Heather Maynard » Heather Maynard | Blog

I’m cheating on Canon

As much as I’ve loved the Canon cameras I’ve had over the last 15+ years, I find myself less inclined to lug them around these days. Maybe it’s because the cameras seem to be getting bigger and heavier with each upgrade, or possibly it’s that carrying a big camera and keeping up with a toddler is just more work than it’s worth to me. Instead, I tend to reach for my trusty iPhone (and for the record, I truly love what I can do with an iPhone camera). But sometimes I wish it could be a bit more like a DSLR.

Many months ago, my friend Chris, a recovering pro photographer turned nurse, started talking up the Fuji X100, and then the X100S. And then he sent me some reviews of the camera by Zack Arias and Chase Jarvis. Then he talked about it some more. And then several months later, I decided to actually read the reviews.

A few weeks after I read the reviews, I sold my Canon 70-200 2.8 II lens (a lens that we may have used a few dozen times ever) to buy the Fuji x100s. I’ve had it for nearly a month now. A few friends have asked me about it, so I thought I’d write a not-at-all-technical review of it. If you’re looking for technical reviews, I strongly suggest you read the reviews I linked to above and this one by Ken Rockwell. Here is my initial impression:

I think with a camera like this, it’s important to love it for what it is – a beautifully designed, compact camera that rivals a big DSLR in image quality and in functionality, generally speaking. What it is not is a camera for sports photography, wildlife photography, or even for photographing toddlers during sugar-induced sprinting. I really believe, though, that it makes up for what it isn’t with what it is.

First of all, I love that it’s so easy to carry around. In fact, I’ve forgotten that it’s around my neck a time or two already. I don’t feel weighed down when I wear it, and I can still play with Augustus while carrying it. For me, that’s pretty much the entire point of owning this camera. The gorgeous, retro design of it makes me want to carry it around, too.

It’s a smart camera. I’m really happy with the sooc images…and I’ve even shot some photos in jpeg instead of raw (though I think I’m still a raw kind of girl at heart). I don’t feel the need to do a lot of editing to the images, and I’m super impressed with how it handles contrast and highlights. I’m a fan of the built-in neutral density filter and film modes, and I’m usually not into that kind of stuff.

The low light functioning is good, but maybe not as good as I anticipated based on some of the reviews I’ve read; I’d say it’s comparable to my Canon 5dmkII (so you may or may not be impressed by it, depending on your current setup). I’d prefer not to push the ISO too much.

I love the focal length – what you see through the lens is similar to what you’d see with just your eyes (and about the same as an iPhone). I’m not a fan of zoom lenses and have professed my love of prime lenses on more than one occasion, so zooming with my feet doesn’t bother me at all.

There are two wheels/knobs used for changing and fine-tuning aperture and shutter speed, so I’m fumbling a bit with changing settings quickly on such a tiny camera body. I feel sure that a few more weeks of use will improve my speed with that. I have to remember that, at some point, I felt the same way with my Canons, and, as is typically the case, consistent practice solved that.

It does seem a bit slower to focus and take the photo than I expected based on reviews, but I think there may be a few things I can do to improve that. At the same time, though, it’s making me think a bit more about the image I want to capture (kind of like film). I think all of us who have been shooting digital exclusively for several years could probably stand to take a step back and think a bit more about the images we’re composing.

I haven’t picked up my Canon 5dmII since I got this thing (except to second shoot a wedding last weekend), and I find myself reaching for my iPhone a lot less, which was the point. Right now, I’m not sure that I could give up my Canon DSLRs and go completely Fuji, but ask me again in a few months. It’s possible that my Canon might not even make it out of the bag by then.

As far as accessories go, I wanted to keep it simple. I took Ken Rockwell’s suggestion and bought two cheap filters to rig a filter for this camera rather than paying lots more money for the Fuji version. I did purchase the leather Fuji case, but I haven’t used it yet.

Now, onto the images (minimal editing, just minor exposure and contrast adjustment, and sharpened for web):

Jazz in the Park at Fort Christianvaern

Braving his first tropical storm, alligator in hand and wind in his hair.

Macro mode is great…if you can get close enough to your subject.

Augustus was trying to “eat” the moon, and wanted Matthew to hold him up so he could reach it. I went in to grab my camera to get a photo of it, but of course he was over it by then. Here’s what I got instead:A campfire on the farm (is it still a campfire if you aren’t camping?)

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Love where you live: lagoons, beaches and mangoes on STX

There’s no doubt that I love where I live. Truly, it’s hard not to love it here. At just shy of three months of living here, though, I’m still seeing St. Croix with fresh eyes, constantly noticing things I haven’t before and still in awe of each mountain, flowering Flamboyant tree, sweeping sea view and star-littered sky. I hope that I’ll always be able to see this beautiful place through the same eyes, and with the same love, that I do now.

While I’m still noticing new things daily, it’s also easy to fall into a routine and to settle into the familiar, visiting the same places and doing the same things. When one of my favorite bloggers, Design Mom, reintroduced her Love the Place You Live series and invited other bloggers to join in, it seemed like exactly the nudge we needed to explore a few new (to us) places on the island.

On Friday morning (the Fourth), we visited Altona Lagoon. This is one of the places on STX where you can take a kayak tour of the bioluminescent bay. This was morning, though, so that wasn’t part of our plan (but we do want to try that sometime – maybe next time we have guests?). We went without much of a plan, except to explore the park, swim and have a beach picnic.

Since Augustus was saying “the beach! the beach!” we headed straight for the beach, of course. When we arrived, the water was a little too rough for a toddler, and the beach not quite as clean as most on island, so we took a detour to the park. Parks – and playgrounds especially – aren’t as plentiful as they were in Athens (who needs a playground when you have the Caribbean?), so it’s kind of a big deal when you find one.

Augustus enjoyed sliding, boat watching, bug exploring and running amongst the rows of trees. Since it was July 4th, there were lots of people setting up their bar-b-ques for the day.

We wandered over to the boat ramp where fishermen were coming in with their lobster catches. If we’d been carrying cash, we would’ve been grilling lobster for dinner instead of hot dogs. It looked so good. Augustus cared very little about the lobster, but wanted so badly to go on a boat ride. We really need to make friends with someone who has a boat!

With our original beach plans thwarted, we decided to drive east toward another beach to swim and picnic. We weren’t sure which ones would be crowded because of the holiday (most of them, we figured), but we stopped at Chenay Bay (another new to us place) and were surprised that there were only a few other people there. Beaches here are public, but some are accessed through a resort, like this one. We opted to have a quick picnic in the car and buy rum drinks on the beach. With a view of Green Cay and a painkiller in hand, we waded in the water as Augustus splashed around looking for crabs. I think it’s my new favorite beach. We left a bit sunburned, but with plenty of time for long afternoon naps and evening grilling.

On Saturday some friends told us about Shoys Beach, another beach we hadn’t yet visited. We intended to meet them there, but our schedules didn’t quite coincide, so we ended up there at different times. I’m so glad we went, though. It has one of the coolest paths to get to the beach (the only photo I have from there!) and a rocky beach (mostly smooth rocks, though).

We saw lots of snorkelers and a paddle boarding pup. We ate fresh genips (pronounced by most people here as kenips) from our CSA box while we played and skipped rocks. We’ll definitely head back with some snorkel gear.

Sunday was the Mango Melee at the St. George Village Botanical Gardens. The gardens aren’t new to us, but the annual festival is, and we’d heard a lot about it. It’s a festival with music, fresh local produce, vendors, kids’ activities and demonstrations.

It was super crowded and we were there with a napless toddler, so we talked to a few people we knew, ate some wonderful ice cream (I had mango, Matthew had banana, and Augustus had both!) and picked up a watermelon before calling it a day.

All of the food looked so good, but we went mid-afternoon on full stomachs. We’ll definitely time it better next year so that we’re hungrier (and better rested, hopefully).

One of the funniest things about the island: there aren’t signs for much of anything, but there’s a sign pointing to the bar. And there’s a bar everywhere, including the Mango Melee.

It was such a nice long weekend of exploring this island that we get to call home. I think that continuing to explore is one of the keys to loving the place you live, and I’m so happy knowing that we have so much left to explore.

Be sure to check out Design Mom’s Love the Place You Live series and all of the other bloggers participating, too.

All photos taken with my iPhone. I feel particularly weighed down lately when I lug my 5d Mark II around (but I’m working on remedying that…I’ll explain later!).

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  • An island where all the bars are signposted? Sign me up!
    We are huge fans of mango daiquiris so that market sounds like heaven. Thanks for the tour!ReplyCancel

Ready for guests!

Our guest room is set up and we’re ready for visitors! Book your plane tickets, friends and family, and come see us!

(the entry to the guest room, thanks to an old calendar and some washi tape)

It could use a little more work, but I’m calling it finished, at least for now.

We had a trial run when Matthew’s mom came to visit us a few weeks ago. I’m pretty sure we got the grandma seal of approval of the room, the rum, and the itinerary (and, most importantly, the toddler entertainment). We had a fun week of touristy stuff peppered with plenty of nap time and, as with everything we do, centered around great food. These were a few of the things we chose to do with our first guest (photos from several of these places are on my instagram feed):

  • Have dinner and take a walk on the boardwalk
  • Go to the beach – several times (we went to Tamarind Reef, Cane Bay and Frederiksted on this trip)
  • Lots of driving and photo taking, east and west
  • Visit Point Udall, the easternmost point of the US
  • Tour Fort Christiansvaern
  • Cheer on our crabs at the crab races at Tamarind Reef
  • Take a boat to Hotel on the Cay for their West Indian BBQ
  • Snorkle and play on the beach at Buck Island with Caribbean Sea Adventures
  • Cruzan Rum Factory tour (and samples!)
  • See the plants and history at St. George Village Botanical Gardens

Most of those we had done ourselves prior to her visit, but it was nice to try a few things for the first time and refine our list of to-dos with first-time visitors. I’m curious to see how the list changes with the interests of our visitors and as time passes. But one of the things I love about this island is that the touristy things generally don’t feel gimmicky, so we’d gladly do these things each time someone new visits (or on our own, even). So who’s coming next?

If anyone needs a little more convincing, the U.S. Virgin Islands just topped the list of Caribbean destinations by U.S. News and World Report. And Georgia friends, Delta resumes direct service here in December. Winter break, anyone?

P.S. Sorry for the prolonged absence from the blog. I really have no excuse, except that occasionally I like to spend some time just living life rather than writing about it.

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What I’m reading this week

Am I the only one wondering where the week went? Or better yet, the weekend? We’re preparing for Matthew’s mom to visit for a week (she arrives today!), so we spent much of the week trying to finish last minute tasks around our house. Matthew got a second job, too (which he’s really loving), and he’s working toward dive master certification. That means lots of juggling for this one-car family.

With all of the driving and preparation, I had less time for reading and browsing this week. It’s not surprising that much of my reading was food centered (part of being a great host is having good food in the house, right?). The release of the new season of Orange is the New Black may have something to do with how little I’ve read this week, too. Matthew and I both got big smiles on our faces as soon as that familiar theme song started playing again. (You’re watching it, right?) Here’s what caught my eye this week:

Ever since we had Mother’s Day brunch at Blue Water Terrace, I cannot get blueberry muffins out of my mind. Theirs were so good – served piping hot, and with a crunchy top that made them some of the best I can remember (and not crumb-y crunchy – I’m not a big fan of that). I made these today and they’re good – maybe not as good as Blue Water’s (food is almost always better when I don’t have to make it), but still very good. And crunchy.

National Doughnut Day came and went, and, sadly, I didn’t consume any doughnuts. I plan to remedy that as soon as my doughnut pan and cutter arrive next week. This recipe looks like a good one.

Matthew’s birthday is Tuesday, and I really wanted to make this Momofuku cake. I lack the patience, foresight and follow-through to devote time on five different days to make a cake, though, so I’m going with Martha Stewart’s peanut butter pie instead. Probably a variation since I don’t often follow a recipe.

Exclamation marks are here to stay. I’m guilty.

I need more “yes” days! What about you?

This post has made the rounds this week. Parenting is hard, and most of us are doing the best we can. Let’s all aim for more support and less judgement.

Now, I’m off to be a tourist for the week. Have a good one!

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