POLL: on family holiday : how much time for photography?

Started Jun 29, 2013 | Polls thread
RoelHendrickx
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Re: POLL: on family holiday : how much time for photography?
In reply to drusus, Jun 30, 2013

drusus wrote:

Great topic, Roel! I clicked no. 2, but I also want to add my thoughts behind my answer.

Three years ago I made the most liberating decision in my life as a hobbyist photographer. I decided that what I was interested in was "personal photography". I want to capture memories of my life, and I want my photos to evoke the experience of special moments in my life when I look at them.

Some people call this family photojournalism. The subject matter is what many people shoot as snapshots. The decision was that this would be my photography, and not the snapshots I take when i not doing real photography. I do what I can to improve at taking good photos, to the extent possible, within the constraints of this type of photography.

The constraints are similar to the ones that you raise with regard to vacation photography, except that they apply all the time. I no longer have the time for, nor much interest in, solo photography. So, while on vacation, on daily outings, and in home family life, I want to use my camera when special experiences occur, and I want the photography process to be as unobtrusive as possible to those around me and to me as well, so that I can enjoy those moments. I have not achieved my goal yet, and I am learning to recognize my wife's expression when she tries to hide her frustration with having my camera out too long. But I think about this a lot, and here are some things I try to do or keep in mind. Many of these things help me in taking shots less obtrusively. A lot of it has to do with preparing the photo as much as possible before taking the camera out, and minimizing the time that the camera is in people's faces.

- Camera. One compromise camera (Panasonic GF1), with sensor large enough for near-DSLR quality but small enough that I can take it with me without thinking twice. I don't want to decide "Is this outing going to be a good photo occasion and therefore should I carry the heavy and more obtrusive DSLR?" External controls are a good thing, too, as they let me adjust settings faster than using menus.

- Lens. One lens, fixed normal focal length, most of the time. I want most of my photos to remind me of what I saw. My eyes don't see the perspective of a telephoto or wide angle, and so I don't need those shots. I have a short telephoto for the occasional portrait. The fixed focal length means I have learned its angle of view and I can plan a photo well before I raise the camera, and I don't spend those extra seconds zooming and framing, during which I could not pay attention to those around me.

- Lens, part 2: pancake form factor keeps the camera small and lets me use a leather case to protect the lens without a lens cap (with a UV filter on most of the time). This shaves a second or two from the picture-taking process. The leather case means I can either throw the camera over my shoulder, into the baby's diaper bag, or into my work bag.

- Camera/lens. By having a fixed focal length that I know well, I can do without a viewfinder, because I can do most of my composing by looking at the scene directly. So the camera can be more compact. The LCD is good enough of framing, and makes it easier to choose interesting angles than having the camera on my face (e.g., a child's point of view without having to bend down to the ground). The LCD also minimizes the annoyance of those around me, because I can maintain frequent eye contact instead of disappearing behind a viewfinder. In fact, I often shoot while maintaining eye contact with my subjects, framing only out of the corner of my eye (again, being used to a single focal length helps here). It makes me feel like I am not entirely abandoning the experience in order to take photos.

- Camera settings. Two basic settings cover most situations or require minimal adjustments. ISO 400, shutter speed 80 for S mode (indoors), aperture 2.8 for A mode (outdoors). If I have time, I can fine tune these. If not, I can take the shot and have a good chance it will be ok or recoverable. Oh yeah, shooting in RAW format also helps reduce obtrusiveness: if I can't take the time to optimize exposure at shooting time, I have a greater chance of recovering the photo through post-processing than with JPEGs.

- Shooting rules. The camera goes back after 3-4 shots or after 1 minute, whichever comes first. This is more like the days of film: you see a possible shot and take it. A second or third shot is useful to get avoid accidental bad expressions (blinking, a child looking away). Then I'm done. My family is annoyed more by persistent camera pointing and repetitive shutter clicks than they are by one or two shots at a time. If I put the camera away after a few seconds, the camera won't be there to intrude on our time together. This makes me participate with less distraction and reduces the annoyance of the camera always being there, threatening to be raised and distracting us from what we are enjoying. This rule is new and I am still learning to put it into practice.

- Missed shots. By not changing lenses, or waiting for the light to improve, or walking to different spots to get the best composition, or waiting for the decisive moment, I miss many potential great shots. Who cares. I found that I really don't miss them. I end up with enough photos as it is, that I definitely don't sit at my computer wishing I had taken that shot for which i did not have the right lens. Reduced memory (from the sleep deprivation that only a young baby can bring) helps here.

I recognize that these guidelines are useful only for a very restricted type of shooting. I don't know that I would recommend them to anyone else, because I have developed them to solve my problem with photography being intrusive. It was liberating to realize, though, that good photographs, or at least photos that I enjoy looking at, can be obtained in more than one way, and that limiting your choices does not have to limit your creativity. My experience so far is that the quality of my photos has greatly improved in the past 3 years, mainly in being more mindful of composition, framing, and lighting, and especially in capturing moments. Not necessarily decisive moments, but special enough to me.

If you've made it through this entire post, thanks for reading.

I made it through the entire post and enjoyed the read.  Thanks for posting.

Drusus

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Roel Hendrickx
lots of images: www.roelh.zenfolio.com
my E-3 user field report from Tunisian Sahara: http://www.biofos.com/ukpsg/roel.html

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