How I Learned to Love the Compact Camera

Winters Grasp, Copyright © 2014 Jeff Burton Photography

Winters Grasp, Copyright © 2014 Jeff Burton Photography

I had never heard the term “polar vortex” until the winter of 2014 and that was just one of the things that will make it a winter to remember. In central Illinois, we experienced record a snowfall covering the ground with snow for days on end. Fortunately, snow and monochrome photography are soul mates. However, with my regular working schedule, I did not get as much time shooting in the snow as I would have liked. I could have thrown my gear into the car for any impromptu opportunities, but with below zero temperatures, that really was not an option.

On one of the miserable winter days, while returning to work from lunch, I caught a glimpse of a tree beside a frozen pond. The wind-blown snow covered the tree on one side with the dark bark of the tree showing through on the other. My eye locked in on the beautiful contrast between the dark bark and the glistening white snow.

In my pocket I carried my new compact camera, a Sony RX100 that was literally only one day old after being removed from the box. I purchased the camera to augment my black and white film gear that I planned on taking to Yosemite later in the year. I wanted a small camera that would capture a good image, shoot RAW images, and would fit easily in my camera bag without adding a lot of weight. A quick review of the user’s manual the night before gave me enough information to turn on the camera and find the menu screen and not a lot more.

I climbed over a neck-high pile of snow left by a snow plow and walked out into the knee-deep snow looking for the right composition. Once I found my composition, I fiddled with the menu options to find the manual setting since I needed to overexpose the image (against what the camera light meter was telling me) to make sure the snow was white and not gray. I fired off a set of three bracketed images, climbed back over the snow plow hill and returned to work.

The resulting image shown here would have never been captured if not for the compact camera I carried in my pocket. This kind of “opportunistic” photography is something I am not necessarily used to doing, but with my little compact camera it is quickly becoming part of my gear. While I do not foresee giving up my TLR or my DSLR anytime soon, I am learning to love my compact for those shots that would have never been captured.

P.S. Yes, I own a phone with a camera and could have taken a crappy photograph of the tree complete with gray snow and hardly any contrast. My phone makes calls, my camera captures photographs, and my tablet downloads email. No need to mix them together.