Uncle Dave’s photo club: In praise of little cameras…

But first…
Dulltown, UK: Today’s ancient Egyptian deity is the goddess Anuket with her tall plumed headdress and her papyrus sceptre. She is ‘the huntress’ and is often associated with cataracts. (Anuket)
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Cameras, of course, are just tools for taking pictures. That’s it really… but I think I might just say it again – cameras are just tools for taking pictures…
In the old days cheap cameras were pretty bad, and expensive cameras were wonderful things, but they were still just tools.
The better 35mm cameras were made from metal and generally the finish was satin-chrome and/or black, they had dimpled leather-effect stuff on the bodies to give you a better grip, they would come in a nice snug fitting leather case with a strap so that you could hang it around your neck as you strolled around St Mark’s Square, or as you lolled, squinting into the evening sun in a slow-moving gondola – you know, that sort of thing… They were reassuringly heavy in the hand and the big eye-like lens glinted as the expensive glass caught the light, and flashed it back at you in one of its mysterious rainbow colours.
They were very nice things to hold, a haptic joy, you just couldn’t stop fiddling with them, even when they didn’t have a film inside – click, wind, click, wind, I think I’ll just check the slower shutter speeds… Cul….lick. Oh, nice!…
I don’t like it, but I think I can understand why some people are rather keen on guns. Handguns are a bit like those old cameras; well made, fit for their purpose, heavy in the hand, made of nicely finished metal, nice to pick up and hold, even with no bullets in them… you know this trigger feels a bit… Bang!… Oh shit!…
But enough of guns… Let’s carry on with their more creative and far less destructive cousin, the camera. So back in the days of film and darkroom photography we all wanted one of those beautifully made Nikon ‘professional cameras’ and one or two chunky lenses to go with it. I saved up and eventually bought a battered old second-hand black-bodied Nikon F (I still have it, but just as a ‘nice thing to have’) it was a joy to use, and I did take quite a few good pictures with it, but…
But?…
Yes, but… it was just a tool. Taking good and interesting pictures doesn’t really have a lot to do with the price, or even the quality, of the camera – especially now that we have all gone digital. As I have mentioned several times in these posts, good pictures come from observing the world and seeing possible pictures – it’s called ‘keeping your eyes open’, and spotting interesting things even when you are not even thinking about photography. Of course the other side of this art is composing the picture, it’s a good idea to learn to look at the image on your little screen and see it as the finished thing; if it’s not quite right, move the camera around a bit until it is… Go on!… Actually compose it!…
I now have a little £80 Nikon ‘compact’ Coolpix camera – it’s great! Most of the pictures that I put on here are taken with it. It is not heavy, it’s too small to be ‘nice in the hand’ like the old ones were, but these cameras are light enough to carry in your bag or pocket so that it’s with you all of the time; so you are always ready for that moment when… Hang on a minute… Look!… That tall man with the big nose and dark glasses, he is walking down the street carrying a stuffed mongoose… click!
I know a few people who really don’t like the idea of little cameras – they go for the ‘more professional’ ones – ones with big fat lenses on them, ones which are generally black, and weigh about as much as a good-sized oven-ready chicken, or even a fully loaded Smith & Wesson revolver – you see where I’m coming from here? These status cameras have lots of clever knobs and features on them that you might bother to learn to use by reading the big fat instruction manual, or possibly not… The people who have these things wander around with them not really looking for possible photos, but just wearing them as big jewelry, and always on the lookout for other middle-aged men with similar, and slightly cheaper, ones…
No, you don’t need all that, a small cheap compact is fine, they are all pretty good these days – photography is all about thinking and seeing, not buying or showing off. Look at Henri Cartier-Bresson, he invariably used a little camera. (Click)

About Dave Whatt

Grumpy old surrealist artist, musician, postcard maker, bluesman, theatre set designer, and debonair man-about-town. My favourite tools are the plectrum and the pencil...
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10 Responses to Uncle Dave’s photo club: In praise of little cameras…

  1. Jheron Bash says:

    Don’t know about “other middle aged men”, I seem to see more women; young, middle-aged and old, with spanky digital SLR’s! Mind you, I’ve got one myself & there’s still something to be said for looking through the lens. But I don’t really use the big Nikon now I’ve got a little Coolpix like yourself. The results seem just as good & convenience is key. Bet Cartier-Bresson would have a little Coolpix if he was around.
    Harry Happysnaps.

  2. ktz2 says:

    A long time ago, long before anything digital, my dad built a darkroom in our basement and decided I was to learn B&W photography, developing & printing. He gave me his Nikon when he got a new one. That thing was HEAVY ! I sometimes used the strapped hinged hardcase as my purse.

    Once in a while it would accompany me at my whim, so it was at hand a few times for spontaneous great ‘photo ops’. In Union Square, San Franciso I saw an absolutely gorgeous man and asked to photograph him- I was a fearless teenager. .haha. No objections from him and I tsensed he was accustomed to it, being so pretty, perhaps even a professional subject. (and French too!)

  3. ktz2 says:

    I don’t know, it was a long time ago but he was exceptional, so good looking in the way that heads would turn to look. Good looks/beauty are just a circumstance of the parents’ DNA, the person isn’t ‘special’ or ‘better’ because of that but people tend to react to them as if they are, I was guilty of it too that day.

  4. I have to agree with you – I love little cameras, and generally use mine – or even the camera on my phone, more than the “big” camera I got for Christmas last year. The “big” one is lovely and takes great pics, but I really can’t be bothered lugging it around and fiddling with the settings – the moment goes. Back in the day, I used an old film camera and developed my own photographs. Bliss. 🙂

    • Dave Whatt says:

      Yes, my dear Scribbler, a big camera in the bag really slows you down – so you tend to not take it with you, and then, of course, you see some really great shots that you have missed – Doh!…

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