Snow Goose In-Flight - Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, NM
Re-printed from December 2002 - while some of the technical data is out of date, the content/philosophy isn’t.
If you've ever shot next to a photographer that makes his living shooting film, the first thing you'll notice is he shoots a lot. You may be aiming the same direction has he and firing your one or two shots but right next to you the staccato of his camera is still shooting. Buuurap! Buuurap! Frame after frame is shot and you're left wondering "What's he shooting so much for?" In the time you shot one or two images, he may have fired off 10 to 20. Why is he doing that? He's maximizing his chances on getting the "shot". He's using simple economics to justify his technique. I wonder about these guys, "when does indiscriminate shooting end and artistic choice begin?" We'll find out.
If you're new to photography, you may think 10 to 20 rolls sufficient for a big five day trip. I know many photographers that shoot at least 10 times that on a similar trip. The reason is quite simple. If you invest so much on a photo excursion, the costs of film and processing begins to pale in comparison. Add to that, if you always shot images that mostly looked awesome but could've used a few more for variety, you'd think "why didn't I get that shot the first time I was there?" "If only I shot more!"
Let's add some more evidence. My recent trip to Jasper NP cost as follows:
Air Travel - $600
8 nights lodging - $640
8 days renting a SUV - $450
9 days of food - $450
Total - $2240 If you only shot a single roll of film, you'd definitely have a lot invested in those few images. Clearly the simple math says the cost of each image diminishes when you shoot more. That's easy for anyone to understand and that's the main argument most pro's use to shoot so much.
For action photography this kind of mathematics becomes more convincing. When the action is moving and the situation is changing a lot, it makes sense to take on the philosophy "shoot lots, edit later". Just because our reflex's may be slow--it's a human problem, not necessarily an critique of any person in particular--shooting lots will definitely improve you chances for capturing that special expression, that special moment. I think this is the primary reason for the huge rise of auto-winders and fast cameras. The next time you're watching a football game checkout the sidelines. Beyond the cheerleaders try to see what the pro's are shooting with on the sidelines. More often than not, they're using Nikon's F5 and Canon's 1v. Those guys are taking full advantage of their camera's 8 to 10 frames per second every time a play comes toward their direction. They're paid to make the shot at these cultural events and most pros figured long ago speed is everything. That means mashing the trigger and mashing it lots. The hope is somewhere in all that film will be something worthy to be published. Competition is difficult and getting "the image" is one way to stay a head of the competition.
I like to call this style of shooting as "Machine Gun Photography". This style becomes less about getting the image through guile and cunning and more about placing lead--this is the type of metal bullets are made of--on the target. Those that painstakingly setup their 8x10 view cameras are looking sideways at those high tech film burning marvels. They're saying shooting at eight frames a second is more about chance then creating an image with painstaking application of photography skill and theory.
While I don't believe this last thought entirely they do have a point. To me, the goal for all photographers should be to create the image as well as possible in-camera. It's the difference that makes us photographers instead of media manipulators. If that's the goal then editing skills shouldn't be a pre-requisite to good photography. You should be able to recognize a situation, predict it's potential for making images, analyze the environment, and create something out of nothing. It's a painful, exacting process that requires lots of experience and originality to properly accomplish.
When I bought my first digital camera last year, my image requirements were modest. I mostly wanted to go digital to improve my throughput for web applications and produce a few prints up to 10x15 inches. I knew the D1h could meet those needs. I wasn't about to produce billboard sized prints and I thought the extra pixels of the Nikon D1x would slow down my technique. Note, I was an avid user of the Nikon F5 at the time and fully used its speed capabilities. Not so much for it's tremendous ability to spend film but more for its quick response. My technique was to track a subject. As it arrived in shooting position, I'd fire three images in quick succession. Usually the second or third shot was what I wanted. I thought the D1h's 5 fps would be close enough to match my F5. I knew the D1x's 3 fps wasn't going to be close. I went with the higher speed camera to increase my chances at getting the image just like those pro photographers I mentioned earlier.
After all that, I've determined I really didn't need the speed in the end. After shooting with the camera a year and watching others with their 8 fps equipment, I've scientifically determined at Sulu Labs here in Mojave Ca--I'm kidding about the science stuff by the way--there's a world of difference between 5 and 8 fps. They really aren't in the same neighborhood and should be considered in the same breath. As a result, my 8fps technique really didn't serve me with my D1h which forced me to slowly transformed to shooting slower. Fire a frame, see something develop, shoot another.
CalendarInFlightRaw Fine Tuning 1.0 to 1.1Snow GooseCalendar 05