Archive for the ‘How to and tips’ category


Recently I have been playing with large sensor mirror less compact cameras, more precisely the Panasonic Lumix GX1 and the Sony Alpha Nex-6.  I wanted a large sensor and a “punch” packed in a small camera.  With all the outdoor activities I do, I needed something I could carry around without having the bulk of a reflex camera but that could take pictures I could use professionally.  I often find myself running out the door for a hike or to do something outdoors that involves a little bit of physical pain and sweating and looking at the big and fat camera case and thinking “should I or should I not take it?”.  “Do I really want a sore neck?  Where would I put the camera if it rains?” so I pretend not to see the camera and run out the door with guilt.  Inevitably that amazing moment happens and I find myself cameraless cursing at my laziness.

There are some pretty nice little snapshot cameras that take good pictures but the biggest issue with them is the size of the sensor.  This could turn into a cheesy and expected joke but size does matter.  With a small sensor you can’t get the shallow depth of field that is possible with a full size 35mm sensor and the true resolution of capturing an image on a larger surface.  Is hard to pack much detailed information on a sensor smaller than a pinky nail.  Furthermore, many snap shot cameras are limited in manual functions and most of them don’t shoot RAW format.  Many snapshot cameras these days give you way more megapixels than you need but they don’t necessarily give you quality megapixels.   This is a selling gimmick.  People think, “Oh, a 20 megapixel snapshot camera must give you an unbelievably beautiful picture!” but in reality a 20 megapixel camera unnecessarily fills up your hard drive and only gives you the headaches of handing a large file in return.  Remember is really about the sensor size not the megapixels.
You may wonder why my title starts with “Does your camera really need to make you eggs benedict?”.  Initially I decided to write this blog because I was suffering from a severe headache caused by working with the Panasonic Lumix GX1.  The full manual for this camera is so thick that is only available on CD as the paper version would be too big for any reasonable non reinforced bookshelf.  I think at Panasonic they rounded up a bunch of smart nerds and told them.  “Let’s see how many functions and buttons we can possibly fit in the this camera, but make sure they are confusing and hidden so the OTHER normal and stupid people can’t find them!”.   And the Panasonic Lumix GX1 was created.   I happened to be one of the normal and stupid people to buy one.  Don’t get me wrong, this is great camera that takes great picture and has amazing reviews but if you want to buy it make sure you don’t have a job and you want to spend all your free time reading a manual that is too big to be carried around.  A good friend of mine and photographer Dusan Smetana loves to go to bed an read manuals; I don’t.  When you purchase a camera you need to make sure it fits you.  It has to fit in your hand but also has to fit your style of shooting.  Before digital, I was mostly shooting large format cameras that had a shutter and an aperture and that’s all you got to get the shot.  Things have changed but I still want a camera that allows me to easily access the basic commands without having to sort out all the other unnecessary functions like making eggs benedict.  The first time I took the GX1 out I was riding a single track trail on my bike with a friend of mine.  I found a beautiful stretch and wanted to shoot my friend zipping down the single track on his bike.  For the life of me I couldn’t figure out how to turn the camera into high speed motor drive. I am no Einstein but I am pretty good at figuring out cameras.  I had to take it to the local camera store and had one of the smart guys help me out.  The function was hidden under a bunch of sub menus and not accessible under the obvious motor drive button.  When you buy a camera don’t make the mistake I made and just look at reviews and specs.  Go to a camera store and play with it.  Make sure the functions are reasonably intuitive and that working with the camera will become second nature.  After selling the GX1 for half the price of what I paid for 3 months ago that’s what I did.  To the store I went and the Sony Nex-6 became my new love.  With the Nex-6, SONY streamed lined the functions and came up with a lovely and friendly tool that you can pick up and start using without making a manual become your bedside reading material.  For you people who want to know about these cameras down below are the reviews by DPREVIEWS.  The first place I go to when I want to buy an new camera.
To learn more about sensor sizes read this article (Digital camera sensor sizes)
Here is the whole review of the Panasonic Lumix GX1 from DPREVIEW
 Here is the whole review of the SONY Alpha Nex-6 from DPREVIEW


I started harassing Anne Telford in 2001, at the time she was Managing Editor for Communication Arts.  I called her and asked “Will you meet me for coffee and check out my book?”.   In the meetings following the first one, I would flip the pages of my portfolio and think “I would be a great character for a feature in Communication Art”.  “How many Italian photographers do you know who moved to Montana to take a different approach to life?  This is going to be an easy sell” It turned out it wasn’t an easy sale.  As time went by I wished I could have just slipped a $100 bill in between the pages of my portfolio but that only works in Italy.  More years went by, the coffees turned me into a caffeine addict but I didn’t give up.  Anne watched my dog Tobi get old, my hair (that is left) get grayer and my career grow, but still no article. I always believed that in life, perseverance will get you anything, but this time I was failing.  Maybe I am just not worthy enough I started thinking.  A few years later Anne moved to San Diego and my surf addiction kept me away from her.  When I would find myself in So Cal I just couldn’t find the time to surf and also do the important things like calling old friends.  Years went by without talking with Anne.
This fall someone from Communication arts called me telling she had good news for me.  I figured they had a special rate for a 100 year subscription to the magazine but soon this person told me, as if she knew me, that they were going to feature me on CA.  Really?  I still wasn’t sure I understood correctly and asked her to e-mail me with the details just in case there was a scam behind it or language barrier had me misunderstand.  Shortly I received an email from Anne Telford with the details of my feature.  Anne?  Really? I guess so many years went by that I didn’t recognize her voice.  It only took 12 years.  In Italian we say “Meglio tardi che mai”.  We talked again.  “I need to come to Montana to interview you in the next few weeks”.   Anne said.  In the next two weeks?  September is sacred to me, this is the month I spend bow hunting for elk.  I have turned down important assignments in September to be in the woods.  This interview really had to happen in September?  “I am really busy “shooting” this month…”  I begged Anne without success…  I tried to push the interview as late as I could but two weeks is all I got.
2012-09-14_17-23-26_783-EditAs soon as I could I ran into the woods with Tobi, my dog, and my bow.  At night, in my little tent in the middle of the most pristine wild country I sat thinking, ”What will I tell Anne in all these days?”.  She was going to be with me for 3 days and 3 days is a lot of talking.  “Will I pass the test?  Do I have enough smart things to say?  Do I even have enough to say smart or not smart?”  I have been interviewed before but not for 3 days. Maybe a few sentences here and there.  So many questions ran through my head and I found myself rehearsing possible conversations and scenarios instead of sleeping… Getting an elk is a very important part of my life as it provides the meat I eat for the whole year but as I spent days in the woods I felt like I should have been doing more important things, like getting ready for an interview.  It took me 8 years to get my first elk with a bow so is no easy task and was not going to happen quickly.  After a week in the woods I started feeling the pressure any responsible person would feel and decided that next day I was going to cut my two weeks short and go back to Bozeman without meat to get ready.  That evening, as by miracle, I managed to call in an elk and everything came together.  Harvesting an elk is a very special and a very long process after the actual kill.  I spent that whole night field dressing the animal and pulling it out, piece by piece on my back.  In grizzly country, alone, in the dark, is really not my favorite way to spend the night but it has to be done.2012-09-21_17-10-27_947-Edit
Anne showed up and on the drive to my house all the fears vanished.  I had forgotten what an easy person she is to be with.  She is independent and entertaining and immediately made herself at home.  For being the editor of an art magazine she had a very adventurous life, she worked for the coast guard and was accustomed to camping and handling guns.  Very important attributes if you want to fit in Montana.  That night the sausage making went flawless, Anne pulled up her sleeves and immersed herself in the process, helping with the steps and becoming a great asset.  The best part is that she got to take some home.The next week I was going to process it and turn it into those easy to grab plastic wrapped pieces of meat we see in the store.  Making sausage with the scraps and secondary cuts was the last step of the process and happened to coincide with Anne’s arrival.  I figured that making hot Italian sausage was going to be a great activity while talking about my career.  Knowing Anne, I figured she would have been very entertained and after all, what a better example of my lifestyle?IMG_1879
Next day I wanted her to experience the beauty of Montana.  I truly love this place, especially the wild, rugged part of Montana and the best way to describe why I love this place so much was to just take her and see it for herself.   “Anne, do you want to go for a real adventure?”  I asked her, I knew she would have agreed.  Next day we took off for the mountains with the plan of driving 15 miles in the backcountry on a back breaking, remote, 4wheeler track.  Maybe not the wisest idea but she was game.  Following the protocols of traveling in grizzly country we geared up the 4wheer with a 44 magnum and the bear spray.  IMG_1884As we started the ride up the bumpy road I thought “the only REALLY bad thing that could happen is the 4wheeler breaking”.  I bought the Suzuki Eiger 400 because is a reliable workhorse.  Ranchers use them for their simple mechanics and reliability.  In the 6 years that I have owned it nothing has ever happened to it.  Breaking down was not going to be an option.  Anne wanted to try the 4wheeler and ended up doing most of the driving and I just sat in the back and enjoyed the ride.  At the end of the trail we stopped and took a walk.  Sweeping mountains and wilderness as far as you could see, I will never get enough of it.  Anne was snapping pictures and I just took it all in as if had seen the place for the first time.  We went back to the 4wheeler and when I tried to start it the engine made a very unusual noise, not a good one, and died.  I tried to start it another time while hiding the sweat pouring down my forehead.  I suddenly felt very hot.  This time the noise got worst and I heard the terrifying sound of a piston seizing up.  Trying my best to look casually relaxed I looked at Anne’s hiking boots that she hadn’t worn for 20 years.  I then looked down at my shoes, which happened to be city shoes.  I felt my well fitting designer jeans get tighter.  I thought about what was laying ahead of us and silently cursed at my poor choice of attire.  These are my hunting grounds and know them like the back of my hand.  I knew the chance of running into anyone in the middle of the day to help us out was slim to none.  A hunter was our only chance but by 12pm any reasonable hunter would be back to camp.  Deep, dark, grizzly infested timbers and a long walk separated us from the trailhead.  Walking at night in the dark without headlamp is something I am accustomed to, as I normally slip in and out of the woods in the dark to be undetected by elk but for Anne it would have been a different story.  What about the reality of a 15 mile hike for someone who hadn’t used her hiking boots in 20 years?  I knew a short cut of 9 miles but in the dark it could have been a less than ideal option.  I was running all the scenarios in my head and trying to figure out how to break the news to Anne when very aware of what was going on she asked me casually “What are our options?”.
I looked at her as casually as she did and replied “walk out”.  I braced myself for Anne’s reaction.  I expected at least a scream and possibly Anne hysterically beating me on the chest when once again she very casually replied “Ok” and went back to taking pictures unphased.   (To find out what happened see Communication Arts article “Paolo Marchesi Big Sky Country by Anne Telford” , if you don’t subscribe to CA you can click on the article I posted up above and zoom in on txt).2012-09-21_19-13-21_714-Edit