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Improving Your Digital Photography: Part IV – Program…and Jazz

What on earth is up with this title! We took a break from improving your digital photography, but I hope that has not stopped you from shooting, shooting, shooting some more – with smart adjustments and keen observations, of course. Well, we’re going to cover the last mode and see where that takes us: Program mode. Like what Rocky Balboa says about condominiums – I never use it. While aperture priority and shutter priority give you control of…aperture and shutter speed (and a few others), program mode lets you adjust ISO. A higher ISO will allow the camera to use faster shutter speeds; however, it comes at the expense of image quality, depending on how high the ISO is. How does ISO allow for faster shutter speeds? It controls the sensitivity of the sensor; the sensor is what reacts to incoming light. Higher ISO means the sensor reacts more easily to light, and requires less light compared to times where a lower ISO is used. Therefore, a lower ISO requires more light – either by a larger aperture or longer shutter speed, depending on the situation. The loss of image quality is typically more apparent in darker images, so a higher ISO is not always bad.

A seal and his lunch

This is not my go-to mode, simply because I don’t know what mix of aperture and shutter speed will be chosen for me. Earlier, I mentioned to shoot with intent; intent implies that you’re aiming for a specific aesthetic for your image, and your basic tools are: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. When the former two are chosen for you, you may be missing out on some creative liberty. But, if you’re using a digital camera where aperture or shutter priority don’t exist, program mode may be your friend, because fully automatic may be your only other option, depending on the camera: those types of cameras will have modes for various settings, such as portrait, fireworks, night, sports, landscape, etc.

someone’s goin’ down

There are, perhaps, a few more things we can talk about, such as metering, manual mode, and interpreting the exposure compensation scale, but I think we’ll save that for next time. I’d like to dive into the topic of music.

I’ll give my very brief background. My parents introduced me to band in the fourth grade. On a night where students could try various instruments, I tried trumpet, French horn, and alto saxophone. I found it difficult to play the trumpet, and I ended up choosing the alto. I joined all the bands from then through high school, but primarily focused on jazz in college.

Kenny G – Midnight Motion

Did your mind go to Kenny G? Somehow he got associated with jazz…usually among listeners who weren’t familiar with John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, or Cannonball Adderley. I can’t remember exactly, but I think it was my parents that introduced me to Kenny G – by cassette tapes! I’m not gonna lie – I really enjoyed it. With most of his songs on a soprano saxophone, I did my best to play along on my alto – the timbre (sound) is quite different, but I developed a lot of listening skills trying to play along – it became easier for me to identify notes without music in front of me. I remember receiving my first CD player; this was a big deal for those of you that remember this. The sound quality was amazing, and it was so easy to switch tracks! I think I bought more Kenny G CDs from Streetside Records. Down the road, I was introduced to Spyro Gyra, Us3, David Sanborn, Coltran, Parker, and other, older greats. I tried to play along with a lot of it. Back then, we had practice sheets that required parents’ signatures. I had no time meeting the minimum requirements!!

David Sanborn – The Dream

Do you play any instruments? Were you at least subjected to the recorder class in elementary school? Did you beg your parents for a toy drum set like I did…and got it, to their regret?! I like going back to these songs I learned as a teenager, but I would really love to improve my improvising skills; that’s at the heart of jazz. Come back next week for more music talk!

Christian Mendoza
The content you've just consumed has undoubtedly made you more complete or has left you with more questions. So long as you don't need answers, everything will be fine. I'm a husband and a father of four. As a dad, I've learned a lot about teaching, and as a person, enjoyed getting teached. I have a curious mind and enjoy the challenge of solving problems - just not those problems. It makes for interesting writing. Maybe. - Christian

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