Lighter Weight Photography Solutions
On my morning walk I only took a 50mm lens for my camera, but I still managed to get these images. I managed to prepare these views by using a lot of cropping and resizing … but it worked. The fly was small and the ducks were really too far away, but I wanted to see what I could achieve.
I wasn’t using a longer zoom lens since I was trying to “go light” and take pictures with one hand. My back and legs were giving me trouble and I was walking with a cane in my left hand while I used a sling strap to carry the camera. I turned the camera on and set the aperture at f/2.8 with auto ISO when I left the house; therefore, all I had to do to take a picture was raise the camera up to my eye and push the shutter button. The Canon 70D with the 50mm lens is light enough that I can manage it with one hand. It really isn’t light in weight but is manageable with the good handgrip.
Using my biggest and best camera with prime lenses is a way to reduce the weight to a minimum. I use my 24mm pancake lens as well as the 50mm lens to be able to get quality images and reduce the weight; but, I have something else I plan to try. I have ordered a Nikon 1 J5 camera to see what I can do with it. The camera and lenses for it are very small and light in weight, but it only has a one-inch sensor. I want to see if the smaller size and lighter weight off-set the loss in image quality (IQ). I am assuming that it will have lower IQ, but the only way to evaluate the trade-off is try if for a period of time and see what I can do with its raw images.
I took lots of pictures at Homewood’s Bazaar last Saturday. I will give those pictures to the staff here for use in in-house publications, etc. Above are two of my favorites which I feel comfortable in posting. I am not fond of what I call “snap-shots” or pictures that others are likely to have taken. I prefer the challenge of making something different out of my photography of events here. This includes making images that don’t impose on the privacy of those who live here unless they don’t mind. Those who live here should know the people in these pictures. Do you recognize them?
It is raining this morning, but it is much-needed and appreciated by the plants. At the moment I’m not doing much except thinking about what, and how, things have changed.
I started my photography to record my memories of travels to other countries. I then got interested in travel photography and wrote about my views relative to techniques, cameras, and lenses. But, I haven’t traveled outside the U.S. in the last three years.
I then got interested in the concept of finding what I could photograph close to home, really close by just walking about with various cameras and lenses. But, I have now done so much of that that it has become repetitive and I have lost interest.
I tried heading out with specific photographic interests in mind as I looked for specific types of shots. Mostly those efforts were related to trying out different cameras and lenses under different circumstances or trying different styles of processing the images. Since I haven’t been acquiring new cameras lately, that kind of photography has mostly stopped.
In search of additional things, and ways to photograph, I have photographed more events and happenings here within Homewood; but that hasn’t been too productive since I can’t use the majority of those images in my blog due to privacy concerns.
My main concern now is what’s next. I have gotten busier with volunteer efforts here within Homewood and with doctor visits, general chores around the house, etc. so one option is to just let my photography taper off. Since I don’t find this option appealing, I will still look for other ideas. I am hoping to concentrate on finding just a few photographic styles even if it means publishing fewer images and blog articles. My problem now is to determine what, where, and when to photograph. It might turn out to be odd things, times, and places. Or it might be a return to details of everyday scenes. Or it might continue to be a hodgepodge of images. But, too many might’s often lead to nothing.
Aging Photographers … Lighten Up
There are several techniques that aging photographers can adopt so that they can keep on photographing after they no longer wish to carry or hold their heavy DSLR camera. They can switch to lighter, smaller prime lenses and change what they photograph; i.e. stop photographing wildlife with big heavy long zoom lenses. Or, they can switch to smaller lighter cameras with smaller sensors. Even Saul Leiter moved “down” to micro 4/3 cameras and he hadn’t been shooting with a heavy DSLR camera or long heavy zoom lenses. I have mentioned these techniques before as I adopted them. This article is about a third scheme … using a lighter, smaller entry-level DSLR with a prime lens in order to cut weight.
One characteristic that I have noticed with my arthritic hands is that a lighter camera-lens combination is a big help but having a lighter camera-lens combination with a good hand-grip and buttons that aren’t too small or too close together is even better. In addition, I thought that an appropriate hand grip would compensate for a little more camera weight. For that reason I ordered a Nikon D3300 camera with a 35 mm prime lens to try. My hope was that the hand grip would compensate for the heavier camera with an APS size sensor and lenses and mirror. My motive for trying this approach was that I wanted to get a little better image quality in low light than I can get with my micro 4/3 sensor camera. I also hoped that the 24 MP sensor would enable me to do more crop-zooming with the 35 mm f/1.8 DX lens.
Well, I tried this third approach and rejected it. I didn’t find that the larger sensor was much better and I didn’t like the focus capability of the D3300. It focused fast enough in good light but it needed to use the focus assist light in low light and I didn’t like shining a small spot light on my subjects. The real killer was that the 35 mm lens back-focused about an inch. Having this problem along with the camera-lens combination being larger with few external controls was too much to warrant me keeping it. I returned it.
Another more subtle problem was that I didn’t find the cheap quality of the camera to be pleasing. I need to like my cameras. They have to feel and look like they have been well-engineered and constructed. I think I have learned a few lessons. One, I am done with the DSLR cameras and their large lenses. I have sold mine with a few attempts to try others one more time, but this was the last time. Two, going cheaper is not the solution.
Never the Same Again
I was reading a news article about the shooting down of the Malaysian airliner over the Ukraine. The article was about how it would never be the same again in reference to Russia and that area of the world and went on to compare the recent event to the shooting of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, whose assassination 100 years ago sparked World War I.
Is it ever the same? Isn’t each and every day different? Things are never the same and unfortunately it seems that they just get worse. This applies to deaths by gun fire in the U.S., to politics, to the wars fostered by different religious beliefs, to migrations of people running from violence in their countries, and to global climate change.
Plan for change … it will never be the same again.
Demise of Photography … Symptom of Larger Changes
Camera sales are dropping significantly. One reason for this drop is that cell phone cameras have replaced the point & shoot (P&S) cameras, and this is correct for as far as it goes. You can see this drop in charts like Thom shows in his web site. He is primarily addressing the problems and his solutions for Nikon, but it applies to most manufacturers, but varies in degree. And while cell phone cameras might be replacing some DSLRs, mirrorless cameras, etc., I don’t think that is the primary cause for their drop in sales nor do I think Thom’s solutions will solve the problem.
I think there is another cause for the drop in sales, at least in the United States, that I haven’t seen mentioned. That is the demise of the middle-class and the change in their hobbies. As the rich get richer and the number who are poor get larger, the size of the middle-class gets smaller. On top of the shrinking numbers of middle-class, their hobbies are changing. The younger generation no longer sews, knits, cooks, cuts their own lawns, gardens, or pursues photography, etc. They just play games on their cell phones, tablets, laptops, etc. or cruise the internet. They are no longer as creative or self-sufficient as many folks were in the past.
Another place where you can see the effect of this change in the middle-class is in restaurants. Not only do they no longer have the time or interest to cook for themselves, they don’t even wish to take the time to sit down in a restaurant and order from a fixed menu. They go to a cheaper fast food drive-through and take it with them, or order it for delivery, so they can continue with texting and playing on their cell phones. That is why restaurants like Red Lobster and Olive Garden are struggling in many parts of the country.
Another place you can see this effect is in commercial stores. Rather than drive to a store to purchase items, they just order them over the internet and have them delivered.
The middle-class and the growing poorer folks no longer have the time or money or interest for photography or lots of things. They are working multiple jobs just to survive. They cannot afford hobbies like photography; therefore, they are not buying cameras and lenses. The drop in camera sales is just one symptom of far larger changes within our economy and culture.
Future of (my) Photography
In the beginning, my blog was mostly about travel photography. Then it was anything I could find to photograph close at home as I “practiced”. Now I don’t know what to do next.
I use to be interested in documentary photography. This actually started long ago when I would look at war pictures in old Life magazines. Now I am appalled at what I see in documentary conflict photography.
I took to studying travel photography while traveling with groups when I had to be quick to capture all that I saw. It was/is similar to documentary photography.
I started blogging so that I could share my travel pictures with those I traveled with and family, but few were interested. I then started writing about what I learned as I tried different equipment and learned more. That has pretty much ground to a halt since I’m not buying and trying much anymore. Over time I kept obtaining better cameras and lenses. A lot of my blog articles then became about various technical aspects of the gear. Now I have reached a point where I can’t blame my deficiencies on gear, it is all on me. In fact, the qualities of my cameras exceed my needs, especially if I don’t go somewhere to take pictures.
I have looked at a lot of different genres of photography hoping to see something that I could pursue. I have looked for something that I could write about and take pictures and post about frequently … something that would keep me busy and interested. I haven’t found it yet.
Maybe I will start a new photography genre … boredom. They could be images of anything common around the house or wherever I go … along the street or maybe in the stores. It might be the evolution of my practice photography. I’ll just call it something different. Maybe rather than “boredom” photography I’ll call it contemplative photography. Oh, that already exists. Hmmm, I wonder what the contemplative photographers would think.
This genre also seems to fit most of the “phone photography” images of others … lots and lots of images of whatever exists in front of them. It is slowly dawning on me that this is what I have done … photographed whatever I saw. It is just that my images changed over the years depending on what I did or where I went. Should I call it boredom or contemplative photography? Probably the term “life photography” fits better.
I know that I’m rambling but it is because I don’t know where I’m going, but maybe that is alright. Well it might be alright for me but I’m not sure about you. You may get quite bored at times depending upon what I photograph. But then, you have an option. You can move on even if I can’t seem to do it. The more I think about it, my photography is just about life, my life. It is just me capturing whatever I see, moment by moment, or day by day. If it becomes bland or boring, it will be because I am getting more narrow in terms of what I see, where I go, etc., or that I am repeating images. What you see is what you’ll get.
Power of Photography
This scene will never, ever, repeat itself. The exact same conditions will never occur again. The clouds and angle of light will never appear exactly like this again. Time flows on and is never repeated. This image will never be made by anyone else. Never. That is one of the joys that I get from photography. I saw something that no one else saw, or ever will see, and I froze the unique moment of time in a picture. Such is the power of photography.
Camera for Arthritic Hands
In my opinion the Fujifilm X cameras have the best controls and the best image quality and the best lenses for the money. My current X-E1 satisfies my needs better than any others I have owned; but I am now wondering about the future.
Lately I have had multiple problems that are putting a damper on my photography. The arthritis in my hands has been particularly bad, I had a touch of the flu, and the weather has prevented me from walking, so I have used my time to concentrate on the arthritis issue since it is the only one affected by the camera and the others will resolve themselves in time.
At one time I owned a Pentax K-5 and multiple large lenses; but I sold it and went in search of a lighter camera due to the difficulties I was having holding it. After a few trials of other cameras, I finally arrived at the Fujifilm X-E1 as being the best compromise in quality vs. ergonomics vs. cost … with the image quality and cost being the decisive factors. It weighted a lot less than the K-5 and my hands quit getting any worse.
Now that my hands are bothering me a lot more, I am realizing that I’m on a one-way trip and that they may continue to get worse in a non-linear fashion. I decided that I should look for something lighter with better ergonomics. I have over the years tried lots of smaller, lighter micro 4/3 cameras. They were easier to hold due to their size and the much reduced weight of their lenses, but I did not like their low light image qualities.
One obvious realization was that most of the weight and handling issues with current cameras are the lenses. That is what makes micro 4/3 such a good camera if you are not photographing in low light. When I started looking for a camera with better low light capabilities, I found that I needed to stay with APS size, or larger, sensors; but they all need larger, heavier weight lenses. One solution is to adapt your photography to shorter focal lengths; i.e. give up the longer, heavier zoom lenses and switch to a few prime lenses. I have tried that. In addition, at one time I had a zoom lens with an effective 600 mm focal length capability. I am now down to an effective 300 mm and am using it less and less. My current most used lenses are prime lenses with effective focal lengths of 40.5 and 52.5 mm … my 27 mm pancake lens and my 35 mm lens for my X-E1. I use them due to their smaller size and lower weight and partially compensate for their shorter focal length range by zoom-cropping a lot of my images.
My current problem is that I have already exploited the above solutions. What is next? I could also give up some low-light capability but I am reluctant to go very far in this direction since most of my photography is in low light situations. I could also switch to using a tripod with longer shutter times but that is not very feasible because of my conditions and shooting style.
I decided to take another look at several camera systems. Seeing that the lower cost DSLRs had nice hand-grips and cost a lot less, I have tried the Pentax K-50 and the Canon T3i. I liked their hand grips, especially since the cameras also cost less than the X-E1, but I returned them since I wasn’t sure either of them was the one for me. What I did decide was that I could handle a heavier camera with greater ease if it had a good hand-grip.
When Nikon announced the new lightweight D3300, I decided to order one and try it. My objective in trying it is to be able to pair it with the very good lightweight 35 mm prime lens and then increase my ability to crop zoom with the 24 MP sensor. If it works well enough for me, I could keep it along with the X-E1 and primarily use the X-E1 in the low-light indoor situations and during the times when I need to hang it from around my neck under a jacket … at least that is my current plan. I probably won’t get the D3300 for another 3 or 4 weeks, but I at least have something to think about while I’m waiting for warmer weather. Below is a table that shows the differences in the factors that can be quantified. The weight and price include the camera and kit lens and the camera weights include batteries and cards.
I also need to point out that these cameras have different strengths and weaknesses, but the benefits are hard to quantify. If you go to this web site, camerasize.com, you can pick various cameras and not only compare their weights and size but also different views. You can see how the hand-grip and location of controls, etc. might affect your own needs.
After I have tried them all, I’ll let you know how, and hopefully why, my selection works for me … and maybe you. I will be making my decision on how easily I can hold them, their image qualities, and their cost. But, I have two strong conditions to overcome that probably don’t apply to your case. I already have an X-E1 and thus the cheapest solution is to just continue to use it. Second, I have a strong preference to use just one make of camera due to the advantages of not having to learn two different systems and then switching back and forth. If I obtain and keep any of the others it has to overcome these issues.
My photography is my hobby. It is what keeps me thinking and helps fill up my time. If I am not taking pictures or working on pictures I am usually reading about photography on the web; but that isn’t enough. I started this blog to create another avenue for keeping busy; but it still isn’t enough.
What I photograph depends upon three factors. One, I find that I need to like the camera and lens combination. I have to like to use it. The weight, ergonomics, build-quality, etc. need to feel right in my hands. When I go out to gather photographs I carry my camera in my hand most of the time but I use a strap around the wrist or neck for safety reasons in case I drop the camera (it has happened).
The second ingredient is a suitable subject. I like to make lots of pictures on a daily basis but I don’t like to have to travel far to find them. During the last two years the bulk of my pictures have been made while walking about the grounds here at Homewood at Plum Creek. Since I don’t photograph many people in the interests of privacy, I find that my subjects are very limited. I mostly have to photograph mini landscapes and the sky if I use the images on my blog.
The final factor is that I need to be interested in the complete process of making the picture. It needs to be fun for me. Since probably the easiest part of photography is taking the picture, I concentrate on seeing the image as I walk about and then on discovering the picture within the picture as I develop it on my computer.
The above two images are representative of my preferred photography. While taking one of my recent daily walks I took around a dozen pictures. The two above were parts of color pictures of a much larger area. When I looked at them on my computer I wasn’t interested in what I saw. They were just the same old scenes that I saw almost every day.
One other part of the “interest factor” is simplicity or minimalism. I tend to prefer simple scenes that aren’t too cluttered. When confronted with a large image my first reaction is to look for the “picture within the picture”. I start cropping out subsections of the original picture and then I try various techniques in the development process to eliminate the clutter and confusion. One of my favorite techniques is to eliminate the color. I try to draw your eye to the element of the image that first attracted me to take the original picture.
Now you know what I most currently prefer to do with my photography … make images that others didn’t see:
- Make pictures that can be taken with a hand-held camera that is easy to carry on my walks.
- Find subjects within walking distance of my home.
- And use my processing to find and make the image within the picture … images that most wouldn’t have seen the way I saw it, even if they had been standing right next to me when I took the picture.
Some refer to this type of photography as contemplative photography. If you are interested in seeing what others do in this genre, take a look at this web site.
Do I also like to make other photographs? Yes, but I have drifted to the above situation because of the confluence of the events of aging, location, economics, etc.
Does this mean that is the only type of pictures I will show in my blog? No. I have another over-riding urge and that is to make pictures every day and I don’t usually find the kind I most prefer to make; therefore, I will still occasionally take the more common “snapshots” of whatever goes on around Homewood and use them to fill-in between the images I most enjoy to make.
Getting back to something I mentioned in the first paragraph … my current level of photography isn’t enough to occupy all of my available time. In addition, I am finding it harder and harder to find subjects to photograph under the limitations I have alluded to above. I need to find new opportunities to make pictures and to expand my interests.
While I have several ideas in mind, they all have a downside. Most of them will not expand my immediate opportunities to create pictures for this blog; therefore, the frequency of my blog posts might go down and become more erratic. My goals will be to find additional outlets for my time that eventually lead to additional photographic opportunities; but in the interim, I should be able to continue to post photographs even though they might be less frequent. Don’t be alarmed if you see gaps in my posting. It will be because I’m exploring other things.