The Light We’re Given

It will come as no surprise to both of my regular readers to learn that photography has been for me a kind of liturgy of living. There is a close affinity for me between memory, vision (in both uses of that word) and the press of the shutter of whatever camera I have with me at most times when I’m outdoors.

Photography, then, for me, is a way to keep visual markers along the way, but maybe more than that, it is a kind of attitude of awareness and appreciation for the light I am given. Had I not “become” a photographer, I would have missed so many opportunities to slow down, stop, comprehend, gather and then reflect.

I speak about all this as I make a transition in the tools I will have at hand for this way of life across whatever time remains.

I am finding that convenience and portability are taking precedence over some of the other camera factors I used to think I needed. Bigger is not necessarily better now for what I will do with any image I’m likely to take this year or next.

My camera bag holds a Nikon D200 with an 18-200mm lens; a Canon Powershot A620 that I only use for macro shots; and a Sony Handycam CX260v. Yet most of the images I’ve taken over the past year have been with my iPhone 4s that is always in my pocket. Convenience and portability rule the day.

And not to say the phone does not take some great shots, like the one above. It has a lens and takes pictures, but it is lacking in what I’ve come to expect from a DSLR. The iPhone is not a camera, but performs as one.

So I’m selling the Powershot and the HandyCam (with less than an hour’s worth of actual video use.) The Handycam, I just don’t like the ergonomics. It does not fit my hand, and I don’t like having to tote a separate camera for video.

Long story short: tomorrow I’ll receive the (Panasonic) Lumix LX7. It won’t be perfect. But it is a coat-pocket camera with very good, fast glass and many of the features I’ve demanded from an SLR since 1970. And I am more likely to have it with me than my old sternum-brusing Nikon that my crummy hands like holding up to my eye less than they used to. Life goes on, and we adapt

You’ve been warned: I’ll be field testing the Lumix, and you’ll be my audience.

Another major benefit that photography has brought to life for the past four decades is its ability to reproduce in your eye, mind and heart what first appeared through the viewfinder to mine, that reality of light and color, depth and texture, symbol and statement, transfused between us in a photograph.

That’s a pretty major means of sharing and communicating, and the blog–even as it pales against what it once was to me and for visitors–continues to be my voice in this way.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. As is the case with employees, “being there” has great value in equipment. The best employee/equipment in the world is pretty useless at home/sitting on the shelf.

  2. I agree about photography making you “see” things that would have normally gone unobserved. It also allows you to see things so differently than ever before. I lack the skills that you have by far but still enjoy my feeble efforts.

    I have an old Sony Cybershot that I do believe is “possessed”. I suppose the humidity here has something to do with its problem as it turns itself on and off at will! I have to remember to remove the batteries when not in use which is a nuisance when I want to grab it for a sudden shot.

    I look forward to seeing wonderful new photographs as you experiment with the new camera. Your blog wakes me each morning with lovely pictures and thought provoking content that keeps me pondering. Thanks!

  3. Isn’t it wonderful that the current small cameras can do so much of what your heavy Nikon does! And you have your hands as a great excuse for going light. My husband has to plead old age.
    I’m glad you find your blog a satisfying way to communicate with your photographs. We don’t have a blog, but we invite our e-mail friends to use a link to the batches of photos we post on the Smugmug site. It is very rewarding to us, too.