Production Notes, Equipment Used, and other Stuff

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Cameras

We use digital, 35mm, medium and large format equipment.

Our digital equipment consists of Polaroid film scanners (see below), a Hasselblad H3DII-50 camera and several Nikon digital SLR cameras. Our 35mm cameras and lenses are Nikon. Most of the photographs on this site were made with Nikon equipment. We have a full range of lenses from fisheye to 1200mm (with teleconverter).

Our medium format film equipment is Rolleiflex with Carl Zeiss lenses. The Hasselblad H3DII-50 is a medium format digital system, it has its own Hasselblad lenses.

Our large format equipment is Linhof with Rodenstock lenses. The primary camera is a Technikardan 4 X 5, for portability.

Digital Darkroom

The film photographs are scanned on our Polaroid scanners. We have two, one is for 35mm and the other handles medium and large format film. Both scanners sample more than 10,000 points per square mm so that large format images are represented with more than 100 megapixels.

Digital image processing is performed in Adobe Photoshop, Hasselblad Phocus and Nikon Capture NX2.

We use Macintosh computers with Wacom graphic tablets. One computer has a colour calibrated monitor where most image processing is performed.

The web pages are created with Adobe Dreamweaver.

Tips for Photographers

Join a camera club!

An active good camera club will expose you to many photographs with commentary. You will see other peoples ideas, get other people's opinions and develop your photographic vision faster than if you were going it alone. Try not to take competitions too seriously, it is more important to create your own style than to please the judges (good judges will appreciate well expressed originality).

Buy a good tripod.

We have long lenses and are fussy about the sharpness of our photographs. Our rule of thumb for hand-holding a shot (for 35mm) is that the shutter speed must be at least twice the focal length. So if we are using a normal lens (50mm) we will use a shutter speed of at least 1/100s. That means our tripods are used a lot.

We have several tripods, as each has its own qualities. We use a Benbo primarily for close-ups or small animals. It is a very flexible, yet sturdy tripod and very well suited for low camera angles. When we are hiking any distance we'll use a Gitzo tripod, it is stable enough for even a 300mm f2.8, but light (and small) enough to fit into a reasonable backpack. We have a bigger Gitzo for large lenses and cameras. We often use a Wemberley gimble tripod head for long telephoto lenses.

The most important thing a tripod has to do (in our experience) is to hold a camera steady horizontally, especially against a wind. It is surprisingly hard to do! We have generally come to appreciate the value of a good tripod and are willing to pay the price.

It's the lens that's important

(This paragraph was written in the days of film)
It is better to pay less for the camera body and to pay more for the lenses. The image that is recorded by the film is formed by the lens. We have Nikon cameras and use both an F5 (the top of the Nikon line - Gerald is wearing an F5 in the picture on the main page) and an FE (a 16 year old amateur's camera) and can make good photographs with either one (or any of the other camera bodies we use). A good lens will give not just better resolution and better contrast but the quality that makes a picture seem more 3-dimensional and real.

By the way, lenses keep their imaging quality for a long time. This means that the best lens for a given price might be a used lens. By joining a camera club, you stand a better chance to find someone who can properly evaluate used equipment.

The photographic equipment market is quite competitive so the prices are pretty much reflective of the value - and we find that's true throughout the price range. Learn what features are important to your style of photography and buy the equipment whose price is appropriate to your budget and the seriousness of your interest with the most features you need and the fewest you don't.

(Now for the digital age)
Lenses still have an important role in image capture, but the role of the (interchangable lens) camera now includes the quality of the image sensor directly affecting the pictures. Thus the importance of the camera is greater now than it was in the "film days." We think of it this way, for at least several more years a camera purchase for a serious photographer has a short time horizon, perhaps five years or so. (Maybe ten years for medium format cameras) However we expect quality lenses are useful over a much longer time period. Our recommendation is to think of the least expensive current camera that is suitable for the work planned for it for the next half-decade, but try to buy the best lenses you can afford. Since lenses also don't go obsolete so quickly, you may be able to find the quality you desire in a used lens.

Understand the visual arts

Photography doesn't stand alone as an art form, and there are lessons to learn from the other arts. Get a library card, buy books, visit museums or their web sites. The more you understand visual art as a whole, the better you can contribute to it.

Learn to look for form, texture and light

Photography is very concerned with light. and how it can be used to emphasize or de-emphasize texture and form. It is (I think this comes from Edward Weston) the best way to learn to really see. Even if you are not satisfied with the photographs you make, you will appreciate more of what is in the world to see. That alone makes the effort worthwhile.

Some personal notes

Digital photography

The biggest advantage to direct digital photography is, once you've paid the price of the equipment, every picture is made without any cost. Consequently it is worthwhile to experiment with different angles, compositions or lighting.

The digital SLRs have resolutions that are better than that of 35mm. (Exotic technical film excepted) Furthermore their images are far less grainy at a given ISO level than that of film. We feel that a 35mm film image, scanned carefully, from 100 ISO stock represents roughly 10 megapixels of imformation.

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