. . . the photos [on my first, cheap digital camera] were brighter, and the focus was overall better, than any garden railroad photos I had ever taken with my 35mm camera. And the "hidden" spec of digital cameras, the ability to take hundreds of photos without the sense that you're wasting film and development costs is an important asset.
. . . everyone who owns a garden railroad should also own a digital camera and take frequent photos.
More About Digicams- June 27, 06
In late winter, 2005, (a few months before my daughter's wedding) I bought a little 2mp digital camera on closeout from Sears. Although it tended to create "ghosts" and "trails" in dimly lit rooms, it worked great outside, in brightly lit rooms, or with the flash, if you were close enough to the subject. And being able to tell kids and neices at the wedding to "just take as many photos as you possibly can" was a very big help. At the end of the night, we had about 300 photos on the thing, of which 50 or so were as useful as some of the photos the professional photographer had taken. Our final "photo album" contains both, as well as one or two photos that the DJ took on his 2mp digital..
I was so intrigued by the possibilities that I took it to a bunch of Garden Railroading open houses last September and wore out two sets of batteries and several railroad owners' patience snapping photos. The resolution wasn't high - none of the photos I got are worth publishing in magazines, but I've been using them on our web pages ever since - including rotating the "title" photo on our home page with photos of other people's impressive layouts and models. In fact, the photos were brighter, and the focus was overall better, than any garden railroad photos I had ever taken with my 35mm camera. And the "hidden" spec of digital cameras, the ability to take hundreds of photos without the sense that you're wasting film and development costs is an important asset.
Yes, many serious photographers would complain that I just don't know how to use my 35mm. But I don't know anything more about my digital cameras than I do about my 35mm, and the difference is remarkable. Serious photographers might also complain that I have a relatively inexpensive "point and shoot" 35mm. But I have relatively inexpensive "point and shoot" digital cameras, and the difference is still remarkable. Please keep in mind that the 35mm has done a very nice job on personal portraits, school and athletic programs, Christmas photos, vacation photos, etc., over the years, and that we have never been dissatisfied with the job it does on our most precious of "possessions" - our family. But the digitals do as well or better on all of those things, and better on some subjects, such as garden railroads.
Looking and my successes and failures from the marathon "open house" sessions, I began researching the kinds of features that would be most useful for taking photos of garden railroading. Eventually I decided on:
In fact, I had done so much research, I felt it was worthwhile to publish an article on the subject of "Idiot-Friendly Digital Cameras for Photographing Trains". I've been updating the article periodically as prices fall and features improve.
In the fall of 2005, I got a camera that was in between my "ideal camera" and the one I already had. It's a 6.3mp with a 4x lens and no image stabilization. Still, since it has ISO settings up to 800, though, I've been able to take useful photos in dimly-lit settings that would have stymied either my 35mm or my 2mp digital. Since then, I've taken many photos of plants to illustrate various points about groundcovers and other plants, and hope to take many more photos of my garden railroad after it is really set up this summer (2006).
But what inspired this update is the convergence of three events:
Just to add some visual interest to this article, here are some examples of various photographs taking at various times with various cameras. Click on any photo to see a blow-up.
In addition, the digital photos of my railroad reminded me how much it changes from one week to the next over the course of the summer, in addition to how much it still changes from year to year. They also help me see some parts of the railroad more "objectively," so I can tell what is working and not from a visitor's point of view.
The conclusion I have reached is that everyone who owns a garden railroad should also own a digital camera and take frequent photos. Today I did a quick survey of camera prices on the internet, and discovered that nearly all of the cameras are 5% cheaper this week than they were just two weeks ago. The 4mp consumer "point-and-shoot" cameras are being replaced by 5mp equivalents. The 5mp "pro-sumer" cameras (cameras with some professional features, but which are easy to use and relatively affordable) are being replace by 6mp equivalents, and so on. An investment of $140-$350 depending on how techno-savvy you are will help you to see your railroad through "different eyes," and also help you start amassing a collection of photos that will be a joy for years to come. Be sure to get rechargeable batteries and a memory card that will let you take hundreds of photos at the camera's "default" setting. Then leave the thing by the back door. You'll be glad you did.
Please let me know if you have any feedback, and have a great summer,
See you online,
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