Scientific progress goes “Boink!”

For the most part my Flickr account has been used to upload photos taken with both my trusty Canon 40D and Rebel XTi (400D for our overseas readers). But I have uploaded some photos taken in the past with my Canon point-n-shoot devices: the Powershot A95 and A630.

But I, like so many others, have a cell phone, which includes a camera. My first camera phone was the Motorola RAZR; a decent phone in most regards (if only it had been a reliable phone). My next camera phone was/is my very trust and handy Palm Centro. It shoots both images as well as video and has proven to be a great phone for the particular reasons I purchased it.

But I have now moved on after almost two-years with my black and silver-accented Centro to the latest incarnation of the Apple iPhone. It too shots video and pictures. It shoots better pictures and video than does my Centro. But my problem is I don’t know what to do with the pictures.

Clearly I can save them on my iMac. Clearly I can e-mail them to friends and family alike. One day, hopefully soon, AT&T (the only carrier for the iPhone in the United States) will finally get its shit together and allow for the sending of media (including pictures) via text messaging. (“End of summer,” they keep promising, but not definite date has yet to be announced)

But should I upload them to my Flickr account? Flickr is for sharing photographs and a photograph is a photograph, whether it comes off a dSLR, a point-n-shoot or a mobile blower. But for some reason I feel that my intent for my Flickr account would be violated, if only gently, by the inclusion of images from the iPhone.

I see some sleepless nights ahead of me…

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“In a river the colour of lead”

I’m having doubts. I feel tense. It doesn’t seem right, yet the response has been overwhelmingly positive, or so I think. Was it the right thing to do or have I, as usual, fucked it all up?

I’m writing about my recent series of uploads to Flickr of pictures taken with my no-longer-in-my-possession Canon A95 digital point-n-shoot. You know…things like this:

Neutron & Proton in the sun (3)

As I’ve previously mentioned, my intent was simply to fill the gap that had been created by my not shooting new pictures with either my Canon 40D or the recently acquired Canon Rebel XTi. Thanks to a variety of causes, my time spent with the 40D has been zero and time with the Rebel sporadic and infrequent at best over the past three to four weeks. So up went some personally reviewed and selected images from my old and trusty Canon A95. But does this sort of behaviour fit into the mind-set that was the impetus for the creation of my Flickr account and what do the pictures mean in a greater context?

The intent of my Flickr account was at least two-fold: (1) a place to share publicly my photos, and (2) a place to share my journey as an amateur dSLR photographer. As such it seemed reasonable that my Flickr account would be filled with images taken by me using the Canon 40D (and more recently the Rebel as well) and that said images would weave a tapestry of my sojourn through learning more about this hobby. Notice I didn’t state that my photographs would get better, just that I would “learn” and with knowledge hopefully would come better pictures. Hopefully. (Ahem)

It was never my intent for my Flickr account to contain and display the sort of every-day imagery previously captured with my Canon A95. Those images were, after all, just records of a moment in time. The 40D/Rebel combination are supposed to be more about growth, thoughtfulness…..dare I say it….art? Or, at the very least, a more serious attempt at the hobby of photography if art is too-strong a term to use here (and I know at least one person who would say such!). But does this original intent dictate that I cannot upload images from other cameras of pictures taken with far less lofty intent? And who is to say some of them aren’t perfectly lovely pictures in their own right?

Tired Mercedes in the sun Dec 2004

A review of my various contacts on Flickr provides no insight into this quandary in which I find myself. They really are all over the place in terms of what they post. Some only upload a single image a day or every other day. I imagine this is a best of the best approach and likely works really well if you have such great photos in the first place, which clearly isn’t my situation (perish the thought!). Others post a small collection of images every few days, while others will upload thirty, forty, fifty or more in a single sitting. Many post only images that are directly attributable to their professional standing as a photographer, while most are like me; posting images created from the hobby of photography. Very few offer the more candid every-day type shots. So where does this leave me?

And adding to this dilemma is an issue even darker and more disturbing: I think the recently uploaded, every-day ‘record’ images are garnering more comments than anything I have put up in the past. What does it say about my current photographic endeavors when my just-point-n-shoot images warrant more commentary and praise than my I’m-working-hard-on-this-photograph imagery? How daft (and depressing) is that?

I confess….it is awfully difficult to feel positive about one’s more serious endeavors when it would appear that every-day candidness is more effective and creates stronger responses.

“We can go for a walk, where it’s quiet and dry”

There must be a joke somewhere out there that asks the question: How many pictures must a photographer snap before he gets one really great one? Mind you, I don’t have a witty answer for the question. That would be too easy, wouldn’t it? I guess I could say “One,” because every picture I happen to take is great! But this would be far from the truth.

Since having picked up my every so lovely Canon 40D almost exactly one year ago I have taken a lot of pictures. Many….maybe most….have been complete rubbish. Total crap. A waste of the battery power necessary to have captured the image. But this is okay. Really. Not depressing one little bit.

[Sigh]

However, things have been better in the past few months. I genuinely believe that I have had some better pictures and that this has come about from a bit of learning from my previous mistakes. A bit of willingness to explore and try new things. A bit of luck. Okay…..a whole shit-load of luck. And this knowledge, this knowing that I’m getting more keepers than deleters than I used to is a great stroke to the ego. Oh, don’t get me wrong; most are still destined for the Recycle bin icon on the computer, but the number of keepers to deleters has risen and THIS is a good thing. But there is an even greater way to stroke one’s ego when one is a newbie to the world of dSLR photography: go back and look at one’s digital point-n-shoot work.

George & Rowan (3)

What the hell?!?! Did I not bother to look at the white balance setting at ALL??

Please do not misunderstand me…..I am certainly aware that there are tonnes of folks out there shooting great pictures with digital point-n-shoot models. Better pictures than I am taking! Better pictures than I could take with even the most expensive of equipment. But that is because the equipment doesn’t make one a better photographer. Maybe it allows for more creative control. Maybe it allows for more possibilities under difficult circumstances, but equipment doesn’t make the photographer. Me and my Canon 40D are proof-positive of that!

Still…..while reviewing the multitude of pictures I took with my Canon A95 I was constantly blurting aloud things like “What the hell was I thinking?”, “Did I bother to check my settings first?”, “How can THIS many pictures be out of focus?!”

I think it is important to mention that all of my pictures taken with the venerable A95 were simply what I like to call ‘records’. They were a record of a moment in time and not taken for any “artistic” or otherwise expressive quality. In other words, I wasn’t trying to “do” anything other than capture the moment for posterity. But still……framing and composition were most always of the “put the subject in the middle and shoot” variety. Boring. But the real problem…the one that crept across every folder…was focus.

So many of those pictures (which I DID NOT upload to Flickr – what would have been the point in that?) were gently out of focus. The problem wasn’t motion blur (created by me or the subject), but simply the camera not being properly focused upon the given subject. And during the process of taking those pictures there would have been no good way to tell they were out of focus (so that they could be re-shot if possible) because the little LCD screen wouldn’t offer the requisite resolution to check such. It was only after uploading the images that I would have discovered how awful they were.

The fact that I have so many of these gently out of focus images strongly suggests that they were the best of the rest, and what a horrible thought is that! And don’t think that the issue was lighting as almost all of these photos were shot in sufficient lighting for their purpose. After all, even I knew (at that time) that the Canon line of cameras (p&s as well as dSLR) were less than stellar in low-light situations.

So….what has this stroll down memory lane done for me? Simple. It’s taught me that my lovely, lovely Canon 40D is just what the doctor ordered to solve this problem! I have had only a few out of thousands of images that were out of focus (unintentionally out of focus that is). For this I am quite grateful. Of course…..I still have images from my Canon A630 to go through……who knows what I might find there!

“Head in the clouds, and a mouthful of pie”

I guess we all knew it would eventually come to this. Its inevitability was etched in stone long before this day arrived. It was a certainty from which we could not escape. It was destined. It was fated. It was portended. It was in the cards.

You get the picture…….

Basil Bear (6)

So, what does a photographer do when he or she becomes so ill and feels so run-down that the mere idea of heading out into the wilds to take photographs brings out the urge to vomit? In addition, what course of action is possible for the young and attractive amateur photographer when the great planet Earth turns itself in such a way that dreary grey days are all that can be seen out of the window for days on end?

Bug with Rockety (3)

Well…..the answer actually came from a photographic source oddly enough. One of my Flickr contacts eschews the cold that comes with this time of the year in the northern hemisphere. As such he has opted to post older pictures taken in the more sun-drenched days that were the norm before Old Man Winter arrived. I can’t say that I had the same sort of source as he (being the avid photographer he is), but I did have a wealth of photographs taken over the past few years via my digital point-n-shoot cameras: the Canon A95 and Canon A630.

So I set about to going through my collection of images from the A95 (no longer in my possession – donated to a pet adoption agency whose own digital camera died in April of this year) and selected those that most appealed to me. Truth-be-told, much of my photography involved the animals. It’s not that I don’t love my wife and/or daughter, but they really do not like hubby/dad pointing cameras at them. Regardless, I have selected a number of images and began posting them this evening. There are plenty more to come and I’ll likely upload a new batch every other day so it isn’t so overwhelming to you, my dear readers/viewers.

Caroline & Rowan (5)

I’ll also be writing at least one more WordPress entry in conjunction with this series of uploads. That entry will concern itself with a few of the thoughts that crossed my mind while going through these images from my venerable Canon A95.

I know you can’t wait to read what I have to type!

I May Have Learned Something About This Photography Lark

Mind you, I may not have learned anything as the jury is still out on the matter, but for the moment I would like to believe I had something of an epiphany and I’m going to run with that notion because it feels too damn good to do otherwise!

For your consideration (and from my Flickr site)

2008 Aullwood Apple Festival (29)

I took a number of images of dancers inside a barn at the local Aullwood Apple Festival at the Audubon Farm. The lighting was not conducive to good photography as there was no lighting inside the barn and the only light available was from open doors, which included one behind the dancers, which, as we all know, makes for rubbish pics of anything in the foreground (underexposed in other words). As such, I had to move up to ISO 1,000 and still use exposures that were longer than I had wished.

But while going over these images last night, and thinking most were rubbish because the dancers were often blurred or at least parts of them were, I suddenly realized how odd these images would have looked had I been able to stop-motion capture them with the camera. It is, in my mind, the fact that they are blurred (or parts of them are) that helps create the sense of motion, which seems appropriate considering they are dancing.

While this may sound very straight-forward and simple to you (or anyone else), it was something of a major mental breakthrough for me. This was me, for a moment, thinking outside the box. Outside my zone of comfort. Outside of the confines I had established for myself for photography under these circumstances. No small feat considering it was going up against decades of ingrained behaviour.

So while the images are pretty mediocre by most any measure, they represent a great leap in thinking for me.

And they’re still better than anything my point-n-shoot would have been able to capture! (shameless plug for digital SLR cameras)

Pointing and Shooting Isn’t all Bad

I have noticed that in the past few weeks I have been pulling out the trusty and handy Canon A630 point-n-shoot digital camera more and more often. Sure, the weather outside is unpleasant so I’m not out there shooting with the big ol Canon 40D, but I haven’t felt as compelled of late to drag out the 40D for taking pics around the house. It really is quite a chore to drag out the huge bag from the closet, affix a lens, monkey with the controls, etc. While the A630 doesn’t take as nice pictures (from a completely technical perspective I mean) and its flash is not particularly useful for doing anything other than over-saturating any given image (even if I do step it down some), it is nice for quick and simple images. And seeing how I am a simple-minded individual it would seem like a marriage made in heaven….or wherever good marriages are made when one is an atheist.

Squints in Repose

Shooting with the A630 reminds me of how very good is some software out there. I mostly use a freeware application called Paint.net for working with JPEG images that come off my A630. It is quite robust and has been very, very reliable; not a bug yet for me. In my opinion it is a slightly detuned version of Photoshop Elements, but isn’t missing anything that I need. On the contrary, it is far less burdensome on my computer’s resources and responds quicker to changes that I make. And it’s free. What more could one ask for. (you will have to install the Net.frame components from Microsoft to make this software run, but that’s no big deal anyway)

Little One

As much as I like my little Canon A630 (I also used to have the Canon A95, but I donated that to a pet adoption agency when their digital camera bit the dust), I confess that I have been considering purchasing a new point-n-shoot type model. My requirements aren’t great and I’m not looking to spend a chunk of change. The A630 has full manual controls, which is one thing I wish to continue with, but I’d like a p&s that responds faster, no, much faster to the pressing of the shutter release button. My single biggest complaint is that the camera takes too long to snap a picture and I can’t tell you how many I’ve missed (particularly of the dogs and cats) due to this shutter lag issue. And having RAW capability might be nice too, but I think that it would likely be an unnecessary additional expense for what are my intentions and core needs. But it is something to ponder. Canon G9 anyone? 😉

Happy Bug