My Nikon D-40 Is Dead

Well, it’s not really dead. But it might as well be. It sits next to my desk in a LowePro camera bag waiting for the next planned photo shoot that never seems to come along. It’s easy enough to carry around, and weighs no more than a couple of pounds. It’s the best camera I’ve owned.

But it has one major flaw.

It doesn’t have built-in Wi-Fi or 3G or even Bluetooth. That means it doesn’t have a way to connect directly to the internet. Not that those were features I looked for in a camera when I purchased the Nikon two years ago. Today, I can’t imagine purchasing a camera that ignores the internet.

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I used to make fun of camera phones. They were a joke. And then I bought an iPhone. It didn’t (and some would say it still doesn’t) come with a great camera. But it continues to improve with each iteration. Best of all, it’s always with me.

The old adage is true: the camera you carry beats the fancy model at home.

All four of these pictures were taken with my iPhone at times I wouldn’t have thought to carry my Nikon. Had I taken them with my Nikon they would have looked better, especially at higher resolutions. But they look good enough to share with friends and post to Facebook. Even a lower quality pictures trumps no picture at all.

Yet, I doubt Nikon or Canon care about people like me. Instead they focus on selling to professionals who will, in turn, purchase expensive lenses and accessories. Then again, when I see these same Nikon and Canon models sold at Costco I wonder if their customers will eventually force them to acknowledge the existence of the internet.

Once I owned a phone with a camera, I began looking for reasons to take pictures. Like the time Kim sent me to pick out a dress for Luca’s baptism. When I found two that matched the description she gave me, I took a couple of pictures and sent them to Kim’s iPhone. The ability to snap a couple pictures took only a few seconds but saved me a return trip to the store. The iPhone was the first camera phone I owned where the pictures looked “good enough”. The apps made them easy to share. That was the tipping point feature for me.

I have over 15,000 pictures of my hard drive. Many of them are better quality than what I can create on my iPhone. But they take greater effort to share. In the time it takes to launch Photoshop on my desktop PC, I can run a picture I took on my iPhone through a filter and post it to Facebook.  Speed matters. Ease of sharing matters even more.

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The gap between what I can create on my Nikon compared to my iPhone is shrinking with each phone Apple releases. Of course, a digital SLSR will always take better pictures in the hands of a professional. But for many casual photographers like me, the iPhone (or Android or WP7 phones) are plenty good for the majority of shots.

One reason I’ve enjoyed taking pictures with my iPhone is the fun programs that enhance my shots. Two of my favorites are Instagram and Camera Bag.

How about you? Are you taking more pictures these days with your camera phone, or are you carrying your favorite camera around?

The Red Chair

“If you don’t put them away, they will grow legs and disappear” 

That’s what my parents told me day after day referring to toys, bikes and sporting equipment I left on the grass in our front yard. I recall a football or Frisbee going missing but nothing major like a bike.

And now I find myself saying the same phrase to my children who listen as well as I did to my parents. The kids were able to spend a few hours of bike riding during the few times the sun came out this week. When I returned from church, I looked out the window to see this kid’s chair sitting on the grass.

Most everything else made it into the garage.

And now huge snowflakes are falling from the sky. It looks like the heavens are releasing tiny pillows of cotton down on our city. And this little red chair looks so peaceful that I’m thankful my kids left it on the grass.

Spring can wait a few more weeks.

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Teaching 14 Year Olds about Photography

This morning I arrived at my church to teach the Photography merit badge to a bunch of 14 year old scouts. We talked about the various parts of a camera, composition techniques (rule of thirds, framing, leading lines) as well terms such as shutter speed, exposure. aperture, and ISO.

Because the class is an elective, most kids that attended wanted to be there. I printed out pictures showing how different camera settings and angles can make a difference when composing a shot. They asked good questions and many kids had experiences to share with the group making for an interesting class.

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I had about 45-50 scouts in my class. When I asked how many had taken a picture with a digital camera, every hand went up. When I asked how many had used a film camera, only 3 hands went up. We discussed the pros and cons of using both formats, but it was clear most of these boy will never see or use a film camera. When we talked about the differences between point and shoot and digital SLR models one boy raised his hand and asked, “Why do I need one of those when I have a camera phone?” He wasn’t alone.

It’s exciting to think of how technology is shaping the lives of these kids. I thought about the kinds of cameras my children will be introduced to when they are only a few years older. Most kids these days are first introduced to photography through their phone. Most kids these days, have seen so many top stock photos from acclaimed professionals, that they have digested more photo art in their short lifetimes than true veterans of the past. That would have been hard to imagine just 10 years ago.

I suspect new technologies will become second nature to our children much the same way Nintendo and camera phones are seen by today’s teens. We still laugh about the time my daughter, who was 5 years old at the time, expressed amazement when she noticed her Grandma watching TV commercials. Incredulously, she asked, “Grandma, you can’t Tivo?”

My new camera lens

For Christmas this year my main gift to myself was a new Nikon AF-S VR 55-200 mm. I finally got around to taking a few picture of the kids yesterday and I’m happy with it so far. I’ve still got a lot to learn about my camera but I can’t imagine going back to a point and shoot model.

Here are a few shots I took in the later afternoon as the sun was beginning to set. I sure like being able to stand back from the kids and take candid shots instead of getting in on them with my smaller lens.

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A few of my favorite pictures captured by my brother-in-law

One of the best purchases I made last year was a Nikon D40 DSLR camera. This camera has made taking pictures a lot more enjoyable compared to the cheap point and shoot cameras I’ve had over the years. For Christmas this year I ordered this Nikon 55-200 VR lens. I’ve only begun to discover how all the different settings influence the picture, but I’m learning as I go.

Luckily, I have a brother-in-law who has been into photography for many years who has taught me everything I know. I’m reminded how much I’ve forgotten when I compare the pictures I’ve taken to his. He has a way of capturing the most compelling expressions at just the right moment. I don’t know how he does it except to believe that it’s a skill that he’s mastered over many years of trial and error. Check out some of his albums here.

Here are a few of my favorite pictures he’s taken of our kids.

I love this picture of Anna Lynn. The way he focused in on her eyes and features while the hair around her face is in a softer focus.

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This picture of Lincoln running at the park is one of my favorites. The vibrant colors are fantastic and Warren was able to capture Lincoln looking over his shoulder to see who was chasing after him.

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Warren captured Kim’s mom holding Anna, nose to nose, in 2005. Just an amazing shot.

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If I had to pick my favorite picture that Warren has taken of our kids it would be this picture. He took this I love Luca’s expression along with the color and the angle. I hope one day I can capture something close to this.

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I could add another 200 pictures that Warren has taken that I love. Here is my favorite picture I’ve taken with my Nikon D40. This is Lincoln sitting on our back steps after a run through the sprinklers.

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