Off-shore Adventures

Photography – from iPhone to SLR.

Butterfly at Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Butterfly at Kanchanaburi, Thailand

I like to travel. I like to come home with photographs. In recent years I’ve used my iPhone. For a point and shoot camera it’s not too shabby at all.  But when I found myself, iPhone in hand, stalking a butterfly near Kanchanburi, I knew my phone camera days were coming to an end.

Nevertheless, I dithered. You see, there’s a down side to travel. It involves sweaty money belts and sodden passports – yes, on my most recent trip I forgot all about slipping that precious document inside a plastic bag. It involves travel sickness and scanning every public place for a toilet and giving thanks when you don’t have to squat. And then there’s the endless fumbling through the handbag, day pack, and every single pocket on your person for the Panadol, Werther’s Originals, tissues, hand sanitiser, and room keys.

After the fact, back in my “real” life I remember such trials with a certain fondness. But there have been times I’ve fantasied about going “au naturale”. I’m not talking shedding clothing! That’s not my style. And besides, despite all those hours in the gym, gravity being what it is, it wouldn’t be a pretty sight. (Note: You know you’re old when your trainer says you’re in good shape … for your age!)

I’m talking travel without bags. It’s not so much the luggage. That usually gets stowed somewhere out of sight. Although trudging from Penn Station to our hotel in New York,  pulling my suitcase behind me was not one of my best travel moments. And dragging that same case along our Soi to Sukhumvit Road in Bangkok wasn’t my favourite thing either. But those are one offs, short-lived.

It’s the day pack and the handbag and the money belt that, at some point in every trip, spark  abandonment fantasies. On those days I dream of simply getting off the bus and leaving those extra bags all alone on the seat for some other traveller. Butterflies or not, the thought of another item hanging from my shoulder was, and still is, off-putting. While I dithered I checked out some blogs, I admired their photos. I wished mine were as good. I coveted a zoom lens, and variable shutter speed.  Christopher over at Something for Pok, said: “Don’t think of the camera as a gadget. Think of it as a capturer of light and memories. And without it you will rue the missed opportunities to see things through the eye of a lens.” I knew he was right.

The time came to take the plunge. I purchased the real deal . A camera that met my specifications: small, light weight (top priorities because of the abandonment risk), quick auto focus, and best lens quality for the money invested.  One that, if I get really, really keen, can handle an even bigger zoom lens.  In short a camera that’s a good entry point for a novice like me – I hope.

It came with a manual which states on the cover:  “Read and understand contents before using.”  It is 127 pages long. There are eleven, yes eleven, pages of warnings. My favourite: “Do not use camera while walking or driving. This can result in you falling down or being involved in a traffic accident.” One family member, a photographer of some considerable ability and repute, told me he never reads the manual. But taking photos like these he doesn’t  need to, does he!

By  page twenty I had a headache.The sort that kills off brain-cells; something which, at my age, isn’t to be encouraged.  There was only one other option.  I took DiverDick’s advice.  I abandoned the manual. I charged the battery, inserted the memory card, and took a photo. Which all sounds a lot easier than it actually was! There’s a total of seventeen buttons on this camera. Some of them with more than one function. I haven’t found a self-destruct button, yet, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there …. waiting.

Eventually, in spite of those warnings, I got brave enough to take my camera for a walk.  News flash: There was no falling down. I didn’t see a traffic accident. No one died!

Driftwood, Ocean,  and Foot

I took some photos. Actually, I took a lot of photos. I had fun despite all the fumbling while I worked out what went where. I have a long way to go. I might know that a variable shutter speed is highly desirable but I haven’t a clue how to work it. Maybe that manual is a good thing, after all. Eventually, I might produce an image I’m happy with. One where I manage the focal point, the light and to keep my foot out of it! One which might convince me , even on a bad day, that going “au naturale” isn’t so attractive after all.


What about you? Do you have any photography tips to help me along the way to achieving that perfect shot?

Or, do you have  suggestions on how to cope with all that travel related gear?

14 replies »

  1. I’m reading just as I’m contemplating finally buying a good camera. I have no iPhone and using a basic digital camera that is crap, really. Will be happy to continue reading about your experience and results with your new camera.


  2. Hey Jill – this actually came in my reader earlier and I wanted to leave a note to let you know that I’ll be back to comment – ❤ – and thanks again for your nice note about the vids – and I always have a special side for you with the "Y" video because you liked it and that one was the most vulnerable of them all – ha! anyhow, running out – but I will back in a couple days amiga – and I do have a few thoughts top share on the ol' camera topic – maybe not tips – but thoughts and a story- ha!


      • Okay – well here are some thoughts. First – I agree with the reader who suggested youtube. my son said it was his third parent. ha! And so many wonderful folks are sharing good stuff there – as I know you know…

        you already did the number one thing – by taking a lot of photos. Because how do you get better at most things? – with practice and exposure. And so it takes getting out there and taking lots of photos – in manual mode- and then eventually move your way into working on features on your camera.

        Third, and here is where I view photography as ART. Because while there is much to learn – like about composition, the “exposure triangle” and the “rule of thirds” (which we use for painting too) but sometimes your head may hurt from having to learn so much and it could rob the joy of taking pictures. This happened to me in the 90’s – my camera was too much for me (at that time in my busy life) and I ended up donating it to a high school – and so be sure to use auto mode enough to where you can keep a flow of taking photos – this will help you develop your style at this stage in your life –

        So often the gems of photos we take are by chance – but we had to be out there to get the shot (more on that at the end with Henri’s quote).

        Anyhow, I am not sure if you have been taking lots of photos for years now – and not sure as to what your goals are with your new camera – but it can be a full time job getting things down – and so treat it like a marathon and draw boundaries as you learn. 🙂

        Fourth, when it comes to photography – I find that there are the pros – and then there are the artsy photographers. Some photographers are both – some are neither – ha!~ But sometimes the pros may be good for certain things but then they MISS the artsy side of things.

        A great example I have with this comes from the wild-monkeys-abroad blog. I was there one day and some photographer gave them some tips on one of their photos. Now mind you this professional was smart and so giving of his time to offer tech feedback. But as I read his tips I thought he was so wrong because their photo was artsy – and if they centered things like he suggested – or did other things form his pro eye – it would have pulled from their shot! In fact, some of the things I found most amazing in that shot would have been lost if they did what he said.

        Now sure, there may be rules for portraits or for night shots or this or that – but then even those times sometimes a photographer brings in new flair and they bring the world their take with their art side. So as you learn – be a good student – and try this and that by the book – but also listen to your soul – the camera is an art medium and your photographs will be that much better when they reflect you and when you let your eye pull you to the shot (which I think another reader said too).

        Fifth, take part in challenges. Especially ones that have you look for patterns, shadows, or certain subjects – and keep things easy going on yourself – give yourself grace to explore and learn – but the more you start hunting for specifics – it can help you to “see” more

        Lastly, Right after I read your post – I picked up an art book I am finishing up and they featured the iconic photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson-

        I like how Henri Cartier-Bresson said “we don’t just snap away endlessly” but we put some thought into our photos – and he said that “photography is an immediate reaction” and “it is all luck” (ha)

        and here is a more famous quote:

        “This recognition, in real life, of a rhythm of surfaces, lines, and values is for me the essence of photography; composition should be a constant of preoccupation, being a simultaneous coalition – an organic coordination of visual elements.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson –

        anyhow, congrats not he new camera – how fun! –

        peace ❤ ❤


        • Wow, wow, and wow again, Yvette. Thank-you for your thoughtful and very helpful reply. You’ve given me some very good ideas about how to approach this new learning. Especially helpful for me, :”listen to your soul” and “give yourself grace to explore and learn”! I recently took my camera out for another walk and clicked off over fifty photos most of which went into the trash bin. But I learnt three more features on the camera, as well as how to handle the actual carrying of it, and ideas about framing shots. Progress is steady as she goes. I’m going to include two or three of those photos in a post next week. I really,really like that photo you’ve included from Henri Cartier-Bresson. I think I might benefit from looking at more good photos – I feel a trip to the library coming on! Thanks again!


  3. Great post, Jill. I’m still at the iPhone stage and have been wondering for months now if I should buy myself a camera as I’ve recently had a lot of fun with the photo challenges on WordPress.

    I’m exactly the same as you when it comes to reading manuals. My car has so many different buttons on the steering wheel now, that I dare not press any, for fear that I must…just might, eject the passenger.
    Have fun with your new camera and I look forward to seeing all your pictures.


  4. Congratulations on your new camera, Jill! May you enjoy millions of creative moments with her until the day you accidentally press the self-destruction button.
    I also dislike manuals, but thank God there is YouTube! I was thrilled to find many good quality videos on how to use my camera. They helped me a great deal to get started.
    By the way, I liked the photo with the foot. It gives an exciting new perspective to the image. 🙂


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