07 June 2014

[pdx] Telephoto Fun on Portland Streets With The Canon PowerShot S-100

Telephoto means one thing to me and, being an undisciplined amateur photographer, that's probably not accurate, but the result is an artful compression of distance.

SE 82nd Avenue looking south from SE Schiller Street
I've always adored telephoto shots because they draw a real interesting line between a kind of abstract expression and reality. It's like you're getting this fantasy world mixed with reality, 2-for-1.

SE Holgate Blvd looking west from about SE 105th Avenue

The way the posts and poles lining the street bunch up, the far comes near, forms fascinating shapes and defines entrancing spaces which capture the eye the way Celtic knotwork always does. Your POV goes exploring in interesting spaces that are both fantastic and real.

SE 122nd looking north from SE Morrison Street
The 'telephoto' shots taken by the Canon PowerShot S-100 aren't, strictly speaking, telephoto. Technically speaking, a telephoto lens uses a sequence of lenses called the telephoto group to create a light path that's longer than the physical length of the lenses. But you can come up with a pretty good simulation if you zoom in tight enough with the S-100, sort of what cinematographers would call an in-camera special effect. In its largest format, too, it combines the astoundingly-good optical zoom with a few levels of  digital zoom to get a zoom level of up to 20X. After that, it's a matter of framing and composing, or even cropping, to frame the viewpoint.

I'm finding the paltry knowledge I have about composition is actually going a long, long way. Some sense of composition is becoming key to composing good shots - or, at least, shots I like. The generous viewing screens of modern digital cameras are, of course a big boon, try WYSIWYG.

The levels of digital zoom seem to suffer some acceptable degradation of quality, which is to be expected. As I learnt with the old ViviCam 3705, the faithful Plastic Fantastic, digital zoom is a matter of taking the inside of the photo, blowing it up, and cropping. You get zoom, but the quality can be very bad. On the Canon S-100, though, it's good. I tried a very ad-hoc experiment; the above picture of 122nd is shot at maximum optical zoom and cropped. Left there is the same general view shot with maximum optical and digital zoom. The quality is good enough, to my tyro eye, to use as an effective illustration.

The view southbound down SE 122nd Avenue from the safety island by the Midland Library is maybe a little less expansive but the far away massif of Mount Scott, the layers of traffic signals, the shimmering warmth radiating up from the street and the bunched-up light poles ranging away in to the distance make up for what it lacks, compared to the former shot.

I do like this camera, I do.

SE 122nd Avenue looking south from near
the Midland Branch Library (just south of Morrison Street)

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