Journal: Small Format

Carrying a DSLR camera and several lenses around isn't always practical. Over the years, I've experimented with a number of smaller camera systems in hopes of finding a camera that would help me create great images and still fit in my pocket. Here are some of my favorite images taken with iPhones, GoPros, and other small format cameras.

My current favorite "pocket camera" is the Ricoh GR III. I love that this camera can easily come with me on just about any adventure and allows me to capture high-quality RAW images on an APS-C sized sensor without the need for interchangeable lenses or a lot of storage space in my pack.

When I need a super portable weatherproof option, I'll grab my GoPro Hero 6 and shoot in RAW mode to capture the highest quality images (with the most editing latitude) that I can. Plus, I love the super wide angle perspective, even though it can sometimes be quite limiting. My GoPro is my "go to" camera when paddling with my pup, trying out a new sport where I'm likely to fall or drop things, and adventuring in the coldest winter conditions.

Mini Mountaineering

Hikers make their way down Mount Monadnock as snow blows on a bluebird winter day. I love having a camera with me any time I go up Mount Monadnock, but I find I can only wear thin gloves (or no gloves) when photographing and fiddling with a bunch of metal lenses on a day when the temps and windchill are below freezing is a recipe for frostbite. The all-in-one point-and-shoot Ricoh GRIII is the perfect camera for capturing a few high quality images with exposed fingertips in the blistering cold.

Blue Hour on Mount Monadnock

Blue hour on Mount Monadnock. The Ricoh GRIII is particularly well suited to "blue hour" photos because it has built-in image stabilization (which helps keep photos sharp even when shooting in low light) and the color profile of the camera naturally tends to run cool.

Hiking in the High Peaks

A male hiker strolls along the rocky ridgeline of Cascade Mountain on a summer day in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York, the surrounding High Peaks in the background. Pocket cameras are perfect for capturing "maybe this will work" images during midday adventures when the light tends to be harsh and it doesn't feel worth it to carry around a whole DSLR camera. Photo taken with a Ricoh GRIII, 2019.

Cheshire Rail Trail

A male cyclist rides along the Cheshire Rail Trail in southwestern New Hampshire. On really hot summer days, my favorite non-water activity is riding bikes along the shaded and flat rail trails near our home. On this ride, the light softened for just a couple of minutes as we were pedaling through this scenic grove of ferns and tress so I asked my husband to double back so I could take a photo. The Ricoh GRIII is portable enough to carry on a ride and has a high quality sensor that allows me to capture sharp images and recover details even in harsh light.

Glorious Fractures

Bubbles and cracks on the surface of ice in a frozen cave. I found this ice pattern while going sledding with friends and captured this image with my Ricoh GRIII. One of the nice things about a smaller, wider angle camera with image stabilization is that you can get away with handholding the camera in situations that would normally call for a tripod.

Periwinkle Leaf Study

Lesser periwinkle takes over a garden bed. I carry my Ricoh GRIII around me with just about everywhere; it lives in my purse on a daily basis and I transfer it to my backpack or hip belt anytime I go on a hike. Having a camera on me constantly allows me to take advantage of photo ops when I least anticipate them. I spotted these periwinkle leaves outside my office when arriving at work one day. This entire "shoot" took maybe a couple of minutes.

Spring Awakening
Ferns and other plants emerge amongst lichen covered rocks, indicating the return of warm weather as spring arrives at Dolly Sods Wilderness in West Virginia's Monongahela National Forest. When I worked in the outdoor education industry (from 2008-2014) my primary responsibility on trips was to safely manage groups of children or young adults in the wilderness. These adventures left little time for photography, and packing extra food and first aid supplies left no room for a larger camera. To try to make the most of these once-in-a-lifetime trips, I experimented with a number of smaller formats, including a micro 4/3rds camera, the Panasonic GF-1, here paired with a Lumix 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. Photo taken in May 2012.
Opt Outside

A hiker steps from rock to rock while crossing a small stream in the Pemigawassett Wilderness in New Hampshire's White Mountain National Forest. A good quality pocket camera is the perfect backpacking companion. For trips not centered around photography, having a portable, lightweight camera saves weight and space in a pack already loaded up with food and camping equipment. Plus you can typically pack a small camera in a more accessible pocket, which allows you to easily capture images on the fly. This image was captured in 2020, when I brought my husband on his first ever backpacking trip. Photographed with a Ricoh GRIII.

Bull Elk on the Madison
A mature bull elk (Cervus elaphus americanus) stands within the Madison River as early morning mist rolls off the water. The first time I felt I ever "needed" a small but very capable camera was when I rode a bicycle across the United States back in 2009. I had never done an adventure of that magnitude before and bringing a heavy DSLR felt like overkill, so I invested in a Canon G10 for the trip. I was most glad I had a RAW capable camera when we took a few days off mid-ride to explore Yellowstone National Park.
Moose in a Grove of Trees
A bull moose rubs its antlers on a tree sapling in a grove of pine trees in Yellowstone National Park. Male moose grow a new set of antlers each year. The antler starts as small nub, covered in blood rich velvet, and grows and expands throughout the spring and summer. Prior to the mating season in early autumn, known as the rut, the bulls will rub their antlers on trees in an attempt to shed off the velvet, revealing the hard horn beneath. The bony antlers are used to attract mates and defend territories, before they are shed entirely by early winter. Having a larger format camera with a decent telephoto lens would have been nice for this opportunity, but pedaling one more than 4,000 miles across the United States and up 11,542 feet over the continental divide would not have been fun. As the saying goes, the best camera is the one you have on you. Canon G10, 2009.
Winter Wind Atop Monadnock

A hiker attempts to cover his face from blowing snow atop Mount Monadnock, the most hiked mountain in the United States, on a cold, windy winter day. In freezing temps, smartphones don't generally have hardy enough batteries to turn on, let alone take pictures, and operating them with gloves on is pretty much impossible. So I typically pack either a GoPro or Ricoh (or both) for winter adventures. Ricoh GRIII, January 2021.

For this winter hike to Lonesome Lake in 2019, I had my DSLR with me but didn't want to stop every few minutes to unpack and repack it just to take photos. My GoPro HERO6 Black is a great camera for "grab and go" shots on winter adventures. I find the GoPro's battery handles cold far better than that of any iPhone I've owned and like that I can easily use it with gloves on, thanks to its single power button operation and voice control. Plus because it's waterproof, you don't need to worry about damaging it if you get "snow bombed" or drop it in the snow.
A GoPro is my preferred camera for kayaking with my dog. While I generally have no issue staying upright and fairly dry in flat water, having Winston on board is like paddling with a bowling ball in your kayak; he's constantly moving and makes my boat far less stable than when I'm solo. I don't trust myself not to dump a more expensive camera in the water when Winston is with me, so I keep my GoPro attached to a floating handle and use that to take pictures if the need strikes. GoPro HERO5 Black, April 2017.
The GoPro is so lightweight and compact I can put it in my pocket for runs without getting weighed down. From 2014-2022 I went on a 7 year, 6 month, and 6 day running streak, running at least one mile a day every day for 2744 days straight, and Winston joined me on the majority of those runs. GoPro HERO6 Black, July 2021.