Monday, May 21, 2012

My journey through Photography

Early Kodak camera

As I recall, my first camera was a tower box camera. It was a box about 4 - 5 inches square. You held it about stomach height and looked at the viewfinder on the top. It was like a Kodak brownie. This was the mid 50's. My, how cameras have changed. At left is a Kodak six-20 from about 1940.

I got my first 35 mm SLR shortly after I was married. It was a Yashica. Nothing was automatic then! The most automated feature was the built-in light meter. By setting the size of the opening, Aperture and by setting the time of the exposure, the little light meter in the viewfinder would show up indicating amount of light entering camera. The object was to get the needle into the center of the scale. Open the aperture, and the needle would go to the right. Speed up the exposure (less time open) and it would go back to the left. Any combination of correct settings would bring it to center. The first time you got film developed, you found that although there were many options for proper exposure, they were not all successful in giving a good picture. If there was any movement, and the shutter stayed open too long, the picture was just a blur. If you moved the camera any with a long exposure, there was just a blur. It didn't take too long to see that an exposure time of 1/30 sec was about the longest you could use without a tripod. If there was any movement of people, you better have a speed of about 1/60 sec or less. You also noticed that if you were using a telephoto lens at a distance, you better shoot at a faster speed. Shooting a bird with a 200mm lens required a shooting speed of less than 1/200 sec. It became obvious at first that the speed was the most important variable to master. So, depending on the type of picture, I would usually set the shutter speed first and then dial in the f-stop or aperture until the meter registered in the center point for the perfect exposure. 

The first time you went to the drugstore for film, (yes, that was where most people got film and had it developed) you learned about the film ASA. I knew a little about film and 35 mm was the size of the film I used. I could get 24 exposure rolls or 36. I would buy color print film because I wanted to get a print of the picture. My Dad bought slide film because he would show the pictures on a screen with a slide projector.  I guess that was the first "Big Screen". Niagara Falls on a 6 ft screen was impressive. OK, so I walked up the the counter and asked for 35 mm, 36 exposure Kodak print film. I wanted to sound like I knew what I was talking about. The clerk replied, " OK, what ASA do you want?"

" Huh?" was my reply. That is when I learned about film speed. I knew about shutter speed but now I found out there was also film speed. Film with a high ASA would work with less light. I could get 25 or 64 ASA. Later I found out about high speed film with an ASA of 400. That was 16 times more sensitive than 25. That was impressive. Unfortunately, the higher speed film came with a drawback; it was grainy.  This was not an easy decision. If you had fast film and it was a bright sunny day, it might be difficult to get pictures that were not over-exposed. Going too low might limit pictures inside without flash. It seemed like the more I learned, the less I knew.

Every time I wanted to take a picture, I had to decide what film to use. What if I have taken just two shots  on a good low speed film and then go into a candle-lit cabin and need high speed. Should I roll up the film in the camera and waste most of it or forget about the inside shots. I did learn that I could roll up the partially used film, note the number of pictures taken and then roll it up without loosing the leader. Then I would put it away and put in the faster film. Later when I wanted to go back to the slower film, I would have to put the partially used film in the camera, advance it past the already used portion and start shooting again. It was not an easy process.  Once the film ASA was decided, I had to decide what shutter speed to use. Let's see, we are at a colorful parade outside in the sun.    I'll put in ASA 64 Kodacolor, 36 print film. I load the film and make certain the end is properly caught in the take up reel. Advance the film several shots to be sure it is past the exposed leader. Screw on my 50mm lens and set the shutter speed to 1/250. OK, ready! Where did the parade go? I guess it was a short parade!

As you read this, you might say, "It doesn't seem like it is worth the trouble." Did I mention, you also have to focus the camera yourself on a split screen view finder if you have that luxury option. You look through the viewfinder and in the center, there is a circle. your image is split between top and bottom. To focus the camera, you had to line up the top and bottom to get focus. Now fire away but not too many shots because every roll will cost perhaps $20 to develop. Is it any wonder why we bought pictures of vacation spots rather than take them ourselves? 

Now, even the cameras on our cell phones do all this decision making automatically. The better "point and shoots" will not only analyze the type of picture we are trying to take and decide the proper aperture, shutter speed and sensor ISO (like film ASA). Then they focus on a spot or group. They will even compare the faces of the subjects and focus on "known faces". They do it almost instantly and "click" you have the picture you want and it is almost perfect!

So, to those who say, "shoot fully manual" I say, "no thanks, been there, done that. Let me do some tweaking but let that tiny  computer inside my camera do the busy work! "

Next week, we will start looking at those tweaking options
Dulany Sriner/

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Canon SX30IS review

I am taking my new Canon SX 30 IS for a test ride. I used it like a beginner with the dial set to "auto" except a few of the last pictures. I ran the files through Lightroom to add copyright but no additional optimizing. All camera settings were still factory settings. I have not even downloaded the manual from the CD so no special functions were used. This is as basic as it gets.

Above, shot through car window. Just pointed and shot at stop light. Below while driving

All point and shoot cameras have a lag time. It is that seemingly endless time between the "push the button" and "click of the shutter" I noticed in these drive through shots, the lag was not too long. No it's not a Canon 5D but I can hold it up and out the window for prolonged periods of time without having my arm fall off.

All the following at Washington Park Carillon. Most on automatic.
Above shooting into the sun about 11:00 AM

The macro requires zooming out fully to get really close to object. This would often be difficult but the articulated screen makes it easy to view the shot on the screen at any angle. This is something I am waiting for in the Canon DSLR. For us old people shooting from the waist is much easier than getting down on our knees or lower. I loved this feature on another camera I had several years ago. Some of those ground level shots can be phenomenal.  This camera also has an electronic viewfinder; another feature I almost require. How can you hold a camera steady at arms length. For those long teli shots, its camera against the eye and elbows in. Hold your breath and squeeze the trigger. The above bee shot would be easier with my 7D and a 400mm lens. It is easier to stay out of harms way and still get the shot but again, by the end of a long hike that camera combination seems to weigh in at about 700 pounds! 

 About 50 feet from robin
 above at full telephoto hand held. This camera goes from 24mm to 840mm  (35mm equivalent)

 changed at aperture priority to get larger f-stop and better depth of field for bell shots.

Wished my lens was a little more wide angle  to get all this. orange snow fence stopped me from moving back. Probably will go back with my 5D and the 16 -35 mm lens later.

In summary, This is a great walk-around camera. It seems to do it all well. It has its limitations compared to a quality DSLR but there aren't many. It excels in the video capture mode. I think it does a better job getting focus than my 5D. I'm sold, Ted was right about the quality of this camera. Don't go lookin' for my other equipment on e-bay 'cause that won't be happnin'! When I go searching for soaring eagles, it will be with my Canon 7D and the big white telli'

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Computers and lost data

Computers and lost data go together like gambling and losses or old age and forgetting. Eventually, it will likely happen to you. In the case of gambling, the secret is to quit while you are ahead. I did that 40 years ago. With computers and old age, the solution isn't as easy. As I suffer from both the remaining maladies, my solution is proper data storage. If I need to remember something, I write it down. My bills all go on my Outlook calendar and when they are paid on line the confirmation is also embedded into the Outlook notation. This works very well for me until I have a computer crash. You will notice here I didn't say if I have a computer crash; I said when I have a crash. So, why do you find this posting on a photography Blog? Because even more important to me than notes of things to do, are the thousands of unreplaceable picture files. If I loose my Outlook files, I might have a few overdue bills and some late payment charges; if I loose my picture files, I loose a wedding or a vacation to some far off place. I also would loose the babies first step or the last picture of a missed loved one. These things can never be replaced. While picture losses are not limited to digital pictures because more than one old family picture has been accidentally thrown away or stored in a damp place but the likelihood of loosing not just a few but all of them is much more possible.

You need a storage plan and there are many options from on line storage to book shelf back up hard drives. Here is my strategy learned from over 25 years computer use:

1) The most likely computer crash is the loss of the primary "C" hard drive. It gets the most use and is often the target of virus programs. This is the normal drive holding your "My Documents" file which usually holds e-mail, picture, music, and many other personal files. I don't have "My Documents" on the "C" drive. I have it on a separate drive. And because I have so many pictures, I have one drive just for pictures. These drives see less use because they are only accessed for these particular files. Program files, page files and other operating system files are on the primary "C" drive. This is my fist line of defense. Some people partition a single drive into several partitions to separate files in a similar manor but this will not help protect the data. If a drive containing 3 partitions fails, all thee partitions fail. With the newer OS, I see no need to partition a drive into multiple logical drives.

2) Again because of the quantity and value of my picture files, I have a second networked computer used just for back-up files. When I download pictures from my camera, I put one set of files on the picture HD on the primary computer and then a second copy of the same files on the back up computer. I check to be certain I have two copies BEFORE I delete them from the camera memory. I also use this back up computer to make a copy of the "my Documents" folder on a regular basis.

3) You might think this should cover my poential losses but just to be on the safe side, I also back up on DVD media. While they don't last forever, they make a good "ace in the hole" for picture file restoration.

I don't bother to back up program files because I can always reinstall them. If you download sofware as I often do, be sure to back up those files for recovery. That is a good use for CD or DVD back-ups.

I have had compute crashes more times than I care to count and most of the time, I have been able to recover needed data. The only exception had been two occasions loosing my address book from Outlook. Now hose files are backed up automatically every time I shut down Outlook. They are backed up to the backup computer if it is on and to a second backup hard drive on the primary computer. Yes, I do have many hard drives. That is one reason I build my own computers rather than buy off the shelf from Dell or any other computer manufacturer.

I am not suggesting everyone should go out and buy multiple computers but when you upgrade that old slow machine, it might be just what you need for a back-up computer. It doesn't need to be fast or even have the most recent operating system. It just needs some storage space. Back your files up to it and then turn it off.

Well, the "T" on this keyboard is no working properly so I'll qui for now and go ge a new one.

Happy New year and may your New Year's resolution be "Don' loose it; back it up!"

Sunday, December 24, 2006

New Christmas Cameras

I don't remember the statistics, but more and more people are taking digital photographs than ever took pictures before. This Christmas should increase that number significantly. Here are five of the most important tips for new digital photographers.

1) Many of the cheap film cameras had fixed focus lenses. That means the lens was designed to capture subjects from about 5 feet to infinity, depending on the lighting. As long as the conditions were just right, they could take great pictures. But the newer digital cameras are usually better quality and they focus the lens from close up to far away. For these cameras, there is normally a two position button. When you depress it 1/2 way down, it focuses on the subject and then when you press the rest of the way, it opens the shutter and takes the picture. With the old cameras, you just press the button and almost instantaneously, the picture is taken. If you do the same thing now and press the button all the way down there is a lag time between pressing the button and taking the picture. If you press the button without giving it a chance to focus, it is often taking the picture while you are moving the camera for the next shot. If you find yourself chopping off heads or getting blurred pictures, this is probably the problem. Steady the camera, press the button 1/2 down to focus (usually there is a red dot or a beep when the picture is in focus) then press the button the rest of the way and hold the camera still for a couple seconds to be certain the shutter is finished opening and closing.

2) If your camera has a view window for composing the picture rather than a viewfinder, try to hold the camera close in to limit camera movement. If you move the camera while it is taking the picture, it will blur. If you are zoomed in on something the potential for blurring is increased. If your camera has both a viewfinder and a screen, it is best to use the viewfinder because keeping the camera pressed against your face will held to keep it steady. Holding the camera at arms length, makes it difficult to keep the camera steady. The image stabilizers will help but can't control it completely especially if you are in dim light of zoomed in.

3)The flash memory supplied with most cameras is usually minimal. The low capacity often will force you to reduce the picture quality to be able to take more pictures. This hurts in two ways. The reduced capacity forces you to take fewer pictures and often pushes you to set the picture quality to lower settings either by reducing the number of pixel's in the picture and also in reducing the quality of the compression. I recommend setting the number of pixels to the highest number. Why get a 6 mega pixel camera and set it to record less than 2 mega pixels.

4) Digital zoom is worthless because it doesn't actually zoom in on a subject, it actually just cuts away some of the extra background. The quality is reduced. If you digitally zoom in on something to make it twice as big, you actually reduce the number of pixels to 1/4. This fact is not true of the optical zoom. If you zoom in to an object to make it twice as large, the original number of picture pixels is the same as without the zoom.

5) Digital cameras can't see contrast as well as your eyes can. If you look at someone in a shadow on a sunny day, you can see the bright portion of the sky and the shadow portion of the subject. The camera can't. If it sets itself to capture the bright sky, the shadows will all look too dark to see anything. If you set the camera to picture the parts in the shadow, the sky and rest of the picture will be so bright they will wash out. So, even on a sunny day, you might need a flash to show faces in the shadow. It is probably needed more outside to show faces than inside where there is less contrast.

Friday, November 03, 2006

See it; take it!

A picture is an instant in time; frozen and captured forever. That picture is only available for that instant, then it is replaced by another instant ready for capture. I can remember sitting around a local lake club as a kid listening to the fishermen talk about the fish that got away. They were always the biggest and the best. Pictures are often like that too.

Have you ever seen a sunset that was more beautiful than you had ever seen before, but by the time you found just the right spot to stop and take a picture, it was gone. Sunsets are one of those fleeting moments. Sometimes you have to be content to just see it and enjoy the beauty but not capture it for everyone to see. This will be one that got away. You can talk about it to your friends, but all you have is the memory.

The sunset above didn't get away. It was taken at Mermet Lake, a lake in Southern Illinois near the Cache River system.

Here we have a nice picture of a lake with some fall foliage on the shoreline. It certainly would not win any prize. 15 minutes earlier, it was a beautiful reflection picture. The lake was smooth as glass. I thought, "what a beautiful picture, I'll be sure to get it on the way back. This is what I got on the way back! If you see a great picture, stop; go back, if necessary; and take the shot. It might not be there on the way back.

I remember another time walking up a long road at Allerton Park and just as we turned the corner, the now visible giant Sun Worshipper statue was upstaged by a beautiful deer standing silent in the middle of the road in front of us. In the excitement, I grabbed my camera and started exchanging my wide angle lens for the big telephoto so I could get the deer full frame. AS I raised the viewfinder to my eye, the deer vanished into the woods. Why didn't I just take the wide angle shot first and then change lenses. At least I could have had a lovely landscape with a deer prominently displayed. Here we had another fish that got away! This was a case of poor quick judgment; however, if he had stayed just a few seconds longer, I would have had a prize winner.

One of the advantages of digital photography is the availability of numerous shots. See it, shoot it. If you don't like it later, no harm done. There is always the delete button, but I have not seen the camera yet that has a button to add a few more shots from different angles. All the equipment in the world is worthless until you turn it on and press the shutter button.

Other examples of the shot that got away are too numerous to note; but fortunately, I am listening to my own advice and it doesn't happen nearly as often. We are turning off the main roads with their fast paced traffic. We are taking the roads less traveled in America's back yard. If you would like to join us on our journeys, you can catch us at . But before you try to follow, check out the article on GPS navigation on the em-t-nest blogspot. So, clean the dust off the sensor, buckle up and follow along.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Welcome to DSDigitals Blogger

Every photographer was a novice in the beginning but for some reason when they start giving advice, they often spend so much verbiage trying to make themselves look knowledgeable that they lose track of the beginner's perspective. This Blog is not for the professional. One would hope they know the basics. This is for the guy or girl looking for their first digital camera or trying to figure out how to use it. While the tips here are not limited to digital photography, that is what I will talk about. There is still a place for film cameras but now they are the specialty as digital photography becomes the norm.

Got a question? ask it here.