Creative Horizons

I feel fortunate to be part of the emerging Digital era.

Photography has always been fun but the digital technologies are thrilling – I can’t wait to see what they are going to come up with next!

Imagine what Ansel Adams would think about being able to shoot while tethered to a laptop. Those of us with pro bodies can do this, but consumer cameras are not capable of this. Some photographers are starting to shoot weddings while tethered, which allows them to present a slideshow at the reception following the wedding ceremony. Not a bad marketing strategy for reprints, eh?

Product shoots started the revolution in tethered shooting, for there is no better way to evaluate lighting effects or to give clients immediate feedback. Seeing the image on a monitor sure beats looking at a tiny LCD. My friend, Joe, just did a shoot at a federal prison. He shot tethered so the officials involved could have some input into exactly the kinds of shots that they were looking for in an otherwise difficult shooting environment.

How about tethered options in nature photography? Surely we have some opportunities here, especially in macro work, or in stop-action scenarios of various kinds. The technology will evolve to suit nature photographers when they get out there and start doing it, and using it.

Martini with lemon twist

Martini with a lemon twist: a studio exercise

How about tethered options in nature photography? Surely we have some opportunities here, especially in macro work, or in stop-action scenarios of various kinds. The technology will evolve to suit nature photographers when they get out there and start doing it, and using it.

Self-discovery

I appreciate the immediate feedback of digital photography; the ability to see what we just captured is highly reinforcing psychologically. So look at your LCD, use that capability to fine-tune your compositions. Don’t be one of those who tries to save battery power by turning off the LCD!

 Let the artist in you emerge!

I find myself experimenting far more when I can see the effects on the spot. I take ‘test’ shots all the time to see what I can see – mainly to check whether what I see in my mind’s eye is manageable in a frame. Sometimes it isn’t, but then that gives me feedback that allows me to adjust for other possibilities.

US flag - Old Glory

Now, more than ever, there is no reason to be content with your first shot. If you are doing a close up, get in even closer for the next shot. Keep moving in. If a full frame vertical works, try a diagonal for effect. Lay down on your back and shoot up, you would be surprised at what you can achieve with flowers from that vantage point!

I had an assignment one time to shoot an obelisk in the cemetery at Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg. This obelisk was a tall grave marker that had no unusual characteristics whatsoever; in other words, it was a completely and utterly boring subject. It took me two days to finally get the shot. I tried everything – I varied the sunlight, I put people into the shot, I got some close-ups that gave you the impression of an obelisk without hitting you in the face with it. I even got some mildly interesting shots with my 16mm fisheye lens.

Then it dawned on me. This was an obelisk next to historic Bruton Parish Church, so how could I get the church into the shot in a creative way? Despite hordes of tourists milling around me I laid down on my back next to the obelisk and I shot up, but I organized the shot so that the entire obelisk was in focus with the famous cupola of Bruton Parish Church as its backdrop.

That became a cover shot. And I suddenly became infamous among gawking tourists who giggled as they watched me work.

Digital in Field Conditions

Sure, everyone is taking their digital bodies into the field with them now; but back in 1999 I was one of only a handful of brave souls who dared to do that. I took a Nikon D1 into the Australian Outback with me and what I had time I had with it!

Dust was a major problem, as it is now. But worse, I was shooting in extremely remote conditions where glitches could not be fixed. Shooting digital back then was an all or nothing proposition.

My colleague and I had a specially outfitted Land Rover Defender with dual batteries. The second battery allowed us to add electrical outlets so that we could plug battery chargers into them – we even plugged in a small refrigerator for film (and wine, of course). I also had a bulky solar charger with me, which was like a dinosaur compared to the slim and lightweight solar products that are available today.

Shingleback Skink - Tiliqua rugosus

Shingleback Skink Tiliqua rugosus

Intermittently throughout a shooting day I would have to download files to my Mac laptop as the Land Rover went bumpity bump bump over Australia’s roads from hell.

But I got the shots! And I felt like a conquistador exploring uncharted waters with my new digital tools.

Difficult Shots Made Easy

Digital shooting in Australia definitely made my life easier in difficult conditions where light was problematic, such as in 50,000 year old caves in the Cape York Peninsula of Queensland. These caves were narrow, too low to walk upright in, and often times I had to lie on my back to shoot up at cave ceilings where most of the Aboriginal cave art was located. I found film to be chancy at best under these circumstances because I couldn’t judge the outcome like I can in digital.

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With digital I knew when I got the shot, and right then and there I became a convert. This stuff rocks!

Even with weddings, which I don’t like to shoot but I will if my arm is twisted hard enough, I shoot with my camera set on manual using some creative diffusion options. Manual allows me to incorporate the available ambient light in a way that is not achievable by standard flash diffusers.

It is easy to take test shots on the fly with digital. Then, of course, I have Adobe Camera Raw to fine-tune the exposure later.

Creativity Par Excellence

Shooting digitally opens one up to creative expression more than ever before. Photography is no longer just the act of capturing the moment.

While some may bemoan this fact, others, like me, celebrate it.

Our digital tools are like veritable paintbrushes in our hands! Every plug-in, every new enhancement in Photoshop, all the new color management  and printing capabilities, make our craft truly an artistic one.

There will always be a place for documentary photographs, just as there will always be a place for film-based imaging. But now we, as photographers, are freed up at last to explore our artistic inclinations in ways unheard of before.

We now are in focus as shooters, as artists in the act of expressing ourselves, not unlike Leonardo Da Vinci or Monet or Van Gogh or Salvador Dali.

The digital revolution has turned us into real people with creative urges who do far more than merely click a mechanical shutter button.

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