shooting in the digital age
January 14, 2004 4:09 PM   Subscribe

Background on the Nikon D1X used for the photoshoot. The latest/greatest is the Nikon D2H which includes WiFi so shots can be sent through a WiFi-enabled PDA/Cell near-real-time to the newsdesk.
posted by stbalbach at 4:50 PM on January 14, 2004

He says the issue with the digital was that he couldn't do multiple exposures. It doesn't seem impossible technically. Does the camera just not support it?
posted by smackfu at 5:19 PM on January 14, 2004

Not many digital cameras support multiple exposures, even digital SLRs — the Fuji S2 Pro is one of the few. (That said, it's fairly easy to bring it multiple shots into Photoshop and combine them together, not sure why McNally didn't want to do that).
posted by brool at 5:54 PM on January 14, 2004

Another limitation of digital is exposures longer than 30 seconds. Too much noise. Some images are still better captured on film...
posted by ig at 7:58 PM on January 14, 2004

Thanks for this link, starscream. Never would have seen it otherwise. I love reading technical (but not too technical) stuff like this about photography.
posted by LeLiLo at 9:03 PM on January 14, 2004

great link, thanks. Our newsroom is all-digital now, and although we suffer in a few cases (like the multiple exposure above) the benefits far outweigh the costs.

Except for one thing: no negs. We have cupboards and cupboards of negatives from our pre-digital days, and they prove handy when you need to find someone insignificant then, famous now. But with digital we only keep and archive the shots that seem important at the time. A picture of Bill Clinton hugging some no-name intern would be binned, for instance, and when it turns out she was Monica Lewinsky, we have no negs to go to. That's the big pisser.
posted by bonaldi at 6:01 AM on January 15, 2004

bonali, you raise possibly the most significant issue with digital photography. The consequences for this, historically, are pretty large.

How much do we learn about our past: culture, dress, people; from ancient negatives?

The photographs of Marilyn Monroe, that weren't published at the time, for example: how valuable are they to historians and others interested in her now?

It's an immense argument against using digital photography at all (though I admit it still appeals to me as a user). I'm not sure how it could be resolved.
posted by Blue Stone at 7:10 AM on January 15, 2004

Can the problem not be resolved by keeping them stored electronically? How do the costs likely to vary against long-term storage of negatives?
posted by biffa at 7:28 AM on January 15, 2004

It's an immense argument against using digital photography at all (though I admit it still appeals to me as a user). I'm not sure how it could be resolved.

What biffa said - digital images are far easier to store than negatives, I don't see it as any kind of argument against using digital photography, it's just an argument for better archival practices. I find it weird that news organizations would delete pictures like that instead of just archiving them. Heck, I hardly ever delete any of my own pictures, just in case something that wasn't what I was going for at the time I shot it turns out to be exactly what I'm looking for at a different time.
posted by biscotti at 8:37 AM on January 15, 2004

But with digital we only keep and archive the shots that seem important at the time

Why? That seems a transparently self-defeating thing to do. It's not like the storage costs of digital pictures as losslessly-compressed .TIFs on DVD-R could be any more than those of storing negatives.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:46 AM on January 15, 2004

The costs of storing negatives: A £1 binder and a shelf in a nice dry room that we also keep some clothes in. Cheap-o

We gather, on the other hand, gigabytes of digital images a day. Our archive is live and integrated with the workflow and is already at the straining points of both software and hardware because we do try to store as much as is possible.

An offline digital archive is of less use than the negative one because of logistics. Finding a negative from a shoot is pretty easy. Finding that same image from a sea of images on a disk to be found from a sea of disks? Non trivial. It would take a full-time archivist to correctly tag and catalogue the images as the disks were made and my company's just too damn cheap.

With negatives it was a no-brainer, with digital they just don't care enough.
posted by bonaldi at 9:36 AM on January 15, 2004

I've gone all digital, but it does concern me. The great thing is that as a family we look through the digital shots very often - it's so easy to browse thru iphoto. So we use them more now - but in the long term? Will my grandchildren be able to rummage through these shots the way that we still occasionally do with my grandparents'?
posted by Raindog at 10:00 AM on January 15, 2004

Well, it's your company's business, bonaldi, but it still seems to me that the problem is that your company isn't engaging in very long-term thinking, not anything inherent to digital photography.

It seems simple enough to just dump a shoot onto DVD or CD, ignoring space wastage because media are dirt cheap, write "CLINTON APPEARANCE 24/2/95" on it, put it into a binder in sequence with discs from 23/2/95 and 26/2/95, and write "2/95" on the binder at the end of the month.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:06 AM on January 15, 2004

It is kind of amazing when you think about the storage capacity of a binder full of negatives (or slides). My sheets hold 35 negatives. The binder can probably hold 100 pages of them. A good quality lossless image is probably 20 megabytes (a guess). So that crappy binder holds around 70 GB of data.
posted by smackfu at 11:09 AM on January 15, 2004

What's the longevity of CD/DVD stored data these days, compared to film negatives?
posted by Blue Stone at 12:33 PM on January 15, 2004

I doubt we have any really accurate knowledge of how long cd/dvd's last. You'd want to copy them onto new media every few years if you were paranoid.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:45 PM on January 15, 2004

We're down to around 60 cents for a gigabyte of hard drive storage. I'd seriously start considering a large highly redundant RAID array, and just replace disks as they die. Keeps the data online too.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 3:45 PM on January 15, 2004

Leica still rules

classic Leica of course, I'm not talking about the Mitsubishi digital stuff

posted by matteo at 3:50 PM on January 15, 2004

ROU_Xenophobe: You're right, that is pretty simple. In theory, digital photography shouldn't make a difference, but it does.

It makes a difference because images can go straight from the photographers to the page, with practically no intermediate steps. That gets the paper on the streets, and that is ALL a newspaper cares about. With film, however, there are by-products. Before images can get from smudger to page they have to become negatives and be classified. It's easy enough to chuck that byproduct in a cupboard without adding any time or work to busy people.

To do the same thing digitally would take time, effort and money. Yes, in the long run it would be wise to have someone burning happily away. But that requires wise leadership, something newspapers notoriously lack. With film, they didn't really have a choice. With digital, they do. And expediency wins the day -- especially when Reuters can probably provide the Monica Lewinsky shot for a £30 download when the time comes.

What nobody - and this is industry-wide, by the way, not just my set of chumps - is realising is that Reuters gets those pics that we'll all relies upon from its own archives. And I hear they're not much better at keeping Every Frame Every Roll in the digital age.

On preview: Yes, inpHilltr8r, storage is cheap. But time and software aren't. Who is going to caption all those gigabytes of information so they can be found later? What software is going to index it? Can it handle three terabytes of image database and still cost the same as 50 £1 binders and a shelf? Cos if it can't and doesn't, it won't be bought.
posted by bonaldi at 3:57 PM on January 15, 2004

Another limitation of digital is exposures longer than 30 seconds. Too much noise. Some images are still better captured on film.

Um, are you joking? Have you seen the amazing (as in, jaw-dropping) long-exposure capabilities of the CMOS-powered Canon EOS line? This is a rather boring, but nonetheless incredible 4 minute shot from the review of the EOS D60. Turn the night into day.

As for multiple exposures -- why bother? If you're dealing with digital images, just combine them digitally. It'd take all of 10 seconds in Photoshop, and you'll have far more control than the in-body DE characteristics of traditional film.

Another great use for digital is that you can virtually eliminate your neutral density filter collection. Just take two shots of a scene (1 metered for the dark, 1 metered for the light) then combine them digitally and get a photograph that has almost twice the dynamic range of film. Plus, as you're only adding or subtracting light from the scenes, it's not all distributed over the horizontal, which means no more obvious lines where the ND filter kicks in. This is a potentially huge advantage that many people overlook (well, the ones that haven't read Adam's The Negative).
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:54 AM on January 16, 2004

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