This month I took up digital photography. That may be an overstatement. I know nothing about photography period. I wanted to blog, though, and images help to make a blog visually appealing and successful in attracting a readership. A friend was encouraging, to the point of lending me her PowerShot SD1000, one of the subcompact “Elph” series that Canon puts out. I am amazed by what close-up capabilities the tiny camera has, and how easy it is to take a reasonably good image. I had been collecting insect specimens up until now, but looking at things through a camera lens (or at least the LED screen) has been perhaps even more rewarding.
I got to thinking that there is much more of an advantage to taking images rather than specimens:
- You don’t need permits to take images.
- You can take images of wildlife and people (you can’t “collect” those!).
- Storage of images takes a lot less room than storage of an insect collection.
- It takes less time to prepare an image than a specimen (that may change as I get more sophisticated).
- You can share images (I can’t pin an insect specimen to my blog).
- Photography makes you more observant.
- Images of living organisms are more colorful and robust than faded, withered dead specimens.
- You can record behaviors in a photograph.
- You can record habitat in an image.
- Carpet beetle larvae can’t eat my hard drive.
I decided that while I was enjoying my friend’s camera, I needed to get one of my own. Boy, did I ever get a lot of advice on that decision! Well, I did ask for it. Some photographer friends recommended getting a used, refurbished DSLR and a versatile lens, the equivalent of “old” 35 millimeter cameras. Others endorsed their own tried-and-true equipment of the point and shoot variety. Given my budget restraints, and lack of experience with cameras, I opted for a Canon SX10, a “super zoom” model that gives me the option of manual controls and settings when I get to the point of understanding them.
I highly recommend taking up photography in the digital age. It is easy, fun, as cheap or expensive as you want to make it, and very rewarding. Don’t get me wrong, there is still a need for scientific collecting of actual specimens. I feel I have largely done my share of that for my lifetime, and I now look forward to contributing to the brotherhood of naturalists and biophiles as well as the scientific community.