January 10, 2015

As a professional photographer, I own many cameras.

The oldest working camera that I own is from the 1940s.  I have a lot of film cameras that I still use and find valuable to have.  Not so much for digital.  When I first became a professional wedding and portrait photographer in 2001, the camera that I used for most of my work when I finally went digital was a Fuji S2-Pro, a 6 megapixel DSLR.  My back-up was a Nikon D70, also 6 megapixel.  I used both of those cameras for over 10 years before I finally felt the need to catch up to the rest of the digital world and up my megapixels.  My cameras had become virtually obsolete.

That’s what gripes me the most about digital.  You spend a lot of money only to have your gear outdated and almost valueless in a few years.  My Rolleiflex from 1950 still works as well as it did when it was first produced, and has held its value.  I can’t imagine any of my digital cameras doing that.  BUT…I have to keep up, and so I did.

Two years ago I upgraded my digital gear and purchased a Nikon D800 for my professional work.  It’s a great camera and takes wonderful photos, but on a recent 7-mile photo hike I realized that it had one real problem for me:  it is heavy.  Along with the zoom lens I regularly use with it, it can cause pain to my shoulder and back after only a short time.

Because it’s heavy and really expensive, I started leaving it at home a lot.  I found myself using my iPhone to photograph more often than not.  I love taking iPhone photos, don’t get me wrong, but I started to miss the manual control I had over my images.  Yet I didn’t want to carry around my D800 with me.

So I researched smaller mirrorless cameras to find an alternative to my D800 that is not so heavy but still takes great photos and allows me to have control over my images.  I desperately wanted a Leica M Monochrom camera, but I couldn’t afford the $10,000+ it would have taken me to buy the body and a lens to go with it.  So I quickly put that one out of my head and decided on a Fuji X-T1.

Today I took it out for its first shoot, a casual walk the kids, Jack, and I at Reynolda Village.  I kept it on the black & white setting for today (the one with a red filter) and was really pleased with the results.  I didn’t have to do any post-processing on the images, just crop them.

Once I get a small case for it, I’ll be taking it out with me a lot.  It is fun to use and the dials remind me of my old film cameras.  I will still use my D800 for professional and studio work, but this little guy will come in very handy for my everyday shots.

Here are some photos with the Fuji from today.  Emma even took a few…


January 7, 2015

I was up early for this one…

Around 6:45 a.m. I took my camera and tripod out into the cold to try to get a good shot of the amazing colors in the sunrise.  I wanted to manipulate my shutter speed to control the colors so that I didn’t have to do any post-editing.  The only thing that I used Photoshop for in these photos was to crop them, as they were large files.

I was able to make the photo lighter or darker depending on how slow I made the shutter speed and what ISO I used.  I tend to like darker images that make the color parts stand out more.  The “ray” effect was made by using a zoom lens and pulling it in or out while using a shutter speed of 2 seconds.

Folks tend to forget that you can control so many aspects of your photo in-camera and without post-manipulation.  We’ve made it really easy to get funky effects by the press of a button.  I just wanted to do it the old fashioned way today.

December 9, 2014

This one’s for Tony…

Tony and I have been having a debate recently regarding the ease at which someone can create a photo these days.  At the touch of a button on an app for your iPhone, you can create crisp, clean photos or photos that look like they were taken 100 years ago.  “Everyone’s a photographer now,” Tony says, and to some extent, I agree with him.

It is possible to create all kinds of effects with the touch of a button and I do it regularly.  My primary professional camera, a Nikon D800, is heavy, and the lens that I have on it most of the time costs as much as the camera and is also very heavy.  Consequently, I don’t carry it with me often.  I use it for scheduled photo shoots, and that’s about it.  For my daily use, I have my iPhone, which, I might add, I was very reluctant to use at first and fought the smartphone war for quite some time.

They say the best camera is the one that you have with you, and I tend to agree.  My iPhone has allowed me to catch shots that I would have otherwise missed, and the clever photography apps that I have on it are quite fun to use.  So I shoot more now thanks to it.  But that doesn’t mean that everyone is a photographer and that I am cheating.

I think there’s much more to creating a good photo than just an app.  The two things that make a good photo are lighting and composition, neither of which you can reproduce well with apps or post-photo manipulation tools.  As a friend recently said, the best lens is your eye.  That’s so true.

For me, before I take a photo–any photo, whether it’s on my iPhone or with my expensive camera–I size up the shot.  I look at the lighting and consider the best possible composition.  I think about what mood I am trying to create and why I’m taking the photo.  I’m not random at all.  Every photo I take I do so with purpose.  If I take it and it doesn’t fulfill the purpose, I delete it.  It’s the same thing I used to do in the darkroom as well, just much cheaper than buying loads of film and paper, ergo less wasteful.  But the process is the same: deliberate and meaningful.

But just for Tony, today I used my Nikon and an old 17-24mm wide angle lens from 1982.  The lens is completely manual, and in order to use it with my camera I have to adjust everything.  I even have to focus manually.  I have to set the aperture (on the lens itself) and shutter speed, control the white balance, set the ISO.  There’s no technology available except for my eye and my knowledge of how to use light to create the shot I want.  Even the dark edges are the result of lens falloff and not an app.

So here’s the result, right out of the camera with no post-production except for cropping due to the large size of the images.  The photos are of a decaying wooden boat.

Pretty good for a 32-year-old lens, eh?