Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Beginner Friendly, and an Act of Kindness

There are those times when you get affirmations from God - that He exists and really does care about our affairs, although world events, both current ones and way in the past, as a whole seem to literally scream otherwise. But yesterday was one of those times. I was driving home from a medical appointment, about a two hour drive away, and I had a very strong impression that I had to stop at Moosehorn Creek to take pictures of the covered bridge and surrounding area. The thought was, these are the only pictures I will take on this return home - it has to be Moosehorn Creek. So, keeping my eyes open for that location, when I saw the sign, I pulled over. Up ahead a few hundred yards, I saw another car pulled over - I could tell it was real old, and thought it might be a Camaro. I didn't give it any more thought and started taking my pictures, but then I noticed a guy was walking slowly in my direction - I immediately could tell this must be the driver and he's in trouble. I walked ahead a bit to meet him, and he asked me if I knew of any nearby garages. I said I knew of a nearby store where we could go in to ask, and told him to hop in. We pulled up to the car he was driving first, and I soon saw it was not a Camaro, but an old Mach-1 Mustang. I also took note of the man's midwest USA accent and it turns out he was from over 4000 miles away, and was delivering this car to a location at least another 1000 miles further! Anyway, I'll say no more about the man, and where he was from and where he was headed for privacy reasons, but within less than an hour, I had him sorted with a nearby garage / salvage yard and a tow truck, and resumed my journey. He was a really nice guy, and I really hope he made it to his destination. I know that eventually somebody would've stopped to help him, but just with my strong impression to stop at that very place at that exact time, to me, was the hand of a Higher Power. For whatever reason, I was the one to help this man.

The '71 Mach-1 With Back Wheel Almost Off

Now, back to the topic - beginner friendly photography. Today, my advice is, if you can possibly find a way to get a true 35mm DSLR (assuming you wish to have digital over film), do it! Even if you have to hold out to save the extra money, do it! It's worth it - I know that now, after years of struggling with the much more affordable APS-C (24mm) size. Even if you're a beginner, hold off if you have to, and just do it! In fact, now with 35mm Sensors in their third generation, you can now buy second hand 35mm DSLR's for the same price as brand new 24mm DSLR's - I'm telling you - do it this way if you have to!

Why? Is it really that much better? YES!!! It is better because a 35mm sensor has more than triple the surface area than a 24mm (APS-C) sized. That "crop-factor" ratio of 1.5X or 1.6X is misleading - that's what you get when you simply scale the sensor size in relationship to the lenses used in each system. But when you do the real math, and calculate the area for each sensor size, it turns out that a 35mm sensor has an area of 864 square mm, and Canon's ASP-C is only 1/3 that size, at 284 square mm. The "full-frame" sensor is 3X better at catching light - this means a whole lot when it comes to getting truly great pictures. Light capture is the Number-1 factor I look for - if I see strongly interesting light reflections, that is what makes me stop to take a picture.

In the following examples, I knew just from looking at the JPEG's straight from the camera that the EOS 5D Classic is one helluva camera. But when I started working with the RAW file output to get an even better looking picture, once again, this camera was simply blowing my mind! With all of my previous 24mm sized Canon DSLR's, I couldn't get very far in my post-processing of RAW files without a lot of noise beginning to appear, regardless of what ISO I was using - I would even get noise showing up with 100 ISO in some cases. And if it wasn't noise, it would be some other problem, usually in relation to emphasizing highlights over shadows - to get strongly stated highlights, I would end up with literal mud in the shadow regions. Now, with RAW output from the 5D Classic, it seems like I can do anything I want, with no mud and no noise - it's fantastic!

Like I said above, the JPEG's are just fine from this camera - the best I've ever seen by far, and so with post-processing, I didn't want to stray too far from what was already very good. But once I got into "mining the data" of the camera's RAW output, I couldn't believe my eyes - I was able to take the range of light way further than my own sensibilities would allow - in other words, from one shot, I could've made things look like HDR if I'd wanted to, but you should know me better than that by now! All I ever want to do is emphasize the interesting light capture that made me sit up and take notice in the first place, and I finally have a digital camera (note - film just does this naturally) that will do that without having to make other compromises and create struggles in my workflow.

Processed RAW File

JPEG Straight From Camera


Processed RAW File

JPEG Straight From Camera


Processed RAW File

JPEG Straight From Camera



Processed RAW File

This last one is a crop from the only Moosehorn Creek picture I got to take before being called into service as a Good Samaritan. I just wanted to include it here to show off how great the Black and White conversions look from the 5D Classic's RAW output - please don't criticize the composition.

Full-frame versus APS-C? That's just marketing talk. In my mind, eventually full-frame 35mm has got to become the new standard, and be made a lot more affordable. Meanwhile, I can't emphasize it strongly enough - it's a no-brainer. Just buy the full-frame, and don't ask any more questions! You'll never regret it.

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