Photography on the road

I’m Mitch Orr I’m 29 and from a small coastal town in England. Currently, I am working in a horticulture setting whilst living full time in our own self built home on wheels.

Reaching the ripe old age of 30 and tiring of the mundane monotony that is working a full-time job to pay off a 30 plus year mortgage I, along with my girlfriend decided a change was on the cards. We bought a panel van, a blank canvas, and began turning it into our very own livable space we could take with us wherever we wanted.

Fuji X-T20 . Fuji XF18mmF2 @18mm . f/8 . 1/170″ . ISO 200
Fuji X-T20 . Fuji XF18mmF2 @18mm . f/11 . 1/370″ . ISO 400

Fast forward three years and we are finally living in the van and in the process of renting out our house.

Having bounced around numerous jobs since finishing school I have never felt a true passion for any of them. I was adamant that I must pursue a method of making a living from the things that inherently inspire me thus I find myself living simply in a van in the midst of a global pandemic (hurray!!)

Fuji X-T20 . Fuji XF35mmF1.4 @35mm . f/1.4 . 1/125″ . ISO 400

The long term aim for me is to travel to Europe in our home, exploring every inch of the planet we inhabit is something that gives me true purpose and meaning. Hopefully utilizing my love for photography to document the wide array of beautiful landscapes that lay in wait, creating art and if possible provoking an emotional response to the images I yearn to create.

Fuji X-T20 . Fuji XF35mmF1.4 @35mm . f/16 . 1/140″ . ISO 400
Fuji X-T20 . Fuji XF35mmF1.4 @35mm . f/11 . 1/100″ . ISO 320

I have always been a very visual person, I enjoy the subtleties and nuances that photographs can elicit. How light can build a scene, how it manipulates the visual impact of a subject. This passion has spilled over into the medium of cinematography and has developed my profound fondness for film and cinema. Admiring the genius of Deakins and his ability to turn every frame into a piece of art anybody would be glad to hang on their wall.

I took the plunge into photography around fifteen years ago, buying myself a Canon 40D and a 50mm prime lens. I thoroughly immersed myself in it and started experimenting with all kinds of genres, from still life to landscape, portraiture and wedding photography. It wasn’t until I started wanting to document my holiday trips that I first came across the Fujifilm line of cameras. I wanted something light, something simple yet tactile and thus I took ownership of the Fuji X100.

I fell in love instantaneously, the 23mm fixed focal length and field of view forced me to be creative, to slow down and really take note of what I was doing. The manual aperture ring and exposure dial just felt… right, and now photography felt like a truly physical and connected art form. The simplicity enabled me to grow and thoroughly engage in the process of composition, more so than ever before despite shooting with numerous Canon bodies.

Having used the X100 on a number of trips, I felt I needed the ability to broaden my focal range again, now that I understood the reasons why differing focal ranges were needed and for what scenarios. Along came the X-E2 and further the X-E3, though I still maintained a small selection of prime lenses (18mm f2 and 35mm f1.4) as I was still only really documenting my holiday trips which were less frequent than I would have liked.

This was my very basic setup for a number of years until the notion of vanlife and longterm travel became a very pertinent focal point in my life. That is when I finally caved and sold all my Canon gear, largely unused for a substantial length of time, and used the proceeds to fund a Fuji body upgrade.

I picked up the Fujifilm X-T20 and the 23mm F1.4 having weighed up the pros and cons between that just the X-T2 body minus the lens as funds only allowed for one or the other. In hindsight, I should have gone with the X-T2 as ergonomically the X-T20 feels somewhat awkward to hold, despite having the hands of a small child.

Fuji X-T20 . Fuji XF50-140mmF2.8 @102.20mm . f/2.8 . 1/400″ . ISO 800
Fuji X-E2 . Fuji XF35mmF1.4 @35mm . f/1.4 . 1/2700″ . ISO 200

And so brings us to the current day, my setup still consists of the X-T20 body with added grip and L-bracket, three lenses (18mm F2, 35mm F1.4 and 23mm F1.4) and a relatively new addition of the 50-140mm F2.8. Having been on somewhat of a YouTube landscape photographer binge, I came to the conclusion that a telephoto lens would broaden my scope of possibilities when it came to simplifying a composition within the landscape.

Added to that the compression effect which to me at least has a very effective influence on depicting the scale of scenes and areas of interest within a frame. Something I hope I can use to my advantage once this lockdown ends and the real travelling can begin.

Fuji X-T20 . Fuji XF35mmF1.4 @35mm . f/5.6 . 1/440″ . ISO 200

For me the transition to the Fuji system has been nothing but positive, it re-ignited my itch to shoot and brought me closer to the physical act of creating art through imagery. Though my current financial situation means I am editing my work on a smartphone through Lightroom, I am still enjoying every minute of it. With an eye on eventually acquiring and an iPad Pro as my primary post-processing workhorse and negating the need for a laptop.

As it stands we are still very much stuck in one spot for the time being, though hopefully in the coming months we will be able to fulfill our dream to travel in the van and use it as a springboard for my photography growth, as well as enriching our souls and making memories for us to forever look back on.

Fuji X-T20 . Fuji XF35mmF1.4 @35mm . f/2.8 . 1/160″ . ISO 200
Fuji X-T20 . Fuji XF18mmF2 @18mm . f/16 . 1/40″ . ISO 400

"My name is Mitch Orr and I am a 29 year old photographer from England, UK. Although I do not currently make a living through photography, I'm hoping to do so in conjunction with travelling in my self built home on wheels. Travelling and documenting travels through Europe and the UK."

9 Comments

  1. Here in the U.S., you can find yourself behind retirees in large, slow RVs in the most scenic parts of the country. They are trying to do what you are doing, but with less physical endurance for the adventure.

    You will have these times in your memory for decades to come, plus thousands of photos. When you feel it is time to settle, it won’t come with resentment for things left undone.

    BTW… love the portrait of your dog made with that wide-open 35mm f/1.4. Everytime I’m sure I don’t need one, I see a fine example of its rendering and then I have to keep telling myself that my f/2 version is good enough.

  2. Thanks for sharing your passion. We recently purchased a motorhome and have started traveling the U.S. mostly concentrating on the National Parks. I really enjoyed your article and photographs. We just completed our first journey to the Great Smoky Mountains, National Park. If you have time visit my blog to see our first adventure.

    Thank You!

  3. Thanks for the kind words.

    The 35mm 1.4 is a beauty of a lens. Beautiful rendition despite its poor noisy autofocus. That being said if it’s not being used for moving subjects it’s definitely worth getting. I love its character and I think it adds to the more vintage feel as a walk around lens

    1. Good read, thanks! I find that the xf35 1.4 is more than fast enough on my X-Pro2, but you might have different needs. With regards to reach and landscape photography, I just bought an old canon fd 85mm, for landscape and portraits. Look forward to isolating the frame as you mention in the article.

      Egil

  4. Hello Mitchell,

    Great read! Would love to know some more of your editing process. How do you take your raw image into LR mobile and such. This has typically been a huge pain for me and would love to see how you’ve manage.
    Best,

    1. Thanks Emmanuel,

      As for importing and editing via mobile, I have used a usbc memory card transfer dongle. Through this i can access my raw files through the files app on android. From there i cull my images and copy them into another app (Quickpick).

      Once all images have been chosen and transferred over I can them import them into lightroom mobile.

      It’s a relatively simple yet not particularly efficient method though I don’t tend to have hundreds of images to cull from each session so there’s that. It’s by no means as effective as using a pc/Mac but for financial reasons I’m only able to use mobile at the present. And it will suffice until I can get hold of an iPad pro.

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