Monday, July 27, 2015

Motorcycling trip camera (Fuji X100T) & photo gear

Fuji X100T (OEM thread protector not on)
I've got several e-mails asking about my camera equipment so rather than answering them from time to time I'll make a short post about my camera, gear and my reasoning for carrying it.

I used to own a DSLR system (Nikon) that I loved, but I found that the times I wanted to take pictures the most, I couldn't / didn't want to carry around the bulky DSLR stuff. Also, most of the times I'm shooting with my helmet on and the Nikons (D7000) live view wasn't working well enough for it to be used for shooting. I decided to sell all the DSLR gear to fund my road camera purchase and without going into much detail on the other options I decided upon getting a Fuji X100T for my main camera. If you are interested in camera specs and such has a good review.

a sample shot
Factors that led me to choose the Fuji X100T
- USB charging - this is an absolute must on the road
- good IQ, the Fuji certainly has this
- small size, well... the Fuji really isn't.
- important controls can be operated with gloves on (power, aperture, shutter speed, focus area, exposure compensation)
- fast to operate (no servo operated lenses to extend / retract, no lens hoods etc.)

What the X100T lacks
- image stabilisation (haven't missed this once)
- zoom
- weather proofing

Fuji X100T, modified MeFoto DayTrip, JJC Lens hood, Fuji 50mm tele converter and IShoot grip
Once I got my hands on the Camera it became obvious that I needed some sort of lens protection especially when I was never ever going to use a lens cap on it. Another thing was that the camera wasn't very grippy and I did not feel confident it would not slip my hand when operated one handedly.

The lens protection was solved with a combination of Hoya 49mm UV filter and a JJC  LH-JX100II  49mm Lens hood. The JJC hood is needed because the filter needs to be moved away from the moving lens element. The filter WILL screw right on the camera too, but by doing so you risk damaging the camera as the lens element moves back and forth and it will touch the UV filter.

I also bought a screw in 50mm tele converter, but I haven't used it really and I don't see it in my future either. It's just too bulky and the camera won't fit in the bag with it either.

For the grip issue I bought Quick Release Camera Holder Grip from eBay. That fixed the gripping issue and also allows me to quickly attach the camera to a arca-swiss compatible tripod.

IShoot grip fro the Fuji X100T
For a tripod I bought the Mefoto RoadTrip model, but once it arrived it was clearly too big to be lugged around on a motorcycle. I then bought the MeFoto DayTrip and swithed the ball head from the Roadtrip to it so it would fit the quick release grip already on the camera. * The DayTrip ball head has a smaller camera plate so the Arca-Swiss plate or grip will not fit. Oh, and a word of warning make sure you get a grip designed for the T model. The X100 and X100S look very similar, but the body shape is slightly different.

All the photo gear I'm willing to lug with me on a motorcycle trip
For a bag, I needed something that would allow for a quick access to the camera while on the bike. After crashing with the camera dangling on me in the bag, I've tried to avoid it though. It's much more convenient to have the camera on the tank bag, although the BlackRapid SnapR 35 bag works even for that as it keeps the camera in place while it's in the tank bag. The SnapR is a very good solution for being off the bike too as it has some very convenient strap options and fits the X100T size wise pretty well. The SnapR is configured so that you can pull the camera out of the bag and it slides along the neck strap, but it can also be quickly detached via quick release buckle. The neck strap can also be used as stand alone as the end male and female buckle snap together. Very clever.

Trip report

From the northern part of the old postal road

Roughly 1500kms of very varying roads in Northern Finland, Norway and Sweden. Last years trip was more of a sightseeing run partly because everyone didn't have the appropriate equipment to go off the paved roads. This time my buddy "Jack" had moved from a Versys to a Honda CRF250L so we could pretty much go anywhere we wanted as far as bikes go.

Last year we traveled up north under the cover of darkness by train and rode back down. This time we went by train both ways. Doing hundreds of miles of boring tarmac still didn't seem tempting and besides that we were yet again on a tight schedule.
strapped in again

The route

Thursday evening/night
Turku - Rovaniemi by train

All Friday
Rovaniemi - Kautokeino (Norway) by bikes

All Saturday
Kautokeino - Alta - Storslett by bikes

All Sunday
Storslett - Kaaresuvanto (Finland) by bikes

Kaaresuvanto - Rovaniemi by bikes

Monday afternoon/night
Rovaniemi - Turku by train

The good parts
Saturday, The old postal road from Kautokeino to Alta
Sunday, The mountain road from Birtavarre to the foothills of Halti / Guolasj√°vri
Sunday, The Kalkkoaivi road (an old wartime service road)


The train arrived at Rovaniemi some time after 10:00 AM. We unloaded the bikes, filled up and pulled away from the city. We tried to stay on the gravel as much as possible, but the friday's ride was honestly just a mandatory transition to get to Kautokeino, where we would be starting on the old postal road. We had ridden about half of the route last year going south. As before, mosquitoes were plentyfull and the roads a bit boring outside the few gravel stints. 

Once we arrived at Kautokeino Norway, the weather had cleared up and it was down right warm. Actually warmer than 1200 kms south where we started from. We checked in a hotel (Thon Hotel Kautokeino) and went for a short ride to look around and take some photos. We found an old decommissioned ski jumping tower on the river bank that was a good place to get a few photos of the area. 

Town of Kautokeino

After the short sightseeing We inhaled a couple of local kebabs, took a few beers and went to bed.
Thon hotel Kautokeino at the hilltop


The old postal road to Alta starts 10 kms from Kautokeino so after only 15 mins from the hotel we were in business. We had high expectations of the road, that supposedly had some water crossings, beautiful scenery and challenging run down parts. The old postal road was the so called "main attraction" of this trip.

start of the postal road
The road began as pretty well maintained gravel road and continued as such for a good while. The scenery was good to begin with but improved still as the road progressed deeper into the wilderness. Nothing but fells, lakes and rivers as far as the eye could see. 

Pretty easy as bad roads go
Some rocky parts, but really not much of a challenge 
The only water crossing, the water seemed to be down 
The old postal road is cut in two by the tarmac main road leading to Alta. This southern part was the more challenging to ride, but the northern part had even better scenery.

Is it real adventure if you can stop for coffee half way through...?
The road itself was a bit of a let down in the sense that it never really got properly rough or difficult. I don' t know whether it was recently renovated or something, but we could have ridden all of it with much "lesser" bikes. The only river crossing was also rather tame didn't really provide much of a challenge. That said, the old postal road was certainly one of the greatest rides of my life.  

Some shots from the northern part

reindeer gates, one of many
a perfect place to camp 

Alta - Storslett

After the postal road, we grabbed a quick lunch and continued on to Storslett where we would spend the night. The Norwegians are really making an effort as far as the roads. There was large scale roadwork being done on many parts of the road.

Some shots from the Alta - Storslett road


Sunday had two routes planned. First we would ride to the foothills of Halti from the Norwegian side and after that we would ride the Kalkkoaivi road near Kaaresuvanto in Finland. Halti is the highest fell (we don't have any real mountains) in Finland so it's sort of big thing for Finns. For Norwegians it's probably not that big of a deal as they have real mountains everywhere you look. The Kalkkoaivi road is an old german built service road from WW2 time. Nowadays it's mostly used by fishermen and hikers going to the fells, rivers and lakes.

The road to Halti / Guolasj√°vri (lake Guolas) starts from a town called Birtavarre. There's still a 6 km hike to the mountain from where the road ends, but that's as close as you can get, legally at least. The fun part of the road starts after crossing a bridge over a gorge and the road is rather scenic all the way through. The roads is also in reasonably good condition and any family sedan will get through just fine. 

the bridge over the ravine

end of the road
There was a very interesting hint of a road starting from the end of the road to lord knows where, but we weren't all that sure that it was legally okay to ride it with motorcycles so we did only a few hundreds meters, parked, and "jack" cooked us coffee from the stream water.

After coffee we moved on and pushed towards Kalkkoaivi only to stop for late lunch at a gas station near the Saana fell.

Highest point of the Finnish road network...
The Kalkkoaivi road also started tame, but turned in quite rocky towards the end. In dry conditions, it was very manageable, but might be tricky if wet. We kept the speeds low to minimize the risk for a puncture that seemed to be the biggest risk on this road. We did have spares and tools with us, but changing tires on the road would royally screwup our schedule. The place was also totally off the cell phone grid so should an injury occur, we might find our self in a bit of a situation.

Entering danger zone... Kalkkoaivi road starts with a shot up sign

Amazingly neither one of us went down even once. Not that the road was that demanding, but we were pretty worn down from riding all day and the Kalkkoaivi was our last hooray for the day. By the time wegot back on tarmac and in to the cabin, we were pretty beat. The cabin had a sauna which was a heaven sent at that point.

Some photos from the Kalkkoaivi road


As usual, monday sucked a tiny bit. The only thing on the agenda was getting back to the train in time. We tried to take the scenic route and stay of the main roads, but the roads and scenery were hardly a match for what we had seen on the past few days. We made a point to cross the border to the swedish side and ride along the river for a while buut that didn't really do it for us either. 

All in all

A great trip. It really did deepen my love for the 690. Not that it's capabilities were fully utilized, but it's just a great machine in many respects. Riding roads like the old postal road has pretty much ruined me for tarmac riding. The asphalt roads were spectacular in every way, but all I could think of is getting off from the paved stuff and even now when the trip is over I don't feel any desire to ride the twisties near or far. 

Technical problems

On the Honda... none. On the 690, a clogged fuel breather hose vent. Apparently there is a tiny valve on the part that the fuel cap screws on to and where the breather hose originates from. I thought that the hose was obstructed some wehere where it disappeared inside the bike and promptly cut it in two, but that didn't solve the problem, There was still a vacuum forming in the tank. Blowing and sucking on the breather hose cleared the valve and the problem went away.

road side repairs somewhere in Sweden

About gear

Nothing failed during the trip. Even my modified attachment system for the Wolfman bags worked as planned. The dehorning method also seemed to work as the straps showed no signs of wear after the trip. Fuel cans were completely leak free and even the new Macna Jura jacket worked as expected.

As usual, none of the "just-in-case" stuff was not needed. Lot of stuff that was just dead weight, but I guess it's better to have it and not need than the other way around. At times I wished I had warmer gloves and a helmet with a flip up sun visor, but those are not really problems.