lundi 14 mars 2011

If a photo is a thousand words, a better photo is 12 megawords

Fia, in her glory


Not all things that are stunningly beautiful and wonderful in the garden are flowers and leaves opening, or plants surviving my poor care. There is my dog, and there is my Nikon D300 and Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 lens with which to shoot all things great and small for posterity.

I prefer shooting with a camera. There's no blood.

This particular shot was a huge stroke of luck, outside of Fia simply being lovely. I was failing trying to get the light exposure right on Shadow, who was being unusually cooperative, but usually vocal, when I heard a noise, turned to look and focused as fast as my right hand would let me and still get the photograph. I was shooting with this old, but superb, Nikon lens, which is another of the manifold reasons to use Nikon equipment. This lens dates from the early 1980's, and because no one, according to Ken Rockwell, shoots with 50mm lenses anymore, I got it pretty cheap, and I can use it on my D300 is from 2007, where it behaves more like a 75mm lens on this APS-C DSLR camera.

This is where my eyes start to glaze over. I got that information from Photozone's review/lab test report of the lens. Ken Rockwell reviews the AI version, but only the E-Series for the Ai-S.

Reading Ken Rockwell has me shopping eBay for lenses again. Please do not tell my husband. He thinks one lens is enough, like the AF-S Nikkor 18-200mm f3.5-5.6 VR lens that came with the D300 he gave me for Christmas. It is absolutely marvelous. I absolutely do love it. It is absolutely enormously convenient, but here is what Ken Rockwell has to say about it.

I feel foolish. My husband is right. It looks like I only need one lens now (until I can afford a 12-24 f/4 AF-S DX, or the more recent 10-24mm). And to learn to use my D300 fully.

I'm still not selling my other lenses.

Every day, I go out into the garden with my camera and look for what is new. A bud that might have bloomed, a plant that is still not dead, and I take photos of it all. I can do it forever, and I practically do. I am going to wear my camera out. I must say that I do wonder what exactly the point is. What good do these photographs do? What use will I make of them? What use will anyone make of them? I love them for the fact that they can be.

My husband asked the other night at dinner if we had sold the other camera yet. It was going to be a delicate subject. There was the D300 I had bought for myself, and there was the one he gave me for Christmas, and there is the Canon EOS Rebel XTi I had bought used and given Sam for his birthday a couple of years ago. That was the camera to sell. We had talked about it before, but my husband's memory is as bad for most things as mine is for others. Notably, anything having to do with money, but I refuse to appear to be unkind or ungrateful. It's my son who is the photographer in the making, not I, and yet it is I who have the better camera. It's all a question of timing.

When we gave him his camera, he was hoping to become a photographer in the making, and I was still using the Fuji FinePix 3800 my mother had given me to take better pictures than I was sending digitally, taken with an Aiptek 8 years ago. Those images understandably frustrated everyone. On screen, they looked like film photos taken in 1926. He had done a lot of research and found this camera, used, in Versailles, at a great price in the price range we could swallow. All was good.

Then, I saw what he could do with his camera in the garden, and I started to feel restless. Last fall, I began to research cameras. I'd get a Nikon, that much I knew, since I had a FE and 3 great Nikkor lenses. There was the D90, and then there was the D300. I could get the camera body alone for about the D90 with a lens, and I would have a lot more camera for the money. I could use my old lenses until I felt I had paid enough dues to get a great lens for it. I would also have a camera considered professional, meaning that it is the lowest priced camera to qualify under the Getty rules for publishing.

Not that this really meant anything for me. This does not count as publishing.

That was when my husband started to think about the same thing for me. For years, anytime we went anywhere, he walked ahead, while I dragged along, taking photographs of everything, from door hinges to domes. One weekend, I managed 500 or 600 photos in Prague. From his point of view, we had hit a new low in quality couple time. The next trip, I left the camera home, and he didn't even notice. I had to point it out to him. To be fair, it is only what he expects when he makes the effort to go someplace with his wife: her company, and not the company of her camera as an unwelcome third. When he got me my D300, it appeared that it seemed normal to him that Sam had one, as he thought he did, not realizing that that D300 was mine, since he didn't know Sam had finally taken his Canon to Paris.

This was when we should have realized he was basically giving up on the law.

It did not now appear so normal, it seemed, but these are the heated discussions in which parents find themselves engaged with the passion with which they also (one hopes) love.

"Il n'a pas besoin d'un appareil de photo professionnel," said he, predictably, and feeling pretty sure he'd won. What argument could I give to justify a first year university student in a program of legal studies needing a professional quality camera?

"Mais," -- this is always a good way to start a rebuttal -- "il y a des photos qu'on ne peut même pas prendre avec un appareil moins bien," I countered.

Not that this was necessarily true from a Canon EOS Rebel XTi to a Nikon D300. What was true is that you can see the difference in the quality of the photographs they take, and if you care a lot about that, then it makes a really big difference. Once you can get an image of that quality, it's awfully hard to accept less. In fact, you want more still, even for your not yet professional photographer son, but as much as I wanted to win this, I also wanted my husband to think sweetly of me. I would have to put my foot down and whine convincingly, making the same argument over and over until he essentially gave up, also preferring to think sweet thoughts of his wife. I think this has something to do with his daughter.

I have been especially sweet of late.

"Ben, d'accord," he relented, "mais je pense qu'il devrait au moins nous donner ce qu'il reçoit pour le Canon."

This was actually pretty fair, but I wanted him to be able to get a lens, and he had done some research and found one that would make him happy for his uses that was only about 130 euros.

"Oui, la différence entre le prix de l'appareil de photo et l'objectif qu'il veut pour le D300. Il n'est pas très cher."

He gave up. This is what Sam and I do, and what we share, other than skiing and loving our dogs. We take photographs. We even do it together. And we show one another our photographs. It's a sort of language to talk about the way we see the world and what we notice. A way to know one another that a life without cameras would not allow us, unless we drew, or painted, or talked endlessly. Seeing what makes him take a photograph tells me what moves him, from a blue Birkin bag perfectly matched with dress and shoes to rapture on a cupid's stone face, and the better the equipment, the finer the result, the more powerful is our speech.

It's like suddenly having full possession of a language, with its full vocabulary and grammar.

It's like playing or listening to a fine violin after a scratchy elementary school beginner instrument. There is no going back when you can hear the difference, but I can understand the question of means.

For me, it's a little more monotonous, ranging from my dogs a million times to my flowers a billion times. Each year.

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