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I've learned quite a few things from my nieces. But one that really stands out is how much an entire generation now takes the process of photography for granted. Digital cameras have removed the photgrapher almost completely from the process of photography. And that's a shame, because it's fascinating. And understanding the process - even just a little - can improve your pictures immensely.
This got me thinking back to a trip I made back when I was writing feature articles for a weekly newspaper. The trip was to Portland, Maine. And my destination was the Children's Museum there.
The third floor of Portland's Children's Museum is dedicated to a room-sized camera obscura. In fact, visitors stand inside the camera in a large light-tight room. At the top, sits the museum's cupola. And, inside the cupola is a lens-and-mirror assembly donated by Eastman Kodak.
The lens can be aimed almost anywhere in the city, and offers viewers inside the room tremendous views of Portland. Images are projected down on to a large table. If the table were treated with emulsion, you could make some mighty nice shots of downtown Portland.
The museum's camera obscura demonstrates marvellously how lenses work - and shows you first-hand what the inside of a camera really is: a black box. It's a great introduction to the basic process of photoraphy.
If you ever have the opportunity to visit Portland, don't miss the Museum. And, yes, bring your digital camera along to snap some interesting shots.