Thursday, August 13, 2009

Short Questions And Answers

1. Can you stand a tripod in a river.
Answer: not if it's flowing at a reasonable rate - the turbulance of the water around even round tripod legs induces considerable vibration.

2. Should you leave image stabilzation on when using a tripod?
Answer: yes if you are using a relatively short exposure - say 1/30 second, no if it's anything longer than 1/4 second. Weird things happen to IS during long exposures, even if it is supposed to be tripod aware.

3. What do I do if specular highlights remain "blown" even when I shorten the exposure to the point the image is clearly way too dark?
Answer: specular highlights can be many stops brighter than the surrounding scene and are going to register pure white (as they should) no matter what you do. The only thing a shorter exposure will do is cut down a bit of the flare around the specular reflections so pick a reasonable compromize that won't threaten the rest of the image or do a two exposure blend, at most.

4. What is the best paper for black and white images?
Answer: for hand holdable 8.5X11 images I have absolutely no doubt that Harman FBAl is by far the best on a compatible printer (I have tested the Canon 5000 and Epson 3800). For larger images and especially images that are going to be framed behind glass, an art type matte paper can produce lovely results and there are lots to choose from - I happen to use Moab Entrada Bright White for sale prints and Epson Enhanced Matte (Ultra premium matte this week) for work prints. (it's cheap, can be loaded in trays or feeders, and I can pin a dozen images behind each other to the wall (my patients like flipping through the prints).

5. What's the best camera for serious landscape photography?
Answer: the best camera you can afford, the largest you can carry, with the sharpest lenses you can find. But remember, a good printer, decent monitor, monitor profiling divice, a good camera bag and a great tripod could easily be just as important so don't go overboard on the camera. Stitching is very easy for panoramic landscapes (or even for square images) so you don't necessarily need a huge number of pixels. Landscape photographers need sharp lenses, sharp all the way to the corner, but only at F8-16 - it is rare for a landscape photographer to need to shoot at a wide aperture so sharpness wide open is of no use to me and even a couple of stops down isn't that important. I'm really starting to appreciate live view. The number of pixels merely determines how big a print you can make but remember that the difference in print size between a 12 megapixel camera and 15 is very little.

5. What brand camera is best?
Answer: the one that doesn't annoy you with the way its controls work - quality differences amongst the top brands isn't enough to overide an irritating workflow, menu system, awkward grip or misplaced control for your hands.

6. Where should I display my prints?
Answer: any damn place that is willing to let you put them up - but start with home and workplace, then expand to restaurants, coffee shops, the local library, community hall, sports facility, etc. Don't forget washrooms as a possible place to hang a print - people actually have the time and peace and quiet to look at an image there. Movie theatres are a possibility as well as any offices visited by a fair number of people.

7. What should I photograph?
Anwser: absolutely anything that isn't something you think you should photograph because it will sell, look impressive on a resume, be arty, get you a reputation, be new for newness sake, etc. You can photograph things because you think they might produce interesting photographs even though you aren't inherently attracted to the subject, as long as the process of searching, composing, and editing images of this subject keeps or earns your interest.

8. Should I try to make money from my photography?
Answer: only if you are more interested in marketing than photographing. Mind you, the occ. sale sure is good for the ego but that's not the same as actually trying to make a profit, or using occ. sales to justify very expensive cameras.

9. What lens should I get next?
Answer: the lens that would be the most productive for the kind of photography you do, or want to do. A 400 mm. lens is nice, but if it ends up making only 1% of your good images and perhaps an even smaller percentage of your great images, do you really want to carry it around with you? Most people advise extreme wide angle lenses for landscape but I do my best landscape work with my 70-200 so go figure.

10. Which is better, a $2000 camera or a $1000 tripod?
Answer: if you assume that what you have now is a $1000 camera and a $200 tripod, then the tripod wins every single time - for the kind of work that you'd use more pixels, sharp pixels beats many pixels every single time.


George Purvis said...

Hi George!
Your best post in a long time. Your comments are spot on.

doonster said...

I'm not so sure I'd agree with all of that:

1. For carbon fibre tripods this is much less of an issue as it isn't linearly elastic. A well planted CF tripod with the legs properly tightened won't transmit much vibration from steady flowing water.
2. Is can cause problems at any shutter speed on a tripod. If the camera is shaking enough on the tripod to need it, I'd recommend handholding or a big wind screen.
3. Speculr highlights are probably always going to be blown and why would one want detail in them anyway?
5. In line with your point on 10, I'd always recommend a good tripod and cable release (together with technique) over upgrading lens or camera.

George Barr said...

On the issue of tripods, I had mine in one foot deep water, gravel base to the river, water flowing fast, Gitzo 1349 tripod (locked down) and can assure you that I could feel the vibration in the legs. I figure that if I can feel the vibration then it would take 10X less turbulence for the camera to settle for a sharp picture, thus my advice not to stick the tripod in flowing water.

If I really had to photograph in flowing water, I'd have the camera on tripod but then hand hold the camera as well (same technique works in strong winds) and I'd assume that I should take half a dozen shots so I can pick the sharpest.

By the way, if you are in strong winds, you will get less shake if you take off the lens hood - not only smaller target but less turbulence - air blowing over a pipe (essentially what the lens hood is) is how you make music - think blowing over the top of a pop bottle when you were young.

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