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Photography Made Clearer

Using the CanonS2 is very different from the CanonA80 as the greater number of pixels and better zoom lens mean I have a better chance of taking a good photo. The feel of the camera is another factor and the fact that I look through the viewfinder instead of the flip out screen. I know my daughter, who takes really good photos, would argue about the screen, but for me steadiness is an issue and it helps if I have the camera closer to me. I am researching tripods, so the situation will change when I am not holding the camera, then it will help to avoid touching the camera by using a timer or remote. I also learned this from my daughter, who confided in me that she took my favourite photo of herself by putting the camera on a handy rock and using the timer.

I know that most of these ideas will seem obvious to most people who have knowledge of photography, but for a person who has spent their life in music and tapping on computers, this is an interesting new study.

My tripod research revealed the true enemy of clear, sharp photos is camera movement, even small vibrations can blur the capture. This can be compare to a pervasive hum or quick chair creak in the recording studio. Stillness of the motionless camera is the recording studio silence of photography.

Vibration must be controlled in music and audio recording too. From a physics perspective all instruments, including the voice, create sound using resonance caused by controlled vibration. As a recording engineer who works with the modern technique of sitting in the studio room instead of being isolated in a control booth, I have learned to control every sound I make. When recording, I breathe noiselessly and do not move unless absolutely required. Yoga has helped me control involuntary sounds made by digestion and to slow my heartbeat. Studio microphones will pick up a heartbeat if you are excited and allow your heart to pound, so even if you love the music, you must remain calm.

Now I must apply this type of philosophy to image capture. I picture myself as a support system and use yoga techniques to practice stillness. Usually, I practice tapping rhythms and poly-rhythms so I can stay musically sharp, even when I am not near an instrument. Now, I practice stillness, noting the frequency of vibration caused by both required and unnecessary movement.

Vibration Example

Less Vibration

The two photos of the crescent moon and planet were taken hand held with the exact same camera settings. The first one was taken without concentrating on technique. The second one is the result of the mental attitude of stillness and directed effort to squeeze the button instead of pushing it.

Attitude is very important in music, as the ability to concentrate and imagine the exact sound that you are going to make helps you to make it. This visioning process is a technique I have started to apply when taking photos. Planning what I want to capture, waiting for the precise image to be in view, letting the camera focus, relax and be rooted, then gently squeeze the button only takes slices of a second. It was a challenge to capture these fast moving greyhound dogs, as this one is moving slowly (top photo), then burst into motion (below).

I was able to concentrate to make these pictures, but often I find with a zoom, I get blur around the edges. The photo below was taken with the zoom, but by thinking about stillness and concentrating, I was able to catch the light on a downtown building on the Vancouver skyline (below). I will buy a tripod soon, but I can’t rely on having it around all of the time. With these techniques I am taking better photos.

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