A digital camera can change your perspective in a snap

I took my brand-new digital camera on a recent trip to Paris, where it provided immediate benefits, even as I was learning this new technology. Before I left home, I had loaded the camera software into my laptop, so that it was ready to receive the photos immediately after I took them.

I visited friends in a Paris suburb as they were celebrating the second birthday of their grandson. The family had gathered from all over for the event. The digital camera afforded me the luxury of taking 60 photographs of the birthday boy and all the other relatives. The picture-review capability meant that within seconds everyone could enjoy the picture I had just taken.

The boy's father and grandfather pressed their e-mail addresses on me, and I forwarded the birthday-party photos to them the next day. No waiting to develop the whole roll of film, sorting through the photos to decide who got which ones. I could send the photos immediately to the person who was interested in them, and without the hassle of duplicating unwanted photos.

I even sent digital photos as attachments to e-mails to my friends and family back in the States, so they could daily share in my Parisian experience.

I stayed in the 11th Arrondissement, which is a neighborhood of immigrants, with a blend of young artists. I loved to walk to the nearby Place d'Aligre outdoor market, where North African women shopped with their babies wrapped on their backs, and Algerian men sipped mint tea at the Arab tea shop.

On other trips I have taken a Polaroid camera to hand pictures to people I photographed. With the digital camera, I was able to show the image to people immediately.

This caused a bit of a stir on the day I set about doing portraits of the marketgoers. An African woman in a long dress with lacy sleeves and matching cloth wrapped around her head, accompanied by her two boys, posed out of the direct sunlight for me. As I showed her and the boys the photos, a bystander tried to grab my camera to get a better look.

I photographed Muslim women wearing djellabas and head scarves, men dressed in caftans with skull caps, and other women dressed in striking African-print cloth who were negotiating with the greengrocer for the freshest vegetables.

In front of the corner sidewalk cafe was an organ grinder, a hearty man belting out classic French songs to an enthralled audience of small children.

The camera's review capability showed me what image I had taken of him. It took several shots before I was satisfied that I had captured the essential facial expression, but in the end there were a couple where I can still hear him singing the familiar words of an Edith Piaf song.

A few feet from the organ grinder was the lettuce seller, whose handpainted signs were adorned with cute rabbits and other animals. I used the telephoto feature to come in closer as she positioned giant heads of green lettuces on her stall.

With the digital camera I could use the viewer on the screen to shoot the exact photograph I wanted, framing it precisely. And I could see if I had mistakenly cut off someone's head, or stuck my finger in the frame. If the shot was unacceptable, I could delete it and take another, until it was the way I wanted it.

When I downloaded the photos into the laptop, the differences in quality were evident, depending on the number of pixels I had devoted to the shot. My Olympus camera allowed me to select from standard, high quality, or super-high quality. At the standard option, I could fit about 120 photos onto a computer card before downloading. With the super-high quality, the camera could take as few as 20 photos.

Because I had taken only one card with me on the trip, I learned to select the quality according to the shot. Where I was focusing on the particular beauty in the detail of a statue, I used super-high quality. For overview shots, I switched to standard quality. I might have done all of them in super-high quality if I had brought more cards.

When I got home, I was able to immediately give a slide show of my Paris photographs, using the laptop computer, with the slide-show feature of the camera software. The photographs came up one at a time, and stayed long enough for me to give a brief commentary on them. My friends appreciated the novelty of this, as well as the high quality of the photographs.

The camera had a voracious appetite for batteries, and I had to replace them several times during the trip. Using the preview screen accelerates battery usage, I discovered.

The camera was fairly easy to learn and use, with many advantages over an analog camera. Compensating for the cost of batteries, there is no cost for film, and no running out of it.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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