Monday, December 1, 2008

Holiday season in a digital world, a Pentax Digital World.

Hi Pentaxian friends,

“To everything, there is a season," are lyrics from a song popularized by the Byrds in 1965. The holiday season is upon us indeed and it is again a time to be joyful and a time to celebrate, a time to remember and a time to share, a time for family traditions, and a time to use your digital camera.

Long gone are the cameras of the 60’s and the long wait for your pictures. We live in a wonderful era and the digital advent has brought the world’s most popular hobby to new heights. From young children to the young-at-heart, digital cameras have become a significant memory maker.

This holiday season, let your imagination run wild with all of the possibilities that are available. Share CDs or DVDs of the holiday season with family and friends. It is easy to do with software already supplied with most computers or available at your local photo store or electronic retailer. Personalize your holiday greeting cards with your own photos. Grandparents will be delighted to share these with their friends. Digital frames are a wonderful way to enjoy special memories. Insert memory cards directly from your camera or download images from e-mails or internet photo albums. Enjoy a perpetual slideshow of your favorite memories. You can even add MP3 music files as a sound track to your presentation. Imagine grandparents being able to witness grandchildren growing up using techno gadgets to bring them closer. Even when we can’t get together for the holidays, long distance sharing is now easier than ever. Join an online photo album. You can share your pictures with the world or just with friends and family. They offer services like photo reprints in all sizes, holiday gifts, t-shirts and coffee mugs adorned with your favorite pictures. You can even have hardbound books made with your pictures, your own story and your own captions. Most online photo albums offer the ability to make calendars for the New Year with special dates and photos of family members.

Using your Pentax digital camera is an affordable alternative to a professional photography session. Although there are benefits to professional studios, a do-it-yourself digital endeavor can produce results you will be proud of. Candid shots are just as valuable as professional portraits, and can include the entire family in a more natural setting.

There are a few rules-of-thumb that, once understood and adopted, can make your photos unique, interesting and professional looking. The holiday season is a magical time for all children. Get down to their eye level. Take a picture then another one a few seconds later. Their expressions will be more candid on the second take. If possible, do not shoot aiming directly into their eyes when using a flash. This may produce “red eyes,” especially if the surrounding lighting is dim. Most cameras have a mode for taking flash pictures while avoiding the “red eye” phenomenon. If you have an external flash with bouncing capabilities, point the flash at an angle toward the ceiling. It will bounce off the ceiling and produce a softer light. Better yet, most DSLRs are capable of shooting at high ISO with excellent results, using only ambient lighting. If your camera is equipped with in-camera shake reduction, as many Pentax digital cameras are, you can shoot at a slower speed and still avoid blur.

With your camera mounted on a tripod and its timer set on, you can put yourself in the picture as well. Compose your picture first and envision the position at which you can quickly move to, in your viewfinder or LCD monitor. Start the timer and quickly assume your position in the group. This technique always makes everyone laugh and is a perfect way to freeze your happy holiday moments.

If you stay at home for the holidays and are lucky enough to live in a snowy area, take the camera outside.

Bring the children or the whole group. Engage them in some activity and shoot sporadically at the group. Try to shoot from angles not usually seen in our daily life. Kneel down and look at the activities as if you were a child looking up, and then climb to a higher point-of-view and shoot down.

With a DSLR camera use a tripod and slow the shutter speed down. Check the results on your monitor and keep trying until your shots are sharp except for a slight blur of the moving subjects. This will create a feeling of joyful movements. The slower shutter speed also works without the tripod. If children are running around, which they usually do, handhold your DSLR and follow your subject on a horizontal plane. Take the picture as the subject passes in front of the camera, while following the movement. This is a technique called panning. Your subject should be in focus, while the arms and legs are blurred, and the background laterally smeared, giving a sense of action.

Trees or houses decorated with holiday lights of all colors make a perfect subject for night photography. Set the camera on a tripod and using the camera’s timer or a remote shutter release, take long exposures. Don’t use a flash.

Although various filters are available, you can use a piece of window screen placed directly in front of the lens. Each point of light will produce a cross like reflection. Don’t forget about local parades. Some of the best pictures of children are taken at these events. Take some pictures of the children while captivated by the scene. The happy expressions on their faces are the ingredients for precious memories. Grandpa and Grandma will thank you for those shots. Even if it’s snowing outside, you can keep shooting with a weather resistant camera. Major camera makers, like Pentax, offer weather resistant cameras, which are also great if you are travelling to a tropical place for the holiday season. Sand and salt water are not a digital camera’s friend.

Shooting when the sun is low on the horizon produces wonderful soft colors. This is usually referred to as the “golden hours.” Shorter daylight in winter may seem like there is less time for taking pictures, but since the sun rises later, and goes down earlier, these golden hours are more accessible.

One of the most common mistakes in people photography is the tendency to want to include everything and everyone in one picture. The results are often tiny little people lost in the overall picture. Get close to your subject.

When you think you are close enough, take the picture and then take another one even closer. Wide-angle lenses are great for picture inside a small room, especially inanimate objects. Telephotos or zoom lenses can capture those joyful faces at a not so intimidating distance.

People are not the only ideal subjects for the holiday season. Get a picture of the enticing food on the table before everyone digs in. Take pictures of the festive decor. Take a close up of seasonal objects such as snow on a tree branch, frosted windows up close, or a pet enjoying the festivities Let your imagination run wild. You can never take too many pictures. Use a memory card or cards with sufficient capacity. It is always better to delete unwanted pictures later than miss an opportunity now. Memory cards are very affordable these days; and it is wiser to have a few as backup. Make sure you also have spare batteries handy.

For the more advance photographers, you may consider shooting your pictures in RAW format and manipulate them later using post-processing software. Turn images to an “Oil painting” like effect.

Most of the techniques mentioned herein were reserved for professional photographers just a decade ago. Today, everyone can get similar results with digital photography. If in doubt, visit your local camera store or a photo kiosk found at most major malls. You will be surprised at all of the possibilities. If still in doubt, and you have access to the internet, do a search for "photography tips," or "online photo album," and before you know it, you will have a new world at your command.

Life is good, capture tomorrow’s memories today. This is a time to be joyful and a time to celebrate, a time to remember and a time to share, a time for family traditions, and a time to use your digital camera to capture every moment.

Thank you for reading,

Yvon Bourque

Some of the photos above were purchased from iStockphoto. I like to encourage other photographers.

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