Friday, July 12, 2013

The Value of a Good Point-and-Shoot - Costa Rica, Part 8

So if you've met many professional photographers, especially when you're walking around with your little point-and-shoot, you know that a lot of 'professional' people can be pretty dismissive of any camera that fits in your pocket.

I'll bet you a fair amount of money that those people are studio photographers who have the chance to control lighting, use a tripod, arrange and re-arrange their subjects and reshoot when they don't like the results they get.

Wildlife photographers are far more likely to understand why you might want the camera to do a bit of the thinking for you.  When the light is whatever nature grants you on that day, when your subject has a mind of its own and when you can't come back the next day and decide that 'everything sucked yesterday; let's reshoot!', you become much more attuned to thinking fast, shooting faster and trying to correct problems with the shot in post-production.

And, of course, there's the photography maxim that I think all photographers should embrace:  The best camera for a given situation is the one you have with you!

Getting a less-than-amazing shot of that rare butterfly is better than NOT getting a shot of that rare butterfly at all.  Catching your kid doing their first cartwheel on your cellphone is infinitely better than not having any picture to send off to those adoring grandparents.

And to top it off, some of the point-and-shoot pocket cameras are getting to be pretty good cameras.  The sensors have gotten to a point that unless you're doing billboard art, you'll be totally fine making 8x10 or even 11x15 prints from your pocket camera.  The one I took to Costa Rica was 16 megapixels.  That's actually more MPs than my SLR.

This camera has a few downsides, compared to the SLR - specifically, the digital zoom/macro is awful.  Give me a good glass lens for that stuff any day.  The battery tends to get sucked up by the screen and it has an auto-off that shuts the camera down to conserve the battery, but it means you lose a few precious seconds having to turn it back on when that critter you weren't expecting pops up out of nowhere. (I'll show you a huge toad that did that to me when I get to amphibians - I almost lost him waiting for the camera to power up.)

But there are things you can do with a good pocket camera that you can't do with many SLRs.  Off the top of my head: movies (unless you have one of the very recent SLRs), panorama shots, and shooting in/near the water.  (Please be sure your pocket camera is waterproof/water resistant before doing this!)

So while I won't be trading in my SLR any time soon (ever), I'm rediscovering the value of having a pocket camera on me at all times.  Most of the shots from this post were taken with my 'indestructible' (crush-resistant, water-resistant, fall-resistant...) Pentax point-and-shoot.

So here's another reason having a point-and-shoot can be a good idea:  casual photographers can use it.  I've had more than a few people either hesitate to shoot for me with the SLR and a few more that do so, but do it really badly because they aren't sure what everything does (like, hey, this wheel thing on the end of the lens turns!  So now it's out of focus) so the shots don't come out.  Here's me on the Poás Volcano.  I have my SLR over my shoulder, so obviously a friend from the trip shot this for me with my pocket camera.  There's one of the other mountain ranges behind me (sorry, can't remember which one) and the central valley, with San Jose, between us.  

And here's the aforementioned panoramic capability of the camera.  Can't do that (easily and in-camera) with a DSLR!

Here's just a few more scenery shots.  Like I've said before, I'm not normally the landscape and scenery type, but Costa Rica has some pretty amazing views.

When, you know... it doesn't look like this.  This is up on the Poás Volcano... I think.  We were up a good bit, so I'm pretty sure that's where we were.  And once again, we were reminded that we were in the RAIN forest.  Which means clouds.  And once you get up high enough, you literally have your head (and feet and arms and the rest of you...) in the clouds!

And then there is the upside to the SLR being able to be left on, so I don't lose shots due to camera warm up time...

These shots were taken as the bus was moving.  Because the camera was on and waiting I was able to get these pretty good shots on the fly.  Drive... whatever. :)

This is the Rio Sucio, or Dirty River.  The water is yellow because of the sulfer deposits it picks up from the Irazú Volcano.

You can see it snaking down from the river a bit in this shot.

But the shot I'm really amazed that I got is this one.  This is where the Rio Sicio joins with the Rio Honduras and you can see where the clear water of the Honduras join with the yellow waters of the Sucio.  I wouldn't have gotten these shots with the point and shoot only because I wouldn't have had the time to let the camera turn on.  Not to mention that checking the settings is more time consuming because you actually have to go through menus on the screen, whereas on the SLR, I just look at the dial on the top and I'm good to go.

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