Sunday, November 16, 2008

Loose with a Camera …

I haven’t used a camera for a long time – not since I had a Minolta SRT-101 many years ago. I hated wasting film and you really have to take a lot of shots to get the good ones. As a result, I didn’t get out to do much photography. Digital photography has changed all that. I row row regularly on the Marburg Creek Reservoir at Fort Yargo State Park in Winder, Georgia. It wasn’t until I started rowing on the lake in early 2001 that I really appreciated how fascinating the lake was. The scenery changes throughout the year and there are always something of interesting to see - from scenic features to seasonal changes in flowering plants, animals, turtles, etc. It was the drought of 2007 that brought the camera issue to a head. The lowering lake level revealed features that are normally not visible; it was a unique opportunity to record the changes. I hinted that W should let me take his camera out on the lake. Not. A. Chance! (Can't say I blame him though).

So I lobbied for a digital camera for my birthday. Based on my experience with the Minolta, I knew I wanted a telephoto lens and macro capability; I only use wide-angle when absolutely necessary. Since I would be photographing from a rowing shell, I really didn’t want to have to change lenses; it needed to be an ‘all-in-one’ solution. Although I’m a pretty competent rower, there are too many opportunities to drop a camera in the water. I hated the idea of a case since it would make the camera more cumbersome to handle but it would be a necessary evil. In a rowing shell, I wouldn’t have the luxury of letting go of the oars; I would have to hook my arms over the handles or shafts to keep the boat balanced. I would be able to dangle my legs over each side of the boat to increase the stability but it would only help a little and wouldn’t be practical in winter.

I got an Olympus SP-56OUZ; it has a fixed ED
lens with 27 mm wide angle and an 18x optical zoom (27-486mm equivalent), 8 megapixels, and Dual Image Stabilization.

When I go out to the lake, I put the bag in the stern of the cockpit, take the lens cover off the waterproof case, and lay the case on top of a carrying bag with the wrist strap where I can reach it with a little bit of effort. This system works well because I inevitably get water in the cockpit when I get in the boat. With the bag on the cockpit deck, the waterproof camera case stays dry. Although the waterproof case is cumbersome, it has worked out really well. I have gotten used to lining the boat up with what I want to photograph and levering the oar handles between my body and arms to stabilize the boat. I don’t have to worry about ruining the camera if I drop it in the water or flip my boat. It can be a challenge to photograph something up in a tree, but the challenge is as more about stabilizing the boat than actually capturing the image. There’s a real upside to the waterproof case as well. The camera is so relatively small that it would be really easy to drop it in the water; I actually feel safer having it in something the waterproof case.

It’s great to be able to capture images on the water without having to worry about wasting film, photograph in all weather conditions and, finally, be able to capture memories that I’ll be able to enjoy for years and share with friends.