Master Class
A Pocket Digital, My Traveling Companion

Since I travel a lot by myself, I've learned that I just can't get along without a toothbrush and my little digital camera. Sure, I've got the big toys, too, but it's not like having a little camera in your pocket for when you need a friend.

This is something new for me. I've had my Canon D30 and D60 for a while now, but it's not the same as having a little stowaway when you're going out jogging (I just walk briskly) or traveling on a vacation. My new playtoy has turned out to be much more than just a toy. It's the Canon S40. I'm so excited about the images I made with it that I feel like someone showing off snapshots of their new baby.

As a photographic consultant for Carnival Cruise Lines I get the opportunity to do many cruises throughout the year. This was the first cruise, however, with a camera in my pocket. I'll never be without one again. I'll show you why.

Photos © 2002, Monte Zucker, All Rights Reserved

My story begins as I was taking my sunrise walk around the top deck of the Imagination. We were visiting Key West on our first stop. I got up early enough to catch the first light of dawn. It was a golden glow that I will remember for the rest of my life. Why? Because I had my S40 in my pocket to capture these two fishing boats going to sea.

How could I possibly describe the excitement I felt when the rising sun tinted the clouds with its golden glow? And to see it on the two boats was just too much for me to expect. In a matter of seconds I had the image indelibly etched for a lifetime of enjoyment. I don't think that the people on the two boats or anyone on my ship saw the beauty of it all. But I did and because my camera was with me you can enjoy it now, too.

My camera was set to record large files, even though it will also record the images on RAW files. The RAW files allow the pictures to be processed in the computer, rather than in the camera. It gives you much more flexibility with your images, although it takes more space and battery power. To tell you the truth, I never expected to get such incredible results with this camera--the very first time I was using it--or, maybe, I would have photographed RAW. In any case, the files from this pocket camera are still as large as I was used to getting from my larger camera, before I got the D60.

A few moments later when I was having breakfast the exact same scene looked entirely different. With the camera still in my pocket I captured it again. I was hooked on the pocket digital that first time I started carrying it with me. This time I selected some colors from the image and put a little matting around the photograph.

It's really safe walking just about anywhere on Key West, but had someone demanded my wallet or my camera, I believe I'd have given them my wallet first! I know that I could have replaced my credit cards, but I'd never have been able to capture those moments in time again.

A short walk down Duval Street on Key West could have netted me many more images, but this white hotel against the deep blue morning sky was just too good to pass up. I photographed into the shadowed side of the building. My portrait background would not have permitted me to do any less.

Just the very next morning I was up on the Sports Deck of the ship when the sun rose near Cozumel, Mexico. Each time around the track I watched the sky change. I knew my camera was in my pocket, but I was trying to stay "on track" with my walking. Hey, when you see a scene like this you just gotta stop for a picture.

I am absolutely flabbergasted at the fact that this little camera could pick up all that detail in the sky and still retain detail within the shadowed area of the ship. I'm not in any way trying to do a technical review of this camera. I'm simply stating a fact of life. These pocket digitals, especially the one I have, are much more than I would have ever suspected had I not seen the results personally. That's why I feel that I just have to share them with you. This is no trick photography. It's simply being at the right place at the right time, and having a camera with you. Ordinarily, I would never have been carrying a full-sized camera with me and could/would have missed capturing these memories for sure.

Okay, I was bitten, smitten, and sold. Wherever I go from now on, you can be certain that you'll find my pocket digital with me. And so it was an hour or so later when I walked off the ship on my way to "shoppers' paradise." Well, I didn't get too far before I had to stop and take another picture. From the pier down below, the bow of the Imagination looked awesome. The blue and white of the ship against the blue and white of the sky was too much to pass by without whipping out my little camera.

I zoomed the built-in lens back and forth, cropping to just what I wanted in the photograph. The lines tying the ship to the dock and the lines to another ship on the other side of the pier became an integral part of the composition. When I printed it that evening to show my friends on the ship, the whites of the ship and the clouds were lost in the white borders of the picture. In Photoshop I matted the picture with the red and the blue from the side of the ship.

On my way into town my cab driver dropped me off at a new mall. It was so early in the morning there was no one there. The shops weren't open yet, but with my camera in hand, I looked at the shadows and light before I looked in the windows. I saw another picture and went for it. Now, you have to know that this was something different for me. To look at shapes and shadows before looking into the windows of these gorgeous shops is something brand new for me!

My friends won't believe me, but with a shop-lined street on one side and the ocean on the other side I was looking out to sea. My pocket digital was giving me eyes that I had never before used when walking down the "Sea of Shopping" that I usually saw when walking through downtown Cozumel.

It was a quiet morning. The stores were beginning to open and the salesmen were already on the street enticing the vacationers to come inside their shops to take advantage of the specials that they were offering, "Today only!" I felt that there was time for that, but that time wouldn't stand still for what was happening to my left. It was as if I were seeing the Cozumel waterfront for the first time.

What first caught my eye was a cloud that was circling out from the rest of them. The shape caught my fancy. The white against the deep blue sky looked interesting. The aquamarine sea below it made it even more appealing. I knew that I had to have some foreground interest. The small tied-up boat was perfect. It would complete the composition without taking away from the cloud. It all blended together perfectly, as you can see here.

To make the picture still more effective in Photoshop I increased the size of the canvas and colored in the mattes around the photograph. The deep outside color was picked up from the horizon line of the water. The lighter line was picked up from the inside of the boat.

I know that some photographers have the luxury of visiting a selected site over and over again to find the perfect light and the perfect time of day. However, I was in town only for an hour or so before I had to return to the ship for work. I was determined though that I would find more pictures that morning.

And find them I did. What stopped me next were the two white round balls on top of the columns at an entrance to the beach. The morning light was shaping them beautifully. They contrasted nicely against the water and sky. I looked for a viewpoint to frame them in the photograph. I found the spot that I was looking for. I knew that I needed to put some life into the picture. I waited for just a minute or two--until the two figures seemed to work together in the viewfinder of my camera. One shot and it was over.

Exposure? Shutter speed? I can probably tell you by looking at the files in my computer, but to tell you the truth I had the camera set to do everything automatically. The camera was virtually a point-and-shoot. Of course, you still have to find the right "something" to point it at!

It couldn't have been more than a couple of minutes later that I passed by a bronze statue overlooking the Cozumel beach. I wondered what I could do with it to make it interesting. I zoomed in on just the head of the scuba diver and positioned it overlooking the boat tied at anchor. The white clouds lazily drifting by were the perfect touch to dramatize the scene. Just look at the detail from the deep-toned statue all the way to the bright, fluffy clouds. Amazing, isn't it?

Every time I walk through the streets of Cozumel and other ports of call I see airbrush painters doing their thing for passers-by. This time, however, knowing that my camera was still in my pocket I was seeing things more acutely. Without anyone ever noticing me I caught this typical scene, put the camera back in my pocket and continued walking. It was done--signed, sealed, and delivered.

And speaking of deliveries, I hope Santa brings you a pocket digital for yourself. Believe me. You will be seeing the world entirely different when you're packing a camera in your pocket. I did and will continue to do so from now on. I'll never leave home again without it!