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Hidden Treasures: There IS a camera self-timer in your Treo 650!

Thu Apr 27, 2006 - 3:50 PM EDT - By Jay Gross

Hold the Phone

Okay, forget the tripod, the Treo has no socket, threaded or otherwise, to mount onto one. Moreover, it isn't flat enough on the bottom to stand by itself. Propping it against an object leaves it aimed skyward - useful perhaps for documenting the Tetons' peaks, but not the family feeding that bear. What to do? Here's a trick from the Department of Ingenuity, chief ingenuiter at your service.

Cradle it. That's right; the cradle that enthrones your SmartPhone on your desk will serve nicely as a makeshift tripod. Just dock the Treo and aim. Click! Shim it with some tissue(s) or apply some masking tape to hold it vertical - or at whatever angle you need. The accompanying pictures show my Treo 650 supported vertically, ready to click, on my
Seidio InnoDock cradle. The stuffing behind the SmartPhone is a simple blob of Kleenex tissue. Blue dots pattern. You can use tissue, chunks of foam, Vermont cheddar, or masking tape. You choose what you use. I'll opt for tissues.

Motion to take pictures

The hand that rocks the camera ruins the image. Fuzzy pictures could be caused by one or more of several motions that plague photographers. The biggies of these, gremlins all their own, are camera motion and subject motion. Except with very long exposures, which the Treo doesn't support, you can ignore the motion of the Earth on its axis.

Camera motion is the easiest to control because you can control it. This type of motion creates overall blurriness - nothing looks sharp. A ghostly double-exposure effect might haunt the brightest edges in the picture, too. You have the solution to camera motion in your hand - that is, the Palm in your hand. Hold the phone. In other words, steady yourself!

Look for a rock, a pickup, a post, a column, or a railing on which to prop yourself. Anything will do, but try to get your elbows steady, or lean your whole body against something and prop your elbow(s) against your upper body.

Here are some low-light examples to prove it's possible, even in dark coffeehouses. I used post-processing (see my earlier article, Hidden Treasures: Getting More than Comic Relief Out of the Treos' Cameras), to get rid of color cast (nasty blue-green), improve contrast (there wasn't any), and brighten.

To minimize motion of the camera caused by pushing its center button to take the picture, don't do that. Use the stylus instead. Here's another undocumented feature: the Treo 650's shutter doesn't click till you let up on the stylus. If you just "tap" the screen, you won't notice the difference, but for steadiest operation touch the screen lightly and hold the tip to the screen over the shutter icon. Brace yourself carefully, and then let up gently. Pulling away from the screen jars the camera much less than tapping it.

Hold still now

The second type of problematic motion is surnamed "subject." You can easily discern the crafty tracks of this nefarious blur gremlin. Namely, the subject comes out fuzzy, although the picture is otherwise sharp. Fact is, the camera stayed steady (good job!) but the subject moved, twitched, jumped, ran, grimaced, glowered, pirouetted, or streaked during the exposure.

You get subject motion with teenagers, puppies, Ferraris, and other objects that have large motors in them. The solution is to try to calm the motion (Sleepy Time tea doesn't work on Ferraris) and re-shoot. With agitated subjects (see "teenagers," above), you might have to keep shooting for a while. Dish out a steady stream of "hold still now" supplications, grin, and keep trying.

With patience and luck - plenty of the latter - you will succeed. Take a page from the great French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson and try to capture that fleeting moment when subject motion stops before it rushes to completion. In a golfer's backswing, or a baseball pitcher's windup, the motion comes to a complete stop right before it goes whoosh! Time your click just right, and you can catch the subject being quite still just before his or her motion changes direction and goes into warp drive.

Watch people in animated conversation for a while and you'll see frequent pauses in their facial and body motions as they listen to others or contemplate. That's when you click.

In bright light - like outdoors on a sunny day - steadiness isn't as important, because fast shutter speeds freeze most motion. The darker it is, even outdoors, the slower the shutter speed, and the more important it is to hold the camera steady. With Treos, however, be careful to hold steady, even in the shade.

Coping with Low Lighting

Life's darker situations, like indoors, or outdoors around dusk - aggravate motion problems. Maybe that's why the Treo user manuals suggest you don't shoot in low light. Forget that. It can be done. Here's how.

Low light photography with the Treo means hit or miss, lots of miss. In these situations, the shotgun approach works best, even with fancier cameras. If you need moody pictures from a dark location, plan to work at getting them - with any digital marvel. The included picture, shot in very low illumination, has been through a moderate amount of post processing to correct icky (technical term) color balance, darkness, and low contrast.

Click many to get one

Subjects other than giant rocks will move, no matter what, when you least want them to. So, cop quantity. Shoot plenty and discard the fuzzy ones. Even with cooperative subjects, you'll probably need several shots in low light to get a sharp photo.

The fuzz gremlins always ruin the best shots with motion or backlighting, so try to catch them off guard. Digital "Film" is free. Waste some. If you run out of memory space, delete the duds. Remember the nature of motion, discussed above. Even animated subjects have to pause for breath sometime, or pause to listen (most people, anyway).

Sadly, there isn't much you can do in post processing to help with blurry pictures. With a great deal of hand work that can make a picture look "faked," even when skillfully applied, you can improve the apparent sharpness in some cases. This is a task that requires much skill and practice, and it only hides, but doesn't fix the problem. Detail that is lost in a blur is lost forever. With camera or subject motion, what you get is what you're stuck with.


Lean against a wall or a post, onto a counter or table, or prop on a chair. Distribute extra-strength Sleepy Time tea to all subjects, and keep an eagle's eye for a pause when you can get a sharp picture. Cradle your Treo to use the self timer feature. And practice. Keep shooting, and I promise you will succeed. Or not.

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