It seems the smart phone is with most people most of the time but, when it comes to taking photographs to keep and treasure, most still turn to the quality of a camera.

And photography is taking giant technological strides too, with constant improvements in quality matched only by the reduction in size and weight.

At the bottom end of the range there are “point and shoot” cameras which are simple to use but offer very good quality (better than that smart phone or iPad). Ask about good lenses — it’s possible to buy a good-quality Leica lens on a small camera.

Next up the list are cameras which are a little bulkier, still easy to use, but which have good built-in zooms (and the rough rule of thumb here is optical zooms are good and digital zooms are bad — so look for a zoom where the lens physically moves and you will find up to 50x without spending a fortune).

As mirror-less lenses have been increasing in quality, so to has the choice. Basically the technical designers took out all the “flappy bits” that were needed in the old days of film photography, so that there’s a sensor with a lens in front of it. The quality in these has just been stepped up to “full frame” (roughly the same as an old 35mm negative, for those of us fortunate enough to remember them) and interchangeable lenses are about the size of salt shakers.

But there is still a strong demand for DSLRs — digital single-lens reflex cameras, with their complement of lenses. These still offer the “real photography feel”.

But whatever the camera, here are some tips for getting more from your photography on one, two or three nights away in WA:

  • Photography is all about capturing light. The first and last hours of light in WA can give the most dramatic pictures (the bleachy, shadow- throwing stuff in the middle just gets more difficult). Try to be in the right place at the right time.
  • There might be a scene you like but you’re not there at the best time. The beauty of being away for two or three nights is you can return. Work out how the sun will move (point the “12” on your watch at the sun, and halfway between there and the hour hand is north) and come back when the light will fall well on the scene.
  • Aim to get a set of photographs that tells a story — big scenes, quirky details, portraits.
  • Set your camera on its highest resolution. There’s nothing worse than getting a fantastic shot and the file is too small to do much with.
  • Fill the frame. Look at all four edges of the viewfinder. Make sure you have packed the frame tight. Invariably you can “move a bit closer” and make a picture better.
  • Look at the background (make sure you don’t have telegraph poles growing out of people’s heads).
  • The Rule of Thirds is a good basic composition technique. Imaginary lines divide the image into thirds horizontally and vertically and you place important elements of the composition where they cross.
  • Make sure it’s sharp. Hold the camera still (obviously), ensuring it’s had time to focus. And make sure the lens is sparklingly clean (only use a proper lens cloth on it — even the end of a soft cotton T-shirt can permanently mark it with tiny scratches)
  • When shooting portraits, it’s best to make sure the subject’s eye is sharp. Make sure your camera focuses on the iris.
  • Depth of field is very important. This governs how much is sharp in front of and behind the spot you have focused on. Most compact cameras have short cuts to do this (use the AV setting on a Canon or A setting on a Nikon, and the camera will add the right shutter speed to give a good exposure). This is to do with the F numbers you see on the screen — and the lower the number, the smaller the distance that is in focus before and after the subject, so you can turn this down to isolate subjects and have a fuzzy background.
  • Shutter speed interplays with the aperture setting (the preset TV on a Canon and S on a Nikon, for example). The “quicker the click” (say, 1/2000th of a second), the more you stop the action. Shoot a waterfall this fast and you will see every drop, stopped dead. The “slower the click” (say, 1/40th of a second), the more time there is for that waterfall to flow past the front of the lens while it’s open, giving that milky appearance.
  • Keep notes. It’s good to know where you were and what you felt — your point of view, from an emotional and reactive point of view, which matches the physical point of viewing of your camera.

Aim to get a set of photos that tells a story — big scenes, quirky details, portraits.

It’s good to know where you were and what you felt — your point of view.


© The West Australian

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