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  • Brendan McKay


Updated: Aug 12, 2020

Holy Christmas Batman! So much for my resolution to post at least once a month in 2020. I knew it had been quite a while since I last sat down and penned a few lines, but four months is a surprise. Oof. I certainly have a bunch of excuses, including a new puppy, a new car (deserving of a post unto its own at some point) and publishing a small coffee table photobook/magazine I've been working on for some time now, but damn...not good look! I have never found writing easy, so part of the personal goal I set early this year around blogging and posting was to force myself to actively try and carve out some time to work on it. Writing always ends up being a rewarding, meditative process, but much like going to the gym, there are just days (weeks...months...) you just don't want to do it.

Our family slowly felt the walls of our Santa Monica apartment closing in on us after three-plus straight months of the work-and-live-from-home life, so we zipped out to Palm Springs in mid-July for a respite. Within 24 hours it became clear that I hadn't realized how badly we needed a change of scenery and space, even if we just ended up doing the same 9-5 from a different zip code. Conference calls + pool margs for the win! Plus, I saw this as a spectacular opportunity to take the new-ish Fujifilm camera I got at the end of last year out into the desert for some serious photography. I had grand visions of some of those insane night sky shots full of stars and satellites above joshua trees and rock formations. Subtly lit windmills in the dark against a backdrop of sand and desert scrub. A couple wide angle shots of the downtown Palm Springs mid-century architecture at midnight. Beautiful...

Dusk in the desert

Alas, those dreams were dashed on day two of our visit - the camera unexpectedly pooped out mid-shoot in the afternoon and refused to turn on for the remainder of the trip. Pushing thoughts of a major repair bill deep into the recesses of my mind, I convinced myself that now, obviously, was the perfect time to go buy a point-and-shoot to try and make up for the looming photo void. I've seen a number bloggers who have trusty little handhelds at their side for when they're on the go or as a means for smuggling tools into hard-to-reach places. A quick trip to Target and I found what I needed - a Sony that must weight 6 ounces with the battery in, and only $99 (!!).

One of the final shots before the XPro2 gave up the ghost

And honestly, I had a lot of fun with it. Shooting with the Fuji has allowed me to really accelerate the way in which I see things through a lens, in large part due to the optical viewfinder. I've rarely, if ever, used the screen on the back to shoot, as I much prefer the ability to see a wide scene first and compose from there. Image composition has, in many respects, become of equal or greater importance to me than the actual subject itself, and I think that's one of the things I've loved most over the switch in gear.

The pivot to the point-and-shoot took a little getting used to - I think it's basically set at 16mm with a manual zoom feature where needed, and next to no ability to preset an f-stop, ISO or choose subjects to focus on quickly. But at the end of the day, that wasn't really the point. It was pretty freeing to realize up front that 90%+ of the shots would be throwaways, and I felt zero pressure to really produce anything of note. Half the time I couldn't even see the screen as I positioned for a few shots so I just snapped away at what I thought might be an interesting composition or two and moved onto the next thing. But learnings from the Fuji did manage to carry over a little, and I found it a little easier to identify subjects and angles to shoot away at than I did a year ago.

Vintage 'stang in the desert



I'd be lying if I said I wasn't extremely anxious to get the Fuji back from service and hop back into my comfort zone. But in the meantime, it'll be a fun personal project to try and get by with the Sony point-and-shoot and the old a6000 in between. And even when the camera comes back from the shop, I think I'll try to use the handheld a bit more to force a different form of shooting and perspective, and ultimate outcome. The shots will almost always never be as crisp, and the ability to capture anything in motion at the proper moment will need to be completely tossed out the window. But that's OK - a photo doesn't need either or any of those to be impactful. And the process is sometimes the best part.

~ b.g.m.

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