Thursday, June 5, 2008

Dynamite Photography

I woke up today, and the phone rang.

It was Holly, letting me know a few things: She had just arrived at the airport in Detroit safely (she's staying with Malaia and John this weekend for John's going-away party). And that she had found the camera that she'd lost.

Robin gave her a tiny, but  wonderful camera for Christmas. I love that camera. It's easy to use, and had a great zoom mechanism, and tiny, so you can carry it around with you all the time. 

But she lost it (she thought).

So, she went out and bought another similar one and discovered that Robin, being the fabulous photographer and wonderful boyfriend he is, had chosen an excellent camera, and that she didn't like the new one she'd bought to replace it anywhere near as well. 

So, she finally broke down and bought a duplicate of the one Robin bought her and had it shipped to Malaia so that she could use it while there. She planned to sell the replacement camera to her sister, Heather, who liked it.

So, now she's got two identical cameras, except one has never been used and is new in the box.

I thought about buying it from her when the IRS ever gets it together and gives me the money they said I should get. I like it a lot better than my tiny, carry-everywhere camera.

So, it got me thinking about camera gear as soon as I woke up.

If you hate photography, you can stop reading here.

I love photography, and would love to have a good camera again just for my own enjoyment. But aside from that, I plan to make and sell some things over the internet and you need good photos for that. Not high resolution, but taken with a camera that has the extra abilities of a more expensive camera. I'm also collecting knitting patterns which I plan to publish in a book, and for that I do need good, high quality, high resolution photos.

But while I was mulling all this over, I thought I'd put all my photo gear selections together in one section of my Amazon store for others who are wondering what gear to buy.

Good gear can make it so easy to take stunning photos, and the wrong gear can make it almost impossible to produce anything but junk.

I have three cameras listed. They're very similar. All have long lenses. That means that you can get a close-up without actually having to walk up closer.

I read an article by a camera expert with advice on how to take good photos for people who know nothing about cameras. He gave two rules: Walk up close. Walk up even closer. I couldn't agree more. If you watch most amateurs take a photo, they'll look through the viewfinder, and then turn around and walk further back and then take the picture. Exactly the reverse of what they should be doing. Having a long lens makes it easy to "walk up close" without having to move. You can take a portrait without having to get up in the person's face. You can take a good photo at the jousting matches at the Renaissance festival or football game.  With a long enough lens and a tripod, you can take photos of the moon that actually show the moon! 

To use the lens at it's longest length, you'll have to practice holding it steady, but the stability built into these cameras will make it much easier.

And the control for the zoom is the best I've ever used. I usually hate the zoom controls and would rather have a manual control. But Canon has made it easy to zoom quickly to almost where you want to be, and then slow down for precise framing. It's great!

These cameras all have swing-out LCD finders, too. That means if you want to take photos of a parade, but you're stuck in the back of the crowd, you can swing out the finder, swivel it a bit, and hold your camera over the heads of the people in front, and still be able to see what you're taking a picture of. You can also position it so that you can take a photo of yourself and see how you're framed in the photo while you're doing it.

The next important thing you'll need is the adapters so that you can put filters on your camera, plus the filters.

You'll do more to improve your photos with filters than anything else. Much more bang for the buck than any other photography gear you can buy.

I've chosen a selection of filters that create effects that can easily be seen through the lenses of the cameras I'm recommending so you'll be able to get just the shot you want the first time. 

First of all, they're all Cokin filters. Cokin has  a special filter system that has many advantages. The Cokin adapter holds square, flat filters that can be slid into place much more quickly and easily than screwing in conventional filters (and easier on the wrists). You can slide the filters to one side, and move a center spot filter (for example) off center to get the best picture composition. And if you buy a different camera that needs different size lenses, you just buy a new adapter rather than have to buy all the filters over again. They also have some of the most fabulous filters. Ones that are almost impossible to find elsewhere.

I've chosen several varieties of center spot filters. Pick your favorites from the selection. There are also fog filters to blur part of your photo. And star filters. Don't forget the star filters. They make photos with point light sources in them into magical vistas. I plan to add more, too. They'll all be the easy, spectacular filters.

And then, there are the flashes. Two of the cameras don't have hot shoes, so you can't use a traditional flash with them. I have two good traditional flashes for the S5, but they won't work on the S2 or S3. Don't forget diffusers! But even if you get an S5, you'll probably want a slave flash.

A slave is a flash that goes off as soon as there is a bright flash of light. That means you can use your on-camera flash to trigger a remotely-placed slave without having to connect them with cables and other cumbersome stuff. For instance, at a party, leave a slave somewhere pointing at the ceiling. Then when you take a photo, the slave will provide ambient lighting for the background of your photos while the on-camera flash will light the subject.

Feel free to ask questions about this in the comments.

Maybe I should write a book about this.

Don't forget: tomorrow is SciFi day! The Doctor Who episode, Blink at 5 am, Firefly during the day (including Jaynestown, Trash and The Messenger), the premier of Charlie Jade in early evening, followed by the all-new Doctor Who episode, The Doctor's Daughter

Check your local listings and set your DVRs!

Have a day packed with great science fiction TV tomorrow!

1 comment:

  1. Hey, I'm a newbie to photography and don't know much about it so I enjoyed reading what you put up about photography. At some point I want to get a new camera (for stuff I'm making to sell on etsy) too but when I go to look at them I get the deer in the head lights look because there are so many that do so many different kinds of things. Its all confusing and you don't want to put your money on something that isn't going to do what you want it to do. Plus, there is the ease of using the thing factor for people that don't get all the mumbo jumbo too. So reading the info you have is really helpful. There are some really cool short info videos on how to take a great photo on the Make magazine site. One guy shows ya how to set up a cheap photo cube sorta thing that gives great lighting. I always try to take photos early in the morning or in the early evening because the lighting is so much better and not with the glarring sun. If I had cable I'd be watching sci-fi since you put up all the sci-fi eye candy info, Ha. : ) James/Dweezy