One of my 2012 goals is to extricate myself from the web of community theater photography arrangements I’ve fallen into over the past few years. I enjoy the challenge, and the people, and the challenging people, but my attention is needed elsewhere.
While contemplating a future where fewer than 80% of shots might occur at the limit of my camera’s ISO sensitivity, I decided to compare some images from my first theater shoot with a few from my most recent session.
My first theater shoot was Nordhoff High School’s 2006 production of Oklahoma, in which my son played Curly. I used a six megapixel Nikon D70 and my long-in-the-tooth but much beloved Nikon 80-200 f/2.8 lens. I bought the D70 in 2004 because it was the first “affordable” camera body that worked with all of my old lenses. A couple of years after I got it, I started upgrading lenses. And then I started the camera body upgrade path as well, moving to a D200, then a D300 for several years, and now the 16 megapixel D7000. How much has this investment in better lenses and bodies improved my theater photography? A lot less than I thought.
The best images from the D70 with 80-200 lens are surely as good as any from the D7000 with the 70-200 f/2.8 lens. The main difference is the ease of capture and the keeper ratio, especially in low light. I get more good images with less effort now, but even that improvement may result from experience as much as from better equipment. I also spend a LOT LESS TIME post-processing, and that too may be the benefit of experience, since I’m more attuned to the lighting idiosyncrasies of specific theaters, and I’m less likely to waste time on a marginal image.
As long as I’m being ruefully nostalgic, I may as well note that all of my old lenses focused perfectly with that original D70, but each upgrade of camera and lens required more fine-tuning of the gear and my technique. I now second-guess myself continuously in the field, questioning the sharpness and focus accuracy of every image. Here’s a good tip to remember: a higher resolution camera reveals your errors in greater detail.
Worst of all, I look at the pictures from five years ago and think they look better than what I’ve been doing recently. As they would say on Battlestar Galactica, that’s a mindfrak.
In the meantime, I see all my friends giddily posting blurry, ill-exposed, color-shifted, oddly cropped, YET WONDERFULLY EVOCATIVE cell phone pictures on Facebook.
And so I am hitchhiking to Byzantium, or something like that, to make photos for myself for a while and see if there’s any there there. And to ponder what the hell I’m doing with all this gear.