Saturday, July 23, 2011

Experimental learning

(Originally published on May 12, 2011 and accidentally republished today, July 23, 2011. So sorry.)
You have probably figured out that I love roses and I love taking pictures of roses. Unfortunately, I can't seem to wrap my brain around photography. You know...f-stops and ISO and who knows what else. Once not long ago I picked up a book on digital photography with crushing results. Along about page 5 the correlation between 35mm ASA and digital ISO, apertures and f-stops really seemed to click in my brain, and I got it! (if I just said that techno stuff incorrectly, you'll understand why in a second). On the next page the topic was different but related, naturally, but for the life of me I could not make the connection to what I had just "learned" on the previous page. It was gone - a blank. Somehow I must have formatted my hard drive while turning the page.

So I am a photographer with a definite handicap - my brain. My eyes see, but my brain is incapable of telling a camera what to do to capture that vision. Praise God for 'point and shoot' cameras! Well, after two of my cameras crapped out (defective sensors), DH said, "Don't buy another one. Use mine - carefully." I can't say I demonstrated much gratitude since I believed my dead camera was better than his live one. He's into zoom. I'm into detail. Mine had a larger sensor. His has a better long lens.

All the photos on my blog have been taken with DH's camera, so he deserves the applause. But I was frustrated. My bush shots lacked detail; I couldn't see the leaves. White roses were blobs of white with no petals. I thought fervently that I needed a new camera. I found one I wanted - a Canon S95. Sadly, it comes with a hefty price tag - $399. I won't bore you with the research and trade-offs involved in my choice. Of course, I would definitely love a full-frame DSLR that would give me detail out the wazoo, but they're heavy in the hand and in the pocketbook. They also don't slip into a pocket. The S95 has a 'big' 1.7 CCD sensor, 1:2.0 - 4.9 lens and takes great pictures. I know because I chose the S90 for my boss' company camera that I get to use to photograph her real estate listings.

Well, I brought the company camera home today and went out to the garden armed with dueling cameras. Shot for shot, the shutters clicked away. I just knew the S90 was whipping the butt of DH's Canon S2IS, and my plan was to put the results side by side on my computer monitor and prove to DH that I needed the S95. Guess what. I didn't prove it - even to myself.

Turns out that DH's 10X zoom is pretty handy. I use it instead of macro to achieve that pop of the subject against a blurred background. (That's called 'depth of field' although I'm probably not using the term quite correctly.) The S90 only has 3.8X optical zoom but can achieve 15X digitally. Turns out digital zoom is a cheap imitation, and tomorrow I'll show you how. Zooming to a close-up with the S90 gave me no blurred background and no detail in the subject. It was like those gauzy photos of the faces of aging actresses - no wrinkles, but the S2IS showed each and every vein in a daylily bloom - gloriously.

I've theorized that if I were to stay within the 3.8X zoom of the S95, I could probably beat DH's camera on my precious bush shots, but I'd lose the depth of field on those killer flower close-ups. (This theory will have to be proven on another day, but tomorrow I will show you some of today's results.) Though my theory has dulled my desire for a $400 camera, it hasn't erased it. Those kinds of desires die hard, you know, because really, it sure is a cute camera with a really sharp viewer and it's nice and light and I could slip it into my pocket and it's got a wide-angle lens. Yeah, dreams die hard.

Taken with the S90. Do ya see any leaves?


  1. Thank you, Sherry, for making me laugh. My first book on photography left me thinking the exact same thoughts (except not as well expressed as yours are). I think there is nothing better than experience - you go out there and take lots of pictures and see what comes out - just as you have been doing. I think your camera works great - the colors are good. If it makes you happy, stay with it!

  2. Hey Sherry...I don't know much about you lost me after the 1st paragraph. :-)

    Decisions, decisions...why is it always so hard to choose? I look forward to seeing your test photo comparisons.

  3. This really resonates since we've had camera "issues". My husband fell down and smashed our camera. We bought a "better" one which just didn't give the poetic feel to my rose pictures that the old one had. Everything looked like amateur snapshots. Fortunately, we found a replica of our old one on e-bay at a very good price. I'm happy again!

  4. Yikes... that's a lot to think about. Photography is just way too complicated. I need to take a class. Hope you figure out which camera you love and that you can spring for it eventually.

  5. Gee, I did it again! Don't know what I did to make this post republish, but I've stopped playin' around. So sorry.