Capturing Lakewood And The Emerald Canyon Through Photography (You, too, can post your photos for all to enjoy!)

Petrified stork, or tree branch? Photos reveal many things...sometimes.

Photo by Gary Rice

Not too many years ago, it was considered by some that when it came to "the arts," you either had natural talent or you did not. Professional illustrators, artists, musicians, and photographers often closely guarded the secrets of their trades, and so there developed a mystique regarding the arts that persists to this day.

In some ways, I suppose, that was not any different than when the medieval guilds protected their various trade secrets. After all, if anyone could do their job, then they would shortly be out of work.

Then, along came the internet. Nowadays, you can type "how to do" virtually anything into your search engine, and genie-like a magic answer will appear before you on your computer screen. Even though many of us, now armed with such do-it-yourself knowledge, then bravely traipse off to our local home repair store to attempt all sorts of things we might not have considered doing a generation ago, there still remains the mystery of the arts.

You must either have that natural talent to (fill in your own blank here--play piano, guitar, draw airplanes, shoot pictures, etc...) or you don't, right?

Well, no. True, some people do seem to pick things up more "naturally" than others. At the same time, with all the knowledge and opportunities that are out there, it is certainly possible to learn the arts in the same way you can learn how to fix that crack in your plaster wall.

I've written a column before on these pages about how to become a better photographer (vol.5, issue 4, "How You Can Shoot Better Pictures-Develop Your Inner Photojournalist!") that you can still view online from this paper's archives. With the advent of the cell phone and digital camera, it seems that just about everyone is carrying a camera these days (and unfortunately, so many people are continuing to shoot incredibly bad pictures!).

So, is there really such a thing as a good and bad picture in the wild and subjective world of "Art"? I think so. Those bad photos can be fuzzy, grainy, out-of-focus, composed poorly, filled with unnecessary details...the list goes on and on. What I hope to do here is point out a few pitfalls to avoid in the world of photography. Again, for even more details, please feel free to check out my older column.

First, to review a few common sense points. There's something in composition called the "rule of thirds," where your picture is divided, tic-tac-toe like, into horizontal and vertical "thirds." Where the four lines intersect are called composition points, and there, not the center of the photo, is where you are supposed to put your subject(s). You also would do well to shoot horizontal subjects horizontally, and vertical subjects vertically. Watch your lighting and shadows. Don't shoot with a flash into mirrors or windows due to reflections, and don't shoot what you're not supposed to be shooting. By that I mean restricted areas, copyrighted images, or images of questionable legality, like inappropriate images of children.

What about camera quality in this new world of digital photography? Well, the same rule seems to apply as in the old days: the better the lens, the better the picture. A camera is only as good as its lens. Cheaper cameras often, at least to me, seem to have pictures that are slightly fuzzier, or are more off-color, than the more expensive professional model cameras.

How important are the amount of megapixels available? To me, that seems to be an overblown feature. For several years, I shot for this paper using only a 3 megapixel camera (that had a very fine quality brand name and an excellent lens attached). In fact, if you use a relatively inexpensive ink jet printer, the ink process often softens out any digital "squaring off" of a high-resolution high megapixel camera's image, and that can make a photo really look "natural."

How easy is it to use the new digital cameras, and should you switch from your old film model? Well, digital cameras are very easy to learn how to use. Most will plug right into your computer for downloading or file-sharing. Many digital cameras can also offer the ability to shoot black and white, or in sepia tone, or even switch to a "movie shooting" mode. With improved storage available with the new memory cards, your digital camera may be able to shoot and store hundreds of images. Battery life has also improved. Do the the cell phone cameras shoot as good a picture as a camera does? Some might, but after checking out several cell phones, I still prefer the big cameras (although I am glad my cell phone does have camera capability). Having written all of this, I also continue to use and enjoy film cameras, and I've seen many professional models of these become available on the used market for a song as more and more people move into the digital arena.

Should you get an SLR (through-the-lens viewing) or a pocket model camera? I use both. The SLR allows you to switch to specialty lenses, but it is big and expensive, and with most models that I know of the mirror blocks off your view at the very moment of exposure. Usually, too, you must use a relatively small "through-the-lens" viewfinder, rather than a TV screen, as the pocket models use. Of course, that screen can also be hard to view when you are in bright light. The pocket models are easy to carry, and let's face it, if you don't have a camera with you, it will not be used! Automatic vibration-reduction is also a good feature to seek out in a digital camera, as "camera shake" causes many poor images.

We have so many terrific photographers here in Lakewood, with so many new faces emerging all the time. Check out some of the great images from in and around Lakewood that have been posted on our community's "Observation Deck" on this paper's website. Don't forget that you, too, can start your own 'Deck photoblog or submit your photos here for publication.

As I've also mentioned in the other column, the wonderful Lakewood Photographic Society meets most Tuesday evenings at 7:30 p.m. from mid-September to mid-May at Lakewood Senior Center West. (Call the center about their fall schedule.)

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Volume 6, Issue 15, Posted 8:42 AM, 07.27.2010