A fortnight ago I had my 70th birthday. Surely some birthdays are bigger milestones than others however this one seemed to take on an almost supernatural significance as if the number 7 that defined the number of decades marked the beginning of a new age of wisdom and spirituality. In fact I just did a quick Google search which revealed this entry on a numerology blog at the top of the heap…
Yesterday a touching scene unfolded while I sat in the cocktail lounge “Blue” at Marina Bay. Located in Quincy, Marina Bay hosts a hoard of water worthy pleasure craft, a few small businesses and five eating and drinking establishments on the boardwalk. Also notable on the boardwalk is a cozy white gazebo which is invitingly lit as the sun goes down.
I sold my working film gear a week ago. Oh I have a few broken relics that on one will want to take but my two ancient Mamiya 645’s with 80mm, 55mm and 110mm lenses, along with a Canon EOS 3 body in perfect condition complete with the PB-E2 Battery Grip were rather unceremoniously packed into a box and Fedexed to a company that buys and sells used gear. Now this was a perfectly logical decision. I hadn’t used any of these gems for many years and they were taking up a lot of storage space of which I have precious little. Business wise it no longer made sense for me to shoot hundreds of rolls of film, have it professionally developed and have the keepers drum scanned so that I could then pull them into my digital workflow to produce a print. Last but not least, I’ve been considering updating some gear for quite a while. I have not updated any gear since 2009 which is an eternity in the new digital age where cameras are computer image capture devices and capacity and capabilities double every six months. So this is a rationed, thoughtful business decision right? Then why do I feel a sadness that parallels the end of a love affair?
For a week I reminisced on my photographic past. Notwithstanding the Yashicamat TLR my father gave me in my youth, after a long abstinence from the shutter my film based gear from the 70’s forward went from a pair of venerable Pentax’s (the MX and LX), to a Ricoh KR10 (it took K mount lenses and had motor drive), adding the aforementioned Mamiya’s (nicknamed the “Bertha Twins”), a Canon Élan 7e and last but certainly the penultimate acquisition – a beautiful Canon EOS3.
Of all these, the acquisition of the Canon EOS 3 was the culmination of a long period of thought and determination. The original purchase price if I remember correctly was about $1400 all totaled. I had scrimped and saved for a long time to purchase this “professional level” body and I had banked on the “Eye Control” auto focus as being a technology which would be adapted in the future to all camera technology. (Surprisingly it disappeared and has not come back as such although the now popular “touch screen to focus” implementation on many bodies is a current technology parallel.) Six months later there were murmurs and rumors about the death of film.
But back to the present… Since 2002 I’ve been shooting Canon digital bodies. The diminutive G series cameras and the XXD (20D, 30D, 40D) and prosumer 7D bodies have been filling all my needs while not sending me to bankruptcy court (although photographers as a whole should praise God that “debtors prison” has been abolished.) At the upper end of the scale, my trusty 7D and battery of lenses brings back the keepers, especially in the realm of bird photography and large landscapes. At the other end of the spectrum, I’ve been able to make very nice 13 x 19 and even 17 x 22 prints from my G9 to G12 files, occasionally surprising myself when looking at the EXIF data after making the print. All in all the little “G” guys have been good to me but like us humans, they too have their limitations. They are slow operationally. They have a limited zoom range. equivalent to 28-140 in 35mm terms. In laymans terms that range is neither wide fish or long fowl. The sensor size is miniscule, which more than megapixels is “where the dog dies”. (Below is a slightly larger-than-life-size diagram comparing sensor sizes. The G sensor is the size of the smallest square. My 7D sensor is equal to the largest square.)
And alas while megapixels are not the end-all-be-all, the G12’s 10mp certainly isn’t sexy by todays standards.
Hmmm! There I said it. Every once in a while one’s photographic sex life needs a little invigorating; something new and exciting with bigger specs and more pizzazz. So, to fill the emptiness of lost loves I’ve started a new relationship. Today I’m introducing myself to a saucy new friend; her name is Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10. I’m thinking perhaps Ricki (c.f. Ricki Lake?) for short. Her job is to be my new daily “walk around” companion. She’s got 20mp and four times the sensor size compared to the G12 (see the yellow vs the magenta square on the graphic above). The swell of her zoom, 24-200mm is more fun to caress to and fro. She’s curvaceous as opposed to the herculean bulk of the 7D with a 70-200mm lens attached. She’s an “all in one” solution with no extra lenses to carry or change in the field. If we were to put all three on a table in front of “Little Red Riding Hood”, she’d say Ricki was “just right”.
Soooo… We’ll see how the new kid on the block does as a daily driver. Oh, I’m not selling my G12. Maybe it will go into the glove compartment for absolute emergencies like “Oh Phooey! I forgot to bring a camera!” or a situation where I really need a “stealth” camera. The big and heavy 7D’s future is pretty secure as the “bird cam in the woods” where it’s size shouldn’t make people dial the NSA terrorist hot line. (No guarantees though, I’ve had the police called a couple of times.) But Ricki may spend a considerable time gently cradled in my loving hands. I’ll twist her dials, scroll her menus and twiddle her control wheels. It’s certainly less scandalous than Tiger Woods activities off the green.
P.S. I made my first print yesterday. A 13 x 19 from an RX10 Raw file. 24mm, ISO 400, 1/800th at F2.8. The large print looks pretty darn good. I think she’s got a future.
Today, the rapid acceptance of digital imaging has created an enormous and highly profitable market for all manner of photographic tools.
The dates of this journey were the 16th through the 18th of July 2013 which means it’s taken me a long time to write this post. I’ve also gone beyond the normal length for a blog post and am rapidly approaching a small novel. However, believe it or not, there is an awful lot that I have omitted such as the bald eagle Andy spotted and maneuvered into shooting distance for ten minutes before we had even left the harbor. I haven’t mentioned my new friend Jim Caldwell and his courageous wife or the Canadian helicopter that interrupted our visit (but not the birds). I guess I’m trying to say that this day was an unparalleled treasure for me and long in the waiting.
So I’ve felt compelled to try to capture the scope of this rich experience in words and I can only hope I’ve at least partially succeeded or more importantly that I can hold your attention until you read to the end.
When I mention to people that I am a Nature Photographer there are almost without exception a few assured responses based around what could be called the True Nature Photographer Archetype. You know: hikes alone 25 miles into the wilderness to a secret location where the rare white unicorn can be seen or travels the world to distant lands shooting for National Geographic with an expense account and local guides who carry all the gear.