Photographer Charles Orrico got a great gift last Christmas from his wife, Anne: a COOLPIX P7000.

Call it a pre-emptive strike.

You see, Anne had pretty much had it with Charles bringing along the big bag of photo gear on every vacation trip—you know, a couple of Nikon D-SLR bodies, four or five NIKKOR lenses, a Speedlight or two, maybe a tripod. Vacation, she maintained, was R&R from his career as a pro shooter; it was not image pursuit interrupted by short stretches of sightseeing and swimming. Experience had taught her that if he brought his working gear, he'd be tempted to use them way too much.

And so, the lightweight, compact P7000, which she felt would provide Charles with advanced technology and sophisticated features, but take neither center stage nor the entire overhead compartment.

We heard about the gift and its purpose a few months before the Orrico family's scheduled two-week vacation in St. Thomas, and we decided to talk with Charles upon his return about the performance of the P7000.


Shooting with the COOLPIX P7000

As it turned out, our first look at his pictures told us most of what we wanted to know. We're familiar with the results Charles gets from his workhorse D3, and the bright, crisp, colorful images he took with the P7000 were up to his standards. "The lens is incredibly sharp," he says, "and the color fidelity dead on. And I liked the small size and solid, substantial feel of the camera."

So credit the COOLPIX—a 10.1-megapixel CCD sensor, 28-200mm NIKKOR glass lens, VR image stabilization, auto bracketing and the ability to capture RAW files as well as JPEGs are among many attributes—but credit also the photographer's preparation. Charles knows that the place to familiarize yourself with a new camera's features and controls isn't in the hotel on the day you arrive. The idea is that you should know your controls and settings so that getting the picture, not setting the camera, is what occupies your attention.

And, of course, credit the eye of the photographer.

Perhaps the first thing that grabs your attention in Charles's photos is how he uses the geometry of a scene. For example, his framing of the fourth photo, the tour buses in Charlotte Amalie, creates an image that says far more than simply what the vehicles look like. The angle, the cropping, the decision not to show all of any bus, makes the composition not only eye-catching, but whimsical and evocative. "You see something and it makes you feel a certain way," Charles says. "Here it was more than, I'll take this shot so people will know what this place looks like. This was, I'll take this shot so they'll get an idea of what it felt like to be here."

The fifth image, the archway, is another example of Charles's methods. Some might walk by and see merely an establishing shot: here's the view from the hotel terrace. Charles saw, and captured, a lot more. "I saw right away that if I placed the arch support in the center I'd have two scenes, and each would have its own collection of shapes and colors. I saw, too, that I'd need a little fill flash to make sure the inside area showed its color."

Speaking of the P7000's flash, it was a feature he thought he'd use sparingly, but it turned out to be an important element in a lot of the photos. Cloudy skies called for it in several outdoor images, but so did the close-ups of the iguana and the palm leaf (to bring out detail) and the photo of the colorful ceiling of a beachside restaurant (to achieve even, balanced lighting).

During the two-week vacation Charles had the chance to try many of the P7000's features, but the truth is he could have been carrying any COOLPIX. His ideas, techniques and vision would have guided him to exciting images. 

The only problem was there weren't enough images to suit him. "There were so many other things to shoot," he says, "so many more pictures to make." Which prompted us to ask, "Well, what would you say about the amount of time you spent shooting compared to the time you spent with the family?"

"No comment," was his only reply.

To view more of Charles Orrico's work, go to his website at www.orricophotography.com.

5 Tips for the Trip

No matter which COOLPIX is your top vacation choice, keep in mind these quick tips for cool shots:

  • Don't just walk on by. Look for colors, shapes, juxtapositions that help tell the story, and capture the spirit of your vacation destination.

  • Think flash. It's built-in, it's automatic; in fact, it's intelligent automation that'll fill in shadows, reveal details and balance the light in the scene.

  • Vary the viewpoint by shooting from a low angle to add interest, drama and variety.

  • Crop creatively, in camera. Often it's just a case of working the zoom lens to direct a viewer's attention where you want it.

  • Get close to capture intriguing detail. Not every photo has to reveal the entire scene; isolate to show what's important to you.