Sunday Rants and Rabid Opinions.

Don't know what it is about Sundays but all the bloggers and columnist seem to set this day aside for their pet rants about stuff that bothers them.  I thought I was immune but I spent to much time on Flickr today and now I'm in full rant mode.   Let's start at the top.  You'd think that back lighting and rim lighting had just been invented.  The lighting effect is like the iPod of the first decade, post 2000.  Unless you spend a lot of time out in the sun, facing the sun and talking to someone standing between you and the sun you don't see this effect very often in real life.  But if you look at the endless photo streams (mostly of scantily clad young woman) you'd think the sun sets continually, right over the little wannabe vixens' head and right into your camera lens.  In a word this lighting effect is like the word, "dude".  It is so overused that only "lame" neophytes still use it on purpose.  I'm calling for a world wide ban on gratuitous rim lighting!  And over the top hair lights.

Second.  I know David Hobby put his finger right on the pulse of photography in 2007 when his blog, Strobist.com, identified the style of using small, battery operated lights in lieu of bigger "plug in the wall" lights to do many routine photos.  His blog is really great and it's helped many a photographer gain a degree of competence they otherwise would not have had.  My book, Minimalist Lighting:  Professional Techniques on Location certainly benefitted from the the surge of popularity but, enough is enough!  Not every photo needs a flash in mandatory attendance.  Not every photo benefits from "just a little bit of fill",  "just a little bit of rim lighting...."  In fact, half the images I see on the Flickr photostreams would benefit from a lot less lighting and more attention being paid to the light God already conjured up for the taking.

By the same token,  not every scene can be lit only with the little dinky light poppers.  On a fast paced commercial shoot you'd go nuts waiting for the little darlings to recycle.  Especially if your set and client calls for the high production quality of low ISO's and smaller f-stops.  If you expect a shoot to progress at a good pace, provide enough juice to slam out f 11 several hundred times, etc. you'll want something that plugs in the wall and goes, "pop, pop, pop" without overheating or giving you variable exposures.  OMG, there might actually be a reason why all those pros use big heavy equipment-------beyond the cool logos on the product!!!

It's one of those "right tool for the right job" things.  Like using a truck to haul a bunch of cinder blocks instead of the back seat of your Prius......  Like bringing a bigger gun to a knife fight.  Or some silly metaphor meant to illustrate the advantages of correct gear choice.

While I'm ranting about equipment I'm going to throw this one into the mix:  Everyone who is not working for clients who routinely use images in large, glossy print publications or displays and who is constantly buying new and improved digital cameras is being played for a chump.  Before you spend another cent on new cameras do this experiment:  Take 20,000 of your images from the last 10 years of digital shooting, shove them all into Lightroom and start looking at them on a 30 inch, calibrated monitor.  Here's what I found:  Cameras improved relentlessly until they hit six megapixels around 2002.  At that point any improvement of the images used at under 8x10 @ 300 dpi is invisible.  My Nikon D100,  D1X and Kodak DCS 760, when used at their base ISO's are equal to any Canon or Nikon camera currently on the market.

I can't argue for a second that the newer cameras are not much better at higher ISO's than the ones I've listed but from a professional point of view I find the high ISO performance meaningless in most of the applications where we make most of our money.  Your mileage may vary according to your specialty.  For a studio portrait photographer I can count on my fingers the number of times I've needed to turn off the studio lights, put down the external light meter and use ISO 3200.  Just doesn't happen.  

And there is no real link between price and quality.  Not anymore.  I find the quality of the files from my Sony R1's equal to the files of the D700 at the native ISO's of each camera.  But more importantly is how well they print.  Most stuff looks interesting on the screen but the real test is how it handles paper.  And vice versa.  Wanna improve your digital photography?  Use a tripod.  Use the optimum apertures of your prime lenses.  Work on finding more interesting subject matter.  But exhaust all other avenues before you feel like you need to pony up for the new uber camera.

Final rant:  If you are a runner have you ever really wanted to run on a bright sunny afternoon and you headed to a hiking trail in your city to burn some energy only to be confronted by hordes of amateur trail users who walk with strollers in groups that span the whole pathway?  What the hell is wrong with these people.  When they drive in their cars they are required to drive up one side of the road and down the other.  Why do they become so mentally challenged when confronted with a hiking trails.  Let's get some traffic control people out there ticketing these idiots so that people who want to run can do so in appropriate traffic patterns.  Darn, that is so aggravating.