Friday, September 30, 2005

Teaching Yourself to Shoot Digital

By Christina VanGinkel

If you are like the average budding photographer, your camera will occasionally sit for periods unused. This could be a matter of a few days, or even weeks or months, depending on your lifestyle and work commitments. Then, when the mood strikes to get out there and snap some photos, you end up wasting valuable time reacquainting yourself with the camera's controls and functions. I know I do anyhow. My newest camera, a Konika Minolta DiMage Z5, has so many buttons and settings, that I have never even taken the time to understand them all, let alone remember what they each do. I am also a beginning photographer in the truest sense of the word, so I need help with the most basic of settings.

I have been trying to overcome these limitations by heading out with my camera and manual every chance I get. If I am taking a walk, it comes along. If I am taking my son to a football practice or game, I have it with. A ride in the truck to look for a deer post for my husband, followed by a trek through the woods, they are with me. The manual that came with the camera is not very large physically, but I made it even smaller and more portable by taking out the pages that are wrote in different languages, leaving only the English version intact. Surprisingly, it made an already portable manual even more so. It now slips easily into my coat pocket or the back pocket on my jeans.

I also have gotten into the habit of snapping shots of all sorts of things. Acorns piled on the ground, leaves falling from trees, a deer off in the distance. At my son's football games, I snap photos not only of the playing field and the kids in action, but also of the school buildings next to the field, a rainbow after a brief shower, young children rolling down a hillside next to the field, a stray dog even. Nothing that catches my eye is given a second thought, I just take the photograph, preview it, pull out my manual if I think the camera might need adjusting, and after changing a setting or two, snap another shot.

Some of the photographs I have taken are good for nothing more than the delete button. Others like the one I snapped of my grandson at our local County Fair, are worthy of center stage. His back to me as he stood on the rail of a carnival game, to get his little two-year-old arm close enough to throw a dart at a balloon, is perfect as I could ever imagine in both composition and lighting. Before becoming determined to learn how to use this camera to all of its abilities, I would never even have attempted a shot in the fading light of the day as I did. When I think of all the shots I have missed through the years because I was afraid to press the shoot button for fear of wasting film, I am reminded how fortunate I am to have such a thing as a digital camera at my beck and call. Do not let yours go to waste sitting on a shelf or in the back of a closet. Pull it out, grab that manual, and snap away. It is not as difficult as it looks, and delete is the easiest button to use.

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