Category Archives: Cameras

Digital Photography Classes Scheduled at Cheboygan Area Public Library

welihan-20160728-lighthouse-crusie-6323These classes introduce newcomers to digital photography and cameras.  It can also be helpful to long-time photographers who want to brush up on their skills.  I hope you will join me at one of these two upcoming programs.

The class will be held at the Cheboygan Area Public Library, 100 S. Bailey St.  Classes start May 2, 2017, each session runs from 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM.

There will be four sessions and a separate afternoon or early evening photo shoot.  Each session covers a different area of digital photogr2010-12-04-photo-class-42aphy and is loaded with tips and useful information to improve your photo technique.

Here is a synopsis of the program:

Class #1 Digital Photography Basics – May 2, 2017
As the title states, in this class we explore the basics you need to know about digital cameras and photography. Topics start with photo terminology, digital camera features and functions. Then we explore how the digital sensor, shutter speed, aperture size and light work together to make a photo image. I discuss how color temperature and white balance affect your images; how and when to use auto modes or preset scene modes and the most important items to have in your camera bag. If you have a digital camera, bring it and the instruction manual to class.

Class #2 Photo Composition & Creativity – May 16, 2017
The second class begins with a discussion on six photo characteristics that add visual appeal to your images. Then I show how to place the subject in way that adds additional interest in your photos. Next we discuss how to frame, balance and simplify your images; steady the shot; change camera settings that change the look of your photo and when and where to use flash. We look at some “bad” photos and discuss how to improve them. We look at many more “good” photos to inspire your creativity.  If you want to learn how to create photos that impress your family and friends, this is your class.

_dsc6173Class #3 Camera to Computer – Image Organization and Storage – May 23, 2017
People have told me this is the class they wish they attended before downloading their first images. Why? Because they have no idea where images are stored in their computer and, worst of all, where to find them.  That problem is fixed with this class. You will learn how to move images from camera to computer and how to effectively set up a system for photo storage and retrieval. I discuss why keywords and tags are important and demonstrate an easy-to-use and free photo management program. If you have images in your camera or computer and don’t know what to do next, this class is for you.

Class #4 Presentations, Prints, Smartphone Use and a Friendly Critique – May 30, 2017
I will show how to create photo presentations that can be set to music, photo books for gifts or to display on your coffee table and the best way to make your own prints. (Remember prints?)  It’s said the best camera is the one that’s with you and for most people that is a smartphone.  And while the average person take 150 photos a month with a smartphone, most of those images are just… average.  Learn tips and tricks that improve your smartphone photos.  We end the class with a slide show of images made by class participants. You do not have to submit photos to attend, but it will be more fun if you do.

During the first class, we will schedule an afternoon or early evening photo shoot to be held between the second and fourth classes.  This will give stuedited-in-luminar-08853dents the opportunity to practice newfound techniques. There is no charge for the photo shoot, but you must enroll in the first or second class to attend.

Each digital photography class is limited to twenty students and pre-registration is required  There is a modest cost for each class that is paid to the library.  Attendance at all four classes is not required, but each class builds on information covered in previous classes and so I strongly recommend students attend all four classes.

To register for the Cheboygan library class call:  (231) 627-2381.

Hope to see you there…   Dan

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(No) Snow Birds

The sun has been shining and temperatures hovered in the mid-forties for the past few days.  Not bad for December in northern Michigan.  Even so, this late in the year the pickings are sparse, and the birds appreciate the seed we put in the feeders.  I appreciate them stopping by during the day so I can make some images.

So as part of the deal with the birds, I took photos as they pecked at the seed.  I used my 200 – 500mm lens on my Sony A77 (Factoring in the crop factor, I effectively have a 300 – 750mm of lens.) and from the comfort of our kitchen made these shots over the past couple of days.  I adjusted my shutter speed between 1/500 and 1/1000, set the aperture at f11 and (because the birds were fluttering in and out of the sun and shade) set ISO on auto.

Here are handful of the shots I liked.

Dan

December 8, 2015

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The Third Thing is a Charm

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

I believe New Year’s Eve day is good for only two things:  marking time until the New Year’s Eve party begins and working as hard as you can to complete old-year resolutions.  That is what I have been doing.  Passing time and trying to wrap up my big 2013 resolution, which was to organize the sixty thousand or so images on my computer hard drive.

For a number of unspecified reasons too long to list here, I got a late start on the project.  However, over the past week have reviewed, kept and prioritized; or rejected and purged ten thousand or so digital images I shot in 2009, 2010 and 2003.  (I have to skip around to break up the monotony.)

For the past hour I’ve been plodding through 2008 images.  When I got to this freighter image, taken in late January that year, and noticed a few problems.  Don’t take too much time searching the image for flaws.  There are several.  But there is one issue I want to hone in on.  The spots you see floating around the freighter are not migrating birds or UFOs ready to land on the ship’s deck.  They are dust spot on my sensor.

Since October I’ve noticed sensor spots on some images.  (Especially images of snow or sky shot with a small f-stop.) For a long time I shot most of my pictures with a large aperture.  Dust and other crud just doesn’t show much on an image shot with a big aperture.  But I’ve been stopping the aperture down into the teens lately and sensor spot began showing up as big as a cold sore on prom night.

Well today I decided to see what I could do to clean my camera sensor.  I dug around in a book or two and read how some pros do and don’t clean their sensors.  Then I watched a You Tube video by photographer Karl Taylor titled, “How to Clean Your DSLR Sensor” [www.youtube.com/watch?v=pesZUj78S6s ] and realized I had everything I needed here in the house.

Most of what I knew about cleaning a digital sensor was “Don’t try it!”  But, I took my time, followed how Taylor cleaned his camera sensor and it turned out okay.  I took some snow test shots at f.18 and the spots that have annoyed me are gone.  I can still see a dim spot or two but nothing that looks like a special effect from a Steven Spielberg movie.  Not bad for my first try.

So, I did get a little something done this last day of 2013.  Now I can get ready for the party with a clean conscience… and camera sensor.

I hope you have a fun-filled and safe New Year’s Eve.

Dan

Smart Phones Just Get Smarter… and More Fun Too

Welihan 20130525 Bike-140716

Remember when mobile phone screens were the size of airmail stamps and the images on the screen so pixelated you could hardly pick yourself out of a group of four?  Unless you’ve been locked into a very long phone service plan and still use one of those dinosaurs, you know the camera phone of today is not the camera phone of just a few years ago.

Even when image quality was poor and sensor size was less than two megapixels the world somehow knew things would get better, because people started snapping images at record-breaking speed.  In 1990, according to the website BuzzFeed (BuzzFeed.com), fifty-seven billion photos were taken worldwide.  The first mobile phones with cameras were marketed in 1997 and today there are a whopping three hundred eighty billion images taken per year.  And since 2003, more images have been made with camera phones than all the single-lens reflex and point and shoot digital cameras combined.  Quora (quora.com), the collaborative, question and answer website states 1.4 billion images are taken per day on smart phones.  Wow…

There are still purists who cringe at the thought of a camera phone being called a digital camera, much less used as one.  You may know one or two people like that.  Well if you do, tell them to hold onto their hats, because smart phones are here.  Apple’s latest add tells us the iPhone is the phone you need for photos.  (See the commercial at:  http://www.apple.com/iphone/videos/#tv-ads-photos-every-day )  My wife, Joanne, and I owned the iPhones 3S for four years.  They were good phones.Welihan 20130513 Dinner-183858

But when we decided to upgrade we honed in on the Samsung Galaxy 4S.  Joanne liked the phone, I thought the camera was great.  With a 13-megapixel camera, a five-inch high-resolution screen and all those image tweaking apps available, I was all in.  We got the phones in April and we are not disappointed.

Here are two examples of images I recently shot.  We were with friends in a restaurant when I took a shot of the table setting using the “cartoon” mode.  One of several modes built into the basic Galaxy S4 camera.  I like the camera speed and barely notice shutter lag.  Image sharpness is terrific and there are many ways to manipulate or play with the images to suit most any mood.

At the top is an image I took on a recent bike ride when the two-track I was on dead-ended into a pond that spilled over the trail after several days of rain.  Rather than wade across I took pictures.  Like most any smart phone or camera that relies on a screen to preview the image, it was difficult to see the screen in the sun as I framed the shot.  The shot needed a little horizon straightening, but the color, focus and clarity is right out of the camera.

I have no doubt iPhone and all the other mobile phone makers will soon have the capabilities of the Galaxy S4, and Samsung will push their camera functions even farther over the years to come.  Who is that better for?  Us of course.  So don’t be concerned when you pull your cell phone out to get a shot.  Just look around, you’re not alone.

Chase Jarvis is a Steamboat Springs, Colorado photographer and credited with the quote, “The best camera is the one that’s with you.”  And he’s right.  I have a large DSLR with several lenses and a bulky camera bag.  It’s great gear, but too much to lug around every day.  I also have a Canon G11 for travel, but driving to the store is not considered travel and so doesn’t always make the trip.  I now have this new lightweight camera that is with me almost all the time.  And what’s really nice is, the camera answers my occasional phone calls and takes messages while I’m shooting pictures.

Dan

For more information on Chase Jarvis, read his blog or buy his book titled: The Best Camera Is the One That’s With You, go to www.chasejarvis.com .

A “Better” Way to Begin

Amateur Photog Hkbk001I started dabbling in photography in the summer of 1969 when I inherited my grandfather’s 8mm Kodak movie camera.  Later that year I worked at a summer camp where I shot and later edited what I considered to be an entertaining eighteen minute movie of my seven weeks as a camp counselor.  At the end of summer I showed the movie to the camp director, his family and the other counselors.  They liked it too.  That night I loaned the film to a counselor so he could show his family.  He passed it on to still another counselor.  I think the movie then went to the camp director’s family and probably after that to another counselor.   With time I forgot who had it.  I never saw the movie again and that was pretty much the end of my cinematographic endeavors.

In the Fall when I returned college, I took with me the Fujica Compact Deluxe 35mm camera I had also inherited.  I enrolled in my first photography class and learned how to hold a camera, make a decent exposure, develop Tri-X film and make a print.  I was hooked… And since then I have never been far from a 35mm camera or the digital equivalent.

Browsing my local library in the early 70’s, I discovered The Amateur Photographer’s Handbook by Aaron Sussman.  There weren’t many books available for beginning photographers back then, so I checked it out and started reading.  The book offered detailed answers on film types, metering, filters, when to use flash, how to take candid people pictures, developing film, dodging and burning prints and much more.  Two months and several library renewals later I finished it.  At 562 pages, the book was not an easy read, but in its day an important book for any young photographer.  First printed in 1941, The Amateur Photographer’s Handbook was in continuous publication for over forty years.  In 1976 I was given a copy and since then have reread and browsed many time through my tabbed, yellow-highlighted and dog-eared copy.

I have an eighteen year old grand-daughter who shows a lot of interest in digital photography, but I’m not giving her a copy of the old book.  Now out of print for around twenty-five years, it is still a classic, but too long, too detailed and has too few photographs for a beginner.  I don’t want to scare Elizabeth away while she’s still in the early stage of her photo development (No pun intended.)

Instead, I gave her a copy of BetterPhoto Basics – The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Taking Photos Like a Pro by Jim Miotke (published by Amphoto Books).

Over the years, I have read dozens and dozens of photography books.  BetterPhoto Basics tops my list of books for beginners eager to learn camera and photography basics.  Each topic (such as capturing a sunset, preventing red-eye, how to crop for impBetterPhoto Basics 002act and much more) is covered in one or two pages.  Explanations are well-written and there are colorful example photos on almost every page.  Author, Jim Miotke, also points out if a technique works best with point & shoot cameras, digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras or both.

If there were a required text-book for the digital photography classes I teach, this would be the one.  It is a terrific learning tool, good for beginners and for old-dog photographers who need to be reminded every so often why the basics are so important.

That’s why I bought two copies; one for my grand-daughter and one for me.

January 28, 2013

RAW vs. JPEG… That is the Question

Over the past ten years or so in the short life of digital photography, the most nagging question in any group of professional or amateur photographers has to have been, “What format should I use, RAW or JPEG?”  The question for professional photographers has been answered.  In almost every instance RAW won.  RAW format saves all the digital information for each image in a raw, unedited form that provides the photographer with the photo data needed for professional photo work.

In the world of amateur photographers, many use RAW, many are happy with JPEG and a lot are wondering what to do.  So how does a photographer make up their mind?  Here is some basic information.

RAW (The name stands for “raw” file.) Almost every camera manufacturer has their own RAW software that comes with the camera.  Nikon’s proprietary software does not work with Canon or Sony.  Canon’s doesn’t work with Nikon and Sony and so on.  RAW files are the unaltered data captured by the camera and can be thought of as digital film before processing.  All RAW files need post-production.

JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) format processes and compresses image data, in camera, to a smaller file size.  A smaller file size means it takes up less space on your memory card and hard drive, but also stores less data of each image.  How much less depends on the compression and quality settings that are determined in camera by the photographer.  File compression is nice, but file quality is sacrificed in the process.

Here is a list of RAW and JPEG pros and cons.

RAW format

  • RAW files are called “lossless” files.  All image information is held without sacrificing image quality.
  • Lossless is good if you want or need all that information to work with in post-production.
  • Because RAW files do not compress, each image file takes more space on the camera memory and computer hard drive.
  • RAW software saves the original image file and is never altered, so that even after the file is processed, the original file is preserved and available for additional processing.
  • Processing RAW files takes some additional time in post-processing.  However, new software such as Lightroom 3 that uses non-proprietary Adobe Camera RAW makes the conversion almost automatic.
  • Whether using your camera’s proprietary RAW software or if you use the Adobe Camera RAW converter software (that works with almost all cameras),you will need a relatively new, high-speed computer with at least 2 gigabytes (4 is better, 8 or more is best) of RAM to process you images smoothly as well as a large (500 – 1500 gigabyte) hard drive for image storage.

JPEG format

  • JPEGs are “lossy” files.  Each time the file opened and saved again, data is additionally compressed and lost.  The result of many opening and resaving files leads to loss of image quality (saturation, resolution, sharpness).
  • JPEG compressed files take less space on your camera memory card and computer hard drive.
  • The JPEG file format has been adopted as an industry standard.  It is pre-loaded in almost all digital cameras and easy to use.
  • JPEGs are compatible with all image editing programs (Picasa, Lightroom, Aperture, GIMP…).
  • No additional post production is required, but you always can.
  • JPEG files are based on the camera settings (white balance, exposure, and others) at the time you press the shutter.  (New post-production programs provide some leeway to adjust an image, but not as much as a RAW file.)
  • JPEGs can be saved at several sizes to save space on memory cards and hard drives.  Because large capacity memory cards that fit most cameras are now available and at prices that drop almost monthly, saving JPEGs at a less than large size less of a concern.
  • Images can be resized smaller if needed.
  • Upsizing a JPEG image often results in a degraded photo.  Third party software is available, but can be expensive.
  • Image “noise” (a grainy look) is more likely in prints made from a JPEG file.  (Software like Lightroom 3 and Picasa 3 do a much improved job of reducing noise in post-production.)
  • Cameras that support RAW can be set to save a JPEG image at the same time so that you have both files.

So, what works best for you?  If you aren’t sure start by asking yourself these three questions:

1)       How will I use the images?  (Large prints think RAW.  Small prints, images viewed on your computer or website, then JPEG will do.)

2)      How much time do I want to spend working on the computer? (RAW requires some additional time, but is getting easier with each generation images processing software.)

3)      Will my computer handle a lot of post-production processing?  (If you don’t have a fast processor with at least 2 GB of RAM and a large hard drive, then stick with JPEG until you can upgrade your computer.)

The secret here is to experiment.  If you are like a lot of photographers there will be times when you shoot RAW and others when JPEG works just fine.  The best thing is you can switch from JPEG to RAW in camera with every image you shoot.  So give them both a try.

February 7, 2012

Digital Photo Tips & Tricks

Digital Photo Tips & Tricks

Start your day or photo shoot with freshly batteries.  Check cameras, flash units and anything else in your camera bag that needs batteries.  Recharge the rechargeable batteries.  Pack the charger?  Replace and/or have a fresh set of batteries for the disposables.

Check camera settings – Before you walk out the door, set the ISO, WB for JPEG shooters and exposure mode (shutter or aperture priority, AUTO, whatever).  Load memory cards into camera.  Extra reformatted memory cards are stored where you can find them quickly.  DSLR owners have the lens you want to use first attached to the camera.  When you are prepared before you step out the door, you are ready for that great shot that pops up when you least expect it.

Always use the camera neck or wrist strap.  Using a neck or wrist strap is one of the best habits you can get yourself into.  You are going to drop a camera some day, generally at the worst possible time.  Require your family and friends who use your gear to do it too.

Learn what the camera icons do.  All digital cameras have icons that adjust camera settings.  Point and shoot cameras more than most folk may ever need.  It is best to know what they do and how they affect you image.  Practice before you need it.

Check the date and time on your camera settings.  The date and time doesn’t have to show on your photo, but you do want the correct date and time embedded in you metadata.  Correct date and time helps you organize, locate, and identify your images later.  It will also help you twenty years later when you are trying to remember when the photo was taken.  Check after daylight savings time springs forward or falls back to see if the time changed automatically.  Some cameras do, some don’t.

Keep camera steady – Hold the camera in your right hand, support the camera or lens with your left hand. Don’t block the flash, autofocus port or lens.  Lean against something solid, hold your breath, and shoot between heartbeats (This last one takes a bit of practice.).

Shutter buttons have two stages.  Press the button halfway down and the camera sets focus and exposure. Press the shutter all the way down to take the picture.

Viewfinder – If your camera has a viewfinder and the image appears blurry, adjust diopter.  Viewfinder focus does not focus the camera.  Viewfinder image size is often different than what the sensor on the camera records.  Lenses zoom in and out, the viewfinder does not.

Images are first stored in the camera’s internal memory (“buffer”).  If you are shooting fast and the buffer fills, the camera stops shooting until one or more of the images are transferred to the memory card.

Don’t remove the battery or memory card from the camera while saving an image. You could scramble some of the images being saved and/or damage the card.

If the camera is turned off while an image is being stored, the image will be completely stored before the camera powers down and does not harm your images.

Images can be displayed on the LCD monitor after each shot.  Take a look and assess composition and exposure.  It is called “chimping,” but a good way to learn how your camera settings work.  Turn the LCD viewer off to save battery life.

Shoot a lot of shots of a subject, especially when learning new equipment.  The change of position, distance and angle gives you a whole new perspective.  You may be surprised by what works. (And what doesn’t)

White Balance (WB) – Be sure to set the white balance when shooting JPEG images.   RAW shooter set the WB in post-processing.  Of course experimenting with the “wrong” WB will give you some unique looks that might be fun.   Auto (the default) works in a wide variety of lighting conditions.   Daylight is best when photographing outdoors in bright sunlight.   Cloudy is best when photographing outdoors in cloudy or overcast conditions.  The setting will also warm images taken anytime indoors or out.   Incandescent or tungsten is best when photographing indoors under incandescent lights.   Fluorescent is best when photographing indoors under fluorescent tube lights.   Fluorescent H is best when photographing indoors under the new fluorescent light bulbs.    Flash best when photographing with flash. It is daylight balanced works to remove color casts in some situations.

 Trick your point and shoot camera to do what you want – Point and shoot cameras work well in Auto mode much of the time.  P&S cameras also have preset modes for portraits, scenery and fast-moving kids.  When you know what the modes do, you can use the presets for different types of photos.  Here is what you need to know.   Need shallow depth of field shoot in Portrait mode.  The mode sets a wider aperture.   Need a more depth of field shoot in Landscape mode.  Landscape mode sets the camera to a small aperture.   Need a fast shutter speed choose ‘Sports’ mode.  This mode will freeze most fast-moving subjects.   Need a slow shutter speed  Try night mode (if your camera has it) but this mode generally fires the flash.

 When done shooting, turn camera off.  Every effort saves little battery life.

Check to see if batteries need replacing or charging.  At the end of the day or before you pack your gear away, check to see if you need to recharge or purchase more batteries.  Don’t leave this important task until to the last-minute and you are less likely to miss the first shot tomorrow.

January 19, 2012

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