|He Thinks He's Superman
by Gary W. Stanley
Like laughter, enthusiasm and excitement are contagious. Everywhere people are getting excited about digital. Two years ago, Moose Peterson and I were doing a workshop together in Maine. All I heard from Moose was "digital this" and "digital that."
"You gotta try it man, it's awesome."
"Thanks Moose but I'll stick to film and do it the traditional way."
"Okay, but don't say I didn't warn you." Moose was excited and I was skeptical.
Yes, things have changed and I've acquired a taste for eating crow. It is close to a year that I have been shooting mostly digital and my friends are making comments like: "Now that Gary's been shooting digital, He Thinks He's Superman." Well I have to admit that nothing short of Kryptonite could get me to switch back to shooting only film at this point.
As time passes, more and more of my photo friends are shooting digital: Mitch Moraski who writes for Vivid Light. Fred Proulx, a fierce competitor in the Greater Lynn Photographic Association, here in Massachusetts and several other friends have also caught the fever. These people see my excitement and the images that I have created, and they too have found it contagious.
I've had quite a bit of time to reflect and examine just why this has been such a revolution. It's not that I wasn't successful shooting film and doing things the traditional way, but somehow things are different. All of a sudden, I am having fun again. I am creating and trying new things. Not that others hadn't done it before me, it's just that I am doing it for myself and my own personal pleasure.
This "He Thinks He's Superman" label that I have gotten stems from the fact that whatever thing that I try to do creatively, has been successful. It seems like I can't miss. My wife Pam says it feels almost as though you're cheating. Cheating? I gave this comment some thought as well. Just because I have found a way to take my photography to the next level, doesn't mean I'm cheating. Just like a woodworker who recognizes the value of using a particular tool to improve a piece of furniture, I've now discovered a way to finally capture images the way my mind's eye truly sees it.
Superman? No, just a very content photographer.
Digital has become the next generation "tool" that allows more of us to increase our joy of photography. In a very busy, time and budget conscious world, I've found a renewed interest in macro photography, for example. I can view an image right there on the spot to see if all the areas that need to be critically sharp, are indeed critically sharp. In the examples included in this article, I was able to use my old manual 200mm Micro Nikkor to do successful close-up work even though the lens is not compatible with my D100 camera with regard to matching the D100's metering capabilities. No meter or f/stop setting or exposure information? Not a problem!
I first carefully compose, focus and shoot my subject. I then check my exposure using my LCD screen and Histogram. Then I use the zoom feature on the back of the camera near the LCD panel to check the edges of the plant for overall sharpness or subject movement, and re-shoot if necessary. Wow! This is cool! No more waiting to get the film processed, laying the image on the light table, only to find that the wind had ruined my shot. Re-shoot? I can't drive back to that location now, its 150 miles from home, the flowers had fresh raindrops on them, and besides, they're longer in bloom.
Pam, Fred and I are on a backcountry road in New Hampshire looking for Moose (Not Peterson). I see a bull near a clearing. It's raining lightly and everything around the Moose is richly saturated in fresh green color. Darn (or something close to it), the light is low, I've only got ISO 200 speed film, a slow f/5.6 80-400mm lens and no time to set up a tripod. Wait! You're shooting digital Gary. I quickly re-set my ISO to 800. I'm using the Nikkor 80-400 VR (Vibration Reduction), which on my D100 is now a 160-600mm lens. I head into the woods circling the Moose to get him to move out into the clearing so Pam and Fred can get a shot.
The Moose is curious, so when he gets into the clearing he turns around and stops. I quickly compose, focus and shoot, ending up with six very nice images, all well exposed, and tack sharp. "Wake me, I must be dreaming!"
Last night Pam and I had several friends over for dinner and to shoot the Fourth of July fireworks display from our deck at home. Well, first of all, I've never really had much of an interest in shooting fireworks. However, I've been selling prints at a local gallery downstairs and I thought he might like some shots of our town's fireworks display. The weather had been very hot and humid until around seven o'clock. As is typical of New England, if you don't like the weather, wait a minute, it'll change. Sure enough, clouds began to move in, it got quite chilly, and then the fog settled in. This stinks (or similar words)! As the show got going we all realized that the weather was giving us something very different to work with.
I set my D100 to manual exposure and selected Bulb for time exposures. I set the camera to the RAW (NEF) setting, and then used Custom Function #4 to reduce the noise or grain created by long exposures. I set my f/stop to f/8, focused toward infinity and began shooting. The results are almost ethereal.
Our guests left, we cleaned up, and then went out onto the deck to sit for a few minutes to enjoy the rest of the evening. It was now midnight, the wind had died down and the fog had moved in. As I sat there talking to my wife, I couldn't help looking at the pier. A skiff was still bringing people in from their boats, and the light on the lamppost at the end of the pier was lightly illuminating the scene. "That might make a nice shot" I said to Pam, as I wondered if I could capture what I was seeing with my camera.
Curiosity got the best of me and I retrieved my camera and tripod out of the closet. I again set the Custom Function to #4 for Noise Reduction, set my Tokina 24-200mm at f/8 at about 180mm. I was still at ISO 200 and in the Raw (NEF) setting. I then used the Center-Weighted metering pattern to get an approximate exposure reading, near, but not including the light from the lamppost. I composed, focused and shot. Wow, success once again!
"Hmmm, maybe I am Superman!" I whispered under my breath. Pam must have heard me: "In your dreams."
My humility restored we headed off to bed.