The weight of my photo equipment is inversely proportional to my age. Victims of Common Core New Math may not grasp that concept without gyrating and liberating a lot of whiteboard acreage and markers, because simple division is involved. Oops. Editorial.
What that means is my trail gear has lightened over the past forty years from thirty pounds of 4×5 inch view camera, film holders, light meter, gray card, focusing cloth (that was dang heavy), including a eight pound Bogen 3020 tripod and head, with no pack mule, to what I carry today when I hike; a three pound, Amazon off-brand, aluminum tripod and a 14 ounce, 1-inch sensor wizard like the Canon G7x Mark II or Lumix ZS100. (Let’s see. Convert pounds to ounces. No wait! It’s metric now… Never mind.) Large format on the trail now means my Nikon D7500 APS-C, or possibly my Nikon FM2N when I shoot film.
Climbing over roots and vines, and slippery moss covered rocks in Georgia is much more difficult with a heavy camera bag or pack than with a tiny camera in a leather case, slung under my arm. It has become a matter of safety. If I want to continue to hike well past the most common expiration date for men like me, then I gotta lighten up and tighten up.
Good hiking boots are also key. I love my highly rated, and reasonably priced Merrill Moab boots. Having a strong body core and balance is even more important, but that is another topic. However, let me recommend a top notch chiropractor, Dr. Linkhorn at Sports Chiropractic. (This was unsolicited.) If you just meditate on how to channel a mountain goat you’ll figure it out.
So the question for this previous Ansel Adams wannabe, who really does understand what image quality and landscape and nature photography is about, is how to use a tiny image sensor to express what I “see” as I walk.
To be candid, my attitude toward nature is not Mother Earth, New Age, covered in crystals and such. The evidence is there in plain sight. Nature was designed and created by G_D in Heaven. It was once perfect. Not now, but there is still so much miraculous beauty we can see. How do I offer it back to Him in gratitude and to you whether you believe in G_D or not. How do I take the clay and mold it, so to speak.
The Psalmist in the Bible (Psalm 19) says:
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. 3 They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. 4 Yet their voice[b] goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
As a practical matter it is difficult to express glory and grandeur on a 1-inch sensor. Black and White is a much different way of seeing than in color. I can tell you that for certain. Details will get lost in small pixels. Broad areas of tone or color seem to be presented much better than details when you are using a small camera. If you understand your tools and materials you can express yourself within their limitations. There’s freedom in their chains.
Ansel Adams said “…one sees differently with color photography than black-and-white… in short, visualization must be modified by the specific nature of the equipment and materials being used.”
Amen. Now go forth and conquer. But wait. Exactly how do you do that?
When I go on a walk and I photograph, then everything, and I mean everything is going on in my mind and the camera is hardly involved except to cut a record. I have some basic settings on the camera but they are not even close to what my mind imagines.
Here is one example. The image on the left is the original RAW image taken by the tiny Lumix ZS100. The final image is on the right. It is the one that was in my head at the time, and it exists after having applied Lightroom edits; that is, color channels, clarity, texture, vignette, etc. You can figure it out. Use the slider to compare the two.
Move slider left and right to compare images
I said final image. Final for now. I may come back, and replay, or reperform the RAW image into another form. Again, as Ansel Adams said, “The negative is comparable to the composer’s score and the print to its performance. Each performance differs in subtle ways.”
My materials are digital. My tools are a simple and small camera. What do I do? In my mind, I visualize the final photograph. I have become more critical, more concerned with broader issues and bold differences in thought, not in yammering on minutiae. So it plays out in the photographs. I reduce details in my photos. I go for saturated color and fuzzy wuzzy impressionistic renderings of broad tones. They seem to work well in tiny format cameras, and I like them.
This might be greeted with disdain by the f64 West Coast crowd of so called photo purists. I don’t care. This is Georgia, y’all. I still practice some of that early training. The essence of Adams’ philosophy is to know your materials and express yourself.
Way too much talk, and not enough photos. Here ya go. Fuzzy Wuzzy Photos from my walk a couple days ago.
Oh yeah. About the snake. I believe they call it a yellow rat snake, or maybe this one is a king snake. It was lying very still on the trail. I spotted it, talked kindly to it, and after a few snakey flicks of its tongue, it slithered off into the woods. It was about three feet long, or a little more. I slithered on up the trail to the ridge.
No, I did not jump when I came across it. The weather was warm and I had hoped to meet one. I do watch for copperheads though. The are mean, well camouflaged, and they will send you to the hospital. I have an acquaintance who managed to step on one last summer.
I saw a flock of wild turkey also, but I was not quick enough with the camera to capture them. A few days ago, I spotted an otter having a wonderful swim in a side channel of the Chattahoochee River. I see deer all the time. Bear and coyote walk the woods too, but they stay away from me.