140601 Travel - matthew piers robertson • photography writing creative toronto

It's been a week since I returned from Chicago, so by now I'm supposed to know what worked and what didn't. That turns out to be a bit premature, but it's worth a shot.

The recording gear that I carried was my Ricoh GR and Sigma DP3 Merrill, which removes the need to worry about additional lenses. That worked quite well, with the only complication being the LCD viewfinder that added bulk but not much weight. It attaches to the DP3 magnetically, keeping it secure but still easy to separate for storage, with no hooks or latches to snag or break. The stability and compositional benefits ripple throughout the process.

I was able – required – to use the two cameras somewhat differently. The Sigma is slow and works badly in low light, while the Ricoh amazed me with its ability to autofocus and review images immediately after taking them. This makes the GR my low-light camera, while the DP3 is ideal for compression and details. The exception is that both cameras had their little pocket tripods attached and a preset configured for long exposures. This was great for the several hours that I spent out after sunset, but the GR still had the edge here.

I used both cameras for just over 400 photos each, going through two batteries for the Ricoh and nine for the Sigma. Yes, seriously. The Sigma raw files are about fifty megabytes each, compared to the Ricoh's sixteen; processing the Sigma photos through its dedicated software creates a ninety megabyte tiff, while putting the Ricoh's files through DxO Optics creates a new DNG file that's about twenty megabytes. Image ingestion and first-pass processing has taken a lot more computer time than my old Lightroom-only method.

In a very happy coincidence, two days before I left DxO Optics was updated to allow proper integration with Lightroom. I was already determined to use it for my GR's photos, but now the process is nearly as easy as just using Lightroom on its own. This is showing a real improvement in the images as well as in my quality of life.

I'm still sorting through the debris, but so far the DP3 'keeper rate' is edging out the Ricoh slightly. It's too soon to know which ones will be the strongest or my favourites.

Some things didn't work. I forgot to put either a neutral density or polarizing filter on my packing list; the DP3 lacks the GR's built-in ND filter, so it runs out of shutter speed very easily in bright light. It would have helped me drag out the shutter for my night photos as well.

I could have done without my white balance card and its multitool pocket weight. While small, their ever-present potential means that they take up pocket space and attention. Nothing that I photographed needed critical colour accuracy, and there's usually something in any urban photo to use as an impromptu neutral reference. Pavement markings, signs, walls, tires. Next time I'll leave this behind unless I know that I'll have a specific need for it.

I also strayed from my minimalist orthodoxy and bought a paperback novel, even though that meant carrying it through the streets of Chicago for four hours. It was a good distraction over dinner (9:30-10pm, followed by another eighty minutes of photography) and made the waiting and bus ride home go by faster.

Power management wasn't as much of a problem as I feared. The battery case for my phone was useful for the first day, when I was playing with my maps, and meant that I never needed to charge in public. I did use the GR's in-camera charging ability to top up two and a half camera batteries overnight in my hotel room; I finished the trip with two fresh batteries and good margin remaining in the in-camera batteries, so that wasn't strictly necessary, but it added to my comfort level. For one-day trips with those two cameras the nine spare batteries that I can carry should be enough.

I'm expecting to do a few more short trips this year, with the next significant challenge being when I go to New York in August for a workshop. I'll want to carry a portfolio of some sort, either electronic or printed, along with a book to have signed. That means a lot more weight and a bit more care in addition to a different kind of energy and attention during the day. But it's good to know that the core logistics are all things that I've done many times before.

Powered by SmugMug Log In