“noun: busman’s holiday
A vacation or form of recreation that involves doing the same thing that one does at work.”
I suppose that would be rubbish if you were a refuse collector, or pretty dull if you were a tax accountant. But if you’re a photographer and embarking on a vacation by rail from Manchester, England to Venice in Italy then it’s a really good thing.
Last month I set off from Florida to liaise with my wife in London, she went ahead with our daughter and luckily the grandparents were looking after her to allow us to go on a child-free holiday.
After planning the holiday, which would in part be replicating a few destinations I had only previous done on my backpacking trip through Europe when I was 19 years old back in 1986, I started thinking about the details a little and when it came to packing. I knew I wanted to travel light. When I travel for work I am usually ladened down with equipment boxes and excess baggage. I knew I didn’t want that. So should I take my DSLR with me or not? I knew the answer was yes, but I was determined not to have a big camera bag. So my decision was to purchase a low profile (Pancake) lens. I opted for a Canon 40mm F2.8 prime lens which is really very shallow. After purchasing the UV filter for protection and a very small hood the depth almost doubled. That just shows you how shallow it really is.
London to Paris
After an afternoon in London the following morning we boarded the Eurostar to Paris, one of my favorite things to do. To be comfortably whisked away from the heart of one major European city center to another in two hours without going through the hell we now accept as airport security is absolutely wonderful.
I took a few snaps in London using the DSLR but nothing much, as I was well aware that I didn’t want to spoil our vacation by “working”. In Paris it was a little different and I got used to using the DSLR as a camera to take snap shots. At first I was a little frustrated at not being able to zoom in any way, shape or form, which did limit the shots I could get. But I know from previous exercises using prime lenses that it takes a while to get tuned in to the lens and the type of shots you can achieve.
That evening we boarded the night train sleeper to Venice and after breakfast we were in yet another surreal location. Just one of the endless adjectives one can use to describe the intoxicating vibrance of an ancient city on the water. While in Venice our host lent us a book of self guided walking tours, which was surprisingly brilliant. It took us to places we would normally go, but gave us insights into history and small details we wouldn’t normally see. It was also an opportunity to get in a little closer with the 40mm and really start test it, or rather test myself. The 40mm lens is just fine. How I was using it was another matter.
The vacation was brilliant! I remember being on a water bus (Vaporetto) back when I was 19 years old with a backpack and very small daily budget and looking at the people sat in the restaurants overlooking the water and having a longing, or maybe some sort of knowing that one day I would return and be able to sit and eat and enjoy the view like they were. That desire was achieved and satisfied. Very much so. My wife and I really savored the moments and the location.
Keeping one DSLR camera with ne lens in a small shoulder bag was great. We even went to Florence on a high speed train for a complete day out. We walked for miles and miles and I could only have done that by traveling light. A big camera bag wouldn’t have worked at all.
On the last morning I woke up at about 4am and couldn’t get back to sleep. Maybe it was the sensation that we had just a few hours left in this wonderful place or the deep need to go out and take photographs. Whatever it was it got the better of me so I woke my wife and dragged her out in the very early morning light.
We were both a little sleepy still and the sun had not yet risen. But there was something magical about walking through the deserted venice streets just before dawn. It was very light, but the sun wouldn’t appear for another hour or so. The exclusivity of what we were doing only really hit us when we arrived at Piazza San Marco 15 minutes later. There were just a handful of people out. In-fact it was mainly photographers and a few Russians on their way home from a night of drinking somewhere.
In the Piazza there were two asian newlyweds in full wedding regalia with their wedding photographers and around by the Doges Palace were the architectural or travel photographers. It’s probably the only time of day a photographer can use a tripod, although I didn’t bring mine. This was the only time I really wish I could have delved into a camera bag to change lenses to maximize the type of shots I could capture. The next hour and a half flew by and before we knew it the buzz of the city waking started to happen. The we just started thinking of coffee. The icing on the cake was that on our way back to the apartment we found a charing older lady opening up the cafe for the day and were able to sit down with a hot cappuccino and watch the small campo or piazza come alive with grocers setting their stall for the day, the newsagent opening her kiosk, the restaurant employee sweeping the area in front of his restaurant before setting out the rows of tables.
One thing I haven’t mentioned so far is how much I enjoyed using my iPhone 6s for taking photos and small video clips. I know it’s not a professional DSLR but with the right light and a background of photographic experience, it really is an amazing tool if you have nothing else at hand.
So although I wasn’t working on a commissioned job, I enjoyed a little bit of a busman’s holiday. After all, I love my job!