The Best Camera …

… is the one you have with you.  Years ago when I attended a two-day seminar with renowned photographer John Shaw, he made this comment about tripods, in answer to someone’s query about what were the best tripods–meaning, if you buy some fancy piece of gear that’s so heavy and complicated you’re discouraged from taking it along most of the time, it’s not doing you much good compared to something of more modest proportions that you’d be more motivated to use.

Same thing is true with cameras. Now, don’t get me wrong! I’m not advocating that you go out and sell your DSLRs and buy only a tiny point-and-shoot in the $100 range. But there are times when the DSLR may be impractical to carry around–to your day job, for example–and thus to supplement the larger camera for those times when portability and size are major factors, I encourage you to purchase a compact camera. Again, if you’re reasonably serious about your photography, cheapo will defeat your purpose. I own two Canon Powershot G11s–one as my main street photography machine and one (as described in my last blog) for infrared work. But when I want even more portability than this–i.e., a machine that I can take anywhere, just in case–then my little Canon Powershot S90 is my trusted friend. (I bought it used just around the time its successor, the S95, was coming out.) (The S90 is also great for street work where discretion–all right, relative invisibility–is of the utmost importance, but that’s for aother blog.) 

“Anywhere” means a walk around Mill Pond near where I live, but it also means something that travels back and forth to my day job in my briefcase. I work in the beautiful suburban landscape of northern NJ and sometimes the animal life that shows up is interesting–everything from turkey vultures to a young coyote and, recently,  a frighteningly enormous raccoon. But aside from the animals, the weather sometimes provides remarkable photo ops. Last week a positively sky-darkening, drenching rainstorm came our way. I turned off my office lights (including the computer screen), closed my office door, and aimed the S90 out the window. Originally it wasn’t my intention to try for blurred abstracts a la William Neill, but inevitably, that happened; the exposure time was so long, it was easy to experiment with moving the camera while the shutter was open.

I’m attaching three results for you to see. One is a straightforward shot of the raindrop patterns on the window (not easy to get the correct focus with a compact, I must say) and the other two were achieved with camera blur. Normally I’m not a great fan of extensive shooting during the monotonous green of late-ish summer, but under these conditions it served me well. It reminded me of my film days (remember film?): “This scene has been brought to you by Fujichrome Velvia.” Hey, it was good enough for Galen Rowell …

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