I suppose this may mildly amuse most people (i.e., sane people) and I may even pick up a tip or two if I'm very lucky. I've decided to take up what I call camera trail running, for want of a better expression. Sort of a biathlon but with trail running shoes instead of skis and shots taken with a camera rather than a rifle. The one rule I give myself is that I have to take only one shot and then move on when I stop, though I do take some time to get the framing right. By trails I mean pretty rough ones, like the Ice Age Trail in my neck of the woods (Southeastern Wisconsin); I ran the 50K race on it last Fall and it's constant hills covered in rocks and roots. Leading to the obvious question: how not to wreck expensive equipment. I think part of answer is not to bring expensive equipment. I ruled out my inexpensive Mamiya TLR; it's clunky and I'd have to change film too often. Still, square would be a good format - just use a monopod and never worry about orientation. I ruled out my Oly DSLRs, despite the real advantages such as auto white balance, modest sized zoom lenses, and no film to fuss with. Settled on my Nikon F3 with the 24mm f/2.8 - the zoom I have (the 20-35mm) is way too heavy. Used a monopod and ran - well, slowly slowly ran, with that setup on a rough trail by the Milwaukee River. In the morning I'm going out again, this time to the Ice Age Trail. No need to send any search parties.
i do a similar thing with trains - i guess i can call it train chasing (there was even a movie about it). i love to drive paralell to trains, keeping up with them, simply becuase i LOVE trains, and the sounds. If i have my digital camera with me, i try to take some pictures, and still stay safe. it's fun!
I used to run trails on Mt. Laguna, east of San Diego (about a 10K loop of the Pacific Crest Trail and "The BLT", Big Laguna Trail). What with the rocks, roots, rattlesnakes and a 4000 ft. drop to the desert floor, I always felt kind of compelled to keep my eyes on the trail and never thought to take a camera! Hiking, of course, was another matter.....
After finally getting up to the Ice Age Trail, camera in hand, a few thoughts. I couldn't get out Sunday due to rain, leading to point 1: the need to prepare for weather. It would be nice to find a point and shoot with the wide angle range and image quality (decent) of the Canon S80 and the rugged water-resistance of the Olympus Stylus 720 SW. 2. Digital does have advantages for this, as I noted - another one is adjustable ISO. So I took my older Olympus DSLR, the E300, along with (thought 3) the kit 14-45mm lens. Not as good as the 14-54mm, mainly because slow, but less risky. 4. It's not a good plan to swipe mosquitos with the camera. 5. IS WOULD be nice, and the Oly DSLRs lack it - until the Fall, that is, when I'm pretty sure that at least the E-1 replacement will have it. 6. Would I then chance taking the E-2, E-3 or whatever they call it? Perhaps this is a legitimate use for a neverready case! 7. Need to get sports gloves to handle the sweat - maybe just wrist bands. 8. I still like carrying the camera with a monopod, which comes in handy (see point 4).
When I work on my motorcycle, I have the big box of tools which contains pretty much everything I need to do any job required. But I also have the small box of tools which rides around with me. It contains a few well-chosen tools which will do about 80% of every job there is in a much more convenient and practical size.
Why do I mention this? Because I have several cameras also. The Canon DSLR has all sorts of cool things to go with it. Using them I have a huge amount of control over my images. But I also carry around a used Nikon CoolPix885. The 885 was a high-end camera in its day. It's got excellent Nikkor glass, a solid build, and a nice form factor. It slips into my pocket and is there with me in situations where hauling the Canon and its kit around is cumbersome for me and dangerous to the equipment.
The downside is that it has "only" 3.3 megapixel resolution - a number which seems small today, but at the time this camera was new it was the high end of technology. But this seems to make little difference; it makes wonderful 8x10s and quite surprisingly good 11x14 images.
The upside is that since it was used it cost less than a hundred bucks as a complete kit, so I'm not so fretful of what might happen to it out on the road.
There's a tool for every job. Yesterday's high-end cameras cost a fraction of what they used to and still deliver superb photos. After all, the most important component in a picture is the photographer, not the hardware.
A little follow-up: (is there an icon for that?) Anyway, I bought an Olympus XA (advice from Dave Belew - other thread about considering a Minox). This seems about ideal.
I did get a never-ready case for my Oly DSLRs, but the B&H person was wrong in telling me you can use it like the old SLR ones - I know how silly they may have seemed but for trail running they'd work well. Let's just say you can't just drop the lens part and have the bottom stay on (or not in any reasonable way.)
I think prime lenses (the XA has a 35mm f/2.8, which is a good one for this use) are better when you're bopping around (less jiggle). Besides, when you're moving and trying to be on the lookout for photo opportunities it's better to simplify. Mild wide angle is also better than mild tele, I think, because the aesthetic challenge in camera trail running is to try to see overall scenes, overall images, and not interesting things.
I don't know if it's good for the photographer's eye even to attempt this. The percentage of good shots does seem to be low - I get a lot of almost pretty good shots this way. Still, if I'm going to be on the trail anyway I might as well try, and I have some hope that this will help develop my eye.
By the way, that XA has an incredibly quiet shutter, but that's another matter that I'll return to once I have some more data. I've just taken comparison shots with the same film (Fuji Press 800) using the XA and a Nikon F3 with the 35mm f/2.
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