Thursday, 17 February 2011

Camel Trekking and Point N Shoots

This week Linden Neill touched down and the landing back to reality after the adventure of the past six months has been a hard one. In this blog he shares some of his thoughts on his travels, advantages and disadvantages of using a point and shoot, why he choose one and a few of his tips learnt along the road around the world.

Below are some tips and thoughts on travel from my experiences so far.
Watch out for dust.
Dust was probably the only major problem we encountered with our gear. If you think of dust, water and shock as the major killers of cameras, I think dust is the one we are least aware of. We all know when it’s raining or humid and we are all careful not to smash our cameras but dust is very sneaky and gets in their while you’re off enjoying yourself.

Depending on where you’re travelling this may not be an issue but in places like Turkey and Morocco where we went it is very dusty all the time. To try and minimise the dust getting in to the lens I tried to keep the camera (Canon G11) turned off so the lens was retraced and covered and fired it up to take a picture. This also stops the lens being crushed when it is extended. Allot of the areas we were in were really crowded with people bumping into each other all the time so keeping the lens retracted is a good idea for point and shoots. I also had a cleaning kit with me in including a Rocket Blower and wet cleaning kit.

I’m sure you all carry a Rocket Blower (If not then you really need one) but the wet cleaning kit might not be something you always use. I haven’t had to use one at home as usually a lens cloth is enough but I was getting all sorts of blobs and splashes of stuff on the lens, which the wet cleaner had no problems getting off.
 Marrakech Medina
Image by Linden Neill
Gorilla Pods
For those who haven’t seen them a Gorilla Pod is a small tripod with legs that are flexible and can be wrapped around things. If you need a tripod for a point n shoot then these are probably the way to go. I bought the biggest one at the time (there is now a larger one) and a ball head which worked out perfectly with the G11.

There were times when I missed shots because it’s so small compared to a normal tripod and I couldn’t get the height needed (think a landscape with no trees or posts to attach the Gorilla Pod too) but I was also able to get shots that other people with full size tripods weren´t. One example was in Plitvice National Park in Croatia. The park is home to some waterfalls and dams made of living rock, so they have built a thin boardwalk all through the park to keep people of the ground. There was nowhere for people to put a tripod to take nice picture of all the waterfalls but I was able to just wrap the Gorilla Pod on a tree and get shooting.

Most of the time I was also able to use it in places where tripods are not allowed but you need one to get good shots. Places like insides of historical sites and museums. Only once did someone ask me to not use it but I would have had no chance anywhere with a normal tripod. 

Cold Weather and Altitude
We had to be careful in some of the places we visited when bringing the cameras from the snow to the heated rooms. If the camera is brought straight in from the cold, you get the same effect as the outside of a nice cold drink on a hot day. Condensation will form all over and more importantly inside the lens/camera. To get around this we put our cameras in a zip lock bag before bringing them inside. The condensation then forms on the outside of the bag as the camera comes up to room temperature. Probably a good idea to just to seal the bag before you put the camera in to check it hasn’t got any holes in it.

Also for those that have a "tough" camera that’s waterproof be careful of altitude. We went into the Swiss Alps to 3.6km altitude and then went swimming at sea level the next day. We didn’t equalize the camera by opening the seals before we took it into the water and it lead to the camera sucking in water. Afterwards we filled it with white spirits and somehow it came back to life. We have drowned it twice now in salt water (we left one of the latches open the first time... oops) and somehow it still takes pictures so that’s pretty amazing. Still wouldn’t recommend it though.

Store Keeper
Image by Linden Neill

Point and Shoot Vs DSLR
I chose to take a Canon G11 rather than my DSLR so here are some positives and negatives in hindsight
·         Size. Being able to carry it all day on the shoulder all day is great and it’s easy to just slip it into your pocket if you need to if there is sudden rain or dust from something.
·         Aperture. The G11 has a F2.8 lens so that came in very handy allot of the time in dark areas. To carry the equivalent lens on a DSLR would be very heavy.
·         Depth of Field. With the small sensors on the Point n Shoots, you get a massive depth of field even at large apertures. Again this helps get a nice fast shutter speed in dark areas and still get a good depth of field.
·         Handling. All the important setting can be adjusted using a dedicated dial on the outside of the camera so it is nearly as easy to use as the DLSR.
·         One Handed Operation. We rode on various animals while we were away and being able to shoot and change settings with one hand was great. Would be much more difficult with a DSLR, especially trying to zoom.
·         Speed. Shutter lag and auto focus speed are problems with all Point n Shoots. Once used to it, it’s not too bad but shots are still missed because of it.
·         Aperture. The maximum aperture is F8 so trying to get a slow shutter speed during daylight is sometimes difficult. The G11 does have a 2 stop ND filter built in which helps but there were plenty of times where I still needed a slower shutter speed.
·         Depth of Field. I can’t tell you how much I missed shallow depth of field. I probably will only shoot at F1.8 on the SLR for a few weeks when I get home. The small sensor gets massive depth of field so for some things this isn’t ideal.
Image by Linden Neill

Berber Crepes
Image by Linden Neill

No comments: