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Skills

Photography by: Jeremiah

Zechariah steadies himself.

Zechariah steadies himself.

Introduction

Photography is a wonderful way to preserve memories. In the Old Testament we are told to "tell to our children the works of God." We are repeatedly told to remember the things God has done. A history, a record makes this easier. A photographic record prompts the memory, and can record small details that bring back memories that might otherwise be forgotten. Taking a good photograph is not easy, but the rewards are great. This is one of those skills that is never really complete, so we are working hard at improving our skills.

History

Hannah zooms in.

Hannah zooms in.

My parents made an early commitment to take photos as they raised their family, and they have faithfully kept to that over the years. We have thousands of photos to draw on and many of them raise fond memories. Some nights we spend the whole night going through photo albums remembering. My first photos were taken on a disposable camera. I took an early interest in learning more about photography and studied several pre-approved books on the topic. Due to my expertise in Computers, I jumped for a digital camera in 2001. Since then we have upgraded several times, always seeking to do a better job capturing the memories as they pass. (I often recall that I will never have a second chance, time only runs forward.)

System

Hannah tries a different angle.

Hannah tries a different angle.

I do quite a bit of careful research before any purchase and camera's are no exception. Our first digital camera was an inexpensive (and ugly) pocket-cam. With its very low resolution and difficult upload we have only a couple of dozen pictures from that camera. We were still very much in the film age. The first real digital camera was a Sony P-51 which served us well for over 10,000 photos. It has been in for repair twice due to a manufacturing fault, but we have received our money's worth. We still use it today. Due to its greatly reduced value, it is an excellent 'beginners' camera for our little ones. We have added two Fuji Finepix F10's to our tool set because of their stellar low light performance. (In mid 2007 we had an accident with one of the F10's and have not yet replaced it as of Dec 2007) We have been totally happy with this little camera and recommend it. Finally, we have a Minolta 5D SLR. This camera was added to our collection because of the manual controls which are a requirement for our advanced photography class. I am trying hard to keep ahead of my students. For camera reviews I tend to use Digital Photography review at http://www.dpreview.com

Storage

Hannah grabs a quick shot.

Hannah grabs a quick shot.

Once the Photograph is taken, it must be stored somewhere. I upload them to disc, and make monthly archives of the photographs. This has reached 30G (about 48 CD's or 7 DVD's) so I use an external Hdd for my backups. I am toying with the idea of an online backup service, but have not yet selected one.
December 2007 update Our collection of photos is around 50G now, the internal hard disk had to be upgraded to cope. We have started using an online backup service called Mozy and are happy with it so far. Do note that we have not had occasion to restore anything at this time.

Jeremiah sets up.

Jeremiah sets up.

To organize our photos, we started out by using a simple folder structure. We tried the various software programs that came with the camera's but none of them were satisfactory. I was very pleased with Google's Picasa, however it had a serious video driver problem on our 'photography' computer. Instead of replacing the computer, I replaced the program and for a while we used Photoshop Elements. This is a great program for tagging, organizing and touching up digital photographs. If you can find a copy at a good price I highly recommend it. It is even included with some cameras and scanners. Once our photo collection exceeded 10,000 photos, Elements became un-manageably slow, a quick check online showed I was not the only one with this problem. As a temporary solution, I split our collection into 5x 1,000 photo sets which worked for a while. Once I reached 7 sets, I decided it was time to get a 'professional' program. We now use iView media pro but I cannot review it at this point. While I miss the hierarchical tags of Elements, the performance has improved.
December 2007 update iView started having trouble with our computer once we reached 40,000 photos. I tried everything I could think of but was not able to get it working smoothly. Judging by the forums, this issue appears to be unique to my system. Microsoft has now bought iView so the program is now called 'Microsoft Expression Media'. Meanwhile we have upgraded to the brand new program 'Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. We have almost 60,000 photos in our catalog, and I must admit the program works beautifully. It (lightroom) also alows adjustments to the photos (color, saturation, exposure, sharpness, red-eye reduction, etc...) inside the program. None of the competitors I have tested came close to matching it in features. (Added bonus: Adobe accepts HSLDA membership as proof of academic status).

Our version of a wide angle lens.

Our version of a wide angle lens.

For touchups we use Photoshop Elements and Photoshop. Our home school qualifies each of our students for Academic status at Adobe (this company acknowledges home-schoolers). While these tools have a very steep learning curve, the results are well worth the time it takes to learn the interface, if you plan to do a lot with photography.

Jeremiah & Hannah review their work.

Jeremiah & Hannah review their work.

Up until very recently, we have been using a Canon S820 photo printer. We are very happy with its output and its cost per page. While the Cannon meets our current photo requirements, it does provide a water-soluble output. If not exposed to sunlight or water, the dye based inks are doing ok so far, and we have digital copies of all the photos in case we ever need to reprint them. Very recently I upgraded our scanner, monochrome laser printer, and photo printer with a combination unit from Xerox. One of the Workcenter Phaser line, this printer has not seen much use yet, but the output so far has been more than satisfactory. This will provide us with waterproof color prints, at a fraction of the cost of getting them done downtown. Only time will tell whether this was a good investment.
December 2007 update: The phaser was a poor choice, which I have since sold. It turns out that a mid level business printer requires a high volume of prints. The Phaser didn't become cost effective until it reached about 200 sheets per day. This was much higher than we produce, so we moved on. Our current high end printer is a Ricoh business line inkjet (again beware of high volume requirements, every time the ricoh powers up it dumps about $5 of ink. Every time the Xerox powered up it dumped about $12 of ink).

Training

Ammi captures the great outdoors.

Ammi captures the great outdoors.

As with most other graphical fine arts, the available training materials pose many problems (especially nudity). We have, by diligent review, found a couple of books which are acceptable for our family's use. There are a couple of minor issues with each title, but we feel we can recommend each of the following titles to your family.

Ammi reviews her shots.

Ammi reviews her shots.


  • Mom's Book of Photo Tips - Lisa Bearnson
  • How to Photograph Your Family - Nick Kelsh
  • How to Photograph Your Life - Nick Kelsh

Contest

Jeremiah

Jeremiah's essential survival gear?

To encourage our reluctant photographers, I have hosted a monthly photo contest since early 2005. I pick a specific topic for the month, and judge the submitted photos at the end of the month. I have created a little chart to help me expedite the judging process (8 photographers X 2 photos each = 16 submissions). Once I have selected a winner, I award a prize. Currently the winner gets to select either a book I have selected or $10. As an interesting footnote, each contestant has won at least one contest, this is especially interesting as I judge the photos blind (photographer not listed until after judging is complete), and the contestants run from 7 to 21.

Jeremiah says, "Don

Jeremiah says, "Don't leave home without it."



Photography by: Mom


Jeremiah's interest in and pursuit of photography has made this website possible. Without his contest there would not only be many fewer pictures of our family but the quality would be greatly reduced as well.


Photo Contest by: Joanna


When Jeremiah started the photo contest in March 2005 I was exited, a new challenge with a prize of a book or $10 if I won. The purpose of this contest was to teach and stimulate us to take more and better photographs.

Julia tries out the camera too.

Julia tries out the camera too.

One book, How To Photograph Your Life by Nick Kelsh really helped me to understand how to take a good photograph that would bring back memories in the future. In one of the contests I even won 2nd place, I have noticed a great improvement in our photographs after this photo contest was started.


Photo Contest by: Zechariah


The Photo Contest started in 2005. Before that I never really took pictures and had no idea how to take a good one. The books

"Smile!"

"Smile!"

Jeremiah bought and had us read were therefore of great assistance. The photo contest gave incentive to take lots of pictures, not only because of the prize but also because you would be checked up on. It increased the quality of our photos because it was a competition and we really would not want to put a picture on there that was really bad. I have, however, put some pretty poor shots on there just because I had not taken many photos, so those were the best I had.


Presentation by: Jeremiah


Once the photos are taken, organized, touched up, and

It

It's a set up.

printed, we still have to find some way to display or view them. Most of our film photographs are in photo albums, organized by year. We have yet to do this with the digital photos, but they can be viewed on the computer.

The second format is through a screensaver. I have several screensavers connected to parts of our photographic library. This provides a very nice review of years of activities. I often have to chase 3 or 4 of my siblings away from my laptop so that I can get back to work.

Instant review by Joanna- delete.

Instant review by Joanna- delete.

The third way our photos are presented is through a personal website. I have taken a selection of the photos and made them available online for close family friends.

More recently we have put some work into Memory albums. As this is not my specialty, I will leave that for another author.


Hannah & Nathanael strategize the next shot.

Hannah & Nathanael strategize the next shot.

Memory Albums by: Hannah


Memory albums without photos? That would never do. You see we didn't have enough photos to go around. With only one set available, all nine of us youngsters were eyeing them dubiously. Obviously we had to make duplicates. For us this process includes scanning them in, and then digitally correcting them. (Removing red eye,
The best shots never come to you.

The best shots never come to you.

dust and scratches, and distracting objects is sometimes required, like the time the yearly family photo was marred by a bright red bow that had been tied onto the door knob, worst of all it was upside down!) After corrections are made, I arrange the layout so the photos fit neatly on a sheet of paper, then we can finally print them. As time permits, we are making progress though it seems so slow at times. I have no doubt but that it will be well worth all the effort it takes. We also try to train the other children to do as many of the steps as is reasonably possible. We realize how important it is that we all help forge these new trails together and not leave all the toil and sweat to one individual.
Zoom.

Zoom.


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