I have just returned from a trip to Baltimore, Maryland.
Often in June, depending where it is held, I attend the American Academy Of Sleep Medicine meetings. This year they were scheduled for Baltimore, which is a surprisingly short drive from my Northern Pennsylvania home.
I’ve had many pleasant trips to the city in the past. Though I initially hoped that my wife would accompany me on the trip, her work schedule prevented her from joining me, and I was forced to go alone. Thus I would need something to do with my free time.
Early June is a pretty good time to visit the Chesapeake region, as often the temperatures and humidity have not risen to uncomfortable levels. Such was the case on my trip. I arrived Sunday, shortly before a cold front came through, which on the back side yielded bright blue skies and temperatures in the seventies. It was cool enough, at least on the water, for a light jacket.
Though this was not purely a photographic trip, I knew that I would want some gear along to occupy my off hours. I decided on the Fuji X Pro 1 with multiple lenses for more deliberative photography, and the Fujifilm X100s, as my companion for street shooting.
I pretty much carried the X100s everywhere, including into the conference. I took a lot of images even in the product exhibition hall, before discovering there was a strict rule against this, to the point where they would threaten to eject you, and confiscate your “film”. The problem with enforcing this is that everyone had a camera in the form of their cell phone, and I saw many people photographing new products, that perhaps they wanted to remember, or even included a presentation. Hell, one of the exhibitors had a Nikon DSLR in hand, and appeared to be shooting a lot of images. The X100s was wonderful in this setting because of its stealth and its low light capabilities.
I have noticed, that compared to its predecessor the X 100, the X100s appears to have a decreased battery life. This had been annoying to me before the trip, but I learned that if you keep the camera off (and not rely on the auto shut off feature), that the battery life was quite tolerable. I did not need to change a battery over the three days of the trip (probably shooting 150 frames).
Anyone remotely interested photography who sees the Fuji X cameras, is fascinated by them. They often assume that I am shooting film.
I took the opportunity to travel about. Part of this was in search of meals, as the locals I encountered would generally send me out of the “Inner Harbor” neighborhood for the best restaurants. Perhaps they are “seafood snobs” as I did have several good meals in restaurants overlooking the Harbor, including perhaps the best mussels I’ve eaten my life. I don’t believe I’ve never had a bad seafood meal in the Chesapeake region.
It was a modest walk from my hotel, to the Federal Hill neighborhood of the city. There, a large park occupies a flat-topped hill overlooking the Harbor, once used as a vantage point for cannons, which would have been the final defense for the city from the British in 1812. The neighborhood features brick row homes, of an early 19th century vintage, quite similar to my old neighborhood in the Society Hill section of Philadelphia.
The neighborhood was positively festooned with quaint cafes and public houses (which is never a bad thing). Having stopped in a restaurant in the neighborhood, I was reminded by my server that in the Chesapeake region, they were having a particularly good soft-shell crab season. She served me an appetizer that deliciously proved her point.
The above image was shot inadvertently at ISO 1250 which required a shutter speed of 1/10th with the lens at f2.8. This points out some good and bad features of the X Pro 1. The good: that the combination of lens stabilization, and the lack of a mirror, allowed me to shoot a sharp image, at relatively slow shutter speeds. The bad: the lack of an effective auto iso control on the X Pro 1 (as opposed to the feature on the X100s) means that I have to pay attention when switching cameras, remembering to alter the iso setting manually on the X Pro 1 as the lighting changes.
On another day, I made use of the water taxi service, both to gain another photographic vantage on the harbor, but also to visit Fort McHenry, which is preserved by the National Park System, for its role in the war of 1812. As you may well remember, the fort served as the primary, outer perimeter defense of Baltimore Harbor. It was the sight of the American flag being raised over the fort, after the British Fleet was sent packing that inspired Francis Scott Key, to write the Star Spangled Banner. The fort served many purposes since that battle, including as a hospital for wounded in World War One. Sometime in the early part of the 20th century, it was restored to a condition near to that, when the famous battle occurred.
In order to get to the fort, you have to stop to change boats at Fells Point, a neighborhood of Baltimore famous in the early 1800’s for privateers: civilian ships and crews, who were sanctioned by our government to raid British shipping. This is another quaint historic neighborhood that if anything, looks a little older than that at Federal Hill.
It was also quite gentrified, again with bars, B+B’s art galleries, and quite honestly more bars. Your water taxi ticket gives you two-for-one beer coupons for many of the establishments. This makes it extremely important to remember that there are no “facilities” on the boat for the ride home.
As a whole , this city is a wonderful location for photography. It is obvious that it has been developed in such a way that it is pleasant to view from the water, in a much more intimate way than for instance, New York. There is a varied architectural themes throughout the city, all of which makes it visually stimulating, and quite interesting to photograph. And the people are very friendly and proud of where they live.
Baltimore is a lovely place to visit. I think the best months for a trip, might be mid to late May, and for September/October, all months when the schools are still in session, the crowds reasonable, and the temperatures moderate.
And, best of all, it’s soft-shell season.