Sunday, April 28, 2019

Playing With A "Toy" Camera

Buy one here.
Busman's Holiday: Sometimes it is nice to shake off the constraints associated with making a photograph. Composition, ISO selection, lens focal length, and color balance all contribute to the making of a good image, but may just get in the way when all you want is a simple "in the moment" image. I remember when I brought my first digital camera, a 3 megapixel, $300.00 Pentax Point and Shoot, to a Rendezvous* more than ten years ago. With no manual controls, I was pretty much at the mercy of the tiny computer chip that governed focus and exposure, and yet these images have become treasured keepsakes of my adventures in "the high lonesome".

Rendezvous Season Arrives: For a lark, I chose my Fuji X70 to be this year's companion camera. It has face detection autofocus, a compact design, and was fully adjustable should the situation dictate. It also has an APS sensor, a reticulated LCD display for waist level and overhead shots, and a native lens that was the full frame equivalent of a 28mm 2.8 lens. In nearly all respects, it's the camera I hoped my Nikon Cool Pix A would have been, but wasn't. While equally compact, the Nikon just didn't have the feature set I have come to expect from a camera, and its quirky performance became something of an annoyance throughout the years I owned it. Luckily, I didn't pay full price for it, as it was obscenely expensive when it first came out.

View photo source here.
Eye Level Viewfinder: I have plenty of experience with waist level and over-the-head perspectives, courtesy of  the Mamaya twin lens reflex (TLR)  that was my first serious film camera. What the TLR camera lacks is a convenient eye level viewing option. For a generation of photographers holding their camera phones at arms length between the photographer and the subject, the need for an eye level optical viewfinder might seem a quaint throwback, I beg to differ, as some photos demand the immediacy provided by this "you were there" perspective. Also, making "on your face" contact with the camera helps to steady things when shooting indoors with longer exposure times. So in spite of the pundits screaming "Don't waste your money" I decided to buy a dedicated Fuji optical finder. I found one on EBay. I paid about 60% of the retail price, and while expensive, it is bright, clear, and had frame lines for the native lens and for the wider (21mm equivalent) view afforded by the Fuji dedicated wide angle adapter, which I also bought.

Built-in flash used. Auto exposure mode, with both flash and ambient exposures set to minus 1/3 stop.
Rendezvous At Mary Hill: This shot was taken using the reticulated display, affording me a waist-level perspective that would minimize the distraction of a 21st Century background while emphasizing the fluffy clouds in the sky. 

Built-in flash used. Auto exposure mode, with both flash and ambient exposures set to minus 1/3 stop.
Larry's Primitive Camp: In keeping with the 1830's theme, ones campsite should reflect the technology of the period. No pop-tents here, just a simple canvas lean-to held up with wooden poles and natural fiber rope. A single blanket would have been all the bedding available to a woodsman of the time. Since there were restrictions on open fires, Larry didn't dig a traditional fire pit, and didn't unpack any period correct cooking implements. His primitive camp won the Best Primitive Camp Award, but there wasn't any competition, since nobody else took the time to set one up.

Built-in flash used. Auto exposure mode, with both flash and ambient exposures set to minus 1/3 stop.
Shooting Flintlocks: Modern firearms produced very little "gunsmoke" but in the 19th century, there was plenty of it. Unfortunately, the lovely clouds in the background hide the smoke and flash associated with shooting a traditional flintlock long rifle. This photo was the best compromise of composition and light placement, and overall, not a bad image.

0.6 second, ISO 200, F 5.6, exposure adjusted in post production
Tom's Camp: My idea of "roughing it" is a bathroom without a tub. This is the view from in front of my room. The photo was made with the camera resting on the open door of my car. Again, the exposure was determined by the camera, and once again, the Fuji  appears to have made a good call regarding exposure and white balance. The evening moon can be seen peeking out from behind the low cloud cover.

As you can tell, I do love the outdoor life, and I'm falling more in love with my Fuji X70.

*"Rendezvous" is a re-enactment set in the heyday of the fur trade prior to 1838. With beaver pelts in high demand for felt hats, adventurers would venture into the mountains for months at a time, trapping the wily beaver, and bringing their pelts to an annual "rendezvous" with traders from the east for the purpose of exchanging them for essential items like flour, traps, and of course, whiskey. Unlike Civil War reenactments, this is not a spectator sport, and is not based on a specific historical event.