Travels with a compact camera.

I have mentioned on this blog before that  it’s all about the photographer, and not about the camera.  It’s still true! 

I’ve been invited by a local photographic club to talk to them about using digital compact cameras, compared to using digital SLRs.  At that talk I’ll mention the benefits, and the challenges, of creative photography with compact cameras. 

On the basis that I should practice what I will preach, on a trip round the Cotswolds yesterday I took my Panasonic Lumix FX-500 digital compact with me instead of my Nikon DSLRs.  Why?  Well, it was a day off, and I didn’t want to carry a large, heavy DSLR and loads of large aperture lenses with me.  OK, so the ultimate image quality on a digital compact with a small sensor isn’t as good as a DSLR, but as I wasn’t planning to produce large prints that didn’t matter.  Also it was a sunny day, and these small sensor cameras work very well when it’s sunny. 

We stopped for lunch on the way to our final destination, and I was able to get a nice abstract image through some distorting glass.  Simple with the close focusing ability of the FX-500. 

"Distorting glass" by Gale Photography

The Cotwolds looked fantastic in the Spring sunshine, and driving across them was a real pleasure.  After a quick divert to Adlestrop, made famous in the poem that starts with, “Yes, I remember Adlestrop…”, we arrived at our destination.  Chastleton House, in Oxfordshire, is one of England’s finest and most original Jacobean houses.

"Chastleton House facade" by Gale Photography

The facade of the house, unaltered since it was built, looked fab  in the spring sunshine.  The only problem was getting an image with no other visitors in it.  You need patience whatever camera you are using. 

Chastleton operates a timed ticket system, so while we were waiting, we took the opportunity to look round the gardens.  The daffodils were mostly over but other spring flowers were looking at their best. 

"Chastleton flowers" by Gale Photography

I dropped the camera down to a low viewpoint with a wide-angle lens (24mm equivalent), so I could concentrate on the foreground flowers, whilst still showing the mass of other flowers.  

"Chastleton fritillaries" by Gale Photography

In this second flower image, I’ve used a wide-angle lens and a low viewpoint looking upwards, to show the flowers against the trees and sky in the background.  Easy to see the image on the compact camera’s rear screen; not so easy with a DSLR unless it has Live View. 

The house is well worth a visit, if only for the Long Gallery with the longest barrel-vaulted ceiling in Britain.  The plasterwork is fabulous.  To get a good shot I used a technique that works really well.  I turned off the flash, set the self timer, put the camera on the floor, pressed the shutter, and stepped back.  Result? A sharp image. 

"Chastleton ceiling" by Gale Photography

On the way back to the car after visiting the house, we saw these spring lambs sunning themselves under the dovecote.  Lambs and the Cotswolds really go together, as the landscape has been shaped by years of sheep farming. 

"Chastleton lambs" by Gale Photography

So, having a digital compact camera on your belt allows you to get great images without lugging a DSLR about.  You just need to work within its limitations. 

Although yesterday was a day off for me, I was still taking pictures.  That’s how it is when you’re passionate about photography.  If you want to develop your passion for photography, come along to one of my training courses and be inspired. 

Cheers, 

Derek 

www.galephotography.co.uk

AnneApril 22, 2010 - 1:42 pm

Great to see this, with some lovely sample images. I especially like the fritillaries. One of my LRPS panel images was taken using a compact camera so I am definitely a fan of the strengths of little cameras. My ‘L’ picture (the horse, if anyone takes a look at my panel on my website) was taken on a business trip, when I had far too much other clobber to carry any significant camera kit.

Derek GaleApril 22, 2010 - 6:16 pm

Hi Anne,

Thanks for your comments. I call digital compacts “science-fiction” cameras. 10 years ago people would have said it was science fiction if you had predicted just what they would be capable of.

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