I got some criticism yesterday for the first picture in the "Pool Lesson" post. A number of people (I didn't post all the negative comments) thought I was being irresponsible to take a picture from the car while driving through a rainstorm. I was inclined to defend myself at first. But, truthfully, I couldn't really remember what I actually do when I take a picture from the car. I do it so semi-unconsciously that I'm not really aware of it. Does it actually distract me? Am I being reckless and just not acknowledging it to myself?
Then I thought, wait a minute—I'm supposed to be one of those guys who tests stuff. Why not test it? So I threw the NEX-6 in the car and off I went.
I photograph quite often from the car, not because that's a good way to photograph but just because I like to drive around. Naturally, whenever I take a "composed" picture, looking at or through either of the viewfinders (EVF or viewing screen), it's with the car stopped. I can't recall ever trying to look at or through a camera viewfinder while the car is moving (I didn't try that tonight, either).
Often, I'll get out and walk around a bit. Sometimes—since I'm lazy—I'll jockey the car into some vantage point or other and just take a picture from there. (Again, what I'm out doing is driving, not photographing. But I like to do both, so I do.)
Now, of course, we are all responsible for our own self-preservation. You should never do anything that puts your life or safety or the lives or safety of others in jeopardy, and I'm not suggesting you do so. Ultimately you're the arbiter of what distracts you, and you should act according to your conscience.
But for myself, I'm very comfortable driving the car (at moseying-along speeds, anyway) with just one hand on the steering wheel. For a very good reason: for most of my life I've driven cars with stick shifts. Left hand steers. Right hand shifts. Right hand often rests on the stick.
The camera sits on the passenger seat. When I'm getting ready to shoot, I pick it up. Do I look at it when I pick it up? No, turns out. I just grab for it. My hand knows where it is.
Do I look at it to turn it on? The answer's no there too. (I did this a number of times, just doing what felt natural and usual.)
So next I held up the camera as if I were taking pictures blind through the windshield, to see if it blocked my view. Not much, it turns out. It mostly blocks my view of the dashboard, and it's over so far toward the middle of the car it's really not blocking my view of anything out the window. And of course if there's something way over to the right that I really want to see, I can always just move my hand.
Normally I just hold the camera up for a few seconds, enough for a few clicks. But for this test, I drove along for miles that way, just holding the camera up like that, asking myself, "Objectively, now—is this unsafe at all?"
Again, you decide for yourself. I don't want to be a bad example. But for taking pictures without looking...well, I could operate the camera in my sleep (and sometimes do—I think I've admitted before that I sometimes dream of shooting!), and I really just don't think it's dangerous in the slightest to drive and snap out the front windshield at the same time. For me, at least. As long as you're keeping your eyes on the road and not looking either at the camera or through it.
Your mileage, as the Internet expression goes, may vary.
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(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Paul McCann: "I'm with you on this. I get so tired of this 'Health and Safety' whingeing. Can't do this. Don't do that. The English police even prosecuted a woman for eating an apple while driving. World has gone mad."
latent_image: "There's a lot of rationalization in this post Mike, and I'm not buying it. Distraction kills, and taking photos while driving is distraction. Eating, texting, talking on a cellphone (whether hands-free or not), fiddling with an MP3 player, etc...those are the things that distract you during the split second in which you obliterate a kid in a crosswalk. My suggestion while driving is to do just one thing: drive. Who wants to be one of those idiots who hurts or kills someone because they were foolishly distracted?"
Mike replies: I admit my own behavior violates my own values. I, too, am one of those people who advocates "when you drive, just drive."
Taran: "Obligatory Andrew Bush set...."
Mike replies: And speaking of Andrew Bush and eating an apple....
Simon (partial comment): "My mileage differs significantly, and I blame it on the cars here in Australia being right hand drive. I'm trying to grab the camera with my left hand then swap hands to shoot."
Mike King aka darkroommike: "One of my biggest sources of artistic frustration as a young man was that my father never would stop the car when I wanted to shoot a picture. In his mind: destination and sleep = vacation. We got three stops per day, two stops for the facilities and one stop for lunch, I'm sure that if the drive-through had existed in our part of the world in the '60s and '70s we would not have stopped for lunch. So now I make it a point to stop frequently, walk about a bit and take photos. (I don't really blame Dad for not wanting to stop; it must have seemed an enormous waste of time to unload and reload five children every time I wanted to shoot a photo!)"