Sunday, July 17, 2011

New Technology: Upgrading my Kit

Although this is an art course, there is no escaping from the fact that photography is a highly technical endeavor and that equipment can make or break a photograph.  It is true that it is not necessary to spend thousands on the latest and greatest cameras and lenses, that gear obsession detracts from imagery, and that the brain behind the camera is the most important technical component.  However, careful use of technology can enhance the ultimate result and it is certain that poor or poorly used technology will detract.

I am by nature a technical person, I work in the IT industry and love gadgets.  Recently I have added 3 tools to my inventory, the first and most expensive lens I have yet to obtain, is a 17mm TS-E Tilt/Shift lens.  This permits an SLR user to mimic the movements available to a view camera.  The 17mm adds to my 24mm yielding a far wider view and ideally suited to Landscape photography, especially within a tight urban environment.  I love these lenses and what they can do.  They are extremely sharp with excellent contrast.  Yesterday I was shooting with 3 lenses, the 24mm TS-E, a 35mm and 100mm prime.  As it was a bright summers day with strong overhead light I added a circular polarizing filter to the two longer focal length primes.  I do not have one for the 82mm filter thread on the 24, however, downloading the images revealed that the contrast delivered by the 24 was as good as the other lenses with the filter.  However it is the ability to manage perspective and maintain correct proportion in buildings that these lenses excel at, a tool I plan to utilize frequently in the coming months.

Canon TS-E 17mm f/4 L Tilt-Shift Lens Review

The second tool was a rather scary one, very simple but requiring surgery to my camera.  This is a new focus screen for my 5D2.  The existing one works fine, but has no framing lines to help with orientating the horizon.  Installing this required removing the old one from the camera and snapping this one into place just below the pentaprism.  In the end it all went well, but the idea of removing a part of the camera was a little daunting.

Canon Kamera Gitter-Mattscheibe EG-D (FOCUSING SCREEN)
In use, what a difference.  Yesterday I was shooting in and around a lot of buildings hand holding my camera with the 24mm TS-E attached.  Normally one would mount the camera on a tripod to use such a lens, carefully levelling the camera using a spirit level.  With this focus screen in place I was able to align the camera to the vertical sides of buildings before adjusting the shift mechanism.  Clearly not as precise as using a spirit level it still enabled me to use the lens effectively, something that would not have been possible before the switch.

My 3rd piece of kit is something I have thought about and then dismissed a few times, that is a graphics tablet.    I had a small one as a gift, but could never get the hang of using it, the pen was not precise enough.  I realized that the problem is that when running two large monitors as an extended desktop, I also need a larger tablet to ensure accurate control of the pointer.  I have also seen a couple of videos recently in which photographers used tablets to make fine adjustments to photographs.  I ordered an A4 Wacom Intuous last week and have used it this weekend to edit some photographs in Lightroom.  

WACOM Grafiktablett Intuos 4 L + USB 2.0-7 Ports-Hub
I am not used to it yet, but already find that I can work with more accuracy and also quicker than using a  mouse.  It is a very different way of working with a computer, so it will be a while before I am proficient, but so far so good.  Lightroom is probably not the optimal use of a tablet, Creating masks and doing fine work in Photoshop is going to be the real test of the capability of the tablet.

When I started the course I did say I would not add another lens to my collection, guess addiction took over once more.  The good thing is that they keep value well and are a better investment than leaving my money in the bank, at least I get some value out of using the lens.  My obsession with the technical side of photography does not abate, but Ansel Adams firmly stated that the art of photography could only be achieved if the craft was perfected.  Today that craft is different in the technology that underpins it, however, the need to understand and get the most out of equipment still remains true today.

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