Why I use digital cameras

April 6th, 2007

It occurred to me that the photo in my last post is a good example of why I chose to use digital tools to make my photos. There are all sorts of cameras available and all sorts of reasons for choosing one over another. Some photographers like a challenge and chose equipment that requires much of them. Others find a particular camera fits their shooting style or subject matter better than others. All those are valid reasons for making choices.

Myself, I’m lazy. I try to tell myself that I’m lazy in a good way. I like to use the tool that makes the job easy to do. I don’t mind at all getting up at 5 a.m. and climbing a mountain to get to the right spot to take a photo. But when I get there I want to use the camera that requires the least attention from me, that weighs the least for that hike, and still does what I want it to do. It also helps that I don’t have to buy film, haul it up the mountain, then pay to get it processed.

But, there is also the matter of producing the image I want. In this case, the sun at Big Bend was so intense that it washed out all the colors in this scene. The eye just could not record the detail because it was so damn bright, even in the shade.

Here’s what that photo looked like straight out of the camera:

D20 7916unedited Why I use digital cameras
And here’s the histogram that Photoshop showed for it:
D20 9717 Why I use digital cameras
You can see that all the tones in the photo are within the dynamic range of the sensor. It’s a real flat image. The brightness isn’t there because I exposed to make sure all the highlight detail would be captured.
Here, again is the photo after I adjusted it in photoshop:

D20 7916 Why I use digital cameras

And here is the histogram after the adjustment:

D20 9719 Why I use digital cameras

All I did was move the three sliders at the bottom of the histogram to get the results I was after. That’s it. No playing with colors or other fancy stuff. I’m not all that good with Photoshop. I stick to basic adjustments like this. You can see that I chose to sacrifice some shadow detail to improve contrast while I was careful not to lose any of the highlight detail. A lot of the judgement in working with a photo like this is in the choice of where that mid-tone slider ends up.

Now some of you may recognize that what I’ve done here is basic zone system stuff. But I can do it on a color image. You can’t adjust development times on color photos to control contrast. But you can make those changes in Photoshop.

If this were shot on film I’m sure a very good custom printer could have extracted that detail and color from the negative (probably not from a slide, though). But that would have been expensive and would have involved a lot of communication between photographer and lab to get what I was able to do in 15 seconds on my laptop in my camper parked in a Flying J parking lot.

So, I think I’ll stick with these tools. There’s a reason it’s called progress.

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About this Blog

Photos and comments by Dave Levingston. This is the place to see my most recent work which may include nudes, dance, landscape, nature and whatever other kinds of photos I feel like taking.

Since it does contain nude photos, this blog is not intended for viewing by anyone under the age of 18.

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