Digital SLR Cameras
I currently use two Canon EOS 5D MKII digital single lens reflex (DSLR) cameras for my digital imaging, one for conventional (colour or black and white) images, and one converted to capture images made with infrared light,converted by Lifepixel. I distinguish the infrared camera visually though the careful application of red tape (there’s nothing worse than grabbing a camera to make an image, only to discover you have the wrong body in your hand!). Each camera has 48gb of compact flash cards dedicated to them, permitting me to make almost 100gb of images before I need to download.
From 2005-2009, I used Nikon Cameras (Nikon D70, D80, D200 and D300), in 2004-5, I briefly owned a Sigma SD10 system, and my first DSLR system, from 2003-4 was a Canon EOS 10D.
Canon 17mm f/4 T/S L lens
The Canon EF 17mm TS-E L Tilt/Shift lens is my main wide lens, both because of its incredible optical quality, and the advantages that both tilting and shifting add to the process. The major thing I have missed since I gave up working with large format cameras was the advantage of camera and lens movements. While this lens doesn’t have anywhere near the possibilities for movements that a view camera presents, it does go someway some to rectify this. While it is a manual focus lens, the potential it adds, in terms of perspective correction, depth of field controls, and creative application is unparalleled. When combined with the 1.4x EF teleconverter, the lens becomes a 24mm f/5.6 tilt/shift lens,and while it is not as high quality as a true 24mm T/S lens, it is a faction of the cost, and smaller and lighter to carry, too.
Canon 24mm f/3.5 TS-E L II Tilt/Sift Lenslens
While I use the 17mm T/S lens for many of my wide-angle images, there are times when 17mm is too wide, which is when the 24mm TS-E comes into play. Unlike the 17mm, the 24mm T/S lens takes filters (although they are 82mm, which makes things a little frustrating, to be honest.. 24mm was one of my favorite focal-lengths when I used 35mm film, but now that I have the 17mm T/S-E, this lens is most often in reserve, as opposed to on the camera.
Canon 35mm f/2
This is my gentle wide for the Canon camera. Relatively fast, and relatively inexpensive, this lens has the optical performance required to make the most of the Canon 5D Mk II. And, at 1/2 the brightness (one f/stop darker) than the 24mm f/1.4, it will still be very useful in low light, though it cost only a fraction of the wider lens.
50mm f/1.8 Canon
This is the standard lens on a full-frame DSLR, matching closely the angle of view of the human eye. I seldom use this lens, as the portrait or wide-angle lenses are more often the right lens, but as it is both light to carry, and sharp when stopped down to f/8, it is well worth having along.
Canon 85mm f/1.2 L II Lens
This is the main lens that I use on my EOS camera (the 17mm T/S is a close second). With an exceptionally large aperture, it permits shallow depth of field, and working in extremely low light, but is extremely high quality even at the largest aperture. The more I use this lens, the more in love with it I become…slow to focus, and heavy to carry, it is still an irreplaceable tool!
I also have the older 85mm f/1.8 lens, for travel and other times when either weight is an issue, or large apertures don’t matter.
Canon 100mm f/2.8 Macro
For macro photography, the 100mm is one of the sharpest macro lenses Canon makes. I previously used a Sigma 150mm f/2.8, and likely will pick this lens up as well, eventually, as I liked both the quality of the lens, and it’s construction (very well made).
Canon 135mm f/2
I found this lens quite a surprise when I added it to my collection. The truth is, I just don’t like long lenses, but I fully admit they can be useful, so this beautiful lens fills this slot in my system. Painfully sharp, this image is incredible, if a little longer than I prefer. I do find it particularly useful with portraiture, when the 85mm isn’t quite long enough. When combined with the 1.4x teleconverter, it gives me 189mm f/2.8, giving me coverage from 17mm to 189mm, between all my lenses.
This is the most recent lens added to my system; while it isn’t a lens I look to often, when you need a long lens, this one is worth reaching for.
Digital photography is very different from film photography from a work flow perspective and needs some modified practices to maximize its effectiveness. Because the images are stored on removable memory cards, to optimize results storage solutions need to be determined for the field.
To keep the image quality as high as possible, I create all my digital images in RAW file formats which permits post-processing of the images for optimum quality. I have 48gb of memory for each camera (for a total of 96gb between the two), which gives me the ability to photograph for more than a full day without having to download the images to a computer.
For longer trips, I download my images to a laptop computer after each session, and archive the unedited files to DVD to be transferred to my home computer when I am finished. Once the images have been edited and renamed, I archive them to an external hard drive system, and four DVDs (two different brands, two different DVD burners, and two file formats (original RAW and DNG)) and make low resolution reference copies that stay on my computer.
All digital images require post production to refine them into their final form. This can be as simple as basic colour and tone corrections and cropping to as complex as changing an image to black and white, selective (and global) sharpening or blurring, and the removal of distracting elements. The most complex post-processing manipulations, stitching and blending, are detailed separately.
Because I make all my digital images was RAW files (a file format that records the raw data from the camera’s sensor, without any processing), every image I make needs post processing to change the RAW data into a usable file format.
To one degree or another, this process is just an extension of the tradition of darkroom work but with more flexibility and control.The most basic variation options are pretty straight-forward, basically mirroring the options possible with traditional film, but once you get into correcting the tone and contrast of an image, it can very quickly become a debate between two equally successful but quite different images. Often the post processing of an image is as involved as the initial creation, and can help create the final feel of the image.
Probably the biggest question of digital photography is “When is the image “finished”?” More often than not, this question can only be answered subjectively, as the myriad of possibilities can overwhelm a photographer. The easiest approach to this issue is to know what you want in an image when you create it, so all through the process of editing, you are following a roadmap, with a definite destination in mind.