Time to talk Windows 10

No Windows 10 icon from BetaNews.com

No Windows 10 icon from BetaNews.com

Julie Andrews famous song from the Sound of Music starts with “Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start” and this is where I am at…starting at the very beginning.

Microsoft is touting all the greatness of Windows 10. They say it is more secure and it is more useful than previous versions but in reality, Windows 10 is nothing more than Windows Vista. Technically it is Windows version 6.4 and Vista is 6.1. That tells you that they put lipstick and mascara on a pig and called it your date to the prom. Whether or not you accept it as a date is entirely up to you.

And this is why I write this…to help you make an educated decision about either upgrading to Windows 10 or if you are already there with Win10, I can help you lock it down to limit Microsoft (and it’s partner’s) ability to spy on you.

Two things to remember while you go through this…one–Microsoft is in business to make money and not to provide you with the best or even a workable operating system. Two–you cannot trust everything you read, hear, or are handed by a for-profit company.

No–this is not paranoia but truth. Each publicly traded company’s first responsibility is to its investors…not to its customers or its employees.

So with that stated…I will start walking down the Windows 10 road during this next week. It’s my way of saying thank you for reading this.

So you want to give a camera to someone this Christmas?

You need to learn how that person would use a camera. So ask these questions either of yourself or of the person you are buying for:

  • Where do you normally find yourself saying “If I only had a camera?”
  • Can I/they learn how to adjust aperture, focal length, or shutter speed?
  • Would they be better off with a point and shoot or do they need a DSLR?

Once you can get a handle on those items, you can then adjust your purchase and remember…the bigger the opening of the lens, the more light that lens lets it.

So a camera that looks like this:

A photo of the Nikon Coolpix P100 camera

The Nikon Coolpix P100 has a larger aperture which lets more light in

Takes better photos than a camera like this:

A photo of the Nikon Coolpix L22 camera

A Nikon Coolpix with a small aperture (opening)

And don’t let price deter you. Spend the extra $50-150 and get a camera that will show you a lifetime (or at least 2-4 years) worth of excellent photos!

Dealing with the old and the new

First off…PC World magazine has a great article on how to turn those old photographs in the family album into digital treasures. This is a key item in any family’s history—old photos and photo albums. The problem with giving them a digital treatment stems from the inability to know how to properly make safe backups of these files. It is not enough to simply store them on a blank CD/DVD and put them in a drawer or safe. Nope…

The best thing to do with these digitized old photos is to store them online. Looking for a place to put them? I covered that a couple of months back in my digital photo storage primer, http://jchampion.com/?p=352

NewToy
Having said that..it’s time that I introduce my new toy. It’s a mid-range camera to most but it’s a solid performer with a good record in the camera world. It’s a D90:

Nikon D90

My new Nikon D90

Here is one of my first pictures with it:

Bailey the Golden Retriever mix poses for the new D90

Bailey the Golden Retriever mix poses for the new D90

Nikon’s new toy

I have to get my hands on one and try it out but I think that the new Nikon 7000 series camera will be for me.

Just last month Nikon released its new entry level camera, the 3100. It featured something new that is being used on the 7000 and that is the use of autofocus when using HD video mode.

Now without going into too much detail, I know from my experience with my Nikon that sometimes autofocus hones in on the wrong thing. Your mileage may vary however and like I said, I need to get my hands on one of these in order to confidently tell you how it works.

Right now I can tell you that the 7000 is going to run you around 1200 but there is a brightside. You may soon start seeing reduced pricing on the D90 and the D5000 models which were the first cameras that Nikon offered which had some type of video recording.

There will be more on this camera as more information and reviews become available.

Don’t lose your images to a lossy .jpg

Comparison of the original image with the lossy jpg version of the same photo

Comparison of the original image with the lossy jpg version of the same photo-Courtesy of Rick Miller/Wake Forest University

Before we being, I apologize for my absence. I’ve switched jobs, switched lives basically and am just now getting settled into some kind of routine. Thanks for sticking with me during the past month of silence.

Okay…so if you’re like me you shoot in raw or maybe jpg and then rush over to your PC to download your shots and view them in some tool like Lightroom, Picasa, Microsoft Paint, whatever…

There is a reason why you should not save those precious images in a .jpg format for long term.

Everytime you open a .jpg type image you decompress the image and when you close it, you recompress it. It’s in this recompression that you wind up losing data. To understand why this happens you have to understand how compression works.

Compression works by using an algorithm to compute where changes in your file can be safely made to substitute one character for several. Now for you techies…this is a major simplification of the process. There is actually a lot that happens but suffice it to say that the original file that you started out with is stored in a compressed format. JPG uses this to reduce the size of the file and there are two formats…lossless and lossy.

If you are using lossy, you are also using a format that loses data. So everytime you open a file in Picasa, Photoshop, John’s photo viewer, etc…you are losing data. So over time, that image of your loved one, pet, flower, or something else over time, and multiple openings and closings, will start showing noticeable signs of deterioration in the digital version.

So what’s the solution? Save images in a lossless .jpg format or save them in an entirely different format like tiff, or maybe even .bmp (yes…a bitmap). Another option is to save original in their raw format that your camera shots them in, and use a lossless .jjpg for sharing and use a tiff/bmp on those images that you want to save for a very long time.

If your images are already in a lossy .jpg format. save them in a different format like tiff now. If you are just now importing images from your camera in a nice raw file mode, leave them in that mode and work with/use .jpg copies for short periods of time. Of course you can always make digital copies of your jpgs and share them.

More about online photo storage

Well I told you a couple of months ago that I would give you some additional information regarding online photo storage and there has been a little movement in the market as prices have come down a little bit and services have become easier to use and access. So let’s review my top five online digital photography storage sites.

First let’s review my criteria for selecting someplace to store your images online:

  1. Provides you with tools to upload multiple images off of your PC/Camera at one time
  2. Provides you with access to your images regardless of platform (PC/Phone/etc)
  3. Provides you with quality service around the clock
  4. Provides you the ability to have backups of your image collection
  5. The service does not automatically resize your images or provides you with tools to restore their original size
  6. The service gives you control over who looks at and downloads your images

With that in mind, here are my top 7 online image hosting services. These are in no particular order. I do this because I want you to go to each site and maybe look up one or two of your own and see which ones you will think can work best for your needs.

  1. Adobe Photoshop.com starts you with 2GB of storage for free but that’s not this site’s strength. Oh no…this site’s strength is in its editting
    tools. These tools allow you to make basic image edits like remove red eye, crop the image, or make some basic changes. For $20/year, you
    can buy 20GB of space. And you can expect to pay $1/GB for each increase above that.
  2. Flickr’s free account provides you with a monthly upload/download limit which has changed and continues to change. For $25/year you get
    unlimited photo and video storage.
  3. Smugmug is service geared at semi-professional and professional photographers. For $40/$60/$150 a year you can have more control over the
    site that presents your images. All plans have unlimited storage and allow you universal access to your images. The high end plan gives you
    complete control over the page that displays your images plus the way you sell your photographs.
  4. Photobucket is an Internet staple. Free accounts get 500 MB of online storage and you are allowed up to 10GB of downloadable bandwidth per
    month. There is a 1MB size limit per photo so if you use a Canon Mark V with the 77MB raw files, this is not going to be the solution for
    you. However for $25 a year, those limitations are removed and you get to post images up to 4000×3000 plus access to their technical support
    team
  5. Webshots by American Greetings, is a service that comes with the ability to use your images or the predefined images of other photographers
    into your projects. What this means is that there is also a likelihood for others to have access to your images for things like calendars, coffee
    mugs, and the like. They give you a 1000 image limit and then boost that with 100 extra images for every month that you remain a member of
    their free plan. For $20/year, those restrictions are limited but this offering is among the least favorable ones for photographers looking to post
    the thousands of images they generate a year.

Now there are some prominent sites that I left out. I left them out for a reason. Either I am not a fan of their policies or I do not like the software they ask the user to use for their site. However everyone is different and I urge you to research these other sites as well.

If you have any additional questions, just ask.

Camera Classes

LADay1-82
So from time to time it may be a good idea to take a class, either online or in-person to remember how this whole capture of light thing works. A few notes from the class I took over the weekend for those of you with new DSLR cameras.

1) Auto format–good if you really don’t know what you’re doing. But it’s like walking up to a baker and saying “make me a cake” and you get a strawberry banana cake when you wanted German chocolate. You didn’t specify what kind of cake and the same holds true for taking photographs.

2) ISO–you cannot overstate the importance of having the proper ISO for your conditions. If you are outside on a bright sunny day, ISO 200 or even 400 will work for you but at twilight, time to open that thing up higher and start approaching the 1600 range as lighting degrades. Experiment with different ISO settings to see how this works. It’s a DSLR and the space on a memory card is cheap. Blowing that once in a lifetime shot may not be so expendable.

3) Aperture (f-stop) — this is how big the hole is in the lens that lets light through. The bigger the hole, the more light shines through. It’s sorta like the family idiot…everyone knows he’s got a big enough hole in his head that you can see clean down to his gullet but he just won’t quit showing it off. Same is true here. The lower the number, the larger the opening. If you can find a lens with a 2.8, 1.8, 1.4 or so aperture then you can grab some really intense photos in low light. Conversely, if you have a smaller aperture lens, say a f4-6.3, you have what is called a slow lens. It’s slow because it requires more time for the shutter to remain open in lower lighting to achieve a decent image. That also means that your image is more prone to blurry shots because nothing really stands still long enough anymore. Well except for the oldest brother in my family…he sits still for so long, Mom had to dust him as a child…oh wait…that was me.

4) and finally…Shutter speed. This is how fast the shutter opens and closes to control how much light passes through the lens and into the sensor. It also determines how your image will be captured. A fast shutter speed means that you will stop motion faster but it also means that your aperture must be opened more in order for enough light to pass through to get a good enough image to use.  If you look at the photo above, you can see where I stopped the helicopters rotors in flight. It’s a neat trick but I must confess…the camera was on auto…and what was that about strawberry banana cake again.

Questions? Let me know…you can look online for digital photography classes in your community. Check with your local community college for continuing education classes as well as check with local camera shops. That’s where I took mine…and it only cost me $30 for two and a half hours of refreshing my brain. I wish I could do that for math. But if you are in the San Antonio area, check the Camera Exchange website and let them know you read about it here on Jchampion.com.

They aren’t paying me anything but I figure if I get enough referrals they might let me take the next class for free.

Are you finding flowers?

Honeybee atop a bluebonnet
Bee atop bluebonnet found in local park

The flowers are out and it’s time to gas up and head to some quiet country road with your trusty camera and shoot some shots.

Please remember your common sense…never stop in a dark and isolated place. One reason is that you may get really bad shots there and you also run a greater risk for something bad happening to you.
But please use the side roads and stay off of the roadway and make sure you keep yours eyes open. Do not let yourself get caught up in the moment, and lose track of where you are.
Take your time, take as many shots as you want but do not take any of these flowers with you. Remember, under Texas law, certain plants are protected and taking one or two is considered a criminal offense.
Also, I can’t state this enough, please check the ground thoroughly before placing a child down in a flower patch. Ants and other bugs love flowers too.
Finally…send me your best shots and tell us what you did and used to get this shot. Some of the best things in photography are the stories in how you got that perfect shot.

Wild Flowers are popping up

Wildflowers are blooming-Sandia Cemetary

Wildflowers blooming in the cemetary in Sandia, TX

It’s time to prepare your cameras and your bug spray and venture out to your nearest patch of wildflowers. Here are some basic tips for finding and shooting those winning flower pictures.

1)Finding the right patch is easy. TxDOT actually does something right by publishing a list of where the best wildflower patches can be found. There may be more and you may want to do a Google search on Texas Wildflowers and find the list. This season is expected to be one of the best ever and it’s a good chance for you to take those cameras that you got at Christmas and go get some experience. Here is a link to the Texas Department of Transportation list

2) Take your children but please LOOK AT THE GROUND before you put them down. It’s borderline cruelty to drop small children on top of ant hills and ask them to hold still while you take their photograph.

3) Frame your shots. Do not just point your camera at the field and get the whole field alone. If you feel like that is a great photo, certainly take it.  But in addition to that shot, you should walk around look for exceptional shots or flowers with brilliant color.  and then follow the basic rules of thirds in taking your shot.

4) Add something different to the shot to break up  the floral scene. Notice the cemetary shot that I have posted with this. It uses a grave marker as a piece to break up the scene and to also give the viewer some idea of the relationships between  the flowers, the graves, and the cemetary.  You might use your dog, your child, an old broken down tractor, or something else all-together.

5) Do not simply take the photo and upload it. Bring it home and spend some time with it on a computer. Adjust the lighting, play with the settings. Every camera comes with basic software to do the most basic editing functions. Please do not take this to mean to go out, buy a $1,000 overpriced copy of Adobe Photoshop.  There are are many free image editing solutions that go beyond the basic features of the software that came with your camera. Google search them or try a search on Download.com but be careful. Malware takes on many forms and you should only download from sites you trust or that come recommended. If you have questions about software packages, feel free to ask me or check out DPReview.com, About.com, Photoshop.com or any other photocentric site.

6) Have fun. This should be enjoyable and not a hassle. If you find yourself struggling or inconvenienced by taking the time to take these shots, perhaps this is not for you.

Happy shooting!