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  • Matt Stewart

Travel and photography can be such an amazing and creatively rewarding thing to do. Discovering hidden gems, the trial and error of being there at the right time, the wins, the losses, it's all part of the journey for a Landscape Photographer. We rely on our camera equipment to function perfectly, much like a swiss watch. The film cameras I use are very robust, which is a good thing given the harsh environments I find myself in. Blazing sun, dust, snow and sea spray have thrashed my poor gear for years and even though I am fairly rigid in my post shoot cleaning, eventually you are going to get a failure of some description.


I've had all the usual issues, like losing bolts from tripods, scratching filters, seizing lenses through dust abuse and dropping cameras, but probably the most stressful issue I've had happened in Mallorca, Spain. I was travelling with a single camera body, a Fuji G617, something I no longer do. I was halfway through a 5 week trip with my now wife, Lucy and we were in the north west corner of the island, a beautiful village named Pollenca. One evening I was rushing to capture a storm that was brewing over the sea and changing a roll of film. Quickly. I get caught up in the excitement at times like this and once the film is loaded in the camera I have to wind it on several times. To say my winding action is gentle would be a stretch. Some might call it overly enthusiastic.


Fuji G617 Medium Format Camera With Viewfinder Removed

Years of winding the film on this manner finally took it's toll and the camera jammed. No amount of wiggling, winding or forcing the lever had any effect. The nearest camera repair store was several hours away by plane, so I turned to youtube. I eventually found a video on how to disassemble the camera and access the winder.


A tiny lever, only a few millimetres wide had worn out. Thankfully there was a solution.



Fuji G617 Winder

Once I had found my shot and settled on a frame, I would remove the top of the camera including the viewfinder very carefully, ensuring I didn't bump the frame. I could then access the winder and offending lever with a small screwdriver. Pressing on the mechanism would release the winder and I could advance the film. Carefully. Every time I framed a new shot I would have to go through this process. Making sure I didn't drop any of the tiny screws in the process.


Success!


The only issue I now faced was that I couldn't be sure that by removing the top of the camera I wasn't get a light leak. Thereby fogging my film and ruining my shots. I had no way of knowing until I returned to Sydney and dropped off about 85 rolls of medium format film several weeks later. An expensive roll of the dice. During those few nervous weeks I shot some of the most amazing places I have ever been. To say I was stressed is an understatement.


Thankfully there was no fogging and my worry was a waste of energy. Since then I have always travelled with several cameras, lots of film and a small tool kit, should I need to do on the road maintenance. If you don't have access to a detailed camera manual then do as I did, find a video on youtube! If you have a phone signal of course!


Matt


www.mattstewartphotography.com

  • Matt Stewart

Updated: Aug 16, 2019

I often get asked about what gear I use, so I thought I'd give you a look inside my kit at some of the essential items I always take with me when I'm shooting.


Every discipline of photography requires different gear. My day-to-day equipment that lives in my camera bag is pretty basic. All of it has to have a function, otherwise it gets left out. Most of my shooting is in remote areas and often requires a hike to get to, so weight is a big factor... unnecessary and overly heavy equipment becomes a bore! The first and most important thing - aside from the camera - is the bag itself. I've used Lowepro bags for years, they're extremely well made, last a decade and are really comfy when loaded up. The hip belt is hugely important if you want to avoid the chiropractor! The model I use is no longer available but the new version is the Pro Runner 450 AW II.



Fuji GX617


I've used Fujifilm medium format 6x17 cameras for 20-years. They're very simple in design and (thankfully) very robust - sadly they aren't made anymore and getting parts can be a hassle. I've worn out my original G617 and am well into the lifespan of my GX617 and GX680. I love the Linhof's too but getting parts is harder than Fuji, so I'll stick with what I know!


Fuji GX617 Camera Kit

Since most of my photography is long exposure based (20 seconds to 4 minutes) I need a cable release and the all important timer. The best I've found - and I've used dozens - is a kitchen timer I found via Muji, a homewares store in Tokyo. I bought 4 of them and I'm still only using my first. I use quality filters, Tiffen and Schneider - don't buy cheap junk, they shift your colours. Polarizers, Neutral Density filters from 3 stops to 10 stops and a centre ND filter. Some black foil controls the sun flare, a lens cloth and blower (although my shirt is used more often) help keep the filters clean and I never go out without 3 boxes of either Fujifilm 120 Provia 100F or Velvia 100.


Sekonic Light Meter and Fuji Provia Film

I have numerous Minolta Spot and Incident light meters but for saving space I usually just carry a Sekonic dual meter and spare batteries for it. My tripod head is a Manfrotto 808RC4 paired with Induro Stealth CLT404L lightweight carbon fibre legs.


So that's the basic kit I use for 90% of my shooting. Over the years I have carried polaroid and DSLR cameras for checking my exposures but I know the film so well now that I no longer bother... and they're heavy! Many of the places I shoot are precarious and off-the-beaten-track with no phone reception, so a Sat phone or beacon is a good insurance policy. The last thing I always carry is a good torch, as I'm either walking to or from the location in darkness.


Cheers

Matt


@mattstewartphotography

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© 2019 Matt Stewart Photography. All photographs are protected under international copyright law and must not be used without written permission from the artist.