Remarks from the photo world, interspersed with uplifting Hawai’i snapshots. It’s about emotion, not just technology.

Emotion · You want emotion? Check out grief at Arlington, specifically Greg Heins’ take on this remarkable John Moore photo. Also take in the illustrated featured comment, and then Mike Johnson uses this to launch a discussion on cropping and its ethics.

Looking down from Haleakalā toward Kihei on Maui

They call Maui “The Valley Isle”; this is a view from the side of Haleakalā looking down at the Kihei end of the valley. I saw a tough Hawaiian-looking kid whose T-shirt said “Valley isle not haole isle”.

Reality · Since I’ve just quoted Mike Johnson, here are a couple other things from the last month that are worth reading: Funny That Way and Look Left, Look Right. I think that all of us, as digital photographers, should worry more about the truth, or absence of it, in our pictures.

Dead palm leaf among floating plants

I think the brown thing is a dead palm frond. Those are aquatic plants it’s lying on, water-lilies perhaps?

Cameras · That little GX100 that made me happy until it had to go off for repairs (they say it’s coming back tomorrow) is getting attention elsewhere too.

But the real photo-tech news, for me, is captured by this Wired survey of “Prosumer” SLRs. The take-away is obvious: All of these cameras are just bloody excellent. Left to themselves, they’ll take great pictures for you. If you’re in a situation where you have to intervene (issues of focus or time or colour or light) well, they’ll still probably take great pictures for you. Unless you’re a seriously major photographic talent, none of these will ever, ever get in your way. We are in the golden age of photography.

Children with shark at aquarium

Children at the Maui Ocean Center (expensive, but not bad) in front of the big shark tank. This is the K20D, one of the cameras Wired covered, and no fiddling aside from cranking the ISO to 1600; an example of what a modern SLR makes easy.

Sally · I noticed, in Maui, that having an SLR is no longer an even slightly rare or unusual thing; they were in abundance at any tourist spot worth photographing, which in Maui is pretty well all of them. I said this out loud and Sally remarked “Well, often it’s Dad with the SLR and Mom with the P&S” and that’s partly true, but only partly.

Sally’s our longtime good Aussie friend; we shared the Maui condo and generally hung out. She’s a good photographer too; her approach is different from mine and, I think, instructive.

Her “good” camera used to be film but she just upgraded to a Pentax K10D, one of the world’s great bargains now that the K20D is on the street. She’s had a digital P&S for a few years.

Here’s how she does it: she uses whatever software comes with the camera. She shoots JPEGs and mostly leaves the camera in auto mode and doesn’t look at the user’s guide until she’s been shooting a few months. She doesn’t crop or adjust or fine-tune or sharpen or mask or dodge or burn or balance, she just deletes the duds and blasts the keepers onto CDs.

In the condo in Maui she said “let me show you last year’s pics” and I was getting out my computer but she was heading for the TV. She dropped her disc full of JPGs into the DVD player and seemed to think that ought to work and what do you know, it did, she figured out which button on the remote meant “next picture”. The TV was a little sluggish rendering them and maybe the resolution was a little low and the colours not quite 100% perfect, but Sal takes good pictures, and they looked just fine; we spent an enjoyable half-hour or so loafing through them.

surfers with sails near Kahului, Maui

This is just outside Kahului. I don’t even know what this sport is called; sail-windsurfing perhaps? These guys were going like rockets and taking huge leaps off waves and doing the coolest tricks.

So let’s see; Sally lets the camera do all the work, she doesn’t sweat the technology, she doesn’t worry about the software, and she gets good pictures. I’m wondering if maybe I have an attitude problem.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Marcus (Mar 27 2008, at 00:08)

The sport is called Kitesurfing. It is a lot of fun, although not easy. As far as I recall, a new speed world record for wind driven sailing vehicles was set by a kitesurfer only a few weeks ago somewhere well above 100 km/h.


From: Janne (Mar 27 2008, at 01:02)

To a lot of us - including you perhaps - fiddling with camera parameters, trying various compositions, playing with postprocessing is all part of what makes photography fun. The craft of photography is another big, complex system with many interacting parts, and it's fun to tweak it, experiment with it and see what makes it tick.

See it the other way: if all you wanted really was good pictures of scenic spots, you can buy an awful lot of postcards for the price of one SLR.


From: Andrew Hallam (Mar 27 2008, at 01:02)

The sport shown in the last photograph is "kite surfing".


From: Jeremy Cherfas (Mar 27 2008, at 02:56)

Not water lilies, water hyacinths. Nasty little buggers, in the wrong places.


From: Ken (Mar 27 2008, at 03:45)

It's called kite surfing -- basically a wakeboard plus up to a 10m kite.


From: DJ (Mar 27 2008, at 08:07)


The sport in question from the last photo is called kite surfing.



From: Zach (Mar 27 2008, at 08:18)

I set my K100D to shoot the highest quality jpegs it could. I found I started getting a lot better results that way. The camera really does an excellent job at converting raw to jpg, my camera operates a lot faster now, and I spend less time fussing with my photos.

Before, I would spend 5-10 minutes per photo on the raw conversion alone. I would tweak white-balance for most of that time. I always ended up spending most of my time adjusting white balance.

Now, I just go through the photos, adjust the levels in the gimp, and crop as needed. Minimal fixing, but fantastic results.

In the end, I feel my results are better and I spend a lot less time to get said results. I'm also at less risk of getting "photo fatigue" where I hit a point that nothing in the photo looks right, but nothing looks wrong, no matter what I do.

However, the one catch is low-light photos. I still get better results using raw in party situations, where I often have to shoot without flash. However, this is not universally true. In a normal indoor setting at night, with an "average" amount of overhead light, I still get better results with jpg.


From: Doug K (Mar 27 2008, at 10:20)

truly a golden age for photography. I've been astonished by the excellence of the pictures that my Canon A630 takes. I have a Nikon film SLR and a bag of lenses, used to play with it a lot, but the little P&S Canon takes better pictures much of the time, even on the 'for dummies' settings. It's very impressive. One minor annoyance is the viewfinder shows considerably less than the picture taken, so typically have to crop it to get what I saw: but that's ludicrously easy anyway.


From: Tony Fisk (Mar 27 2008, at 15:10)

Water hyacinths are definitely bad news, and don't belong in Hawai'i.

The kite surfing reminds me of an occasion at a beach when we followed a sign saying 'Surfboards, kayaks, kites', intrigued by the combination and thinking the latter might amuse my then one year old daughter (she'd fall mid-way between your two).

...Call me overly protective if you like, but I quickly decided that *these* types of kites could wait a year or two.


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