beauty; Washington County, Iowa. This photo, and most
of the close-up photos submitted, would not have been
possible with a larger format camera. (Canon EOS-1Ds,
Canon 400mm f/5.6 "L" lens with extension
tubes, f/22, 1/50 sec, Gitzo tripod.)
Photos © 2003, Clint Farlinger, All Rights Reserved
I have always been--and
will continue to be--a traditional photographer. Because of the
unbeatable quality they can produce, medium and large format systems
have been my cameras of choice for my entire professional career. But
then it happened...my wife bought a prosumer digital camera to replace
her 35mm point-and-shoot. After spending a weekend helping her figure
out how to get the best results from her new camera, I was convinced.
Digital is a superior way to make photographs. But does the same go
for a professional who is accustomed to medium format?
I spent the next six weeks researching and debating digital, eventually
taking the plunge by purchasing a Canon EOS-1Ds. There continues to
be no doubt that my photographs have improved and my enjoyment of photography
has increased. But there have been many surprises and frustrations along
trees with flowering dogwood; Holly Springs National Forest,
Mississippi. I missed this composition the first day but
had the opportunity to go back the next morning after reviewing
downloaded photos. (Canon EOS-1Ds, Canon 70-200mm f/4 "L"
lens at 200mm, f/6.3, 1/15 sec, B+W polarizing filter, Gitzo
The Good Photo Quality
The photo quality of the EOS-1Ds far exceeded my expectations--and
my lens' capabilities. One of the lenses I use is the Canon 28-135mm
IS lens. When tested with film this lens was comparable to Canon's
top of the line "L" lenses, but when tested on the EOS-1Ds
this lens was noticeably inferior. Obviously this is not really a problem,
except I had to spend more money on lenses than I had expected (or budgeted).
I've been told this is not an issue with cameras that do not have
full frame sensors since the smaller sensors don't use the edges
of the lenses' viewing area where the most significant quality falloff
All the hype I'd heard about the digital darkroom is mostly true!
Since I stick to my traditional roots, I haven't used the computer
to remove electrical lines or add clouds, but it is a fantastic tool to
gain the same control over photos that black and white photographers and
printers have always had. The ability to tweak contrast, burn in a bright
sky, or dodge a heavy shadow has transformed how I take photos. The limitations
of film are no longer a factor and I can more closely match photos to
what I actually saw when the shutter was released. The decision to go
digital prompted me to take a Photoshop workshop and I learned more in
the first few hours than I had self-learned in the prior three years.
of waterfall; Tishomingo State Park, Mississippi. (Canon
EOS-1Ds, Canon 70-200mm f/4 "L" lens at 126mm,
f/22, 0.6 seconds, B+W polarizing filter, Gitzo tripod.)
In order to download photos at least once a day I bought a 15" PowerBook
G4 notebook computer, which I take with me when I travel. It stays in
the pickup truck while I hike, but I download and review the photos each
night and sometimes during the day if I'm waiting for the right
light. I burn a CD with the unaltered files before I erase the images
off the CompactFlash card (so I always have two copies of each photo).
Occasionally, while reviewing the day's photos I'll see improvements
that could be made. Since I'm looking at the photos while still
in the field instead of a week later when the film comes back, there's
the opportunity to re-shoot and save or improve a photo. "But isn't
that what the camera's 2-inch display is for?" you may ask.
Please read on.
The Bad LCD Display
My wife bought her camera in February and consequently, since we live
in the Upper Midwest, we tested her camera indoors. Indoors the camera's
LCD display gives great feedback for composition and a reasonable idea
of proper exposure and sharpness. However, when used outdoors the LCD
display, on either her camera or mine, is worthless for judging sharpness
and little better for checking composition. I guess there's a lot
to be said for testing equipment in the environment in which it will actually
trees in Spring Lake; Wall Doxey State Park, Mississippi.
(Canon EOS-1Ds, Canon 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens at 70m,
f/16, 1/160 sec, Gitzo tripod.)
I could also put a subheading
"LCD Display" under the "The Good" category, but
I'll mention it here instead. The levels graph available for each
photo is wonderful to assist in getting the ideal exposure, especially
in difficult lighting situations. A quick note I learned the hard way:
When highlights are lost, they're gone forever. When shadows are
lost, they can often be resurrected.
As it turns out, a photo viewed on an LCD monitor on a notebook computer
looks like a different photo when viewed on a CRT monitor, even after
the monitors are calibrated. In fact a photo viewed on an LCD monitor
on a notebook computer looks like a different photo when viewed on the
same LCD monitor if the viewing angle is changed slightly! So serious
editing and tweaking is not possible while traveling. Back in the office
I hook up a CRT monitor to the notebook to edit and tweak. Even sitting
side by side it's impossible to make the two screens look the same.
Which leads to another issue: When I send photos to photo editors, I have
no idea what their monitor looks like or to what it's calibrated
(if it's calibrated at all). Hopefully the photo still looks sort
of like the one I see on my screen.
in Fall Hollow; Natchez Trace Parkway, Tennessee. This was
a difficult scene to meter, but the levels graph made it
easy to get the right exposure. (Canon EOS-1Ds, Canon 17-35mm
f/2.8 "L" lens at 35mm, f/16, 1.6 seconds, B+W
polarizing filter, Gitzo tripod.)
It takes me longer to edit photos on a monitor than on a light table,
especially when trying to compare similar photos. Searching for the one
sharp photo out of 20+ photos taken of a field of flowers during a persistent
breeze is more than any human should have to endure!
I'm still looking for an efficient workflow and the perfect photo-tracking
software. I've read several Shutterbug articles discussing these
issues and talked to a few photographers as well, but the perfect solution
seems to be as individual as a person's taste in music or clothes.
Hopefully the editing process will speed up as I find better ways to work.
The Ugly Sensor Spots
I assumed that I would never again have to dust spot my photos after switching
to digital. This assumption was completely wrong! Even directly out of
the box, my EOS-1Ds created photos with spots; in fact, more spots than
could be counted. After a factory cleaning it still showed about two dozen
noticeable spots in a clear sky. I was assured by a Canon Factory Tech
that this is normal and within quality control standards. Since I use
my camera outside, the number of spots increases over time and it will
need to be professionally cleaned on a regular basis.
mound, fog and sunrise; Allamakee County, Iowa. (Canon EOS-1Ds,
Canon 70-200mm f/4 "L" lens at 70mm, f/16, 1/15
sec, Gitzo tripod.)
Does your camera have sensor
spots? First of all, keep in mind that "ignorance is bliss."
If you still want to know, photograph a blank sky (clear blue or solid
overcast) at f/22 using your camera's highest quality file setting.
Then look carefully at the resulting photo in Photoshop at 100 percent
(you may also look at the photo at 200 percent but this is not recommended
for anyone with a known heart condition).
After shooting digital through my busy season I'm more convinced
than ever that this is a superior way to create images. My backpack weighs
less and the EOS-1Ds provides all the flexibility of 35mm with the quality
of medium format. Looking back I guess there are a few things I wish I
would have done differently, but probably the biggest thing is I wish
I would have switched to digital sooner!
Black-eyed Susan and leadplant; Cherokee County, Iowa.
(Canon EOS-1Ds, Canon 70-200mm f/4 "L" lens
at 200mm, f/22, 1 sec, Gitzo tripod.)
bluebells; Washington County, Iowa. (Canon EOS-1Ds, Canon
70-200mm f/4 "L" lens with Canon 1.4x converter
at 170mm, f/45, 0.8 seconds, Gitzo tripod.)