Technically Speaking

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Seth Shostak  |  Nov 01, 2016  |  0 comments

Mark was a fellow radio astronomer, full of insights. One day in a conversation about photography he said something that caused my eyebrows to lift: “Well, as we all know, color film is never sharp.” But what Mark was getting at was this: As the consequence of a few million years of Darwinian evolution, our eyes have three types of color receptors, casually described as red, green, and blue.

Seth Shostak  |  May 04, 2017  |  0 comments

Soon enough, your camera will join the ranks of the well connected. That’s not to say it will be invited to A-list parties, but only that it will become a participant in the highly touted Internet of Things, now coming ’round the mountain.

Seth Shostak  |  Aug 09, 2016  |  0 comments

In real-world shoots, both camera and subject are often moving. Six generations of photographers have fought this problem in their quest for images as sharp as a zoot suit. And nowhere is this fact of photographic life more obvious than when you’re trying to freeze the movement of wildlife. Whether you’re bagging African megafauna or trying to capture backyard beetles, stopping the motion is part of the assignment. So how do you do it?

Seth Shostak  |  Jul 26, 2018  |  0 comments

When, in 1985, autofocus first made its appearance in a popular SLR, the Minolta Maxxum 7000, I figured it was a gimmick. Hey, I’m a Homo sapien, with an opposable thumb that allows me to focus a lens. To me, any battery-burning technology to take over this task was about as useful as a robot finger to punch the shutter.

Seth Shostak  |  Sep 09, 2016  |  0 comments

Remember when Paul Simon crooned, “Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome away”? That classic film may have given you nice bright colors, but only on sunny days. In its early incarnations, Kodachrome’s film speed—its sensitivity—was 10, or slower than Homer Simpson.

Seth Shostak  |  May 31, 2016  |  0 comments

Panoramas are easy to wish for, but, until recently, were not easy to get. To shoot high-quality panos often required special cameras that could rotate their lens while simultaneously advancing an aperture slit across a curved film plane.

Seth Shostak  |  May 16, 2018  |  0 comments

It’s time to sharpen up your pix. Modern DSLRs generally rely on what’s called phase difference autofocusing: basically, a rangefinder scheme updated with new technology. But as we described last month, this technology uses a second optical path within the camera, independent of the lens-to-sensor path used to make the photo.

Seth Shostak  |  Nov 15, 2017  |  4 comments

Have you ever checked out the battlefield photos made by Mathew Brady’s studio during the Civil War? They’re great, right?

Seth Shostak  |  Oct 18, 2017  |  2 comments

When it comes to camera bragging rights, what makes you most proud? My guess: pixel count. In a world where mobile phones can make shots good enough for billboards, nothing seems to make you feel better about yourself than to flog your camera’s megapixel horsepower.

Seth Shostak  |  Jul 01, 2016  |  0 comments

We’ve all seen them: night shots of some wind-weathered rock formation in the American Southwest, backed by a dramatic, star-spangled sky. Earth, the universe, and everything.
Your first thought: “What sort of unaffordable equipment does it take to make a photo like that?” Your second thought: “You know, a 16x20 nighttime pic would sure look good above the pool table.”

Seth Shostak  |  May 03, 2018  |  0 comments

It’s a commandment brought down from the mountain: spend less on the camera if necessary, but don’t skimp on the lenses.

Seth Shostak  |  Jun 23, 2017  |  0 comments

If you use anything more capable than a smartphone for making photos, then you know all about sharpening. Well, at least you can find a menu item that, in a fraction of a second, turns “acceptable” photos into snappier snaps. It’s like flush toilets: you may not understand exactly how they work, but you know how to use them.

Seth Shostak  |  Dec 14, 2017  |  0 comments

Remember f-stops? Not everyone does. Millennials shoot their selfies with automated smartphones that have sent f-stops to steampunk heaven. Old-timers who began with box cameras were spared the fear factor of f-stops until later in life, and may never have fully adjusted to these adjustments.

Seth Shostak  |  Aug 09, 2017  |  0 comments

It sounds like a reference to dull Halloween costumes, but I’ve always regarded unsharp masking as the Cadillac option for beefing up the acutance of my photos. Admittedly, this is probably just a reaction to the fact that unsharp masking has a complicated dialog box in Photoshop, and my reptilian brain is dazzled by lots of controls.

Seth Shostak  |  Mar 06, 2018  |  0 comments

Of all the components of a camera, few are as iconic as the shutter. The name of this magazine is testimony to that.

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