There is a thing I do on Twitter, it’s called Dog Walk Distractions. I thought it would be fun to collect a few highlights and explain what was behind it.
A dog walk is a daily occurrence, sometimes twice daily – our dogs are brim full of energy, with a difficult to find off-switch. We have regular dog walking venues and since we get to know theses venues quite well I tend to take them for granted. I shouldn’t. They are on or about the Isle of Skye and the scenery like that deserves much more respect than I give while trudging ignorantly through it listening to an audiobook and occasionally shouting at dogs to come back.
The distractions began as double takes during a walk. There would be moments that would arouse a “ooh, would you look at that…” response, but since I had a really rubbish camera in my phone I would shrug and carry on.
It occurred to me I was not thinking this through. I am a photographer and everybody knows that the difference between a normal person and a photographer is that a photographer has a nicer camera. That is an in-joke for photographers. When you admit to being one people often say,
“Oh, I bet you have a really good camera.”
Or, “I want to be a photographer but I’ve only got a rubbish camera…”
Sometimes while working someone will say,
“That’s a good camera, bet it takes great pictures.”
The answer is obviously no. It will take just as bad pictures as any other camera in the wrong hands.
Was my refusal to take pictures with my phone a subconscious admission that I thought my photography chops were down to a good camera? Did I have the right hands? Was I relying on my equipment? Hell, no!
Just in case I thought I better give the phone another go…
I really tried to take pictures with the phone but it really was beyond redemption. No matter how good anyone was they were getting a a rubbish picture with it. Little or no focus and the picture was taken at a randomly decides few seconds after the button was pressed, could be as little as one or as many as four seconds later.
Then I thought of our old Canon 5D MkI. Old? The MkI had been state of the art when it was brought out in 2005, Now it is more state of the Ark. Technology has cantered away into the distance leaving it far behind but I still love it. We now use 5D MkIVs and Eos R5 mirrorless cameras they are many leagues ahead of the MkI. So far in advance that there is little or no comparison between the two. It added to the challenge, not only did I have to turn a distraction into an interesting photograph I had to do it with a camera with none of the advanced abilities I have become used to in my workaday cameras. I would have to work within long lost limitations and concentrate on composition. I could prove my often stated view that it is the most important part of taking a photograph. Lots of megapixels, multipoint focus and perfect colour capture means nothing if the composition is crap. Something uninspiring which is lit perfectly is still something uninspiring…
Taking the MkI for a walk was refreshing, interesting and stimulating. I was thinking about composition and lighting in a more inspiring way. It was good for my confidence and I started to take a closer interest in what was going on around me too. I would take note of things. There would be subjects that needed the right light and conversely the right light that needed a subject. Sometimes walks would be taken at a specific time in a certain place so a photo could be captured. The camera was pretty damned heavy though…
Then I got a new phone, a Huawei P20 Pro, which had a fancy camera and weighed a fraction of a 5D and a lens. I quickly moved on to taking pictures with the phone. This is when Dog Walk Distractions really started. I could take a picture and post it while still walking. God knows where the dogs were while I was fully distracted giving a photo a quick edit on the phone and posting it but I haven’t lost any yet.
Sometimes I take a Canon Eos 4000D. They call it an entry level camera. There is a good reason for it being the cheapest DSLR in the Canon range. It is a million miles away from the 5D MkIV but it has a adjustable aperture which the phone doesn’t and sometimes a picture needs some depth. I think I like using it in a similar vein to the old 5D MkI, It challenges me not to rely on the latest and best technology. It can be really challenging. It’s sensor is basic, it’s ISO range embarrassing and it’s manual functions a tad infuriating. To be honest even though a phone camera can do some remarkable things I am happiest with a DSLR, any DSLR, on manual in my hands. I could prattle on about apertures and F-stops sounding like an audiophile extoling the virtues of turntables and analogue amps giving a richer more pleasurable listening experience but pictures taken with a manual camera are just superior to anything a phone camera can produce. Using great big glass lenses instead of apps to give a photo depth and contrast is better.
What to keep in mind is that the important bit isn’t really what you take a picture with it’s what is in the picture. The previously stated adage of you can still take a really crap picture with a really good camera is very true. What is important is to remember that composition is king.
So that is Dog Walk Distractions, proving that you don’t always need a super-duper fancy camera to take a nice picture just inspiration, imagination and a couple of dogs.