Photography 6/9/22

Thoughts with Richard Bleil

During my youth, my dad had a very nice camera.  Don’t ask me the make or model, but I know it was good for the time.  Rarely did he use it.  Well, except to take pictures of bridges, and it felt like when he did, it was a major nuisance.  He would pose everybody and would take so long to focus that I would lose several years of school.  I can’t blame him, though.  Back then, you paid a goodly amount of money on the camera, then you had to buy the film (choosing, very carefully, the ISO of the film which determines necessary exposure and graininess of the film, and you had to pay to send it off and get it developed.  Any bad pictures were discarded, and always represented lost money. 

Today, you pay a goodly sum of money for the initial camera, and then you can snap as many pictures as you like with no added expense (save time for sorting and editing, something else my dad couldn’t do).  So, yes, of course I’m getting into photography.  Now, I should say that one good friend of mine (former professor) is a tremendous Nikon fan, and another (the best amateur photographer I know) is enamored with Canon.  I came on a deal for a Nikon starter kit, a D7500 DSLR, and out of curiosity, I’ve recently purchased a Canon EOS R6.  The first and obvious difference between them is that the Nikon is a standard digital camera with a mirror, and the Canon is a mirrorless camera. 

With my Nikon, a mirror is down, reflecting light through the eyepiece.  When you take the picture, a little motor lifts the mirror out of the way, the aperture opens and closes allowing light into the photodetector, and the mirror drops once again.  I purchased the Canon, specifically seeking a mirrorless DSLR (Digital Single-Lens Reflex) camera.  I have been feeding birds, and I’m hoping to get some photos of them at some point, and I was hoping the mirrorless would be quieter so as not to frighten them.  The mirrorless DSLR’s also have the aperture, so they’re not completely silent.  Ironically, I just learned that the Canon aperture is louder than the Nikon, but without the mirror, it’s still more silent. 

One thing that truly surprised me is the difference between what you see in the Nikon and in the Canon.  See, without the mirror, the light passes through the camera’s processor, and what you see is on a digital screen.  The mirrorless camera actually shows you the photo that you are about to take as it will appear.  That is, as you change the photo settings (ISO, aperture size and speed, and f-stop which affects focusing of the background), you can see how it changes the photo in the eyepiece.  I never stopped to think about it before, but with the mirror, all you can see is what is coming through the lens.  The Nikon can act as a mirrorless, but generally, as you change the settings, you don’t see any changes in the eyepiece (viewfinder). 

I’ve not had the two cameras long enough to learn how they perform in different settings (sport, portrait, low-light and so forth).  I’m told the Canon is better in low-light photography, which implies the Nikon is better during the day.  We’ll see, but this raises the concept of different types of photography.  The photographs most people have seen are artistic.  My friend loves her nature photography, another enjoys portrait photography.  My professor friend used to teach forensic photography for my program.  Forensic photography is the least creative photography of which I am know.

The purpose in forensic photography is to tell a story.  In a crime scene, photos are first taken to show orientation of the area.  It’s very common to see street sign photos, with the crime scene clearly visible in the photo so a jury can get a sense of where the crime occurred.  Then, photos are typically taken on the path up to the crime scene, including to and through the doorway if the crime occurred in a house. 

The angle of the photographs is almost always straight on.  Angles distort the relative sizes of the items in the photo, which is a great tool for artistic photos, but in forensic photography it can paint a false narrative.  So, rulers are often laid down, and as much as possible, the photos are taken to show the details as they are.  Every photograph is reviewed immediately on the spot to be sure that the photo reflects the intended purpose of the picture that was taken.  If not, it’s retaken, but photos are never discarded just in case they picked up something the photographer didn’t intend.  In one case, the photographer wanted to take a photo of an article of clothing in a closet.  On reviewing the photo, it was clear that a closer photo was needed for the purpose the photographer had in mind, but the original was kept.  Later, it was discovered that another article of clothing, far more important to the case, was also in the closet.  This piece of clothing was not in the second photo, but fortunately it was visible in the original.

In normal photography, there are many things a photographer will do.  They’ll use features of the land to draw the eyes of the viewer where the artist wants them to go.  The f-stop setting will be changed for the purpose of the photo (for example, in a vacation photo you’ll want the background in focus for architecture, while in a portrait you might want the background out of focus to draw attention to the person).  Today, I’ve decided that I’ve practiced composing photos and playing with focus enough and I’m moving on to the other technical aspects of photography.  My cameras will allow me the opportunity to do so, and honestly, I’m very excited about it.

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