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The Basics of Outdoor Digital Photography
Part 1

by Brian J. Lane

The digital revolution in cameras has been nothing but stunning. I used to carry about three pounds of Nikon F-100 SLR (Single-Lens Reflex) with a wide angle - zoom lens. Now I carry about three pounds of Nikon D-200 SLR with an image stabilized wide angle - zoom lens. The biggest changes in switching to a digital camera: 1) I don’t have to carry bags of film and 2) the choices of shooting modes intrinsic to most digital cameras has really increased their versatility dramatically -- although the variety of shooting options can be nearly overwhelming.

The three varieties of digital cameras are the point-and-shoot, the D-SLR (Digital Single-Lens Reflex), and the medium format. Point-and-Shoot cameras are usually light and can be very thin; they are also very easy to use. A step up in clarity and versatility is the D-SLR camera. They employ more complex sensors and metering and allow the photographer to capture higher quality images. Medium format digital cameras are used mostly by professional photographers requiring the highest resolution images (currently over 30 megapixels).

Digital cameras are great! You can see your images instantly and adjust your composition and exposure. They allow for easy manipulation with a computer, and can hold a lot of photos on a tiny memory card—in lieu of carrying lots of film. One disadvantage digital cameras have is when shooting into the sun, and some other elements of the sky, the photo can show “banding.” This is especially true if shooting in a low image quality mode (such as a low-quality jpeg setting).

If you plan on printing photos over 5x7 inches, you’ll need about 5 megapixels (good enough for printing photos up to 8x10 inches). The quest for cost effective 8-10 megapixel cameras (with a resolution comparable to that of 35mm SLRs) is now being met by the camera manufacturers.

Other basic tips include using a wide-angle setting for landscapes, while portraits can be enhanced by using the telephoto setting and getting close up. Shoot in the early morning and later afternoon for the best light conditions, at mid-day most landscapes are subject to flat light and a lack of contrast, but always try to avoid high contrasts of light and dark areas of the photo. Also, when shooting wide-angle landscapes; try to have some interesting focal point in the foreground too (such as an old twisted juniper, flowers, or a colorful shrub).

Next week we’ll continue this talk about digital cameras, including information on optical vs. digital zoom, what file format works best for you, and setting the sensor sensitivity (ISO). Until then…

Hike Smart & Have Fun!

The Basics of Outdoor Digital Photography: Part 2

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