I published this to social media recently and got almost no response. This might be due to the Christmas holiday, which is now over. If this interests you at all, I would urge you to share it on social media or create your own monochrome challenge on your web site. If you participate in PhotoLoco, don’t hesitate to post it there.
California-based Photographer Nic Coury recently acquired a Leica M246, a monochrome (black-and-white only) digital camera. He posted some images recently on social media, and they were very powerful, and perfect in black-and-white.
Thinking about this paradigm, I thought about how I sometimes like to shoot in monochrome mode to force myself to see things differently and take my photography outside its usual box.
Here is what I was able to conjure with my Minolta DiMage 7i in monochrome mode, on a recent short walk through the woods behind our home in Byng, Oklahoma…
My newspaper and I had another intern the last couple of weeks, a nice young college kid named Ashlynd. She is very enthusiastic about becoming a journalist, and we can already tell she’s going to be a good writer.
Ashlynd told me she didn’t much care for her college photography classes, echoing a number of students who came to me over the years needing help with very basic photographic skills, skills they should have gotten from previous instructors.
Yes, I understand that college is held to a different standard than other fields of instruction. At the same time, I wonder how college students get into photography classes without demonstrating some understanding of their prerequisites. I remember being vetted by an instructor in college before I was allowed to get into her class, though I don’t know how a lot of my classmates managed to get in.
Seriously. Students tell me all the time, “That professor didn’t tell me about aperture or shutter speed or ISO or…” You get the idea.
I appreciate the idea that the purpose of college is to educate at the next level, but I also appreciate that if you don’t learn the very basics, it’s difficult to advance. I also appreciate all the really great college photography instructors who can set aside their egos and cater to their students. The students and their families, after all, are paying for it.
I’ve been teaching since 2007. When I teach Intro to Digital Photography at the Pontotoc Technology Center, I start at the beginning. That’s the only way it can work. Almost everyone in those classes is holding a camera that is set to shoot the way it was when they opened the box, attached a lens, charged the battery, and started shooting. In the biz we refer to this setting as “green box mode,” since most cameras have a big green box or icon on the exposure mode dial, often marked with an “A” or the word “Auto.” This setting essentially takes over almost all the settings, making a potentially powerful camera into a point-and-shoot.
Is there a solution to college kids who don’t get what they need from classes? Is there such a thing as remedial photography?
I’ll marry this idea to one I experienced in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 2013. Oklahoman photographer Jim Beckel and I were photographing the historic plaza when we came across a group of photographers shooting with some very expensive, very new-looking equipment, who seemed to be struggling to express what they were seeing. They asked us to make a group photo for them when they told us they’d just taken a class from someone (I don’t remember his name or the name of the class or school.) They all rolled their eyes simultaneously, and one of them said, “He was quite a character!”
I hope no one I am instructing ever refers to me that way.
Finally, I am a firm believer that students who are having fun taking pictures are dramatically more likely to remain engaged, and retain more of the craft we are teaching.
I have a revelation for you: the night of January 20 into the very early parts of January 21, all of North America that has clear weather will be able to see, and photograph, a total lunar eclipse. I hope to photograph it myself, as does my wife Abby.
Here are a few tips and tricks…
Longer is better. If you have a telephoto lens, consider that despite its impressive appearance in the sky, the moon is actually quite small, about 0.5 degrees, smaller in apparent size than your fingernail held at arm’s length. To fill up the frame with the moon, you need as much telephoto as you can get. If you have a 300mm, you will probably be disappointed at how small the moon is in the frame. Adding a teleconverter can help, but a cheap teleconverter can rob so much sharpness, the image ends up much worse.
If there is an astronomy club near you, consider joining. You will have shared access to real astronomical telescopes that eclipse (pun intended) photographic lenses.
The moon moves surprisingly fast across the sky. Exposures of more that a few seconds will likely result in the moon appearing as an oval blur instead of an amber disc. Larger apertures and higher ISO settings are your friend, but the next level is to put your camera on a telescope with a drive mechanism that tracks objects across the sky, leaving you free to use lower ISOs and longer shutter speeds for maximum sharpness.
It’s January. It will probably be cold outside. Bundle up. You’ll probably spend some time standing around waiting unless you’re lucky to live in a dark area…
Find a dark area. The full moon is quite bright, but by the time it’s in full eclipse, it might be dim enough that you have trouble locating it; I did a couple of times three years ago. If you are in the city, it might be difficult to get around all the light pollution.
Don’t believe the absurd things you hear about eclipses and other stellar phenomena. Eclipses aren’t omens. Mars will never look as big as the moon. Asteroids are not going to crash into the earth. There are no space ships hiding behind comets. The world is not flat… eclipses are obvious proof of that. Before you spread bad memes, learn some good science. And have fun photographing the eclipse next month.
The Nikon D200 digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera is a sturdy, capable, good-looking camera from the mid-2000s. It has a 10.2 megapixel sensor that will shoot from ISO 100 to 3200, a decent autofocus system, and it fits just right in my longish hands.
I’ve made tens of thousands of images with my D200s. I own three, all gotten cheap on Ebay, though one of them died earlier this year. In 2018, I don’t consider the D200 a front-line camera, but I still grab them from time to time, and they still deliver.
At the end of the film era, many of us used the excellent Nikon F100 SLR, often with the MB-15 vertical grip. I had two of them at my newspaper from 1997 until I retired the last one in 2005, when I only shot a handful of film negatives.
We waited eagerly for its digital equivalent.
The F100, sometimes nicknamed the “Baby F5,” was everything we could want in a film SLR, viceless, well-built, and a pleasure to use. When the D100 appeared, it didn’t deliver on the promise to be the digital F100. The D100 was slow to shoot, slow to think, and sported some very awkward controls, most notably the badly-implemented exposure mode dial. See my D100 review here (link.)
It wasn’t until November of 2005 that we got a look at what would be the “digital F100,” the Nikon D200.
Build quality is head and shoulders above its predecessors, the D70 and the D100, and its contemporary, the D80. The D200 feels solid in hand, and its operations feel smooth and powerful.
Though the rubber coating on Nikon D70s is disintegrating into a sticky mess, the same-era D200’s rubber grip panels are fine.
Image quality at modest ISO settings (below about 1600) is excellent, with sharp details, accurate color, and low noise. ISO 3200, which is “Hi-1” on the display, is pretty noisy, and it’s not good-looking noise, tending toward blotchiness.
With the MB-D200 multi power battery grip, it holds two batteries, and adds a vertical shutter release. This combination feels and looks very professional.
Media storage is the Compact Flash (CF) card, which I have always liked because it is about the right size for my workflow and in my hands. SD cards seem a little small and easy to lose, although I now use them all the time and have never lost one.
The D80, introduced a few months after the D200, uses the same sensor, but is constructed of plastic.
The D200 viewfinder is large and bright, and the monitor is big for its time at 2.5 inches diagonal.
The D200 has a pop-up flash on the pentaprism, a feature I occasionally wish was on pro models for use as fill light in sunny situations.
Unlike all models aimed at amateur photographers, the D200 does not have an exposure mode dial, but an exposure mode button, which I very much prefer. It doesn’t need the mode dial because it doesn’t offer “green box” mode or scene modes, which are used almost exclusively by amateur photographers.
Also unlike current amateur Nikon cameras, the D200 has a focus motor in the lens mount, so it will focus older AF Nikkor lenses.
The D200 has an aperture indexing ring around the lens mount, allowing it to use automatic exposure with non-autofocus lenses.
Color out of the D200 is adequate, but even using the “vivid” setting, it can be a little on the muted side. Both noise and color rendering are vastly improved by shooting raw files.
Overall, I would say that the Nikon D200 was an excellent camera for news, sports and magazine photography, and though it is older technology, I have no intention of retiring or selling mine; for one thing, they cost nearly nothing, and I couldn’t get anything for them if I wanted to sell them. Ebay shows D200s in good condition for less than $200, sometimes less than $100. It’s also worth noting that if someone gave me one, or I saw one at a garage sale for $25, I wouldn’t hesitate for a minute to snatch it up.
An article on Petapixel recently brought to my attention the fact that due to recent invasions by huge numbers of tourists at an easy-to-access but previously only sparsely visited location, Horseshoe Bend, which I have visited twice, now has a new $750,000 steel railing at the overlook.
I’ve been aware for some time that crowds are discovering and choking places that were once only inhabited by a few dedicated naturalists or photographers.
The worst of these, in my opinion, has to be Antelope Canyon, which I saw in 2012, and to which I have no intention of returning. It has been taken over by geotaggers and their phones, and because it is so popular, holds little appeal to me. On that visit, a women in our tour group put away her camera halfway through the tour. When I asked her why, she said, “This isn’t relaxing.”
Geotagging is using the GPS coordinates to mark the location associated with your photos, allowing others to easily find it and visit it.
It is also significant that locations swarming with visitors dilute the value of photos you might make there: sure, you have a nice image, but so do all the hundreds or thousands of people huddled around you. Instead of creating a unique image, you are part of a group of stenographers.
Even our beloved Delicate Arch in Utah’s Arches National Park, which I have had the privilege of visiting nine times, including when Abby and I got married there in 2004, may soon have restricted visitation or even require a permit.
Then, to make matters worse...
A pair of artworks by renowned painters Salvador Dali and Francisco Goya were damaged over in Russia after a group of girls posing for selfies accidentally knocked over the structure on which they were being displayed.
There is a little bit of good news, though: if it takes a fair amount of physical effort, like hiking 10 miles for example, most of the population are too lazy and out of shape to do it.
So what is the essential cause of this issue, why does it matter, and what can we do? Is this just a symptom of an Earth with 7.7 billion people on it? Do we have the internet to blame? Social trends? The selfish selfie scene?
By their very nature, people are destructive to many of the natural phenomena we hold in high regard, not just by their appearance, but also by their consumption and erosion of natural features. Their footfalls and Twinkie wrappers are far more damaging than their appearance in our images.
A truth to remember, though, is that we all want to create beautiful photographs, we all want to record and preserve our memories, and we all want to show off our experiences. It’s hard to be too critical of tourists and photographers while being one of them.
What can we do to both protect and experience these beautiful places?
Visit during off-peak seasons
Visit when the weather discourages visitors, like when it’s super-cold
Get to the trail head before the sun comes up, and get off the trail before the crowds start to thicken
Obey and defend the Leave No Trace paradigm
Despite some locations being “discovered,” there are still wild, unspoiled spots in the world, worthy of our exploration and our respect.
I started at The Ada Evening News (The Ada News since 2012) October 24, 1988, 30 years ago today. In that time, a lot has changed, mostly for the good. A few notes…
In the 1980s and most of the 1990s, all my newspaper photography was on film, most of it black-and-white…
Most of those images were printed using a system invented in the 1950s, the Kodak Ektamatic processor, which used activator and stabilizer with papers that had developer incorporated into their emulsions, like Ektamatic SC, which…
…was a single-weight, fiber-based photographic paper offering very fast turnaround at the expense of quality and longevity. Although there are literally thousands of Ektamatic prints in within my reach as I write this, none are worth saving. Additionally, because the prints had only been stabilized, not washed and dried, they smelled like vinegar.
When I first came to The Ada Evening News, we had no capability to reproduce four-color images on our own, and had to send images to an Oklahoma City first to have color separations made, so having a color photo in the paper was relegated to holidays and special events. In 1991, we inherited a primitive color separator (its software was stored on a microcassette), and could then have a color picture on Sunday.
A lot of more of my shooting in the film era involved flash photography for the simple reason that we couldn’t change ISO settings like we can today. I would shoot two or three assignments on one roll of film, usually T-Max 400.
The digital era began for me in 1998, when my newspaper bought a 35mm film scanner (a Nikon LS-2000) and a computer (an Apple PowerMac G3,) which had a floppy drive, and a Zip® disk drive, but only a CD-ROM, so I was unable to archive scanned images from that era. The editor during that period was too cheap to buy Zip disks for archiving, which was very seriously short-sighted,
though we still have the negatives on file.
It was around this time that my newspaper got its first imagesetter, a device that printed the page-sized negatives of newspaper content, replacing the downstairs process camera and fundamentally advancing our layout, design and publishing methods.
In 2000, I asked for and received a Minolta medium format film scanner, which I used as often as I could, but which gave poor color scans.
My first digital camera was the Nikon D1H, purchased by my newspaper in August 2001. Despite its 2.66 megapixel sensors, the D1H was a great addition to my toolbox, and despite having film cameras and scanners in my bag, digital became increasingly prevalent in my work. My last photographic negatives were made in 2005.
By the middle of the 2000s, the scanners we had slid into obsolescence due to their SCSI interfaces, which stopped being supported my modern operating systems. Although I could scan with USB-based flatbed scanners, I was never able to get a true high-resolution film scan again.
Since 2007 I have been teaching photography at the Pontotoc Technology Center, and I hope being a news photographer has made me a better teacher, and that teaching has made me a better news photographer.
We sold our press in 2012 or so, and began printing our product at our sister paper, The Norman Transcript, and delivering it by mail. With the departure of our press crew and our carriers, our building became mostly vacant. Portions of it were so poorly cared for that they are probably beyond rehabilitation, and will remain closed off and used as storage.
One of the best developments in these three decades has been my relationship with the community. While it’s true that bosses and coworkers have been unkind to me on occasion over the years, the public is overwhelmingly glad to see me, impressed with my work, and regards me as the face of The Ada News.
According to a count by a few long-lasting co-workers and me, in my time at our newspaper, there have been eight publishers and 14 managing editors.
Nikon struggled and stumbled in the early 2000s, as did many companies, with how to adapt to the coming digital era.
On more than one occasion, Canon took big steps ahead that Nikon didn’t, and more than a few photographers switched entire systems during that period.
Nikon’s flagship cameras, the D2H and the D2X, were behind the curve even when they were introduced, while their Canon contemporaries, the 1D Mark II and the 1Ds Mark II, had twice as many pixels and were nearly twice as fast.
In 2004, Nikon introduced the D70, a lighter, smaller, more affordable DSLR than either of the D2 series, and photographers snatched them up, some even asserting that it was Nikon’s “only” professional camera. In 2005, Nikon offered the D70S with some incremental updates to the D70. At that point my newspaper and I traded my two Nikon F100 film cameras for a D70S, and in the summer before Abby and I travelled to South Dakota on our vacation, Sundance, we bought a D70S for her.
The D70S was head and shoulders above the Nikon D100, which I reviewed in August. Some observations…
The D70S has a fairly weak anti-aliasing filter, so fine lines and and repeating patterns can exhibit the “Christmas tree lights” effect.
At six megapixels, the D70, D70S and D100 were right in the middle of the count or the era. Nikon’s D2H had four, and the D2X had 12.
JPEGs straight out of the camera tend to be too yellow. Both Abby’s camera and my work one did this. It required a deep menu adjustment. This might have been Nikon’s counter reaction to their previous cameras exhibiting JPEGs that were a little bluish.
Shutter operation is smooth, but limited to three frames per second, slow by news and magazine standards, even compared to the film days. Better, though, was the fact that files wrote to the CF card fast, and the D70S would keep shooting. I seldom filled the buffer and had to wait. This was a key failing of the D100, which would stall and stop after shooting just a few RAW files.
The material covering the surfaces of the camera is a cheap plastic of some kind, and got slick soon after delivery. Eventually, Abby’s D70S’s surface got sticky as the plastic started to decay. Despite the D100’s shortcomings, this was one of the few things Nikon got right with it.
Another key item that set the D70 above the D100 was the exposure mode dial. Important settings in the D100 required turning the dial to change them. The D70 and the D70S moved those to buttons in the back of the camera, so the exposure mode dial only controlled the exposure mode. This was an important step from Frankencameras to true digital cameras.
Unlike the D100, Nikon never developed a battery grip for the D70. This is common on today’s entry-level.
Unlike the D100’s magnesium alloy body, the D70 and D70S are mostly plastic.
The D70S has a dedicated second (front) command dial, which is mostly missing on Nikon’s later entry-level cameras to save space. I find having two command dials indispensable.
The D70 and its predecessors include the so-called “screwdriver” autofocusing connector on the lens mount so it will focus older AF lenses in the Nikkor lineup. None of Nikon’s entry-level cameras today include it, requiring lenses with built-in focus motors (AF-S) or a photographer willing to manually focus.
ISO in the D70S is limited to 1600. I don’t care how noisy 3200 and 6400 might have been, Nikon; I needed those ISOs.
The “kit lens” that came with the D70 series, the AF-S Nikkor 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G, was a decent performer, sharp and lightweight, but with a stiff zoom ring that the longer focal lengths together, making fine zoom adjustments difficult. In addition to the Abby’s, I still have one in my bag at the office, which I use when I want to lighten up, like at ball games where I will only need a few wide angle frames.
Despite the pixel limitations and other shortcomings of digital cameras of the early 2000s, Abby and I were able to make great images that print well and stand the test of time. See Abby’s daughter’s wedding (link), which we shot entirely with two Nikon D70Ss.
Abby’s D70S still works to this day, but after about 30,000 frames, the one at my office died. It now lives in the trophy case in the front entrance to my newspaper.