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SCL Photography Podcast 32: Shoot With Something Different

SCL PodcastToday I talk about the benefits of using a camera that you fit in your pocket, and how using different cameras could improve your photography. (Apologies for the buzz half-way through, not sure where it came from!)

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Show notes:

Saturday Afternoon Kick-About: Half Time. 38 of 365. (Taken with 2.0mp Kodak Easyshare CX4230)
Saturday Afternoon Kick-About: Half Time. 38 of 365.

My Project 365 on Flickr

My Notes:

Feature: Shooting With Something Different

I'm going to start with an apology about today's subject - many of you may already have gone through the thought processes I've been struggling with over the last couple of weeks, so it may be old hat, or you may disagree with much of what I'm about to say, or it may seem obvious, but I'm starting to think that the cameras we use could well be limiting the type of photography we're creating - and that as photographers we need to question the tools and techniques that we use and recognise that it's good to try something different, even if we think it may not be technically better.

If you follow my Flickr photostream you'll know that I started a new project at the beginning of 2009 - with the aim being to take at least one photograph everyday and upload it to Flickr. At first I thought it would be easy. I tend to go out and shoot a lot anyway, so how hard could it be? Well, actually I have found it really difficult. You see, I have this routine when it comes to photography. I have this checklist I go through when I go out - batteries, lens, tripod, settings, you know the thing. I load up my camera gear into my bag, then head out to see what I can find. Now that's fine when I've got plenty of time, but what about when I'm out with the kids or the Mrs - shopping or playing? I feel naked if I don't have my bag with all my gear, which I have to admit isn't much, and anyway it's not practical to lug around a camera bag when you're going to be playing football down the local park, or are walking back from the shops with carrier bags full of groceries.

I could get a bit philosophical, and pine after all the shots I've missed when I didn't have my camera with me, but the truth is that if I didn't have my camera bag over my shoulder I wasn't really thinking about photography - and there's the problem. I've found that if I'm carrying my camera, I'm always on the look-out for shots, but if I haven't, I'm not.

But because I'd committed to this 365 photo's project, I can't afford to be like that - I needed to be in "photo" mode all the time, and now I understand that the only way that works for me is to have a camera on me.

So what was I to do? I love my Fujifilm S5700 S700, but it's simply too big to fit in my jacket pocket, and even if it did I'd be scared of braking it, as it's my main camera. The camera on my phone is really bad, it takes pictures the size of postage stamps, so instead I turned to my first digital camera, a Kodak Easyshare CX4230 - a compact with a 2 mega pixel sensor, 3 times optical zoom, but best of all it takes OK images and fits in my pocket. I also wouldn't really care if I broke it, I could pick up another, probably better one for a few quid from the local car-boot sale or on eBay. But the point is that I now always have a camera on me. It's fully automatic, so I don't have to worry about ISO, shutter speed or aperture - I just point and shoot - maybe they'll be a little composition, but I think now I've got a great tool for capturing the moment.

It's like when my and Oli, my son, were playing football down the park a couple of days ago. We stopped for a breather, he sat down with his back to the changing rooms, and I just saw the composition - football in the foreground, shapes and textures of the building, and Oli too. I reached into my pocket, turning the Kodak on as I stepped to the right to get into position, then just took a couple of frames. I didn't review them at the time - the Easyshares screen is too dim to look at in daylight, so I just turned it off and popped it back in my pocket, job done.

Now I'm not saying that the compact camera is the ideal camera, far from it, but as photographers we owe it to ourselves, the world around us and our art, to always be carrying a camera, and we should know how it works, how to get the best out of it, and be ready to use it. It could be a compact, your cell-phone camera, or an SLR, anything as long as you're always carrying a camera.

There's another benefit to this too. You'll probably know that I've started to build up a collection of cameras, mostly purchased for a few quid at my local car-boot sale. I've three old film SLR's, a Beirette viewfinder film camera and I just got an Olympus Fully Automatic film compact too. You may think, what's the point - but they're all very different photographic tools, and by using these tools, by understanding how they work, and by physically walking around and trying to take photographs with them, I'm expanding my views on what photography is, and more importantly starting to realise that the camera is just a tool to help us realise our artistic vision, in the same way that a painter uses different brushes or paints.

You can apply this to using different lenses on SLRs, and also to the technique you use when you shoot. I'm an aperture priority ma. I'll set my ISO low, then dial in a medium aperture for a respectable depth of field, then compose and shoot. But this is limiting and can mean I miss the moment. Why not just shoot on auto for awhile, or go the opposite and try full manual? How about ignoring the histogram or light-meter in the camera and just estimate the settings, making adjustments based on what the photo's look like on your view screen?

One of the weirdest feels I've had, photographically speaking, was, and is, using my Beirette viewfinder camera. You see it's fully manual, no electrics and no light meter. I was standing there, in front of Forton Lake Bridge, with this ancient camera in my hands, trying to figure out the settings, which should be simple, but my brain was shouting at me that it wasn't. You see, with the Beirette you only have three shutter speeds - so that's set by the ISO of the film you've loaded. Next up you gaze at the subject and sky and decide whether its sunny, overcast, or something in-between. You then turn the aperture dial to one of those settings. I'm serious - you turn the dial to a little picture of a sun, cloudy sun, bright cloud or dark cloud. Next up you estimate how far away your subject is, in feet, then turn the lens to that. Then you just look through the dim viewfinder and take the photograph.

This all sounds simple, and it is, but I was so blinded by technology, from using complex digital and film cameras, that I had to keep re-checking the settings I'd dialled in, because my brain just couldn't accept that photography could be so simple. Of course the Beirette will probably take lots of over and under exposed shots - but the experience of using it has helped me really think about the metering on my S5700 - to understand that a correct exposure is in the eye, and brain, of the photographer, and not in the silicon chip of the camera.

Well, I've been waffling on about these subjects for long enough now - after you've listened to the podcast, find the podcast notes post on and leave your own thoughts in the comments - are you going to always have a camera on you, and are you going to photograph with something different sometime soon?

Photo Assignment For February - "The Third Dimension"

Long Term Assignment - "Where I Live"

Technique challenges (No Time Limit):

No Sky Landscapes

Fill The Frame!

Dawn / Dusk shots

A Landscape Style Shot With Strong Foreground Interest

Remember to email me your photos if you'd like to me work on them for the Photo Workbench.

To contact me, just click on the link near the top of the page under the big picture.

Thanks for listening, see you on Flickr!

Join the Flickr Group!

Cheers, Rob.

Reader Comments (6)

Hi Rob,

Another interesting podcast , i agree with you on the topic sometimes it is not practical to take your camera bag out with you , if you look on my photoscreen i recently invested in a small compact camera from ebay (an olympus 770sw,it was faulty , but i was able to fix it), which i now keep with me when i go out ,in case something catches my eye.

One of my favorite shots `sheep on a rainy day` i took with a nokia phone, so i guess it goes to show really .

I am also looking forward to getting thru my first reel of film with the Praktica vlc3 i picked up at a car boot sale , took me a little time to get of the starting point after i realised i had not correctly loaded the film and the 24 carefully planned shots came to nothing when the film had not engaged on the wind along mechanism, yes i felt a prize plonker !!!! (lol dont tell victor!!)

I did broach the subject of what you can achieve with a smaller point and shoot with victor after i noticed a comment he made over on the s5700 forum reference a chat you both had .I really liked your image `saturday afternoon kick around , and was very surprised when i saw the camera it was taken with !!



February 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Clark (Clarkysnap)

Hi Matthew,

Glad you enjoyed the podcast, food for thought really, but just as you say, it's great to have a camera with you all the time, to catch those shots you'd normally miss.

Cheers, Rob.

February 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRob_Nunn

Hi Rob,

Well yet again a thoroughly enjoyable podcast!
I have to agree with a comment Andreas made that the quality of the content is the most important thing and you've definately cracked that aspect of it! Plus I still love the low bandwidth versions which aid my poor little 3G modem.

It's been great hearing about your revelations and the understanding that it's the photographer not the equipment that dicatates the quality of the images produced. We could all take a paintbrush and paint the living room walls, takes a bit more to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Even the most expensive brush and paint in the world won't help either!
As for your grasp of exposure methods now, well all I can say is the 'penny has definately dropped' and you've made it second nature. We don't calculate the trajectory, gravitational effect and wind resistance when we catch a ball, we just catch it! (If we did, we'd miss the chance at catching it, much like photographic opportunities.)

I have been amazed at the quality of your work using your little Kodak and shocked when I saw how cheaply these cameras can be picked up now. (Cameras I was selling for a couple of hundred pounds a few years ago are now going for pounds!) Between brief chats with your self and Matthew Clark, (jammy so and so with his olympus), I've started scouring around for these little gems. I'm so looking forward to grabbing a basic Canon Powershot with CHDK, (thanks again Matthew!), and exploring some further photographic opportunities. As you point out so well Rob, easily slipped in your pocket and ready for whenever the moment strikes.

I have to say I've been throughly impressed.

All the Best,


February 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterVictor

Hi Victor,

Have a hunt round your local car boot sale on a Sunday - I normally see loads at mine!

Thanks for the comments,

Cheers, Rob.

February 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRob_Nunn

Great point about trying out different gear Rob. Photography _is_ a technology based activity/art, but photography is not _about_ the technology. Using different cameras could be a great help for photographers who feel to attached to one special camera. Just seeing the same old moat (for example) in a new viewfinder can be a boost for our creativity.

Keep up the good work. Always enjoyable to listen to your podcasts.


February 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAndreas Ă˜verland

Hi Andreas!

Good points, especially about the moat - I guess I'm waiting for that "perfect" shot - you could almost say it was my muse...

Glad you enjoyed the podcast, it's great to hear your comments!

Thanks again, Rob.

February 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRob_Nunn

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