Three cameras. Three photographs of medical practices. Three different looks.

Nurse with child in Premature Infant Unit.
©2014 Kirk Tuck
www.visual sciencelab.blogspot.com

I actually love making photographs of healthcare subjects. There's drama, compassion and it's all about the human condition. When I was younger I would faint at the sight of blood. As I've gotten older and had one health scare I've become less sensitive to things like injections and blood tests and more in tune with the idea of how vulnerable we all are when we present ourselves to our health care providers. I like that my images can help to demystify or humanize the experiences. That we can tell somewhat universal stories so that people can understand what they are getting into. 

These three images are some of my favorites from various shoots I've done in hospitals in Austin and San Antonio, Texas. I love looking at work that spans time and these span a decade. They were also done with three different cameras and three different lenses. It's interesting to see how the vision changes along with the equipment. 

The top image of the nurse and child was done most recently. We did it in 2012. I was using the Sony a99 at that point along with the 85mm 1.4.  With the progress in sensors I was able to shoot without having to supplement the lighting in the space. That made my job a bit easier and it was required on the preemie ward. Getting the right image required me to position the people in the right light since just about every place is top lit. It also required finding a background that wouldn't fight tooth and nail with my main subjects. The image was shot at f4 since that's both a sweet spot, performance wise, for the lens and also provided enough depth of field to cover what I wanted. With the good high ISO performance of the camera I was able to shoot at a high enough shutter speed to hand hold the camera. It's pretty straightforward documentation. 

Medical Technician. Austin Heart Hosptial
©2014 Kirk Tuck
www.visual sciencelab.blogspot.com

The image just above was done back in 2003 on a long, two day shoot for the Austin Heart Hospital. Our job was to fill a bucket list worth of images for an ad agency out of new Mexico. Back then we used two cameras primarily; the Kodak DCS 760 (larger APS-H sensor, 6 megapixels) and the Nikon D2H. I loved the low ISO image quality of the DCS 760 (think ISO 80...) and I used it wherever possible with flash or in daylight. But my "low light" camera was the D2H which allowed me to shoot images all the way up to a stunning ISO 800 with "containable" noise. This image was shoot quickly and hand held. The lens, if memory serves, was the really good, Nikon 28-70mm f2.8 (which I like much better than the 24-70mm that followed it). 

This woman was working with blood samples and needles and I was careful not to look down at her gloved hands...  I shot quickly. Probably no more than five frames. I chimped and then moved on. 
When I came across the image in post I realized that I had underexposed by at least a stop and back then cameras were much less forgiving about that. But the client liked the image and wanted to use it so I correctly the exposure and sent it along. While it has some pattern noise that show up on the solid areas the client didn't care. He said, "This looks like journalism. It looks real and not set up." Okay. I can go with that. I just love the raw feel of the image. 

Austin Radiology Associates Doctor in reading room.
©2014 Kirk Tuck
www.visual sciencelab.blogspot.com

The final shot is one I've always liked. I used it in one of my books and I've written about it before. It's lit almost entirely by flat screens in the small reading room. There is one flash directly behind the panels you can see in the background. There is a second light from the far corner of the room to provide some hair light and separation but all the light on the doctor's face is from the screen in front of her and a small reflector just to the right of the camera. 

The camera was one of my quirky favorites, the Fujifilm S5. I loved the way that camera handled flesh tones! It was magnificent. And I looked the tongue in cheek interpolation to 12 megapixels. It even said "12 megapixels" on the body so clients at the time were quite happy. But the real eccentric part of the image was the lens. I'd picked up a very old copy of the Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 for a couple hundred dollars. The focusing was sloppy and sometimes the zoom ring became withdrawn and recalcitrant but just look at the out of focus effect in the background and the sharp-but-not-too-sharp imaging of the main subject. 

The image was shot in 2007 just as I started writing my first book. The one about using battery powered flashes. The marketing director for this client had a lot of respect for the doctor's time. We usually needed to get in, set up a shot, light it, and shoot it in about 30 minutes. Less time wasted was better. The time constraints worked well with our "new" lighting techniques. Back then we called the little flashes on the nano stands "light on a stick." Now it's pretty much ubiquitous. Not so back in the days of 80 ISO.....

As I said, I love shooting medical marketing images. It's all about the people and their interactions with each other and with ever changing technology. And that makes everything more fun.

Three different cameras. Three different lenses. Two approaches to lighting. 


Diogenes Montesa Baena said...

I work as a Medical Photographer at The Hospital for Sick Children here in Toronto and although I use Sony (a99, and soon to come, thanks to your reviews, an RX10) for my personal commercial work, I am "stuck" with using Nikon at work. My favourite camera since our Fuji S3 went out of commission a few years ago is the Nikon 5100. It has an articulating finder plus a really creamy texture to the files that is excellent for skin tones. It's coupled to a 16-85 f3.5-5.6 lens+flash with a diffuser cap. I use it for everything from studio shoots to ward shoots, child abuse cases to palliative shots to happier-outcome shots. (We have other Nikon bodies and macro lens for specialty shoots). I prefer the 5100 to the D7100. If and when I have advance notice of an "important shoot", such as for an Annual Report or some other marketing brochure, I haul in my a99/a57/Zeiss lenses.
But you are right, we get attached to certain camera/lens combos that are inexpensive and don't get rave reviews in the technical press. I am very fond of my Bower 85f1.4, esp when paired with my a99.
Unfortunately, due to privacy concerns, i can't post any of my work pics.

Soeren Engelbrecht said...

Interesting view on the technical progress that we have lived through.

My own contributions in this area are scarce, but I was pleased to be able to do a small b/w "documentary" on the (caesarian) birth of our son Anton six years ago. I used a Nikon D70 at 400 ISO and a Sigma 28/1.8.


Incidentally, I am currently selling off all my Nikon gear in favour of an Olympus/Panasonic kit...