Things we can do now

I fully admit that I an a gearhead, technology junky or in other words: a nerd. I love the tools and arcana of my work. However I don't get emotionally wrapped up in them as it's just a waste of time. I don't care who made this neat-o tool/toy so long as it works and gives me options that other things don't. Anyone who knows me is aware that I have more gear than I may need but not as much as I want and yet I end up using all of it at one time or the other. It's not just for show folks!

However I am not one to rush out and get the latest anything. I wait for the fix because they rarely work right the first time especially anything involving software. I wait and see if this new thing is really great or just hype. So given that: here's a little story.

I've been using the Nikon D700 for a while now and I simply love-love-love it. The D3 came out and rocked the world. When it's baby brother the D700 hit with essentially all the same systems but in a smaller body I just walked out and plunked my money down. I knew that there were going to be some aspects of the thing that weren't going to be quite "all that and a bag of chips" but what the heck?

Well frankly I think that the cameras we have these day are a pretty big bag of chips and the D3/D700 are the cats pajamas. They enable us to do things that we really couldn't have done just a few years ago. We used to be able to only make photos where there was more than a certain quantity and quality of light. There were some places that frankly if you could make photographs they resulting quality was very poor.

It wasn't that long ago when Fuji came out with their Fujicolor Press 800 film that gave us, at the time, the unheard of professionally usable ISO of 1600 when push processed. It may sound funny but that was a big deal and opened up a lot of opportunities. Did it really look good? Well it was ok but everything else looked horrible. However that film and it's glory wasn't an option for magazine or commercial photographers – that was a newspaper shooter thing. Magazine/commercial guys have quality requirements that just weren't met by that film when pushed. So they didn't shoot in situations where you could/had to use the 800 pushed or not. Their work was usually capped at ISO 200 because for color they shot slide film and ISO 400 slide film never got to be worth a darn.

That's the way that the world was and for those of us who lived and worked back then to a degree we still have that in our heads … "Can I get a way with ISO 400 here?" Well that's all changed in a major way. My D700 gives me resolution that rivals medium format and ISO's that are beyond anything that film ever produced and beyond the digital cameras of the last generation. I now have to get used to walking in to a situation and saying "Oh cool! I'll just use ISO 3200 and it will look great!" It still freaks me out and it will for a while. I'm making photos in places that you just coudn't shoot in before. Wha!

Ooh! Then there's little thingys like Live View which I was certain that was going to be worthless – viewing through the LCD playback screen had to be a joke. Nope it's ver-ah kuhl and I've ended up using it alot. So much that I have a function button setup in my main shooting preset. So no more "Hail Mary" shots where you are shooting high or low angles without knowing what the lens is actually seeing.

Case in point:

Technicals: Nikon D700, Nikon AF-D 28mm f/1.4. 1/20th @ f/1.4 ISO 2000 Tungsten WB. Sandisk 4GB Extreme III card.

I shot a story about how with the economy being what it is people are flocking to restraunts and bars happy hours for the discount drink and eats. This place was rocking but dark-dark-dark. A year ago I'd walk in and start trying to think of how to light it so that it looked natural since the ambient lighting was so low. Granted I cheated with my 28mm f/1.4 "The Secret Weapon" but bear with me. @ ISO 2000 the file looks like it was shot at maybe ISO 400 from cameras that were state of the art two years ago. I could have gone to a higher ISO but this combo gave me what I wanted.

Now I didn't "see" this shot. I was behind the bar and put my camera between some pint glasses pointing up at the ladies. There was no possible way for me to get my eye to the viewfinder so I used Live View for composition and focusing; switching it off for the final frame. The depth of field on that lens at f/1.4 is very very small as I've shown before – one major reason I used it here. I could not have gotten a sharp point of focus by guessing or by hoping that I had an AF point that I could get on the face of the gal at the right but not focus on the glass just below her head. This is fargin cool stuff.

There are new worlds that are opening up to us just because we have cameras, and some lenses, that give us the ability to produce quality images in now new places. We will be seeing the world in new ways just because this technology is being used by insightfull and creative photographers. Thinking about that gives both the nerd and artist in me goosebumps

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