March 22, 2009

Shooting Blind

Last week I went out for my daily walk and took my pocket digital camera along. It was a mild (for Montana) late winter day under a cloudy sky with a bit of a breeze. Since I was teaching a class on close-up photography at the time, I had my eye out for subjects suitable for this technique.

That's when I spied the old wooden fence posts with rusty wires and clips attached. I set my camera to macro focusing (the little flower symbol) and started to frame pictures using the LCD screen on the back so I could compose accurately.


Unfortunately, I could barely see what I was pointing the camera at! Even with the overcast sky and relatively dim lighting, I was getting a dark image on the screen and a nearly mirror reflection of myself in the monitor. Needless to say, this really hampered my efforts to get the photos I wanted. I would take a couple shots, then review them in playback mode. But usually I couldn't see these any better.

Even though my camera has a window (optical) viewfinder, like point & shoot film cameras, it is not accurate when framing close-ups. Although I tried this once or twice, I ended up deleting the pictures because my subject wasn't framed properly.

For the first time, I actually wished for an Electronic ViewFinder (EVF) on my camera. This is a miniature LCD screen enclosed in an eye-piece like a traditional SLR camera. With it you can accurately compose your close-up images because you are seeing what the lens sees. And it allows you to easily see your composition in bright lighting conditions, even on cloudy days.

In the past electronic viewfinders presented a coarse image that often could not keep up with camera movements, causing the viewfinder image to "jump" to the new angle of view. But the EVFs I've seen on more recent cameras seem to have overcome these limitations to a large extent.

So if you do a lot of close-ups with your compact digital camera and you try to do this in bright lighting conditions outside, you may want to look for a new camera with an electronic viewfinder. Then you won't have to shoot blind and hope for the best.