The Basics of Outdoor Digital Photography
By Brian J. Lane
When purchasing a point-and-shoot digital camera, you’ll want one that employs an optical zoom. The digital zoom featured in many low-end cameras simply crops the image, resulting in degraded image quality. There are many cameras that include both an optical and a digital zoom, try to pay attention and only use the optical zoom; otherwise your photos will turn out quite grainy.
When setting the quality of the saved images you’ll need to know what you ultimately intend to do with your photos. JPEG (Joint Photograph Experts Group) format files are used most often and are almost universally recognized by most computers making them great for smaller prints, for web sites and for emailing. The problem is that JPEG files are compressed, discarding photographic information and degrading the image.
TIFF (Tagged Image File Format) is used primarily for those in the graphics and publishing industries. TIFF formats biggest attribute is that it allows for a larger color spectrum. Both JPEG and TIFF images are multi-platform files that can be viewed on either a Mac or PC.
RAW images are basically just that. They are large (2-3 times the size of a hi-resolution JPEG) uncompressed files containing all the information recorded when the photo was taken. If you plan to make edits, adjustments, and enhancements on the computer, this format is best. RAW formats are also proprietary, for example, only Nikon software can open a NEF (Nikon Electronic Format) RAW file
Digital cameras also allow you to set the sensor sensitivity or ISO (the suddenly archaic reference to film speed). For most landscapes on bright or sunny days, set the ISO at 100. Set it at 400 ISO if the day is stormy and gray. 800-1600 ISO is used for capturing fast moving objects or for shooting indoors. Remember the trade-off is, the higher the ISO setting, the grainier your photos will be.
When using a camera that accommodates the use of screw-on filters I always keep a polarizer on my SLR camera. When used at a right angle from the sun, a polarizer will reduce glare, darken the sky, and help intensify colors. And it helps protect the lens. I would much rather crack a filter than the lens glass itself.
Each season in the southwest has its own attributes for producing wonderful photographs. In late spring the cactus come into bloom (this is my favorite time for photography). In winter there can be snow in many areas around the state, while in the summer wildflowers such as penstemon, Indian paintbrush, and desert marigolds bloom, and can be prolific after spring rains. In late fall rabbit bush turns yellow and many other plants are enhanced with their autumn hue.
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