On Traveling Without The Big DSLR Camera


I own a Nikon D200 with some extra stuff, including a 28-300 telephoto lens that weighs a ton. I have a Panasonic Lumix (that’s what I used to shoot this picture of dusk in the Serengeti), and an iPhone. I have a video camera, too (the only thing on my list of gear that I did not pay for – I got the video camera in a promotional scheme two years ago). I’ve traveled with all of this stuff and used it all, though I’ll confess that I never did fall in love with the video camera.

I have some formal training in photography, some hardcore classroom time combined with some unofficial apprenticeship with an architectural photographer in the San Francisco Bay Area. I am no stranger to the darkroom (oh, I just gave away my age). I used to shoot, develop and print my own work, though I don’t miss the darkroom. Digital photography has made me love the art even more, though I decried the clumsiness of my first 3-megapixel camera – the metering was bad, the battery life atrocious and the optics, second rate. Digital gear has eaten film now; the quality is just as good and the optics in my phone are 97 times better than that of my first digital camera.

And while I’m not sorry I hauled my full kit to Antarctica and the Serengeti, I am dead tired of carrying all that weight around. A day behind that heavy SLR with the telephoto, and my arm aches. I hate the hassle of carrying around a pack full of lenses, batteries, maybe a flash, a tripod, and whatever extras I’ve packed in preparation. Sometimes, a full pack of photo gear is what keeps me from traveling carryon only. And there’s the added concern about the value of all that gear – a need to keep it safe and under my watch.

I’ve been shooting with my iPhone 4s for about six months now, and with a Panasonic Lumix for maybe two years. When I headed overseas last month, I decided to make a leap of faith and leave behind the big guns and travel with gear that I could fit in my pockets or the little Swiss Army shoulder bag I like to carry when I travel.

%Gallery-160397%Did I miss having my DSLR? Not at all. I felt surprisingly light and taking pictures was easy – easier than on any trip I’ve ever taken. I split my use about 50/50 between my new Lumix and my iPhone, and the work I got was as good as on any trip that I took with my DSLR. Here are some of the reasons I loved shooting light:

  • Low light: I don’t own the lenses for my DSLR to shoot in low light without a tripod. Night shots – I could never get them right before. My phone and my pocket camera handle low light much better than my SLR.
  • Point-and-shoot: Good photography is about the eye, not about the gear, and my point-and-shoot lets me do just that, fast. Read a little Cartier-Bresson on the decisive moment, and you’ll see what I mean.
  • Super smart settings: Yes, you can tweak the settings like crazy, but you can also shoot in auto. Go ahead, call me lazy – whatever. I’m using the brain inside the camera to enable my eye. I like being able to do that.
  • Display over viewfinder: With my SLR, I was always stopping, steadying, framing – with a camera stuck to my face. It interrupts the conversation. Shooting from my solar plexus allows me to watch and listen and shoot at the same time.
  • Ease of access and use: My camera was always right there, not zipped away so it was padded and protected, so I simply shot more pictures. It fits in my back pocket; it’s about the same size as my wallet, so it’s easy to take anywhere.
  • Serious zoom: The 20x optical zoom on my Lumix is rated as equivalent to a 35-500 lens. That’s some range for optics that fit in a camera that’s the size of my wallet and weighs about the same.

The downside?

  • Bright light: It’s hard to see the viewfinder in brightly lit settings. At a few locations, I wished for a viewfinder and this camera does not have one.
  • The menus are insane: Sure, I’ll figure them out. But I know all the controls and what they do on my DSLR and I can tweak them fast. The navigation system viewfinder-based pocket cameras are basically a computer and you navigate through it as such. This is a learning curve issue that I’m sure I’ll master.

Lots of companies are making higher-end pocket cameras – my favorite is Lumix by Panasonic, but Olympus makes them, and Nikon and Canon too, as well as a number of other electronics brands. We’ve upgraded the Lumix three times at our house – not because it was broken, but because we wanted the improvements. I can’t speak to the other brands, I simply don’t know them, but I can say that yes, it is possible to get thoroughly satisfying shots with only a pocket camera. I loved traveling that much lighter, and what did I sacrifice? Not much. Not much at all.

Canon Offers Free Photography Workshops In US National Parks

Yellowstone Park, site of a national park photography workshop from CanonCamera manufacturer Canon has once again teamed up with the American Park Network to offer free photography and videography workshops in U.S. national parks. These workshops, which include video for the first time, will be available in a variety of locations and offer park visitors a chance to learn new skills, or hone existing ones, in some of the most photogenic environments on the planet.

The Photography in the Parks program has already been wrapped up in the Grand Canyon, Zion and Yosemite National Parks this year, but new opportunities begin in other parks as early as today. For example, workshops in Yellowstone run from July 21-31 and are held three times daily. Anyone wishing to participate can join in the fun at 8:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. at the Old Faithful Lodge. Participants are encouraged to arrive 15-30 minutes early. Other upcoming workshops will be held in Grand Teton National Park (August 1-2), Rocky Mountain National Park (August 5-11) and Acadia National Park (August 18-29).

Instructors will be on hand to provide tips on how to get the most out of your digital camera or camcorder. They’ll also have a variety of Canon products available to test as well, including their wonderful EOS DSLR cameras, EF lenses, PowerShot point and shoot and Vixia camcorders. Those expert photographers will demonstrate fun and creative ways to capture the exact photo you’re trying to achieve.

For more information check out the Photography in the Parks website and start making your plans to sit in on one of these classes soon. This is a great opportunity to get a free workshop that could improve your travel photography skills.

Take a photographic adventure with National Geographic

Photographic adventures from National Geographic mix travel and learningFans of National Geographic have long been drawn to the magazine’s fantastic photos, with many of us wishing we had the skills to take similar shots ourselves. Now, National Geographic Expeditions is offering us the opportunity to go on a photographic adventure while building and honing those skills along the way.

Nat Geo Expeditions is the travel arm of National Geographic, offering up some excellent adventure travel opportunities to a number of far flung places. But they also offer aspiring photographers the chance to take part in photography workshops held throughout the country including New York, Washington DC, Tuscon, and Santa Fe. Those workshops range in length from 4 to 7 days, and will teach you everything you need to know about using that fancy digital camera that you bought, but never got around to learning how to operate. For dates and pricing on those workshops click here.

Perhaps even more exciting however are the Photo Expeditions that Nat Geo has to offer. Those trips are 8-12 days in length and will send you off to some amazing places where you’ll learn everything you’ve always wanted to know about photography. Destinations include Alaska, Bhutan, Morocco, Costa Rica, and the Galapagos Islands. Much like the workshops, these trips are designed for photographers of all skill levels and are led by National Geographic photographers with years of experience in the field. They also happen to add healthy doses of culture and adventure to the mix. For more information on the Photo Expeditions click here.

For someone who loves to snap photos (like me!), but wishes they had a firmer grasp on the technical aspects of the art (also like me!), these workshops and expeditions are fantastic opportunities to learn from an expert. So whether you use a point and shoot or a high-end DSLR, a National Geographic photographic adventure is sure to be a fantastic experience.

[Photo Credit: National Geographic Expeditions]




Canon Powershot SX210 IS digital camera review

As part of our ongoing series of camera reviews, this review will take a closer look at the new Canon Powershot SX210 IS. The SX210 IS offers some of the best specifications of any point and shoot camera – a compact body with a 14.1 megapixel sensor, 14x optical zoom, HD video, 3″ LCD screen and a variety of smart shooting modes.

Despite housing a massive 14x optical zoom, the SX210 IS is a very compact camera – and as part of this new generation of ultra-zoom point and shoot cameras, its zoom performance is actually very good.

On the back of the SX210 IS, you’ll find the usual controls – a D-PAD/scroll wheel, play, erase, display and menu buttons and a quick mode selector knob.

On the top is the zoom knob, along with power and shutter control. Next to these buttons on the top is a stereo microphone and a pop-up flash.

On the side is where you’ll find a MiniUSB jack and MiniHDMI. Both these connectors already give the SX210 IS high marks in my books – because too many camera manufacturers are sticking with their own proprietary connectors – something Canon moved away from on most of their products.

The LCD on the rear is large and bright – and works fairly well in direct sunlight – which is just as well, because the camera lacks an optical viewfinder. In fact, you’ll have a hard time finding optical viewfinders on any point and shoot camera
nowadays.

Now on to the actual performance of the camera – start up time is quick – under 2 seconds. One annoying part of the start up is the position of the flash – it pops up on the top left, and even after two weeks, I still find myself holding it there when I turn it on. Not a huge deal, it just means I usually have to manually raise it.

Zoom is quick, but the zoom control is very poorly designed. The small zoom rocker is sharp, and after a lot of zooming, you’ll actually hurt your fingers. It takes a lot of pressure to move the zoom at its fastest.

Thankfully those two minor issues are the only negatives – photo quality is fantastic, and video quality is above average for a point and shoot camera.

To prove my point, check out these two photos showing off the zoom capabilities of the camera – both were taken at the same spot:

Menus on the SX210 IS are very easy to navigate, despite being loaded with a ton of features. The layout is such that I never got lost, so kudos to Canon for their user interface design. The menus can be navigated using the D-pad (button) or scroll wheel for quick navigation.

One menu item I do want to point out is the dedicated section for Eye-Fi memory cards – as a huge fan of Eye-Fi cards, having special camera features for these wireless cards is just plain brilliant. The camera stays powered on during transfers, and you can check the wireless status on the display. In addition to this, you can enable or disable the wireless portion of the card, which is perfect if you want to save some battery life.

The Canon SX210 IS retails for $349.99 – street price seems to average about $30 less. This puts it quite a bit above the price of the recently reviewed Nikon S8000 (with a 10x optical zoom), but the 14x zoom on the Canon does justify its higher price.

All in all I’m loving the SX210 IS – so much in fact, that it is finally a camera I’ve settled on (after purchasing and reviewing a whole bunch of others). So, until the next best camera comes along, I’m going to highly recommend the Canon Powershot SX210IS as the best travel friendly point and shoot camera of the summer season. It will not disappoint.

Top ten U.S. spots for photography

As full-time traveling photographers, my husband and I have traveled all over the U.S. in search of the most beautiful cities and sites to photograph. From the vast open desert to towering urban skylines and raging river canyons, we’ve compiled the top 10 best places to visit for photographers. You’ll find a few well-known favorites along with some unique photography hot spots where you’ll find new inspiration. Grab your camera and let’s get clicking!

10. Seattle, WA
From gorgeous harbor views to the dramatic Mount Rainier, Seattle is city with plenty of photographic appeal. Wake up early and head down to Pike Place Market as the vendors stand claim their booths for the day. From photos of vibrant street life to stunning views of the waterway, Pike Place Market is the place to start your photo adventure in Seattle. If you are lucky enough to be in Seattle during the month of June, the Freemont Summer Solstice Parade is a photographer’s dream come true! Watch as thousands of people parade down one of Seattle’s most eclectic streets, leaving little to the imagination with colorful painted bodies and wild parade floats. It’s a blizzard of color and activity not to be missed.

Of course no trip to Seattle is complete without a trip to the Space Needle. We highly recommend shooting this famous structure at night. Behind the Space Needle is a museum designed by Frank Gehry, another beautiful structure to photograph. If you’re into architecture, continue on to Seattle’s Public Library for a few more shots. Walk along the waterfront for more camera opportunities, visit the Sculpture Gardens and if you have time, and be sure to venture out on one of the giant Ferry Boats to enjoy a ride to one of the Port cities, taking in Seattle’s majestic harbor along the way.
9. Outer Banks, NC
Sand dunes and peaceful shores await you on a photographing adventure to North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Travel north past Whale Head Bay and walk along the oceanfront, if you’re lucky, you can photograph wild horses as they run through the sand and splash in the water.

Travel along Corolla Blvd. to the Currtick Beach Lighthouse for the most beautiful sunset over the still waterways. Photograph pelicans landing on the gazebo and the lighthouse just as the sun drops below the horizon. Travel south and take a ferry to Ocracoke, a quaint town offering a diverse photographing experience and beautiful views of the ocean.

8. Las Vegas, NV and Red Rock Canyon, NV
The lights! The glitz! The shine! From the bizarre to the beautiful, Las Vegas has it all for photo hunters. Schedule a trip to the Neon Graveyard to photograph the old neon signs of Las Vegas. Then head down the strip to the New York, NY hotel, The Venetian, Caesars Palace and Paris for some impressive neon-lit hotel shots. Every night starting at 8:00 pm make your way to the famous Bellagio water fountain show. The lights, the water and the amazing formations will have you clicking a mile-a-minute to keep up with this amazing display.

When the neon of Vegas is too much, head out to Red Rock Canyon Park. The park is about 15 minutes away from the strip, and boasts a 10-mile loop through some of Nevada’s most beautiful landscapes. Be sure to get there for sunset and watch the mountains change colors as the sun goes down. Beautiful rock formations, wildlife and scenic overlooks will delight any shutterbug.

7. Asheville, NC
Asheville, NC offers a wealth of options for camera-toting visitors, from historic sights and natural wonders. Start with a drive on the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway and stop at amazing vista points. Travel the nearby hiking paths to see wildlife, waterfalls, and beautiful pines. Visit Chimney Rock Park and the Carolina Mountain trail for more leisurely hikes and photo experiences. For the more rigorous hikes, try the Dupont State Forrest and an unforgettable photography experience. Of course, no trip to Asheville is complete with out a trip to the Biltmore Estate. The luxurious gardens and historic mansion offer an abundance of great scenes to be snapped.

6. New York, NY

New York City is an urban photographer’s dream come true. From the lights of Broadway to the Bakeries of Little Italy, the “picture perfect” photo opportunities are everywhere. Our favorite spot to shoot in New York City is Central Park. Nestled amongst thousands of skyscrapers, this urban sanctuary offers countless photography opportunities. Head to the Central Park Zoo in the Northern end of the park, or photograph the beautiful lake as boaters enjoy the city skyline. Then move to the famous historic carousel, and hop on! The views are beautiful as you take your camera and steady it on a the ride’s colorful circus animals.

In the winter visit Central Park’s ice skating rink, where hundreds of children stumble on the slippery ice with their parents. Take a stroll in the fall through tree lined paths, and in the spring enjoy the blooming spring flowers. Central Park can be enjoyed during any season, and offers the perfect picture taking experience.

5. San Francisco, CA

For photography lovers, San Francisco is the perfect mix of natural and urban. Start your day below the Golden Gate bridge to capture this amazing structure in the early morning light. Then head for Fisherman’s Wharf for the street life and views of Alcatraz. The Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park is another photographic must, with beautiful gardens surrounded by the dramatic city views. End your day by heading across the Golden Gate Bridge for the Marin Headlands. Head to the water surrounded by rocks and grassy hills and if you are lucky enough, see wildlife grazing in open fields.

4. Joshua Tree, CA
This extraordinary National Park in Southern California is one of the most spectacular natural wonders in the United States. Located about an hour East of Palm Springs, Joshua Tree has no shortage of amazing wildlife, scenery and fascinating rock formations to photograph. Of course, the park’s Joshua Trees are the main attraction, their odd silhouettes outlining the skyline at dusk.. Be sure to head to the vista point over the San Andreas Fault to stand this amazing geological oddity. Make sure to stick around for the picture-perfect sunset.

3. San Diego, CA
There is not a bad time of year to photograph sunny San Diego! One of the most beautiful spots in San Diego is Torrey Pines State Park. Dramatic cliffs lead to the spectacular ocean and shore line. Between January and March head to the park’s cliffs, overlooking the ocean. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of the whale migration from Alaska to Baja, Mexico, perfect for some dramatic photos.

Next head to Balboa Park for beautiful photography opportunities of gorgeous buildings, and complex landscapes. Then make your way North to La Jolla to check out seal beach, where hundreds of seals bask in the sunny shores. And of course no photography trip to San Diego is complete without going to Mission Beach. Walk the two mile boardwalk for spectacular views and a gorgeous sunset, and of course Belmont Amusement park, at the end of the boardwalk.

2. Grand Canyon, AZ
The Grand Canyon, one of the natural wonders of the world, lives up to its reputation in every way. There’s no shortage of photographic experiences in the Grand Canyon either. A photo-taker could spend days in one single spot and never get the same image twice. Wake up early to see the brilliant sunrises or stay late for sunset and watch as the mountains change colors. Stop at all the scenic overlooks as you drive from one end of the park to the other. Be sure to find a hike that is comfortable for you to really get into the depths of the canyon.

1. Jerome, AZ

A hidden gem located between Sedona and Cottonwood, Jerome, Arizona is a town of 500 people embedded into the surrounding mountains. Situated on the beautiful switchbacks, Jerome offers photographers an amazing view of the valley and mountains below.

Once a fading mining town, Jerome has been revived in recent years by a growing community of artists. Every thing about Jerome is an artistic photograph waiting to happen, from the old doors to quirky light fixtures. The beauty of Jerome can be seen any time of day, but sunset is an experience you won’t soon forget. Jerome might be small, but its beauty is big, making it our favorite spot to take our cameras.

From coast to coast, America is packed with great photos waiting to happen. So, head out with your camera, find a new place, and be sure to snap a few shots along the way!

Related:
* 10 great cities (around the world) for photography
* 24 greatest cities in the world for drinking beer
* 15 more great cities for drinking beer
* The 25 greatest cities in the world for drinking wine
* The 20 greatest cities in the world for foodies

Before you go, be sure to check out Travel Talk, in which the guys visit a highly photogenic spot: the top of Manhattan.