GoPro HERO5 Black Review Update: Doesn’t Play Nice With Water

Apparently GoPro and I have different definitions of waterproof. About 19 months ago, I received a brand new in package GoPro HERO5 Black as a gift. I was so excited! I had the original GoPro Hero and said I would get an upgrade once GoPro introduced RAW into their cameras. The HERO5 Black is the first that did it, and my super wonderful partner heard me talking excitedly about it and surprised me with one for my birthday. There is a lot I like about the new GoPro (note: there is an even newer model out now, the GoPro HERO6 Black). On the HERO5, the image quality is MUCH improved over the first generation GoPro, menus are easier to navigate, the device is more intuitive, the profile is sleeker and smaller, and the voice control feature (which is something I didn’t even know I wanted) is a game changer and makes hands free operation so much easier. It also works well in colder temperatures and is easy to operate with gloves on, unlike my phone, which is the only other camera I have that fits in my pocket. Where this device fails is its ability to handle water sports.

My GoPro HERO5 Black has been submerged in water exactly twice; once at a freshwater lake last summer and once this weekend while paddleboarding. In both instances the device was submerged to a depth of no more than three feet (waist deep with a person’s head above water) in fresh water for just minutes at a time. When SUPing this weekend I noticed a large blob of water in the front LCD and immediately brought the camera to shore to dry out. Now the camera won’t turn on at all, moisture is visible inside all of the ports (which were securely shut at all times when the device was in or near the water), and the final video I have on the memory card is corrupt.


My GoPro’s dying video. As you can see, the device is clearly above water, and I’m standing in waist deep, shallow water when the device fails.

The manufacturer claims this device is waterproof to 10m (33ft) without a housing as long as the ports are securely shut. This was definitely not the case with my model, and because the one year warranty period has passed I’m pretty much out of luck when it comes to replacing or repairing my device. GoPro doesn’t do repairs, which is a tragedy for the environment especially considering that my experience is not unique and many others are probably chucking their flooded GoPros into the trash and into landfills. Customer service wasn’t very helpful, although they did offer me a standard, 20% off one time discount on any camera (that must be purchased directly through GoPro’s website and cannot be combined with any other offer). While that might seem like a nice gesture, consider that we already paid for one at full price (currently $300, but the list price was probably more like $350 when it was new), I’m not interested in paying another couple hundred for a replacement with the same faulty design ($350 for the original + $240 for a replacement = $590 spent on something that doesn’t even work as advertised). Thanks, but no thanks, GoPro.

Unfortunately, I think this company has gotten too big to care about their customers anymore.

The GoPro HERO5 Black honestly isn’t a bad little camera, but GoPro shouldn’t claim it to be waterproof. I’d actually probably still recommend it if to someone if they had plans to never use it in or near water. Unfortunately, this device is not as advertised and customer service was unhelpful and unwilling to admit that their device failed nor did they make a sincere effort to rectify the situation and retain a customer. At this point, I’m pretty disappointed and have very little confidence in this company or their products.

My wet little GoPro, shown in the images below, is currently sitting in a bag of rice. I am hoping for a miracle, but have little confidence in one. If it gets resurrected from the dead, I’ll let you know.

Please feel free to share this far and wide. I would hate for someone else to buy this device thinking it will be a great camera for snorkeling or other water sports and then ending up as disappointed and upset as I am.

To see my original “First Impressions” GoPro HERO5 Black review, click here.
Or you can search for all GoPro articles on my blog.

Full disclosure: After fussing a bit, I was offered a greater discount – 40% off a new camera. While certainly a more reasonable discount to replace an item that failed to live up to manufacturer’s claims, I still don’t know if I will end up buying another GoPro. While I like the GoPro as a portable, packable, wearable POV camera a big part of the HERO5’s appeal was the fact that it would double as an underwater camera. I love the idea of having something I can use for swimming, snorkeling, and water sports without getting an expensive, dedicated underwater housing for my DSLR, but my own experience (along with many users complaining online about similar situations in which the HERO5 has flooded without reason or warning) has made it clear to me that the HERO5 doesn’t fill that niche. Frankly GoPro should just market the HERO5 as splash resistant instead of waterproof; their failure to do so makes me distrust them as a company, and I’m not sure I want to buy another one of their products.

The Nik Collection is Back!

I have been using the Nik Collection, a series of plug-ins for Lightroom and Photoshop, for nearly the past decade. Over that span of time, the software transitioned owners three times, from Nik, where each module would set you back $149, to Google, where the entire set of plug-ins became free, to it’s new home at DXO, where you can buy the collection for the introductory price of $49 until July 1st, after which the price will jump to $69.

If you haven’t been using the Nik Collection, I urge you to try. The product now consists of seven modules that make it easy to do many things from applying antique filters to reducing noise to applying spot adjustments and vignettes and even combining multiple exposures into an HDR image. I use two of the modules, Viveza and Color Efex Pro, on probably 90% or more of my final edits. DXO is offering a 30-day free trial of their improved product, so you can give it a go before making a commitment to purchase the collection.

While those with a free version of Nik might be hesitant to pay for a product they already have, one of the issues with Google giving away the product for free is that they stopped providing upgrades and support for the product, which has become an issue with the cloud based subscriptions for Adobe products. With every Lightroom or Photoshop upgrade, new compatibility issues were introduced, a problem that I think has been more pronounced with Apple and Mac based systems. My current version of Nik Color Efex Pro causes Photoshop to crash completely. Even if you aren’t already having issues with your free Google version of the Nik Collection, chances are you will in the future as Adobe continues to improve and modify its products, which it has to do constantly in order to provide support for new cameras.

The plug-ins are super easy to download and install. If spending $50 on computer software isn’t your cup of tea, download a trial version first and see if you can actually apply it to your work. Once you try Nik’s products, I bet you’ll find it hard not to justify buying the package outright. Just be sure to buy before the July 1st deadline if you want to save $20.

To download or learn more about the Nik Collection, visit DXO’s website.

Putney Brook Photos on a Rainy May Day

I love rainy spring days when it’s not too hot or too cold or too muggy and the world explodes in green and smells amazing. Wednesday was one of those days.

I left work fully intending to find local waterfall to photograph. This particular falls also happens to be a popular swimming hole, so a lot of people know where it is, but I apparently am not one of them. After driving past the waterfall a few times (I could hear it through the trees, but couldn’t find a place to pull off the road and was wary of several “Private Property” signs I saw nearby) I parked near a crossroad and found this pretty brook scene farther downstream. It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, so I shot only 11 frames before deciding to continue home and try to find the waterfall again another day.

The shoot was so casual that I didn’t even download photos from it until the yesterday (I usually transfer my memory cards as soon as I get home). Somehow though, in a half hour stop only a few miles from work in which I didn’t even find what I was looking for and took less than a dozen photos, I ended up with multiple keepers.

Here are three different takes on the same scene.

brook, green, May, Putney, Putney Brook, spring, Stream, Vermont, VT, waterfall
Eternal Spring : Prints Available

Bright green leaves mark the arrival of spring along Putney Brook on a rainy May day.

brook, green, May, Putney, Putney Brook, spring, Stream, Vermont, VT, waterfall
Babble On : Prints Available

Green spring foliage frames small cascades along Putney Brook in southern Vermont.

brook, green, May, Putney, Putney Brook, spring, Stream, Vermont, VT, waterfall
Life Itself : Prints Available

Baby ferns take root among the moss on a lichen covered rock bordering a small cascade on Putney Brook.

I do like them all, but I think I have a favorite. Which photo do you like best?

Beware the Contests You Enter

This post isn’t on anything new. If you are already familiar with so called “image grab contests” and they piss you off, feel free to skip everything I write below. Or read it if you feel like being infuriated today.

If you don’t know about image grab contests and why photographers hate them, read on.

Today, a user in a Facebook Group I am a part of called “Outdoor Women – New England” posted the following link to a photo contest by the Green Mountain Club, a Vermont based non-profit conservation group.

On the contest website it says:

By entering the contest, entrants grant GMC a royalty-free, non-exclusive license to display, distribute, and reproduce the entries, in whole or in part, for any GMC purpose, including, but not limited to, GMC publications, merchandise, and website. Any photograph reproduced in GMC publications will include a photographer credit. GMC will not be required to pay any additional consideration or seek any additional approval in connection with such uses.

Photographers hate these type of contests, because its essentially a legal way for contest organizers to sneakily get a bunch of photographs to use however they want without paying a single cent for any of them. If you have ever taken a stab at being a professional photographer and trying to earn a living off of your work, you have probably figured out that its really challenging to sell what other people are willing to give away for free. Organizations like the Green Mountain Club absolutely 100% depend on photography to do what they do. Without photographs, they can’t effectively advertise their programs, appeal to donors, or make guidebooks, interpretive displays, or decorate their buildings and lodges. Access to photography isn’t a human right, like the right to clean water and air. So if photographs are so important to the work this non-profit does, shouldn’t they be willing to pay for them?

The answer is YES they should, but too often, non-profits play the “we are poor” card. It’s bull.

When I said something, the woman who posted the contest tried to use the same excuse I’ve heard many of times before, by strangers in emails asking to use my photographs for free or “for exposure” – as have literally tens of thousands of other photographers. I’m calling her and the GMC out.

“I’ve literally heard that same excuse dozens if not hundreds of times and heard at least as many photographers complain about these contests. I’ve also worked for dozens of environmental and outdoor non-profits, and worked as a professional photographer, so I am very familiar with both the budgetary constraints and limitations of non-profit work, particularly in the environmental conservation field, as well as how hard it can be to survive off of photography alone.

By paying nothing for photos, contests like this and the organizations that back them make it harder and harder for professional photographers to earn a living. Contests like this devalue the work of professionals, the same people who are vital to helping conservation groups gain support for their work by capturing compelling images and video of places and species needing protection. Stealing photos, which a contest like this essentially does, is saying that those photos have no value. $0. If that is true, try not using photos on a website, in brochures, for campaigns, on interpretive displays, etc and see how well that goes. Photographs are vital for the work that GMC and other organizations do. If you relied solely on printed words, word-of-mouth, and NPR, you wouldn’t get half of the donations or attention you do. Why should photographers not be able to pay their bills or feed their families because your organization is too cheap to pay them?

It’s one thing to use the winning images in this way because the photographers of those images get some form of compensation, but just using any of the entries however you like without any further compensation is wrong. I like to believe that organizations like the GMC and other trail and land use groups have people behind them with strong ethics and a moral compass, but trying to justify image grab contests like these because “we are poor” really makes me question that assumption. Contests like this are exploitation. As a photographer and outdoors woman with a strong belief in both social and environmental justice, I strongly urge the organizers of this contest to revise the the language of this contest so that only winning images can be used and reproduced without further compensation. It would show that the GMC not only cares about the land, but the people that use it and it values the partnership between the non-profit and all who make the work that non-profit does possible.”

Please, if you are not an a-hole, boycott these contests. Even if you are not a professional photographer, and don’t care if you make money from your images, and you generally support the organization running the contest, boycott them. Call out the contest organizers for being cheap. Demand they change the language of their contests so that entrants retain the rights to their photograph, including the right to fair compensation. It’s possible for organizations to sponsor photo contests and drum up publicity for their work in ways that are equitable and respect the hard work and talent of the photographers who enter. Stand with photographers.

Cameras I Currently Use

We’ve all heard the adage “It’s not the camera, it’s the photographer.”

While true to an extent, having a capable camera that allows the photographer more control does make a difference in creating a compelling photo. Sure a good photographer can take a good photo with a 35mm disposable camera, but the chances of getting a good photo of the aurora borealis or capturing the fraction of a second it takes for a frog to extend its tongue to capture an insect with one is highly unlikely, if not impossible. On the same note, you can throw the latest camera and sharpest, fastest lens available into the hands of an unskilled snap shooter and the likelihood of them producing a compelling image is not much better.

It’s not just the camera, but it’s not just the photographer either. The truth is, it’s a little bit of both.

I have four different “cameras” I use regularly. Each camera fills a unique niche. There are photographs I’ve taken with my DSLRs that I could never replicate with my smartphone, but there are some pretty unique photos I have with my smaller cameras that I would have missed entirely if I had tried to shoot them with a full frame professional bodied Canon. Photographers should learn how to use every camera tool available to them, as well as recognize the limitations of different systems.

My two current DSLR cameras are a Canon 5D Mark II and a Canon 1D Mark IV. The 5D2 is a bit more compact than the 1D4 and has slightly higher resolution, making it a better option for carrying while hiking to get landscape photos. However, the 1D Mark 4 has a much better autofocus system (shooting moving subjects with the 5D2 is frustrating to say the least) as well as a cropped sensor, so it is my preferred camera for shooting sports and wildlife. In general, when I am shooting photos with the intent to sell them, print them, and get the highest quality image, I prefer shooting with DSLRs. However there are times when my other cameras are better options.

TLC was wrong #chasingwaterfalls #waterfall #keenenh #ilovenh #visitnh #lightgram

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Photo with my 5D Mark II. For waterfalls, you can’t beat a DSLR. Shooting with a DSLR allowed me to shoot with a slow shutter speed, use a polarizing filter, and mount to a sturdy tripod, all of which are less easy to do with smaller cameras. This photo would make a gorgeous statement art piece hung on a wall, and thanks to shooting with a high resolution camera, it will hold up to being printed big.

One of the biggest advantages of shooting with my iPhone 6 is that I usually have it on me. Sure it’s a phone and an older model; the newest iPhone and smartphone models have higher resolution front and rear cameras, as well as the option to shoot RAW (DNG) using the Adobe Lightroom app. Yet even shooting 8MP jpegs, I have gotten some great images; I have had folks request to buy quick shots taken with my phone and posted to Instagram more than once. My first DSLR (a Nikon D70) was only 6 megapixels, and when I started shooting with it I only shot JPEG because I was too poor to afford higher capacity memory cards and RAW processing software – the photos on my website from 2005 and sports photos from 2006 were all shot this way. My iPhone is great because it fits in my pocket, captures high dynamic range sunrises and sunsets quite beautifully thanks to its built in HDR, records video with the swipe of a finger, and allows me to share and post images instantly. When I am shooting everyday life, convenience goes a long way, and even if the iPhone lacks a lot in terms of professional features, its portability and ease of use makes it the camera I probably use more than any other.

Gorgeous building, gorgeous late day light, gorgeous city #Montreal #hoteldeville

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Photo with my iPhone. I didn’t bring my DSLR to Montreal with me to celebrate my birthday with a friend a few years ago, and even if I had I would have needed a tripod to capture a still image of this beautiful old building in the fading light. My iPhone enabled me to capture a shot of this beautiful sunset, even when it wasn’t a part of the plan.

The other camera I have that I really like is my GoPro Hero 5 Black. Like the iPhone, the GoPro is small and portable, but it has the advantage of being waterproof and weatherproof. Whenever I am doing water sports or headed out in the cold, I bring my GoPro with me. It’s super easy to operate with gloves on and doesn’t suffer from non-existent battery life in cold weather (my phone pretty much dies whenever temps drop below freezing, which is pretty much all of winter here in New Hampshire). It is small enough to wear while doing activities, such as mountain biking or snowboarding, where carrying a larger camera is not only impractical, but also dangerous. The wide angle of view makes it the perfect point-of-view camera, as it was intended, and its small stature makes it one of the best “selfie” cameras, especially if you are a fan of capturing more of your surroundings. Like my iPhone, the GoPro is pretty easy to use when it comes to taking snap-shots – no focusing is required – so it’s a much easier camera to hand to friends so they can take your picture if needed. The Hero 5 is the first GoPro to capture RAW stills, which makes editing and polishing your photos even easier.

Photo with my GoPro. The GoPro is an ideal wearable camera for when you want to capture an image but need your hands free. The GoPro Hero 5 also allows you to control the camera with your voice, an added benefit when you need your hands for something other than pressing the shutter. Bonus: It’s waterproof, and while I trust myself to keep my DSLR dry while kayaking on flat water, all bets are off when you add a dog to the mix. Kayaking with Winston is like having a bowling ball in the boat. My GoPro enables me to capture images like this without taking huge risks.

I’ve resisted posting photos taken with the latter two, smaller, “inferior” cameras to my website, but those images regularly end up on my Instagram feed and personal social media pages. Maybe I’ll get bolder about sharing them more widely. When presented in the right way and printed appropriately sized, photographs taken with these cameras are just as beautiful as those taken with my professional cameras, and sometimes, because of the unique opportunities shooting with these cameras present, I cherish the images even more.

Traveling Light Without Sacrificing Photography

Georgia, Chattahoochie National Forest, Woody Gap, fog, mist, autumn, fall, forest, woods, panorama, pano
Tamed Chaos : Prints Available

A layer of fog tames the chaos of the forest, bringing order to this late autumn scene, photographed while driving through the Chattahoochie National Forest in the southern United States.

Last week, I hopped on a plane for the first time in two years. Bound for Atlanta, Georgia, I packed light, wanting to avoid the hassle and expense of checking bags. My trip was a short one – a late flight to Atlanta, two hour drive to Chattanooga for the weekend, then back to Atlanta for just a couple of days before heading home.

When I vacation with my partner, I generally don’t plan our itinerary around photography. Photography isn’t exactly a spectator sport, and there are plenty of other things we both enjoy that we can do together while on vacation. Two years ago, when we went to Arizona on our very first vacation together I brought a DSLR and didn’t use it to take a single picture, despite all of the incredible scenery. On this trip I anticipated less mind blowing natural landscapes, but packed my DSLR again, just in case.

To pack as light and compact as possible while still having some flexibility to shoot a variety of subjects, I brought my smaller 5D Mark II body, a single 50mm f/1.4 lens, a 32GB memory card, two batteries, and a charger. That’s it. No tripod, no filters, no accessories likely to take up space and slow me down. When I take snapshots using my phone just for the fun of it, I never use the built in zoom and always move around to get the composition I want or crop after the fact, so I was not at all phased by only having a prime lens to shoot with. The nice thing about my 50mm 1.4 is that the lens itself is pretty small both in weight and physical dimensions, the focal length is a pretty normal perspective and fairly versatile to shoot with – it works for most subjects from landscapes to people, and the wide aperture gives me more options for shooting hand held in various lighting conditions.

Over the course of the trip, I shot many photos with my DSLR. The package was small enough to fit in my handbag so I was able to take it everywhere with me. The older camera lens combo and basic functionality made it easy to hand off to others so they could take pictures too (which also meant I could actually be in some of the pictures), and because the combination was portable and uncomplicated taking photos was less of a process than when I am out specifically shooting. Not having a tripod, various lenses, and filters to mess around with simplified the way I shot, and made taking photos less of a distraction from actually enjoying all of things we were doing. Packing light and using a simple set up allowed me to focus on being with my partner and having fun on the trip instead of getting wrapped up in taking photos. Another perk: Since I wasn’t hauling a ton of gear it wasn’t very obvious that I had a fancy camera on me most of the time; while being a target for thieves is something I generally don’t worry much about in the states the ability to be discrete is something I have often appreciated when traveling overseas.

I still used my iPhone for some photos – the wider focal length and built in HDR was easier to use when photographing the city from our hotel balcony, and its rear facing camera and small profile was much easier for shooting couples selfies. Unfortunately, I still have an iPhone 6 and the Lightroom Creative Cloud app only allows DNG shooting on newer models, so generally even my coolest iPhone shots don’t make it on to my website (although they do often end up on my Instagram).

In the end, I got some really cool photos. From being able to capture a cool cloud shot from the plane (which I couldn’t do when my photo gear was stored in the overhead bin) to shooting an underground waterfall in a dark cave (which would just not have been possible with my iPhone), having my basic DSLR setup ended up making the trip just a little bit more exciting. Below, you’ll see just a few of the images I’ve managed to go through since returning home just a few days ago.

The only thing I would probably change next trip would be to invest in a different handbag – one maybe a little bigger and with a more substantial crossbody strap or handle. The bag I brought had a narrow 1″ crossbody strap and carrying a camera around in that all day ended up making my back and neck really sore. My bag, which was my personal item on the plane, could also just barely fit my camera and a slightly bigger bag would have let me carry more on the flight.

Chattahoochie National Forest, Georgia
Chattahoochie National Forest, Georgia

The Dark Side

Fifteen or so years ago, I got my very first SLR, a Nikon N65. When I went digital, I purchased a Nikon D70, and a couple of years later a Nikon D200, before switching to Canon in 2007. I’ve been shooting Canon for the past decade, and have owned four different Canon digital bodies (1D Mark II N, 5D Mark II, 7D, and 1D Mark IV), as well as a Canon point-and-shoot and Panasonic micro four-thirds system.

Brad Tupa, Augsburg College, York College of Pennsylvania, Duane Bastress, wrestling, NCAA, NCAA Division III, D3, championship, The College of New Jersey
Determination : Prints Available

This photograph was taken in 2006, using my very first DSLR, a Nikon D70. It’s still a great picture today.

I got away from shooting professionally several years ago, so haven’t given much thought to upgrading gear or dropping a few grand on a new body or lens. Its just not as much a priority as it used to be, and right now I’d rather get a new mountain bike than a new camera. However, I have started shooting more frequently again and have been doing more action photography and photographs where fast shutter speeds are required in low light. I know many folks shooting action sports and animals on the run aren’t using eight year old camera bodies, so I’ve started to look at what’s out there, and my how the times have changed.

In 2007, when I decided to sell my D200 and all of my Nikon mount lenses, I did so because I was shooting alongside Canon shooters who were easily able to shoot a solid two stops higher ISO with the same amount of noise, meaning when I was stuck at ISO 400 and getting blurry images, they could bump their ISO to 800 or 1600 and actually freeze the action of a moving subject. I was also getting to the point where investing in some long glass for wildlife was an obvious next step, and at the time Nikon didn’t have VR (vibration reduction) on any of their long telephoto lenses (the longest lens with VR at the time was a 200-400mm f/4) and their super teles (500mm and 600mm lenses) cost easily $2-3k higher than equivalent Canon lenses with IS (image stabilization). So I took a bold step, sold every Nikon specific thing I owned, and bought a Canon 1D Mark II N and 300mm f/2.8 with 1.4x and 2x teleconverters to make the switch.

I’ve been a happy Canon shooter for the past ten years and haven’t ever really doubted switching, or thought about switching back, until recently. Now, I spend more time shooting my mostly black dog in our tree shaded backyard or window lit home, or walking up ski slopes to photograph mountain bikers racing downhill through heavily wooded forests, sometimes at speeds of 30-40mph. In these situations, being able to bump my ISO even higher would allow me shoot at faster shutter speeds and get sharp, detailed shots of moving subjects even in low light situations. With my current cameras, I feel comfortable bumping my ISO up to about 1600, but know that the noise I’ll get in shadow areas will degrade significantly if I shoot at ISOs much higher than that.

In poking around to see how much ISO noise and dynamic range on digital sensors has improved in the past ten years, I stumbled across high ISO samples of the past two iterations of Canon’s two best pro level cameras, the pro-body 1DX and 1DX II and smaller-sized 5D Mark III and 5D Mark IV and, while better, they don’t come close to the shadow detail and clean high ISO shots of Sony’s cameras or Nikon’s D810 (and newly announced D850). So am I going to switch to Nikon? Probably not.

Charles Drake Field, Landmark College, Landmark Sharks, Reed Bishop, athletics, college, soccer, sports, turf field
Corner Kick : Prints Available

This image was captured just a last month using a Canon 1D Mark IV, a camera released in October 2009. This camera body is eight years old and still allows me to take great pictures.

I have two Canon bodies, six Canon mount lenses, and two Canon mount teleconverters and extension tubes, including some pretty nice glass that I am unlikely to be able to replace for the price point I paid for it. Since switching to Canon, I’ve almost always bought used gear and often bodies that are at least one generation old. It would literally cost me thousands of dollars to make the switch. I don’t shoot professionally much anymore, so having the latest, greatest gear isn’t going to drastically impact my image sales or livelihood, and I’m unlikely to see a return on the investment I make in switching gear. Even with Nikon being ahead in dynamic range, ISO noise, and resolution, Canon still produces some amazing action cameras with high FPS and incredible autofocus. Many pro sports shooters are still using long white lenses, and let’s not forget that images made a decade ago on equipment at least as old are still getting published, winning awards, and making people happy. If Canon falls horribly behind Nikon and Sony in the years to come, I might switch back to Nikon at some point, but I’m not there yet.

I think it’s only a matter of time before the favor will switch back into Canon’s direction. Just ten years ago, things were completely different and I am pretty sure that Nikon and Sony aren’t going to just leave Canon bankrupt in the dust anytime soon. I would love for Canon to release an improved 1DX or 5D series model with higher megapixels and better dynamic range and high ISO performance while staying at a competitive price point and adding features like GPS, WiFi, multiple exposures, long exposure settings, and other features that come standard on some models. While I’m not entirely confident Canon’s next new release will rival everything already out there, I think it is coming. Over the years, when the playing field tends to tip in one direction, it swings back the other way in time. For now, I’ll probably keep my eye out on deals from all the other people jumping ship and switching from Canon to Nikon or Sony, and maybe I’ll buy a new camera when the next generation comes out and makes today’s most current Canon flagship cost half as much. After all, I love buying barely used gear for a fraction of the price. 😉

Exploring Acadia and Leaving the Camera Behind

Last week, I was in Acadia National Park on vacation. Acadia is one of my favorite places – it is literally nature’s playground. You can hike, bike, kayak, rock climb, swim (if you don’t mind cold water), explore tide pools, and sight see, and the photo opportunities are plentiful. I was lucky enough to have this be my fifth (maybe sixth) visit to the park, and even luckier to get to share it with someone special.

I ended up shooting with my DSLR only a few times throughout the whole trip and don’t regret it at all. I find it really difficult to be present in the moment while trying to photograph it, and to me a vacation isn’t really a break if I’m planning my travels around the sun and routinely skipping breakfast to wake up at an ungodly hour to catch sunrise. When I’m worried about light and composition, dialing in my exposure just right and snapping the shutter at precisely the right time, I’m not really noticing much else. It’s probably why when I snapped this photograph I didn’t really care that I was getting eaten by mosquitos and prancing across slippery rocks in a dress and flip-flops.

clouds, tide pool, sunset, Seal Cove, Acadia National Park, Acadia, Mount Desert Island, Maine, coast
Seal Cove Sunset : Prints Available

Pink clouds reflect in tide pools at sunset in Seal Cove near Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island off the coast of Maine.

The best way for me to enjoy the things I like to photograph is sometimes not to photograph them. Sometimes it’s best to just stop and feel the sun on your face, snuggle in the warm embrace of someone you love, and fully experience a moment in time without distractions. I enjoy sharing my travels and experiences with others through photography, but not taking photographs is beautiful in a way too. When you think about it, not having photographs can make that moment itself more private and personal as it becomes something only shared between you and those you are with at the time. In a day when people document their lunches on social media, that’s kind of special.

I don’t regret not taking more photos on my recent trip to Acadia. Instead of focusing my time fiddling with tripods and filters, forcing my boyfriend to wait around while I struggled with a composition, planning all of our excursions around good light and the best scenery, and missing meals so I could be out shooting during golden hour, we experienced our entire trip together and tried things I wouldn’t have bothered to enjoy if I had only been focused on creating images. It was a wonderful vacation, and I’ll take happy memories shared with the people I love before good photographs any day.

Trailside Trillium

trillium, painted trillium, trail, New Hampshire
Trillium Trail : Prints Available

Painted Trillium line a foot trail in Marlow, New Hampshire.

My favorite local climbing area has abundant wildflowers along the approach trail including these Painted Trillium. I happened to have my camera on me today, so after climbing I went back on the trail and tried to capture some shots of these beautiful flowers at their peak. Due to a slight breeze and no tripod, I chose to shoot handheld with a shallow depth of field and had to half squat, half lie down on the ground to get this shot, all the while being eaten alive by zealous mosquitos. The bugs in this area always seem to be able to sense when you are most vulnerable and least likely to swat at them, biting while you are in the middle of belaying, or in this case, composing a photograph.

Close to Home

Beaver Brook Falls, Keene, NH, New Hampshire, waterfall, spring
The Source : Prints Available

Fresh spring rain and snowmelt means good flow at Beaver Brook Falls, a waterfall in Keene, NH.

I don’t shoot as much as I used to. Between working full time, owning a home and a dog, and striving to be a good partner to my incredible partner, there isn’t a whole lot of time left in the day to go out and take pictures. Even though photography is something I enjoy and want to do more of, once I’ve finally tackled all the things I need to do I’m rarely super motivated to drive around looking for subjects to photograph in the wee hours of the day.

When I started really getting hooked on photography in high school, I shot mostly sports because it was what I had easy access to. I didn’t have my own car, but there were plenty of athletic competitions at school that I could photograph and then catch a ride home after on the late bus or with a friend. I only started shooting nature and wildlife a lot when, halfway through college, I finally got my own wheels and more independence to get around and explore natural places on my own. Before then, I shot whatever was within walking or biking distance from home or school.

Now between working 40+ hours a week, spending at 5 hours a week commuting back and forth from work, doing things to maintain a home, caring for a pet, staying active, and being involved in my relationships and community, I don’t have that much extra time to do photography. I also don’t function as well on limited sleep as I used to and don’t really enjoy driving as much, so 3am wake-ups to drive two hours to the beach for sunrise have about as much appeal to me as picking up dog poop from the backyard. At work, I spend hours every day on a computer or sitting in meetings (even though I don’t have a traditional desk job) so I don’t really enjoy coming home and to edit photographs in my “free” time. Plus, adulting is expensive. Buying groceries and paying my utility bills is more of a priority to me than filling up my gas tank an extra time for a photo trip or buying new camera equipment and software. I used to dedicate days and weekends to shooting, and now I want to be able to take some photos for a few hours and then move on to something else.

So I’ve found myself coming full circle, shooting sports and taking photographs of nature that don’t involve long days and hours of travel. Fortunately there are plenty of opportunities to shoot close to home. I take photographs of student-athletes competing in sports events at work and go with my boyfriend to some of his mountain bike races, where I spend a large part of my time on the mountain photographing him and his teammates while cheering everyone on. I photograph our dog a lot, usually in our own backyard. I’ve started to make a point of going out to photograph the really pretty natural areas in my own town. Lately, the setting of most of my nature themed images has been just a bike ride away from my home.

spring, cascade, Beaver Brook, Keene, New Hampshire, NH
Renewal : Prints Available

Fresh spring leaves frame a small cascade along the Beaver Brook in Keene, NH.

It has been kind of fun to take this approach to photography. I feel less pressure to actually create stunning images, because I’m just shooting for fun. Since I’m not going too far out of my way or using up a whole lot of time, it doesn’t really matter whether I succeed at creating website worthy content or fail completely. Plus, I like the challenge of finding tucked away places and taking advantage of just a few free hours to do something I enjoy. Shooting nature close to home also helps me embrace and appreciate the beauty that is around me every day and reminds me how happy I am to live in a place where waterfalls, wildflowers, and wild animals are just a bike ride away.

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