I have some knowledge about certain things. I will share some of this knowledge here.

Peter Gowdy   Toronto Ontario

Digital Photography

So you've made the leap from film to digital have you? I made the leap in August '99, and have taken over 17,000 photographs since then. If I were using film, that would be 472 rolls of film (36 per), and if the film cost $5 a roll and $10 for processing, that would be 472 x $15 = $7,080. I of course have spent nothing like that on processing, and therein lies the beauty of digital. Because there is no cost associated with taking a picture, I take many many pictures. You can print the ones you like. Being able to take hundreds of pictures at an event and only use the good ones is the main reason to switch to digital. Because of this cost factor, I found it handy to have my camera on me all the time.

Buying a camera
The first decision is whether you're going to be serious about photography or not. If you're going to be serious, then don't consider size of the camera. Get the one that you really want, even if it is big. This will mean that you will likely have a camera bag that you will carry around with you. The bag will include extra memory, maybe extra batteries, perhaps an extra lens , a flash, and maybe a mini tripod. If you're just going to be an average Joe with a camera, go for a compact design that allows you to carry your camera around in a pocket. It is critical when deciding on a camera to know this distinction before buying. If you want to be serious, you will probably be disappointed without the features available on most small cameras. If you're just going to be a regular Joe photographer, you won't carry around a big camera bag all the time. There are some great pocket-sized cameras out there with many features. I prefer the Olympus cameras, but admit that I have been loyal to this brand for almost 30 years. My current recommended model is the Olympus D-750, which is a 4 megapixel camera with an astonishing 10x optical zoom. Don't be misled by cameras that claim to have 10x digital zoom, or some combination of optical and digital zoom. Digital zoom simply means that the camera magifies the image after the picture has been taken, something you can do yourself on your computer after the fact. Digital zoom is bogus. Don't be misled by it. Ignore it. Optical zoom is the only thing that counts, and if a salesperson tries to claim otherwise, tell them they are a big fat liar.

There are some implications when you buy a big-megapixel camera. The more pixels in each image, the larger each file will be. This means you will need large memory cards and lots of space on your hard drive. Memory cards and hard drives are cheap these days, so as long as you're willing to have enough memory cards for a big trip, and you're willing to allocate large parts of your hard rive to your images, it shouldn't be a concern. If you have an older computer with a smaller drive (10 gigs or smaller), you might want to consider getting a larger hard drive (or even a new computer) if you go out and buy a 5 megapixel camera. Memory cards hold your images in your camera. I recently bought a 256 MB card ($110) for my trip to Europe. This one card can hold 436 images on it. That was enough for even shutter-happy me. The recent high-end digitals are 4-5 megapixels. With a 256 MB card, you will find that each picture takes up around 1 MB on the card, so that's around 256 pictures. Get it?

Using Your camera: Rule #1
Learn how to turn off your flash!
Whenever you see at a large sporting event or concert hundreds of flashes going off from the stands, each one of those flashes represents an uninformed photographer. There is no flash on earth that could have an effect on the lighting of the proposed subject from the distances involved in taking a picture in a stadium. Each of these "photographers" has simply pointed their camera at the field (or stage) and simply pushed the button. The camera thinks the subject is within the safe flash distance for the camera (as mentioned in the owner's manual which has not been read). The safe distance for flash use on most pocket cameras is about 15 feet. I suggest here that most people are further than 15 feet from the subject when they're at a sporting event or concert. So next time you se a bunch of flashes going off at such an event, you can smirk to yourself because you now know that these people are using their cameras incorrectly. You MUST learn what the maximum distance your flash can be used at. You MUST learn how to turn your flash off. If you don't, here's what happens when you take that picture at the stadium. Your camera is likely on 'automatic', and when you point it towards Mick or Matts, it sees that there is not enough light for the picture, and turns on the flash. It assumes you know about the maximum flash distance thing, and sets the shutter speed and aperture assuming the subject is say 12 feet away and that the light from the flash will be enough. Well the subject is hundreds of feet away, and only the light from the stadium will light your subject. You have likely seen photos taken under these conditions. When you see these photos later, you might see people in the foreground who seem to be lit by the flash and they are well-lit. Then of in the distance you'll see Mick or Matts only lit by the lighting on him. You'll notice that your flash had no effect on him. So learn how to turn off your flash. Most cameras have a button that allow you to cycled through the various flash settings. They are typically:
Automatic  On  Fill  Red Eye Reduction  and OFF
Automatic is simply that. The flash comes on automatically if there isn't enough light. Most people leave their camera on this setting all the time, and pictures in a stadium as described usually follow. Learn how to change this on your camera.. This picture shows a camera with a multifunction button, one of which is the little lightening bolt, which control the flash. Typically, you press the flash button repeatedly to cycle though the various settings. Learn how to do this. Learn how to change it to OFF. When you're at a concert, turn off your flash, and get good at bracing the camera. In your seat at the concert, hold the camera with both hands, and prop your elbows on your upper legs. Hold the camera steady when you take your picture Because the flash is off, the camera will have a longer shutter speed in order to get enough light for the picture. You must hold the camera steady during the exposure. Although a "slow shutter speed" is one where the exposure lasts longer than one-thirtieth (1/30th) of a second, which still doesn't sound like very long, you'll need to have a steady hand (or a tripod) if taking pictures longer than that. Later, after you have this figured out, look into the other flash settings, such as Fill and Red Eye Reduction.

Understanding your flash I think is the first step in using your camera well. Many people have been amazed when they compare their pictures to mine when we were taking pictures at the same time. The first step in getting better results in understanding the lighting in your picture. Taking a flash picture? Expect flash-like results.

Using Your camera: Rule #2
Understand the "white balance" controls
White balance is a control on your camera that modifies the colour of your pictures based on the colour of the light illuminating your subject. You know that the colour of sunlight is basically white, that regular incandescent light bulbs you use at home have a yellow tinge to them, and that fluorescent lights have a blue or green or yellow colour right? You've seen pictures taken without a flash using some kind of light bulbs as the main light source right? Well the white balance setting allows you to control the colour of the light. Check out these pictures of my walkie-talkie. The first one on the left was taken using the "Automatic Setting". In this mode (which is the default mode on most cameras), the camera tries to figure out the colour of the light present and sets the white balance accordingly. My camera allows me to take a reading of the colour of the light, and take pictures and adjust them to this colour right when you take the picture. The photo on the right clearly shows improved colour. Cameras that have a white balance setting typically have an "Auto" mode, and several preset colours, usually expressed in degrees Kelvin. For example, your camera's manual may show 6500 degrees Kelvin for the "Shade" setting. When your subject is in the shade, the colour of the light is typically blue (from the sky silly), as the left picture of the walkie talkie is. The camera knows when you take a picture that the result is going to be too blue, and adjusts the image accordingly. Cameras typically have settings for shade, overcast, incandescent, and fluorescent. Although the colour of shade, overcast, and incandescent are fairly constant, fluorescent light can come in many different colours. One setting for fluorescent assumes a certain colour. Since fluorescent lights vary so much, I always use a mode on my camera in the "user defined" mode(which yours may have too). To use this user-defined mode, I point the camera at something pure white under the current lighting. The camera is effectively told that THIS is white, even though it might not appear white. The camera then adjusts the light of subsequent pictures to this colour. In the walkie talkie pictures, you can see in the left photo how blue the white sheet appears. In the corrected photo on the right, the sheet looks like a white sheet.