Barbara and I went to Ohio a couple of years ago for our son, Mathew’s, college graduation. I knew I wanted to take pictures of the occasion and the rest of the trip, but I didn’t want to lug my DSLR kit. When I pick up that camera, I go pro. That is, I knew I would stop being a dad and turn into the photo guy, which would ruin my enjoyment and be a drag for the rest of my family. Forty years of being a hired shooter is a hard habit to break.

The solution: I borrowed Mat’s point and shoot camera. I kept it in my pocket and shot to my heart’s content without being too obnoxious. And I blended in with all the other proud parents.

ChicagoAfter the festivities were over, we went to Chicago for three days to immerse ourselves in art. We took in the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Field Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Photography and the fine art bookmaking department at Columbia College. When something attracted my eye, I pulled out the trusty little compact camera and snapped away. I must say, it was very liberating to be able to respond quickly and not be too concerned about the technical stuff.

Fast forward to Father’s Day. Barbara got me my very own compact digital camera, a Canon G12. I keep it sitting on my desk and carry it with me whenever I go out. For a couple of weeks I shot whatever grabbed my attention without any regard for how, or even if, the images would ever be seen by anyone but me (and Barbara, of course).

So what has this to do with travel photography and the US Route 89 project? I decided to try to translate the spontaneity of using a compact camera with a 4th of July trip to Prescott, Jerome and Flagstaff in northern Arizona. Here are a few things that I learned.

  • For street photography, a compact camera is much less conspicuous. I was just another tourist snapping away and nobody seemed to pay attention.
  • I was able to move around quickly without the backpack of extra lens, flash and other accessories.
  • Using the flipout screen, I was able to shoot from low and high angles. I know some DSLR’s have flip out screens, but the light weight of the compact was easier to hold at odd angles.
  • Having a camera always with me means I shoot more and miss less and always enjoy the experience.

I have now been using the G12 for a couple of years and I’m pleased with the photos. It has restored the joy I felt those many years ago when I was just starting out. Shooting with a compact reminds me that the camera is just a tool. In many situations you encounter while traveling it offers advantages over a bigger more conspicuous camera. And as the saying goes, “The best camera is the one you have with you.”

Just for the fun of it, I have a blog on Tumblr where I post only photos taken with the Canon G12. Are you unloading your travel photos made with compact camera to the web?  Tells about your experience and add a link in the comments below.