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Tag: camera

The Power of Anticipation

Though the effects of winter are still weighing heavy, I found spring at the base of the forest. 

I always look forward to snapping pictures of spring. There’s that special window of time when nature suddenly reemerges. The early colors. The bright greens. The young buds. It’s nature’s celebration of life returning to normal.

As I peer out of my home office window, we’re not quite there. Not yet. Sure, there have been several warm, sunny days in Fairfield County, CT. And there are some early signs of reawakening outside. Yes, spring is officially here, but nature has its own schedule.

If you think I’m drawing a parallel to our present pandemic existence, I am. Our lives are frozen in so many ways, but thankfully thawing with the rollout of vaccines. 

In Search of Life as We Know It

I headed out on a hike this past weekend to Collis  P. Huntington State Park in Redding, CT. I brought along a couple cameras with the intent to capture nature’s visual equivalence of our current state of anticipation.

As I took in the forested area, much was still in hibernation mode. But when I looked closely, the rebirth was already well underway. Not so much high up in the trees, but closer to ground. The foundations of the ecosystem was kicking into high gear.

These photos promote a near future when spring fully arrives.

I can’t wait.

How to Take a Great Family Selfie without a Selfie Stick

If you love using your selfie stick, please allow me this opportunity to show you another way to the perfect family photo…

I don’t know about you, but the idea of using a selfie stick freaks me out. Having to attach your expensive smartphone onto a fragile grip mount and then extending it way beyond your reach on a long pole… all in the name of being able to snap a good selfie is downright frightening.

Sure, you might get a good photo out of it, but there could be other consequences if the unexpected happens. What if you lose control of your selfie stick, and your smartphone falls from ten feet up? I bet you’re assuming I’m talking about the shattering impact on an unforgiving cement surface. Not necessarily…

During our recent vacation to Niagara Falls, I observed scores of selfie sticks in action and extended over what I would consider a no-fly zone… the Niagara River! You’ve got to believe that over the years, there have been at least a few unfortunate smartphones that have taken the plunge over the Falls after capturing the perfect selfie…

Now, lots of folks love using their selfie sticks. And I grant that I may be in the minority on this topic. But if I may, I’d like to offer a few other ways to generate a great group family photo without using a selfie stick…

Ask a Stranger
First off, you may not actually have to take a selfie. It should go without saying that it’s okay to ask a stranger to take your photo. You can also simultaneously offer to take their photo as a reciprocal gesture.
(Chances are you’re not the only one who’d like to take advantage of a photographic opportunity.)

And assuming the stranger can frame the shot and get everyone’s eyes open, it should be a pretty good picture, simply because it’ll likely be wide enough to reveal the background.
(Where you are is always an important part of any group photo.)

I find most strangers actually err by not zooming in enough or walking forward. But that’s okay, because you can crop the shot later.

Use a Wider Lens
If nobody else is around, and you’re on your own, the trick is to make sure you’re using a camera with a wide enough lens. It needs to be able to see your entire family when you stretch out your arm to attempt the selfie.
(My Panasonic Lumix LX10 has a zoom lens that starts at 24mm, which is perfect to capture my family and me. I’ve also successfully jammed eight people into my Lumix selfies, but it’s a snug shot.)

Not all cameras and smartphones use lenses that wide. So, you’ve got to pay attention to this detail. (I understand the iPhone 11 has a wider front-facing camera for horizontal group selfies.)

Don’t Look at the Screen
Of course, it really helps if you can actually see what your selfie is going to look like. This isn’t a problem when using a smartphone, because the front screen is always right there. But if you’re holding a standalone camera, it’s much better if its rear screen can flip up for you to see.

Either way, you’ve got to instruct everyone to not look at the screen, but at the lens. Otherwise, you’ll capture this odd moment of your family looking someone distracted. They’ll be sort of looking at the lens, but not really.

Don’t Forget the Basics
Once you’ve figured out how to get your whole family framed in the shot, here are a few more tips to get the best selfie possible-

  • Always snap several photos.
    (That helps ensure someone isn’t blinking at the wrong moment.)
  • Try to make sure there’s enough light hitting you from the front to keep you well lit.
  • Avoid harsh, direct sunlight that’s sure to make someone in your shot squint in pain.
  • Frame the shot to include the key parts of your environment.

Granted, you may not be able to architect your shot to include all of these factors. If you’ve got to compromise, don’t give up the ‘where.’
(When you’re at Niagara Falls, you’d better show some water in the background!)

Finally, taking a good selfie with any camera takes practice. So, you’ve got some homework to do if you’re using a new camera.

Maintain Control
The most important point is you don’t have to use a selfie stick to get the shot you want. You could choose to rely on the kindness of strangers, or you may need to stretch your arm out to the edge of its sockets…

But your smartphone will remain firmly within your sphere of influence.

You’re Taking Way Too Many Pictures

Does your picture-taking style resemble throwing lots of pasta at the wall to see what sticks? That can help you nail the perfect photo, but what about the mess you’ve also created?

Does your picture-taking style resemble throwing lots of pasta at the wall to see what sticks? That can help you nail the perfect photo, but what about the mess you’ve also created?

Last week, I asked someone to take a couple of pictures for me on his iPhone for a project. It was something of a spontaneous moment… But everyone’s got a smartphone these days, right?
So no biggie…

Later that afternoon, he walked over and offered to AirDrop “the bunch” to me between our iPhones.
(And that was so much faster than receiving an email with the photos attached and then having to save the pics to my iPhone.)

So I stare at my iPhone’s screen. A message popped up that asked if I wanted to accept the incoming photos.
(They would get immediately stored in the native Photos app.)

I clicked “Yes” and voila, my iPhone ingested… 81 photos.

81 what?!
You read correctly.

Yes, the ‘few’ images I had requested ended up being a photo essay of 81 images.

I thanked him, but really… I didn’t want that many photos.
(I secretly grumbled about much time it would take me to go through all of them to find the best one or two.)

Tick Tock
Now, I’m sure he was just trying to be helpful by capturing a whole lot of photos to ensure he nailed some good ones for me.
(And now I’m feeling a little guilty being so ungrateful.)

But there’s a fundamental problem at play here that this kind of moment demonstrates.
And I think we’re all guilty of this when we start snapping photos…

We act like digital photography is essentially free.

And to a certain extent, that’s true. The only noticeable cost is the gradual filling up of your smartphone’s memory or your camera’s media card.

But trust me, this way of thinking is certain to create a time bomb down the road.
‘Cause you’re going to wake up a few years later and realize you’ve got 12,000 photos in your phone.

And what are you supposed to do with all of those photos?!
Are you spending the necessary time to separate the wheat from the chaff?
And more importantly, what have you been doing with your thousands of pictures along the way?

Here’s your true cost to taking thousands of your free photos every year:
You’re going to need huge chunks of time to manage your growing photo archive.
You will give up trying and figure you’ll deal with the problem another day.

And you know what that means…

  • You didn’t print them.
  • You didn’t share them.
  • You didn’t enjoy them.
  • And nobody else did either.

Whoa… that’s a bummer.

And you know how I feel about waiting too long…
Yes, I say that lots of your pictures actually have expiration dates!
Because beyond your immediate family unit, nobody really wants to see a three-year-old photo of your six year old.

People want to see fresh photos.

Sure, there are always archival benefits to your pictures, but they’re much more valuable in the here and the now!

Less is More
Remember the old days of film photography just before the turn of the century?
(Ahem… the 21st century)
Come on… it wasn’t that long ago when we used rolls of physical film in our cameras. There were only 24 or 36 pictures per roll, and it cost you about twenty bucks to develop each roll.

Trust me, you probably weren’t taking 81 pictures of anything back then.
I know I wasn’t.

The beauty from that pre-digital age was you’d take two… maybe three photos of something… to be sure you got the photo just the way you wanted.
(There was no way to know, because there was no screen in the back. How did we ever survive…?!)

You’d maintain a few family photo albums and probably a couple of shoeboxes with some disorganized pics, and that would be it.

Okay, let’s fast forward to the present….
How much physical space would it take to house… say… twenty thousand physical photos?

Well, of course the answer is zero, because most of these photos would either live on your hard drive, which will eventually go caput, or in the Cloud somewhere.

What happens if one day you forget to pay for your Cloud account? Then, you’ll lose access to those photos.

And then where will you be?
You’ll have no photos of your life… at all.
(You’ve got a stronger back up plan, you say? Well, bravo for you. You can skip to the end of this post.)

Okay, I know I’m being a little apocalyptic.
Perhaps, I exaggerate. But only slightly.

Your Sock Drawer is a Mess
I really feel we’re losing control of all the photos we’re taking.

Too Many Photos






(I know I’m having a hard time keeping up.)

Sure, many of us effortlessly post dozens or even hundreds of photos online to share our lives in the moment, but I believe this apparent fluidity masks the larger problem of what’s happening to the others 19,000 photos.

Imagine a giant sock drawer you haven’t opened in twenty years with thousands of unmatched socks.
Do you feel the problem now?

If you don’t pay attention to your digital photo library and to the volume of photo files you’re feeding it, you’re going be in a world of hurt down the line.

Magical Sequences
Of course, there’s often an exception to any rule….
And that’s when you’re capturing a series of related moments via rapid-fire picture taking. My wife has done this a bunch of times with me and my son using her iPhone 6 Plus.
(This art form is very intuitive for her.)

These magical photo sequences can represent a few seconds to up to a minute. You’d never be able to capture these wonderful connected images unless you simply snap away… as if the price per photo were free.

How Many Photos Do You Need?
So no, don’t take lots of pictures all of the time.
Except when sometimes you should.

Got that?

All right, so you’ve got to be a little flexible when confronting how to capture your family’s lives through digital photography.

Just always ask yourself this question-
How many photos do you really need to take to get what you want?

If you decide to take 81, that’s okay.
Just don’t leave it for another day (decade) to figure out which two or three you should keep.

And remember, nobody really needs to hold onto 20,000 pictures to tell their life story.

Sometimes, it only takes one.

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