Thursday, June 14, 2007

Basic Digital Photography

The power of the computer revolution is simple: once you convert real-world objects into bits and bytes, anything is possible. Nowhere is this more apparent than in photography. Digital photography represents the latest step in a technological revolution that began almost two centuries ago with Louis Daguerre's silver chloride prints. Daguerre amazed the world by fixing the light from a pinhole camera onto a piece of glass, thereby preserving a moment in time for an eternity.

Today an inexpensive digital camera can transform that light into electrical impulses with accuracy and brilliance that even film can't match. It can store hundreds of images on a sliver of silicon no bigger than your thumbnail. Those images can easily be sent across the country in seconds, be shared with hundreds of people at once, and even be modified to create an utterly new reality. The tools and skills necessary to do all this are within the reach of nearly anyone. You hold in your hands the book that will unlock those skills for you.

It's fitting that the author himself has traveled a similar path. Mikkel Aaland has worked as an itinerant photographer, making pictures much as his 19th-century counterparts must have, in a makeshift studio-on-wheels, capturing images of anyone with a few dollars to spare. After nine years on the road, the result was his 1981 book, County Fair Portraits. Shortly thereafter, another legend, Ansel Adams, told Mikkel that if he were beginning all over again he'd be shooting digital. Mikkel took the great man at his word and became one of the first to use, and write about, digital photography.

When Photoshop was first released in 1990, a Michel reviewed it. In 1992, he wrote Digital Photography, one of the earliest books published on the subject, and he has written many more since. He has worked as a professional photographer, using top-of-the-line digital equipment, and as a proud husband and father he has captured his own life with the same consumer-grade cameras the rest of us use. He's also been teaching digital techniques for the past several years on my TV, radio, and online shows. There is no better guide to the magical transformation of light and dark into bits and bytes.

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