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On Photography
Along with many others I have been an enthusiastic photographer all my life. I am just more fortunate in having access to a gallery and website to display and share some of my work!

In the 1970s I used to travel with a Single Lens Camera, a 28mmWide Angle Lens, a 58mm Standard Lens and a 200mm Telephoto Lens. I always said that one day someone would design the ideal camera for travellers and explorers – it would be the size of a cigarette packet and have a built in 28 – 200mm Zoom Lens!

That day has actually arrived with the age of Digital Photography and there are now a multitude of small cameras with a long optical zoom range. Such cameras used to be called rangefinder cameras and today many are described simply as ‘point and shoot’ or compact cameras.

It is a fact that the more advanced  of these compact cameras are both relatively  inexpensive and are more sophisticated than a top of the range pre digital  Single Lens Reflex (SLR) Camera from just 15 years ago – and it will fit in your pocket! Indeed with these cameras you can change between a variety of shooting modes (Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Programmed etc.), a variety of exposure systems (Average, Centre Weighted, Spot etc.), over or under expose individual images, provide fill in flash, shoot in Black and white or colour or sepia and change the ‘film’ speed/ISO Rating – and that is just the basics!  But to do that 15 years ago would have required changing the film roll/camera back and/or developing images individually.

All the images on display in the Global Images  Gallery have been taken with a digital compact camera and none have been taken with a Traditional SLR Camera used by all professional photographers. My message (if there is one!) is that you can enjoy photography and create meaningful images with basic equipment.

I am not for one moment saying there is no place for the SLR Camera – there are additional features such as a larger sensor, the absence of viewfinder distortion, the ability to shoot in a RAW format etc. that are usually not common in Compact Cameras but the reality is that for 95% of the needs of most of us – a compact camera is fine.

In fact a Compact Camera offers one distinct advantage over a SLR camera which is of course portability. Ignore this factor if you always plan to travel by car or work in a studio but if you are going to be on your feet for several hours or days the compact camera which slips in your pocket and is not obtrusive when you – dare I say Point and Shoot – can be a Godsend.

When people ask me ‘What Camera do you use’ I try and explain it is really nothing to do with the camera. Today the most basic digital camera is so sophisticated it will take excellent pictures as long as it is in the hands of someone who knows what they are doing. It is composition rather than the camera that is at the heart of a good photograph.

I was once in Tibet with a photographer friend who was carrying two Camera bodies and four lenses and I felt a bit of a cheat with my  two compact cameras (one spare for when I drop my camera!) but we both shouted ‘Stop’ to our driver in tandem because we both ‘saw’ the same image simultaneously. It is the ability to visualise the image rather than the camera one is using which is important.

And the secret to mastering the art of composition is easy - buy a book or two to get some tips and go out and practice. In the digital age it costs nothing to shoot a few hundred images a day, hone your skills and you will soon see what works and what does not work and before long will automatically be composing images successfully. 

Composition, more than anything else, is the most important contributing factor to rewarding photography but there is something else you can do to maximise your chances of capturing images you will treasure and that is ................to read your camera manual and understand what your equipment will do.

I was recently with a group in the Antarctic and a Marine Biologist who had been photographing wildlife in the Polar Regions for 8 years gave a short talk about photography and he began by saying that whilst he always had a Single Lens Reflex camera available he often found a Compact Camera more practical without significantly compromising  image quality as far as his needs were concerned. He followed up by stating that the most important tip he could give any photographer, anywhere with any camera was.................to read the manual!  Amen to that – most people do not realise the benefits that can be unlocked by spending a few hours reading the manual and playing with their cameras to discover what it can do and how!

And what camera do I use and why?

There are a number of ‘high end’ compact cameras and a key factor is to have a camera with a traditional viewfinder (as well as an LCD screen). However the single most important factor for me is the ability for a camera to operate with traditional AA batteries rather than a rechargeable proprietary battery. If I am in a remote mountain area shooting several hundred images a day even a spare proprietary battery is not going to last me very long if I do not get access to mains electricity to recharge the battery whereas I can carry a virtually unlimited amount of double AA batteries which are available the world over.

The best specified compact camera that I have found that operates on AA batteries is the Canon Powershot 650is. It contains many identical components and specifications as the acclaimed Canon G12 (perhaps the best regarded traditional compact camera) without being locked into having to use a rechargeable proprietary battery. Canon only sold this camera (and its predecessor the Powershot 630) for a limited period of time (perhaps realising it was taking sales away from its flagship compact model?) but new or lightly used examples used models can often be sourced from the UK and/or North American Ebay and Amazon web sites for around £200.

I have four of these admirable cameras as I am aware how frequently I might drop them and like to have replacements available whilst they are still available.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the feel of a SLR in my hands and after 30 years of using a SLR camera keep saying I must buy one again. However for the last 10 years it has been trusty digital compact cameras that have enabled me to carry a camera and take photographs in many areas where I just would not have carried a SLR camera and now carrying and using a compact is second nature.

I hope you enjoy your visit to this website and at some time will also be able to visit our Gallery.

Michael Bromfield

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