Choices and Control

One of the most important things we can do as photographers is understand the choices and control available to us in specific situations. This is, of course, applicable to other facets of our lives.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 60.4 mm, efov 163.1 mm, f/5.6, 1/160, ISO-800

There are things that are out of our control. Weather is clearly one of them. A few years ago during a trip to the North Island of New Zealand we visited Napier as part of our planned itinerary. Our schedule was tight and if we wanted to do any street photography in the historic downtown area, we would need to do so on an overcast, and potentially wet afternoon.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 54 mm, efov 145.8 mm, f/9, 1/250, ISO-800

Our Nikon 1 gear is not weatherproof, and I’ve never liked using rain sleeves, especially during windy conditions. So, as both the rain and wind intensified during our walking tour we faced some choices. The most obvious one was to simply end our photography walk and return to the motel.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 20.3 mm, efov 54.8 mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-800

The second was to use a rain sleeve and likely experience some self-induced physical and emotional frustration. The third option was to use the overhangs and awnings from buildings to get partial shelter from the weather. And, the final option was to adjust our approach towards subject matter and composition.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 26.1 mm, efov 70.5 mm, f/9, 1/80, ISO-400

As you can see from the images in this article we did continue on with our photography walk, and implemented the third and fourth choices in terms of the options we considered.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 10 mm, efov 27 mm, f/8, 1/320, ISO-400

We ended up with some interesting perspectives of the historic downtown area of Napier. They were quite different from photographs captured during earlier visits, with many tending to be more abstract.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 46.1 mm, efov 124,5 mm, f/10, 1/160, ISO-800

This experience in Napier also impacted something over which we could control… our future equipment purchases. When we decided to change our main camera system, weatherproofing was a ‘must have’ attribute. It was one of the reasons we chose E-M1X and E-M1 Mark III camera bodies and M.Zuiko weatherproofed lenses. This gear will not protect from all possible weather threats (e.g. tornado), but it is far better than owning gear that does not have an IPX1 rating.

Nikon 1 V3 + Nikkor 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-1400

Sometimes we can go out with our camera gear to photograph specific subject matter like birds-in-flight.¬† And, we may stubbornly stay fixated on that original goal, even though lighting conditions and the gear that we’re using are not very compatible. We can fail to see the other choices available to us in terms of subject matter. As a result we can end up with very few usable images.

Nikon 1 V3 + Nikkor 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 201 mm, efov 542.7 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-1800

It is far more productive to accept what we can’t control in terms of lighting, and choose different subject matter that is better suited to the conditions and the camera gear we’re holding in our hands.

OM-D E-M1 Mark III + M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II @ 228 mm, efov 456 mm, f/7.1, 1/800, ISO-320, subject distance 2.5 metres

The presence of birds and wildlife at a particular location, during the specific time when we visit, is beyond our control. We can still have a productive photographic outing by choosing to use the telephoto equipment that we usually use for birding to capture images of flowers and foliage instead.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 48mm, efov 129.6mm, f/5.6, 1/1000, ISO-3200, extension tube used

There may be times when we are duped into thinking that some things are out of our control. Like achieving shallow depth-of-field with a small sensor camera.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 @ 150 mm, efov 300 mm, f/2.8, 1/400, ISO-400, Kenko 10 mm and 16 mm extension tubes used

When faced with this type of situation, we need to apply some critical thinking to discern what is factual versus merely someone else’s opinion.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 @ 150 mm, efov 300 mm, f/5.6, 1/250, ISO-200, subject distance 885 mm

Often we can make  simple choices in terms of lens focal length, distance to subject, and possibly the use of extension tubes, to achieve our desired composition, even though our camera may utilize a smaller sensor. Experimenting with our potential choices is a great way to expand the utility of the gear we own.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/11, -0.7 step, 1/1600, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H mode, subject distance 3.4 metres

In life, we can emerge from our cocoon and can fly when we understand those things that we control, versus those that we can’t. It is key to focus on taking actions with those things that we can control.

The philosopher Epictetus explains this very simply… “Some things are within our power, while others are not. Within our power are opinion, motivation, desire, and, in a word, whatever is of our own doing; not within our power are our body, our property, reputation, and, in a word, whatever is not of our own doing.” (Enchiridion I)

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/11, -0.7 step, 1/1600, ISO-5000, Pro Capture H mode, subject distance 2.4 metres

Initially it may seem strange to think of our body, our property or our reputation as not being within our control… but it does make logical sense.

While we can take actions to try to maintain our health, eventually our bodies fail and everyone dies. We could be injured or killed in an accident. We could fall victim to a virus.

Regardless of what we may choose to own in terms of property and other possessions, they can be stolen. Perhaps expropriated. Or destroyed by things we cannot control like storms, fires, and earthquakes.

And, our reputation is simply what others think of us. We can’t control what other people think about anything.

There is no point fretting about things that we cannot control. Our efforts and actions are best directed at things that are within our control.

Technical Note

Photographs were captured hand-held using camera gear and technology as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 14-150 mm f/4-5.6 II @ 80 mm, efov 160 mm, f/5.5, 1/400, ISO-6400, 10 mm and 16 mm Kenko extension tubes used

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