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The French Cycling Bicycle Gourmet - French Country Travel Life Film Maker and Author. Your non-snobby Gourmet Guide to food, wine travel and Lifestyle Adventure!

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French Travel Photo Options

Joke European:(to American)”What part of Europe did you like best?”American:”Dunno,have’nt got the pictures back yet.” Obviously a joke as old as an 8 track tape player.

N’est ce pas? Because in the ab/fab digital world of now, our American(or even our Armenian)would be digging those cool pix(not a plug,really!) instantly.That, being the primary selling point of these digital wonders.

But as all of us who must tie our own shoelaces and pack our own lunch realize,there is a price to pay for all technological “advances.”

In the case of digi-cam, it’s storage.(Nuclear plant waste disposal czars can relate, I’m sure) At some point in time all those “magic visual memories” must exit, to make room for more.

Which means, if you’re traveling without computer access. you’ll need a photo downloader. Another opening of the wallet. Cus’,if you have a laptop, why would you bring it, just to download yer pixs? (Another great selling point for the downloader sales team.)

But wait……there’s more! (hint–don’t close your wallet yet.)There’s batteries.The only sane,green, responsible(not to mention economical) option being the rechargeable kind. Which means, bien sur, you’re gonna need a battery charger. Ok,you can close yer wallet now.

The alternative(English scholars note I did not follow”alternative” with “option”, thus, avoiding glaring redundancy) – is, you guessed it, a plain ole’ fashioned runs-on-film type-a camera. Throw in the film, and yer good to good. Yes, some models will need batteries.(Usually not rechargeable)But draw so little current they’ll last (in my experience) through two years of constant usage.

So,what’s best? What do I, French lifestyle czar, bon vivant, world traveler and rural sophisticate recommend?

I recommend you accept that “best”, like Wine, Women, and hand made Spanish Classical guitars(don’t get me started here!)is subjective. “Best”is what works for you. In your situation. Relative to your taste. And, bien sur, the depth of yer wallet.

OK – Here’s the Lowdown…

You pick-“The Best.”


1. minimum 6 megapixels. This will give you quality sufficient to do an A3 print(roughly 11X17 in.)

The megapixel myth – Although, theoretically,more megapixels translate to better images,the mgpx “count” is basically a sales “tool” to entice you to buy.

As those girls in the naughty movies are always telling us(and,need I say,enthusiastically demonstrating) size is important! And in the digi-cam world it is the size of the chip(not the number of megapixels)that is the core factor in image quality.

2. The brand/make is unimportant.The competition is so fierce in this market that virtually every digi-unit of 6mgpx will be of equal quality.

3. If you have deep pockets – the next step up is 12 mgpx plus,with the biggest chip you can find.

4. If you own a bank – buy a medium format camera (Hasselbad/Pentax 6×7/Mamiya 7 etc.) and a digital back. You can, at this writing, pick up a used Hasselblad for around $1000-1500(just the body, no lenses.) A 39mpx back for same will set ya back $30,000 USD.

5. Digital Camcorders. Points #1 and #2 apply here also. Beyond those, you should be considering:

A)Effects. ie -Do you want to do fades/wipes/ dissolves and other fancy”just like in da movies” stuff in the camera? Or are is yer plan to add ’em late

B)Sound : Internal high quality microphone thatstarts automatically when you film. 16 bit/44.1stereo.(minimum.)99% of all camcorders will be thus.

C)Weight/Ease of handling. Lighter is not better if you plan on lotsa hand held shooting. Here,(for probably the only time) weight is your friend.


Here’s where you make out like a bandit. And you have digital cameras to thank! Because the puppet masters pulling the strings of International commerce have decided the world must be digital, all things non-digital are “thrift store priced.”

1. example: a 35mm major brand camera, that pre-digital would have sold used for $1200 can now be scored for $400.With two lenses! Quality wise – every 35mm or reflex camera made after 1980 is good to go. Avoid Eastern European brands.And, again, if yer pockets are deep, buy a Leica.But unless you’re a pro,or very serious amateur(ie –boring anal retentive)you’ll see nothing more.

2. Film.The print variety(used by most non-pros)is readily available in most o’ da western World.Developable in one hour. Almost everywhere. And, dirt cheap if you buy in bulk(“bricks”of 20)from monster discount stores.

3. Special Effects Photography. In particularly, infa-red photography. Only possible (to my taste)with film camera. There is a filter for digital cameras that produces an infared “effect.” But it does’nt rock my world. This is not the space for a detailed explanation.(That’s what Google is for) Briefly infra-red film(there are black and white as well as color versions)is sensitive to both light and heat. Giving a variety of “artistic/bizarre” visual renditions, resulting from the combination of temperature/subject/exposure.

My series'”Ruined Beauty” and “Way Old Geezersare examples of black and white infa-red photography.(Both done,hand held, with a 35mm camera.)

My Opening Farewell…

1. Three image creation words to live by, applying to all of the above.Tripod.Tripod.Tripod! Don’t leave home without it. Stop dreamin’yer gonna do those super smooth video pans hand held. Ain’t gonna happen! Even I, da mighty BG, after years of practice, experience and exceptional wine, can only ace this 70% on a good day!

2. The Carnegie Hall Rule.

Remember:”How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”“Practice.”Practice.””Practice.”Same deal for great(as opposed to “not too bad”)images. Get up close n’ personal with yer gear before that once-in-a-lifetime-perfect-light-moment in the exotic foreign destination.You’ll thank yourself.(And the ever generous BG, bien sur.)


All of the above can be had from Adorama Camera and BandHPhotoVideo. Both in New York.(the one in those excited states. Not the U.K.)Both with monster inventories. Both relatively equal in price. Service, as you know too well dear reader, depends on who you get, how they slept, with whom, and what they had for breakfast. Good luck!

A little more excited/inspired for yer next adventure?


What are ya thinkin’?

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8 Responses to “French Travel Photo Options”

  1. marvin brimmage says:

    Very much appreciated post!…eclipsed only by your incredible photos! All so good…I can’t pick a favourite!!!

  2. anderson carter says:

    Once again, or should i say, as always – you’ve made a complicated subject simple. But not dumb! Top marks!!!

  3. candace romero says:

    was going to go digital until i read your post, but, especially after seeing what you did with infared film on “ruined beauty” i’m
    gonna be a film girl! Thanks for opening my eyes!

  4. angel bustamente says:

    One of your most informative posts! (and “are’nt they the best kind?”……lol!)

  5. cyril marensdon says:

    After trying an infared filter for my digital camera – then seeing your incredible infareds via film – i totally agree with you. No comparison. I’ll be shooting infared FILM from now on!

  6. angela carstairs says:

    While I do appreciate your most complete overview, I’ll be sticking with digital. Yes, I know it’s not ideal for all applictions, but the ease of use and no processing are hard to beat.

  7. bennie halverson says:

    While “everyday” digital cameras are, as you point out, a good price/quality ratio, sad it’s not the same for professionals like you – having to shell out 30K for a digital back!

  8. sarah karensdotter says:

    As usual – another great post! – but i especially appreciate your wisdom on “subjective” You’re so right! – what’s “best” is what works best for each person. (were you a philosophy major?)

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