Messin’ with Point-n-Click Motion


Break free from a bulky SLR and feel the freedom to get creative

Jack Davis (author of the Photoshop Wow! and How to Wow books) and I glanced excitedly at each other. In the stillness of the morning, we laced up our running shoes and stretched our shoulders and our hamstrings. On my waist belt I strapped my tiny Panasonic Lumix LX2 and my Canon PowerShot SD800 (modified to shoot in infrared by He did the same. It was time. With a whoop of joy, we ran out his front door and into the day.

The beginning of some twisted technology ultra-marathon? Surely, you jest. Something much, much better. We were off on a rollicking photo tour of Jack’s hometown, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California.

Jack and I have been photo buddies for the last four years. We met at a seminar at the Lepp Institute of Digital Imaging, realized our common irreverence for the rules of photography, and have been friends ever since. We’ve perfected the art of “drive-by” shooting (see Basic Jones, September 2006), modified a bunch of cameras for infrared, immersed ourselves in wild panoramas, e-mailed hundreds of photos back and forth and, in the process, created some terrific images.

Early on, we began seeing how far we could push the limits of the new breed of ultracompact point-and-shoots. There are some astounding little cameras on the market right now, and they’re great tools, not only for getting shots you would have missed, but for expanding your creativity.

First, a camera is just a hunk of metal and plastic unless it’s in your hand. Left at home, it might as well be a doorstop. The great thing about these little cameras is that they’re always with you, either in your pocket or on your belt—always there, letting you capture the shot whenever it comes along.

In the “olden days” when they only captured tiny files, had shutter lags of 10 minutes and were limited to being totally automatic, their resulting images usually weren’t worth the space they took up on the memory card. But how quickly that has changed. Now, the best of these little puppies have many of the bells and whistles of the larger SLRs and capture images up to 12 megapixels! Some even in RAW! Truly amazing!

As they’re relatively inexpensive ($400 to $600), I think of them as lenses rather than cameras. I carry three in my briefcase and then choose whichever ones fit the particular shooting situation. All three together are smaller than an SLR with a single lens (and together cost about the same, or less).

And now the creativity part....

Somehow I feel much less serious with these little cameras than with my larger SLRs—much more inclined to try new things, to experiment, to play. That morning, Jack and I were no more than a block from his house when we began shooting motion blurs (“drive-bys” or, in this case, “jog-bys”) in a cornfield. Will I keep any of these images? Not many. They were just visual stretching. Just loosening up the eyes.

We continued to the beach and then through the town, laughing, shooting and sharing images as we went. We shot IR, panoramas, 16:9 format, blurs, video—you name it. I watched Jack fall in love with his own “backyard” all over again and come up with some new and truly lovely images.

When I shot for National Geographic, I was always amused by how much easier it was to take great shots in places no one had ever seen. Of course, it was—people had never seen them! Everything was new and interesting. It was much more difficult to get a real gasper of familiar places: Yosemite or Disneyland or, in this case, Jack’s own backyard. But with these little cameras to spur on his creativity, Jack was looking at his backyard with a new set of eyes.

We ended up in the meditation gardens of Paramahansa Yogananda Self-Realization Fellowship Ashram Center, built in Encinitas in 1937. Wandering through this delightfully well-tended landscape, I came upon a koi pond. I’ve shot hundreds of photographs of koi. They’re a favorite subject, and no doubt I would have photographed these even if I’d been asleep behind my lens. But I wasn’t asleep. My excursion with Jack had me totally awake, and I looked at that little pond as if these were the first koi I had ever seen in my life. What a time I had! My favorite shot wasn’t necessarily the most “creative” one I tried that morning. It was more a classic balance of lily pad, koi and reflections, but I doubt I would have seen it without the morning’s creative stretching and the fact that my little Lumix was there in my hand.

At the airport later that day, I stared out from the waiting area at the large metal behemoth that would soon fly me back to Tahoe. “How could anything that heavy ever take flight?” I thought. Then I realized that what would lift it into the sky, molecules of air, already surrounded it. All the plane needed was a little momentum through those molecules and it would fly.

“That’s what my time with Jack and those little cameras was,” I thought. “A rollicking roll down a visual runway. A rollicking roll till I attained the right velocity where the possibilities that always surround me would lift me up, open my eyes and allow me to fly!”

Visit Dewitt Jones’ Website at

For more on the cameras Dewitt and Jack used on their expedition, click here. Or to see samples from our point-n-shoots, click here.


Too Much Fun

Supplemental movie and a reprint of Dewitt Jones’ October ’07 Basic Jones “Too Much Fun”

Outdoor Photographer article.