Rediscovering my Canon G9

Ten years ago I bought myself a Canon G9 compact, and absolutely loved it. Me and that camera went everywhere together, but inevitably when I got my Canon 6d the G9 was relegated to ‘The Drawer’, where it has resided ever since.

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I recently rediscovered it, charged it up, and tried a few test shots. I’ve been working in London recently, and couldn’t be bothered to take a heavy DSLR with me along with my luggage, so I decided here was a perfect chance to slip the Canon G9 into my bag and give it a workout in the city.

I was delighted with how the little camera performed, and loved the way it was so small and discrete, attracting virtually no attention as I snapped away. It feels great in your hand, small but substantial. I’m not about to sell my DSLRs and lenses, but I am convinced that the Canon G9 still has a place in my arsenal of photography gear.

One of the things I found I could do with it was produce images that had more of a sense of urgency and immediacy than the ones I create with my DSLR. I can get similar images if I attach a flash head to my DSLR, but there’s something raw and honest and rough-around-the-edges about the on-camera flash of the G9 that makes for a grittier vibe.

In terms of limitations, the Canon G9 has a few that the Canon 6d doesn’t suffer from. The biggest one for me is the fact it has a tiny sensor vs. the 6d’s full-frame – which means you seriously lose out on depth of field, and the quality of low-light shots is also severely limited. The G9 is also noticeably slow compared to the 6d – there is a lag of a few seconds between switching it on and being able to take a picture, and then you have to wait until the picture is saved to the card before you can take another one … delays like this inevitably lead to missed shots.

Overall though, I found that as long as I worked within the G9’s constraints, it was possible to get some great pictures with it – far better images than I can get with a mobile phone camera.

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From now on, I’ll be making sure my G9 is always fully charged and ready!

Spicy Breakfast Biscuits

I should perhaps add the word ‘Christmas’ to this title, because this is a ‘biscuit’ recipe containing mincemeat and various other spices that never fail to bring the spirit of Christmas to the tastebuds.

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Firstly, let me say I’m absolutely not a baker. This is only my third ever attempt at cooking something sweet, so Paul Hollywood needn’t lose any sleep. However, if you’re feeling a bit peckish, don’t jump in the car and drive to the nearest supermarket for triple chocolate cookies, try knocking one of these up instead. They’re pretty healthy, and are oat-based – which suits me, being the porridge fiend that I am.

I made one of these yummy biscuits (actually the size of a decent cookie) with just:

  • 50g oats
  • 2 teaspoons of mincemeat
  • 1 teaspoon of all-spice
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon of chilli flakes (optional, but worthwhile!)
  • Between 50ml and 100ml of milk (I used Oatly oat milk)

Mix everything up into a thick paste using the teaspoon, using your judgement as to how much milk to add. You’re looking for a fairly thick consistency so you can set the biscuit into shape without it running. Add the milk bit by bit so you can get it just right.

Spread the mixture onto some greaseproof paper into whatever form you want (I went for a traditional round biscuit shape), then stick it on a shallow baking tray and into an oven pre-heated to 120 degrees Celsius. Leave them in there for 20-30 minutes, checking them a few times during the last ten minutes to make sure the result looks similar to the above picture.

When done, let it cool for a short while so you don’t burn yourself, then either eat warm or stow away for another day if you’re iron-willed enough. (I wasn’t.)

Why do photographers take pictures?

I attended an interesting talk last night that asked a couple of questions I’ve never really considered before in terms of my own practice as a photographer.

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As a photographer, do you enjoy the thrill of the chase involved in finding a good picture or do you enjoy the final image more?

For me, the final image is everything. While I do enjoy wandering around and taking pictures, it can be quite painful and frustrating at times. Looking at the final image either on screen or in print is what makes it all worthwhile.

Do you take pictures with a view to recording what is happening now, always with an eye on how your pictures will be viewed several years in the future, or do you take pictures simply for the sake of taking them at that moment?

I definitely take pictures with an eye on how they will be viewed in the future. I used to be very particular about excluding things like logos and cars and street fashions, simply because the currency of the subject matter makes it too familiar to be remarkable. It was a while before I realised that in twenty years time images of these subjects will in fact be very interesting.

I’m curious to hear how others answer these questions!

Finding your purpose in life

This thought kind of follows on from this one, where I question the reliability of asking yourself to think back to when you were at your happiest. While I still think it’s near impossible to answer this question – and indeed find your purpose in life – I do think there are some questions you can ask that will help you on your way.

This list of seven strange questions from Mark Manson is particularly interesting.

I especially like questions #2, #3, #4, #6, and #7…

  • What is true about you today that would make your eight year-old self cry?
  • What makes you forget to eat and poop?
  • How can you better embarrass yourself? (This one needs some explaining, so read the article by Mark).
  • If you had to leave the house all day every day, where would you go and what would you do?
  • If you knew you were going to die one year from today, what would you do and how would you want to be remembered?

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Probably still not going to give you reliable answers – because your thoughts will always be coloured by recent experiences – but an interesting exercise in navel gazing nonetheless!

Why you don’t really know when you were at your happiest

I had an interesting conversation with a client recently. She was advocating the practice of sitting quietly and asking yourself to think back to when you were at your happiest. The idea is that when you find that moment, you should plan your life to go forward in that direction.

While this is a nice idea in principle, I think it’s fundamentally flawed because we can’t reliably determine when we were at our happiest.

At any given moment, our thoughts and decisions are coloured by what is going on, or what has recently gone on around us. This uncontrollable mental filter changes the way we think, so with such grand questions it’s highly likely we will come to different answers on different days.

 

The only way to reliably determine when we are/were at our happiest is to engage third parties for triangulation. Yes, we can come to a decision on our own, but would independent observers reach the same decision?

Keeping a journal or blog can help, but our interpretation of what we have written can again be coloured by recent events.

An independent viewpoint is key. The difficult part is finding the observer who has known you long enough, and well enough, to be objective and honest.

What’s this blog about?

Let’s just say it’s multi-purpose.

Keeping a journal over a period of time is useful for reflection on how we behave. Reviewing a series of entries looking for recurring themes, common feelings, consistently helpful or problematic thoughts, ideas, and action-tendencies can reveal a lot about us, and provide input to a roadmap for modifying our behaviour.

That’s one of the reasons for starting this blog. The self-reflection parts are not meant to be of much interest to anyone but myself, but I suppose there are some curious types (like me) who will read it because they like to observe.

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Another reason for the blog is for keeping notes about what I’m doing and where I’m going with some of the things I’m working on or thinking about – like a public notebook I suppose.

Cultivating a regular writing habit is a good thing. I have been exercising my body regularly for several years now, and am trying to think of this blog as a kind of exercise for the mind.

I also simply want to record some of my personal experiences in words and pictures, so that when I’m an old man, I can look back and remember some of the things I’d long forgotten, what I’ve done, where I’ve been, who I met. (Assuming I get the chance, of course.)

I’ll try to add one of my own archive photographs along with each post to keep things visually interesting and add a bit of variety!