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Entries in Photography (8)


Give a Kid a Camera...

Nathan Self Portrait: SmileThis is what happens when a 4 year old boy gets hold of your camera.

My wife and I were cracking up as we imported some of the images he made of himself and surrounding objects while we attended a Milwaukee Brewer's baseball game last Friday night.

I've been impressed with Nathan's eye with a camera. He's very serious when shooting, and often seems to deliberately frame shots, though many times his shows seem less than intentional.

Sky Blue TextureI quite liked his set of blurred and gradated background images, which I might come in handy for future design projects. I especially like the blue gradation background shown on the left. Those make me want to set him loose with a digital camera and a 2GB card just to see what he comes up with! :-)

I'm planning to work with Nathan on his camera skills, so he can better understand what he's doing. Whatever the case, I find a deep, unexplainable enjoyment as I watch him explore his world and express himself through a camera lens.


Remembering Special Gifts

Kodak Six-20I came across a thought-provoking question last week, while attending a church youth group meeting (I'm one of the leaders). During the meeting each person was asked this question:

"Describe a special gift you've been given, who gave it to you and why it was special."

Of course, I had an immediate answer: my wife Gail and son Nathan, given to me by God, which are obviously very special to me. Gail is the love of my life and best friend, Nathan is the cutest little son anyone could ask for (well, except when he's wriggling like a wild boar when trying to change his poopy diapers).

I also thought of two objects off the top of my head. First, my el-cheapo Krups espresso maker, given to me years ago at Christmas by my brother Pete, which I use several times per week to make cafe lattes and cappuccinos. Second, was the vacuum metal miGo brand coffee mug given to me by Gail for our first anniversary. I use this mug daily to keep my coffee hot or cold beverages cold.

However, over the past week, that question had been bouncing around in my head, and I came up with other gifts I could recall being "special". One in particular surfaced from my deeper memory several days later: a special gift given to me on my paper route.

I was a paper boy for several years, starting with my brother's route late in high school and then graduating to my own route not long after that. Near the end of my paper boy days, I developed an interest in photography and in particular, shooting black and white photos with an old Minolta SRT-102 SLR. Naturally, I began to take my old camera on my route to find interesting subjects.

One afternoon while doing my route, I chose to photograph Mr. Hauptman, a friendly older gentleman and his dog "Hoppy" near the end of my route. I always liked to stop and visit this man, chatting about the weather while petting Hoppy. Over time, it had become a ritual to pop by and say hello. So, I came up with the idea of taking a photo of Mr. Hauptman and Hoppy, and later give him a print of my photo, which I did.

I think it was the week after I'd dropped off the photo of he and Hoppy that Mr. Hauptman said he had a gift for me. He brought out an old looking yellow box and gave it to me. It took a moment to read the box, which read "Kodak Vigilant Six-20" in a 1940s stylized font. Wow... I'd been given me a vintage camera!

We opened up the box and there sat a vintage bellows-style Kodak camera. Incredible! I couldn't believe that Mr. Hauptman was had given me such a precious gift. I thanked him profusely. Within a few days I had located some old-style 620 size film and brought the camera back to shoot a photo of the pair again as a thank you.

I've always remembered that first old camera as a very special gift. Not surprisingly, that old Kodak bellows camera was the very thing which gave me the passion for collecting other vintage cameras, and even shooting film with them.

I've since found many great deals on old twin lens reflex cameras, range finders and other bellows cameras. I've also been given other cameras, by friends who knew I was a collector. Now, I have a small collection of fun old machines, many of which I've shot images with. Pretty amazing how a simple gift like an old camera can cause a change in someone's interests.

Have you been given a special gift by someone that you use regularly, or might have changed something in your life? If so, I challenge you to ponder that gift and maybe even let the giver know how much you appreciate it.


The Joy of Digital Cameras

Canon A20
In the fall of 2002 my wife and I decided that it would be a good idea to look into a digital camera as we prepared for the birth of our son. I had until then been only semi-interested in digicams until last fall thinking they were unnecessary for my needs since I already had my flatbed scanner for getting photo prints into my Mac.

Well, sometimes I think it takes physically having a bit of new technology to really realize how useful it is. It wasn't until I had my Canon A20 in hand to shoot with that I understood just why digital cameras are so wonderful. Let me share some of the things I've discovered in case you're a stick in the mud about digital cameras like I once was.

Creative freedom. Not having to deal with film is incredibly freeing. With my Canon and a 128MB CF card, I just shoot what I want and whenever I want to, without worrying how much film I might be wasting in the process. I just shoot -- good, bad whatever and it's cool. I feel free to explore things that would restrict me with a film camera, which often leads to unexpectedly fun shots. I feel like I'm having fun with my camera again, which makes me want to shoot all the time!

Endless Film. I can wade through my shots in the camera and delete bad attempts immediately, or I can suck all of the images off the camera to my Mac via USB cable or CF card reader and weed through them there. This also means my CF card is essentially an endless roll of digital film as long as I clear it of shots now and then. If I'm away from my Mac the CF card acts as a 120 shot roll of digital film -- not bad. And if that's not enough, I can pick up even larger CF cards to store my shots, though 128MB seems perfect so far.

Selective Printing. One bummer of regular film cameras is getting prints back and finding images you'd have preferred not to have prints of. With digital cameras you can select the images you want to print beforehand and have them turned into film-based prints from online services or from your CF card at your local Walgreens (24 prints for about $7). You can even print shots on your ink jet with amazing quality, though these prints are not of archival quality and may fade over time.

Less Long-Term Expense. Another bummer of print photography are the costs involved. Yes, a film camera is cheaper up front than a digital camera, but as time goes on, the cost (and hassle) of buying film adds up compared to the initial digital camera and CF card investment.

Instant Gratification. Man, it's great to see your shots immediately! Better yet to get them posted on a website (via iPhoto on the Mac) for everyone to see, or emailed if you like. This also means an end to those waits for prints and trips to the drug store to get your prints back. Even using my old scanner to get prints into my Mac seemed archaic and cumbersome after using a digital camera and iPhoto.

I think you really do need a Mac or PC to effectively use a digital camera. There are stand alone printers which can generate 4x6 prints from CF cards or from your camera, but these have limits. They also cannot help you manage the contents on your removable card or store your pictures on a hard drive or burn them to a CD like a Mac or PC can.

So, if you're at all considering a digital camera, right now is a great time to dive in. Digital cameras have reached very reasonable prices as well as the removable media you'll need for digital film. I suggest at least a 2 megapixel camera, good enough to handle 4x6 quality prints, though more megapixels mean better image quality.

Size is another consideration. Make sure the camera you choose is small enough to take anywhere, since big, clunky cameras will tend to be left behind. Camera manufacturers have very small, capable cameras on the market that can easily fit in your pocket.

Where should do you begin looking? Check out these excellent resources to help in your search for a good quality digital camera: Imaging Resource, Digital Camera Views, Digital Camera Resource, Digital Photography Reviews, and Steve's Digicams. They all have very in depth reviews and great info to help you along. Make sure you visit stores and handle cameras you're considering as a good feel is as critical in your decision as the specs are.

Finally, if you have a friend with a digital camera, see if they'll let you borrow it for a weekend so you can give it a whirl -- you might get hooked like I did! ;-)

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