Thoughts on Camera Handling   

The act of taking pictures and doing photography has become so easy that many of today’s up-and-coming photographers have come to rely completely on their camera’s tiny computers and are sure that the automated programs will always deliver wonderful results. All one has to do is put the digital camera up to the eye, or shakily extend arms, push the shutter release, and count on modern technology to make all the necessary decisions.

Last week a photographer proudly showed me some enlargements and asked how I liked them. They were reasonable images and the printing was ok, but as I looked at them closely I could see they weren’t very sharp, lacked depth of field, and contained tiny spots in the sky.

If I had been in a classroom environment it would have been a perfect time to break into a discussion on camera handling techniques. Using a camera effectively includes more than just moving a camera body around in front of one’s face and pushing the shutter. Camera handling means understanding how to use and control a camera in the most effective way.

Carpenters, cabinetmakers, mechanics, quilters, and cake decorators, to name a few professions, would nod their heads knowingly if I mentioned how important it is to learn how to control and use the tools of their trade correctly. However, when taking photographers and their tools of the trade into consideration, many believe that owning a feature-loaded camera is more than adequate, and if the photos from one’s camera aren’t great, they think the answer is to buy another camera.

With that in mind I have a few very basic camera-handling suggestions that would have helped that photographer to produce better pictures than those he showed me.

  1. Examine the picture and if there are lots of tiny dark spots, clean the sensor.  Cleaning the sensor is fairly easy and all that is usually required is a few minutes with an air-blower.
  2. Vibration reduction features only helps with shaking hands, not subject movement.   He should practice following subject movement and try to keep the camera as close as possible to his body to reduce shake.
  3. When handholding the camera, faster shutter speeds will produce more “keepers” than slower shutter speeds. For example, shutter speeds like 1/125th or higher are probably the safest to control both camera shake and subject movement. And follow that old rule to match the shutterspeed with the lens focal length.
  4. The current infatuation with wide aperture lenses is great, but the larger the aperture  opening is, the less the depth of field will be, and that will mean areas in front of and behind the selected subject will probably be out of focus. That photographer must understand that the smaller the aperture is the more chance the area in front of and behind the subject will be sharp.
  5. Using “program” or “auto mode” leaves exposure decisions to in-camera computers and takes creative and intellectual control away from the photographer. Some digicams and all DSLR (digital single lens reflex) cameras have manual exposure modes. My advice is to experiment and practice to find out when manual mode is most effective.

Photography on the Ferry

 

    

My wife and I boarded the BC ferry Coastal Celebration to Victoria, BC. We parked our car, picked up our cameras, and proceeded up to the sundeck. The day was clear blue and the ferry’s sundeck was packed with people with their cameras, all searching for joyful memories of the one-and-a-half hour ocean crossing from Tsawassen to Swartz Bay.  The weather was pleasant and encouraging for those travelers who wanted to stay outdoors.  When the wind became too gusty the passengers would step behind glass partitions designed to provide protection yet allow for an unobstructed view.

I think, with maybe the rare exception, the photographs being taken were of friends or family posing against the rail. Another favourite photo was the group shot around a table, (arm extended style with camera pointing back at the shooter), and then another favourite, of course, was of other boats passing by. And finally, there were lots of shaky pictures of the luxury homes that were perched on the shores of small rocky islands.

One has to admit, after taking that picture of a spouse or friend standing in front of some scenic location, all the rest are just repetition. I took my wife, Linda’s picture holding her camera, a little tired with all the traveling, hair blowing in all directions, standing next to a white rail with blue water behind her. I’ll treasure that picture because it’s her, but she just smiled when I showed her that not so flattering image.

I had made the obligatory portrait and was about to be off when a guy and his family walked up and handed me his little digicam and asked me to take a group picture. I posed them, made one fellow remove his sunglasses and changed my angle a couple times as I took their family-on-the-ferry portrait. My wife later mentioned that the fellow had been watching and she was sure was waiting for a moment when he could ask me to take their picture.  I am sure he had just looked around for the guy with the biggest camera. I guess I won.

Although, unfamiliar with the large white, ocean going vessel vibrating under my feet, I was fascinated with all the unique doors and windows, wall mounted things like pipes, speakers, all the odd railings, long walkways and so much more. However, most interesting; it had people, lots of people from all types of places.  We heard many languages being spoken.

I wandered that windy deck photographing anything that caught my eye, and that included photographing the people. I had my 18-200mm lens on the camera, so it was easy to be inconspicuous. Those in front of my camera either thought I was, like them, interested in some feature beside or behind them in the ocean, or like a guitar-playing fellow I photographed, just didn’t care. Anyway, I wanted to photograph how they were standing, the play of light on them, the ship, and what was around them, I tried for unusual angles through stairs and made silhouettes. Almost all my images were side or back shots, after all I didn’t know them and wasn’t interested in their faces, just how they fit in with everything else on the ferry, or maybe I should be calling it a ship.

The hour-and-a-half trip gave me plenty of time to search the ferry for things to photograph, but I was enjoying myself so much that before I knew it the fun was over with the sound of the ship’s horn and an announcement to return to our cars.

I do like comments.

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com