Looking through a small book devoted to 12 war photographers — from Roger Fenton covering the Crimean War to others, including Margaret Bourke-White, Henri Cartier-Bresson, David Seymour and Robert Capa wouldn’t normally be an introductory paragraph to a blog about hiking with a camera. And I can’t recall Robert Capa without thinking about his D-Day landing in the surf at Normandy, surviving the day, photographing life and death on the beaches — only to see his film nearly ruined when a darkroom technician in England tried speed drying the developed film, nearly burning it in an overheated drying cabinet. But that story will have to wait for another day. In the book was a photograph of another war photographer, David Douglas Duncan in Korea in 1950. Around his neck was his trusty Leica, but most interesting to me was the tape covering the camera’s lens–it appears the tape could have been used to lock the camera’s f-stop ring and perhaps even the knurled focusing ring. Duncan may have invented the original “point-and-shoot” camera.
Certainly a strange way to lead into a blog on photography. Boiled down, I’m trying to say that anyone interested in photography should select simple equipment and learn what it can do before trying another camera, another lens, another gadget. For my hike among the rocks north of Henry along the Nebraska-Wyoming state line, I carried a modern digital single lens reflex and a 35mm moderately wide angle lens. The camera was set to do both auto exposure and auto focus, really just a “point and shoot”. And nearly any of the hundreds of modern cameras — the ubiquitous “point and shoot” small cameras with a zoom lens including a moderate wide angle to moderate telephoto would be even a better choice of camera to carry along.
Using a single lens can help the photographer learn something about composition. Need to fill more of the frame with the main subject? Walk closer to take the photo. Need to show a smaller subject and its surroundings? Back up a little. I’ve read that fashion photographers in the big markets like New York are even using cell phone cameras for their art. My $19.00 cell phone has a camera, but it is completely useless unless unsharp, unfocused, badly exposed snaps become art. But a majority of cell phones obviously take better photographs, and if you have one that takes good images I’d enjoy seeing some of your photos.
If you are looking for a simple to use, straight-forward and moderately priced camera, the “point and shoot” variety with a zoom lens that includes a wide angle (perhaps 28mm to 35mm) out to moderate telephoto (85mm to 135mm) or so will work exceptionally well. When I mention lenses, including the 28mm and others, I’m referring to “equivalent” focal length — it is confusing but a 35mm lens on a 35mm film or digital sensor is a moderate wide angle. On smaller sensor digital cameras, for example, a 35mm lens might be the equivalent of a normal, 50mm lens. Almost all of the camera data sheets describe the lens in equivalents to full-frame 35mm film-size cameras.
A bird or wildlife photographer will need the longest telephoto lens they can afford, and if you want to do specialized macro or closeup photography then the interchangeable lens cameras offer the very best options. But many of the point and shoots can do amazing closeups, and many of the lenses have zoom ranges that extend out to longer telephoto capabilities, it is still possible to find a one size fits all camera.
Digital sensor size is currently the race between camera makers but I’ve seen excellent 16X20-inch enlargements made from moderate, 6 mp size sensors — Beautifully seen, heart-felt 5X7-inch, 6X9-inch and enlargements up to 11X14-inches are well within the capabilities of most of the smaller digital sensor cameras made today. Get out and take a hike, do street photography in urban environments, family, friends and neighbors in your small town, the beauty of country lanes and Sandhills, or like me, hike the rocks. But get out and enjoy photography.