Get Your Geek On!

I HAD never considered the word, “geek,” to be a complimentary term, so when my dear friend Betty Pokas informed me that she had volunteered me to be a guest speaker for Geek Week at the Puskarich Public Library, I was not sure if I should be flattered.

I was not sure that the word geek was even a verb. However, the dictionary defines geek verb: 1. To love, to enjoy, to celebrate, to have an intense passion for. 2. To express interest in. 3. To possess a large amount of knowledge in. 4. To promote.

I investigated and through the Internet, I learned that all over the United States, libraries were participating in a promotional program, “Whatever You Geek, The Public Library Supports It All.”

Now it made perfect sense, I was to give a presentation on taking better photos during the weeklong effort to raise awareness about what libraries have to offer and how they are funded.

The message I was to be part of conveying is that everyone in a community benefits from the services of a public library and each of us can impact how our local library is funded.

Being called a geek in this instance was actually quite a compliment and, of course, I will not pass up an opportunity to talk about photography.

I explained, especially to the young enthusiasts, that this is an amazing time to be a photographer. The technology of digital cameras allows us to instantly view our photos and with that benefit, it’s easier than ever to take the bold move and turn the dial from Auto.

The automatic functions on any camera are mostly reliable tools to take portraits, landscapes or even action photos outdoors. There are exceptions and situations where these programmed functions will fail. For instance, if you take a photo in front of a bright window or sky, the results are almost always a dark subject.

The often-asked question in these classes is about indoor sports or night football games, “Why are my pictures always blurry?” The simple answer is that there are certain photos which require better equipment or better working knowledge of your camera.

Getting to know your camera can be as easy as taking out the user’s manual and experimenting with different settings.

A well-exposed photo is a balance between the three different aspects of film speed or ISO, shutter speed and lens aperture.

When you take a picture with your camera set on Auto mode, you are delegating responsibility for determining the correct exposure to the camera. Depending on the “brain” or programmed chip inside your camera, the result may be pleasing or not to your satisfaction. But before you blame the camera for your lousy pictures, it pays to understand a bit what goes on behind the scenes when you press the shutter release button.

A correctly exposed image means that the right amount of light has exposed the image sensor. There are basically three ways your camera can ensure that.

1) Open or close the aperture by making the hole of the iris larger or smaller. 2) Changing how long the shutter is open. 3) Adjusting the ISO which is basically boosting the light signal. This one is the one a photographer must be careful with because on most low end cameras, increasing ISO can cause noise.

One common metaphor to explain a bit more about aperture/shutter speed combination is the garden hose. Think of your garden water hose and imagine you are using it to fill a bucket with water. The diameter of the hose can be thought of as the aperture: the larger the diameter, the more water flows through. The length of time you leave the tap open can be thought of as the shutter speed: the longer you leave the tap open, the more water flows through. The speed of water flow can be thought of as the ISO: the faster the water flows through the hose, the more water flows through. The amount of water that collects into the bucket is the exposure.

We can use this analogy to refer to different lens combinations as a telephoto is a longer hose that sprays in a tight stream to reach more distant objects and the wide angle as a short hose with a mist sprayer to cover larger areas. Some lens offer larger apertures or in this example, a larger diameter to allow more water or light to get into our camera.

I also teach a photography class which gets more in depth into the mystery of taking “good” photos at the library in Cadiz. If you want any of this explained or help in figuring out the DSLR (digital camera) you own, sign up for the class – after all, it is free. Everyone is welcome.

The photography class is just one example of how public libraries inspire and empower and is an example of how they play an important role for individuals and for communities.

The experience was a positive one, and I can now proudly proclaim. “I geek photography.”

By the way if you see Betty, don’t tell her I volunteered her services for the next round, and next year, she is “geek” speaking on journalism.

Palmer can be reached at