I feel I have to make a few shocking admissions to some of my not-so-well-kept secrets.
First is that I am increasingly eschewing the tripod. I know it has a long history as a critical tool for landscape photography and other forms. However, a tripod reduces my mobility, and I want to see new and different things. More importantly, my camera can capture some pretty nice images handheld at some very high ISO’s in some very low light. It gives me mobility and the ability to capture things previously missed. That said, I’m beginning to dabble a bit more in astrophotography, so I may be peddling backwards in the near future.
Secondly, since higher ISO levels allow decent images, and since some noise reduction software is easy to use and fairly good these days, I usually keep ISO set on Auto. Generally, I miss fewer captures, and can make most images work by manipulating aperture or shutter speed or depth of field. With live view, I can lean a camera on a railing or set it on a countertop and go to lower ISOs if necessary for a nice image. Here is one I took yesterday from a railing. This photo was taken at Hampton House near Baltimore in late afternoon light through a nearby window. It did not suffer for the lack of a tripod.
Thirdly, I really like Canon’s EOS R mirrorless camera. The RF f/4 24-105mm lens is very fast and sharp for the fast majority of what I do. And it is lighter. I’m hoping the improvements in the upcoming R5 are affordable. I get annoyed about all the trash talk about the Canon brand. I’ve been shooting Canon for nearly a decade because Sony wouldn’t update its line of DSLR’s at the time, thus prompting my switch to Canon.
Fourthly, I am using editing software more and more to tune up images. You have to. Contest judges want absolutely perfect images and require that every last detail be addressed in post processing if you missed the flaw in the initial capture. That said, I am doing two kinds of images—one tending toward more realistic-looking captures with natural and clean images and the other unabashedly edging closer to the art side of things. Both require post processing to make images work. However, I see judges tolerating and expecting post processing. That said, an image with no initial impact, regardless how technically perfect it is, won’t fly. And an incredibly well-done image using fly paper, texture layers, or compositing won’t fly if they lack impact. You’ve got to crank up Photoshop regardless which direction you go. This image of a Lenapi Indian was taken in a busy pow wow. I had to add the background and alter the lighting in post processing for the viewer to really appreciate his face.
Fifthly, my friends and mentors and my dining room table keep me from being blind with my images. I often spend hours on perfecting an image I have fallen in love with, then print it full size and put it on the dining room table to see if my love affair with the image has receded enough so I can see its flaws. I take it to lunch with a trusted friend or two and ask for a fresh perspective. If a positive reaction takes more than three seconds, I know the impact is missing. My truthful friends and mentors and the table haven’t failed me yet. There are often ugly, blown out spots, distracting details, or alignment issues to which I am blind. I want to hear the truth from my friends well before I hear it from the judge. And even with that process, I am sometimes inadvertently persuaded because an image got 35 likes on Facebook, which has nothing to do with art value.
So, that’s all that I care to confess at this point, maybe I’ll be a little smarter in the spring and will have more wisdom to impart.