In my experiences with cameras over the last five or six years, I’ve discovered an inverse relationship with how many functions, features and buttons a camera has, and how much I’ve enjoyed using it.
In other words, the simpler the set up, the more joy I’ve found.
Once all the decisions about settings are out of the way, I’m free to focus purely on the two most basic decisions of all in photography – where to point the camera and when to release the shutter.
I’m free to find your natural flow of photography, without interruptions to fiddle and adjust.
Getting back into bikes, not surprisingly, I’m noticing a similar trend.
My ebike has disc brakes, suspension forks, eight mechanical speeds, three electric speeds, mudguards, lights and a speedometer. It’s a very efficient machine at what it does, ie get me to work with less effort and sweat than a regular bike.
But I’m always checking what gear I’m in or what speed I’m doing.
My head is in a kind of analytical and assessing mode, rather than relaxed and open to the wonderfully freeing experience biking can be.
With my Specialized FSR mountain bike, yes it does have full suspension and 21 gears. But I’ve been experimenting with using just three gears (leaving it on the middle cog up front and using the smallest three at the rear), and on the last few rides just one gear.
With no electronic controls and no mechanical speeds to alter, when I’ve committed to one gear all I have to focus on is pedalling and steering.
Put another way, I’m free to find my natural flow of riding, without interruptions to fiddle and adjust.
The compact cameras I’ve come to use and love most I use on Aperture Priority, but rarely move the aperture beyond fully open.
The Ricoh GRD III is a great example, which I can shoot all day long at f/1.9, letting the camera decide the shutter speed. It’s small-ish sensor and 28mm wide lens give a deep enough depth of field to make focusing more than manageable.
Talking of which, with AutoFocus, whilst I often point where I want the camera to focus and lock it in with a half press of the shutter button, it’s all very fluid and instinctive.
With everything else set up how I want and saved in a custom setting, I can use it almost as a pure point and shoot. Again, it’s about finding that flow without interruption.
The similarities between these two interests and practices is obvious.
Once you remove a number of decisions before your start your photowalk or ride, it prepares you for welcoming in the pure, and almost meditatively enjoyable experience of both. It optimises your likelihood of finding the flow.
Camera and photographer as one. Cycle and cyclist unified.
But, you may ask, if you set up your camera and bike with all these limitations, doesn’t it mean you’re going to miss out on all kinds of other opportunities that a camera with multiple modes and a zoom lens, or a bike with multiple gears would allow you to embrace?
But when you take that kind of approach, it becomes all about hedging your bets and keeping so many options open that you don’t commit to anything with any passion.
And this surely encourages laziness too.
If my GRD III is set to ISO400 and f/1.9 and it looks like the highlights are blowing out in the background sky, I have to adjust my position and composition so they’re not. I don’t dive into the controls to change ISO, aperture shutter speed or anything else.
On my FSR bike, if I reach a hill where my chosen single speed is too high to conquer it, I just have to either slog it out, feel the burn and reap the reward at the top, or remember I’m doing this for pleasure and not to become an Olympic athlete, and just get off and walk.
Flow is so important to me in my enjoyment of both of these interests. Without it I get distracted, frustrated, despondent, and just know I’m not as immersed as I could be.
So these preemptive simplifications are a necessity, and taking the time to experiment and work them out means a much higher quality and deeper experience in the long term.
What do you do to help you find your flow with photography or cycling? What gets in the way?
Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).
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