Behind the Lens: a look back and a look ahead

As I look forward to new adventures and photographs in 2012, here are some observations and notes to sweep out 2011.

I discovered too late that the ACME shirt shop in downtown Lawrence is a good place to get a T-shirt made from your own photographs. Take a disc in or email them a digital file, pick out a shirt, design the layout and print it. Sweet and simple. I guess it’s not too early to think about gift options for next year.

Getting a camera for your parents can be tricky. My 82-year-old father said he was interested in using a digital camera if I had one to spare. I tend to hang on to cameras, so I had one. He uses an inexpensive film camera — but not often. He just finished up a 24-exposure roll on Christmas weekend that included photos from a September trip. Twenty-four exposures in four months; you do the math.

So I wrapped up an older digital camera and hoped for the best.

It’s a little bigger than a modern day point-and-shoot, which I thought would be a good thing. He thought it was too big.

As I tried to explain all the buttons and internal menus I realized this wasn’t going to work. “I think you can take it home with you,” he politely said. I hadn’t considered how complicated digital cameras are in relation to old film cameras.

I may try another approach in the future. The first thing that film-camera users want to do is put the camera to their eye.

Unfortunately, few compact digital cameras have optical viewfinders. And that’s just the first thing that can discourage a digital camera rookie.

If you’re trying to advise or assist older film-camera owners in using a digital camera, it’s probably best to take them to a store and let them try some models. Or give up and provide them a lifetime supply of film. Let’s see; for my dad that would be about three rolls a year. Now that’s a bargain.

Some of my favorite photos of the year were captured with my iPhone.

No other tool has changed the way I do my job or helped me more in my life as the smartphone.

In the past year I have used it to record audio interviews, capture video and photos for both work and pleasure, jot down names and notes when I’m without a pen and paper, use the phone’s illumination to see my camera’s settings in the dark, read the New York Times at lunch and play “Angry Birds.” The remarkable thing is that I can also email most data back to the newspaper for immediate posting to the Web. If camera sensors and lenses keep improving in these devices there will be a time when I don’t need another camera.

The Journal-World photo staff will have a package of some of our best work of the year in Monday’s newspaper. For additional photos and commentary you can go online to see slideshows of each staff photographer’s picks of the year. For other notable year-end wrap-ups check out these three sites with national and international pictures of the year in slideshows and videos:


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