Sunday, October 23, 2016

Better cameras do take better pictures

Shot with an aging Canon PowerShot S90.
When I started this blog, I hoped to encourage readers stumbling upon my blog to take more pictures. I tried to spread excitement with photography and to make people understand that their point and shoot cameras did not doom them to shooting poor images.

Gradually, I have had to admit that you can take good pictures with inexpensive equipment but it does limit both your creativity and the quality of your images.

In other words, if you can afford a digital SLR camera with a few interchangeable lenses, go for it. Bite the bullet and buy the stuff. And read the instruction book that comes with the camera. it will be filled with good suggestions. The camera maker wants you to be successful. If you are, you will buy more equipment.

I like my image of my 3-year-old granddaughter reacting to her winning of a computer game. It was a bit tough for the little girl as she was using an old notebook computer and not an iPad. She had to coordinate the use of a touch pad with the simultaneous pressing of a mouse below the pad.

Shot with an old Fuji FinePix HS10.
A faster shutter speed would have been wonderful. My camera couldn't manage it. If I had had an aperture setting of f/1.4 available, I'd have had a sharper image. The f/stops control the amount of light entering a camera through the lens. Most point and shoot do not let in all that much light. That's why these cameras are always pumping out bursts of light from their on board electronic flashes. The quick, short flashes freeze the action but they do so by using a truly ugly light.

When I shot the images of my 7-year-old granddaughter moving up to the orange belt level at her karate class, I was forced to shoot moments that did not contain a lot of action. The actual testing offered a lot of opportunities for capturing some fine images but my camera failed to nail even one. The action unfolded simply far too fast.

My advice. If you can't afford a great camera, don't sweat it. But if you can, move up to something better, do it. Before buying, read a good photography book. Your local library is a good source.

Another shot from an old Fuji FinePix HS10. Background blurred in Photoshop.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Making Memories

Fiona, 7, blows out her birthday cake candles with help from sister Isla, 3.
My memories are fading. Then again, I'm almost 70. Fading memories come with the territory. But I have noticed something. Memories that are attached to photographs, memories that have been etched and re-etched over the years by the repeated viewing of photographs, seem to be hanging in better than the many undocumented memories that once cluttered my brain.

A dog in fondant with edible-ink detailing.
Fiona turned seven this weekend. Grandma Judy made a special doggie cake on request of the little girl. The resulting cake was decorated with dogs made of fondant with detailing done with edible-ink markers.

Fiona might remember the cake. She might. But her sister Isla at three will surely forget. That would be sad as both the little girls had a hand in the decorating. They made the little coloured buttons decorating the cake. The buttons were Fiona's idea.

But I got some good pictures of both the cake and Fiona and Isla blowing out the candles. I backed up the event pictures with some shots of the cake itself. I took both overall shots and close-ups.

I will make sure I have prints made and I will make sure the kids have copies. Fifty years from today the prints may be faded but I think the memories will still be fresh thanks to my photographs.

Fiona wanted a puppy cake for her birthday. Grandma Judy delivered.

Note: No flash was used for any of the images. I only have a camera-mounted flash and I hate the light from  straight-on strobe. If I cannot bounce my flash, I go for available light. I moved the cake closer to a window before shooting. Moving the cake helped to ensure that the white icing reproduced close to white.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Nice shot but the one that got away was better

A deer shot in Woodland Cemetery with a Fujifilm FinePix HS10.

I have tried to convince my readers that they should always have a good camera handy. I can't vouch for an American Express card but I can promise you when it comes to a camera "don't leave home without it."

I shot this deer relaxing among grave stones in Woodland Cemetery. One herd, possibly two, call the cemetery deep inside urban London, Ontario, home. Visit the cemetery and sighting one or more deer is almost guaranteed.

Saturday I took my three granddaughters to Woodland to view the deer. We found seven lounging about the front of a very ornate mausoleum with two reclining concrete lions guarding the building entrance. It was an amazing sight and I didn't have a camera. (My Nokia cell phone camera just wouldn't cut it.)

I missed a wonderful shot. Don't be like me. Keep your camera close -- all the time.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Sharp is important but . . .

Taken at Storybook Gardens with Fujifilm FinePix HS10. Note the sun-blocking hat. It's mine.

My shots are usually taken with a Canon PowerShot S90 and they are not always sharp. Today I used my Fujifilm FinePix HS10. What a difference.

The files are bigger and the images tend to be a little sharper. But, they are not perfect. It is at times like this that I know my photography would benefit from the use of a better camera.

Will I be buying a better camera? No. I'm retired and I can't afford a better camera when the two I have are still cranking out acceptable images. And, and this is important, the people in my pictures would not appreciate the better quality. Don't throw pearls . . . , my mother would say.

So, is there a lesson here. Yes. Buy the best camera you can afford and take care of it. It may have to last you a long time. Once you have purchased a camera, aim to shoot the best images you can. Push the envelope, as they say. And don't miss those moments, like the above. Eloise forgot her hat but found one of mine in the car. "This will have to do," she said. She made it clear that she wasn't going to get a sunburn.

Below, my picture of my granddaughter Eloise is a bit soft. The original file is small and quality could be better. All that said, it is an image to make a mother exceedingly happy and it will bring back happy memories for Eloise for many, many upcoming years.

I guess, when all is said and done, a good subject trumps good technical quality. Don't let your lack of cash prevent you from aiming for the moon or aiming at that granddaughter smiling away at the foot of your bed.

Taken with a Canon PowerShot S90.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Motor drives not only for shooting sports

I've said this in the past but it bears repeating. Setting your camera to its fastest, automatic setting in order to capture a short burst of pictures is frequently a good idea. I used the term motor drive in the title for this post but any fast firing, automatic setting is often better than simply squeezing off individual pictures.

Babies don't move a lot. They stay put -- unless they fall over. That said, babies do stuff and they do it quickly and often for just a moment. If your point and shoot suffers from even a little shutter-lag, you may well miss the moment.

My old Canon S90 can take quick bursts of pictures. I time my bursts with the anticipated action but there is still some luck involved. That said, if I tried capturing the baby's smile without using the series-taking approach, it would be a lot of bad luck that would be involved.
  • To create catchlights in eyes, face the baby towards a window. 
  • Try and shoot from the same level as the child. Don't shoot down.
  • Soft light is better than harsh, strong, directional light.
  • Try not to use very wide angle lens. Zoom out a little. 
  • Keep a little distance between you and the baby.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Learning photography from a six-year-old

I know a lot of folk who could learn a thing or two about photography from my six-year-old granddaughter Fiona.

I've been letting her use my Canon PowerShot S90 since she was two. The kid is confident and I beginning to understand there is a lot of thinking going on in that young little head.

The other day Fiona decided to shoot some pictures of her Shopkins. These are little collectible toys that are presently all the rage.

I was amazed when I saw her pictures. They were actually pretty good. Unfortunately the best shot was a bit out-of-focus. Hey, cut the kid some slack. She is only human and a damn young human at that.

What amazed me most about these shots were the backgrounds and foregrounds. Without prompting, Fiona told me that she spent more time finding the appropriate backgrounds and foregrounds than she did on setting up the Shopkins. I know adults who have never figured out that if it is in the picture it's important. They ignore busy backgrounds regularly and then wonder why their pictures don't have punch.

She also said lighting was important, especially for one shot showing a side-lit Shopkins pair.

She put the Shopkins on the wooden floor and chose a high shooting angle to minimize the sofa in the background. It almost worked. I thought the angle was too high but the lighting was remarkable. I loved the long, dark shadow.

Learn to think when taking pictures and be self-critical. Fiona does both but she needs a little time to mature. After all, she is only six.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Confidence will take you a long way

My six-year-old granddaughter took this picture for me. Thanks, Fiona.

Recently I received an LCBO gift card from a close friend. The LCBO is the government run liquor and beer store chain in Ontario for those who don't know. My friend suggested I take the card and buy three inexpensive but enjoyable wines. It was a good suggestion and I took it.

I wanted to send my friend a picture of me with my purchases but the only person handy to take the picture was my granddaughter who is six. When I told her what I wanted she smiled knowingly: "You have to use me. I'm the only person here." She was right.

Was I concerned? Not really. I've been letting Fiona use my little point and shoot, a Canon PowerShot S90, since she was two. The kid isn't perfect but she has confidence. I knew her confidence might carry the day and it did.

She took a picture, checked it on the monitor and ordered me to take another pose. She took shot after shot until she was satisfied. I don't think I smiled enough for her liking but she knew my poses were not going to get much better.

She also had an opinion on the wines. She feared the one with a "smelly" foot on the label might be a poor choice. Later, I discovered she might be right. Her mother, a wine consultant, agreed it might have been a poor choice: too sweet.

The point of all this is to have confidence when taking pictures. Shoot a lot and don't let anyone or anything dissuade you from taking another picture if you think you should. Keep plugging away and you'll walk away a winner.

Good pictures are rarely taken by the timid and certainly not by timid six-year-olds.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Asking kids to "say cheese" is cheesy

My oldest granddaughter uses her sewing machine and the sound bothers her sister.

My granddaughters have been asked to say "cheese" so often that when they play with a toy camera they ask their dolls to say "cheese." I'd like to scream: "Why!"

Saying cheese doesn't make a subject look like they are smiling. What it does is it stops them doing what they were doing that made you want to take a picture. Take the picture and forget the cheese.