Working Method Part II - TTL Flash

Following on the heels of my last working method post, here's the bigger badder version. Actually this one is smaller with less blah-blah preface. Consistency in working-method is the common theme here rather than a random bag of stuff that might work. Last time I chose to illustrate a potential homogenized auto-exposure working method for those that find exposure automation quicker or more convenient. It might not be exactly what suits your particular situation or your gear setup – take it as a starting point towards whatever might work for you, your subject matter, and your gear. I tend to prefer manual exposure for most of what circumstances I tend to shoot in. The ulterior motive for that particular method was how related it happens to be to Nikon's CLS/TTL flash control features.

I stumbled across two situations in the last few weeks where long-time Nikon shooters that use Nikon CLS and TTL exposure control were unaware of one of the systems best features. Well not exactly unaware but not really using it as designed. This one might be an epiphany for you – quite possibly earth shattering so hold onto your seat. Again if you're already working in the way I describe grab a bag of popcorn and you can commence with the head slapping and yelling "I can't believe there's people that don't know that". For non-Nikon shooters there's something here for you too. Possibly your camera system's flash control provides similar features or not… something for you to at least look into.

Working Method Part I - Exposure

As you know there are a million ways to skin a cat. As long as the cat gets skinned how you get there doesn't matter that much. In photographing just about any subject there are a lot of ways to get to the same place. Let's take exposure for part one of this series on working method. I thought I would give everyone a break from my 4,000+ word blah, blah, blah's and make this shorter hopefully all of them will be bite-sized. I have been leading quite a few workshops this year – far more frequently than I have in the past. One of the cool things about doing them was the glimpse I get into other people's points of view. Sometimes even stumbling upon something that you don't see discussed much, if at all. Things that might be obvious to most or so you would think but maybe not so obvious…

The Nikon Df Hands On

I've written before about the perilous nature of comparing opinions, critique, praises, picks, and pans from completely different camera communities. By far the most intolerant, critical, hard to please, and unsatisfiable community I've experienced has to be the quintessential Nikon Guy. Every tiny nit is the end of the world. Things that pass for normal in other communities are punishable by death with Nikon Guys. The funny part is when the other brand-guys take the vitriol spewed on a nit and somehow believe they can relativize that and then compare it to their own somewhat caviler assessment of their own preferred camera body, brand, company, whatever. Nope – completely parallel universe.

Open-mindedness - that's key in formulating your own choices. I've seen people completely convince themselves on non-sense they've read on the internet so much so that even when you prove otherwise beyond any shadow of doubt they still stick to some fantasy constructed in their own head. I guess I've been fortunate or unfortunate enough, depending on how you look at it, to have at least two systems working at the same time. Be it Hasselblad and Nikon, Nikon and Leica, Fujifilm and Nikon, even Nikon, Fujifilm, and Canon. True for me in the digital age as well as way back in the film days.

The Lens Conundrum

We'll I've done it. I've gone looking at new gear. I really shouldn't have started looking but I really need a semi-wide lens. Of course I have a fantastic hunk-o-semi-wide glass. Truly astonishing in it's performance. That beast of a lens the Nikon 28-70 AF-S. Too bad it's so stinking big and so ponderous I just don't want to carry it. I won't carry it. Even when I lug the thing with me to a static shoot where I don't have a camera bag on my shoulder I rarely take it out. It's just massive. Now that I've spoiled myself with primes it just seems silly.

Ode To Junky Lenses

Contrary to popular belief I do go outside. Just not during the winter. Although the temperature is not up to standard yet I experience a touch of spring fever as soon as the tiniest bit of green starts showing through the apocalyptic winter deadness. Yesterday I went to two, yes two mini-photowalks. One was a quick scouting of a cluster of racing horse farms located a mile or so from my house. The other was a more extended walk to the end of the point where a lighthouse is located at the end of the road. Of course I took a camera with me. The D600 a 50mm 1.4G along with the battle axe – my Nikkor 18mm AI.

The Goldilocks Syndrome

Probably not the right title but it will work. This bed's too hard, and this bed's too soft, and this one is just right. Really? Was Golilocks that lucky? She really didn't want a bed right in between say Mamma Bear's bed and Baby Bear's bed? She got that lucky with the soup or porridge or whatever it was too? Highly unlikely.

That brings us to the topic of the day. Camera ergonomics. I hate that word, I hate all words that sound that contrived in a pseudo-intellectual way. I kinda remember when ergonomics was not in such common use. Now everyone uses that word on everything. Part of what's making us all so mamby-pamby. I'll bottom line this real quick so you can get on with your day prior to blathering on about what I happen to like and dislike or how hot I like my soup.

What Makes A Great Photograph

Sorry for all the photo-philosophy lately but indulge me again for a moment. I promise as the mood suits I will get back to some rants about stupid shit that's everywhere – fact is I just flagged yet another nonsensical Fuji review as fodder for a rant, hopefully with some purpose. Today I do want to discuss a bit more of a philosophical topic. What makes for a good photograph? A great photograph possibly? Maybe one you just like a lot? What does it take?

The top photo came up in a twitter conversation that prompted me to buy a new book I've had on my list for years. This time I just bought the damn thing instead of making a note to self. I really can't wait until it gets here. I'll get far more enjoyment out of it than any hunk-o-gadget I could possibly buy. I may even learn something important. We'll see. It's certainly better on my wallet than another redundant picture taking device or lens I don't need or just about anything photography related. It's probably a far more productive way to spend an hour or five than surfing gear reviews that tell me how much something will improve my photography. Yeah, right.

Album Cover Art

Way way back when I was a lot younger there were these things called LP's. Big round vinyl disks, usually black but sometimes other colors – this was how you obtained and listened to music. One of the very cool things about these were their packages. Specifically the album covers themselves. Big square pictures, paintings, or designs adorned these covers. In many cases the covers were and are extremely memorable. Some of the photographic art used was spectacular. At least I thought so then. Even today there are a few that stand out in my mind as sublime. I'm sure my history with the music, the object of the album itself, as well as all of the things associated with both fuel some of those feelings but the photographs themselves in some cases were highly influential to me, shaping the images I aspired to make, copy, and eventually melded into my own ethos.

The Death of The Mainstream

Listening to one of the few photography related podcasts that I like a week or so ago got me thinking about something I already knew but hadn't looked at it from a particular point of view before. The podcast was Lenswork. The topic was regarding the death of the mainstream in this ever increasingly fragmented world. The main point was that your particular art is likely to appeal to an increasingly narrow segment of people. For everyone that happens to gravitate toward or like what you happen to care about making there will be ten that don't. I won't summarize the entire podcast – if you don't listen to the Lenswork podcast you may want to check it out.

I started thinking about this from the opposite end of things. Something I've grappled with for almost a decade. My long struggle with making stuff other people like versus making things I care to make. My disenchantment with the commercial side of photography really stems from this whole conundrum. I went down that road deluded that the world some of my heroes of photography lived in was the same world I lived in. I learned quickly that was absolutely not the case and continues seemingly to move farther and farther away.

Window Light Recap -- Part II

A short post for Friday. A brief follow-up to Part I of the recap. Last time I was blathering on about the method to my two hour madness of completely different lighting looks in terms of each set, major variations within that setup, and then fine-tuning of the use of light within each major variation. An illustration of how even that tiny bit of fine-tuning makes a completely different image – at least from my point of view. At the end of it all that post was all about getting your head out of a what it is kind of place and putting it into more of a what does it look like at this moment place.

No matter if it's a window light workshop, a studio lighting exercise, a landscape trip, whatever, this is pretty much the key. Getting out of what your mind tells you something is and continuously refining your eye to recognize what it looks like in terms of how the camera sees it. No matter how long you've been at this, continuously exercising and refining your eye is going to make a far bigger difference to your photography than any new camera, lens, or photo-toy.