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Travel Photography Page 4 – Tips

The Canon SD950 is intended to be a point and shoot, fully automatic, mostly foolproof camera suitable for people without a technical interest in photography — except that the User Guide lists 62 pages of special functions and settings.  Some of these features are no doubt fabulous, and I’d love to say I know how they all work.  For example, there is a list of eleven settings for “Special Conditions” described as Beach, Fireworks, Aquarium, etc.  However, other than taking “with and without” test shots in those specific situations, I have no idea how to determine whether the results would warrant using or recommending the settings. Then, will anyone remember to use them, including me, given that months or years can pass before you encounter that situation? Another motivational impediment to investing the time and effort necessary to learn every single camera option is the extraordinary range of corrections and fixes you can apply with your editing software after a photo is taken.

There are certain basic functions which I assume are nearly universal on automatic digital cameras.  Rectangular boxes appear in the view window to indicate the point(s) the camera is using to adjust focus.  If too much foreground is grabbing the focal point from a distant subject, my lazy guy solution to the problem has been to use the zoom function.  I  have been zooming beyond the foreground elements far enough to be able to expect that the camera and I are looking at the same subject.  I rarely remembered to look and see what the focus box was showing as the focal point.

USA Vermont Island Pond focus zoom Canon Powershot SD950

USA - Vermont - Island Pond // Left: Too much foreground, leaving the town a blur. // Right: A compromise achieved using the zoom, but not the best composition.

My disappointment with the results of using the zoom method in New England caused me to break down and dig out the instructions.  When you press the focus button and the focus box(es) appear, check to see if they are centered on your main subject.  If not, move the camera slightly and press the button again.  When the camera locks on to the right spot, you may have moved away from the best composition.  Keep holding the button down to preserve the proper focal length, move the camera back to the framing you want, and take the picture.  This simple solution to a common problem appears all the way back on Page 104 of the User Guide, and I immediately realized I had learned how to do this years ago, but had since forgotten.

The moral of this story isn’t just that you can’t wait until your trip of a lifetime to get familiar with your camera.  Yes, take all kinds of pictures under all sorts of conditions, and even check the User Guide for ideas for situations you might not dream up on your own.  But more importantly, diagnose the problem with pictures that don’t turn out the way you want, and use the location of that photo to remind yourself of the correct solution.  The next time I’m tempted to use the zoom to get the focus I want, a church steeple in New England is going to pop into my head.

A similar problem with exposure can be dealt with the same way.  However, my lazy guy approach to this issue quite often results in two nice pictures rather than one.  It’s easier to demonstrate than describe.

Scotland warehouse gulls Scottish mural gull silhouettes and sky exposure exercise Canon SD950

Scotland - Warehouse - Gulls // Left: Tip the camera down, Scottish mural // Right: Tip the camera up, gull silhouettes and sky

Altering the exposure by simply tilting the camera up or down by a few degrees is especially useful when shooting sunsets.  The multiple images you then have to choose from leads us to the featured tip for the page.  For a couple of years we got by with less memory than we needed to be able to save all of our photos until we got home.  Sitting down and looking through the shots from the day, and deleting the ones we didn’t think were very good, was something of a ritual.  The first trip where we had enough memory to skip the deletion process led to a slightly sad realization.  Dozens of photos I would have deleted based on how they looked in the camera view window looked great on a full sized monitor.  We had been dumping perfectly good photos for a couple of years.


Invest in plenty of memory, and don’t hesitate to use it to take multiple shots of the same scene, especially in tricky exposure situations.  Don’t delete any photos before you have a chance to see the effects of cropping, straightening, exposure correction, and whatever other editing tools your software provides.  You never know what you have until you see what you can do.

Travel Photography Page 1

Page 2 – Trade-offs

Page 3 – The Canon SD950

Page 4 – You Are Here

Page 5 – Software


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