It has been a long-held tenet that the best camera for any situation is the one you’re holding in your hand. If you’re like me, however, you too often make a distinction between “official shooting” and the “recreational” kind. For the first, I carry a backpack full of gear, a tripod, filters, cables, chargers, yada, yada, yada. The second sort is what I do with my family – using a phone to capture funny moments with the kids, or an unexpectedly pretty sunset from our deck.
As everyone knows by now, however, those distinctions are blurring more every day. More and more “serious” pictures are being taken on iPhones and iPads, processed through Instragram or instantly uploaded through Facebook. (OK, there is a lot of junk out there, too, but even National Geographic photographers are posting some great images on Instagram these days.)
I was recently working on a project in Mexico, chasing endangered monkeys through the rainforest. It was hard, hot work – and most of my shooting was almost straight up, which can be tough on your neck after a while. I had all my pro gear: several bodies, a batch of lenses etc. But during the down time (of which there was a lot) I just whipped my phone out of my pocket, just to “play around” a bit.
It quickly went beyond play, however. I found myself quickly adapting to a new aesthetic, one in which the pure visual impact of the picture was more important than the number of pixels, or the precise sharpness of the lens. It was liberating. I spent an hour just playing with lines, leaves and light. I haven’t had such a good time taking pictures in months. Are they publishable? Yes, certainly on the web. But that’s rather beside the point, which was to enjoy traveling light, being spontaneous and remembering how much fun photography can be. Next time, I may just leave the heavy stuff at home.