It’s not often that I ever get around to actually writing a photography blog, but when I do it’s probably because we either went somewhere or did something amazing, or I got some new photog gear to write about. In this case it’s both, Turks and Caicos island with the new full-frame Canon EOS RP, dubbed the “World’s Best Mirrorless Camera” by independent (and infamous) photo blogger Ken Rockwell.
My workhorse camera over the past few years has been the “crop-frame” APS-C Canon 7D Mark II, along with a Fuji X100F for more casual photography, but I’ve been longing to get back to full-frame photography for quite some time. Crop-frame cameras are great, but they’re just not the same as full-frame. I won’t bore anyone in this blog with gear rationale, going from full-frame to APS-C and back, or from DSLR to mirrorless and blah blah blah, because then I’d never get to the actual photos or our Turks and Caicos vacation. So for now, simply enjoy some fantastic photos of a stunningly beautiful place along with some “pro-tips”, and I’ll get to the system building and transitioning stuff another day!
Getting Back to Island Time
The last time we’d been to the islands was just Debbie and I to St Lucia in 2012. This was our first real getaway together after my cancer diagnosis and fight in 2011, and it was exactly what we needed, and another stunningly beautiful place. It’d been far too long, so we were all really looking forward to this as a larger group. Between hectic work and travel schedules and being pretty burned out, we uncharacteristically had zero advanced day-to-day itinerary planned as far as where to go and what to do. That’s pretty unusual for us, so I brought a bit more photo gear than usual and planned to just trim down as needed based on whatever we planned to do on a given day.
This right here was all I really needed. Luckily I’m already pretty much set for lenses, as I used to shoot full-frame with the Canon 5D Mark II from 2010 to 2015, until I switched over to the crop-frame 7D Mark II. My Canon 17-40mm f/4L ultra-wide zoom and Canon 70-200mm f/4L (non-IS) telephoto zoom covered 90% of the photos on this trip, with the little Canon 40mm f/2.8 pancake lens able to cover the rest, along with a compact Canon 220EX flash as needed. All this fits perfectly in my ThinkTank Retrospective 5 bag, doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb, and isn’t so heavy that you’ll tire of carrying everything. I’ve always liked high-performance yet lightweight photography setups not just because heavy gear isn’t any fun to carry, but because for years after my cancer fight I suffered from chronic fatigue issues, and physically couldn’t carry that much without it wearing me out! This setup right here was no problem at all to carry, and delivered extremely pleasing results!
Turks and Caicos actually consists of 8 main islands, but because of numerous family members being prone to motion sickness, we elected to stay only on Providenciales (Provo), and didn’t do any half or full day excursions via either boat or air to the other islands. Maybe another time, but there’s plenty to do in Provo!
Long Bay Beach
After some initial recovery and dinner the first night with a friend who happened to be in Turks and Caicos at the same time, our first order of business was to hit the beach, obviously! We slept in the first full day, but for some reason Debbie was thinking that it was “too hot” to go out on the beach after lunch when we finally came to and needed to wait. Nonsense! It was only in the low-80’s, and there was a nice breeze which made it feel just about perfect.
Long Bay Beach was spectacular! We’d never been to a beach where the water was crystal clear like this and seemingly went on for miles off shore. We saw people easily a mile offshore standing in this same water, and this is actually one of the premier kite sailing places in the world with tons of open space and water just 2-3 feet deep. It was spectacular. St Lucia further to the south and east in the Caribbean was stunningly beautiful in its own ways, but if there’s one thing not to like about St Lucia it was that it just doesn’t have nice beaches like these as a volcanic island.
Sunset Dining at magnolia restaurant and wine bar
For dinner after our first full day on Turks and Caicos, we went to the Magnolia restaurant for dinner since it had a nice sunset view off of their deck. The food was excellent, but check the full photo album for those. The view was great, especially right at sunset.
Sunrise at Long Bay Beach
I couldn’t be out on the islands with a brand new camera and not get up early for some sunrise photos, so I got up at 5:45am twice and wasn’t disappointed. Long Bay Beach was just a 5 minute drive from our AirBnB and on the proper side of the island, so very easy to get to.
It would have been fun to have my Canon 100-400L II lens for both the sunrise and sunset photos, but it’s absolutely no fun to lug that beastly lens around on vacation when you’re just trying to relax and unwind. In comparison, the 70-200mm f/4L is a faction of the size and weight, and absolutely painless to carry around, so that’s what I went with. If I want tighter crops on any of the telephoto shots, 26MP on the sensor is plenty to work with in the vast majority of cases, so I didn’t miss my 400mm for this.
Grace Bay at Seven Star Resort
Since we rented an AirBnB type place for all six of us, which was way cheaper than a trio of hotel rooms, we didn’t have access to any amenities at any of the resort areas, but you can get day passes at area resorts when space is available that give you access to everything a regular resort guess would have except a room. These tend to be pricey, but at $100 per adult and $50 per child, the Seven Star Resort day pass in Grace Bay was pretty reasonable by Turks and Caicos standards.
I saw Chalk Sound from out the window of our Southwest flight on the way in to Providenciales and didn’t even know what it was, but thought it looked fantastic. It’s a large lagoon that’s mostly less than 5 feet deep that has this beautiful turquoise color to it, so a drive through Chalk Sound Drive was definitely in order. Let’s just say that land development in Turks and Caicos isn’t always coordinated. Private luxury homes and a lack of official look out points make it difficult to see, but it’s worth it for sure. I know I’ve seen the view in the first two photos below in some magazine before.
Sunset at Leeward Beach
After taking in Chalk Sound and a failed attempt to find out how to get to Taylor Bay Beach, we had lunch and then took naps, and went over to Leeward Beach, which has a nice view towards the west to take in the sunset.
Taylor Bay Beach
Taylor Bay beach is pristine, and when you finally find your way to it you almost feel like you’re on some deserted island beach in the south Pacific somewhere. It just feels special, which is probably why the locals try so hard to keep the general public and commoners like us out of it. While all beaches are public in Turks and Caicos, the wealthy homeowners in this area have blocked off all of the land access, have signs threatening to tow cars away, and have blocked paths down to the beach. Google satellite view helped us find our way down, and once we were there it was spectacular.
Dinner at Coco Bistro
For our last night in Turks and Caicos, Debbie and I went on a “date night” to Coco Bistro while her sister watched our kids for us (they really don’t need much watching anymore). I don’t think anybody goes to Turks and Caicos for the food, but there’s actually some pretty good places to eat on Provo, even if prices are pretty high. This was one advantage of renting an AirBnB place, because it had a full kitchen that let us do some cooking and our own meal prep, so we really only ate out once per day.
And that’s a wrap! Be sure to check out the FULL ALBUM below.
capsule Review of the Canon EOS RP
I love it! It’s a brilliant camera, and I love shooting full frame again. The ranges of all of my full-frame lenses make perfect sense again and I get to experience them in all of their glory. I love the look of a full-frame camera with the older generation of lenses developed in the film era.
When I first got the RP with the free introductory Canon promo EG-E1 grip I couldn’t believe how tiny it was, but after shooting with it for a month now I can’t believe what a massive brick my 7D Mark II feels like! The tiny LP-E17 battery and battery life in general was a big concern for me, but I managed all day battery life while out and about by keeping the rear LCD turned around and closed, and just using the EVF, which is actually better battery life than my 7D Mark II with the bigger LP-E6N.
I love being able to get the exposure and color exactly the way I want it in the EVF, and being able to review accurately and instantly even in bright conditions, something that’s nearly impossible with a DSLR. I don’t have much if any time to sit and post-process images, so being able to get things exactly right much more consistently right in the EVF as I’m shooting is a huge plus.
I’m definitely missing the joystick controller for driving AF points, which I’m used to from both my previous 5D Mark II and 7D Mark II cameras for the past 10 years. I’m having trouble developing the muscle memory for the RP method of using the top and rear control wheels to drive the AF sensors, but I’ll get it with time. The autofocus definitely isn’t good enough to keep up with our dog and other fast action type situations, so I’ll probably be holding onto my 7D Mark II for situations that require better autofocus performance and faster frame rates.
I’ll write more in the future about the RP and slowly rebuilding my Canon system around it, but for now I’m just happy to have a full-frame camera again. The Canon EOS RP is fantastic!