Michael Burkhardt’s Weblog

Some Photography Lessons Learned

I recently returned from a trip to sunny and warm Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Most of the photographs I take come from trips like this, rather than when I’m home. I like to have a camera with me when walking around, although I’m not really into street photography per se. Here’s what I learned. (These aren’t meant to be general recommendations, but rather observations about myself, my habits, and my preferences. Your mileage will almost certainly vary.)

Portability is Key

My goal going into this trip was to be as portable as possible so that I’d be able to have a camera with me all the time. I wanted to avoid the scenario in which I missed a shot because I didn’t feel like lugging the camera along.

Lugging or Carrying?

A few years ago I picked up a really nice BlackRapid shoulder harness. At the time my primary camera was a Nikon D7200, which is neither slim not lightweight, and the should strap was a huge help. I’ve since switched up to a Fujifilm X-T4 (which I 💖) and the shoulder strap still works great, especially for hiking, biking, or day-long adventures like amusement park visits. However, it’s a bit obtrusive and makes me feel like it attracts a lot of attention in casual settings like lunch with friends or strolling through the market.

Before this trip I bought a BlackRapid wrist strap to try out. I was very pleased. It made grabbing the camera on the way out the door easy, and was the reason I had my camera with me nearly 100% of the time we were away from the apartment. Super happy with that purchase!

On longer excursions, I found that the weight of carrying my X-T4 with only a wrist strap did eventually tire my hand and wrist so there's definitely a point of diminishing returns after which the shoulder strap would have been better. For me, that was somewhere in range of two to three hours of continuous walking/standing. On one such outing, in which we covered 6.6 miles on foot in around three hours, I was wishing I had the shoulder strap!


I struggle with this one a lot. Zooms are handy, especially for travel, but I haven’t found one I’m ready to buy yet. (Maybe I need to grab this XC 15-45mm.) Anyway, for now all I have are three primes. I’ve had these for about a year, and here’s what I’ve learned about each one:

Tripod Or No Tripod?

I have a SmallRig 3033 Aluminum Tabletop Mini Tripod with Ball Head that totally kicks ass. It is small, lightweight, inexpensive, and has a high quality ball head. It works with the ARCA-type quick-release plate on my X-T4 as well as the MeFOTO SideKick360 Plus Smartphone Tripod Adapter to make a full-featured travel kit.

That I never use.

I’ve lugged that thing to Hawai’i, France, and Mexico and it has stayed in my suitcase on all three trips. I tend to take photos mostly in daylight, and my X-T4 performs really well in low light with the XF 27mm lens, rendering the tripod nearly useless.

Aquae Incognita

I don’t get in the water very much so I’ve never had a reason to shoot underwater. But we are planning a trip to the Galapagos Islands next year and we wanted to start exploring photographic options for wet environments. I used the Mexico trip as an excuse to buy a red Olympus Tough TG-6 for “testing” purposes.

It did not disappoint.

This camera may not have it all, but it’s got a lot. It is small and lightweight, making it easy to keep close by. It’s also waterproof—no expensive housing needed! (I also bought a floating wrist strap which is a lot less obtrusive that it looks.) I took this little red wonder along on a whale watching trip on the Bahía de Banderas. The vast majority of the frames I shot that day are of the empty sea, hoping to catch a glimpse of one of the big beasts. A big reason for this is that the frame rate is so freaking fast! The image quality is pretty darn good too, considering it’s got only a 12MP sensor. Color and sharpness aren’t bad considering the alternative might well be no pictures at all.


This was a fun trip, and I learned a lot from it. I think I might order that zoom lens now. 🤔 With that and the 2023 challenge it’s shaping up to be a fun year for photography.

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