03 February 2009

Playing with cameras

One of the great beauties of an SLR (single-lens reflex) camera is the control over your shots. For years, I used a manual OM1, which I loved. Nothing was automated -- I controlled aperture, shutter speed, and hence depth of field. One day, thousands of photos after purchase, my old SLR packed it in. I had it repaired, but it came back with a part missing, and I tried to get it fixed again, but I ended up leaving the body at the store, because the bill to fix it was worth more than the camera -- which I wouldn't have minded had they been able to fix it properly, but they couldn't, so it was then only good for parts.

For a few years, I was cameraless, which was hard with young children. I'd borrow my mum's for a while, and then give it back. I did find that one of the beauties of not having a camera was that I got to live the moment, rather than trying to capture it. But one cannot live without camera forever -- especially one like me who has no visual memory. Photos *are* my visual memory.

So, I bought my first digital camera: a two megapixel instamatic, and found I loved the ability to just snap away. Later, I could decide what was worth keeping, rather than being frugal in what I was taking. Brilliant! Then that camera was stolen, and after waiting awhile I bought a five megapixel camera. A Canon. Now what I really loved about that camera was the ability to take 16:9 format photos. Sure, I can crop an image to this size, but I'd much rather do my work when composing the photo. I'd rather not play with the photos afterwards at all: get the colour temperature right, the horizon where I want it, the right depth of field and go.

Now, at last I have a digital SLR, and aren't I loving that? Back to my old stalwart, Olympus. A beautiful camera. My one regret is that I no longer have that 16:9 option, but I do have a panorama feature, which I'm starting to play with. Here's a small example: three photos knitted together. It's not perfect: you can see the joins, especially the left-hand one, but it's still better than I used to do with scissors and glue.

What I've learned that they only work in one direction -- shooting left to right. I completely bamboozled the software by shooting a few right-to-left. What a waste. I've also learnt not to use too short a focal length: that fish-eye effect is disconcerting when it makes the horizon look like a series of hillocks in a multiple-photo (eight) stitch.

No comments: