“Good” and Cheap

wetland-reflection-1-PA260181I believe digital cameras, their sensors, lenses, and image processors have evolved and multiplied enough that I can buy equipment to make “fine art” for not a lot of bucks. However, I don’t think full frame cameras, professional lenses and the like are without value. They’re tools in talented hands for making extraordinary images.


My point is that I don’t need spend like crazy on high end gear to make photographs that please me and whatever audience I can gather.


After one or two newer model generations have gone to market, leftover inventories may be steeply discounted. I look at specifications. A pro-grade camera may share technology with a lower priced model. Hey, if I can control aperture, ISO, and exposure time, then I’m happy.


I think of this approach as buying trailing edge technology. Maybe it’s just my Yankee stinginess. Whatever it is, I save by buying things that give me raw files, high resolution, low noise, and that satisfy my fussy eye without breaking the bank.


What is enough? I must be happy with the work that I create. If doing photography doesn’t give me joy and satisfaction, it won’t matter what I spend.

“On Paper”

I am confused by the choice between physical and digital media for photography and all the visual arts these days. Perhaps this is because I grew up in a time of print and physical media as the prime way to present and distribute publications and visual art; and this shaped my aesthetic with a bias for paper and other surfaces for image and text.

An appreciation of art and text on electronic devices other than a minority of avant-garde and experimental works is not native to me. I respect digital products; and I’ve worked to understand projected light the same as I have understood reflected light my whole life.

Assorted Inkjet Papers
Assorted Inkjet Papers

Making photos had meant to print on paper in my mind, photo paper for the darkroom, then inkjet paper for my computer. “On paper” in the sense that putting things on paper makes them real is out of date, but works as a metaphor for me still. Perhaps it could be a short way to say a thing is somehow published in a permanent form, physical or abstract.

The PDF and web are primary formats of art presentation. The old substrates are paper and canvass; the new are cell phones, tablets, and monitors.

On the other hand, I really like the play of light and paper and image. Paper can be so many different surfaces on which my image may lie: smooth or rough, cool and bright or warm and soft, matte or gloss–the list goes on. How do you like to look at photograph? It’s something to reflect on….

Numbers, part three (Conclusion)

Sensitivity is defined by the International Organization for Standards (ISO) in its abstract thus:

“ISO 12232:2006 specifies the method for assigning and reporting ISO speed ratings, ISO speed latitude ratings, standard output sensitivity values, and recommended exposure index values, for digital still cameras. ISO 12232:2006 is applicable to both monochrome and colour digital still cameras.”

ISO 200 (low noise)
ISO 200 (low noise)

Long ago we used to call this the ASA, which was the similar method for determining film sensitivity from the American Standards Association.

The lower the ISO number is set the longer it takes to record an image; and the less noise appears in the image files; higher ISO’s make faster recordings of images with more noise. Camera image processors have improved noise reduction so I may select higher ISO settings with little noise in my image with recent digital camera models.

Click on images to view at full size for better comparison of noise levels in the two images.

ISO 16000 (high noise)
ISO 16000 (high noise)

Methods of noise reduction include blurring or smearing small artifacts, subtracting pixels based on another exposure, and so on. Perhaps some small details get lost in the process. Although, details may be recovered using the algorithms used in the camera image processor or post processing. Some pixels in the resulting image thus may be made by firmware or editing software rather than light.

In summary, I can apply three basic camera settings: aperture, time, and sensitivity to make creative choices such as sharpness, and blurred or frozen motion. I can compensate for the lighting; I can select high sensitivity for low light exposures, and low ISO settings for cleaner, more detailed images.

Making choices with these settings lets me capture how I see a thing and share it in a photograph.