Sunny, 22 Degrees, Calm Winds.
This was a beautiful morning for a walk. Despite the relatively cold temperature, the sun is brilliant and the sky is deep blue and with no wind, the temperature feels very comfortable. On my walk, I was able to handle the camera without gloves and I probably could have taken my hat off if I’d thought of it.
There is a lot more birdsong in the woods now with new calls appearing. There was a woodpecker hammering away down by the marsh and I heard a loud new call that, if memory serves, belongs to a Flicker. All in all there was a spring-like feel in the air despite the substantial snow cover that remains in the woods.
Before I left this morning I was really having serious doubts about my ability to continue this daily shooting and writing. I feel like I’m running out of things to shoot and new ways to shoot them. The bright light and uniform weather of late and limited what I’m seeing. It’s been sunny for a couple of days with little variation in light or atmosphere. In February I got a lot of variation with everything from rain to fog to cloudy and sunny days. The sun was up later so I was getting a better morning light than I am now. Daylight savings will help a bit, but I need some change in the woods to give me fresh material.
I’m also finding that after over six weeks of shooting and editing and writing every single day, I’m getting tired and my well is running dry. Creativity draws on your passion and intensity a lot. It doesn’t happen without effort and over 40 days of continuous creativity is probably too much.
I can’t decide yet how to make an adjustment. I will take a camera every day without a doubt. I wouldn’t want to miss a change in weather or certainly any change in seasons. I like observing and writing about the change of seasons too, so it would be hard to break the habit of daily writing. But the total of photographing, writing and editing photographs every day leaves very little room for other things in my life.
Like my wife for example, or playing guitar, or relaxing at all. I need to make room for those things. But how I don’t know yet. I’ve considered taking weekends off. Few people seem to read my blog on the weekends. It’s a good time to spend with my wife, and I’ve always liked my weekends. Skipping days when the weather and the seasons are uniform is an option, but there is a lot about the daily-ness of the walk that I really like.
Well, we shall see. I’ll figure it out, but I can feel that I can’t just force myself to keep going to the well when it’s dry, even if I made a commitment to a year of daily photography and writing.
Today I took the Sony compact camera again. I purchased an inexpensive zoom lens that covers the range of two of my fixed focus lenses. It’s a lot more comfortable to use for my purposes, even though it is slower and probably optically inferior to the other two lenses.
For my kind of shooting I frequently switch between wide and tight shots as I move through the woods, making individual lenses less practical. Changing lenses is not difficult, but juggling two lenses, a camera and a lens cap is more awkward than is ideal if you are changing a lot. I also like having the in-between focal lengths so I can compose shots precisely. You can’t always accomplish the same thing by moving with a fixed focal length lens.
If you’re a studio shooter or are shooting a uniform subject, then a fixed focal length might work for you. It just doesn’t work for me very well. I did find that the camera seemed to be able to focus closer than my DSLR. I was closer to the subject, but I’m not sure the view was actually tighter, because the focal length is not as long as my DSLR.
I wanted to give this camera another chance and since the light was not conducive to much else, I took the Sony. I did learn a few things that actually improved my experience with the camera. All had to do with the viewfinder, which is my biggest complaint about the camera.
First, I learned that you have to position your eye very precisely at the viewfinder or the image distorts a lot. I also learned that it helps a lot to cup your hand around the viewfinder to keep stray light out of your eye. Finally, I learned that if you “expose to the right” as I always try to do, the viewfinder shows the brighter exposure whereas it doesn’t in a DSLR. This contributes to the feeling I had that the viewfinder is blown out and overly contrasty. If you turn down the exposure, the viewfinder looks a lot better, but if you do, you’ll wind up with less than ideal exposures for editing purposes.
The big plus for the camera is size and weight. You can carry it easily in one hand without thinking about it. I was able to put it in my coat pocket with the 16 – 50mm zoom. The lens collapses when you turn the camera off and gets a little longer when you turn it on, so it’s more compact than a 50mm lens would normally be. You do have to be very careful to steady the camera very well with your hands because the small size makes it very easy to move the camera when pressing the shutter.
There are a couple of things I like a lot about the camera. One is that you can display a histogram in the viewfinder so you can monitor and adjust exposure while shooting. No need to shoot and then look at the histogram on the back of the camera as I do with my DSLR. The other thing is the ease of changing aperture and exposure when shooting. There are two wheels on the top right of the rear of the camera that are easily reached with the thumb. One adjusts exposure compensation and the other adjusts aperture or shutter speed depending on the mode you’re in.
Despite these pluses and the things I learned about using the viewfinder, the camera still suffers from the quality of the viewfinder. It still comes nowhere near the view through a DSLR. You can not judge the quality of a photograph through the viewfinder. You can look at the scene and think it might make a good photograph, then do your best to compose in the viewfinder, but you can’t tell whether the image is a good one.
That’s still a big deal to me. With my DSLR I can judge the photograph pretty well through the viewfinder. In fact, I can judge it better through the viewfinder than with the naked eye. My eye tells me there is potential; the viewfinder tells me if it really works. With the Sony you can’t do that. You have to go on faith and I don’t like that much.
I would try the Sony in a situation where I just didn’t want to carry the heavy and bulky Canon, but I wouldn’t use it anywhere else, to be honest. It’s fun to play with. It gives me a fresh look at things and a different attitude when I take it, but that’s about it.
I don’t know if the newest generation of these camera have a sufficiently good viewfinder to correct this problem. I know they have a lot more resolution than my camera. Whether they give you a more natural look, I don’t know. I did take a look at what the current flagship Sony compact cameras cost and the full frame high resolution cameras are just way too expensive for me to seriously consider; around $3,500 to $3,900. I would never buy one, even if I could afford it, without looking through the viewfinder at a variety of scenes.