Life in the Slow Lane

Life in the Slow Lane

Monday, March 27, 2006


You would never know it from the photos I post on my blog but I have actually studied photography for two years in high school as an elective and then continued on in college. I simply cannot calculate how many hours I have spent in the darkroom developing film and pictures. Thinking about it now this may be why I managed to stay out of trouble during those rebellious high school years. In my late teens and early twenties I used to occasionally take photos of bands both for their promo shots as well as in concert for the local music newspaper. I never got paid but rarely had to pay a cover charge or buy a drink when I went to check out music. It was a pretty sweet deal.

If you had asked me as a teenager what I wanted to be when I grew up I would have told you a photojournalist for Rolling Stone magazine. I was that into it.

When I was taking photography classes in college it became more and more expensive with Kodachrome slides and special papers and chemicals and colour processing costs. My fairly rudimentary 35mm SLR started showing its limitations more and more and I slowly stopped taking photos. I think it was when my camera shutter started acting up and a new camera was suggested that I stopped altogether.

So years went by and while I took photos with a little point and shoot instamatic at family gatherings and such I never really went back to the type of photo taking I loved.

A couple years ago I spent a fair amount of change on a Canon Power Shot S400 Digital Elf that came highly recommended to me and I have to say, overall, I remain unimpressed. I loath the shutter delay and have never quite figured out how to wrestle total control over all its functions that I am used to having with my old SLR. I kinda miss looking through a viewfinder and fiddling with shutter speed, aperture and focus. I guess ideally I should splurge and get myself a sweet digital SLR with lightening fast shutter response but after being unemployed for over a year with my cancer stuff that is not a possibility in the near future. However after the camera part is purchased the cost of digital photography is mercifully cheap which is perfect for my circumstances.

I am often very inspired by some of the exceptional photography I see on many blogs I visit as well as tales of Flickr walks and such. It makes me want to get out there and utilize the camera that I have yet I am still discouraged with the quality of shots I get at home. I simply don’t feel comfortable with my camera and have never felt very creative with it. I bought it as a tool for my job and have not moved past that initial designation.

The other thing I wonder about is how much you all fiddle with your pics in Photoshop before you post them. That is another thing I wish I knew more about. I have always wanted to take a Photoshop course but they are unbelievably expensive in my city. I could never justify it since I never needed it for a job or anything like that.

Has anybody else out there had similar difficulties moving from a 35 mm to digital format in photography? Any tips or secrets you can pass along? Any words or advice or motivation/inspiration? What camera do you use? Do you love it?


eclectic said...

Oh I wish I were a photographer and could tell you all kinds of lovely things, but I just use the still shot function on my digicamcorder, and I'm just lucky I figured out how THAT works! Didn't even know what photoshop was until I started visiting Bucky. That's still most of what I know about it...! But I think that if you love it, you should have the equipment you need to fully explore that love. Think of all the pictures I'd get to look at!!!

elizabeth said...

i am in no way a photographer, but i play with my digital plenty. and i love photoshop. i never took a course, though it would have been much easier if i had. i think the best way to start with photoshop is to start with its basics. photoshop elements was the way to go for me. it's the most basic of the tools, and if you master them, you may want to go the full program route. it's also a lot cheaper, and when you're first starting out, i think the whole program can be overwhelming. sometimes i'll get a great hint from a blogger who details a whole new way to use some photoshop stuff and it opens up all these new ideas.

most importantly, learn to play with your camera again..that's where it all begins.

Sharkey said...

I posted about photography tonight too! Well, I would've if Blogger had actually posted it instead of just doing that 0% thing over and over . . .

Anyway, I knew NOTHING about photography until after we got our D70 last year. I've fiddled around with it and learned some by trial and error. Just last week I started a photography class so I can learn "for real."

I don't do much editing in Photoshop. Actually, I usually use Photoshop Elements, which is a scaled down--but much more affordable--version. I basically just adjust the levels so the colors "pop" more, and sometimes I do a little cropping--nothing fancy.

Wow--this comment is turning into a post. So I'll wrap it up by saying I love the D70--it takes beautiful pictures despite me and my rudimentary "skills."

decrepitoldfool said...

MrsDoF sent me here.
After shooting film from about 1970 to about 2002, I've gone completely digital.

I used to repair cameras and my favorites in the film arena were Nikon and Olympus. That is still true in digital. I am not fond of cameras made by non-camera-manufacturers.

I always suggest to new digerati that they buy an expensive digital and play with it until they become dissatisfied with its limitations - but you've already done that.

Almost any new digital camera will solve your delay problem. The new Olympus E500 "4/3" camera is suh-weet especially in usability. Our marketing director uses a Nikon D70 and is quite happy with it. Both give very good control.

Go to for excellent reviews of digital cameras. That guy is really thorough.

If you know enough to deliberately 'underexpose' nighttime pictures and 'overexpose' snow pictures you'll appreciate a straightforward exposure compensation button and display. Even my ancient Minolta DiMAGE XG can be set so the buttons on the back ratched exposure up and down.

Tiltable displays are very useful, allowing a return to the good old days of the twin-lens reflex.

Watch out for distortion! (XG=bad) Cleverly designed zoom lenses can distort straight lines noticeably. This is a good reason to study the review samples closely.

Judging from your complaints you will want a camera that does not jazz up the tonality and color saturation of your pictures. That's something to watch for, too.

In the end, you still have to choose the subject, frame it, anticipate the moment, and click slightly ahead of the action. But from your pictures I can see you know how to do that. By the way, your kitty is adorable :-)

decrepitoldfool said...

I forgot to mention, (sorry) I don't do much Photoshop. Mostly I use XNview to keep the photo as 'real' as possible. XnView mostly applies processes to the whole picture - it doesn't do individual pixel-editing.

And you are absolutely right about the cost-effectiveness of digital photography.

alan said...

My Dad and I shot b&w and color for years, everything from 35mm to 4x5. Weddings with 6x6 Mamiyas, etc. Processed our own b&w, had the color film processed but printed it ourselves, including the weddings.

When he died I let Mom sell the darkroom (1983, about $22,000 in gear) and didn't shoot much over the intervening years. When my oldest decided to get married and they were paying for it themselves, I spent some time researching and bought Nikon "Coolpix" 5700 with both lenses. I couldn't afford more, and knew it would "get me by".

It has the same aggravating shutter lag you spoke of unless you shoot it in multiple mode, which you can't do with a flash. It was obsolete 6 months after I bought it, and the models that replaced it have no lag; most of what's on the market now doesn't.

That said, I shot the wedding and put together an album of over 80 8x10's that I printed on a Canon i960, along with 40 5x7's. I learned a lot of Photoshop in doing it and reading magazines and some on line tutorials.

I remember Dad paying a retoucher to "unblack" the eyes of a groom who fell down a flight of stairs during his bachelor party. She did a marvelous job, but nothing you couldn't do in Photoshop now.

If you see a copy of "Digital Photo Pro" on the newstand browse through it, it's one of the best I've found.

And btw, I've loved every shot you've taken that I've seen, Photoshopped or not!

Sorry I missed Yoshi's birthday; I can't believe that was #8! I thought she was a kitten!


Twisteduterus said...

Other than the occassional cropping or artys (meaning oviously I did something to the picture) fun, I do not edit my picutres.

FOr me I guess digital photography and editing can make a good photographer out of anyone. I prefer to use my eye and knowledge to get a good picture than tomake a good pictuer via computer enhancement.

I do play with the f-stop and shuitter speeds a lot, well on the old camera, I have not played with that part on thehew one yet...just the "film" speed.

THat is just my opinion.

Like you with my old digital I was tired of the shutter speed delay and needed something faster as Itake a lot of dog pictures.

Karen said...

I went from an early-90s era 35mm Pentax SLR to a Pentax *istDL. I had to go with Pentax to make use of an existing investment in lenses. In spite of the press bias towards Canon and Nikon in the digital arena, I have not been disappointed with this choice. (One note regarding the point someone made about "cameras made by non-camera-manufacturers": some of them are OEM equipment and are made by camera manufacturers who just let the other companies put their own name on them. My little HP point-and-shoot that I carry in my purse, for example, is made by Pentax.)

None of that is what I came here to say, though...

What I want is to recommend Picasa 2, a totally FREE download that lets you play with effects and fixes for your digital pictures. I had been using a very old version of PaintShop Pro (the poor man's Photoshop) to do that stuff, and was quite surprised by the ease of use and great results with Picasa.

By the way, I love the photos on your site, Kranki, and if you start doing more with photography, I hope you will post the results for us all to see.

HD_Wanderer said...

I'm a professional graphic designer who plays at photography. I'm unimpressed with most digital cameras I can afford so I've stuck with film for the most part. I can always scan the film or negative if I need a digital copy of something. At work I almost always adjust pictures before putting them on the websites I maintain. Lighting, contrast, sometimes color, most often adjust cropping or file size.
Classes are worth the money, but I used PhotoShop for years before I talked an employer into paying for one. Online tutorials are often good too, and there are a lot of those available.

hemlock said...

I was such a skeptic, Kranki. I was one of those "film photography is the only photography" kinda gals. Yeah, I was wrong.

At present the majority of my pictures are untouched. I compose my photos as I would with a regular SLR. I'm still a purist at heart and believe that the way the photo is composed (aperture, shutter speed, actual composition) is of utmost importance. Sure I touch up a photo here and there (you remove zits and stuff), but it is most certainly not the bulk of my photos.

I haven't really gotten out and played with my digital SLR, and it's something I really need to do soon. I've had it for a year!!!

I also managed to get a copy of Photoshop CS (I believe that's what it is), but I have NO idea how to use it. I'm learning as I play though.

snaps79 said...

I have an Olympus Camedia C740 that is also obsolete. I bought it in January of 2005, and by last summer, it was off the shelves. There have been upgrades, and I intend to stick with Olympus, because I'm familiar with the menu and the modes, and I like the way the Olympus shoots.

Only recently have I started editing photos here and there. For the most part, I just enhance the color. I don't do a lot of cropping or zooming and then cropping I use my eye to take all of my shots, there isn't editing there, but I do pump up colors. And, obviously, there are a few fun things that I do, like cut out the picture of Jessa in her bunny years (on my blog now) or things like that. I'm with TU - if people are relying on editing software to become a photographer - that's cheating. ANYONE could be a photographer then, just like TU said.

Amanda B. said...

I have a Canon S2-IS (i think that's the model) and I like it. I don't LOVE it, because of the lighting issues and the flash issues and the shutter speed and the macro...etc. But, I'm using it to learn on- I don't think I could handle much more camera at this point.

I love taking pictures and looking at other peoples work as well. It's very peaceful to me.

Squirl said...

I just use a Nikon Coolpix 5600. Shutter speed is kinda slow and it takes too long between pictures, especially if I'm not in a bright area.

The most I do with mine is open them with Microsoft's free viewer and make the color look like it did when I originally looked at the subject.

I plan to buy Photoshop Elements, but haven't yet.

Ern said...

I use the exact same camera you have, and I know the feeling about loss of control, as a former 35mm SLR user myself. What I love about it is the ability to throw it in my purse or in my jacket pocket. I like the menu, I find it pretty easy to use. I do play with the settings a lot, but you really have to work a lot harder to get the shot you want than you do on an SLR. And sometimes it just shows its limitations. I don't know how to use Photoshop at all, but sometimes I use the auto color correction feature on our photo website (smugmug). I prefer not to digitally futz with them too much because for me the challenge of photography is working to make the camera capture what I see, rather than fixing what I didn't do right on the computer. But with a point-n-shoot, sometimes the pictures need just a bit of help. I've got my eye on a digital SLR too, but it will be YEARS before we can afford it.

Lazy Lightning said...

I have a canon S2 IS - it's a step below SLR but I like it a lot. Shutter speed is pretty fast and the colors/types of shots it takes are impressive to me. I plan to buy a Digital Rebel XT 350D SLR in the next year or so...

I use photoshop as much as is necessary for a picture. If I'm in a hurry, I'll just change the brightness and contrast of the photo if it needs it. For photos of my cats (one is black and the other white) I have to use the shadow/highlight adjustment or the black one always looks like a shadow. But if the photo is for something special, like a frame or presentation, I will go all out. I have made myself look skinnier in photos with selection tools. I can easily take out blemishes and shiny areas with the clone stamp and the healing brush. Fixing red eye requires a selection tool, a drop in the saturation and an up of the contrast. I can whiten teeth with the selection took and the "lightness" and "contrast", and if my braces are visible in my wedding shots, you better believe I'll take them out digitally. I am definitely a digital photography person. But it just goes to show... you can't trust a photo anymore unless it's got a negative tied to it~

whfropera said...

not much to say, since I'm not a photog, I did have the Pentax K1000 at one time, and have a Fuji FinePix now, but what I can say is Photoshop rocks!
Being a web developer, I often have to retouch photos submitted to me, and it really amazing what that program can do. There are so many good tutorials out there, its hard to recommend just one, but a Google search on Photoshop tutorials should do it for you.
Interesting post, vK - interesting post.
- and I know I have to answer your last 2 has been hellish.

kerri said...

I think I almost always mess with the brightness of a pic before I upload it in Flickr, or wherever. For some reason my digital doesn't like to render light. I have an old skool canon, as well. We're talking circa the 1960's. Or something. It's ollld. It's also great! and I feel professional holding it, but ultimately it's a bit archaic for internet usage. Or perhaps I'm a bit inept. Or both.

sheryl said...

I love your themed pictures of Yoshi!

As far as tips and tricks - on the one hand, I have a lot to say about this, and on the other hand, just a little: Practice, practice.

I think the best tool I have that improves my pictures and my ability to see is my persistence. I simply take a lot of pictures. I also don't give up if I take 50 or 100 bad pictures in a row.

I have loved every camera I have ever used. My favorite camera is a Polaroid Land camera from the 1980s. I can't wait to experiment with a new cheap pinhole camera I want to buy this spring. I think taking pictures outside or very near windows is the best.

Here's an excerpt from a blog post a while back on taking pictures:

I wait for things like rain to happen. I wait for morning light, for dusk, for afternoon light. When colors deepen, shadows grow. I wait for wind, and rain, because I can see the living things move and change. I don't pose or move things or change things. I like to see the world as I find it, gritty or soft, real, moving, and out of focus at times.

Udge said...

I'm an enthusiastic amateur, but will throw in my two Eurocents' worth:

I have a Canon PowerSHot A610, which I'm very pleased with. It is slightly bulky, but still fits into an outside coat pocket. The best thing about this camera is how FAST it is: shutter delay is as good as non-existent, and it goes from switched completely off to taking a photo in one single second. It allegedly has a full-manual-control mode, which I haven't bothered with. 4x zoom, macro focus down to 1cm (if you have a tripod or VERY steady hands). Highly recommended.

I always do a certain baseline amount of editing. I darken the image in GraphicConverter using the "Tonwert" (tone value?) function - a histogram with three sliders, black on the left, white on the right and grey in the middle. Digital photos and scans never get down to real black, the curve always starts a few pixels in from the border. So I move the "pure black" marker up to this point, and sometimes perhaps tweak the grey midpoint too.

I then use the "Unscharf maskieren" (unsharp masking?) function to tighten up the image slightly, using very low values of all three sliders.

I sometimes, but rarely, nudge up the contrast by one or two points.

It occurs to me while writing this, that I haven't had to do any serious colourbalance tweaking since buying the Canon. Cool.

Von Krankipantzen said...

ECLECTIC-I have no idea how to use a camcorder nor do I own one so you are ahead of me.

ELIZABETH-I didn't know about Elements. Cool. I have full Photoshop so I guess I could use that even though it totally overwhelms me. I'll have to get playful again.

SHARKEY-I'd love a Nikon SLR. *covet* I would love to take a digital class too.

DECREPITOLDFOOL-I am glad you came by. Thanks for the link. I wish I knew about that before I bought my camera. I think I have to get the manual out again for a look-see as well as try some different subjects other than the cat.

ALAN-I LOVED having access to a darkroom in school. I have always wanted my own. Your wedding project sounds wonderful. How great that you were able to do that for your child. Thanks for all the good ideas.

TWISTED U-lucky you and your new camera. Taking photos of the beasties is so HARD with shutter lag. It really pisses me off that I have missed so many good shots.

KAREN-interesting as I have a few old Pentax lenses and I never even thought about being able to re-use them. I just assumed digital would be different. Der! And thanks for the Picasa suggestion.

HD_WANDERER-I will totally look for some online tutorials. That is a good idea.

LEAFGIRL77-it is a bit of a change from film but I think once I get past the comparisons and accept it as its own meduim I will do better with digital.

SNAPS79-I will have to disagree with you about the cropping part as I think it is a very useful tool but I think editing software takes away the beauty of the "happy accidents" that happen with photography. I LOVE those happy accidents.

AMANDA B-I wonder if there is The Perfect Camera or if there will always be something that bothers us.

SQUIRL-I have never tried that. I have never tried to plump up the colours but will give it a try soon.

ERN-so you have the same camera? Interesting! I love its size which is one of the main reasons I bought it as it was for work. I still can't fiddle with it much but have to get out the instructions to figure it out. I think the flash is too strong on it too. I wish I could tilt it and bounce it off the ceiling or something.

ADRIENNE-oooooh! Looking skinnier!?!?! Coool! I gotta get me some Photoshop knowledge PRONTO!!!

WHFROPERA-the K1000 was my first camera in highschool and it took AMAZING shots. Actually better than my more expensive cameras. It was stolen. :-( And I will have to get onto some tutorials soon.

KERRI-yeah, the contrast on my viewfinder is waaay different from what the camera actually takes so I am constantly surprised. I am starting to feel guilty for not pimping my photos more before I post them. I don't know how to adjust contrast etc...

SHERYL-good point about persistence. I only have a 32mb flash card so I can only fit on about 13 pics. So I have to be selective with what I take. Must buy a new one soon. And I LOVE pinhole photography. It is the coolest. We had to make our own at school and got amazing results.

UDGE-I am coveting your camera. Sounds like a gem. And minimal tweaking too. German tweaking is sure spelled funny! ;-)

divinecalm said...

Now here is a topic I could talk about forever!

Keep in mind that I am a photography addict.

I have a Nikon D50, and I LOVE IT! I don't regret the money I spent on it at all. Before I bought it, I hemmed and hawed trying to figure if it was worth the expense. But then I began figuring how much I would save on developing expenses. Additionally, I use it everyday, so it's not like I am wasting my money.

Before I bought a digital camera, I never took any photos. Now that I have it, I want to be a photographer. With flickr, I am learning so much about photography and am able to receive lots of feedback on how I can improve. With digital, there are so many ways to share your photos. This means of creative expression is so rewarding.

Although you may not have the money, I would highly support your decision to buy one. I live by myself with two dogs, and I have so much fun taking photos at night after I leave work.

You can see some of my photos and see how far I have come without taking any classes but just through the flickr learning curve at or

Now about the photoshop questions you have...I highly recommend finding someone who will allow you to use their version--on their computer of course. :) Photoshop is awesome. It is a bit overwhelming to use, but there are a lot of tutorials on the web. Just google it. It's taken about a week of constant toying around with it for me to feel comfortable using it. It really makes black and white photos look superb.

Okay enough of my chatter. Feel free to e-mail me if you have any additional questions. :)


L. said...

I'm a professional photographer & I learned photography the old fashioned way with darkroom and all manual 35mm camera and last year switched to digital SLR with a Nikon D70. The beautiful thing about digital SLRs is that you can use them in the manual mode and they are just like a film SLR- with the end result being different. Point and click digital cameras will drive anyone serious about photography with that shutter delay. Sometimes you can work around it. You can do some pretty amazing things with those point and clicks. Someone recommended the Nikon D50- it's around $680 & the cheapest decent digital SLR out there. It's been a godsend for those out there with a desire to learn but a limited budget. I teach photography and when I read blogs like yours I wish you folks lived nearby so I could help ya'll learn about all this great stuff!