Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Photography and backing up

What is it about photography that I like? I suppose this is best answered by giving some examples.
Photography is the magical act of taking a snapshot of time and freezing it, using a small box. The subject matter can be anything from a solar eclipse to a small drop of rain on a rose petal.


So now let me ramble on a bit about photography and cameras and hopefully give you an idea of why I like the hobby so much and hopefully I can inspire you a bit too.


A long long time ago in a town far far away, there was and in fact still is a place called the Severn Valley Railway, here majestic steam engines still run and take passengers on rides. One day a father and son came to visit, the son was allowed to stand in the drivers cab and look out of the window, the train was almost ready to leave and steam and smoke billowed out of it and the boys face was lit with a huge smile. This to him at the time was heaven, things could get no better, the sad part of the story is that the father had no camera and the moment is now lost in the mists of time.


As for myself, I have been fortunate to do many things, one of these was to take a balloon ride of the Masai Mara in Kenya. The balloon took off just before dawn and as the Sun rose over the mountains, I took many pictures and can look back at these any time and recall the silence as we drifted over the ground below.


This is what photography is about, capturing a tiny portion of time in a magic box, so that you can see it whenever you want.


These days, most amateur photography is carried out by digital means, which is great as you can snap away all you want and then delete the rubbish pictures without paying for development. But in my opinion this could come at a price. 
At home you probably have old prints of your parents, your grand parents and even great grand parents stuck in an old shoe box somewhere. But as long as the shoebox finds it's way down the generations, the pictures will still be there and the names of the people will live on. 

In this digital age, how many of our pictures will remain after we are gone? Will our children keep them safe in a digital shoebox and pass them on to their children?


Digital photography for the masses is still in it's infancy so time will have to tell this story.


In the meantime, lets go back to the pictures you have taken, the picture taken of your first child minutes after he or she is born, their christening, their wedding, the first holiday. You will probably take these pictures and keep them on your home computer or laptop. I urge you to back them up, £50 may sound like a lot for an external hard drive, but those pictures are priceless, they will never happen again and once the hard drive breaks and it will, they are gone forever.


The trick is to make sure that the backup is not where the computer is, keep the backup drive in your car or at a relatives house and do the same for them with their backups. If your house is broken into or catches fire then your backup is lost.


Now lets get onto the cameras, these magical time freezing boxes. In the back of the camera is something that captures the light that hits it, the technical term for this is a “light capturing thingy”.
To get a prefect picture, you need to let just the right amount of light onto it, too much and the picture appears washed out, too little and it will be too dark, you can compensate with software but information will have been lost, so try and get it right in the camera.


There are two ways to adjust the amount of light onto the “thingy”, one is to either speed up or slow down the length of time the shutter is open, the other is to make the hole that the light comes in bigger or smaller. Taking an average scene as your subject there are many settings which will give a good result but as you increase the length of time or exposure, you need to make less light come in by making the hole or apeture smaller.


Opening the hole longer means it takes longer to capture the image and things that move will become more and more blurred the longer you take. By making the hole bigger and letting more light in, less and less of the picture remains in focus. This is called depth of field and basic cameras that have no adjustment rely on this depth of field trick so that any picture that's taken appears sharp.


Why, I hear you ask wouldn't you want all of a picture to appear sharp?


Well, quite often you do, but sometimes you may just want to snap a portrait of someone or a bird in a tree and ensure that the only thing that people see in the picture is the subject. By using a shallow depth of field or making the hole bigger, the bird or persons face will be the only thing in focus, any distraction in the background will just be a blur.


Hopefully, this little ramble will give you some idea as to why I like taking pictures and why you should always back up your data. if you don't, once it's gone, it's never coming back.