Busman’s Holiday?

What do you do about taking pictures when you take a holiday? Many, particularly amateurs, see their holidays as one of the main opportunities for taking pictures (and when long ago I used to belong to camera clubs I would groan, usually inwardly, to see yet another picture of Windermere or Switzerland flash up on the screen or appear on the wall.)

Iona: Another holiday snap!

But as someone whose life revolves around photography, if I take a holiday I want to at least distance myself slightly from the normal round and relate at least a little more normally with the people I’m on holiday with. Much as I enjoy and am involved with it, making decent and meaningful pictures is hard work, demanding a high level of concentration, and I am often pretty mentally exhausted at the end of a busy day. Once in a while I feel I need a rest.

So there are times – days, possibly even weeks (though I can’t remember one) where I don’t take any pictures at all. But on holiday I often come across things I’d like to at least record in some way by taking a few snaps – and sometimes rather more. My companions almost certainly still think I’m obsessed with photography (and they are probably right) but it is a matter of degree. Time after time in the last couple of weeks when I was away on holiday I didn’t go down the street, didn’t cross the road, didn’t go and talk to the person I would have approached had I been photographing seriously.

Some companions on a pilgrimage on Iona relax at the marble quarry.

Often when I’ve travelled for reasons other than to work as a photographer I’ve travelled light, often taking only a simple compact camera. Generally I’ve come across situations where I’ve regretted not having a better camera for various reasons, and digital has added to that dilemma. With film, the quality of the results from a 35mm compact with a good lens was identical to that from an large and expensive SLR (or sometimes with wide angles, even better) while the same just isn’t the case with digital.

I’d hoped that the Leica M8 would present me with an reasonably compact solution – if at considerable expense. With a fast f1.4 lens it was certainly fun to use, particularly at night in Paris, but in general it’s been a disappointment, though if I could afford them, some new lenses might help. But over the past few years I’ve become so used to using zooms that it’s a hardship to be without one.

Staffa - Fingals Cave
Fingal’s cave, Staffa – one place where a real wide-angle helped

So this summer I travelled with the Nikon D300, but with a considerably cut-down kit. Even so, 2 lenses (the moderately large 18-200mm VR and the miniscule 10.5mm semi-fisheye) and an SB800 flash although a very flexible outfit isn’t exactly light and compact, and at times the gear did get a little in the way. Next time I’d certainly opt for a smaller lens, perhaps an 18-50mm, which would also enable me to rely on the camera’s own flash.

Of course what I’d really like would be a compact digital with no shutter lag, a large sensor and a a zoom lens with something like 24-85 equivalent.  It doesn’t seem an impossible specification, but nothing yet approaches it. In fact it might even replace my Nikon for work.

I’ll doubtless put more of my holiday pictures on line shortly, both from Glasgow and Iona.  A few of them show that I was occasionally able to think as well as press the shutter.

2 Responses to “Busman’s Holiday?”

  1. ChrisL says:

    It’s worth looking at the Zeiss range for the M8. Positioned, in price, between the CV range and Leica. They take advantage of Japanese production and do feel a notch down on the build quality of Leica but the performance is first class.
    The M8 has resurrected my passion for Leica rangefinder shooting but I have moved “back” to the M2 and B/W film. I still hope Ricoh can come up with the goods for your ideal spec but my GRD went back twice under warranty which the M8 hasn’t (yet) :-)
    Nice to have you back, you did visit a magical part of these island.

  2. The problem with the non-Leica wide-angles is the lack of the 6-bit coding.

    The CV lenses are pretty good on the film Leicas and I don’t know it is worth paying extra for the Zeiss. Practically the results are fine from the cheaper lenses though I’m willing to believe the Zeiss are better. I spent a lot of time reading Sean Read’s reviews that compared the Leica/Zeiss/CV when I had a free subscription to his site, and concluded I’d be satisfied with the CV if there was an easy way to get them to work properly with the camera.

    You can solve most of the problems with Cornerfix (and a filter), but its a bit of a pain to have to do so. The 15mm is tricky to fit a filter too as well.

    The longer lenses work fine, though I was never happy using 90mm on any Leica, the viewfinder image is just too small. The 50 is fine and despite Leica saying the 35 f1.4 I have won’t work it does a fine job. I did manage to get it working properly for a few months using a pen to put the dots on the back, but then it stopped working and I spent a lot of time trying to put them on again with no success.

    Iona was very interesting, though not really my kind of place in some ways. Fine for a few days though.

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