Digital Photography and Your Computer

By William LaMartin, Editor, Tampa PC Users Group
lamartin@tampabay.rr.com


In the January newsletter I wrote about the new Canon PowerShot G1 digital camera and included some photos taken with it. The photo below was also taken with the camera at our January meeting. The goal of this article, though, is not to write about the camera again, but, rather, to give an introduction to my presentation at our February meeting.

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I started snapping photographs when I was around 10 years old—1956—and had a 35 mm camera by the time I was in the eighth grade. I wrote my first computer program (to run on the only thing there was then—a mainframe) around 1967. I developed my first strip of film around 1973, when I also printed my first photo in a darkroom. I didn’t get a PC until 1983, and that Apple II really had no way to deal with photographs. Why, it only had 65 KB of memory and 65 KB of what was called auxiliary memory. It had two floppy drives, each able to hold 135 KB of data. And I didn’t have a way to get a photograph I had taken into a computer until I got my first scanner, a HP IICX flatbed scanner, in 1994. That $1,100 scanner allowed me to scan photographs—not negatives—into my PC, a Gateway 33 MHz with, I think 16 MB (4 originally) of RAM. So, you see, I had moved up a bit from the Apple.

But that old Gateway would be hard pressed to handle the large graphics files I use now. The file of our meeting above is a 1,855 KB JPEG file, and that is not at all large by today’s standards. Of course, anything for the web has to be much smaller to facilitate a relatively quick download.

The next step in my photography/computer journey was getting a scanner that would scan 35 mm slides and negatives. This was the HP PhotoSmart photo scanner. Then came faster computers with more memory and finally a new HP flatbed 5370Cse scanner and the Canon G1 digital camera.

One tool is still to be mentioned—Software. There are the cameras to take my pictures. They are the new digital Canon G1, the relatively new Nikon 35 mm single lens reflex camera, and an assortment of older 35 mm cameras and one large format camera. Then there are the scanners to input the images from the film cameras into the computers. But what do you do with the images once you have the files in your computer? That is where software comes in.

I purchased my first serious graphics and photo editing program in 1994. It was Corel Draw 3, an older—and hence cheaper—version than whatever the current version was at the time. I didn’t upgrade to Corel Draw 8 until 1998. In 1999/2000 I added Adobe PhotoShop and Adobe Illustrator, two products that I am still trying to master. So much for history.

With either Corel Draw’s Photo-Paint or Adobe’s PhotoShop, you have one component of a digital darkroom. Your printer, of course, is the other component. However, most of my digital photographs are never printed. They are either viewed on the computer or optimized for the web and included as parts of web pages.

Let’s talk a bit now about how I use all this digital photographic equipment. One obvious use is in the production of this newsletter—although we often have too much content to leave room for much graphical filler. The photo below was a quick snap of Bob LaFave at our January meeting working on Jenny Lind Olin’s computer preparatory to transferring data from her old computer’s hard drive to her new computer’s hard drive. No editing of any kind has been done on this image.

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Below pirate Wade Herman has had a Hyde Park squirrel added to his shoulder. Since the squirrel was not situated in a uniform background, it did take a bit of work in PhotoShop to cut him out of his photo so as to paste him in with Wade. I assume this is the sort of thing the National Inquirer does all the time so as to juxtapose celebrities.

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PhotoShop, Corel Photo-Paint and lesser such photo editing programs allow you to do much more than cut out squirrels and place them on pirates’ shoulders. You can "repair" damage, change the color balance, contrast and brightness, and do so much more that I am convinced you could spend a lifetime learning all the ins and outs of these programs. For an amateur, I am not bad, but compared to the professionals, I know nothing about PhotoShop—but I have from now on to learn. And each time I use the program, I learn a bit more.

What I will be discussing at our next meeting are the various ways I use all of these digital photography tools. The newsletter I already mentioned. Then there are the various web sites I maintain which need photographic content. Of course, there are all those family photos—both current and some well over 100 years old—of which I have made copies. Finally, there are those projects I think of from time to time. My most recent project consists of taking a digital photo of each house in my neighborhood and writing a Visual Basic program which will list all the addresses such that when you select an address, the picture of the house for that address will be displayed. Here I am combining photography, an Access database and VB programming. Hope to see you at the meeting. u