Imagine globally... shoot locally

I sometimes have a hard time finding subjects to photograph close to home. I hear it's fairly common, though: it's easy to get inspired on holiday when every corner brings new sights and fresh experiences. Who doesn't come home without a ton of images to process or get developed?

After the holiday, it can be a different story. You've seen all the local "sights," such as they are, a hundred times or more and they just don't excite your imagination. Over time your little neighbourhood or town can seem a bit dull.

So, what's to be done? After all, we can't all live in the visual smorgasbords of London, Paris or New York. (And perhaps Londoners, Parisians and New Yorkers get bored, too.)

This year, my response will be to discipline my imagination. If William Eggleston could spend a large chunk of his career documenting the everyday in Memphis, I should be able to find interesting subjects in Canada's National Capital Region.

And if I can't find them, I'll make them up. And if there are people nearby, I'll shoot portraits. If there is scenery nearby, I'll shoot landscapes. If there is an event or festival nearby, I'll shoot crowds and movement and noise. If there is colour, texture or pattern nearby, I'll shoot that. If the weather is lousy, I'll shoot atmosphere and mood. And if what's in front of me is common and mundane, I'll shoot it like a tourist. If there's nothing in front of me, I'll dream something up.

After all, the things that catch my attention when I'm on holiday are always part of someone else's daily routine. The boulangerie that attracted me in Lagnieu, France is just the place where the locals buy their bread -- the only thing out of the ordinary was my state of mind. So my motto for this year will be: imagine globally... shoot locally!

In that spirit, I offer this selection of images that I took in our town while scouting out locations for the recent Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk. I've brought my imagination back from holiday and will apply it in new ways here at home.

Let me know if you decide to do the same.

Monochrome marina

Monochrome marina

Too long in the tub

Too long in the tub

Symmes Inn

Symmes Inn

Picket line

Picket line

Cenotaph

Cenotaph

Elephant tracks

Elephant tracks

Baltimore and meetings out of the Blue (Angels)

I've taken a lot of pictures over the last few months, but I just haven't had the time to review, process or upload them. Between our family vacation and additional recent travel, there are a lot of shots in the queue!

I happened to be in Baltimore on business while the city was celebrating the bicentennial of Francis Scott Key writing "The Star Spangled Banner." It was an open-air party, so the Inner Harbor was full of tall ships, dignitaries and sailors in their dress whites. Having a couple of hours to kill before my train left for Washington, I headed down to the harbor and found that the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels had decided to put on a show just for me (several thousand other people watched, too).

I'm posting these few shots ahead of the others in my lengthy queue because I learned two lessons while taking them:

  1. The Fujifilm X-E1 and the Fujinon 55-200mm zoom are capable of creating high-quality images, but they are NOT designed for following fast action. I know a lot of people have written on this topic, but it's not until you try following and focusing on jet fighters performing aerobatic moves that you realize just how ill-suited this equipment is for that particular task. It was a frustrating exercise but, fortunately, most of my favourite subjects don't move quite so fast.
     
  2. More importantly, I probably need to be more open to meeting new people. A family beside me -- grandfather, father and two young boys -- was also watching the Blue Angels and we got to talking. Far from distracting me, they added to my enjoyment of the afternoon as we tried to track the planes, joked about how tricky it was, and chatted back and forth about Canada and the U.S.

I'm making no claims that these are great images. But I'm posting them here as a souvenir of an enjoyable afternoon in good company.

Les Rencontres d'Arles

For me, one of the highlights of our family vacation has been the chance to visit the annual photographic festival in Arles, France. While other gatherings are usually connected to photographic gear and business, Les Rencontres ("meetings" or "encounters" in English) are purely concerned with showing and celebrating photography as art. Founded by Arles-born photographer Lucien Clergue in 1970, the festival has blossomed and now receives some 100,000 visitors each summer.

With just a day to take in the showings that are scattered in different venues around the centre of Old Arles, I didn't manage to visit them all. I did see enough to make me thoroughly glad that we had added the town to our trip.

A few thoughts on the show, offered in no specific order...

First, I was most impressed by the absence of reference to technical details or specific pieces of gear. The point of the exhibitions was very much the artist's vision, not whether a Leica was involved, whether f/5.6 was optimum, whether the shadows were a little muddy, or whether analog / digital is superior. I found this a refreshing approach and a relief from many of the pointless discussions I've seen online. Just vision. Period.

I was also impressed by the importance of story in so many of the showings. In some cases, the story was explicitly connected to the artist's vision and conceived in advance.  In other cases, the story seems to have emerged less consciously over time as the artist returned to familiar themes, subjects or approaches. Perhaps "story" is sometimes the cumulative effect of a lifetime's work rather than a pre-conceived plan. In the case of one artist, Zhang Huan, the story he tells is communicated through a sequence of layers of calligraphy on his own face.

It was a pleasure to view images from several periods of Lucien Clergue's own photography and to appreciate how rich a body of work he built through studies of subjects available to him locally: patterns in wet sand, marshlands and nudes on the beach. 

David Bailey's retrospective was a treat, starting with 1960's UK fashion, celebrity and family. I enjoyed his larger format portraits and was reminded by many of the shots just how beautiful an effect film grain can produce.

A wonderful exhibit on "Typology, Taxonomy and Seriality" contained images from Richard Avedon, Karl Blossfeldt, August Sander, and Bernd and Hillary Becher (among others). This exhibit was held in the "Espace Van Gogh,"  the former hospital in Arles where the painter recovered -- and painted -- after cutting off a portion of his ear in 1889. The curated series illustrated over and over the variety (and sometimes beauty) to be found in "like" things: political figures, plant forms, members of early 20th-century German society, 1950s industrial installations, and the hairstyles of Nigerian women.

The W.M. Hunt Collection, however, provided a counterpoint to what I've just said about beauty-in-similarity. Hunt viewed the passion for collecting as foolish and seems to have gone out of his way to prove his point. Over a period of decades he collected large photographs of groups of people at conventions, fairs and events. Frequently panoramic in scope, the combined effect of the dozens of images in three rooms is the loss of the individual. The scenes of large "happenings" are so crushingly repetitive -- groups are sometimes organized into geometric forms by the photographer -- that there is little special about any of the people pictured. All those individuals have indeed been captured in a picture. Captured and assimilated. 

The "Trepat Collection" was an interesting demonstration of a collaboration between a wealthy Spanish industrialist and a number of avant garde artists. His success in manufacturing and marketing agricultural machinery allowed him to commission works by the likes of Man Ray, Lazlo Moholy-Nagy, and Walker Evans to help create a distinctive brand for his company. 

Other exhibits, such as the impressively large-scale collages by Vik Muniz demonstrated that photographs as artefacts can themselves be reworked to create new images. Others again, such as the work of Mazaccio and Drowilal, undermine celebrity, advertising and sentimentality in our image-soaked society. Denis Rouvre's presentation ("Identity, Intimate Territories") of low-key projected portraits with narration by the subject reminded me that, far from being an issue for the French alone, multiple identities are a fact of life for all of us in a globalized world of migrants. 

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable day and I was only sorry that it couldn't have been longer. It was long enough to inspire me, though, and encourage me to work more carefully on my own photography. Less gear, more story. More vision. More "rencontres"!

 

All pictures taken with my Fujifilm X-E1 with Fujinon 14mm and 18-55mm lenses. JPEGs tweaked with Snapseed on an iPad. 

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Getting medieval

One of the advantages of historical sites in some parts of France is that they escaped the heavy bombardments of the First and Second World Wars. In many parts of Europe it can be hard to find a site that isn't a total reconstruction. The beautiful Cloth Hall in Ypres, for example, was entirely rebuilt from rubble. And the buildings in many "medieval" town centres in Germany are often, for obvious reasons, no more than 60 or 70 years old.

So it was particularly refreshing to come across the beautifully-preserved medieval town of Pérouges in the Rhônes-Alpes region of France. Although a centre of the linen trade for centuries, the walled town was progressively abandoned as the Industrial Revolution favoured larger cities, such as Lyon. No bombardment, no war (at least not since a siege in the 15th Century, I believe), just a wave of economic and societal change.

It was also refreshing to see new life in the little town, which now enjoys the benefit of a small museum and the presence of some 80 inhabitants, many of whom seem to be involved in running restaurants, galleries and workshops. All of this has been done without resorting to the plague of Disneyfication: parking is a mere 2 Euros, there is no fee to enter the town and access to the museum is reasonably-priced. You can explore Pérouges to your heart's content for pocket change.

And explore I did. Un gros merci aux citoyens de Pérouges !

(All images are JPEGs from a Fujifilm X-E1, processed with Snapseed on an iPad.)

 

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Love of place

If love of place–"topophilia," apparently–can depend on many things, then this tree is one of the non-human things that makes me love the place where I live.

Top down. Fujifilm X-E1 with 56mm. ISO 800, 1/60 sec at f/5.6

A walk in Wakefield

Some weeks back my wife and I had the chance to spend a couple of hours walking around Wakefield, a small village on the Gatineau River about 30 or 40 minutes from our place. It was a lazy afternoon so we had no particular plan for our time... and I think the pictures I took reflect that.

Top down. Fujifilm X-E1 with 35mm. ISO 200, 1/3,500 sec at f/1.4.

Cast critters. Fujifilm X-E1 with 35mm. ISO 200, 1/70 sec at f/1.4.

Post pre-modern. Fujifilm X-E1 with 35mm. ISO 400, 1/34 sec at f/1.4.

Wakefield Inn. Fujifilm X-E1 with 14mm. ISO 200, 1/40 sec at f/22.

Wakefield Inn 2. Fujifilm X-E1 with 14mm. ISO 200, 1/110 sec at f/8.

Deck. Chair. Fujifilm X-E1 with 14mm. ISO 200, 1/420 sec at f/2.8.

Canada Place

I'm behind with the posts, so I'll be putting up a few with relatively little comment. The following shots are details of the beautiful sail-like roof of Canada Place at Burrard Inlet in Vancouver.

I continue to be impressed with the quality of the Fujinon 55-200mm zoom lens. It seems very sharp and the Image Stabilization is very, very good. I'll need to post some handheld shots later on to show just how good the stabilization is—these were all taken at a distance at relatively high shutter speeds.

Sails —Fujifilm X-E1 with Fujinon 55-200mm; f/5.0 at 1/1400 sec. ISO800.

Sails—Fujifilm X-E1 with Fujinon 55-200mm; f/5.0 at 1/1400 sec. ISO800.

Between the sails —Fujifilm X-E1 with Fujinon 55-200mm; f/8.0 at 1/420 sec. ISO400.

Between the sails—Fujifilm X-E1 with Fujinon 55-200mm; f/8.0 at 1/420 sec. ISO400.

Rigging —Fujifilm X-E1 with Fujinon 55-200mm; f/8.0 at 1/250 sec. ISO400.

Rigging—Fujifilm X-E1 with Fujinon 55-200mm; f/8.0 at 1/250 sec. ISO400.

Life springs forth in monochrome

After a longer- and colder-than-usual winter in the Ottawa Valley, spring has finally been making itself felt over the last week. Although most Canadians get a little misty at the beauty of a fresh blanket of snow, this year's blanket overstayed its welcome and left us itchy for a change of season. Enough!

With the melting of a winter's-worth of snow comes the chance to see a powerful display of nature in rivers and creeks swollen many times their normal size. The creek in our yard is one such place, but I decided to wander a little farther afield to take in the impressive sights of the Rideau and Ottawa Rivers in full spate. The images that appear below were taken on two successive days on the Rideau River at Hog's Back Falls in Ottawa, Ontario and on the Ottawa River near the Deschênes Rapids in Aylmer, Quebec.

Spring is the season of new life and colour that bursts forth from wet soil. And those pictures will come. But the first pictures of spring can ably show in shades of grey the sheer power of water and land as they stretch and shake off the death of the old.

Where there is life, there is hope.

Vancouver Deco — The Marine Building

Every so often on my travels I stumble across a building whose design is so striking that I have to stop and spend time with it. Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum in NYC had that effect on me last July—I think I spent as much time photographing the exterior from every angle as I did inside looking at the art on display inside. Visually exploring such a subject becomes a way of appropriating it and coming to know it more intimately. For me, it's also an expression of appreciation and a joy.

I had a similar experience a few weeks ago in Vancouver when I happened upon The Marine Building near the city's waterfront. The beautiful structure opened in October 1930 and I'm sure its Art Deco details have been delighting tenants, visitors and passers-by ever since. And Vancouver being a film town, the office building has often served as a location for period film and TV productions.

I'll be going back someday. And when I do, I'll be looking for ways to move beyond the details and explore the interior.

At the protest with the Fujinon 55–200mm

I was in Vancouver for business a couple of weeks back with my new Fujinon 55-200mm zoom lens and was anxious to try it out. A group of protestors obliged me by blocking the street not far from my hotel, so I put the zoom on my X-E1 and spent a few enjoyable minutes with them. As you can tell from the pictures, they're concerned about oil pipelines and their impact on the environment and treaty lens. They also seem concerned with having fun, chatting and taking pictures of each other. And, yes... they're not fans of the current Prime Minister.

The zoom performed beautifully—I was really pleased with getting extra reach beyond my current set of lenses. The focus speed seemed just fine. The biggest plus, however, was the Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) that gave me greater freedom with the choice of slower shutter speeds hand-held. It just works. Try it.

Cold weather photography with the X-E1

Living in most parts of Canada means that you're either going to have to make friends with cold weather or resign yourself to spending large parts of the year indoors. Unless all your work is done in a studio, the same holds true for Canadian photographers -- and the start of this winter has been unusually cold.

I've had my Fujifilm X-E1 for almost a year and have been interested to see how it performed in the cold. A number of people have raised concerns about the lack of a weather seal on the X-E1, but I can't say that I've found it to be a problem. I never use my cameras unprotected in a downpour and am careful of blowing sand at the beach, so I take the usual precautions -- some sort of cover in the rain and an hour in a sealed plastic bag when coming in from very cold temperatures.

I recently spent an hour and a half taking pictures with the X-E1 and the 18-55mm zoom at the Mackenzie King Estate in Gatineau Park. The estate is an interesting place visually in all seasons and just 15 minutes from where I live, so it is a good option for blowing off the cobwebs. This day, however, the temperature was hovering around -17C with a brisk wind. After 90 minutes, the camera was still working as it should and there appeared to be plenty of battery life left (although I've been fooled before by the X-E1's battery status indicator : it can drop from a "full charge" reading to almost nothing in a matter of minutes. Not helpful.).

I'm happy to report that I didn't end my little cold-weather safari because of the camera, but because the light was fading and my hands were freezing.

As a sidebar, I'd be interested to hear how other photographers keep their hands warm in cold temperatures. I got tired of the mitts-on-mitts-off approach and now use Lowepro gloves. The gloves are a big improvement as they combine a covering for the hands with enough flexibility to adjust camera controls (the raised bumps on the gloves helpfully provide extra grip and tactile feeling on the controls). At the same time, they're still not warm enough for really cold weather over extended sessions outside. Manfrotto used to manufacture an interesting looking pair of gloves, but they seem to have been discontinued. Any other ideas or approaches?

So, it's 2014. Stay warm, keep shooting and have a happy and healthy year!

 

Cliché roundup—the Brooklyn Bridge with my X-E1

I understand that more than 8 million people live in New York City. I understand that NYC is a popular destination for millions more business people and tourists each year. And I also understand that the Brooklyn Bridge has been photographed by every single one of those people, multiple times.

I don't care. 

These are the pictures I took of the Brooklyn Bridge with my Fujifilm X-E1 and I like them. 

So there. Now it's millions and millions plus one.

 

Temple of learning—New York City Public Library

Now that I've transferred this site over to Squarespace 6, it's time to get cracking on the blog again. I'm pleased with the way things are displaying so far and I'm looking forward to using the increased flexibility for the galleries and for the blog itself.

The pictures in this entry were all taken with my Fujifilm X-E1 while in New York City for a week in July. It was great to get a block of time where I could concentrate on photography, so I tried to make good use of it. The X-E2 has just been released, but I think it'll be a little while before I can justify stepping up to a new body when I bought this one just a year ago. Still, the improved speed and image quality of the new X-Trans CMOS II sensor does sound pretty tempting. On the other hand, the "Lens Modulation Optimizer" sounds like something Marvin the Martian might use as a weapon.

But back to the pictures. The Main Branch of the New York Public Library (also known as the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building) was built on top of a former reservoir in Manhattan between 1897 and 1911. Every corner of the building speaks of a high regard for literacy and written culture as foundations of the world we know.

Public libraries are having to reinvent themselves and many are scrambling for funding to avoid becoming "book museums" in the face of the digital revolution. For the last several centuries, though, they were centres of entertainment, socializing, self-improvement and democratic education of citizens. Today we have instant access to a staggering range of "content" day and night on portable devices and I like the new access. I'm just not always sure that we are better people or better citizens for it.

Guggenheim in monochrome

 

Guggenheim 3 -- Fujifilm XE-1 - 14mm - f/11 - 1/350 sec - ISO 200The term is overused, but the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum truly is an iconic piece of architecture and instantly recognizable. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, it is as much a work of art as any of the pieces displayed within its walls.

I've admired the building on previous trips to New York City but this is the first time I've had the opportunity to visit the gallery. Unfortunately, the current installation by artist James Turrell means that the famous interior spiral ramp is completely covered by projection screens. Great for lovers of Turrell's work with light; not so great for anyone who wants to experience the unique design of the gallery.

I may have spent as long photographing the building as I did visiting the exhibits inside. The curves and lines cry out for abstract treatment and it gave me the opportunity to try out the black and white mode of the Fujifilm X-E1, using the simulated red filter to darken skies.

I wasn't disappointed. The resulting JPEGs, while not completely straight-out-of-the-camera (I did make some contrast adjustments), showed a pleasing tonal range and held highlights well. I'm becoming increasingly confident that the JPEGs the X-E1 produces stand up with little or no post-processing.

I think I'll be doing a lot more black and white work with this camera.

Geggenheim 6 -- Fujifilm X-E1 - 14mm - f/11 - 1/220 sec - ISO 200Guggenheim 12 -- Fujifilm X-E1 - 18-55mm @ 55mm - f/8 - 1/1800 sec - ISO 200Guggenheim 4 -- Fujifilm X-E1 - 14mm - f/11 - 1/240 sec - ISO 200Guggenheim 2 -- Fujifilm X-E1 - 18-55mm @ 55mm - f/8 - 1/320 sec - ISO 200

Rockefeller Center (with the Fujinon 14mm)

Radio City (Tony Bennett) -- Fuji X-E1 - 14mm - f/2.8 - 1/60 sec - ISO 800I recently had the chance to spend a week in New York City on my own. It's rare that I take a trip without the family, so I decided to make the most of it and drew up a list of places I wanted to visit and photograph. Photography is always a part of any travelling we do, but it's freeing when you have only yourself to plHalal food -- Fuji X-E1 - 14mm - f/2.8 - 1/60 sec - ISO 800ease.

Just before taking the trip I decided to give my Fuji X-E1 a present: a new lens. I wavered back and forth between the Fujinon 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 and the 14mm f/2.8 before finally settling on the wide angle. The optical stabilization of the longer lens sounded interesting, but the wider lens has received rave reviews and better suits the kind of shooting I like to do.

These shots were all taken around the Rockefeller Center complex and the 14mm did not disappoint. It is a fantastic lens.Bags and shoes -- Fuji X-E1 - 14mm - f/2.8 - 1/220 sec - ISO 800

Anthropologie -- Fuji X-E1 - 14mm - f/2.8 - 1/85 sec - ISO 800

Reasons to be cheerful

Reasons to be cheerfulI recently went to the Canadian Museum of Nature with my 11-year-old son so we could spend an afternoon looking at interesting rocks and bones. I had my Fujifilm XE-1 and he had his iPod (I'm secretly pleased to see him using the built-in camera with the Camera+ app more and more).

There was no shortage of things to point a lens at and the time flew by as we explored parts of the museum we hadn't seen since the renovations were completed. Given the concern to preserve the artifacts on display, it's not surprising that most of the facility is not brightly lit. On the other hand, the central staircase and the new glass tower are open to blazing sunlight. As a result, I found that I was switching back and forth between ISOs 200 and 3200 as I moved from one part of the building to another. (I chose well in using the Fn button on the XE-1 for quick access to the camera's ISO settings.)

Reasons to be cheerful? The wide open grin of the skeleton in the first picture made me think of the Ian Dury song and fit well with the afternoon: time spent in a beautifully-restored building, with a camera I love more every time I use it, in the company of my son with the seemingly boundless energy and unapologetic curiosity.

What could be better?

I'll bet he has bony fingersWhalebaitJailbreak

Old Montreal—outside with the XE-1 at night

Basilica lampsIt's time for the March school break in Quebec, so my family and I spent a few days in Old Montreal for a change of scenery. The days are getting longer and there is the barest hint of spring when the sun is out, but we know better than to think that winter has finished with us yet. We've been fooled before!

A mild evening in Old Montreal gave me a chance to see what my Fujifilm XE-1 could do in low light. Even with snow coming down it was a pleasant walk and the architecture in this corner of the city is always interesting for a photographer. These are all JPEGs straight out of the camera taken at ISO 3200 with the 18-55mm zoom lens.

As some reviewers have noted, the electronic viewfinder does indeed lag at times in low light, but I didn't find this too much of a problem. It might be for people who depend on taking a lot of action shots, but that isn't me. I'm still getting over the thrill of carrying a camera that weighs half of my previous kit! The high-quality zoom lens does not add appreciably to the weight around my neck and it focuses and zooms smoothly and accurately. It's a pleasure to use.

All told, I am very pleased with the way this camera plays and performs. So much so that I went out and bought the 35mm f/1.4 lens while still in Montreal. More on that in the next instalment...

Place d'Armes

 

The night life of parking lots

Blue Basilica 

Snow cone

Like a lot of us, I have to push myself to go out and use the camera during the winter. It's not just the temperatures in western Quebec (although it can get pretty cold), it's also the shorter days and weekends that are often filled with other things. Still, I made the effort yesterday so I could put my new Fujifilm XE-1 through its paces outdoors.

I was really intrigued when Fuji brought out the X-Pro 1 because it offered high-quality images in a compact package. And, frankly, I thought it looked beautiful. It also offered something that I hadn't seen in years: real dials that offered direct control of key settings such as aperture, shutter speed and exposure compensation. Although it may just be an indication of my age, it looked like a camera should. The only downside for me was the price.

And then along came the XE-1. Slightly smaller, no optical viewfinder and... hundreds of dollars less, even with the 18-55mm f/2.4-4.0 zoom sold as a kit lens. And no less beautiful! I was willing to work with the electronic-only viewfinder if I could get my hands on the same image quality for substantially less money.

And why was all this important to me? Well, although I loved my Nikon D7000 and have shot with film and digital Nikons for close to 30 years, I wanted something lighter and more compact without having to sacrifice any image quality. I take a lot of pictures while travelling, so space and weight of equipment count for a lot, especially if I'm out all day for several days in a row.

The XE-1 seems to fit that bill and I can't get over how light it is: just 350g with battery and memory card versus the D7000's 690g for the body only. It doesn't sound like much, but halving the bulk is important when it's hanging around a sweaty neck all day. And the lenses are much lighter, too -- it all adds up.

The accompanying image was shot hand-held on a mild-ish winter day (somewhere between -10C and -15C) with the lens wide open. Needless to say, I am very pleased with kit that can produce such fine JPEGs straight out of the camera. And my neck is happier too, even though less sweaty at this time of year.

More on the XE-1 in the days and weeks to come. Time to sell the Nikon gear?

Boxing Day, Gatineau Park

It's been quite some time since I added any posts to the blog, so I'll make an effort to fix that. In the meantime, I've been putting my new Nikon P7700 to good use whenever I can.

I was very happy with the Canon G11 that I used to use as my second, smaller camera, but I got tired of having to use something other than Capture NX2 to post-process the images I took with them. I'd rather take pictures than spend time mucking around with the files afterward, so NX2 has been a godsend for me. I'd resorted to making minor corrections on the G9 and G11 files in Canon's Digital Photo Professional and then saving the files as high-res TIFFs for final processing in NX2. This was a bit of a pain, of course, but it seemed to me that Canon simply made better compact digital cameras than Nikon did.

By the time the P7700 was released, I thought that might have changed somewhat and I was ready to take the plunge. Canon introduced their G15 around the same time, but I knew I'd miss the articulated LCD screen I loved on the G11 and that was now available on the P7700. The G15 had a slight edge with an f/1.8 lens, but I thought this was a negligible advantage over the P7700's f/2.0 and zoom equivalent of 28-200mm (vs the Canon's range of 28-140mm). Some reviewers made a lot of the P7700's lack of an optical viewfinder, but I thought the argument was overblown -- I had never used the viewfinder on the G11 because it was too small and terribly inaccurate. It was more of a cosmetic add-on than a truly useful feature. All told, the P7700 had the features I wanted in a compact camera and produced NRW files that I could process natively with Capture NX2. Smiles all around.

I took this shot during a walk with my family on the estate of former Prime Minister Mackenzie-King in Gatineau Park to blow off the cobwebs on Boxing Day. It seemed that quite a few others had the same idea: walkers, snowshoers and cross-country skiers were all out enjoying the benefits of last week's snowstorm. The little P7700 performed wonderfully and I came home with a memory card full of stills, panos and video. More smiles.

I'm resolving (good photographic word!) to be a more faithful poster in 2013, but for the moment I'll wish a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!