Taking A Camera Everywhere

For the past 20 years one thing I’ve made sure I do is to take a camera with me wherever I go. For the longest time this has meant lugging a not-so-light camera bag everywhere.

These days smartphones mean that you don’t necessarily have to do that, but my experience with smartphones so far suggests that it’s still worth lugging around a weighty bag, just in case. This isn’t a reflection on the quality of smartphone cameras so much as a reflection on my choice of smartphones. My phone is cheap and the camera on it isn’t really all that amazing. Honestly, the camera wasn’t the main consideration when I bought my phone, specifically because I take a camera everywhere with me.

As well as a smartphone I also have a couple of GoPros, a bridge camera and a DSLR, and I even have a dashcam recording every mile in my car. I believe I’ve become addicted to documenting everything that happens, or at the very least having the ability to document everything at all times.

Though it occasionally is a happy accident, not every photo that I take is intended as a work of art. My photography in general has two main facets, one of which is artistic expression and the other which is documentary. Occasionally, and I think these are my favourite photos of my own, my photographs are both. This probably makes sense because, to my mind at least, the best photographs are those which convey a story with an emotion attached, or which invoke an emotion related to the story by virtue of its expressive nature – artistry, if you will.

Not all cameras are created equal. Although the latest GoPro cameras are able to store still images in RAW format, most smartphones and bridge cameras only save images in JPG format. RAW image formats contain significantly more detailed information captured by a camera sensor than JPG, but the extra data results in significantly larger file sizes in an image format which can’t be shared on Facebook, Instagram etc.

For purely documentary photography JPGs are generally adequate, but if your intention is to create art from your documentary photography, beyond very minor contrast/brightness tweaks, then it’s likely that you will want to edit your images after the fact. To do that most effectively requires that you shoot in RAW.

Of the cameras that I own, only my DSLR currently has the ability to store images in RAW format. And because every photograph I shoot, whether documentary or artistic, I want to have the option to create art with, it’s probably inevitable that I will continue to carry a heavy camera bag and lots of lenses everywhere I go.

Drip!

At this time of year there isn’t much light about, even in the middle of the day when the sun is as high as it gets. Photography can get a bit frustrating when you’ve been out shooting, get home only to discover in Lightroom or Bridge that all the images you captured, that you were initially quite excited about, have slight motion blur in them due to low shutter speed. By the end of November, you’re feeling pretty demoralised, and there are still four months of crappy light to go. This is the lot of the British photographer.

The lesson, of course, is to remember to take a tripod with you wherever you go. My tripod is great. It’s solid, able to bend and crouch and get into every situation I ever ask of it. But it’s heavy. Damn, is it heavy. I bought it before carbon fibre was really a thing, or at least an affordable thing. As a consequence it’s rare that I take my tripod out with me.

So we’re well into February and the days are getting longer, but the light is still a bit pants. The other night I decided to grab the tripod and camera, and stay in. The kitchen tap thus became the object of my obsession for half an hour, as I set up a single flash to backlight the tap, and attempted to time photos to capture droplets of water as they fell from the faucet.

17-55mm, 1/160 @ F/8, ISO 100

I used a Nikon D5100, Nikkor 17-55mm F/2.8 @ 55mm, F/8, 160th second. The flash was a cheap Yongnuo YN460 remotely triggered with a pair of RF603N IIs.

I took about 40 images, most of them mis-timed, even having switched to manual focus. The D5100 does have a bit of a delay on shutter release, but with the drip being fairly regular this wasn’t so much of a problem. The problem was my trigger-happy finger competing with a sluggish brain with no sense of rhythm. When all else fails, blame it on the dyspraxia. Ultimately, though, I got shots I was pleased with, and enough of them that were consistently good that the final image selection was not difficult.

As noted by my friend on Facebook, there is deformation in the large droplet. Comparing different shots, where the droplet had reached slightly different distances from the tap, it does appear that the droplet “wobbles” as it falls.

17-55mm, 1/160 @ F/8, ISO 100

This one’s probably half way to the sea by now.

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