a Canon 7D), I’d say the x100 if I had to pick. The LX5 is a nice camera and definitely more flexible, but the X100 is just so much more enjoyable to use and the IQ over the LX5 is in a completely different place.

  22. With regard to your portraits, I think you have let the very light background fool your exposure system so to render the faces way too dark. But it is all a question of taste.

    • Hi thanks for your comment. It seems that way however, that is my style of portraiture. I tend to like my faces to come out a bit dark. For me it adds to the mood and demeanor of my subject.

    • Hi, for my experience with X100, the use of B&W with Green filter film simulation could resolve the skin tone and face luminosity. But anyhow this work is extraordinary each picture is efficacious and narrative. Rich of suggestions these six photos hint a great story.
      Ciao e complimenti, Pietro Ferrari.

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