Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Camera mania

A combination of forgetting my cameras at home last weekend and Silb's post about the death of yet another Pentax made me ponder my camera set up for outdoor photography. At this point I have an Olympus 790 SW for my waterproof/shockproof point and shoot and a Nikon D5000 35mm digitial SLR. I like both cameras and they take decent pictures. Where I have trouble is the seam between the obvious 35mm conditions and the obvious waves and weather that makes me pull out the waterproof Olympus.

If I divide my outdoor photography between kayaking, hunting, and skiing I have three unique issues to think about. Kayaking is the total immersion problem, hunting is rain and low light, and skiing throws those below freezing temperatures at the equipment. Freezing sweat does nothing to improve camera performance for the avid cross country skier either. On the kayak I have a Sagebrush Dry Bag on deck for the Nikon. It has a drysuit zipper and is made of hypalon, the same tough material used in folding kayak hulls. Every spring I do a few rolls with it filled with paper toweling so I can detect any possible leaks; so far so good. The Olympus is in my life jacket pocket and the question is always whether conditions are such that I can be 95% sure of remaining upright when I pull the Nikon out of the bag. As we all know, the best wind and weather opportunities occur when a person really needs to keep 'their hands on the wheel' as they say. Yet we all try to get the great wave shot. Big swells don't present much of a problem due to their predictability. The shot of the VOR sliding down a wave off the tip of the Keweenaw illustrates that unless you need some object to identify the waves or even big swells look like little chop.
The high speed super computer that is the human brain....OK,maybe mine's not that high speed and it can be easily slowed by simple distractions.....takes a bunch of factors like wind, waves, spray, direction of paddle, etc., into account. It then decides whether to tell me to let go of the paddle, unzip the dry bag, and pull out the Nikon or do a one handed scull and quickly grab the Olympus with the other. So far I've erred on the side of not dunking an expensive digital SLR and have come out OK. The boat factor is huge as well with the Aquanaut being a much more stable photo platform than the twitchy Q boat.

There has to be a better way to capture nasty conditions. They are far more interesting than your kayak bow jutting out into some placid yet scenic panorama, with a couple of your fellow paddlers boats and the backs of their heads in the foreground. Any brilliant ideas, short of a waterproof housing for the Nikon (which would make it the size of a small shed) would be greatly appreciated.


Silbs said...

Great post. You really hit the points of the challenges of outdoor photography.

Michael and Martha said...

I haven't yet figure out this one either - I'd love to capture the highs and lows of paddling through two metre swells.