Monthly Archives: October 2005

Should I Buy a Canon or a Nikon?

I often get questions from readers about what digital cameras they should buy.

There’s no one answer, of course. It depends on many factors, and is a personal decision. You should consider these issues when you think about buying a digital camera:

  • How much money you have to spend
  • What you are going to use the camera for
  • How serious you are about photography
  • The camera size, shape, and weight that works for you

As you get interested in digital photography, you may want to “move up” from a point-and-shoot style digital camera to a digital Single Lens Reflex (“dSLR”). For example, a reader writes:

I can’t seem to get the macro shots I want with my current camera, and want to buy a dSLR. Should I buy a Canon or a Nikon?

My answer: I’m really agnostic about camera brands. I think Canon and Nikon are both great brands, although I happen to use Nikon. Canon always seems to be a little ahead in digital technology, while Nikon lenses may be just a little bit better. You won’t go wrong with either, although if possible get your hands on the equipment in advance. In other words, try before you buy.

For macro shots, I use a 105mm macro lens, with the camera always on a tripod, and a set of 1X, 2X, and 3X extension tubes.

You should know that LCD equipped non-SLR digital cameras actually have some advantages over heavier (and apparently more professional) dSLRs. Many of these cameras, like Canon Powershots and Nikon Coolpix actually have macro modes that bring you closer than most lenses for the dSLRs–and LCD viewing screens can give you a better idea of the final result tham through the lens viewing on a dSLR.

It’s worth considering the issue of 35mm focal-length equivalence. Nikon lens on a Nikon dSLR have an equivalent focal ange of 1.5X the same lens put on a 35mm camera. For example, a 70mm lens on a Nikon D70 digital SLR will show you the same angle of view as a 105mm lens on a 35mm camera.

This is great for telephoto lenses, essentially a free ride with greater magnification. But it is not so cool for wide angle lenses, and makes it hard to get true extreme wide angle shots with your dSLR. For this reason, the Nikon 10.5mm digital fisheye, shown in the photo at the top of this story, actually reduces the image optically inside the lens. This photo shows what you can do with this extreme wide angle:

Nicky and James

The magnification and 35mm focal-length equivalence of Canon models vary, with some models having a 1:1.6 equivalence and some being 1:1. The 1:1 ratio makes wide angles photography much easier (although you lose the telephoto free-ride kicker).

Whatver camera you use, if possible you should set it to save images in RAW format. Once you learn to process these in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, you’ll get far better results than with photos saved as JPEG files.

Posted in Hardware, Photography, Writing

200.0 Photoblog 2.0

This is post number two hundred on my Photoblog 2.0. To mark this milestone, I am offering to send a free copy of my book Digital Photography Digital Field Guide to the first two readers who can tell me how the photo above was made (more or less) . This photo is currently my most interesting photo on Flickr.

Email your solutions (with a snail-mail address) to harold [at] bearhome [dot] com with “200 solution” in the subject line.

If you’d like to browse through past Photoblog 2.0 stories, here are some of my favorites:

Posted in Landscape, Photography

Golden Gate Sunset

The weather has been just beautiful here the last few days. Crystal clear days. Beautiful sunsets.

This photo was taken from above the playground at Step One, the pre-school Nicky goes to. Here’s a related story.

Posted in Landscape, Photography, San Francisco Area

Devil Truck

This truck was apparently delivering bottles of Coca Cola when it was hijacked by the devil along with assorted cronies, ghouls, and demons.

Very appropriate for Halloween and the Los Dias De Los Muertos. (The truck is from Mexico where the Days of the Dead on November 1 and 2 are a big deal.) And it is not an Iris photo! I want here to add a special thanks to everyone who has written me in support of the Iris photos.

Also perhaps a warning for my household, which has been running on fumes and caffiend-ated beverages since the kids started coming–eight years now!

Posted in Bemusements, Photography, Writing

Enough with the Irises!

Iris Rising

A reader writes:

“I enjoy regularly reading your photoblog, and have learned much about digital photography from your book [Digital Photography Digital Field Guide], but enough with these iris pictures. Some of them are pretty, I grant you, but aren’t you getting bored with them?”

Well, I probably will never get bored with photographing Irises and other flowers, but I can take a hint. (OK, not a hint, but a big, fat nudge.) Also, maybe I am reaching a point of iris overload.

So this post will be my last Iris post for a while. And a special thanks to all the wonderful folk on Flickr who have said such nice things about my Iris set! (Click on an image in the set on Flickr to read the comments.)

If you really don’t want to see flowers, instead of looking at these Iris photos, you can always look at my stories about my recent awesome roadtrip instead of these!

Intimate Iris

Conversing Flowers

Iris Reaching

Iris Tasting

Kabuki Iris

Iris Ears

More of my Iris photos here, here, and here!

Posted in Flowers, Iris, Photography

San Francisco Morning

We drop off Nicky at Step One, his pre-school, and then drive along Grizzly Boulevard until we are above Oakland. Dropping down behind the Claremont Hotel, we drop Julian off at his school, Archway.

I try to remember to bring my camera, because the views of San Francisco and the bay from Grizzly are fantastic!

Posted in Landscape, Photography, San Francisco Area

Winged Iris

Irises here, there, and everywhere. I am enjoying photographing this very special flower, it is one of my favorites.

The Iris petals in this photo remind me of wings. Very appropriate. In Greek mythology, Iris was a winged messenger for the gods.

Posted in Flowers, Iris, Photography

Digital Photography Cyborg

Dream Vase

I like saying that digital photography is a cyborg: one part photography and one part computer. To be a good digital photographer, you should be skilled at both parts of the cyborg’s personality.

Photography, of course, is performed with a digital camera–and to a great extent (at least until camera manufacturers stop copying film cameras when they design their digital cameras) the principles are the same as film photography. See The Evolution of Photography for my thoughts on how digital cameras could become, well, more like computers, and less like cyborgs with split personalities.

The computer is used for post-processing the photograph, usually in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. See related posts: Processing a Photo for Flickr and Processing a Digital Photo.

In the hands of a master, most people won’t even know the photograph has been manipulated. By the way, there’s nothing wrong with post-processing, and it is truly analogous to manipulating a conventional photo in the print making process. There’s no evil to image manipulation, there’s only good taste and bad taste. Taste is always debatable, and the subject of a different story.

As opposed to photos that don’t show that they’ve been manipulated, anyone can tell that my picture of a dreamy vase that accompanies this story was largely made in Photoshop. It is an obvious. A true cyborg.

Related post: Would Ansel Like Digital?

Posted in Bemusements, Flowers, Hardware, Photography, Photoshop Techniques, Writing

Iris Tongue

I am continuing to photograph the irises today. They are so beautiful, and look good when positioned with a red lily for background color.

This one reminds me of a tongue. Is this attractive Iris sticking out a tongue at us?

Posted in Flowers, Iris, Photography


Phyllis got me some fresh Iris (from Trader Joe’s, not our garden!) and I’ve been photographing them as they open…

Iris Sun

Iris Inside

Iris Rising

Posted in Flowers, Iris, Patterns, Photography


Nicky always loves gardening with me, or at least his idea of gardening with me. Which I think means we both put on our gardening gloves and dig holes and play with water in the garden.

But he’s been asking–begging would be a better description, as only an almost-four-year-old can wheedle–to go on a plant-buying date with me, and then plant the plants we buy.

So yesterday I picked Nicky up from school. Sarah, our new nanny picked up Julian and took care of Mathew, so Phyllis had the luxury for a change of no children to care for.

Nicky and I bought a few plants to plant at Berkeley Horticulture–including this cyclamen. Cyclamens are nice this time of year around here because they bloom through the spring. Also, they are perennial, the bulbs send up new flowrs year after year. (On Flickr, I spell it “flowr,” not “flower”!)

I poked my macro lens into the cyclamen to photograph its new buds (photo below). Today, a gentle rain has been falling all morning, good for the newly planted cyclamen (photo above).

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Fiberoptic Pumpkin

Soon comes the day of Halloween, which means in our house it’s time to trot out the fiberoptic pumpkin!

I bought this thing at Costco a number of years ago, and ever since then its emergence from the garage has been one of the highlights of Halloween for the kids. Sure, I guess it doesn’t really compare to costumes, candy, parties and the sugar highs–but they do tend to spend hours staring at the changing colors and (in the case of Mathew the toddler) cackling with glee.

This was a little tricky to photograph. I had to completely darken the room, put the camera on a tripod with my long macro lens, and stop down the aperture for a long duration exposure.

The problem was that the automatic meter underexposed, using some kind of average rather than exposing for the fiberoptics. I had to guestimate the exposure, and put it in using my D70’s manual settings.

Entering the manual exposures wasn’t so easy in the complete dark, and I found myself laughing (at yours truly) up on a chair in a darkened room with a flashlight peering through my bifocals at the camera. Is this Flickr and digital photo addiction, or what?

Some more fiberoptic pix:

Fiberoptic Hair

Fiberoptic Face

Posted in Bemusements, Hardware, Photography

More Fun with Scale

Here’s another image from my Zabriskie Point set that could be a close up of vegetation, or of a textile, or–as it actually is–not so close view of a desert landscape.

Posted in Bemusements, Landscape, Patterns, Photography


Slinkies, photo by Harold Davis.

Toy slinkies, a single dandelion bud, irises, desert landscapes, and some of my photos on Flickr




Meta Flickr

Posted in Bemusements, Flickr, Patterns, Photography

Landscape Scale and Texture

One thing that interests me about landscape photography is the scale perceived by someone looking at the photograph. Is the scene immense, or is it a tiny detail?

When landscape is reduced to the textural, as in these images of Zabriskie Point in Death Valley, the viewer may not have a point of reference–and may not be able to tell whether the photo depicts something big or small, or even whether it is a landscape or a quilt!

Zabriskie Point 5

Posted in Bemusements, Landscape, Patterns, Photography