Archive for the ‘Digital Cameras’ Category

Computer file or photo gone? Don’t panic, it might only be misplaced!

Friday, March 14th, 2008

Sheree with Expodisk

A tidal wave of sweat surged across my body, and my stomach rocked with nausea.  The writing file I had requested was not to be found.  An error message about incorrect paths was the “helpful” information appearing on my laptop’s screen.  Had I accidentally erased my entire writing file? My mind spun as I comprehended the enormity of my situation, and the potential data loss.  Helplessly, I wrung my hands in despair.

I took a deep breath, gave my head a shake, and forced my heart to quell its tap-dance against my chest wall.  Then, I took the steps needed to solve my problem.

Has this happened to you?  Have you gone in search of a necessary file only to have your computer spew out a heart-stopping message that your document cannot be found?  If so, there is good news: The problem may be very simple, and even simpler to fix.

Read on . . .


Travel Accessories: Marking Your Possessions for Easy Return to YOU!

Monday, March 3rd, 2008


Do you like good service?  How about great new products?  Especially products that make your life easier?


Me, too.


And, if like me, you travel a great deal, you know that any product or service that will make your travel experience better, is very welcome.  I have found at least one.


Read on . .



How to Lose Your Camera and Achieve Instant Fame in 2 Easy Steps

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

You’ve just returned from your vacation.  You had a good time – partied hard, did a few things that maybe you shouldn’t have done, and took the pictures to prove it.  But now you realize you have misplaced your digital camera.  Is there anything worse than a lost camera full of vacation photos?  Yes.

It’s having those private pictures show up on the Internet for the entire world to see.

That’s the brainchild of University of Winnipeg student, Matt Preprost.  This newest Web guru has created a site designed to help unite lost digital photos and cameras with their (embarrassed?) owners.  It’s called,

Preprost’s wild idea has already netted results.  In only the first few days of the site’s launch, photos were reunited with their takers.

A combination of your creativity and Matt’s site, could be your ticket to fame…read on…


New Zealand Fiordlands: Explore for a Truly Wild and Wonderful Experience!

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

Dusky Sound and David by Sheree Zielke

If you are native to the lands of the Northern Hemisphere, then Dusky, Doubtful and Milford Sounds may mean very little to you; Nancy, Charles, and George Sound will mean even less.  But if you visit New Zealand, down in the Southern Hemisphere, you’ll find all these places; they are part of the Fiordland National Park, on the southwesterly corner of New Zealand’s south island.

But if you have ever visited North America’s northwest coastline, in particular, the coasts of Oregon, British Columbia, and Alaska, then the topography of these wild and richly forested terrains may seem familiar.Chairs with a view in the New Zealand Sounds by Sheree Zielke

Perhaps the most satisfying way to visit these New Zealand Sounds is by land but local tour companies offer exploration nor only by foot, shuttle van, and tour bus, but via watercraft, and by air.  Air seems to be the most efficient way to take in the 1.2 million hectares of wilderness that make up the Fiordland, but a guided walk might be considered more effective.  That’s if you have the time.  Try these sites: Hike South and Ultimate Hikes.

Waterfalls in Milford Sound by Sheree ZielkeBut failing that, take a cruise up into the sounds.  Besides the huge cruise lines that visit the Sounds, there is also a large assortment of smaller cruise vessels.  Expect rainy weather and heavy mists; this is a temperate rain forest.  The rains give rise to pretty multiple waterfalls coursing down through lush green forested mountains.  You might even catch a glorious rainbow as it cuts its way through the grey mist.

Our ship, the Celebrity Mercury, had three Sounds on its itinerary: Dusky, Doubtful and Milford Sounds.  We reached Dusky Sound early in the morning, amidst gray skies, churning waters, and heavy mist.  The short trip into Dusky was interesting, but the light was such that no outstanding photographs could be taken.

Doubtful Sound was just that, doubtful.  And in fact, high winds and rough waters meant that our ship, including a fellow cruise ship, the Statendam, had to pass by.  But the picturesque Milford Sound still lay ahead.Statendam cruise ship by Sheree Zielke

Milford Sound (it was agreed by other passengers who were experienced in the Sounds) was the more majestic and more beautiful, with its dozens of waterfalls and pretty coastline.  Many compared it to Alaska or the northern coastline of British Columbia with its misty timber forests, and moody gray waters.

Wildlife is supposed to be abundant in these largely uninhabited sounds although we didn’t see any of the fur-bearing seals, penguins, or dolphins said to make these sounds their home.

For more information on the New Zealand Fiordlands, read this stunning National Geographic account by author, Kennedy Warne.

Milford Sound banks by Sheree Zielke

Photography Tip: When taking photos in the Fiordland sounds, push your digital camera’s “exposure compensation” setting to a “negative” number to ensure a clearer, less misty picture.  You can always brighten your shots later in your computer’s photo manipulation program.

Sheree Zielke

New Zealand & Australia: Are they worth a 14-hour flight?

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

New Zealand & Australia – Celebrity (Mercury) Cruise January 2008

Are you feeling iffy about the possibility of a cruise off the coasts Down Under?  Does a 14+ hour plane ride sound too daunting?  If so, you are not alone.  But here I am to tell you  that I not only survived the flight, but I have had one of the best exotic vacations ever.  Read on.

We live in Western Canada so our flight originated out of Calgary.  From there we flew to Los Angeles, and from there (after 2 very warm hours on the tarmac) we flew to Auckland, New Zealand (in “cattle car” class — you know what I mean, the cheap cramped seats with minimal service).  But we had no option for an upgrade, so we accepted things as they were.

The flight, oddly enough, turned out to be not as gruelling as we had anticipated.  There is ample room on the Air New Zealand plane to move about (to ease leg swelling), and the TV in the headrest is filled with programs and recent movie selections.

The seats are crammed together, but not horribly so.  Unless, you are very large person, you should find them bearable.   We hit some rocky air pockets, but for the most part, the flight was uneventful.

We arrived to gray skies in Auckland; a crew of Celebrity cruise ship people were there to greet us.  We were escorted to a large tour coach (bus) and taken for a spin around Auckland before boarding the Mercury ship.  It was an unexpected surprise — and a very pleasant one at that.  Especially the morning tea at the Winter Garden Pavilion.

The ship’s management used the time very efficiently and did our initial boarding clearance at the Auckland museum, where we took a quick 20-30 minute tour of an amazing museum, before re-boarding our coach.  We were given a bit of a tour of the Auckland harbour and then taken to the ship, where we were allowed to board early.  It was a wonderful surprise, and so welcome after all the time we had spent on planes and in airports.

For insider tips, cruising tips, reviews on the Celebrity Mercury, reviews and hi-lights of the New Zealand and Austrailian ports-of-call, visit this blog this month. 

You will find a wealth of information — information that will hopefully lead you to a positive decision about a Down Under vacation. 

Sheree Zielke

10 Tips for Teaching Digital Cameras to the Absolute Beginner!

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

Roman statue in morning light by Sheree Zielke.Do you have someone in your circle of friends and family who has just gotten a new digital camera? But they are clueless as to its operation, and they have looked to you for help? Don’t despair!  Here’s a quick and easy guide to assist you in teaching someone else how to use their digital camera.


Have you ever been asked to share your knowledge of digital cameras with someone who just got a new digital camera?  They don’t have a clue how it works, they barely know how to turn it on, and now they want you to teach them all the ins and outs of their intimidating digital device.

The first thing you must deal with is their fear.  Most new users experience anxiety over their digital camera’s odd controls and terminology.  Their fear stands in the way of real learning, so it must be laid to rest.  The only way to do that is with HANDS-ON training.

Here are 10 tips to help you easily teach a novice to use his or her digital camera: 

  1. Assume the person/student knows absolutely NOTHING about digital cameras.  I have made the mistake of assuming that most digital camera owners have at least a very basic understanding of their equipment.  But they do not. 
  2. Start at the beginning.  This may sound ridiculous, but start with the POWER button.  Show them where it is and how to turn the camera on and off.  This is your opportunity to give them a warning about digital memory cards.  New users of digital cameras do not know their camera must be off BEFORE removing a memory card.
  3. Now show them the slot that holds their memory card.  Again, this is a mystery to many.  Show them how to remove the card.  SAFELY.  At this point, I talk about memory cards getting their brains addled when pulled out of a camera while it is still ON.  This tends to stay with them.
  4. This is a good time to teach your student about their camera’s shutter button.  Many new users punch down on the shutter button without ever allowing the camera to do its job of focusing, and light metering.  Ask the student to take a picture; show them how to delete this individual image. 
  5. Now teach them about the difference between “delete,” “delete all,” and “format.”  Many new users mistake the term, format, for delete, and wipe out their memory card images.  I assure my students they cannot accidentally erase their images if they pay attention. Once they find the format option, I teach them how to back out of the menu without formatting their memory card.  I also teach them that if they can’t remember how to back out of the format menu, they should turn their camera off.  This way they will never accidentally wipe out all their precious vacation photos.
  6. Introduce the student to their manual.  In many cases, my students arrive to class, their manuals untouched.  I have them open their manuals to the Table of Contents.  I’ll point out a few terms like “format” and “program modes,” “flash options” and “picture quality,” terms they must know if they are to use their camera more efficiently.I always tell digital camera owners to photocopy their entire manual.  I also tell them to put the original manual away for safe-keeping.  Using only the photocopied version, I suggest they bend pages, make margin notes, and use a hi-lighter pen to emphasize details they might forget.
  7. Next show them the physical control features (dials, buttons, and screens) on the exterior of their camera.  These dials can be very confusing and frustrating for the first-time digital camera user.  Be patient.  They’ll get it after awhile.  Make THEM turn the dials, rock their camera’s rocker switch, move their tiny joystick, or use the arrow buttons.  Many students, especially seniors, are afraid of doing something wrong.  Assure them it is okay to play with the controls as long as they don’t “format” their memory cards. Camera features you should emphasize (depending upon the make and model of the digital camera) may include: how to open the flash, flash option button, LCD screen display or info button, menu, self-timer, macro option, scene modes, video feature, priority options (program, manual, shutter, aperture), and the camera’s picture reviewing icon.
  8. Now that your student is feeling a little calmer manipulating his or her camera, it’s time for them to perform a few tasks; show them how to set the clock and the date, and how to choose the camera’s resolution or picture quality setting. As to more advanced settings like White Balance and ISO, I tell my students to leave their settings on AUTO, until they are ready to alter these settings knowledgeably.
  9. Show your student how pre-programmed scene modes work.  Show them the icons (face, mountains, moon and star, running man, etc.) imprinted on the body of their camera (if any), and then show them how to enter the camera’s menu or function menu in search of other scene mode options.
  10. Now it’s time to delve deeper into the camera and explore its inner menu.  Patience is a definite must when heading into this territory.  Ask the person to follow along in their manual.  Bend pages to assist them in finding the references later on.  This is the time to introduce, that’s INTRODUCE (you don’t want them to run screaming into the night from information overload), evaluative metering, exposure compensation, bracketing, drive modes like burst, and the self-timer feature.  Then again, maybe your student is not ready to do any more delving.  And that’s okay.  As long as they are feeling a little more comfortable with their camera, your job is done.

Following this simple tutelage, Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt Marge or little sister Sarah, digital camera users of any age, will be able to use their digital camera with a new confidence.  The only fear left will be yours; you know the night will come when they invite you to view the 3,347 shots they took of their bus trip through Idaho.


Sheree Zielke

Got the Shakes? Tips for avoiding blur when using your digital camera.

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

Got the shakes? Don’t confuse out-of-focus blur with artistic blur when shooting with your digital camera.  Artistic blur can be quite pleasing especially when shooting action photos.  Panning while shooting sports or street scenes can yield some highly dramatic shots, but blur, due to a poorly focused camera, is not acceptable; it’s simply bad photography.

Tips for setting your camera under LOW LIGHT conditions!

Do you like shooting sunrises?  Sunsets?  In the bush shots?  Nighttime events?  Concert hall shots?  Due to the camera’s need to open the aperture and slow down the shutter speed, under low-light conditions, blur is unavoidable if you are hand-holding your camera.  Here are some tips to help you achieve better photos.

Tip #1: Get your camera out of your hand.  If you don’t have a tripod then “jam” your camera down onto something like a bean bag or a balloon filled with sand.   Set it on a fence railing or a flat rock, anything, just to get it out of your hand.  Then use your self-timer.  Select the option in your camera’s drive menu, focus your camera with a half push on the shutter button, and then a full push to activate the self-timer.  By the time your camera takes the picture, it will be perfectly still.

Tip #2: Hate carrying around that cumbersome metal tripod?  Try a mono-pod, or better still, a cool twistable tripod called a, “Gorillapod,” or a “Bottle Cap” tripod.   The Gorillapod is an ingenious device that allows a photographer to twist the bendable legs onto any surface, like a tree or fence post.  While it’s not strong enough to hold a very large camera with heavy battery pack, it is perfect for most other digital cameras.  The Bottle Cap tripod, on the other hand, uses a simple pop bottle as a stand.  Here’s a great review on both devices.

Tip #3: Change your ISO.  This is your digital camera’s “film” speed.  Of course, you don’t have any film, but this is the digital equivalent of old-fashioned film speeds.  Set your ISO to 50 or 100 in bright daylight, but opt for larger (faster) speeds like 400 or 800 in low-light conditions.

Tip #4: Slow down your camera’s shutter speed, after placing your camera on a tripod or a firm level surface.  Select “shutter priority” and then allow your camera to automatically set the camera’s aperture opening.

Tip #5: Open your camera’s aperture wider using a SMALLER F-stop number (remember the smaller the number, the wider the opening).  Opt for “aperture priority,” set your F-stop, and allow your camera to automatically set the shutter speed.

Tip #6: Choose one of your camera’s scene modes like sunset, or night scene which is normally represented by a crescent moon with a star icon.  The camera will set all the necessary parameters, but you must still jam the camera or set it on a tripod.


Modern day digital cameras are very clever with all their bells and whistles, but a photographer is still better off making some decisions on his or her own.  Remember the issue of digital lag?  The more the camera must decide, while in AUTO mode, the slower the camera’s response will be.

In addition, some things never change.  People shake!  No one can hand-hold a camera in low light, and expect in-focus shots.  A tripod was a must with film cameras and it is still a must for digital cameras.  And with the advent of clever devices like the Gorillapod and the Bottle Cap Tripod, there is no excuse not to have clear well-focused shots under lowlight conditions.

P.S. If you aren’t using another clever device called photo management software, you are missing the boat.  PicaJet will assist you in locating a specific digital photograph weeks, if not years later.  Give this award-winning software a try.

Sheree Zielke

Digital Camera MEGA Memory Card Tips

Friday, November 16th, 2007

Oh the JOY!  And the GRIEF!

Camcorder users must have memory cards with LARGE capacity memory storage.  But the average still digital camera user—does not!  And in fact, using a memory card with a storage capacity of over 1GB (gigabyte) is foolhardy. 


With Sony’s release of its mega memory 8 and 16 GB memory sticks for videographers, can mega memory cards be far behind for digital cameras that shoot still photographs?  Apparently not.  Other camera manufacturers are peppering the marketplace with bigger faster memory cards like the SanDisk 16GB CF Extreme III.  But my caution is to think before you leap up to these massive capacity memory cards.  Here’s why…



Digital camera memory cards come under a number of titles, with the most common being:  Compact Flash, xD Card, Memory Stick, SecureDigital, SmartMedia, and MicroDrive.  And while these miniature hard drives differ widely in name, most offer increasing memory capacity.  And that’s good news for professional photographers, but a nasty temptation for the average point and shooter.


It sounds like a magnificent idea, doesn’t it?  Plug in a massive memory card and then fire away.  Select a reasonable resolution and compression level in your camera, and the average Joe photographer could load thousands of images to a 2GB card.  But it’s not the memory card’s memory size that is a problem; it’s the card’s physical size.


This weekend, my grandkids haphazardly managed to lose my Nintendo DS Brain Age game card—it just disappeared.  I could hardly blame them because the darn thing is so tiny.  So are digital camera memory cards.  Some memory cards are so tiny you could pick your teeth with them.  So, what does the average photographer do when, towards the end of his vacation, he loses one of his tiny memory cards?  Cry? Hit something? Curse?  Probably all three.  But it doesn’t have to be that way. 


Keep your digital images safe—don’t put all your eggs in one basket!


1)                Buy several smaller memory cards (512, 1GB).  Split up your photographs so that if a card goes missing, you haven’t lost all your photos.  Hopefully, you haven’t lost the card with the prize-winning sunset shot.

2)                Don’t fill your MEGA (2GB, 8GB, 16GB) memory cards to capacity.  If you need the larger cards because you are saving some of your files in “raw,” fine, but share your digital images among several memory cards.  Use a memory card storage case, like the iPorter xSD or just a simple plastic storage box; turn over your used cards, inside the case, so you know they are “full.”  In an emergency, you could always grab one, and add a few more shots.

3)                Clean your camera’s memory cards every night.  Travel with your laptop, or a small external drive like a Wolverine.  I ensure I never lose my photos by loading all photos to my laptop’s hard drive, and a second set to my Wolverine.  I carry my laptop onto the plane; the Wolverine is packed in my checked luggage.  One way or the other, my digital images make it home.



4)                Re-format your memory cards (in your camera ONLY) once you have cleared them of photos.  Digital camera memory cards are tiny drives—their brains (bits and bytes) get addled just like a computer’s hard drive.  And like a computer, the cards need defragmenting (re-formatting) to keep them working properly.  Or, they will act up.  You’ll know you have card error when your digital images overlap each other.


As an average shooter, don’t be seduced by the mega memory cards—buy several cards with smaller memories instead, and a memory card storage case.  When one of your memory cards goes missing, you will breathe a sigh of relief because you still have the others.


And be sure to manage your photographs well—use a photo filing and indexing program like PicaJet to make your photographs easily accessible.




Sheree Zielke

Photographing Cats: How to Avoid the Glassy Green-Eyed Monster

Thursday, November 8th, 2007

A Great Trick for Photographing a Cat!

We all have pets we love–pets we love to photograph.  But it’s so difficult getting a well-exposed shot without an ugly glassy-eyed stare.  In addition, pets (especially an I-do-as-I-please-when-I-feel-like-it cat) tend not to cooperate with our picture-taking efforts.  But you can trick them into cooperating.

This is a picture of my cat, Winnie.  Winnie by Sheree ZielkeShe is a contrary old beast who will sit still long enough for me to set up my shot, and then as if responding to some inner psychic voice, she moves off,  just as I snap the picture.  Wretched animal! 

In addition, since she is an indoor cat, I must use additional lighting–like my camera’s flash.  That usually results in an ugly glassy-eyed shot, worse than any red eye.  Because a cat’s pupils are so wide, the flash hi-lights the light receptor cells in the back of the animal’s eyes…and that just isn’t pretty.  Photographing her was a huge challenge, until I discovered this trick.

Cashing in on Winnie’s natural curiosity and cat instincts, here’s how I got this picture.  I lay back on my bed, with a bedside lamp beside me (one of those natural daylight lamps).  I forced my camera’s on-board flash OFF.  I set my ISO to 200, left the white balance on AUTO,  and then waited for her to become interested in what I was doing.  That was the easy part since cats like light, especially light that moves around. 

So, while handholding my compact digital in one hand, I used the other hand to wiggle the lamp.  As a result, Winnie turned her complete attention to the lamp, and since the lamplight was beaming down on her, she was completely lit.  That meant I didn’t have to worry about low light conditions, a slower shutter speed, and resulting camera shake. I easily snapped this pretty picture. 

Another thing that helped was shooting the picture at an angle to her eyes; angles definitely help to avoid a greenish glassy stare. 

More tips:  Use your exposure compensation–especially when photographing an animal that is largely all dark or all light.  Here is a good rule of thumb: 

  1. White cat against a darker background?  The cat will be overexposed so decrease your exposure compensation.  (The problem is that the camera metres the dark background and decides more light is needed in the photograph, thus blowing out the white cat.)
  2. Black cat against a lighter background? The cat will be underexposed so increase your exposure compensation.  (The camera decides less light is needed because of all the light, thus underexposing the dark cat.)
  3. Opt for “spot” metering (as opposed to center, average, or matrix metering) when shooting the above subjects; it will help, but will not entirely correct the situation without an exposure compensation adjustment.

Sheree Zielke

Digital Camera Image Files: The Raw Truth!

Wednesday, November 7th, 2007

The Low-Down on RAW Digital Photo Files – In Simple Terms!

My students are often confused by the file options (RAW or JPEG) in their cameras. Without going into huge detail, I generally suggest my students opt for a medium to high JPEG file because the majority of my students have no interest in adjusting their digital images at a later time. 


But if you want more control over your images, you might want to opt for RAW files…read on…


RAW or JPEG — what’s the difference?   

RAW photo files, like a raw carrot, await a brilliant cook/artist to do something to them.  But, unlike a raw carrot which can be perfect as is, pictures printed from RAW photo files can be much better after manipulation—RAW files are meant to be adjusted before being saved as JPEG prints.


Years ago, before the advent of digital cameras, a film photographer had to visit the processing bath in his darkroom before being able to show off his photographs; that’s where he’d turn his negatives into prints.  In this sense, RAW files are similar to old-fashioned film negatives–that’s “similar” because unlike old film negatives, a RAW file can be printed without manipulation.

Jim McGee, with, writes, “It’s important to understand that a print of the raw file without any changes will look identical to a high resolution JPEG file captured at the same time. What you’re getting with a RAW file is the ability to make changes later on.”

In fact, when shooting in RAW, your camera will totally ignore any previous settings you might have opted for like a particular white balance, color saturation level, or decreased resolution.

So, what’s a JPEG file?   

JPEG (Joint Photo Experts Group) is a computer formula that digital cameras use to compress RAW information into smaller more manageable files.  But as this data compression or processing takes place, some digital information must be sacrificed (lossy compression).  Setting a camera’s “picture quality” setting and/or “resolution” will determine how drastically information is cut from each image.

In addition, every single time a JPEG file is manipulated, or saved, information is lost leading to a lack of sharpness.  This doesn’t happen to a RAW image file because it remains in it original state.  And remember, too, unlike a RAW image, once a JPEG image is created, the information lost—can never be regained. 

The good news, however, is that JPEG files, while reducing file size, have the uncanny ability to maintain the visual quality of an image, in spite of dumping excess information.

What can a photographer do with RAW images?  

RAW digital image files allow the photographer to later tweak his images in his digital darkroom, using the largely unprocessed information (a little processing does take place in the camera) saved to the memory card during shooting.  A photographer can set a different white balance, he can adjust his exposure compensation by a couple of stops, and he can adjust the image’s finer points like sharpness, contrast, and color saturation.  In short, he can alter his photograph’s “original” data to an adjusted JPEG image, ready for printing.

Why would a photographer choose RAW over JPEG? 

In a word, or two—it’s creative control.  When shooting in RAW, a photographer reserves the right to “fix” his images long after the fact (post-processing), something that can’t be done as efficiently on a compressed and processed JPEG image.

And no matter what, a photographer will always have the option to return to his RAW digital images, months or even years later, and adjust them to his heart’s delight.

What are the drawbacks of choosing RAW over JPEG? 

The biggest drawback is a loss of speed as the camera processes digital images to its memory card.  Fast action shots will be impeded by opting for RAW files.

Also, you’ll need to invest in larger memory cards; uncompressed RAW files use massive amounts of memory per image.

In addition, depending upon your computer’s processor speed, the huge RAW files can cause your computer to freeze up.  I did this once on a photo shoot in New York City.  I was breaking in a new Olympus eVolt 300, and had shot in both JPEG and RAW.  My older laptop couldn’t bear the processing burden and resorted to the blue screen of death.  I was barely able to recover my files upon returning home.  But the lesson was learned–I bought a new laptop with a bigger and faster dual processor.

Note:  You may see RAW files referred to as NEF by Nikon, as CRW by Canon.  Also, you simply cannot fix a poorly-taken photograph.  An out-of-focus image will remain out-of-focus since camera shake is recorded regardless of whether the camera is saving in RAW or JPEG.  So, in low light situations, use a tripod.


And another note:  “RAW” isn’t short for anything.  It should actually be written, “raw.”  But I’ve capitalized it throughout this blog, just because I like it capitalized–looks better that way.  IMHO


Sheree Zielke