Tag Archives: photography

No, those aren’t brush strokes. It’s just digital zoom.

After several days not being able to see any of the birds I could hear when I went for a walk on break from work, I saw a whole bunch of them hanging out on a lawn, eating seeds or bugs or whatever it is that these particular birds eat. Of course since I’d been walking to lunch, the only camera I had with me was my phone. No optical zoom, and I couldn’t get too close without spooking them. I figured what the heck, I’d give it a shot (or several) with the phone and see if I got something clear enough to post to iNaturalist.

I didn’t, as you can see, but it’s a great example of something I’ve found fascinating about digital zoom: The way it can make a photo look like it’s been painted with brush strokes rather than captured with pixels.

Personally, I’ve never understood why digital zoom is implemented as a resize instead of just cropping to a lower resolution. Even back when the full resolution on cameras was low, I’d rather have a clear 640×480 image than a blurry 1280×960. The only reason I even enabled digital zoom on an actual camera (rather than just cropping it later on my computer) was because it made a difference to the auto-focus, exposure, etc. choices the camera would make.

I suppose it’s marketing: They promised you however many megapixels, after all!

Going Mirrorless: WonderCon 2019 Cosplay Photography

Last fall, I conceded that phones have caught up to casual cameras and I’d have to get a nicer one to get better image quality. Well, I finally bought a mirrorless camera. The kiddo found my old SLR, and we’ve split a few rolls of film (re)discovering how to shoot with it. Then he started asking about a modern digital equivalent. Since it was going to be two of us using it, not just me, I felt like I could justify the expense.

I read a bunch of reviews and asked around for advice, finally settling on a Sony Alpha a6000. It’s a few generations back in their advanced amateur line, making it a bit more affordable.

We brought the new camera to WonderCon, and I made some discoveries:

  1. It actually handles the light level inside the convention center!
  2. I’ve gotten waaaay too used to just capturing costumes when shooting cosplayers, instead of composing interesting shots. Most of the photos I took on Saturday had good image quality, but were ultimately just snapshots.
  3. Because of #1 and #2, I ended up with a lot of busy backgrounds. I tried to cut down on the distraction by adding vignetting to some of the photos afterward.

Originally we planned totrade off who had the good camera, but he ended up wearing his giant Minecraft Spider Jockey costume the entire time, so he didn’t have much opportunity to take photos. In the end, he only took one all weekend…but it was the best-composed shot of the entire day!

Women dressed as Joy, Sadness and Disgust from Inside Out

I took the lesson from that, and while most of my pictures on Sunday were still utilitarian snaps, I did manage to take a few that I think worked out better, like these three:

My full cosplay gallery is on Flickr, including these four photos and all those snapshots.

First Try With The Old Film Camera

We got the negatives and scans back from the two rolls of film we shot with the old manual film camera. Despite the damage to the case, it seems to still be light-proof, as the second roll of film came out about as well as the first.

It was an interesting experiment. We mostly took night/indoor photos with the tripod and handheld photos outdoors in daylight. He’s not used to focusing, so a lot of his photos are blurry. The light meter app on my phone seems a little off in sunlight, so our outdoor photos are all either over– or under-exposed. (The zinc-air batter has since shown up, so with luck we’ll be able to get more accurate light readings with the next roll.) But it gave some of the photos a retro feel.

Here are a few of the better shots, plus one of the light-polluted, smoke-filled skies of Los Angeles with enough stars to recognize Cassiopeia.

Bringing Back the Old Camera

A couple of weeks ago, the almost-8YO found my old manual SLR camera – the 1967 model my grandfather gave me. I bought some film, and picked up a light meter app while waiting for the battery to arrive (the light meter is the only powered part of the camera), and I showed him how to load the camera, focus, choose the shutter speed and aperture, etc., and the two of us shot a roll of film, trading off between us.

As I showed him how to unload the camera, I managed to knock it off the table, where the open camera crashed to the floor.

I couldn’t believe it! This camera is older than I am, and I was fairly certain it still worked…until we shot one roll of film!

Amazingly the lens didn’t break, and nothing seems to have damaged the shutter mechanism either. The only thing that I’ve noticed is that the door in the back of the case is bent slightly. I can still close it, but I have to shift it about 1/8″ to do it. I hope it’s still light-proof…

We shot another roll of film, again taking turns, and tomorrow I’m taking it into a photography store to get them developed. I really thought the slow turnaround would be frustrating to him, but he’s finding it fascinating.

The Old Camera

The 7YO was looking through the closet the other day and found my old camera bag. Inside it: the old film SLR camera that my grandfather gave me when I was around 12. It’s older than I am, a Sears camera that appears to be a rebranded Ricoh Singlex TLS from 1967. It’s completely manual except for the light meter.

And I expect it will work perfectly once I put some film in it.

As a teen I used it take photos of family, landscapes, spaceship models, stars, photo essays, monuments, even a space shuttle landing. He showed me how to develop film and slides, and make prints in his home darkroom.

It was my main camera for several years, until I got tired of carrying it around and went back to using a point-and-shoot camera. But I still miss having such effortless control over the focus, exposure and aperture. I keep telling myself I’ll eventually get a DSLR and recapture that.

Exam

Anyway, I showed him how to handle it, how to focus and set the F-stop and shutter speed, how to open it, load (imaginary) film, remove the lens, and see the iris as he opened and closed the aperture. We set it for a long exposure so he could watch the shutter open and close. He also found the tripod I’d given up looking for a while back, and once he was done inspecting this one, he hooked it up to a newer camera.

The problem is, he really wanted to try out the camera, but we don’t have any film. I don’t think I’ve bought film in almost 15 years, since I bought my first digital camera. You could buy film in any grocery store when I was younger, but it’s been relegated to specialty shops and online stores over the past decade. I figured I could find it online easily enough. But whose film is worth getting these days? And where to get it developed?

Tracking Down Supplies

Some of the more serious photographers on Photog.Social (a Mastodon instance focused on photography) shoot film, so I asked for suggestions there. I’m going to have to explore Film Photography Project,, which looks fascinating!

Film was easy to find, but then there was the battery for the light meter. You can’t get the same kind of battery anymore. It turns out that old cameras like this one used mercury batteries because they produce a very consistent voltage instead of starting high and trending downward over their lifetime. But, you know, mercury. Not something you want seeping into groundwater from trash. They haven’t sold them in the US since 1996.

I could use the camera without a light meter. I’d just have to figure out the exposure on my own!

As it turns out, Zinc-air batteries have a similar discharge curve (but a much shorter life), and there’s a size that’s designed as a replacement for this one. OK, there’s that problem solved.

So, film and battery have been ordered, and are in the mail!

This should be interesting…