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Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Keeping It Simple

Sticking With Film • Simpler Digital • Accessories • Simpler Image Handling • Beyond Simple

Tech Tips: Digital Basics For Outdoor Photography

Yes, the world is a complex place. Technology can be baffling. True, some people just seem to be dedicated to making things difficult, and I know, sometimes you’ve read this column and thought photography was getting to be too technical and full of "stuff." But what’s important is the end result: an image that communicates or motivates.There are many ways for you to achieve your photographic vision and it doesn’t have to be that hard.

Recently in my seminars, I’ve met a lot of people who are overwhelmed by the huge number of choices that can be made at every step of the photographic process, especially when they’re newcomers to digital. So this month, I’ll talk about the bare essentials.

Sticking With Film
Some of you are agonizing over whether you should move from film to digital capture. If you’re on a tight budget or not interested in using computers, film is still a viable option for both experienced and entry-level photographers. I even know a few pros who probably never will change to digital capture. The manufacturers are still making film and film cameras and will for some time. There’s also an abundance of slightly used, really good equipment out there on eBay, in newspaper ads, at your camera club and even at some of the megastores advertising in this magazine. While much of the finishing work—prints, stock sales, publication—is now done in digital format, you don’t have to become personally involved with it. And your film-based images can be scanned later and treated just as if they were captured digitally. So if you’re working in film and want to stay with film, keep on doing what you’re doing, and you don’t need to keep reading this month’s column. How simple is that?

Simpler Digital
The rest of you are either buying your first digital camera or advancing into the constantly evolving digital realm. How do you choose when and what to buy?

First, ask yourself what you want to accomplish with your photography. Is it basic documentation of national parks, the new baby or the nature around you? Maybe an advanced "point-and-shoot" compact camera is all you need, and the expense, heft and complexity of a D-SLR (digital single-lens reflex) would be more of a hindrance than a help. That’s not to say that a "do-everything" compact digital camera won’t be somewhat complex; after all, it does everything! The advantage here is that it’s compact, can have a zoom up to 12x, can take movies and has sufficient resolution (megapixels) to produce quality smaller prints and Web images without a large camera bag full of accessories.

The workflow that goes with a compact digital camera can be simpler, too. Typically, you’d use the less-complicated software (such as Adobe Elements) that came with the camera to organize, view and edit your images. Using many of the automated features built into the program, you’d make minor quality adjustments to exposure, contrast and color.

Even if you have a photographic agenda that can’t be achieved with an advanced small camera—such as macro photography, larger prints, wildlife larger-than-elk shots or wide-angle landscapes—it doesn’t have to be as hard or as expensive as you might think. The less-expensive D-SLRs are offering most of the features previously found only on advanced D-SLRs, such as large LCD screens, more megapixels, sophisticated metering systems and responsive shutters. But if you want to keep it simple, they also offer a large number of automated features that lower the complexity of capture and yield uniformly satisfactory results in most photographic situations. Auto exposure, whether aperture priority, shutter priority or fully automatic, will most likely give you an exposure that’s acceptable or can be successfully corrected in processing. Beyond exposure settings, many cameras in this range offer a number of program packages for specific photographic tasks, choosing for you that combination of exposure, shutter speed and other in-camera functions most likely to successfully capture, for example, landscapes, action or macro subjects.

With more complicated photographic agendas comes one of the most frequently asked questions at my seminars: Should I shoot in RAW or JPEG format? If you want to keep it simple, shoot in JPEG. Once you’ve set a few parameters for your camera’s JPEG format (read your manufacturer’s directions), your camera will automatically process the image for increased sharpness, color saturation and contrast, delivering to you an essentially finished product that can be used and shared in any number of ways without further conversion.

> Visit www.geolepp.com.


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