I love photography and I love running. I am just now getting back into shape after a longer-than-I-thought break from running. Most of the time, because I am covering very short distances from home as I stumble and wheeze into fitness, I don’t bring anything with me, other than a house key tied to my shoelace. Occasionally, I do want to bring a camera with me and if, and when, I run longer distances, I want to keep track of the progress and scenery or for the interesting and mundane along the way. Mostly, though, I just thought it would be fun to combine two of my favorite things. Up until now, I have mostly run sans camera except for a couple of monumental races: running with a dear friend and my niece in costumes of feather boas and plastic tiaras at the Bolder Boulder 10K, taking shots of the novelty of running in costume and also in the novelty of a new-to-me-my-first-digital-camera in the late aughts, and then a few years ago, I ran a marathon (so far my only one) and used my phone to take photos of the crowd at the start line and a few snaps along the route to document the life-long dream.
Figuring out which camera to take with me on daily runs is not unlike figuring out what camera to take on a day trip or a longer vacation. Pros make decisions around which cameras and lenses to bring for shoots, based on clients, subjects, and conditions among many factors, I imagine. Anytime we bring along a camera and if there are choices, we consider what we’re taking photos of, the weight and space of the camera and lenses, the environment, and even the medium.
For running short distances around my neighborhood at this beginning stage of fitness, I want something light. Frankly, even at longer distances or runs to more scenic spots, I still want something light. I don’t want a camera on the run to be my strength training. I am not doing video, and I really don’t want footage (ooh, that’s a good running photography pun) of me running, so I don’t need, nor do I possess, an action camera. I take photos with film and digital and instant, but I can’t imagine where or how I would hold a sweaty instant photo, so that leaves film and digital. I want something small. Every camera I own fits into the small and relatively light category. Even my DSLRs and SLRs are on the petite side when paired with small lenses, but I can’t really imagine whipping out the Nikon D40 on a run. That thought does make me giggle, though.
I want something fairly simple. I am not a multi-tasker. If I am taking photos on a run, that’s a bit of a misnomer. I will be stopping to take the photo, and probably gasping for air as I do so. With that in mind, I still want something easy to use. I mostly run in residential neighborhoods, on sidewalks and occasional roadsides, tracks, and trails, so I want something durable, not precious or too expensive, if I accidentally drop it. There’s the obvious choice of bringing my phone, which I will do (sometimes), but there’s still the fun of having a camera. There aren’t a lot of great pockets in my running clothes, so I will mostly be holding the camera in my hand. More and more this points me to, well point and shoot cameras. Luckily, I already have these cameras in both film and digital forms.
Last summer, I had a fleeting thought that I would buy cheap cameras and then resell them, so I took a chance on a couple of cheap camera lots in online auctions and ended up with a couple of boxes of mostly junk that I dropped off for electronics recycling (nothing even cool to save for camera tinkerers). I kept the good cameras and realized I needed to put aside the shortly-held dream of being a camera reseller (maybe a story for another time). In addition to some cute and cheap little film point and shoots, I did end up with a lovely working digital point and shoot: a Lumix SZ7. It’s smaller than a deck of cards and fits in the palm of my hand. It’s completely automatic and when the strap is looped around my wrist, I really can take one-handed shots. Every once in a while, the lens cover doesn’t completely close or open, but it’s easy to guide it closed with the tip of my finger when it does stick. I am not a pixel peeper, so I don’t care that it has a tiny sensor, but I do enjoy that it has a fairly wide field of view on the short end of the lens. The camera may not be rugged, but I am not too worried about it and I have gotten some fairly decent shots (for me) in my dog walks and ambles around the neighborhood, so I think it’s up to the task for my running jaunts.
I also chose another small digital camera to take with me occasionally. This one I bought in the winter of 2020, because I wanted a little waterproof camera that I could take out in the winter or to play with underwater. When I looked up the price of newer waterproof cameras, I almost choked, and immediately went and found a cheap older one online that someone was selling because they didn’t use it anymore, a Fuji XP50 for $30. It’s tiny and about the same size as the SZ7. This one says it’s water, shock, dust, and freeze proof and I believe it. I have tested it out in the water and when I bought it, it stayed for hours in my mailbox on a below freezing day, and as soon as I opened up the package and put the battery in, it powered on right away. I figure this will be perfect for longer runs, or if it rains, or just when I am super sweaty, and it will likely survive if I accidentally drop it.
Now, I also want to sometimes bring a film camera. So, I have a couple of options here: one is the Vivitar IC101, a little plastic fantastic with the fake panorama mask that I adore. It’s light and easy to hold, no flash or batteries to worry about, and there is even a little sliding lens door cover that prevents me from taking shots when it is closed. When I want to be a little more sophisticated with my photography on the run, I have a little Olympus Infinity Stylus Zoom. Yeah, I know it has some super expensive siblings (those Mjus with the prime lens), but I was excited to find this a couple of years ago on a $20 untested-online-buy-it-now gamble. I have put a few rolls through it, and it’s also my frugal film project camera, and the clamshell fits perfectly in my hand. Again, that little clamshell cover will prevent me from accidentally taking errant shots. The little 35-70mm zoom is also nice for some everyday variety. These little Olympus cameras were all touted for their weather and water resistance, so it gives me a little reassurance that it will be somewhat sweat proof.
So, there it is. Four cameras for running photography, or for on-the-run photography. Yeah, it’s an abundance of options, when just one camera would do the trick. To be clear, I only run with one camera at a time, but sometimes it’s nice to have choices. I can see where it might be fun to take one shot a day with one of the film cameras, or one photo per kilometer or something, but for now since I’m really huffing and puffing, and I don’t want to restrict or make the running photography complicated, it’s just stop and take photos when I need or want, or maybe as a way to disguise my stopping to breathe as a photo moment. Here’s to running and photography and stopping to breathe in the beauty along the way.
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