Lin studies photography with Phil Douglis

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Feb 25th, 2006, 08:48 PM
  #1
Lin
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Lin studies photography with Phil Douglis

Last week, I attended Phil Douglis’ 4-day photography tutorial. I had looked at his gallery of his trip to Zambia during the green season (http://www.pbase.com/pnd1/safari), and I realized that the photos I will take during my upcoming safari in June do NOT have to be similar to those of the last two trips! Next, I found out that Phil owns the same camera as mine, the Panasonic DMC-FZ30. And upon reviewing his profile on the Pbase website, I saw that he offers one-on-one tutorials. That was it! I knew I had to go. I live in Chicago, and Phil in Phoenix.

I’ll briefly summarize that Phil is a brilliant photographer, a patient and experienced teacher, and a true gentleman – a pleasure to work with. I came away with much more confidence in my ability to operate my camera and all its controls, and more, with a vision of my potential to create, with this amazing tool, photographs that express the joy and awe that I feel on safari. I’m so excited to practice.

Phil also offers an excellent introduction to Adobe Photoshop CS2. I learned how to use the most important tools, and saw how superior this program is to my current photo editing software.

Any questions – fire away!
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Feb 26th, 2006, 02:52 AM
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Hi Lin,
That sounds really good, the one on one experience plus dealing with someone that has the same camera that you operate. I also have that camera, and I do have a few problems. I mainly use auto, but my camera shop, said to leave it on auto, then with the focus switch on manual, to adjust, but my eyes are not good enough for this, even with glasses on. The past few days, I have been trying to get a pale headed rosella ( a bird) and I must have taken about 150 photos, about 20 seem in focus. Of course, they jump around a fair bit, so hard to get anything that is not still I guess. Any helpful tips on that?

Also night photography - film I do well with a good spotlight and within a certain distance, but digital I have just about given up. I have two trips to Southern Africa lined up this year, so I need some good hints and plenty of practice.

Kind regards,
Kaye
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Feb 26th, 2006, 08:26 AM
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Lin
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Hi Kaye, Even though I've taken thousands of pictures over many years, this was my first photography class, so take my suggestions with that in mind!

If you look at Phil's pbase page, and go to Profile, there's an email address. It wouldn't hurt to ask him your questions directly! In the meantime, I'll take a shot at answering.

Phil believes that setting our camera on auto is a sin, because you are allowing the mechanical camera to make ALL the decisions. He suggested that, to start learning to make creative choices myself, I leave the mode dial at "P" or Program AE, and use the spot meter to select exactly where the exposure should be set. The spot meter also focuses, so you don't have to do that manually (I'd have trouble with manual focus also). He taught me to focus on the brightest spot in my frame, because with photo-editing, you can always correct darker areas but not 'burned out' areas (over-exposed). If you wanted to apply that principle, first of course you would need to have photo editing software of some sort and be willing to spend time with it.

To capture your bird, try using the burst mode (button on top of on/off switch) This enables the camera to take several pictures immediately in sequence while you depress the shutter button, and usually one of those will catch your bird just right, and you can delete the others. Toggle the burst button until you see 'high' in the display, focus with the spot meter, possibly use AE lock button to lock in your focus and exposure, and press shutter button continually until you're finished. Try it, it's fun! Make sure the Image Stabilizer is set on level 2. Phil also suggested, for birds, to try to guess their path and focus in front of them. It'll take practice!

And yes, about those night shots. I asked Phil the same thing. He does not believe in flash photography! Thinks it's artificial, especially with wildlife. He said that night photography's one of the biggest challenges for digital camera users, so don't feel bad! My night shots were mostly terrible last safari. This time, I'm just going to try to use the spot meter in the area of the spotlight, and use the burst mode unless the animal is lying around.

Let me know how it goes! I certainly learned that our camera is a fantastic tool capable of many things.
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Feb 26th, 2006, 09:13 AM
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Thank you, Linda, for your kind words. And also for responding to KayeN's questions with such helpful suggestions. It was a joy to meet you and work with you one-on-one here in Phoenix. I am sure your photos will carry the imprint of our four day encounter for many years to come. Thanks also for suggesting to KayeN that she email me for info on my tutorials. I would be delighted to help her as well.

Best,
Phil
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Feb 26th, 2006, 11:10 AM
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Lin - I, like you were, am an 'Auto' person. I will mend the errors of my ways when I can find a good photography course (I'm afraid they are few and far between here in the West if Ireland). In the mean time I need to purchase a new camera before our trip to Kenya / Rwanda in July (I have a Powershot S50 but the zoom is terrible) and have been looking into the Panasonic FZ30. In the event that I don't get on that photography course before August - how did your photo's turn out using the 'Auto' function (prior to editing - another thing I need to learn to do!)? I have read that the FZ30 makes a lot of noise - is it bothersome? Also, is the camera VERY bulky - would it be possible to use it for special occasions or would it be too awkward?
Any other advice for a complete novice??

Thanks,
Imelda
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Feb 26th, 2006, 08:31 PM
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Imelda,

You don't really need a lot of specialized knowledge to operate the FZ30 to its full advantage. If you use "Auto", the camera decides everything for you except where to aim it. If you use the "P" mode, it will still compute your exposure (lens openings and shutter speeds) but you will also be free to pick the sensitivity of your sensor (ISO), choose the coloration you prefer, the metering method and so on. (In other words, the "P" mode is semi-automatic instead of fully automatic.) If you read the manual that comes with the camera all of this will be explained to you. You will find that your pictures will be much more effective if you control these factors, rather than letting the camera try to do it for you imperfectly. If you have any specific questions, ask them of us.

It is not an awkward camera. It fits the hands quite well. As for "noise" what you are reading about is electronic static created in picture shot at only the most sensitive level (ISO 200 and 400) and even then it not really a factor in most pictures, which are either viewed on a computer monitor or printed in relatively small sizes. It is only when you make huge prints of pictures shot at ISO 200 and 400 that "noise" is a factor. (You will find such noise on almost all non-DSLR digital cameras.) The reviewers study images under extreme magnification, which has no relationship to the pictures that most of us make.

Hope this answers your questions. For ideas on shooting your safari, look at my safari gallery linked to this thread in Lin's opening message.

Good luck,

Phil Douglis
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Feb 27th, 2006, 12:48 AM
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Thanks for the advice Phil, it is greatly appreciated.And you didn't even laugh at my question about noise!! I posted a question about what camera to chose on a certain photography site and all I can say is that they definately weren't helpful. I'm glad Fodor's isn't like that!

Phil, Your photos are fabulous. I tried to pick a favourite but couldn't - the lone elephant at the tree, the bufallo, the summer storm, the list goes on ... all fabulous!

I will go and have a 'real live' look at the camera. Hopefully I'll get to do that next weekend. You might be sorry for offering to answer my questions though - I tend to have quite a lot at times!! One last question - how is the battery life? Will I need two? Also, what size memory card do you recommend? I'm thinking 1GB.

Thanks again for your time and patience.
Imelda
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Feb 27th, 2006, 03:15 AM
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I have mentioned before on this forum how much I love Phil's photos and tutorials on pbase and had the pleasure of meeting Phil in London recently on his way to Zambia for the green season...

I would love to do a 1-1 workshop with him though - sounds like so much fun!
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Feb 27th, 2006, 09:44 AM
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Imelda,

I am delighted that you visited my Zambia gallery on pbase. Feel free to post any questions or impressions about any of my images directly below them in my gallery. I answer all comments as soon as I see them. I would very much like to help you in any way I can. As for batteries, it all depends on how long your LCD display is on. Mine is on almost all the time when on Safari, because I compose on it. So I go through a battery on each game drive. I always have a fresh battery with me to pop in the camera. And I always have a third battery fully charged back at the camp. You get one battery that comes along with the FZ30, so buy two more, and always keep them charged. You will never have to worry about running out of power on a game drive. As for memory, 1 Gig is mandatory, because you are using an 8MP sensor, and those files take up a lot of space on a card. You can get 240 best quality JPEGs on a 1 Gig card. When you use that "multiple image" button a lot as I do, I usually get around 200 or so shots on each game drive. I download them to my laptop when I get back and go back on the next drive with a clean card. So much also depends on how you choose to store your images. Are you downloading them to a computer? A portable hard drive? Burning them to CDs or DVDs? Or are you keeping them on your memory cards. If the latter, you will need more than a one gig card.

Hope this helps,

Phil
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Feb 27th, 2006, 09:49 AM
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Thanks, Kavey, for all of those nice words. I would love to work with you someday in a one-on-one. When can you come to Arizona? I'm ready when you are.
Phil
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Feb 27th, 2006, 10:12 AM
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Phil
Not on the cards for the short or mid term future I'm afraid! We have so many destinations on our wish list and whilst we have very much enjoyed trips to the USA, including Arizona, before there are other places that are much higher on our list right now - including Zambia, Madagascar, East Africa and many other African destinations, Antarctica (again), The Arctic and of course, my beloved France...
Still, a girl can dream of winning the lottery, giving up work and being able to travel without limit, can't she?
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Feb 27th, 2006, 10:32 AM
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Again, thanks Phil. I had forgotten about the files being larger. I only use a 512 with my Canon but I also don't have it on the highest quality setting - I've just realised that may be half my problem. I'm assuming I should chose the highest setting?! I will be storing the pictures on the memory cards themselves so I guess I will need a few. Hopefully I will be able to get a couple in duty free as I'm afraid electronic goods are super expensive here and I might be able to save a few €€ by doing it that way. I will also invest in some extra batteries as I too am a fan of using the screen.

Phil - most likely I am about to ask another silly question BUT when you say 'multiple image', is that the 'burst' mode??

I can't wait to get my hands on that camera now and start practicing.

Thanks again Phil,
Imelda
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Feb 27th, 2006, 01:12 PM
  #13
Lin
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Hi Imelda,
A few quick notes. About the size of the FZ-30, in my (woman's) opinion, it IS rather large, especially with its case, to take to events such as a wedding reception. You'd have to keep an eye on it, leave it on the table, etc. rather than in your purse or pocket. But you're getting a lot of potential in this camera. There is another option. While I was at Phil's class, he showed me his small camera which is the Leica version of the Panasonic LX-1. This is a great small camera, 8MP, 4x zoom, large LCD, image stabilizer. Lots of features and quality.

And about noise, did you mean pixel noise, or sound noise? Phil explained the former, but I'm reading your posting as the second, so I'll add that the FZ-30 is pretty quiet. There was criticism of its predecessors because the lens made noise while zooming out. The other sounds the camera makes can be turned off while on safari, it's a menu option. So don't worry about that type of noise either!

I recommend a 2G memory card due to the size of the files and the fact that you'll be storing your safari photos on your cards. I know things are expensive in Ireland, so I suggest that you check into some of the American photo web sites which ship internationally. The memory cards will be MUCH cheaper, including duty free. Examples are http://www.bhphotovideo.com, http://www.adorama.com, http://www.newegg.com You'll need to check the shipping cost, of course. Good luck!
(I just previewed this reply and for some reason they are printing the website addresses twice in a row.)
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Feb 27th, 2006, 01:17 PM
  #14
Lin
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well, the final post didn't come out with double websites LOL
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Feb 27th, 2006, 02:28 PM
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Kavey, keep me up on your travels. Perhaps someday, somewhere, our paths will cross, and we can do some side by side shooting together.
Phil
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Feb 27th, 2006, 02:32 PM
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Phil, I will do and will keep my fingers crossed too!
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Feb 28th, 2006, 04:33 AM
  #17
Lin
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Kavey, do you post your photos online? I remember looking at a Namibia gallery at one point, but are they permanent? And did you ever get around to marketing some of them?
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Feb 28th, 2006, 05:10 AM
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Lin
I do still have several galleries online, at different locations. As our ADSL connection is still down some are temporarily not available. When it's back up (which might be another week or more) I'll post some links for you... remind me if I forget.
And yes, I am indeed selling my images now. We have some of our images submitted to Alamy, a stock library and have sold one so far. We're also about to launch a new website for selling fine art prints of our best images, signed and mounted ready to be framed. Infact Lynda, having seen one of my images that I shared on one of Johan's thread, has contacted me directly and is my first customer of the new image sale process! When we get the site live we'll be switching over from DPC Prints to the new site.
I've also bought a negative scanner recently and am slowly scanning the images I took on film before I went digital, including the first trip to Namibia and Botswana - the ones I had online previously were low quality flatbed scans of the prints.
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Feb 28th, 2006, 10:26 AM
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Hello Lin,
Thanks for the 'woman's point of view' on the size of the FZ30. I might just have to put up with it though as I think the leica will not have a good enough zoom.(That's what drives me mad with my Canon - only 3x).Thanks also for the american links - I had searched all over for someone that would ship internationally and had actually given up so it's great to find someone who does!

Also, on the noise issue, you are correct, I was referring to 'sound' noise and I'm glad that won't be an issue. One more thing - we will be with the Gorillas in Rwanda where they don't allow flash photography - is it relatively easy to turn off the flash on the Panasonic? I'm assuming it is possible!

Thanks again Lin for all your help,
Imelda
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Feb 28th, 2006, 12:20 PM
  #20
Lin
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Kavey,
I'm excited for you! You sound all caught up in the technology end of things, which I love too. I'll remind you about the links. What is a 'stock library'?

Imelda,
The flash is easy to turn off and on. It's the little jagged arrow symbol on the right side of your round toggle, you'll see it when you look at the back of your camera. Check the book for settings, but the symbol with a line through it means 'flash always off' and it's easy to set that way.
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