3.24.2010

A change of sensibilities.

Image from Eve's Organic Bed and Breakfast in Marathon, Texas.  March 2010


Back in ancient days I shot a wide range of subjects.  While portraits were always my favorite I was often pressed to shoot architecture.  One of my first big magazine projects for a national magazine was a two week trip thru Texas and Louisiana shooting historic homes and plantations.  I took the trip with an editor from Harrisburg, PA.  The magazine was/is called Early American Life Magazine and they are still going strong (niche markets work!).  I spent those two weeks mostly either driving, sleeping or shooting interiors and exteriors with an old Calumet 4x5 inch view camera.  We only shot transparency film back then.

I would walk into a room, figure out the composition, meter the ambient light and then set up a couple thousand watt second Norman strobes, bounced into big umbrellas and then work on getting a good balance between the existing light and the fill light my flashes were producing.  I'd generally use up three big, black and white Polaroid test shots to get into the ball park and to get approval from my editor.  Then we'd do a bracket of five frames in 1/3rd stop increments.  While not totally necessary the tight bracket also gave us close back up shots in case something happened to a random piece of film during processing.  Then we'd break everything down and move a hundred pounds of gear to the next location.

Back then I only had twenty film holders (two sheets to a holder) so every eight shots I'd have to stop, pull out the changing bag ( a black fabric construction that worked as a sweaty and uncomfortable mini darkroom.  Your hands would fit into sleeves with tight elastic and you would unload and reload strictly by touch.  Nasty part of the job, especially in the summer in rural Louisiana where it always seemed hot and humid.)

I describe all of this so you'll understand why I never pursued architectural photography with any rigor.  People could be reasonably well shot with quicker, lighter cameras and a lot less lighting.

When I went on a recent road trip I found myself shooting more and more architecture and I wondered why.  Here's what I think:  With the new EVF cameras (electronic viewfinder) you get to see exactly what the camera sees.  Imagine a view camera with a lens that's stopped down to show you the exact depth of field but with a bright and detailed view.  Combine that with a camera that you only have to reload after nearly 500 raw shots (on an 8 gig card) and you start to see the appeal.

Add in real time levels and customizable grids and you're on a roll.  Then throw in incredible depth of field (from the short focal lengths) and image stabilization and you have a camera with which you can shoot interiors as fast a you shoot portraits.

I had coffee with my friend, Paul, on Sunday.  We were sitting at Cafe Medici talking about stuff when he pulled out the Panasonic 7-14mm lens for the micro 4/3rds cameras.  The lens has some bragging rights.....like a perfect score of 10 on SLRgear's reviews.  It was wonderfully small.  It would be amazing to shoot architecture with.  One of those on an EP2, stopped down to 5.6 and you'd have everything sharp at 7mm or even 14mm.  The only thing you would be missing is perspective control.

I'm this close (holds fingers tightly together) to getting one and expanding my horizons.  Literally.  Doesn't hurt to plan ahead.  Now, if I can only figure out how to shift the lens......