terrace above the Trocadéro fountains has great
views of the Eiffel Tower. Starting at about 7pm in March,
my S2 was set to ISO 1600 with my 35-80mm Nikkor lens
zoomed to about 50mm. With camera handheld and braced
against the terrace wall I filled a 512MB CompactFlash
card with 108 high-resolution JPEG exposures in about
an hour. I metered off the sky as it darkened and bracketed
with shutter speeds and apertures. This picture shot around
8pm was exposed at about 1/20 at f/4.5. "Noise"--an
uneven dot pattern--can be a big problem on ISO 1600
digital shots. After downloading this image I used Photoshop
7's RGB mode, then the Gaussian Blur filter on the
blue and red channels, and the Sharpen filter on the green
channel to reduce the unpleasant spotted effect.
Photos © 2003 Susan McCartney, All Rights Reserved
Paris has always been one
of my favorite destinations and I've shot many assignments there.
My main objective on a recent trip was to update my Paris coverage for
a new travel photography book, and importantly, to discover and iron
out any possible problems that might arise during an all-digital overseas
I have been mostly photographing digitally for 18 months now, but I'm
no computer maven. Until recently, I have been afraid of losing images
if I made mistakes downloading and backing them up when under the sometimes
stressful conditions of shooting on the road. But I learned how to add
a digital card reader to my iBook G3 laptop equipped with disc burner
and 512MB of RAM, and found this method safe, if rather slow.
I carried high-quality recordable CD-ROM discs (Fuji's my choice)
and budgeted an hour each evening to downloading my day's take
to the laptop, and burning back-up discs in JPEG format. I used a date
system to identify my discs. For instance, 032303 is March 23, 2003,
and I added an A, B, C, etc. if I made several discs in one day. For
maximum disc life, I marked them with an alcohol-free Maxell Disc Marker
pen (from an office supply store). If you are a computer expert, and
if your camera and laptop have that capacity, the transfer of images
from media cards to laptop by FireWire will save you time.
When I get home, I make a second
set of back-up discs and store these in a safe place. Then I make TIFFs
of selects, and burn discs for those, too.
was a single "grab" shot made opposite the Edgar
Quinet Metro station in Montparnasse. The morning coffee
drinkers and guy absorbed in his paper didn't notice
me. I used a 35-80mm f/4-5.6 Nikkor lens fully extended.
With the S2 set to ISO 800 on the heavily overcast morning,
exposure was 1/60 at f/8. I later cropped slightly all round
using Photoshop 7 to eliminate dead space. I also tweaked
the color balance, adding a touch of red to warm the image
Packing And Planning
My current camera is a Fuji S2 6MB digital SLR, with my older 3MB Fuji
S1 SLR as a back-up. Both take Nikon lenses, and I carried a 70-300mm
zoom, a 35-80mm zoom, 20mm and 14mm lenses, and a TTL flash. (With Fuji
S2 and S1 cameras, and many other interchangeable lens 35mm equivalent
digital cameras, you must multiply lens focal lengths by 1.4. A 14mm lens
becomes an effective 20mm.)
I carried plenty of "storage media"--four 512MB CompactFlash
cards and three 1GB Microdrives as back-up. My cameras accept both. Also
needed were a dozen rechargeable Ni-MH AA-size batteries for use in cameras
and flash, and some small lithium CRT 123 batteries (expensive overseas)
which are a requirement for my cameras. In addition, I took a rechargeable
Lumedyne MiniCycler battery pack and two cords for connecting pack to
camera. (With external battery packs you get hundreds of shots with power-hungry
digital cameras, even if you frequently check exposures on the LCD screen.)
the Louvre museum, Christophe Gauci gave me permission to
photograph while he copied Ingres' "Grand Odalisque."
I spent about 30 minutes making about 20 exposures. The
gallery was lit by diffused daylight, and at ISO 400. Exposure
was 1/60 at f/5.6 with Fuji S2 camera and 20mm f/2.8 Nikkor
lens. A sign in English on the easel said "No Flash
Please." This detracted from the image and I later
removed the lettering with Photoshop 7's Healing Brush
tool. No other tweaking was done.
Finally, I took a Ni-MH battery
charger from Radio Shack and a small step-down transformer. (French household
current output is rated at 220-240v, as is current in just about all of
Europe.) I also took an adapter plug for France, which I already owned.
Although 220-110v step-down transformers are available at good electronic
stores in France, it will save precious time if you buy one here--mine
is a Stancor (www.Stancor.com).
US plug to French socket adapters are best bought in France. They are
widely available at hardware, household, and electronic stores.
Caution: The inexpensive two-pin plug transformers and the plug adapters
from inexpensive kits sold in the US don't fit most modern French
household wall sockets--those are unique; recessed, round, with a
built-in male pin, plus two holes that accept two more male pins!
To find a wheeled bag that met airline carryon luggage guidelines (9x14x22")
took a bit of research. I settled on a sturdy Tamrac--the Big Wheels
Rolling Strong Box-LP1 model (about $265). This holds a laptop in a front-zippered
compartment that's easy to get at for airport screening requirements
and it has moveable interior partitions. At the airport, I passed this
bag through the handheld screening device that does not affect digital
media. (My clothes and tripod went into a carryon size wheeled bag, which
was checked in.)
A Digital Camera Workout
In Paris I gave the digital cameras a workout on subjects that are difficult
to photograph on film without added lighting or heavy filtration. I shot
in museums, the Metro, indoor markets, and stores. Of course I also worked
outdoors in bright sunlight, when the sky was overcast, and at twilight.
I used no filters or tripod, and made only a few flash shots. With my
camera set to Auto White Balance most images required only minimal color
Pont de l'Archêveché with classic views
of Nôtre Dame is a great place for pictures. The absorbed
artist did not notice as I made several shots in soft afternoon
sunlight. My S2 was set at ISO 100 and exposure was 1/125
at f/16 for maximum depth of field with my 20mm f/2.8 Nikkor
lens. I later touched out some paper scraps on the bridge
with Photoshop 7's Healing Brush tool.
Night Shooting Noise
Night shooting can be a problem with digital imaging, because of "noise"--heavy
spots that look like coarse, uneven film grain in dark, smooth areas.
I dealt with noise quite successfully after shooting by downloading and
"tweaking" the images on the computer--blurring or sharpening
individual red, green, and blue image layers in the Channels mode of Adobe's
Photoshop 7 program.
Some Post-Travel Thoughts
What finally counts on an overseas-- or any--shoot is not how
convenient digital equipment is, or how hassle-free airport check-in is,
or even that once you have made your initial investment you don't
have to worry about film costs. The bottom line for professional and serious
amateur photographers is and must always be the quality of the results.
I am happy with these pictures and unless a client requests film, from
now on I will be going places all digitally.
For much more on Susan McCartney's
approach to travel, see her book "Travel Photography, Second Edition."
You can preview this book at her publisher's website, www.Allworth.com.