If you've read this far, you might want to look at
- Use Fujichrome Velvia film. This has much higher color
saturation than other slide films. Flesh tones can be a touch pink at
times, but for scenery it is what separates professionals from
amateurs. Although negative film has some theoretical advantages, in
practice it is much easier and cheaper to get a satisfying image out
of a slide than a neg. Whatever film you use, burn it. Try for three
rolls/day on a trip. Then make a slide show with three or four
pictures from each roll. Of course, Velvia isn't the right film for
every occasion, which is why you should check out my guide to choosing film.
Example: Nikon F4, 24/2.8 AF lens at f/11 and 1/4 second, part of
a New Mexico album.
- Use professional lenses. Cheap zoom lenses from all
manufacturers produce low-contrast dull results. Stick to prime
lenses or professional zooms
(e.g., 80-200/2.8) for most of your photography. Nikon and Canon
overcharge for their names, but only maybe 15%. A $150 Tokina zoom is
not a substitute for a $900 Nikon zoom (a $750 Tamron is, but its
resale value isn't so great). The 80-200/2.8, by the way, is a
fabulous lens for portraits. The depth of field at 200/2.8 is so
shallow that you can take a picture of someone in front of a horribly
ugly strip of gas stations and it will all be rendered as a nice blur
of color. The cheap zoom lens is f/5.6 at 200 and will render the
Exxon sign nicely.
Example: Canon EOS-5, 70-200/2.8 lens at f/4 and 1/125, fill flash set
to -1 stop. Manhattan 1995.
- Get dramatic perspective. When going wide, go wide.
20, 18, 15... the wider the better in my opinion. It is tough to
take a great picture that doesn't have a foreground, a middle ground,
and a background. With a wide angle lens that means snuggling up
close to something interesting and letting the wide angle include some
other interesting things in back. Here, by the way, you want to think
about spending serious money on a lens with a "floating element"
(called by Nikon "Close Range Correction"). Most lenses just rack the
whole group of elements in and out when you focus. A floating element
changes the relationship among the glass elements as you focus, thus
assuring sharp images at all distances. A good lens, like the
Nikon AF 20/2.8, will take much better close-far pictures like this than a
cheap lens, like the Nikon AF 28/2.8 or most any off-brand wide angle.
- Never take pictures in open sunshine. That's right, if Elle
MacPherson strolls by with a tiger on a leash in front of the Canadian
Rockies, just wait until sunset :-) Unless you want your picture to
look like a real estate calendar, restrict your shooting to an hour
around sunrise, an hour around sunset, and in the deep woods the rest
of the time. If you must photograph people around noon, use an
on-camera flash to fill the shadows (this, by the way, is about the
only time on-camera flash should be used for any purpose; if
the flash is your primary light source, attach it to the camera via a
coiled cable and hold it off-camera in your free hand).
- Always carry a tripod. The bigger and heavier the better.
I like expensive
ball heads, especially the Arca Swiss (a mere $350) on top of
legs. With ISO 50 film and the hours you'll be shooting, you are
going to need that tripod. Most of my exposures are 1/4 to 4 seconds.
Have some backup little tabletop
tripods (Bogen makes one for $50 that will support a Nikon) for when
you really can't carry the big one.
- Carry a Yashica T4. So you've followed my recommendations.
You've got an 80-200/2.8 (3 lbs), tripod and ball head
(6 lbs.), and assortment of other lenses. You are barely able to
walk. You quote the famous photographer (Edward Weston?) who said "If
it is more than 500 feet from the car, it isn't photogenic." If you
don't have a point & shoot
camera with you at all times, you are going to have huge gaps in
your slide show. I carry a Yashica T4 or Minolta Freedom Explorer in
my front left pants pocket all the time. The viewfinder seems to get
fogged up when I do this, but I don't care because these things are so
cheap (less than one day of film at Katmai
- Use a modern camera. I do much of my photography with large
format equipment unchanged since the turn of the century; i.e., I
don't need a fancy computerized camera to get a correctly exposed and
focussed image. However, modern 35mm cameras are so much better than
old mechanical ones that I would never consider using anything other
than a state-of-the-art SLR in the 35mm format. Except for a few
Nikons, mechanical SLRs were never especially reliable. New cameras
give you more consistent operation (1/200th of a second will always be
1/200th of a second), really clever matrix metering when you don't
have time to think, brilliant ambient/flash metering, occasionally
useful motor drives, quicker and more reliable film handling, and a
full view of the frame for the optically-challenged (eyeglass
After my Nikons were stolen, I
switched to Canon and am not entirely pleased with the switch. My
favorite thing about Canon is the fact that with the ultrasonic
lenses, I can move AF from the shutter release to the AE-lock button
on the back of the camera. The camera focuses only when I want it to
and I can manually focus at any time. I also like the ergonomics of
the EOS-5 with vertical grip.