-epm of Deertown Times has requested some information about my photos and my photographic equipment and processes. I didn't think that I would be able to honour his request until some time next week after the departure of our weekend company, but I find myself with some time before they arrive. This post is specifically directed to those who have some interest in and knowledge of photography (but not much — believe me), and, therefore, will not benefit all readers although I welcome all to read on.
I have no great secrets to share; I am a lowly amateur at best. I have just struck it lucky lately by having all of these birds offering me so many incredible photo-ops. Most of these shots (that you have been seeing recently) were taken with a 300mm telephoto lens on a Canon Digital Rebel. It has been difficult to for me to obtain a proper light reading, so I have usually set the camera to overexpose by 2/3 of a stop (for this set of photos — not for all photos) . I also set the shutter speed at 1/250 and the ISO at 200. You want to keep a relatively high shutter speed when you are photographing birds, especially with a telephoto lens. Sometimes, I wasn't working with a lot of ambient light. Had I been, I would have attempted to increase the shutter speed and decrease the aperture further, but one must compromise.
I chose to purchase the Digital Rebel because I already had a couple of compatible lenses (the 75mm - 300mm zoom basically) from my old Rebel G 35mm camera. I also had invested in a decent flash that I wanted to be able to use as well. So, the Digital Rebel seemed to be the most logical choice when I took the plunge almost a year ago. I'm sure that they already have a better and less expensive model, but it's like buying a computer; you jump in when you can and enjoy it while you can, knowing that your prize purchase will start on the pathway to obsolescence in rather short order.
Cuppa already had a pocket-sized digital camera — the Canon Elph 400. It's small and light enough to carry anywhere, and we get some excellent photos with it. The photo that I will post on Sunday has been taken with the Elph.
Once she got the Elph, I found that I simply stopped using my 35mm camera. The immediacy of digital photography was too wonderful for me to bother continuing with film. You can learn more stuff more quickly by seeing your results right away. If pictures aren't turning out well, you can make an adjustment and try again. When you use film and wait for the results, you tend to lose track of what you did unless you take notes. If anyone is asking me questions and/or reading this blog, s/he is most likely not a note-taker.
I use Photoshop to some degree on every picture. Occasionally, I just use it to print or size a photo for the web without making any adjustments. Saturday's photo will be a good example of that. However, I tend make some small adjustments to a typical photo: crop; adjust the exposure slightly; boost the contrast a bit; and/or sharpen the image to some degree. Sometimes, I can make a bad photo acceptable if the image is of enough value to me. The very first bird-in-the-hand photo of the recent series is a good example. The original photo (see bleow on left) was taken on a gloomy day at dusk and is, therefore, quite gray and unappealing, but I was able to crop it and render it somewhat passable in Photoshop (see below on right). I went to the trouble at the time because I didn't know then that I would get so many more opportunities to get better shots in better light. Paragraph summary: I give most photos a slight boost from Photoshop; a few don't require any help while some, such as the one below, require a lot of assistance.
LVS Online offers little six-week, six-lesson courses for very little cash outlay. Each week's lesson might involve several hours work, but the demands usually aren't excessive. You post your work on the web (they provide web space if neccessary) where your instructor and others are able to see it and comment upon it. They offer two digital photography courses and two digital processing courses. I have taken neither, but based on other LVS courses that I have taken, my opinion is that the typical beginning to average shutterbug would likely benefit from these courses. Indeed, I hope to take them some day, even if they serve mostly as a refresher for things that I, supposedly, already know. (There are myriad websites out there, many of them beneficial, but, from much experience, I recommend LVS courses as generally being first rate. The next term begins in March, but registartion will open early in February.)
I believe that their digital processing class comes in two varieties: Photoshop Elements and Paint Shop Pro. Photoshop Elements does most of the basic things that Photoshop does for a fraction of the cost, so it would not be a huge financial outlay if you don't already own the program. In fact, version two (Elements is now up to three) came bundled with my Digital Rebel. The advantage of taking the PS Elements version, as I see it, is that should you ever want to expand into full-blown Photoshop, you will already have a working knowledge of the parent program. That being said, I hear good things about Paint Shop Pro, and it certainly has its devotees.
Hopefully, that covers the basics. If I have missed anything that you want to ask about, go ahead and shoot (as it were).
Iona: you are much more knowledgeable than I. feel free to post whatever you like in the Comment section or even to direct people to anything that you might like to blog on this topic.