By Braden Gunem
I like to travel alone. Partners and friends are great, but they can also hold you back from really experiencing a culture deeply. Solo travel allows you a freedom and adventure rarely achievable for those rushing back home for dinner. So when a group of friends and I booked a house in a rather touristy area of Panama, I didn’t plan to spend much time shooting. I grabbed my trusted X-T1 and my favorite lens – the XF23mmF1.4 R.One of the local attractions in this area is a beach only accessible by boat or a long muddy trail through the jungle. After attempting the trail, we opted for the boat and were dropped at a small dock in a lagoon filled with mangrove trees. A short walk across the island towards the sound of surf led us to a beautiful beach. We were walking along the beach when a foreign couple approached saying that a man with a machete had tried to rob them, but they were able to run away. Suddenly. I regretted bringing my camera. We stopped walking for some time. We swam, did hand stands, and drank beer. Eventually, the allure of discovery won over and we continued along the deserted beach.
On my extensive travels, I often have a specific image in my mind when I’m shooting. Sometimes, the search for this image blinds me from all the other potential shots present. It’s refreshing to go out with no expectations and see what organically appears. When I saw locals on horseback approaching, I sank into the jungle looking for a frame to contain them as they passed. They had ridden the muddy trail, and were headed to the far end of the island to go hunting.This long strip of sand is interrupted occasionally by large trees overhanging into the ocean. They are a natural jungle gym, and soon we were climbing all over them. From the trunk of a tree,I realized there was a good shot and picked up the camera again. I tilted the LCD to get super low to the ground and avoided wallowing around myself.As my friend Laura was working on a new route for this particular tree, I switch on the Cinematic Mode; it’s accessible on your camera by turning the mode dial to CH and holding down the shutter release button. As it’s clicking away, I’m able to make slight adjustments to the composition. But, I’m mostly waiting on the subject to look at their best. Yes, it fills a memory card really fast. That’s why I use Lexar 128s, so I don’t have to worry about changing cards very often.Beyond the beach, we came across some boys walking around with machetes. They seemed to be out honing their skills with these essential jungle tools. One boy was carefully opening a coconut to drink the water. I sat my X-T1 on the ground near his feet, using the tilting LCD to compose. It must be great to grow up in a land where snacks fall readily from the trees.In the evening, we returned home to discover the hunt had been successful. It’s rare that I do a trip with no photographic objective. It’s refreshing to travel light and go with the flow – and it’s authentic and easy to capture with FUJIFILM X Series. On to the next adventure!