Taking Digital Photos Is Not The Same As With Film

 There are some ‘wrinkles’ you have to iron out

First of all, an important caution!Well, the first order of business after finding a camera you like is making it take a good digital picture. Please note I said “making it take”, not “letting” it take.

One of the great advantages of using a digital camera is the opportunity to take a virtually unlimited number of pictures. The kicker is, you need to have a sufficient amount of storage capacity to do it. The size of the storage media or card you have will determine the number of pictures you can take.

Don’t go cheap! Spring for more than one memory card. The insurance and peace of mind you’ll gain is well worth the investment.

I guarantee you’ll run into trouble if you don’t. For instance, a man walked into his local box store and asked for a copy of each of the 12 prints he had on his card (true story). The customer copied the image data into the printer’s storage area and then immediately erased his image media so he could reuse the space for more pictures and left the store. To the store’s credit, there was a sign posted on the customer terminal advising against erasing digital media before the pictures are printed. It was obviously ignored.

In the meantime, one of the lab operators inadvertently erased the printer’s storage area and the pictures were irretrievably lost.

This man had traveled over 200 miles to get this series of pictures and he had to go back again to do it all over just because he was too cheap to spring for another $30 card. Needless to say he wasn’t happy.

Organizating your pictures can be a real pain in the neck, especially if you shoot a lot and most digital camera users do. It simply goes with the territory.

I ran across a small piece of software that takes a lot of the work out of creating albums. One of the things it does very, very well is to help you rename the photos you’ve taken.

Digital cameras (thankfully) supply each and every photo taken with a unique identifier. However, these will need to be changed somewhere along the way if you’re going to organize your photos in any meaningful way.

This piece of software solves this problem quite nicely. Go to theDigital Camera Utility site that will tell you a lot more. It’s worth a look.

Okay, back to pictures…

This is pretty well a never-ending topic. We can start our discussion by asking a question…what is it you want to accomplish? You need to have a goal if you’re going to get what you want. Once you’ve made this decision, you can start the creative process.

For purposes of this discussion, I’m going to assume that you, like a lot of other ‘weekend warriors’ are out to create something you can show family and friends and maybe even put on a photographic feature wall in your home. You may even want to submit one of your better creations to a photo contest.

Even if you don’t win anything, it’s a real hoot seeing your work on display somewhere. There’s a lot of good contests on the Internet these days and if you enter one or more of these, your photography will be seen by people all around the globe.

Okay. Pick a subject. Odds are you have something very near your home that will make a good photographic subject or maybe even a photo essay.

Municipal parks can give you a never-ending supply of items you can feature in macro (extreme close-up) shots.

Years ago I took a group of my students on a field trip to a local park close to where we lived. The assignment was to pick out a suitable subject within a 100-foot radius from where we parked our cars and produce a photo that was suitable for framing.

They were assigned to use nothing more than a small home-made reflector and a tripod. The results were exceptional to say the least. I’m sorry I don’t have any of the original pictures samples any more.

I do have some stuff I shot for my wife a year ago when I first got my new digital camera and I’m going to use some of these as an example of what I’m talking about. Judy plants a wonderful array of annuals in our yard every year. My job is to photographically record the results.

Years ago, when we still owned the photo studio, I used to use a Mamiya RB-67 medium format camera. It produced a 2 1/4 X 2 3/4 (professional format) negative. It was a fully manual camera which gave me full control over the field of focus.

It’s not quite as easy to achieve the results you want with the newer digital cameras. Manual, high-end film-based cameras are still the best in my opinion but digitals are catching up fast. I know I’m going to get an argument on this from some died-in-the-wool digital enthusiasts but this is my website and I’m entitled to my opinion. So there!

All kidding aside, I don’t think that many of the folks who read this stuff are going to need to or even want to electronically manipulate whatever they shoot.

Unedited – – – – Edited

If you’re going to have people in your shots, you’re going to have to be aware of what I consider to be a couple of serious failings in each of the digital cameras I’ve tried.

There’s almost a full one second delay from the time the shutter release is pressed until the time the camera shutter actually fires. In my own camera I can minimize this to some extent by setting the autofocus feature to “full time” which means the camera’s focusing mechanism is resetting itself continuously. This is not a great answer. To start with, it’s hard on batteries. It also ‘burns’ up a lot of memory space. Even with rechargables it seriously cuts into the number of photos I can take before the power cells run out.

One other way is to set the focus, shutter speed and aperture manually and run with it in full manual mode. With the flash turned off, there is still a delay which could cause you to miss a great shot by the fraction of a second. It’s also somewhat annoying for the people standing in front of the camera who have somehow engineered an acceptable facial expression and find they can’t hold it for as long as it takes for the camera to fire.

There is a third way to minimize this effect to some extent. If your camera has a multiple-exposure capability, you can play around with this until you get the effect you want.

The second failing in my opinion is the lack of having a place to use a cable release. Granted, most of the higher-end boxes have an infra-red remote trigger but you need to be in front of the camera to activate the shutter, not behind it or to the side of it while you take your shots.

Proper Film Storage Counts!

It’s not a widely understood fact but proper film storage plays a great role in the production of good prints. Correct film storage forms a very important part of the quality control process. Ideally the production of satisfactory pictures will be a partnership between the photographer and the lab. For instance, unexposed film that is dumped in a drawer or closet somewhere for an extended period of time cannot be expected to produce optimum color.

Film stored in your refrigerator in a moisture-protected container will outlast and outperform film which has been stored any other way. My wife and I have successfully stored film in our ‘fridge for several years without any evident deterioration in colour quality. Film is made up partly of special emulsified coatings that have been designed to record light images that have been projected through a camera’s optical system. In addition to being sensitive to light it is also sensitive to heat, perfume and x-rays to mention some of the more common elements.

I remember getting about 24 rolls of film in the lab from one customer who had been on a once-in-a-lifetime vacation in Hawaii. He kept promising his wife for about six months that he would take the film in for processing but he kept putting it off. He reasoned that the film was safely stored in a plastic bag in the back window of the family car which is an excellent example of bad, bad film storage.

Unfortunately for him, it was a very hot summer that year and we didn’t get the film in the lab until mid-September. By that time the color balance had been absolutely destroyed and, as a result, he was furious. He threatened a lawsuit and was planning to make us pay for another trip to Hawaii among other things.

After trying unsuccessfully trying to explain why his photos didn’t turn out the way he expected I finally talked him into sending his film to the Kodak customer complaints office for an explanation of the failure. He grabbed the address and muttered something about Kodak putting me out of business. I don’t really know exactly what Kodak told him but he never did launch his lawsuit and we stayed in business.

There are numerous cases of gals who leave negatives in their purses right next to their perfume container and have completely blown the color on the negatives they wanted reprinted. Once again, the lab is often charged with gross failure in cases like this when, in actual fact, they have had nothing to do with the lousy color reproduction. They do the best they can but the most sophisticated photofinishing equipment in the world still needs a good negative to produce a good colour print.

Want a quick way to tell whether or not the lab has had a processing problem? This works especially well when the negatives have been incorrectly processed. Each roll of film has what is called the “rebate edge”. This is the area where the 35mm sprocket holes are located. It is also where the manufacturer has printed the name of the film and the negative numbers.

If the printing on rebate edge is crisp and sharp and quite dark or even black, and the area surrounding the sprocket holes is a healthy orange or orangey-pink color, (this colour is called a “mask”) odds are the film has been process correctly. This holds true for most Konica, Kodak and Fuji film but some off-brands may have a slightly different colour mask.

If the actual negative looks ‘thin’ (and I don’t know a better way to describe it) or ‘heavy’, this is an exposure problem, not processing. It simply means the camera operator either underexposed (thin) or overexposed (heavy negative image) the photograph. This kind of problem can be fixed reasonably well in black and white negative film but not in color.

If you have any question in your mind about this, ask your lab tech to show you a sample of a properly processed piece of film which you can easily compare with a piece of suspect film for relative differences.

Perhaps this is a good time to tell you about the quality control systems that are supposed exist in most one-hour mini-labs. I don’t think it’s any secret that Kodak holds the major share of the photofinishing market. Ask any lab operator and they will tell you that they are supposed to adhere to some pretty strict standards that are sometimes physically monitored and enforced by Kodak.

I have no special axe to grind for Kodak. It is a large company like any other and I don’t own a nickel’s worth of Kodak stock. It just so happens that the majority of experience I have had is around the Kodak product lines. I am certain in this day of computers being able to talk to other computers that the other companies like Fuji and Konica will have similar quality control programs in place.

Every morning each lab has to run a series of controls that will indicate a problem-in-the-making. These controls are transmitted to Kodak on a regular basis. In the event that a lab is running outside the normal processing parameters set by Kodak the lab will be called by a service rep to set matters straight before customer film is processed.

This system does not always work as well as it should but it is a whole lot better than it was when no external monitoring at all was taking place. Customers had to depend on people like me and others like me to do my job correctly. When techs failed in one way or another, the customer sometimes paid a price.

Panoramic Shots – A Challenge Worth Accepting

Panoramics – The “Rolls-Royce” Of
Great Nature Photoraphy

I just love panoramic shots! One of the limitations standard film cameras have had that I have lamented for years is the fact that even with a very good wide-angle lens, the ability to do an effective pan shot was limited to say the least. I’ve spent hours and hours in the darkroom trying to match up two or three customer negatives so the finished product looks like a true pan shot.

I’m sure you have seen the long, long photographs that used to be taken of large groups of people…everything from entire school populations, to medical school grads, to graduates of law schools, etc. Look on the wall of your doctor’s or lawyer’s office. These kinds of photos used to be taken with a special pan camera.

The photographic subjects were arranged in a semi-circle configuration with the tripod-mounted camera being placed in the very center. When the shutter was tripped, the camera actually panned from one end of the group to the other. I remember when I was in high school being placed at the very end of the bottom row and when the camera had passed me, running like the wind to the opposite end of the group and having my image appearing twice in the same photo. What a hoot!! (The school principal wasn’t amused and I had to serve five one-hour detentions as a result.)

To take a good pan series you will need a tripod. Hand-held will work but not to the same high degree. Sorry, but you’re going to have to go to your camera’s user manual to get the correct settings. Once the pictures are in the bag (or on the media card) you can download them to your computer.

The rest is easy. The software that came with your camera will have a pan assembly capability. In the event you don’t have this capability, PaintShop Pro can come in real handy. This software has the capability of allowing you to electronically enhance your picture(s) to the point you may even want to hang your masterpiece on your livingroom wall.

Just to demonstrate a little of what I’m talking about, I have included three shots of downtown Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I’ve set up the three just as they were taken, separate photographs taken with a wide-angle lens. Just below these three shots is the completed composite. Look closely and you’ll see it’s absolutely seamless. You can’t see where they were joined.

This can be a lot of fun and is really worth playing with.

Make Your Flash Work FOR You Not Against You!

Things you should know to take better flash photos

There are lot of misconceptions about flash photography and how best to use it to get the kind of pictures you want. Loads of folks simply point and shoot without giving the lighting a second thought. Then they’ll sit back and wonder why they didn’t get the shot they wanted or what they thought they shot.

There are a few simple techniques you can use that will vastly improve your picture quality if you’ll just take a few moments to understand and use them.

The built-in flash units that come with most cameras these days can be both good and bad at the same time. In spite of what the ‘automatic’ features of your camera will do, you still have some control you must exercise for best results.

Let’s look at outdoor pictures first. Early mornings and late evenings usually provide the best natural lighting conditions for ‘people’ photography. The midday sun can create shadows that are deep and unforgiving and can ruin an otherwise perfect photograph.

The extreme contrast between the light dark areas of your subject will sometimes seem to be accentuated with a camera. Our eyes don’t always see what a camera does. Our brains automatically ‘filter’ the images and we see pretty much what we want to see or what we ‘think’ we see. The camera does not. It records what’s actually there.

For instance, go in to the family room of your home well after the sun has gone down. Turn on a standard filament lamp. You will undoubtedly see objects in the room as ‘normal’. In actual fact, they aren’t. The lamp actually produces a very pronounced red-yellow light which is what will be recorded by your camera.

By the same standard, most standard fluorescent lights produce an overall greenish cast to everything. Even flesh tones often look more like a dead mackerel than a live being.

Having said that, most good digital cameras have a built-in correction system called “white balance” that will usually correct the color balance of your pictures regardless of the color temperature of the ambient lighting where you’re shooting. In some instances you may have to adjust some of the white balance elements but this isn’t usually too difficult. If your camera has a memory feature you can manually lock in unusual or frequently used settings that you can access quickly and easily at a later time.

Film does not have this inherent capability unfortunately. You need corrective filters to do the job properly. Have a look at the discussion on one-hour labs to help you understand what kind of filters to use. Okay. Let’s assume you’re going to take a picture of a couple of your favorite people in the late afternoon on a sunny day using your film camera. The light looks pretty good and you fire away leaving your flash unit turned off.

Odds are your subjects are going to wind up with very red faces, not from embarrassment, but from the sunlight. You can avoid a lot of this by using your camera’s built-in electronic flash. The output is already ‘balanced’ for normal daylight and, if you use it in ‘fill-in’ mode, it will help cancel out the strong red sunlight. Indoor photos are different. Here you can have two or three different kinds of lighting to deal with. But again, using your camera in ‘fill’ mode will usually give you pleasing skin tones in your finished pictures.

Be careful not to overpower your subjects with a too-powerful flash output. You can literally ‘burn’ all the color from faces if your flash output is too strong. Because each make and model of camera has a different kind of flash unit, there’s no basic rule of thumb I can give you that will cover everything.

You’ll have to go to your camera’s user manual to get this.

While we’re talking about flash, we should also think a bit about lighting in general. An electronic flash unit is already color balanced for daylight output and you can wind up with what is called a ‘mixed lighting’ effect if you’re shooting indoors. For example – let’s assume you’re going to take a flash picture of a group of three or four people wearing white blouses or shirts in a place that is primarily lit with fluorescent light fixtures using a film camera.

It looks like your flash goes off normally but you wind up with a picture that shows these people with very pink faces and ghastly green shirts.

The shirts are reflecting the greenish cast from he room lighting and the automatic printing equipment tries to compensate by adding a little extra magenta to the whole print which turns the faces a bright pink. Your camera’s built-in flash usually comes with a ‘fill-in’ capability, one where the output of the flash is reduced sufficiently to fill in those deep shadows without wiping out the subject completely. Make sure you know how to use this setting for best results. If you don’t happen to have a unit with this capability, you can always use a reflector.

Years ago, before I could afford a really good flash unit, I used to use a nylon stocking fastened tightly over the face of the flash to reduce the intensity of the light being produced. This worked extremely well for black and white but not so good for color. As I recall, the nylons introduced a green cast to the flash.

My favorite reflector is made from crumpled aluminum foil (dull side out) wrapped around a piece of flat cardboard. Of course, a better one would be the very expensive gold reflector favored by a lot of professional photographers but my way is a lot easier, a whole lot cheaper and the results are arguably quite compatible. (A pro will give you an argument on this.)

I personally like what I call “cloudy-bright” days for shooting. Here is where the built-in flash works best. Colors are somewhat muted under these lighting conditions and using a fill flash will bring back the ‘snap’ to the pictures you’re shooting.

Ideally you will have a flash unit that you can dismount from your camera and hold it in your hand, well above and to the side of the lens. This makes a world of difference to the way your subjects will look. It adds shape to foreheads, cheeks, noses and lips. Gone completely is the terrible red-eye effect produced in camera mounted units.

One real problem to getting a good picture with on-camera flash is the ‘halo’ effect produced when your subjects are standing in front of a wall-type of background. By holding the flash above and to the side, will not only get rid of this unattractive halo but will actually produce a pleasing shadow effect.

Because the flash and shutter are necessarily synchronized at 1/60th of a second on film cameras, you can’t use the following technique but digital cameras were made for it.

To eliminate the usual ‘black’ background you always get when shooting in ‘program’ mode with a big space or room as a background, use the camera’s manual adjustment capability and shoot your picture at around 1/15th of a second with a normal aperture or f-stop. This will get the main subject you want but at the same time will record a normally-lit room. The background will now be visible and will bring some perspective to the shot.

One technique I love to use is ‘bounce’ flash. This is where I use a flash unit that has an adjustable head, one that will swivel between horizontal and vertical. You can actually ‘bounce the light off of the ceiling. You need to play with this one to achieve best results.

The unfortunate part of this is that the flash guns that have this capability are often priced at around the $300 to $400 mark which takes them out of the reach of the average ‘weekend warrior’.

There’s a lot more to say about lighting but this should get you started. Remember, this is your camera. Play with it. Make it do what you want it to do, not the other way around.

Great Nature Photography

Hey Whoz This Gordon Guy Anyway??!

To start with, I’m a perfectly ordinary, (supposedly) sane, 65-year-old guy who suddenly decided to create a website about a subject that’s already widely and expertly written about, “Great Nature Photography”.

Why am I doing this? Mainly because I love taking good pictures and I love helping others do the same. Secondly, I’m doing it simply because I want to and just because I can.

I think I have something unique to offer because of my experience not only behind the camera but also my experience in other areas of the industry.

To start with I’ve been playing around with taking pictures both as a photographer and as a photofinisher since about 1965. I’m still being consulted professionally now and then on the technical aspects of producing a good photograph, both in color and in black and white.

Around the age of 13, I started developing my own pictures in our family bathtub using my Mom’s pie plates (or I was at least until I got caught – she was NOT happy) and using my own home-made enlarger. Two professional photographers in my home town literally took this green kid under their wing and gave me a tremendous boost to my life-long hobby/profession. They saw a great love of the photographic arts in me that has lasted to this day.

Gotta tell you a story. The camera I was assigned to used the old-fashioned flash bulbs, you know the ones, the big huge glass bulbs that looked like a 60-watt light bulb stuffed with steel wool. They did a great job as long as they didn’t fire off as they were being screwed into the camera’s flash unit. This not only burns the hand but the photographer can’t see much but big bright spots in front of his eyes for days and days! Ask me how I know this!My first civilian job after leaving the Royal Canadian Air Force was with a daily newspaper. I had to learn to throw around a 4X5 Crown Graphic “press camera” among other things. I very quickly became quite good at it and also came to absolutely love this wonderful piece of photo equipment.

Anyway, shortly after I started, the newspaper went ‘modern’ and bought us a brand new “Stroboflash”, a revolutionary, rechargable, 149-pound, ni-cad battery-operated electronic flash unit (well, gimme a break…after packing this thing around for a couple of hours it felt like 149 pounds). It was great until the first time I used it in the rain.

The flash unit got wet and when I fired the camera shutter, the huge storage capacitor that powered the strobe light discharged through the metal camera frame, into my hands and into the ground knocking me flat on my butt. I went back to flash bulbs for a while – actually, quite a
l  o  n  g while!

I have since worked as a wedding photographer and taken hundreds of portraits both in a professional studio and on location. I’ve photographed commercial products for brochures and other advertising purposes and done location work with professional models. I’ve had a lot of fun and had some very interesting experiences.

Along the way I have been able to squeeze in enough time to manage a couple of full-service photo labs as well as install several 1-hour mini-labs at various locations across Alberta, Canada. Oh yeah, I also managed one of those things as well for a while. (Don’t like ’em much either.)

I’ve learned a ton of neat stuff over the years and feel I have something worthwhile to pass on to folks who simply want to be able to take good snapshots without a whole lot of hassle.

A good part of my career has been spent showing clients and friends alike how take better pictures and I still do it today. This is where the website idea comes from.

Good Nature Photography Needs Care and Consideration

Exposure is always a concern for really good nature photography. The uninitiated and the inexperienced will sometimes get something they like and quite often what they don’t like. I have another discussion on the kind of film that you should choose for the result you want to do on the page dedicated to film.

If you use too much light, you lose the highlights. Faces get wiped out and turn a ghastly white for instance. If you use too little light you wind up with an underexposed negative or digital image and you lose any detail that’s was originally in the shadow areas.

This becomes quite evident when shooting mountains. Here in Alberta, we have the most beautiful mountainous areas that make the best nature photography subjects available.

Most film has reasonably wide exposure latitude but if it isn’t exposed within the acceptable limits of the film the results can be absolutely devastating.

For instance – one customer recently took his neighbors advice and used DIN/ASA 800 film to shoot his daughter’s wedding. The day of the wedding was very sunny and bright and this 800 film literally cooked the color. Faces were basically colorless and the colors in the finished prints were not even close to the color of the subjects being photographed. They were literally burned out of the negatives.

I won’t get into a discussion about reciprocity failure (or curve cross) but that’s the tech term for both over and underexposing film and it isnot correctible. Once you either under or over expose a color negative, that’s it. What you get is what you get.

Unfortunately, about the only way left to salvage these photographs is going to be to hand-color black and white prints. Even these are going to have an overall ‘muddy’ look in spite of the best efforts of the darkroom tech and the color artist.

In an emergency, underexposed black and white film can be salvaged to some degree by using a silver enhancer like Negative Film Intensifier which is no longer available except from a specialty chemical supply house. The treatment for overexposed black and white used to be a reducer but I haven’t heard of it being available for years, pollution and all that.

The best overall answer is a decent hand-held light meter. Fairly decent ones are being sold for well under $100. My personal favorite is Sekonic.

With digital cameras however, this is not the case. There is a lot of pretty decent software around that will do the job for you. If the corrections are not too extensive, something like Jasc’s Paint Shop Pro will do a nice job. For situations requiring more extensive corrections however, Adobe’s Photoshop is the best I’ve used but at about 6 times the price of Paint Shop Pro. (By the way, Adobe bought Jasc just recently so we’ll have to wait to see where that goes.)

Pay close attention to what you’re light meter is telling you. Take a “spot” reading on the area you are particularly interested in and use it.

If you want to shoot people in front of a very large area like a mountain, take a close-up meter reading of your subject’s faces, use this as your base exposure and let the background fall where it may. If the mountain is your prime subject the people are secondary you, of course, expose for the mountain.

To make really sure you have what you want, bracket your shots. Take one “normal”, one a stop under and one a stop over. If you’re not sure and the shot is important to you, don’t be afraid to use more film in bracketing. It’s a whole lot cheaper to use extra film than it is to lose the shot or have to do it over again.

As a matter of fact, this is a good habit to cultivate anyway until you have become quite proficient. Even as a working pro I used to bracket every important shot unless I was in a situation where ‘snap’ shooting was necessary. Weddings are a good example of this.

Digital cameras are a whole different matter. Some of these even have a built-in bracketing capability. My own camera (an Olympus C-5050) can shoot either one frame each side of normal or two, depending on what I want to do.

Digital correction for exposure should be limited to about one to one-and-a-half stops for best results. Unless you have some very serious specialty software at a very serious price, you can’t add or subtract pixels that don’t exist.

You can see a little bit more detail in the shadow area of the mountain but at what cost?

Using a tripod is always desirable when in “the field”. It takes time to compose a really good photograph. Snapshots are fine as far as they go but if you’re serious about getting the best you can, a tripod is the best way to go.

If your camera is mounted on a very steady platform like a tripod you have an opportunity to play around with depth-of-field. You can try shooting at very low shutter speeds without having to suffer from camera shake.

One of the best examples I can think of is fast-moving water, a waterfall, pounding surf, a rapids. These situations provide endless opportunities for some great effects. Here’s a couple of examples of what I’m talking about:

To my mind, these time-lapse photos provide a far more dramatic effect than the needle-sharp, stop-motion images you can get with high shutter speed and wide aperture.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. You’ve spent all this good money for a great camera so now you have to make it do what you want.

Digital Editing Can Turn An Ordinaly Photo Into A Masterpiece!

You Have Lots Of Options For
Enhancing Your Pictures

I have to admit, digital editing has very little to do with actually taking great pictures but I wanted to throw it in to my site anyway simply because I personally find it interesting and very useful.

This is the digital equivalent to having a well-equipped photographic darkroom. I figured that if you’re interested in this kind of thing you’ll read this page. If you aren’t, you won’t. (How do you like that for logic?!)

If you’re starting with a digital camera, you’re a little ahead of the game. If you’re starting with a photograph, you’re gonna need a scanner. Cheap scanners work okay but the more expensive ones do much finer work. By “finer”, I mean that the scanner will provide you with a better-quality finished product.

There are a number of pieces of digital editing software that will remove red-eye. However, only few of them do it really well. Most of the reasonably priced ones that I’ve worked with don’t have much in the way of additional retouching features. I’ve chosen to put my money on PaintShop Pro for two basic reasons – price and features.

Adobe makes an exceptional digital editing product called Print Shop. You can do just about anything you can dream up in terms of photo manipulation and enhancement. It’s my first choice except for the fact it’s around six-hundred bucks.

In September, I got a copy of PaintShop Pro by Jasc for just under a hundred dollars. I can do pretty much anything I will ever want to do without breaking the bank to buy the software. Below this are a couple of couple of very small examples of what I have done with it. Adobe recently purchased Jasc so I don’t know how long the lower priced product will be around.

First of all, I did a vertical pan shot of the Cantera office tower in downtown Calgary that I was originally going to use as part of my website ‘decor’. However, the navigation bar grew so big you couldn’t see the picture so I took it out.

The day I took the shot, the best shooting angle I could get was from across the street. Unfortunately, parking was scarce and the rear end of my car wound up in the picture and detracted from it. So, I retouched it out. Simple as that.

Here’s what I mean: In this demo shot I left part of the car in place to give you a better idea of what happens during the digital editing process.

You Can’t Believe Everything You See”

Gotta funny (but true) story.

In 1917, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle “…an ardent believer in the occult,” announced that, just as he’d always believed, sprites, gnomes and other types of fairies really did exist. His proof: photographs of fairies taken by 16-year-old Elise Wright and her 10-year-old cousin, Frances Griffiths.

“The pictures showed the girls by a wooded stream with winged sprites and gnomes who danced and pranced and tooted on pipes,” Michael Farquhar reported in The Washington Post. “Several of the photography experts who examined the pictures declared them to be free of superimposition or retouching,” and the photos, backed by Conan Doyle’s treatment of their authenticity lauched a national fairy craze.”

The Real Picture: “In 1983, the girls, by then old women, admitted that they had posed with paper cutouts supported by hatpins.”

Eliminate Red-Eye

I took a pretty decent snapshot (you know, one of those rare times where you ‘luck out’ and actually get a good snap shot) of my oldest grandson. (Tate’s gonna love this!) The unfortunate part is the terrible red-eye, so I removed it with a digital editing software program. Tnis is pretty basic stuff and something you can do very easily to your snapshots.

You can have a ton of fun when you can change the appearance of a picture you really like using digital editing. For instance, I’ve always been partial to oil paintings but (of course) couldn’t afford a living room full of them.

Next best thing – change the surface of a photographs I want to display on the wall tolook like an oil painting.

Here’s what I did (and I really hope you can actually see the brush stroke texture on your monitor.)

“Morning Mist”

One Final Example

This is a ‘before’ and ‘after’ example of what can be done. You can perform major surgery if you need to. I’ve over-exaggerated some of the digital editing corrections so they can hopefully be seen on older monitors.

Create Great Family Treasures With Pet Photography

Pet Photos Make Great Family Keepsakes

Cameras and pets go together like bread and butter or peanut butter and jelly or hot dogs and mustard (you get what I mean). Pets create many, many memorable times in our lives and, if we don’t record them, they’re going to be lost, forever.
There’s a lady that bought a new camera just recently (sad but true story). She had a horse for over 30 years. She and her pet were inseparable. They were friends, buddies in fact. Her friend and pet passed away a couple of weeks ago and, in addition to the grief we all feel at the passing of a close friend, she realized she didn’t have even one photograph of her pet.

Wanna a really great picture? Get a child and a pet together in the same place at the same time…instant winner! You may not win any contests with it and that doesn’t matter. What you will have is a treasure that money can’t buy.
Here’s what I’m talking about. This is an old family favorite.

Barb ‘n Butch

“Butch” was a family pet for many years and he simply loved being around Barbara, the youngest member of our family. You can see his tail was wagging so hard that the shutter speed of the old 126 camera was too slow to freeze the motion.

(Hey, if you love Small Dogs, click here!)

Digital cameras, especially the higher end ones, will allow you to take multiple exposures with one push of the shutter release. The picture possibilities are endless if you have a pet that likes to play.
The film cameras that are equipped with automatic film advance will allow you to do the same and the results can be spectacular to say the least.

It gets to be pretty easy if you take the time to pre-set the exposure and the focus before you start taking pictures. This is important if you expect good results. Take a light-meter reading to determine the base settings and then decide which kind of picture you would like.

If you want to photograph your dog chasing a stick, a frizbee or something similar, you’ll have to follow one of the following suggestions. If you’re after a sharp, freeze-motion picture, you’ll need a high shutter speed. Your aperture (or f-stop) will be wider and consequently your background will be out of focus. This is normal. If you’re more intrested in showing the actual motion of the pet (which can be quite spectacular), use a slower shutter speed and a smaller aperture. Look at Butch’s tail in the above picture for example.

One of the most photographic breeds I’ve ever seen is the German Shepherd. I must admit to having a personal prejudice in favor of this majestic animal.

My very good friend Rocky Tapscott in Australia has some excellent shots of his beautiful dog, Chloe that you can see at Just-German-Shepherds.com. It’s worthwhile visiting.

For a straight-forward portraits, about the only thing you’ll especially have to look out for is sunshine. Make sure your subjects don’t have to squint. Open shade is far better than harsh sunshine. Using flash fill can greatly soften deep shadows caused by direct sunlight if you can’t avoid it.

Remember to try and keep your subject’s back or shoulder in front of the the natural light source, not the face. Keeping the light source (the sun) off to the side will guarantee you won’t get lens flare and ruin a potentially excellent shot.

Auto-Focus Can Kill A Good Picture!

Understanding How Your Camera’s
Autofocus Works Is Critical!

Auto-focus systems can cause more problems that you might be aware of. More often than they should be, photo counters are often charged with complaints that have nothing whatsoever to do with the actual photofinishing process. These often include things like out-of-focus pictures. This is a fairly common complaint from a number of automatic focus camera owners. In a lot of cases it’s an operator problem. A lot of users fail to read the user manual closely enough to understand the operation of the auto-focus features of their cameras. Periodically it could be weak batteries or it could be a legitimate camera problem requiring professional attention. Essentially auto-focus systems work much like the human eye. Whatever object the eye looks at is in focus.

Try this experiment:

Focus your vision on an object in front of you and don’t move your eyes. Very carefully use your peripheral vision as best you can to look at objects to the left and to the right of the principal thing you are focused on.

You will notice that the subjects in your peripheral vision are out of focus. As soon as you concentrate your vision on one of the subjects in your periphery it immediately comes into focus and the items now in the periphery go out. It’s exactly the same thing with your camera.

The electronic auto-focus sensor or “eye” can only “see” one object at a time. You must determine what it is that your camera is looking at with the settings you use most commonly use. Read the manual! Occasionally the camera operator can accidentally set the camera for manual focus which will cause obvious problems. Quite a large number of folks will expect their cameras to do things they were never designed to do.

Many cameras will not take in-focus pictures at closer than four to five feet, especially the one-time-use cameras. Operators must read the labels and user manuals to determine the operating limits of the units they intend to use. Properly taken close-ups are always taken with cameras which feature a “macro” capability or special macro tube-and-lens assembly. Depending on quality, these can often be focused down to less than three inches.

With autofocus cameras, it is absolutely essential that the camera has a sufficient amount of ‘recovery’ time between exposures. The operator must give the unit enough time to set up the next shot before actually pushing the exposure button. This is especially true with cameras with batteries that are coming close to the end of their useful lives. Most often, the camera manufacturer has provided a ‘ready’ light to let the operator know that the camera’s ready to let you take another great picture.

I’m often asked what the difference is between optical zoom and digital zoom.

There’s quite a bit actually – the term “optical zoom” simply means you are using the glass lenses to do the magnification. “Digital zoom” on the other hand simply increases the size of the pixels to make the image larger. For reasons of sharpness, the optical zoom is a far better way to go.

Here’s an analogy – take a tablespoon full of water and drop it in the bottom of a small glass. It covers the bottom of the glass quite well. It has some depth. Take another tablespoon of water and drop it on to a dinner plate and spread it around as far as it will go. It get’s pretty thin doesn’t it?

That’s what you’re asking of your camera…taking a small pixel and spreading it over a large area. It gets pretty thin.

Here’s what I mean. The following two shots were taken on the same day at the same time. The top one was taken with full optical zoom and the bottom was taken with full digital zoom.

Are Film Cameras Still Relevant? Darn Tootin’ They Are!

Film Cameras Are Still A Good Investment

Okay, what about film cameras anyway? Well, up until the last couple of years or so, photographic images have been recorded with film cameras, cameras using both negative and transparency (slide) film. People like Ansel Adams have devoted their entire careers to successfully recording the greatest of God’s natural creations on film.

There’s no question that even though digital technology is quickly overtaking the more familiar film-based units as a means of recording photographic images, there are distinct advantages to using the older older technology.

New SLR’s are still state-of-the-art technology and will remain so for the foreseeable future. There is no valid reason in my opinion for abandoning film just because digital is the current ‘rage’ in photography.

Even with the latest 12mp cameras, I really think that digital technology still has some distance to go before it completely overtakes film cameras. Now, having said that, it’s pretty common knowledge that computer (or digital) technology makes a radical advance about every six months so who really knows what the future holds for digital photos.

Okay, let’s get off the soap box and back to the reason I started to write this piece in the first place.

Traditional film cameras come in two basic styles, SLR (single lens reflex) and viewfinder models. The main difference is the fact that the SLR gives you a true ‘wysiwyg’ (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) view of what you’re taking.

There is a third option that I don’t plan to discuss in any great detail, disposable cameras. As far as I’m concerned these are simply throw-away toys. Most of them are stuffed with either ASA/DIN 400 or ASA/DIN 800 film and wide-angle klenses which makes them of very limited use for casual photography in my view. I plan to limit my discussion to 35mm. I won’t be talking much about the larger formats because I didn’t create this website for professional photographers.

Suffice to say that properly exposed and processed 35mm negs will blow up to a reasonably acceptable 11X14 print. If you want decent results for anything bigger than this you’ll need a medium-format camera, something that shoots a 2 1/4 square negative or a 2 1/4 X 2/3/4 so-called “professional” format.

One of the very distinct advantages of the SLR is the instantaneous action of the mechanical shutter. In other words, as soon as you press the shutter, you have an exposure unlike its digital cousin.

I still haven’t reconciled myself to the delay between the time I press the shutter release until the time the digital camera reacts and takes a picture. Quite frankly, I really don’t like it. In my opinion, it sucks…big-time! (If I ever get the time I’ll tell you what I reallythink!)

The fact also that digital camera manufacturers downplay the deleterious (now where’d I dredge this word up from – guess I’m showing my age) effect a low resolution rating has on the finished photograph.

Customers show up at the photo counter every day complaining about the poor quality of their prints, especially 5X7 and 8X10 enlargements. After all, they just got a brand new digital camera didn’t they?

Unfortunately, most people don’t take time to do their homework. Tons of folks have sort of follow the leader attitude. They either fall for a slick advertisement or commercial of some kind or they listen to a friend or neighbor who has an equally uneducated opinion.

With film you have less concern about this kind of thing. The main worry you will have is film speed and, with a little practice, you can lick this one quite easily.

Rule of thumb – if the natural or ‘ambient’ light you’re using to shoot with is bright, you need a low film speed or a low ASA/DIN number. ASA/DIN 100 is the best all around film for general photography.

However, it’s not always readily available any more so ASA/DIN 200 is your next best bet. Anything faster than that should be used with considerable care and some education and practice.

If you plan to take pictures around the campfire, or in a low-light situation with no flash, ASA/DIN 800 can work well. Where you’ll run into trouble is when you get too close to the light from the flames, the film will always ‘burn’ out the in the highlights. 800 doesn’t work well on sun-drenched ski slopes or on the beach on a sunny day either.

One tip I want to pass on – snow is deadly to shoot around. Standard SLR light meters work okay but I have found that I get better color and contrast results by taking a light measurement and then underexposing by one stop.

If you’re not too sure what this means, let me explain. If your camera light meter calls for a setting of f8.0 for instance, a one-stop underexposure would be f11.

Similarly with shutter speed…1/60th of a second would translate to 1/100th of a second underexposure.

Now, having said that, you have to know that my wife and I are using SLR’s that were made 20 years ago. We’ve seen no reason to upgrade. They’re completely manual, have great glass and, unlike my digital camera, we don’t have to fuss around trying to disable or work around any automatic features we don’t like.

What I’m really trying to tell you I guess is that you should experiment, experiment, experiment to determine what works best for you. You need to know the limitations of your particular camera. Bracket your shots, that is, shoot one which is ‘right on the button’, one that’s a stop underexposed and one that’s one stop overexposed to find the kind of exposure that gives you the results you like best.