Photographer's Note


Hani's terraced fields in Duoyishu, Yuanyang as described in the following essay. I shot the picture, but both the title and essay are copyright reserved by Maciej Tomczak. The essay has been accepted for publication in next issue of Photolife in Canada, and is used here as 6 consecutive parts under permission by author.


The Art of Rice •••••


If you travel independently, there is one rule to follow when choosing travel gear (and this is a serious advice): bring less. A setup consisting of one light SLR body, 2-3 light lenses plus film is capable of covering a lot of ground and will already weigh enough to make you curse photography at times. If batteries, cables, chargers and backups are added up, things will not weigh any less in the serious digital realm, and all the gadgets running on power and batteries will likely be more awkward and less reliable than film when taken ‘off road’. If in doubt, use the gear that you already own — anything new is likely to make only incremental improvements to your photography, if at all.

On the bright side, travel photography is by definition situational: you never know what is going to happen next and you have no option other than coping with what comes. This is precisely why it makes it such an exciting calling. Light backpack will make you more mobile and adaptable. And remember that often, quite a few plane and bus tickets can be bought for the price of another extraneous piece of gear. Unfortunately, repeating this mantra while away is more effective than sticking to it before leaving home…

For the work shown here I used Canon Elan7e — a very capable 35mm body but still quite light thanks to the lack of heavy duty shielding and sealing found in the ‘professional’ SLRs. Canon’s 28-135/f3.5-5.6 IS USM lens is most useful, lovely and still (barely) within my financial reach. The other two lenses that I carry are 75-300/f4-5.6 IS USM — a so-so compromise between price, quality, usability and weight, and a straight 50/f1.8 for good measure — it’s light, fast, cheap and sharp. I miss a truly wide-angle lens sometimes, but see the mantra above…

I recently started traveling without a serious tripod — a risky proposition that would make a purist cringe. But what one would not do in the name of mobility! In many cases it is quite easy to improvise camera support using a beanbag, a hanging nylon cord, a table top tripod, a motorbike seat or a folded toque. Such makeshift solutions will not always work, but I found that with careful technique, IS and some luck, sharp slides result, many of which would unlikely even exist if a ‘fully-grown’ tripod was involved.

(To be cont'd)


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