Category Archives: Op-Ed

Whose Vision is it, Anyway?

AKA: Did you “Photoshop” that?

When I was growing up in the early 80s, you really had only two choices when it came to making prints from your film. You could either take it to a lab (or drugstore), or do it yourself. While at-home darkroom work was fairly reasonable for black and white film (and I’m glad my dad built a darkroom for my mom in our garage), color film was really not feasible for most home processing. So the rolls of color print film went off to the drugstore, with mixed results.

I remember driving out to the Mojave desert with my Nikon EL2 and a roll of print film, looking to photograph comet Hale-Bopp. The good news was that I actually captured shots of the comet. The bad news was that the print lab assumed I’d woefully underexposed my film and returned photos with gray skies instead of black. Fortunately, I was able to use a flatbed scanner and my rudimentary knowledge of Photoshop (this was the mid-90s, you know) to get reasonable-looking images.

Today, most of us aren’t shooting color print film, but the idea remains the same. You can choose to let your camera be the lab (i.e., the drugstore) and rely on its rendition of colors and contrast, or you can work on your images yourself. The good news is that most cameras offer a variety of preset color and contrast settings, like “standard,” “vivid,” and “portrait.” But does the camera really know which tones you want accentuated and those you want muted? I think not. That being said, our cameras do a pretty reasonable job of rendering images that look fairly similar to how the scene appeared at the time, which brings me to the point of this article. Is a “faithful” rendition of the scene a compelling photograph, or would you like to convey a different sense of feeling. After all, the camera simply records data; it’s up to our brains to interpret it.

A couple of months ago I was in Alaska on a cruise with a group of clients. One of the signature stops on the cruise was Glacier Bay National Park, a place that’s fairly inaccessible except by boat or float plane. As it turned out, by the time we arrived at one of the signature glaciers, the air was hazy and the angle of the sun created quite a bit of haze. This is what my camera saw:

Johns Hopkins Glacier, Glacier Bay, Alaska, as interpreted by my OM-1 camera.

Frankly, that’s more or less how the scene looked. The glacier was somewhat back-lit, and there was a lot of haze in the air, reducing contrast. Meh. Had I been shooting a documentary or on a photojournalism assignment, this image would have been perfectly reasonable to use right out of the camera.

Needless to say, I like my landscapes to have impact and feeling. So of course I processed the photo to get more of what I felt. For example, had I been using black and white film, I’d have considered using a yellow filter to cut through that blue haze and add contrast to the mountains. After processing, I ended up with this:

Johns Hopkins Glacier, processed in Lightroom and Photoshop (click to enlarge).

Which one do you prefer? In reality, it doesn’t matter. Because you get to have your own opinion and your own style. The bottom line is this: If you let your camera do your processing for you, your choices for output will be quite limited. You don’t need to build a darkroom in your garage to have the creative freedom once enjoyed by the masters.

Honey, I Shrunk My Kit!

Going small with an Olympus Micro 4/3rds System

Grizzly bear, Denali National Park | OM-1 with Olympus 100-400mm lens

Many of you know that I purchased an OM Systems OM-1 body and lenses in April of this year. Now that I’ve had some time with the system, I wanted to share my experience using this camera. I’ve now used my OM System kit for travel, portraits, and wildlife photography, and I’ve been astonished by the results. Many of the concerns I had about this small format sensor are simply not issues when using today’s gear and software.

I recently presented a webinar on my personal experience with the Olympus OM-1 kit, and you can watch the replay below.

Here are some of my recommended kits for OM Systems/Olympus Users

Nikon Mirrorless System: The Image Doctors

Mirrorless Cameras and the New Nikon Z System

Nikon Z mirrorless system
Nikon has entered the professional mirrorless camera market with the release of the Z6 and Z7 cameras and a new lens mount.

I recently sat down with my good friend and fellow Image Doctors Podcast host, Rick Walker, to chat about our thoughts on the new Nikon Z Mirrorless system [see specs] that was announced recently. These discussions are a really great way for us to see how we each view new cameras and imaging technologies and how they fit in with our current photographic styles.

Before we get into it, we just wanted to mention that there is a TON of talk out there on discussion boards and social media sites regarding the new Nikon mirrorless system, the Nikon Z. Neither of us have even seen one of these cameras in person, and as of now even people testing them are still using pre-production models. As such, we are not willing to discuss or speculate on any performance features of these cameras until they become available to the general public. It would be wholly inappropriate for us to discuss or speculate on features that we haven’t actually tested in person. Ok, enough of that… let’s sit down and talk mirrorless cameras!

Continue reading Nikon Mirrorless System: The Image Doctors

For Photographers, It’s a Matter of Size

How Size Impacts Everything in Photography

Size matters in photography
It’s a big universe out there… photograph it!

I want to spend a little time talking about the importance of size in photography. While there are numerous factors we photographers must face when we are making decisions about our photographic subjects and adventures, we can’t escape the importance of size. Whether you’re choosing a camera, lens or your next adventure, size does matter. Continue reading For Photographers, It’s a Matter of Size

Nikon Pulls D500, Cites Lack of Pre-orders

Is the DX format party officially over?
Vaporware… Is the DX format party officially over?

Is DX format finally dead? I pre-ordered the Nikon D500 the day it was announced.  I was informed today by my dealer that all Nikon D500 pre-orders have been cancelled. The long-awaited flagship DX body is apparently no more, after suffering from supply chain delays and production disruptions and what appears to be lack of interest in a body that just didn’t have the ISO performance of the new D5 FX flagship.

This disappoints me… no, make that this MAKES MY BLOOD BOIL! Ever since I had a D300s,  I was absolutely looking forward to using the new D500 at 10fps and ISO 51,200 with my Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E VR lens, which in my estimation would be the best damn wildlife combo out there.

In the meantime, I’ll just muddle through  using my D810 and D750 bodies with crop mode and hope that pre-orders can convince Nikon to re-think their position on the role of DX format in professional photography.

Update: At least one shop is still offering  pre-orders for the Nikon D500 here. Perhaps we still have time to change Nikon’s opinion?

Enjoy your day! 😛