Canon Pro 90 IS
8.3mm at f4
1/160 second, ISO 100

widow skimmer dragonfly

One thing I think every photographer hears too much of is when someone sees an image they like and comments along the lines of, "You must have a really good camera!"

Yeah, the camera's got it all going on — I'm just along as a gofer. Seriously, the camera is a tool, and like every tool, it has limitations. Sometimes, however, it has fewer than suspected. The Canon Pro 90 IS was something I purchased because I really wasn't into spending the money for a high-end digital SLR, but still wanted something to shoot some digital with for quick shots, tests, and the like. I used it a lot more than expected, but a lot of things about it really frustrated me.

However, it allowed for more than its share of really good shots. Some of this comes from recognizing what the limitations are and working within them, and in using the abilities to their advantages. As in the image above, which was shot about knee level with the flip-out viewfinder extended, bracing the camera against my leg for stability as I gently eased closer to the dragonfly. I achieved a nice angle that exploited the light on the wings and the deep background, though that one leaf is a bit overwhelming.

dragonfly closeup

And I show this to my classes as an 11x14 inch enlargement — nice big print. Only, the camera has a measly 2.6 megapixel resolution. Ask anyone — that's not enough for an 8x10! Sorry, wrong! Stability and sharp focus can accomplish a lot.

To get a print that size, it's best to upsample it (basically, add pixels), and Photoshop 6 does a great job. Is that the secret? Hardly — the software is not going to add information that was never captured by the camera in the first place. Here's a full-resolution (non-upsampled) segment of the original file. Check out the tiny little antennae extending from between the eyes. Yes, they're finer than a human hair, and only millimeters long, but the crummy 2.6 Mp camera got them anyway.

I did, once the prices came down to far less ridiculous, get a "proper" digital SLR: the Canon 300D, otherwise known as the Digital Rebel, the first in the series. It's been firmware hacked to have more of the options of the 10D, and except for a slightly squirrelly autofocus, it serves pretty well. But I also like my film too. See here if you want more perspective on the whole matter.