The Charlie Waite Video and the use of "alternative" cameras

Olympus E-P2 14-42mm
Multi image stitched panorama using Olympus E-P2 and 14-42mm kit lens.

I haven't always been the greatest fan of Charlie Waite. I don't particularly like square images of the landscape, I really hate grad. filters and I think landscape photography has not been well served by what I would describe as his 1980's coffee table book style. Medium format film cameras, F22, tripod mounted, lots of filters etc. He also has a tendency to lecture and some of his comments about photography and photographers have struck me as being in the "If you don't do it like I do, then its rubbish" vein.

Having said that, he's always struck me as being a nice bloke. I had pictures with his library, Landscape Only, many years ago and there are quite a few calendars and books which feature images from both of us, back in the days when I was producing coffee table book images with medium format film cameras and grad. filters!!

Lately he seems to have been re-inventing himself, with a more flexible approach, and he's suddenly become a lot more fun! I was chuckling away watching his video. The sight of him lying on the floor with a compact camera taking pictures of skateboarders was priceless and not something I would have expected to see. His enthusiastic promotion of small and compact cameras as a serious photographic tool, and the sense of fun and liberation that he showed using them was a joy to watch. Often when you read about, or watch photographers using what might be described as
"non-professional" gear, you often get the impression that the "serious" gear is just around the corner. In this case I didn't get that feeling. He may well have had a Hassleblad lurking just out of the camera shot, but it seemed like he didn't.

Leica X1
Leica X1

After first watching his video a few days ago, I have been thinking very seriously about how I am using these "alternative" cameras. Regular readers will know how the shedding of weight and bulk from the process of creating photographs has been a regular and dominant theme of this blog. However I'm now not convinced that I've fully embraced what I might describe as a "Small Camera Philosophy" It seemed to me that, unlikely as I would have once thought it, Charlie Waite was adapting to the concept of the "compact camera" much better than I was. I suddenly realised that by using systems like m4/3, Samsung NX10, Leica X1 etc. that I was just trying to come up with a smaller lighter DSLR system, and not fully appreciate the benefits and freedoms that these alternative systems can bring.

To give an example. I've written in very complimentary terms about the image quality of the X1. However its very rare that I will take it out on its own. I always have my brain in a "cover all bases" mode. What if the "next great shot" needs a telephoto and I don't have one with me? The assumption is that the pictures are "out there" somewhere and need capturing rather than being inside my creative mind. I've written before about the experience of destroying two of my cameras and being left for a weeks shooting on the French Riviera with one camera and a standard lens. I wrote about how this was one of the most pleasurable and liberating experiences of my photographic life. However I seem to have largely ignored what that was telling me.

Leica X1
Leica X1

It did seem to me that Charlie Waite looked comfortable and at ease with the medium he was using. That he was enjoying the freedom that using these cameras brought. He was taking advantage of the simplicity, the speed and the reduced options that they provided. He looked happy! Thinking back to some of my most pleasurable photographic excursions I was struck by how often they were defined by the fact that I was using minimal gear. The fact that I earn my living from photography does mean that I have, to a certain extent, to think about giving myself as many options as possible. However I am determined to go out more often with a one lens kit. If that happens to be just a prime lens then thats fine. Should be fun.

Olympus E-P2 Panasonic Lumix G 20mm f1.7 Pancake
Olympus E-P2 Lumix 20mm f1.7

Words - D
Images - D & A