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Cameras/ Photography
#1
Being that space in a van is at a premium, I see photography sparking my interests as a worthwhile and gratifying hobby . My grandfather had a passion for this and I remember viewing all his work through slides at the family gatherings.  He even had his own darkroom in his basement. I am just now starting to gain an interest in this. Currently my only camera is the one built into my cell,  8 mega pixels.
Although it takes nice pics there's a whole lot it can't do. There is so much beauty in nature I would like to capture for remembering in the future.

Being that I am totally new in this area what advice can you give me as far as learning (shooting skills) and equipment for the beginner.

Thanks in advance for any advice given, will be truly appreciated!
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#2
The technology's changing so rapidly that what's great today would probably be trash in six months.  The past few years I've been using an Olympus about the size of a stack of 20 credit cards.  Has the advantage of always being there close at hand, disadvantage of being so small a person might have difficulties taking good pics without a tripod.  And if you're going to have a tripod, you might as well have a better camera, bigger, etc.

I saw a 10xzoom 16 mp Olympus similar to my old one but several generations later in WalMart for $100, roughly, recently.  I paid over $200 for mine when it was top-of-the-line within its type.
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#3

I've shot thousands of pics this year but don't have any real expertise in using a camera...  The only things that come to mind are to take a lot of  pictures of the things that you like.  You might see a rock, take a photo, and get home and realize a part was clipped.  I try to take at least 3 to 5 pics of everything.  Sometimes I will allow the camera to flash but then take a pic or two without a flash to see what looks better.

I think just as important is a picture editing software such as the free version of Photo Pos Pro.  Most of the pictures you see on my blog have been altered slightly to adjust the brightness / contrast or emphasize a color.  It seems like no camera will do a perfect job so it's nice to gently enhance some things to make the pictures look more lifelike.


I recently purchased a Canon SX260s - a fine camera with a heckuva zoom (20x optical multiplied by a 4x software zoom).  It's done a fantastic job so far.  if you do purchase a new camera, spend a bunch of hours pouring over articles and reviews on Amazon.  They contain some B.S. but a lot of useful info as well.  I paid $265 for the new camera and wish I had waited.  The exact same one is now $199 at Target.  I would have gotten another 15% off for being and employee and using my Target card.  Oh well. 

Have fun!  A camera is a wonderful thing to take with you to preserve your memories.  Of course, you can share your pics with us, too!  We'd love to see them!


V.T.

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#4
Get yourself a DSLR, Canon preferably. The Canon's will allow you to use the same lenses on an updated body later. You can start out with a used Rebel and learn with a pretty good cameras. Learn what lenses you want/need. You can get Photoshop Elements or Lightroom for under $100 and learn how to do Post Production touch ups and even airbrushing as well as making adjustments for lighting and exposure. I bought a Rebel XT with under 5,000 exposures on it for $250 with a basic small zoom which is called the "kit" lens. Don't want to dig it out right now to see what it actually is. But you would want lenses like a 50mm f1.8 and a few others. Prime lenses are cheaper and faster than zooms. You really don't want a point and shoot if you want decent pictures.
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#5
Photography is my main hobby and has been for a long time. I owned Minolta Film SLR cameras for years and now shoot with a Sony Digital DSLR. While I've taken hundreds of thousands of pictures, I have been very lucky and have few hundred I think are very good. I've started a once-a-month post on my blog with photos from my favorite places, see the first one here: http://cheaprvlivingblog.com/2012/12/h/

Here are my rules if you want to get great pictures:
  • The quality of the camera is important, but nowhere near as important as your skill level. Some people have a natural eye, but I don't. Over the years I have read hundreds of books on nature photography and learned the rules and follow them (Rules like: rule of thirds, leading lines, depth of field, exposure control, having a main subject, having a foreground/middleground/background, white balance, grain, shooting in the "golden hour", filters, etc.). With the skills and lots of practice will come an intuition into photography that gives you some amazing photos.
  • Control over the camera is critical. To be able to follow the rules, you need as much control over the cameras functions as possible. This is where most Point and Shoot (P&S) cameras fail. They can take great pictures but you can't take control and mold the picture into what you want it to be.
  • The quality of the light is extremely important. Learn the rules of when to shoot. But learn how to make use of poor light because there is so much of it! The key to taking great pictures in the harsh mid-day light (when we are most likely to be out shooting) is to use a polarized filter. Software simply can't do it as well as a physical polarizer.
  • The more time you spend outside, the more likely you are to take great pictures. A traveling, boondocking, vandweller is in the ideal position to build up a portfolio of pictures that make you say "Wow!" when you see it.
  • Become a hiker. if you can only shoot from within 50 yards of your car, you are going to miss lots of great shots.
  • Carry the camera with you all the time.
  • Learn to take great pictures when you push the shutter button. My photo editor is Picassa, which is a free download from Google. I love it!! My goal is take a picture that needs nothing else done to it. But most shots need some minor editing so the minimum photo editor is plenty good enough to me.
If you have the money, I highly recommend a Canon G12 Point and Shoot. It is the best P&S you can buy, has a great lens and gives you outstanding control over the picture. You can buy an attachment that allows you to put screw-on filters on it which is critically important to great photos. Best of all it has lots of physical controls so you don't spend all your time sorting through menus to get control. The screen is big and bright and it swings out and turns in a 360 circle. I would not use it if I wanted to make 3 foot by 5 foot enlargements, but for the web or normal size pictures you can't see a difference between it and DSLRs.  It is much smaller than the DSLRs and I carry it in a bag on my belt 100% of the time. if I find a shot, I can take it.

Bob
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#6
It really depends on your budget. Since you are starting out, I would suggest you get one of the better point and shoots...not a DSLR. DSLRs are harder to learn for a beginner and can be expensive, especially once you start buying lenses for it. Get a point and shoot and learn to use it on the manual settings. Read everything you can online, in magazines, books and in the camera manual to learn to use those settings. I use strictly Canon cameras but Nikons are good too. I always like to read the reviews on Amazon and see what has the highest rating and sells the best.

If after using the point and shoot for awhile and you find that you enjoy it, you can step up to a DSLR. I use strictly digital cameras and have the Canon T3i with a couple lenses, removable flash and lots of other accessories.

The main things I would tell you to buy with the camera are rechargeable batteries (itll go through regular batteries quick), a tripod and a class 6 or higher memory card with lots of space, like a 32GB...especially if you want to take video. A lot of cameras these days take HD video and itll use lots of space on a memory card. You will need the tripod for when you want to take landscape photos in lower light. The shutter remains open longer in low light and that means just the slightest movement will cause a blurry photo. Also when shooting in low light, its best to use the timer on the camera so there is absolutely no movement when snapping the photo.

As for photo editing, I use a free program called GIMP. You can download it online. It has a lot of the Photoshop type features and can take awhile to learn to use for a beginner but it's worth it.

If you have any other questions, I would be more than happy to answer them for you.
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#7
Let me contribute by talking to a more spendy area of the spectrum 

Before I started my walkabout I knew I wanted a camera I could grow into, to learn with. After some research and talking to a few travelers a certain combo kept coming up in conversation: the Sony NEX-5r body and the Voightlander Nokton 35mm/1.4 lens. a pic:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/petes_space...0289985914

This worked for me because it -easily- fit in my small backpack, had a laundry list of useful features, needed no flash whatsoever to take very good pics in low light ( with this lens ), and was forgiving when I knew very little yet powerful when I learned more.

I use Photoshop to clean up some of the pics I take, but I agree with others that skill in composition beats sweet technology almost every time. 

Some pics of mine: http://www.flickr.com/photos/petes_space/sets/

Almost all of these were taken with this body/lens arrangement, with a few taken with a cheap-ish lens adapter for doing macro work, very much like this shown in the wikipedia article:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Close-up_filter

I understand this is not the camera/lens combo for everyone, and definitely not a budget-conscious decision. It is also not outrageously expensive, but for me it was just right in what my needs were and my estimation that I would I would grow into really using its power and versatility. 
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#8
Photography is a fun hobby, and if you're good at it, you can even earn some income from it too.  In my previous life, I used to do massive photography and spent tens and tens of thousands of dollars on all types of photography gear.  It first started out as a hobby for me, and then later turned into a paid gig that lasted many years.  I used everything from Hasselblad medium format film gear to Nikon digital SLR pro body gear, including lots of studio lighting gear.  This stuff gets awfully expensive quickly, and I used to spend $2,000+ easily on a single fixed f2.8 zoom lens, not to mention $5,000+ for a pro D-SLR body for my Nikon gear.  Never mind the Hasselbad stuff, that was in a different league, which I had already sold off everything when digital became mainstream.

My advise is to figure out what type of photography you want to do, because this in turn will dictate what type of equipment you should get.  It's true you can get a simple point and shoot camera and use it for virtually any purpose, but if you really want to get deeply into it, you want to first decide what type of photography you want to get into.  Since I don't know what you are interested in taking pictures of, the best generic advise to give you is to start off with a digital SLR kit with interchangeable lenses and a flash.  A Canon brand is probably a good place to start, given the vast selection of equipment and prices available.  A sturdy tripod is always a good thing too, especially for nature and low light photography.

If you are getting into digital photography, you will need additional other stuff such as a decent powerful laptop/computer, Photoshop program, external hard drives, etc.  You can easily spend thousands on computer related gear in addition to thousands on camera gear.  So start slowly, and just build up gradually as the need dictates.

Cheers, Casey
   
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#9
I  don't know if it's any good, but it's free at Amazon, for Kindle users 

Master Your DSLR Camera: A Better Way to Learn Digital Photography
http://www.amazon.com/Master-Your-DSLR-C...B0094KRID4

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#10
I love my cell phone camera since I always have it and it catches things when I have no camera....it has revolutionized the capture of things of all kinds.

I see there is a move to give cellphones to NYC homeless now. Excellent move and a way to capture those who would molest them and to call for help if needed....

What a great time to be alive...
Bri
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