Tiny camera in hand worth more than big one on shelf

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, August 27, 2008

This image of Arac the Arachnid proves that the camera you have with you takes better pictures than the camera sitting at home on the shelf.  Photo by Mary Anna Harbeck

Meet Arac (pronounced like “Eric”). Arac is one of our newest coffee companions – and our creepiest. (His nickname is short for “Arachnid.”) Before I tell you how we got into our up-close relationship, however, allow me to share with you an important principle my wife, Mary Anna, and I have learned about taking photographs.

I’ll avoid getting tangled in a web of technicalities and get right to the heart of the matter: The camera you have with you will always take much better pictures than the camera sitting at home on the shelf.

That assumes, of course, that the camera you have with you, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant, is in working order and you’ve remembered to remove the lens cap – oh yes, and that the memory card isn’t full, or you haven’t run out of film.

Here I’m thinking especially about smaller “point-and-shoot” cameras – cameras without interchangeable lenses, and compact and light enough to fit in your pocket or purse, so that they’re always with you whenever you’re itching to capture that unexpected moment.

For me, that requirement is satisfied by my deck-of-cards-size Nikon Coolpix S8, tiny enough to fit in my shirt pocket without being seen. For Mary Anna, it’s her Canon PowerShot G9, capable of spectacular still-lifes, landscapes, and close-ups, yet only slightly larger than my Nikon S8. Both cameras are so convenient that they’re with us nearly all the time.

This certainly isn’t the case with my much larger and heavier Nikon D200 and its assortment of lenses and other accessories associated with professional and serious amateur photography. For me to take that wonderful camera off the shelf usually implies I have a specific shoot in mind. But it’s way too inconvenient – and intimidating – just to have hanging around my neck all the time for casual candids.

To be sure, there are those dedicated photojournalists who do indeed have one or more of these heavy-duty cameras with them at all times, and the results are clear for all to enjoy when they pick up publications and see the action shots that only high-end SLRs (single lens reflex cameras) are capable of – photojournalists like internationally-acclaimed sports and nature photographer Patrick Price, whose amazing heart-of-the-action images grace the covers of the Cochrane Eagle. (See my Dec. 28, 2005, column on Patrick).

But for the rest of us, a small pocket or purse-size camera is just fine for those unplanned moments with family and friends, mountains and sunsets, pets . . . and Arac.

Ah yes, Arac. How did we come to meet him? It’s like this. As I was pulling out of the Cochrane Ranche parking lot with my wife after taking in this month’s Heritage Day festivities, Mary Anna said excitedly, “Warren, look at the spider that just landed on the windshield!”

Sure enough, there he was, quarter-inch underbelly, translucent legs, and all, separated from us by only a pane of glass. Before I could say “Yikes!” Mary Anna had her Canon G9 up against the inside of the windshield taking another great shot of nature’s magnificence.

Well, it’s that special time of year again, and Arac and I want to say, Happy Birthday, Mary Anna! The little camera you just happened to have with you sure took a much better shot of our creepy new friend than my great big camera sitting at home on the shelf.

© 2008 Warren Harbeck

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