Back in the film days, workflow was pretty easy. Shoot a roll of slides, send it in for processing, and then put the results on my light table and pick out the select few images to scan and print. With film, many creative decisions were made for you. Each film type had a particular look and feel to it; the color palettes and contrast responses varied between emulsions. With film, what you saw in the slide was pretty much what you got out of a scan. Moreover, with film, I shot far fewer images than I do now with digital. The tangible cost component of film shooting kept the number of images down for most casual shooters. Shoot a couple of 36-exposure rolls, pick the keepers, scan ’em and you’re done. Scanning slides was a tedious enough process that I really only chose the best images to scan.
Today, we shoot hundreds or even thousands of images with our DSLRs and high-capacity memory cards. Transferring these images to your computer only takes a few minutes, and there is no agonizing wait for film to return from the lab or the scanner to scan the slide/negative. That means we’re quickly filling up our hard drives with images that may have never even made it into a slide sleeve in the film days. Moreover, unless you shoot only JPEG, you are now the photo lab. Instead of choosing a film type to get a particular “look,” we have to process our own RAW files to achieve a desired result. The prospect of processing thousands of files is intimidating, to say the least.
If you shoot for your own personal pleasure, I’d like to recommend simplifying your workflow. Don’t put yourself into a position where you must process EVERY SINGLE FILE. Simply put, you don’t need to. Start by trying to get things right in your camera. Choose the right white balance and get the exposure right. Use camera settings that are appropriate for your subject– don’t shoot a portrait session using “VIVID” mode; you wouldn’t shoot a wedding with Velvia film, right? Once you’re back from your shoot. be picky. Choose the select few images that you really want to share, and only process those. Not only will you save time in post, but your friends and family will appreciate that you didn’t bombard them with every variant of every shot in a 100MB email bomb!
For more on my workflow and how I have integrated modern tools with Capture NX2, sign up for my NEF-Centric workflow workshop!
I finally got a little time (and sunshine) to head out to the local nature center to fiddle around with my 600mm VR lens and try it with the TC-20E III. When you are using long lenses, tripods are absolutely mandatory; hand-holding is not at all feasible (well, maybe if you pump iron like Ah-nold).
I started off with my normal combo for small birds: 600mm + TC-14E. This gives an effective 840mm focal length on my FX Nikon D3s. The TC-14E only costs one stop of light, so my lens behaves as though it were f/5.6 instead of f/4 when it is wide-open. I’ve used this combination several times in the past, and it works really well. I get sharp images and AF performance is still very fast and accurate.
The new 70-200VR is slightly shorter and fatter than the VRI, but doesn’t seem too big. In fact, I think it feels just right in the hand. The MF ring is smaller, and this feature, combined with a new A/M AF mode, means that you’ll be unlikely to accidentally engage MF during AF usage by bumping the MF ring. Gone are the AF activation buttons on the end of the lens barrel (I didn’t use those on my old VRI, anyway). The tripod foot is the same as the original, and can be replaced with an Arca-Swiss foot from RRS or Kirk— I was able to use my old foot on the new lens.
We all need a creative spark now and then, something to get the juices flowing and help us muster the energy to get out of bed at 4:30am for that shoot. Sometimes, I hit a creative rut, and when I do, it seems like there is always an excuse not to shoot. Bad light. Too many clouds. No interesting subjects. Or maybe the recession has you down and you can’t take that two-week safari to Africa this year. Well, a good book can cure that and I’m currently reading two that are chock-full of awesome shooting ideas. We all have room for creative improvement, and there’s nothing better than honing our skills or piquing our creativity by reading a good book.
My first read this summer has been Joe McNally’s The Hot Shoe Diaries. All I can say about this book is “wow”. If you are remotely interested in shooting events, weddings, or portraits, this book is an absolute must-read. Throughout this book, you’ll follow world-renowned photographer Joe McNally as he illuminates his subjects and his readers with small flash technology (ie, Speedlights). As the old saying goes, if you can’t bring your party to the light, bring the light to the party. After I read this book, I had to fight the strong temptation to go out and purchase 47 SB-900 speedlights.
Next on my list is Tony Sweet’s Fine Art Digital Nature Photography. You know all those cool filter packs, like Nik Color Efex Pro? I sometimes wonder just what do to do with all those interesting filter effects. Well, Tony knows exactly what to do. In this book, Tony will show you numerous techniques using Photoshop and many other techniques that can be done in-camera (like multiple exposures). If you need to fire up that creative spark, this is one of those books that can get you out of your rut and back in a groove. I highly recommend it!
So even if you can’t get out and shoot this summer, get educated!