Best Camera = The One You Always Take With You

April 20th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Sunday Sunset Ride. Taken with my wife’s HTC Magic mobile phone.

People who know me well know what a big Chase Jarvis fan boy I am. But I’m an irreverent fan boy, and I must say that before Chase came out with his “The Best Camera Is The One That’s With You” dictum, I’ve already heard it from the equally irreverent and blatantly partial Ken Rockwell. But who said what first is irrelevant. Both Chase and Ken are 100% on the money. And I’ll raise Chase’s brilliant marketing statement by paraphrasing it into something more active — The Best Camera is the One You Always Take With You.

Right now, the camera I always take with me is my Nikon D200, which I usually fit with a 35mm f2 Nikkor. If I’m on assignment, I’ll probably take my 20/2.8 and 85/1.8 as well. But for everyday shooting, the D200+35/2 is all that I need. This combo is compact, lightweight, and inconspicuous — just the way I like it. But on days when all I want to carry is a small beltbag or my Think Tank Skin 50, this configuration feels oversized and clunky. Now, if I just want to take pictures for my blog, my Sony Ericsson W350i, just like Chase’s iPhone, is certainly up for the challenge. But for images I can eventually submit to my stock photo agency? Probably not.

Just recently, a friend of mine finally stepped over to digital and bought himself an Olympus E-P2 — and blew open the world of Micro Four Thirds for me. In Micro 4/3 cameras, the pentaprism and mirror assembly are removed, paving the way for smaller and lighter camera bodies. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 is currently the smallest Micro 4/3 camera at 4.69 (W) x 2.8 (H) x 1.43 (D) in. Comparatively, my D200, without the 35/2 lens, measures 5.8 (W) x 4.4 (H) x 2.9 (D) in. With the 20/1.7 pancake lens and battery attached, the GF1 weighs in at barely one pound. The D200 with battery but sans lens? A little above two pounds. Go figure. Does the GF1 perform? Here’s an article about a 16-day field test in the Himalayas. Personally, I’m impressed.

Of course, like all other cameras, the GF1 is not perfect. Among others, people complain that the GF1′s 20/1.7 lens lacks image stabilization (the E-P2 has image stabilization built into the camera body). I’ve also stumbled upon some lens compatibility issues. But the backbreaker (for myself, at least) has got to be in the arena of High ISO performance. Neither the GF1 nor E-P2 can hold a candle to Nikon’s new generation of DSLRs. But in good light, the GF1 can give the D700 a run for its money.

All right, it’s pretty obvious that I adore the Lumix GF1. The E-P2 is no doubt an equally capable camera, but in my book, “feel” and affinity are what ultimately tip the scales. I “feel” that the E-P2, with its retro styling, is too much of an “urban” camera for my tastes. The GF1 proved itself every inch an adventurer’s camera by surviving 16 days in the Himalayas. That’s a sales pitch in my language right there. If I could, I’d fly to Hong Kong right now and get one in a heartbeat.

But even if I could, I won’t. Not yet, anyway. Going back to “feel,” I “feel” that Micro 4/3 technology has not yet reached the level where its cameras can replace my Nikons as my work cameras. But the door to the Micro 4/3 system lies wide open in front of me. I have seen the future, and it’s where I want to go. Also, no doubt Panasonic is cooking up a GF2 in the Lumix oven as we speak. I’m sure it’s gonna be awesome.

So what about getting a camera I can always take with me? Oh, do I have my sights set on a real beauty right now. Everyone’s gonna know when I finally get the GF1′s amazing little brother, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3.

Breaking the Silence

February 20th, 2009 § 5 comments § permalink


Lolo Bining sat down on a small slender stool in the middle of his shack and waited for me to give him instructions. I had already made a couple of photographs of him, out in his rice field in the afternoon sun, but I didn’t feel I had what I wanted. This shack was special to him. He had a house in the poblacion, but he didn’t want to live there. This dark and creaky shack, with its dirt floor and thatched roof, filled with stacks of cardboard boxes containing farm tools and dusty clothes, smelling of stale urine and cat feces, was where he wanted to be. And so I had to create a photo of him inside it. It was a must-do.

I had initially planned to use strobes, but I was told when we arrived that there was no electricity in the shack. Gas lamps lit Lolo Bining’s nights. So there was only one thing left to do: Bring out the Reflector. I gave it to one of my companions, pointed at a golden pool of sunlight, gave her a few tips about the art of catching it, and, just like that, I had light. God would’ve been proud. The result is the photo above. Among the hundreds I’ve made over the last few months, it continues to be one of my favorites.

What HAVE I been up to these last few months?

Since early last year, back when the dream of having an African-American US president was still just that, and the words “stimulus” and “package”were used to connote other things in the halls of the US Congress, I had been going around the country, searching for surviving Filipino WWII veterans, for a personal project that’s been a long time coming.

During the last days of 1941, life completely changed for a generation of Filipinos. The Philippines had become engulfed in a war unlike anyone at the time had seen. For four long years, our country shed tears for the loss of treasured sons and daughters. But her pain was never in vain. Despite being trampled by the boots of invaders, her courageous children, mostly farmers and youths who have not seen enough summers, fought on. Through sickness and hunger, with ancient and broken weapons, in the wilderness, in secret, side by side with American allies, they made good on their promise to never let our country’s shining fields be dimmed by a tyrant’s might.

Today, we’re seeing a lot of our veterans in the news because of Obama’s fulfillment of a promise he made during his presidential campaign. But once the buzz has died down, these men and women will once again fade into the background. Time will come when even these remaining survivors will be gone. After that, they will simply be names on a stone wall or in a book. Their faces and their stories forgotten forever.

In the last few months, I’ve been doing what I can to keep these valiant men and women from simply passing quietly into the night. I’ve been visiting them in their homes and attending their gatherings to hear their stories and take their portraits, like this one of Lolo Bining, hoping to create a record of their contribution to the pursuit of liberty and freedom, and to honor their spirit and valor, which has not been diminished by old age and time. I have a few more photographs here. And this coming April 9, on the 67th anniversary of the Fall of Bataan, I’ll let you know how you can see more.

The Journey Begins Anew

August 22nd, 2008 § 3 comments § permalink

2008 is almost over and all I have to show are photos from this year’s Pulilan Carabao Festival. Compared to last year, I didn’t hit the road much this ‘08. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy.

When David Alan Harvey asked me a year ago about what I wanted to do besides travel photography, I actually didn’t know what to answer. My style of travel photography is already different from other photographers. I wasn’t just taking pretty pictures; I was making insightful images. He said I was doing a great job, so what’s this about doing more?

Not traveling as much this year (and not taking any travel photos as a consequence), I think I’ve finally figured out what David was getting at. I’ve been shooting a lot of other things lately. I’ve been shooting a lot of other things that I thought I would never shoot. The change is not just in my subjects — the way I make photographs and my vision of myself as a photographer have been infused with a lot of new discoveries, too.

I guess it’s along these lines that I decided to put up this blog. In the last few months, I didn’t just shift gears; I have begun a journey down a completely new road, with David Alan Harvey’s words ringing in my ears over the wind: “Just go out and do the work.” Build it, and they will come. (Oh, yeah!)

Regarding the pitiful state of my travel life in 2008, on the other hand, all is not lost. I’ll be in Singapore this October, and now that the Smart Mountaineering Club has just opened a new Training Season, I’ll be hitting high ground once again, among other things.

There are new Tales to be told. Are you watching closely?

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