Ann Arbor Business to Business
Small Business and the Internet

The Pictures of Summer

August 2001

By Mike Gould

A ways back I discoursed at great length about digital cameras, and the great enjoyment to be had from the use thereof. I decided the statute of limitations was up, so here is an update on the current state of digital photography chez Mondodyne.

Deja-View Master
I just checked; my previous articles about all this were published Jan.- March 2000. In the last article (available online at http://mondodyne.com/b2b/smbiznet.25.shtml) I mentioned that I was waiting for Canon to market a camera that uses my existing lenses from my 35mm rig, and cost less than $1K. I'm still waiting for that, but in the meantime Canon came out with the PowerShot G1, and I went for it last December. I picked it up locally at Big George's here in Ann Arbor, which once again matched mail order pricing for around $850 (current price is around $800).

Then I got my Mac Titanium G4 laptop (Ti), and my pictures haven't been the same since. Taken together - the camera to capture exquisite 3MegaPixel shots and the Ti to process and display them - I've got one way-cool imaging system here. First the ever-so-relevant business applications, then the fun stuff.

Strictly Business
I have a client who does very fine home-remodeling, and she needed to send pictures of a work in progress to homeowners who were living in Europe during the remodel. She got a G1 just like mine, and proceeded to shoot batches of her team's work on a weekly basis. She would drop off the Compact Flash card (what these cameras use as "film") and I would process the pictures in Photoshop and put them up on her Web site. The clients could dial in via the Web and bingo, instant online monitoring. And instant it was, as it took me all of 45 minutes to an hour to process and post the pics, putting them online the same day they were shot.

Elemental, My Dear Watson
Adobe Photoshop 6 has a new feature called Web Gallery, whereby you can batch-process digital pictures, converting a folder of pictures into a Web site in minutes. The end result is a bit spartan, but you can spruce it up if you are knowledgeable in Web programming and are willing to take the time. The bad news is that Photoshop retails for around $600 and is overkill if this sort of thing is all you are interested in. The good news is that Adobe just came out with a new version of Photoshop "Lite", called Photoshop Elements. Elements costs just around $100 and does about 85% of what full-tilt Photoshop does, including the Web Gallery business. The missing features in Elements seem to be mostly higher-end stuff like actions (macros that enable programming shortcuts) and the like.

For most non-professionals, Elements fills the bill, and as it uses all the same tools and overall look and feel that Photoshop does, is a good training ground if you think you might step up to the pro version in the future. My client is eager to be doing her own Web photography, so she got a copy of Elements and is learning to use it.

You can download a free 30-day trial version of Elements from Adobe at:

http://www.pacific.adobe.com:80/products/photoshopel/main.html

Let Your Image do the Browsing
The other cool software I have been using is Canon ImageBrowser, and it came free with my camera. I use this software to download pictures from my camera to my Ti, via a USB cable. The transfer is very fast, and easily done. Once in my computer, I can then use ImageBrowser to display all my pictures at once, reduced to thumbnail size. I can zoom in on individual pictures, and rotate them when necessary. This is handy when I need to run a batch of pictures over to a client for approval; we can see the pictures on the wide screen of the Ti and plan edits and the like.

Then the magic happens: you can tell ImageBrowser to turn all the pictures into a slide show, complete with a variety of transitions and controllable cycle times. Seeing a 3MegaPixel picture scaled onto the Ti's super-sharp widescreen display is an experience in itself; it impresses the clients, flatters the subjects and draws a crowd of passersby whenever I demonstrate it. This sort of software isn't that new or unique; there are lots of similar products out there, usually bundled when you buy a digital camera. I am just delighted with the power and ease of all this. Which brings us to...

The Fun Stuff
I am the Web master and unofficial photographer for the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival (which is coming right up on Sept. 7-9; mark your calendars), and I have been shooting around 20 rolls of film each at past festivals. This costs quite a bit in film and processing, so this year I hope to do most of my shooting digitally. In order to prepare for this, I have been stalking all my favorite musicians as they play at Top of the Park during Ann Arbor's Summer Festival.

I bought wide-angle and telephoto lenses for my G1, which enable me to shoot the artists and bands from a variety of camera angles and in various aspect ratios. I prowl around the edge of the stage, shooting from many positions. The G1 is great for this because it features a flip-out screen that enables me to compose my shots even when holding the camera at arms' length over my head.

Crouching Photographer, Leaping Lizards
Once a set is over, I duck under the stage, dump the pictures to my Ti (which has been riding around in my backpack), and present a slideshow to the musicians as they pack up. Instant karma. Jaws drop, musicians and fans cluster around, and lively discussions ensue.

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