Canon G9 with waterproof case

Bill's Photographic Tools

North Dome at Kings Canyon

North Dome at Kings Canyon

My rig, as of 2013-10-09, is a Canon G15. I originally had the G9 which was a recommendation of a couple of photographer friends of mine and I had been quite happy with it until I flooded it. I wanted a small, light, fast, portable camera that would fit inside the external pouches on my packs. The G9, and now the G15, although heavy for a point and shoot, satisfied all of these needs, and as a bonus, it has a lot manual adjustments for the tweaker in me. I started using the G9 on the Kings Canyon Trip in 2008.

For most outdoor shots, I've settled on shooting in aperture priority with automatic ISO with an exposure bias of -1/3 and My Colors set to Vivid. I used to use manual mode a lot more to get better control over the exposure, but since the G15 has provided a separate dial for exposure bias, that need has diminished. I used to protect my G9's screen with a cover from ScreenGuardz but have gone without with the G15 and this doesn't seem to be a problem.


My flash setting is at -1. The flash is pretty powerful and will blow out anything close on stronger settings.

For shooting long exposures on little things in dark forests, like mushrooms, I also use a 2-second timer and the macro setting. I've saved these settings on C1.

I bought the OEM case for underwater shots since the price was right. I'm not yet using a strobe, but the flash diffuser does a pretty good job at reducing backscatter. For settings, I also use aperture priority, an exposure bias of -1/3, and ISO 80. I set the flash to -1, My Colors to Vivid, and use the underwater white balance and shoot JPGs. I've saved these settings on C2.

Another G9 photographer on the ba_diving mailing list taught me about how to change the aperture if you don't have access to the adjustment wheel (which you don't with the OEM case): while pressing the shortcut key, use the left and right arrow keys to adjust the aperture. Thanks, Brenna!

Hawaiian dascyllus at Molokini, HI

Hawaiian dascyllus at Molokini, HI

When I first used the camera, I took both raw and JPG images, but found that the JPG images were "good enough." The gimp-ufraw plugin was just too slow and too much work and I was never able to reproduce the quality of the JPG images generated by the camera.

For post-processing, I've discovered that the Picasa tool is fast and "good enough." I hit everything with the I'm Feeling Lucky command in the Picture -> Batch Edit menu. Occasionally, I'll have to undo those tunings and use the Colors -> Levels or Colors -> Curves commands in the Gimp.

The Picasa tool makes it easy to sync your photographs with the Picasa web site. As an added bonus, the Picasa web site has a feature which displays your photographs on a Google map. In order to enable this feature, you need to insert the latitude and longitude into your photographs. To do this, I just let my GPS run whenever I'm shooting photographs. Later, I use the gpscorrelate tool to use the GPS track to set the GPS information into the photographs. (Hint: Don't save tracks on Garmin units since that removes the time information. Either use the active log or the track saved to the card.) These days, I use the Android My Tracks application to save my tracks. If you put the phone into airplane mode, you can run the application just about all day.

Occasionally, I won't have GPS information for a photo. In that case, I'll use exiftool to either copy the GPS information from another photo, or set it manually. If you use Google maps in satellite mode, you can use the context menu to center the map at the cursor which should be over your location of interest. Then press on the link icon (upper left) and cut and paste the latitude and longitude from the URL that it provides in the "ll" parameter. Here are a few examples that demonstrate both techniques, as well as how to list the GPS tags in a format that can be used to set the latitude and longitude. The exiftool FAQ is handy. Note that exiftool uses the absolute value of the coordinates, so be sure to set GPSLatitudeRef, GPSLongitudeRef, and GPSAltitudeRef accordingly.

      exiftool -TagsFromFile src.jpg -gps:all -preserve dest.jpg

      exiftool -GPSLatitude=37.235172 -GPSLatitudeRef=N \
               -GPSLongitude=122.066092 -GPSLongitudeRef=W \
               -GPSAltitude=42 -GPSAltitudeRef=above \
               -preserve -overwrite_original dest.jpg

      exiftool -GPSLatitude="19 16.117" -GPSLatitudeRef=N \
               -GPSLongitude="81 18.683" -GPSLongitudeRef=W \
               -GPSAltitude=0 -GPSAltitudeRef=above \
               -preserve -overwrite_original dest.jpg

      exiftool -a -s -c "%.6f" -gps:all src.jpg

Sometimes I forget to change the time zone or adjust for daylight savings time for a day or two. This writes incorrect date information in the photos. In addition to being wrong, it also makes it harder to get the correct GPS information. Here's another exiftool example for browsing the dates in the photos and then adding an hour to the dates.

      exiftool -DateTimeOriginal -S -s *.jpg
      exiftool -DateTimeOriginal+='0:0:0 1:00:0' -preserve -overwrite_original *.jpg

The hugin program makes it a cinch to produce panoramas. The following panorama was created with at least six images, shot using the stitch-assist feature in the G9. However, in practice, I use my Android phone to shoot panoramas.

The Great Western Divide in Kings Canyon NP

The Great Western Divide in Kings Canyon NP

I am, of course, still finding my way, humbly. I have gotten this far through reading, heeding advice from friends, and stumbling clumsily on my own. If you have settings that have worked well for you, or have found handy Linux tools, I would love to hear from you. In particular, I'm looking for automated ways to create HDR (High Dynamic Range) images, as well as to stack exposures of the night sky.

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