Thursday, 1 October 2009

So that's how it's done!

Way back in the mists of pre-history, when Methusalah was but a stripling, I was the proud owner of a camera, a box Brownie. It must have been about six years before I graduated to a new, improved version but, under the influence of the man who was later to become my father-in-law, I went mad and bought a 35mm single-lens reflex camera from a colleague at work. Although I could change the lens and alter the aperture, exposure time and focus, I still needed a light meter to get the exposure accurate. I eventually changed to a better model which had a built-in light meter, but I was still learning just how to use the aperture size and exposure time to the best advantage. It took me quite a long time to get the basics and I never did make much progress beyond that, although I learned how to make the background out of focus so as to concentrate the viewers eye on the main subject, and how to stop movement or allow blurring to indicate movement and speed.

Then along came the digital revolution. I seem to recall that I received a digital camera as a free gift with something I bought; as a give-away, that camera must have been pretty basic and I never did use the thing anyway. But when I retired, my company asked me what I would like as a gift and I opted for a new digital camera. It cost quite a lot - rather more than I remember ever spending on my fairly up-market SLR - but was still a somewhat basic point-and-shoot model. I became disenchanted with it because it was so basic, although I did use it whenever I thought to take it with me. This is an example of a picture taken with that camera. It is a temple at Nara, Japan, which I visited when at the Lions' international convention in Osaka.

It's OK as a holiday snap, but that's about all that can be said for it.

Digital cameras were becoming both smaller and cheaper and I was particularly taken with one owned by a friend of my son which was small enough to put in one's pocket yet featured a zoom lens and better picture quality. What's more, it was the same make as the one I was already using and the memory cards were interchangeable. I bought one. That's the one that now produces dark spots in the sky, and, as I wrote yesterday, I eventually upgraded again. What I should have bought is a digital SLR so that I can see what I am photographing through the lens using a small eye-viewer or display window rather than relying on the LCD screen, which I find difficult to make out when the sun is shining too brightly, but I didn't. All the same, the camera I bought allows manual control of the aperture and exposure time so I can be a little creative.

It didn't take me very long to work out how to under- or over-expose pictures, but the manual that came with the camera seemed to be for a slightly different, probably a newer version and I couldn't work out how to adjust the aperture size. I've had the camera, what? Eighteen months, maybe two years? It must be two years as I certainly had it when we visited California back in 2007. And yet it was only yesterday that I realised the manual was for a completely different model of camera. I went to the manufacturer's web site, downloaded the correct manual, and bingo! I now know how to alter the aperture! Admittedly, there are only two f stops so any alteration is very limited, but I can choose which to use.

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