So we did it, we got to Madrid!
Originally we’d planned to go at Christmas but Omicron hit the country and it didn’t seem wise. And as we were preparing to leave recently we got the ‘Sorry, your plane has been cancelled.’ email; we initially considered driving but managed to go a day early instead.
As a photographer holidays are about photography, yes, I really do take my work with me.
I generally try to cover most possibilities with my travel equipment whilst trying to keep things reasonably light. My core gear was as follows on this occasion though it’s generally similar for most of our trips.
MacBoook Pro – 16″
Samsung 1tb SSD
Bose Soundlink Mini 2
Anker 26,000 Powerbank
Leica M9, 50mm Summilux – 28mm Summicron
Nikon D810, 50mm D ƒ/1.4, 24-70mm ƒ/2.8, 70-200mm ƒ/2.8, 105mm Micro ƒ/2.8
Manfrotto Backpack 20, Billingham Leica Bag, Osprey
(Basically the Leica and a cut-down Nikon setup.)
I generally travel with one of the older D810s in part because they have a built in flash, not that I really use it, but if the camera ‘disappears’ I still have the D850 at home. This time I brought the 105mm Micro as well as the 70-200 which to some may seem odd, the Micro has fantastic bokeh and VR so it can cover a lot of ground. The older D series nifty-fifty is a stunning performer that cost eighty quid; small too!
Even though this is for fun and development my practices are similar whether on holiday or working. The punchy Mac is my import device, all of these shots are Lightroom processed only. The Samsung SSD is great because I’ve set it to back up new images on the fly, effectively a watched folder backup. I did this originally when we went to Cuba and there was no viable Internet connection for off-site backups. However in Madrid our Airbnb had solid wi-fi so my imports were also immediately copied to Dropbox for a further backup.
I use an Osprey Soujourn 60 for personal luggage, one time with a crappy bag with one broken wheel and I decided quality was the way to go. The thing is top quality.
In all honesty the Manfrotto Backpack 20 bag was bought on Facebook Marketplace a while ago for very little and it is great, really small, excellent protection and fits loads more than you’d imagine. I don’t know it’s available now but I love it. It’s cabin friendly so I can keep all the tech with me rather than the hold. If I really needed to I could use it as a day-bag too but with the fun shoots I tend not to. The MacBook Pro 16″ fits in this well too.
The Leica bag will just about take the Nikon with the fifty so one way or another I can mix and match cameras when out, I tend to carry small waterproof roll bags in the Leica bag which protect the Nikon well if the rain hammers down. Basically Billingham doesn’t shout ‘Photographer!’
Whilst it’s not all about the gear for me holidays give the option to experiment a bit assuming my long suffering model doesn’t get too annoyed! Everything here was shot with natural or available light and in a way that dictated the gear choice. I’ve only recently realised that my 105mm Macro lens has stunning bokeh and frankly I’d forgotten that it has VR as well. Because I normally use it in the studio for product work I forget that it makes a great outdoors portrait lens and it partners well with the old 50mm that I bought on a whim a while ago. As ever when I use the 70-200mm ƒ/2.8 I am reminded what a stellar performer it is, albeit heavy. For a long time this was my go-to lens but nowadays I tend to use the 85 ƒ/1.4 more.
The Leica is just different and in many ways more demanding to use. I made the mistake of going into the Madrid Leica store and the lovely man put an M11 in my hand, yes, I definitely would. If I have enough time I have Leica days and Nikon days, they are different.
It was great also to chat briefly with people doing it with film, I’d have loved to try taking the Nikon F2 out with me. The man from Peru with the Hassleblad was great to chat with as with the woman with the lovely OM1n, both cameras I enjoyed selling around 45 years ago!
Personally this trip was a result. After the events of last year I was generally worried about how I’d deal with heat, bright light and carrying heavy cameras; it was around 38˚C some days. Overall we managed to walk 10k/day for the week so all went well.
In all honesty Madrid was initially a slow burner but after a couple of days we loved it, seems like a very inclusive place to live and work, respectful and friendly.
If you are interested there are a few more shots over on my Instagram page