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Welcome The Holiday Season In A Digital World
By Yvon Bourque

Snowman, copyright Yvon Bourque
The holiday season is here, and it is time to celebrate, time to share, and time to use your digital camera. Holidays bring out the shutterbug in all of us and children, decorations, foods, and the signs of winter are all wonderful memory makers and keepers.

Don’t wait for the first celebration to pull out your camera. Right now is the time to check that your system is in good working condition. Check batteries and order spares, download existing images from memory cards or buy more, shine lenses and LCD screens with a lens cloth and invest in a case to protect it all. If your camera needs to be replaced, the latest technology is available at some of the lowest prices ever.


Time To Shoot

One of the benefits of the latest digital cameras are advanced features that help users capture images that rival those of the pros. While there are many benefits to hiring professional studios, a do-it-yourself digital endeavor can produce great results. Here are some tips:

    • The holiday season is a wonderful time to capture childhood. Children move around so take consecutive shots, since most expressions will be more candid on the second take. Try shooting sporadically from unusual angles while they are engaged in a holiday activity. Experiment by kneeling down as if you were a child looking up, and then climb to a higher point-of-view and shoot down. Remember not to shoot directly into their eyes when using a flash to avoid “red eyes” or set your camera on the red eye reduction mode if available.


    • Invest in a tripod and set your camera’s timer to be sure you show up in some of the holiday images. Just compose your picture in the viewfinder or LCD with a spot held at which you can quickly move into. Start the timer and quickly assume your position in the group. This technique always makes everyone laugh and is a perfect way to freeze your happy holiday moments.


    • Because light is so tricky inside and out during winters hours, take advantage of in-camera shake reduction technology built into both digital SLR and compact cameras. The shake reduction function allows you to shoot in low light at slower speeds without flash and avoid blur.


    • Even though it’s chillier outside this time of year, step outside for some of your most stunning holiday images. Nature offers beautiful landscape and snow scenes. The “golden hours” of low winter light in the early morning and late afternoon hours can help cast a bronze glow on your images.


    • Move close to all your holiday subjects. A common mistake in photography is the tendency to want to include everything and everyone in one picture. The results are often tiny little people lost in the overall picture or a mediocre image with too many details to appreciate. Get close to your subject. When you think you are close enough, take the picture and then take another one even closer. Holiday memories are everywhere, and not just on faces. Zoom in to capture a snowcapped pine cone, a delectable dessert, or beautiful ornament hanging from a tree.


    • Even if the weather is frightful or the tropical beach getaway is delightful, shoot to your heart’s content with one of the new weather-resistant compacts and digital SLRs available in the market. PENTAX offers the popular waterproof Optio W60 and weather-resistant bodies and lenses in its K series digital SLR line.


    • If you have made the leap from a compact to a digital SLR and you use an external flash with bounce capabilities, point the flash at an angle toward the ceiling. It will bounce off the ceiling and produce a softer light. Better yet, most DSLRs are capable of shooting at high ISO with excellent results, using only ambient lighting.


    • Experiment with action shots with your DSLR camera using a tripod and slow the shutter speed down. Check the results on your monitor and keep trying until your shots are sharp except for a slight blur of the moving subjects to create a feeling of movements. The slower shutter speed also works without the tripod. If children are running around (which they usually do) handhold your DSLR and follow your subject on a horizontal plane. Take the picture as the subject passes in front of the camera, while following the movement. This is a technique called panning. Your subject should be in focus, while the arms and legs are blurred, and the background laterally smeared, giving a sense of action.


    • Don’t shy away from night photography. Colorful holiday lights on homes, trees and in parades are perfect subjects if you set the camera on a tripod and set the timer or a remote shutter release for longer exposures without flash. Another beautiful effect is the cross-like reflection of each light you can obtain from various filters, or just try using a piece of window screen placed directly in front of the lens for similar results.


  • Know which digital SLR lens is best for each setting. Standard lenses offer angle of view nearly equivalent to that of the human eye for general photography. Wide angle lenses are great for group shots around a holiday table, landscapes, or whenever more surrounding subject information is desired in the shot. Macro lenses are for close-ups of small subjects such as flowers, greenery, jewelry, and ornaments. Zooms offer a range of focal lengths in one lens for close-ups of action and wildlife from a distance and allow photographers to change composition while staying in the same place. Telephoto lenses are for high-magnification in order to get close to the action including wildlife, portrait and sports. The photographer moves or changes focal length in order to change composition.
Snow Scene, copyright Yvon Bourque

Time to Share

Digital cameras have changed forever the way we design, order and send holiday greetings. Even when we can’t get together for the holidays, long distance photo sharing is now easier than ever. Here are some ideas to help your imagination run wild with all of the possibilities that the digital world offers.

    • In addition to print and online cards, consider creating CDs or DVDs of images you’ve captured throughout the year. Most computers and some cameras include software to help you. You can even set the slide show to music with MP3 music files and add movies you’ve captured with the movie mode on your camera. Your local photo retailer has more details.


    • One of the hottest gifts over the past year is the digital frame. If you’re giving one this season be sure it is pre-loaded with images and ready to play right out of the box. Displaying digital frames and playing CDs during parties and celebrations is a festive idea to bring everyone closer.


    • Join an online photo sharing site and share your images with friends and family all around the world. Just like your photo dealer, many sites offer printing services as well holiday gifts such as t-shirts, coffee mugs, calendars and more, adorned with your favorite pictures.


    • If you are one of the millions of scrap bookers who create memory books to give as gifts, check out some of the latest digital camera technology that features in-camera photo frames, icons, and other features to embellish your images.


  • Will this be the year you join millions of others in the blogosphere? January is a perfect month to initiate a blog filled with images so you can look back twelve months from now at the year 2009.

In today’s digital photography world, the equipment, processing, and techniques that were once reserved for professionals are available to everyone. Your local camera dealer and the Internet are valuable resources to learn more and shop for your photography system. Enjoy and happy holidays!

Yvon Bourque is a freelance author and photographer. He and his wife, Anne, live near the Mojave Desert in California. His blog, http://pentaxdslrs.blogspot.com/ is a popular rendezvous for photo enthusiasts all over the world.