“The best camera is the one at hand” and “creativity thrives on limitations”, these are a few of the thoughts I was turning around in my head about photography as we got ready to roll across England. Though I knew there’d be good chances for some nice images, I left the big camera on the shelf and took the small one.
The real art to photography, with kudos to JFK, is not figuring out how to bend your camera to your demands, but how to bend your demands to your camera. Certain cameras do certain things very well, even while they can fare quite poorly at others. The trick, then, is to know what any given camera does well and then exploit the niche(s). Vision is more malleable than hardware.
That said, there’s also a case to be made for getting your hands on quality media. In this case I tried to strike a balance by taking a bit of time and setting up a little point-and-shoot Canon (IXUS 100IS) with CHDK (Canon Hacker’s Development Kit) so that it could output RAW images. The whole setup was pretty painless – a half hour of my time and suddenly I had a point and shoot that coughed up image files that were entirely unaltered by the camera’s software. Sweet.
Point and shoot cameras outperform almost all other type of cameras in one category: convenience. In the case of the Canon on this trip, a major plus was that I could carry it in my jacket pocket while on the move. This meant it could be quick at hand, and was also light enough to easily film and shoot from on the bike. Finding the opportunity and time to make images while trying to complete the ride, flaunt the weather, and navigate was another challenge altogether, but at least the possibility was there.
Day one was grand. We started out by sprinting into the Irish Sea in anticipation of ending up at the North Sea 36 hours later, and I was able to grab a few quick shots and video in an easy-going fun kind of way. Out on the road, the camera was right there toward the end of the day when we were laying it down through a wide river valley and the late light got right. There’s a kind of simplicity to a small and unassuming camera that is so refreshing, and I was loving it.
Unfortunately, my newfound freedom was short-lived. Not long after the start of the second day, a lens error of some sort waylaid me and so my grand little experiment was cut sufferingly short. Yet I have to say that it was a tantalizing taste of photographic pocket power, so to speak, and entirely worthwhile despite the setback. Post-processing the shots that I did mange to make has been pretty deluxe. Loading them up in Lightroom and working with them is a real pleasure – fantastic control over exposure, fill light, white balance, all the benefits of working with RAW files instead of .jpegs.
Overall, I was reminded of how much fun small cameras are (also see iPhone photography craze). Second – and maybe we’ll see more of this in the future – the benefits of working with RAW files out of any camera regardless of its size or complexity are both significant and desirable. Perhaps there will be more opportunities along these lines in the future, assuming one keeps a camera close at hand.
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