Every year, for the past six years, my husband and I have spent a week skiing in the Alps in the winter. And for all of them save the first one, Marla tagged along. Two years ago she got on skis herself, so she was on her third year of schooling this time. She’s just 6 but it’s pretty amazing what teachers can achieve with 6 yr olds…
But that’s not the point of this post, at least not entirely. Sure, you’ll see a boatload of pictures of my daughter in the snow, more of my daughter, and then more snow (are you sick of either, yet ? Lol…). But the true point I’m trying to get across, is this : you don’t need a fancy camera to make successful travel pictures. Not at all, indeed.
No, I’m not gonna start telling you to dump your D800’s and 1DIV’s and fancy 70-200/2.8 bazookas for compact cameras, or, heaven forbid, to shoot with your phone instead. Gawd, no. But what I am about to tell you, though, is that the lowliest form in existence of an APS-C sensor, namely something like a NEX5N, R, T, or 3N (or it could have been a Fuji X-M1 for instance) is totally good enough to yield perfectly satisfactory results, and yes, here and there a really cool photo.
Why APS-C ? Because with a not so fast kit zoom (typically opening at a sluggish 5.6 at the far end), APS-C is what I feel as the smallest acceptable chip size for decent DOF handling and light capturing, as well. For good measure, I had brought along the NEX5R kit a friend of mine very generously lent me for the month, a fast manual prime in the shape of the PEN F 38/1.8. And in ALL honesty, I’d be hard pressed to say I was limited by that rig at any moment. Sure, a 18-200 would have been superbly handy for telephoto zoom and reaching the kid up there on the slopes. But I didn’t have one, and worked around it.
Those are of course in camera jpeg files !! Dynamic range is very, very nice. I didn’t say “straight out of camera”, either. I do process all my files but here shadows have only been lifted ever so slightly, and I’m still very pleased with the DR
In the snow you face two very serious issues. 1) you don’t see *crap* on the LCD screen. That’s where an EVF comes superbly handy, but guess what, I didn’t have one. I did, however, have a sort of foldable, plastic hood on the screen that made it visible… sometimes. Some of the pics were still shot totally blind as far as composition goes, and framing was primitive, at best… 2) you absolutely canNOT trust the camera meter in the snow (it will severely underexpose everything in a vain and crude attempt to get an “average grey” exposure over the frame), so you have to take advantage of the brilliant WYSIWYG feature of the NEX mirrorless cameras… unless in this case you just don’t see shit !! (lol). Oh, wait a minute, not quite. You have access to a histogram that is pretty sweetly accurate. Just push that sucker half a millimeter from the extreme right border, than maybe dial down another 1/3 stop for safety, and shoot away. Believe it or not, but about 95% of the images in this post were captured that way !
This was taken from a peak, TOTALLY blind. What you see smack in the middle was a bit cottony cloud of fog quiety resting there. When you cross the thickest of it you hardly see your own skis… I judged the exposure entirely from the histogram, and just took a wild guess with the framing
The teaching sessions start on Saturday (on Sunday for Marla, as we’d rather not suffer through Saturday traffic 😉 ), and on Friday the kids take a final test. Here is there little group coming down on the right, see the red clad silhouette of their teacher followed by colorful midgets, Marla was third in line…
The next day school was out so we went for a family ride, all three of us, all the way to the top of the mountain. Daddy opened the way for our baby and in slow and wide swipes, we made our way down. Three times. I followed her closely and threw poisonous looks at those who zoomed by a little too close for comfort, but all in all we had a superb afternoon and Marla didn’t tripped a single time, she skied like a champ.
I don’t know if I made my point, and I doubt that I cured any gear addict out there, but as far as I’m concerned, I have lost all camera lust, but not the pleasure I have to document my kid’s life as graciously as I can, and with as little gear as I can… Don’t think I’m bragging though, or cured… I just bought another saddle tonight 😉