Category Archives for photography

Shoot the Moon – Nikon P1000 Moon Photos

​I was out before sunrise this morning and saw the bright moon overhead. I just had to go back inside to grab my new Nikon P1000 camera and try taking a few pictures. It is amazing what you can see with a 3000mm lens. I couldn't even zoom in all the way and still get the whole moon in the frame!

Moon at 2500mm zoom

At 2500mm zoom I could fit the whole moon in the frame

Moon at 3000mm

​At 3000mm the moon doesn't fit within the frame of the photo!

Moon at 6000mm Digital Zoom

​​6000mm digital zoom gets even closer but image quality suffers

I want to try getting pictures of the planets on another clear night. I am going to have fun with this camera!

Nikon P1000 – My Newest Toy

Nikon Coolpix P1000

​I am a long time Nikon camera fan. I owned Nikon's back in the film days and my very first digital camera was a Nikon D100 that I got in 2002. Georgia and I both had other Nikon digital​s after that. They were, and are, great cameras. If fact, I still have one D70 that ​almost never gets used.

When we started doing a lot more traveling by airplane and ship, we found these camera kits to be a problem for us. We needed a couple good sized ​camera bags to carry the camera, extra lenses, flashes, batteries and chargers and all the other stuff that we needed. So, a few years ago, we switched to what are often called bridge cameras.

​These cameras have built in ​flashes and non-removable zoom lenses that cover a wide range of focal lengths​. They ​may not the best at ​anything but they are good at a lot of things. They are the "jack of all trades" tools that are great for traveling. We bought two Canon SX-40HS cameras that ​served us well for several years.

Canon SX40HS

The Canons are still great travel cameras and we take them with us on big trips. For other occasions we usually just use our mobile phones for picture taking. The cameras in these devices have gotten really good and they serve us well for casual picture taking.

I have been eyeing other options for a while now though. The newest cameras have feature that the Canons lack. WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS ​location tagging for a few. I ​was also​ envious of the longer reach of the super zooms like the Nikon Coolpix P900 that reaches out to 2000mm. I have been hoping Canon would come out with a new model that would match or exceed what Nikon has. It hasn't happened yet though.

Then, a few moths ago, Nikon announced the Coolpix P1000. It would have all the connect​ivity of the P900 ​with a 3000mm equivalent lens. I wanted one! So, when Georgia said get it, I put in my preorder. Nikon released the camera on September 6th and Friday (September 14th) mine finally arrived.

This is a large camera. It is much bigger than the Canon SX40HS and more like a DSLR. With the big lens extended it is really a monster. You can click on the pictures below to see a larger version of the image.

Canon SX40HS vs Nikon P1000
lenses extended

​What to you get in that size a package? The camera body itself isn't that big. It is the lens that makes it huge. It is a 125X optical zoom (​4.3-539 mm, angle of view equivalent to that of 24-3000 mm lens in 35mm format) that opens up to f2.8 at the wide end and f8 at the extreme telephoto setting. There is also a digital zoom that can take it out to 12000mm but with some image degradation. Good if you need to get a shot of bigfoot standing on the next mountain over I guess 😉

Besides the long zoom, the features that I especially like are:

  • Shoots Raw, JPEG Fine, JPEG Normal or a combination of Raw + JPEG
  • ​Will shoot as close a .4 inches in macro mode
  • 5 stop vibration reduction makes it possible to shoot handheld at long zooms
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    ​Still images up to 4609x3456
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    Video at 4K UHD, 1080P, 720P, high speed video at 2x or 4x
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    Built in flash with accessory shoe for external flash or other accessories
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    Flash settings include Auto, Red Eye Reduction, Slow Sync and Rear Curtain sync
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    Wide range of scene modes to cover any situation including dedicated moon and bird modes
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    ​WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity with connection to Nikon Apps for image transfer and remote camera operation 

There are a few things I would like to change about it though:

  • ​Smaller minimum aperture, f22 or even f32 would be nice
  • ​Touch screen monitor
  • Bigger buffer for longer continuous shooting

Overall though, I am impressed with the P1000. I have only had ​it a couple days and there is an awful to learn about the camera and what it can do. I'm sure I will be writing other posts about it in the future.

Here are a couple quick snaps that show the sharpness and image quality. Click them for larger views.

Test Shot of Max the Photographer
Shot of Dogwood Tree Fruit


Photographing Tombstones

 

Genealogists photograph tombstones to document the birth, death and burial information of their ancestors. This post will give you some tips on how to get the best possible results when taking those important pictures.

Locating Cemeteries

Your first challenge might well be just getting to the cemetery. Hopefully you have an obituary or burial record for your ancestor that gives the name of the cemetery. Depending on how old the record is, finding that cemetery can be very easy or impossible. There are some tricks that can help you.

Start with an Internet search for the cemetery name. Try searching the major mapping sites as well as regular search engines. If you don’t find it by name, or if you don’t know the name, try just searching for “cemeteries” in the town and county where the person last lived. The cemetery could have changed names but the new name might be obvious if you look at a graveyard list.

Another good  map service is The US Geological Survey. They have maps dating back to the 1880’s online. You might find that old cemetery there.

If you can’t locate the cemetery online, see if you can find the name of the agencies that administer cemeteries in the town and county of interest. It might be a sexton offices or a government agencies. Call any numbers you can find and ask about the cemetery. Try calling the county clerk’s office. Someone there can probably point to the right contact (or maybe even know the location themselves).

Call town and county historical and genealogical societies. These might be your best source of information about old or little know burial grounds.

Locating Graves

Now that you know how to get to the cemetery, you have to locate the grave site. In small cemeteries you can just walk the rows but, for cemeteries with thousands of graves spread over many acres of land that isn’t practical. Use what you learned during your cemetery search to help you. Visit the cemetery administration office or sexton’s office. They should have maps or lists of grave sites in that cemetery. In some cases, these lists have even been posted on the Internet.

Try searching on Find-a-Grave. I am always amazed at how complete that sites records are. Billion Graves is another good place to look.

Call or visit historical and genealogy societies in the area. Many societies have done cataloging projects for local cemeteries. These can be a real boon to researchers.

You can also try genealogy forums. Another family researcher might have visited the grave and can help you find it.

If you can’t find the grave location ahead of time, go ahead and visit the cemetery anyway. You might find a map or burial list posted somewhere on the grounds. I have seen them on maintenance buildings , the backs of cemetery signs and even on the walls of outhouses. If any grounds keepers are working, ask them for help. No one knows the cemetery better than they do. If all else fails, you will be back to walking the rows of graves.

Once you do locate the grave or graves of interest, document it so you or someone else can find it again. Make a simple diagram of the cemetery and mark the site on it. If you were able to get a map of the cemetery from the administrators, just mark the grave on that. Take a wide shot of the grave in relation to landmarks like buildings and trees. If you have a hand held GPS receiver or a smartphone with a location capability, set it on top of the gravestone and record the latitude and longitude.

Photographing the Stone

Prepare the stone for the photograph by cleaning up any trash laying nearby. Use scissors or shears to trim any grass or weeds that might be covering the stone. Do not cut any trees, bushes or decorative plantings without permission. You can carefully hold or tie them back (or have an assistant hold them) when you take the photo.

DO NOT clean the stone itself unless you know exactly what you are doing and have permission. Too many tombstones have been worn or damaged by well meaning people who tried to clean off dirt, moss or lichens. It is far better to get the best picture you can with the stone as it is than to risk any damage. At the most, spray on a little water and very gently wipe the stone with your hand. Besides, those imperfections add character.

If the day is bright and nothing obscures the stone, you can probably take your photo hand held. In most cases though, you will get much better results with your camera on a tripod. Set it up, focus on the stone and carefully examine the scene in the viewfinder or on the digital cameras screen. You can also take a trial shot with your digital camera and examine it on the screen. Many cameras will let you zoom in when viewing photos.

Look for shadows from the camera , tripod and photographer. If you are using a zoom lens or can changes lenses, move the tripod back and zoom in until the shadows no longer fall on the stone. Another trick is to have a helper shade the whole stone with a jacket, your reflector or with their own body.

Is the inscription clear? If bright sunlight is washing out contrast, shade the stone as above. Use a reflector to light the stone from an angle so shadows in the grooves of the inscription letters make them stand out. Spray the stone with water and let it dry for a minute or so. The water in the grooves should dry slower than that on the surface making the letters stand out. Don’t use chalk, paint or anything else to enhance the engraving. Chemicals in anything you add can cause permanent damage to the stone.

Take several photographs with different lighting and, if your camera supports it, different exposure settings. You can change the camera angle slightly but don’t get too far off straight on. Don’t skimp on the number of pictures you take. It is much easier to do it now than to come back again to re-shoot.

When you get back home, examine your photos and select the best images for further processing. Open your digital images image editing software. Try adjusting the brightness and contrast to get the clearest image of the inscription you can. Save the original and edited versions in folders clearly identified with the cemetery name and location. Backup your photos by saving them on CDs or DVDs.

Tips and Warnings

Dress properly for your cemetery visit. Wear comfortable shoes and apply sunscreen. Carry bug spray just in case. Long pants will help protect from prickly weeds and bugs as well as saving your knees when you kneel down.

Don’t just photograph the gravestones. Take a few photos of the cemetery itself. Get pictures of signs, any maps and wide shots of the burial ground.

You can make a good reflector by gluing aluminum foil to the back of a 2 foot square piece of white poster board. Try the white and shiny sides to see which works best in each situation.

Don’t clean or alter any gravestone without permission and expert advice.

Share your findings on Find-a-Grave and Billion Graves.

Digital Cameras for Genealogy

Digital Cameras

http://cliparts101.comDigital cameras are a basic tool for family historians. Those pictures of family members, their homes, tombstones, etc. are critical additions to our data. There are a few uses for digital cameras that might not be as obvious as obvious though. Before I get to uses though, here some features that are important in a digital camera that will be used for genealogy research.

First, the camera should have a macro setting that will allow you to focus closely. You want one that is able to focus to under two inches, the closer it will focus the better.

Second, you want a camera that will allow you to turn off automatic exposure and set it manually. That way, when you can take a photo and look at it on the camera screen, if it is too dark or too light, you can adjust the exposure to get the image you want. If you don’t want to learn to set your exposure manually (it really isn’t hard) at least get a camera that will let you dial in some exposure compensation to correct for bad lighting. This is particularly important when using the close-up feature.

Third, you want to be able to turn the automatic flash off. Most digital cameras will allow you to do that but make sure your does and that you know how to disable flash.

Finally, look for a camera with built in image stabilization. It is a tremendous help in situation where you can are not able to use a tripod or other support.

The good news is that you can get all these feature in a fairly inexpensive digital camera.You can find good digital cameras that are small enough to carry in a pocket. If you keep one with you whenever you are doing genealogy research, you will find many uses for it.

One way is to take photos of your ancestors possessions. Get pictures of your great grandfather’s pocket watch and your grandmothers wedding ring. Use the macro setting to get good closeups. Preview the photo on the screen and adjust the exposure to get a clear image. If you get glare off shiny objects, turn off the flash and shade the object with your hand or a piece of paper. If the owner of the heirloom is still living, also get pictures of them holding or wearing it.

Your digital camera will make a good substitute for a copier or scanner. When you are at the library, courthouse, in a family members home or other research locations, use your camera to take pictures of records, photos and book pages. You should make use of manual exposure in this application. In most situations, you should turn also off the flash. Using flash is irritating to others around you and, more importantly, can even be harmful to the paper of the documents you are photographing. With flash off, take the picture and preview it on the screen. If the it is too dark or too light, manually adjust the exposure and try again. Keep adjusting until you get a good image.

If the room you are in as too dimly lit to give you a good image without flash, there are some things you can do. If at all possible, carry a small tabletop tripod with you and use it to steady the camera. That will allow for very long exposures without any blurring due to camera movement. There are also inexpensive copy stands available for small cameras.

If you don’t have a tripod with you or if you can’t use it where you are, try resting the camera on a chair back or table edge to steady it. If you can, move to a brighter area of the room and try again.
Taking dim lighting to an extreme, I have even gotten good results using a digital camera to copy images off microfilm viewers. I use a flexible tripod that I can wrap around a chair or, steady the camera by bracing my arms against the sides of the viewer. With image stabilization, that works surprisingly well.

Smartphones

Most of today’s smartphones have very capable digital cameras in them and, by downloading specialized apps, you can make them even better research tools. Apps like Office Lens by Microsoft and Genius Scan from Grizzly Labs are very helpful scanning aids. There are many, many photo editing apps that can help make your images look better. Photoshop Express from Adobe is a good. A search of the iTunes Store if you have an Apple phone or the Google Play Store for Android devices will turn up apps for whatever problem you are trying to solve.

There are also many inexpensive products that will make you camera phone more useful. A tripod adapter to use it on a standard tripod is cheap and worthwhile. There are also copy stands made just for smartphones.

Every generation of smartphone seems to bring better cameras so do give yours a try during your research.

Regardless of whether you use a camera or phone, spend some time practicing at home before your research trip. You want to be comfortable using it before you find that one-of-a-kind record that you absolutely must have a good image of.

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