Tuesday, January 25, 2011
What Gear Would Ansel Adams Carry Today?
If Adams was using a digital camera, here are some of the essential pieces of equipment he’d have in the field
One of the main advantages of a view camera is the ability to use tilts and shifts to correct perspective, enhance perspective and control depth of field. You can get many of the same advantages with a DSLR and a tilt-shift lens. Nikon and Canon both make such lenses. Nikon calls its lenses Perspective-Control (PC) and Canon calls its lenses Tilt-Shift (TS). Other products like those from Lensbaby give you lens movements, but they’re better suited to limiting depth of field as opposed to increasing it. If you’re shooting with a Four Thirds or Micro Four Thirds camera, the Flashpoint Tilt Adapter lets you attach a lens with a different mount to get tilt control.
If you’ve ever used a view camera, you know how nice it is to compose a photograph on a large ground glass. Even if the image is upside-down and backward, it’s a different experience than squinting through a viewfinder or even a three-inch LCD. External monitors can give you that big ground glass feeling. The Marshall V-LCD50-HDMI is designed to be used in the field. Lightweight and portable, it features a bright five-inch screen. It improves on a view camera’s ground glass because its LED backlit screen actually is brighter and has better viewing angles.
Yes. We think Adams would have an iPad in his field gear if he was making photographs today. When he was actively shooting, he was known to bring all manner of chemistry into the field to give him a portable, bare-essentials darkroom so he could process film if he desired. Digital doesn’t require chemistry. Instead, a tablet like the iPad gives one a stripped-down digital darkroom. Smaller and lighter than a laptop, you can connect your camera to the iPad (with a camera connection kit) and review images on the large, vivid screen. We think Adams also would have enjoyed the ability to use some of the apps to find out where the moon would rise and set at a particular location.
Adams carried spare axles with him because the axle was an Achilles’ heel in the rough roads of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the early 20th century. For a contemporary digital landscape shooter venturing into the vast backcountry to capture the pristine scenic vistas hidden there, the Achilles’ heel is power. Having spare batteries is a must and, for any kind of extended journey, a portable solar panel/inverter system gives you the ability to keep all of your electronics charged. The GOALØ Sherpa 120 Adventure Kit fully charges in about eight hours; you can plug into it to keep all of your devices operational.
When he was shooting with film, common film speeds (expressed in ASA) that Adams used were in the realm of 25 or 50. He frequently used N+ development techniques to boost contrast and brighten the lighter areas of the frame, in part because he had limited ability to add light to a scene. Today, we can set a DSLR to ISO 800 with little to no noise, and instead of magnesium flash powder, we can use a folding reflector to effectively add some fill or we can employ a small flash or LED panel. We’re not talking about trying to light Half Dome. We’re talking about brightening smaller foreground objects to give a scene some depth.
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