It turns out that running with a camera phone really helped me focus

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In Jim Carrey’s film Yes Man, the love interest, played by Zooey Deschanel, hosts a training group in which members combine long-distance jogging with photography. I always thought the concept was purely funny, but after trying it I’m not so sure anymore.

Where am I?

Carthage, Missouri

(Image credit: end to end)

Column number: 10
Drafting date: 07/16/21
Days: 137
Current location: Carthage, Missouri
Distance traveled: 592.08 miles
Remaining distance: 1658.92 miles
Current tracker: Polar Vantage M2

This is the tenth entry in my bi-monthly running column – I challenge myself in which I have to run, walk or cycle along Route 66 in two years – and writing these articles makes me notice all my Drive idiosyncrasies than ever thought of before.

As a member of the TechRadar Phones team, I have to test camera phones all the time – it required me to take weekly walks around my town to find good samples, which took a huge amount of time. Since I started my running challenge, I have been able to combine my training with my camera tests, with great success.

In fact, using a phone’s camera while shopping made me appreciate those trips a lot more.

All roads lead to … more roads

It is very easy while running to keep your head down, watch your feet, and ignore the world around you. This makes it easy to focus on your music and ignore the slow pace of the world going around you, only looking up when crossing roads or passing people.

This is especially the case if, like me, you live in an urban area. It’ll take me a good 30 minutes to run to a park or water spot, which just isn’t enough time if I’m on my quick breakfast.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra (Image credit: Avenir)

London is pretty gray – especially since during the lockdown I found myself running around financial areas like City of London which were totally deserted. It’s a pretty gray area.

Because of this, I got into the habit of keeping my head down and ignoring the world even on my longer runs, when I could get somewhere with cleaner air, more grass and less traffic. .

That all changed, however, when I decided to start testing smartphone cameras during my run.

Keep the head up

One of the best ways to test smartphone cameras is to take wide panoramic views. In these shots, it’s easy to see the exposure, how the cameras deal with shadows and darkness, the actual photo resolution, and more. So I always try to take pictures like this.

When I started to look up from my feet and look at the park I was in, I started to notice small parts that I would have missed before.

Oppo Find X3 Pro camera example

(Image credit: Avenir)

Above is a photo I took of a small building in London’s Victoria Park, covered in birds, when I was testing the Oppo Find X3 Pro. It wasn’t directly on my race route so I wouldn’t have noticed it normally, but when trying to find nice areas to take pictures I was drawn to it.

The actual locations weren’t the only thing I started to discover, but I started to appreciate the new views and lookouts. For example, Hampstead Heath in North London has a place called Parliament Hill, with great views over the city.

My running route around the moor usually didn’t take me down the hill, but when I realized it was perfect for photography, I changed my route so I could visit it more frequently.

Here is a photo I took with the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra halfway up the hill.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra camera samples

(Image credit: Avenir)

I’m not saying I was totally blind to my city, and I’m aware that there are a couple of pretty spots, but trying to take more pictures on my run I really started to appreciate the city and its pretty corners.

Cats

For the photos above, I always had plenty of time to stop, frame a shot, and take it, but most of the time when I’m running I don’t have time to do it. Fortunately, smartphone cameras have tools to help you out.

For example, from time to time on the slopes, I meet cats. Cats are, obviously, the best pet you’ll find in a city, and I’ve made it an ethical duty to document every feline I’ve found on my adventures.

However, cats can be finicky – some are shy and like to run away. Others are all friendly until you take the camera out of the phone and then they seemingly bored?

Examples of Black Shark 3 cameras

(Image credit: Avenir)

This beautiful plush angel, found in Kensington and captured on the Black Shark 3, was one of the few subjects ready for my photography. They not only wanted to be photographed, posing in various ways and generally being very affectionate, but when I tried to move on, the cat followed me for several blocks. It broke my heart, but the road has always led me.

However, not all cats are like this. If they don’t want their photo taken, I usually leave them fine on their own, but some are so friendly and affectionate that they don’t stay still long enough to capture.

This was the case with this friend. They apparently live on my route to the aforementioned location of Hampstead Heath, as I see them virtually every time I go down that route, and they are very energetic.

Realme 8 Pro

(Image credit: Avenir)

This photo, taken on the Realme 8 Pro, was taken with the selfie camera – I’m just to the left of the water bottle – because I was only able to frame the shot that way.

Like many cats I meet, this monochrome moggy is very fond of circling me, playing with my shoes, and investigating when I’m nearby, but if I stand still to prepare a photo, they get bored and run away. So I became adept at using zoom, action modes, and stabilization to always capture images, instead of the standard capture mode.

This post probably went off the rails a bit, but sharing those cat captures was more important than staying in the post.

What I’m trying to convey is that going shopping with the intention of taking pictures has made me appreciate my city, its parks and its pets much more. I changed my routes to find more beautiful viewpoints (and cat hotspots), which allowed me to see the place in a whole new light.

With the global blockages that have made the past eighteen months quite a walled-in experience, seeing nature around me has been a good thing.

In Yes Man, joining the photo racers, Jim Carrey is shown to have embraced his new life of interesting adventures, and as the film unfolds we see how his life improves as a result. I’m not sure my life is vastly better running with my camera phone, but I saved a lot of time combining these two activities and encountered a few more cats – it’s a net gain in my books .



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