Category Archives: Eye & Hand: Draw, Photograph, Paint, Write

Indulging the creative spirit.

On Keeping a Journal: Fixing Images on the Emulsion of Memory

Alexander Mackenzie did it. So did Henry David Thoreau, Mina Hubbard, Raymond Patterson, and Sigurd Olson. And you can, as well. In fact, if you canoe or kayak—or if you just take an active interest in what’s going on in the world outside your door—you’d be foolish not to. Curious? Then read on. Tamia will tell you all you need to know about keeping a journal.

by Tamia Nelson | March 16, 2018
Originally published in different form on May 21, 2002

When Colin Fletcher smashed his only camera, far down a trail in the depths of the Grand Canyon, he cursed his luck. After all, he was walking through country he’d probably never visit again. Before long, however, his spirits had soared. He discovered that he’d escaped from the “tyranny” of photography. “Instead of stopping briefly to photograph and forget,” he later wrote, “I stood and stared, fixing truer images on the emulsion of memory.”

The emulsion of memory… It’s a wonderful turn of phrase, isn’t it? But there’s a problem. Unlike … Continue reading »

Exposing Snow: Tips for Winter Photographers by Tamia Nelson

Ever wish you could discover a new world? Do you think those days are over, at least here on Planet Earth? Well, I’ve got news for you. Every winter storm remakes the world, if only for a little while. Just be the first person out the door and down the trail after a fresh snowfall, and you’ll be sure to make a few discoveries. Of course you won’t get your name in the history books, but you can get some great photos. It’s not quite as simple as pointing and shooting, though. All that fresh, white stuff on the ground can easily throw your camera’s sensors off. The result? One of two polar extremes: Your shots will either be blown out (overexposed, or too bright), or—and this is more likely—they’ll be a dull, dispiriting, uniform dark gray (underexposed).

OK. That’s the problem. What’s the cure? Unfortunately, there’s no magic formula. Most automatic cameras have a “Snow Scene” setting. Often these work. But sometimes they don’t. Then you have to rely on trial and error. Needless … Continue reading »

Manzella Silkweight Windstopper Gloves: My First Line of Defense Against Cold Hands by Tamia Nelson

My first line of defense against cold hands is a surprisingly effective and durable pair of lightweight windproof gloves.

I like to keep active through the winter. If I didn’t, I’d emerge in the spring ready for the beach—and I’d be the beach ball. So I motivate myself to get out even in rotten weather by making every trip a photo safari, whether I go forth on two wheels or on two feet. But baby, it’s cold out there! So I keep the cold at arm’s length by bundling up in layers of wool and synthetic (not cotton). My hands are a trouble spot. They get cold. Very cold. So to keep my hands warm on winter photo safari, I follow the same principle as when outfitting my body. I layer. And my first line of defense are Manzella Silkweight Windstopper gloves:

Keeping Cold At Bay

They have textured palms and fingers, a soft fleecy interior, reflective accents, and they fit my hands perfectly. Unlike thick gloves or mittens, Windstoppers allow me to work the camera controls without impediment … Continue reading »

Shooting the Moon: A Quick Guide for Photographers by Tamia Nelson

What photographer hasn’t wanted to shoot the moon at some point? But photographing the moon is tricky, and results can be disappointing. For one thing, the moon is much brighter than you might think—bright enough to throw off some cameras’ exposure meters. Deciding on ISO and focal length is fraught, too. Choose badly, and the moon will appear as little more than a bright dot. Or—the other extreme—she might be an immense, featureless blob.

But don’t give up. Digital cameras make it cheap and easy to experiment, and practice makes perfect. Let’s begin at the beginning, with…

Sensitivity Settings. If you set your camera’s ISO (aka Exposure Index) as low as it will go—generally in the 80-200 range for digital cameras—the resulting images will be sharper and less likely to be plagued by “noise,” a particular problem in the darker areas of a scene. Here’s a typical noisy shot:

Noisy Moon

This is a one-to-one reproduction of the rising moon, shot shortly after dusk, cropped from the original picture. I hand-held my point-and-shoot Canon PowerShot A550, racking … Continue reading »

How to Break In a Book by Tamia Nelson

I’m a scribbler by trade. I exchange words for cash. Which probably explains why I love books. Not just books-as-literature, mind—books-as-objects, too. Don’t get me wrong. I’m no neo-Luddite. I was writing on a computer back in the day when the 3½-inch floppy was state-of-the-art storage. I was quick to embrace the Internet, too. I’ve been a paid columnist online for more than a decade. I haven’t subscribed to a print magazine in years. And I have hundreds of PDFs of rare volumes I’d never be able to get my hands on otherwise, including a nearly complete run of the Naval Chronicle and an early edition of Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language. But I still have books—real books—on my shelves, thousands of them. There’s a feeling of permanence about a bound volume that no PDF can match.

So I hope you’ll understand my impatience with folks who don’t know how to care for books. And if the volumes I borrow from the local public library are any indication, this now includes … Continue reading »

The Scribe in My Pocket — The SanDisk Sansa Clip by Tamia Nelson

Back in the day, when even the rulers of mighty nations were often illiterate, kings and conquerors employed learned men to write their letters and record their thoughts for posterity. These learned scribblers were called scribes, and their descendants can still be found waiting attendance on the great and the good today, though they now go by other names: press secretary, perhaps, or media consultant, or simply “personal assistant.”

Needless to say, modern-day scribes don’t come cheap, whatever title they bear, and their hefty price-tag puts them out of the reach of ordinary men and women. So if we want to record our thoughts and fancies, we have to write them down ourselves. And that takes time. Moreover, it’s pretty nigh impossible to write anything when you’re riding a bike or paddling a canoe. Which is why many trip journals are little more than cursory records of meals eaten and miles logged.

But there’s an alternative to the bare-bones journal entry, hastily jotted down in a few stolen minutes during the brief interval between washing … Continue reading »

New Lives for Old Tubes: How About a Security Band for a Tripod Quick-Release? by Tamia Nelson

Camera tripods range from tiny things small enough to fit in the palm of your hand to mammoth professional jobs that look as if they’d be able to support a house-sized camera obscura, and while my tripod certainly isn’t the largest one going, it’s too big to cram into a pack. So it usually ends up being strapped to the outside. That’s not a problem in itself. In fact, this makes it easy for me to get at it in a hurry whenever the need arises. But I do worry about losing the tripod’s quick-release post:

Slik Tripod Quick-Release Post and Head

A lever locks the post in place on the tripod head, but an overhanging branch could snag the lever and unlock the quick-release as I walked along, allowing it to part company with the head. I’d probably never even hear it fall. What to do? Well, I could get a big stuff sack for my tripod, but the sack would be one more thing to look after, and it would certainly increase set-up time. Or I could carry … Continue reading »