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A Change in Technology; 2002

Copyright Andy Richards 2002

Copyright Andy Richards 2002

During the years after I returned to shooting in earnest, I was heartened by the significant advances in color slide film technology (still the media of choice for nature photographers in the 1990’s).  We were shooting faster ISO ratings (the jump from 25 – or 64) to 200 was huge, and manufacturers were creating fine-grained, colorful versions of these films with the added advantage that they were able to be processed by almost any lab (or at home).

I continued to shoot flowers (I still do), and was impressed with the image quality I was able to produce with my D100. Copyright Andy Richards 2000

I continued to shoot flowers (I still do), and was impressed with the image quality I was able to produce with the D100

Copyright Andy Richards 2002

The “holy grail,” though, was still to be able to make a decent sized print to be published in a magazine, or matted, framed and hung on a gallery or home wall.  And for some of us who knew the potential lying in the slide, but didn’t have access to our own color dark room, results could be frustrating.  For those of us who lived in more rural communities, the mail-out option was a matter of giving your best instructions, waiting a week or longer, and often getting a result really wasn’t what you envisioned.

The fascination with birds continued and by this time, I had acquired a 300mm f2.8 lens for these kinds of images. Nikon D100; Tokina ATX 300mm f2.8 Copyright Andy Richards 2002

The fascination with birds continued and by this time, I had acquired a 300mm f2.8 lens for these kinds of images.

Nikon D100; Tokina ATX 300mm f2.8
Copyright Andy Richards 2002

Turkey Vulture Nikon D100; Nikkor 28-200 zoom Copyright Andy Richards 2002

Turkey Vulture
Nikon D100; Nikkor 28-200 zoom
Copyright Andy Richards 2002

Bard Owl Howell Nature Center Copyright Andy Richards 2002

Bard Owl
Howell Nature Center
Copyright Andy Richards 2002

 

The Kodak NC2000/2000E DSLRs retailed for $17,950

Like many other shooters, I dreamed of someday installing a color darkroom in my basement.  But the cost of the equipment was daunting–easily in the thousands of dollars.  And the learning curve in the color darkroom was significantly steeper than the B&W work I had done in college.  Ironically, it was probably best that I wasn’t yet economically ready.  I have known a number of people who later found it very difficult to sell their expensive darkroom equipment.

The Howell Nature Center rehabs mainly raptors, but does work with other animals, too. We had a chance to shoot this Opossum on my trip there in 2002. Copyright Andy Richards 2002

The Howell Nature Center rehabs mainly raptors, but does work with other animals, too. We had a chance to shoot this Opossum on my trip there in 2002.

Copyright Andy Richards 2002

By the beginning of the decade, digital cameras had been around for a while, but were not yet popular with the majority of photographers.  They came in two varieties.  Pro-level cameras and consumer “point & shoot” cameras.  The pro cameras were mostly a sort of “hybrid” with an expensive digital “back” (really more like a bottom), made by Kodak, affixed to adapted SLR bodies obtained from Canon and Nikon.  The were large, heavy, unwieldy, limited pixel coverage, and very expensive (The AP/Kodak NC2000/2000E series was introduced in 1994 and touted as the first “photojournalist” DSLR camera.  It retailed for $17,950).  Consumer point & shoot models showed up around 1994 and approached $1,000).  For most photographers (other than photojournalists) these cameras produced image files that were just too small.  Many felt that the low resolution images not only were inferior, but that they would never approach the quality of medium or large format color transparency images.  But as we approached 2000, it became clear that not only would it match, but it would someday surpass.  As we entered the “megapixel wars” between manufacturers (mostly Nikon and Canon in the early days), we began to see rising pixel resolution and falling prices.

Great Horned Owl Howell Nature Center 2/2002; Nikon Coolpix 5000 maximum physical zoom only; 100 ISO Used 3x Stair Step Interpolation on Ghowl3-1 (which was cropped from original Tiff) to upsample to 8x10 size Set Black and white points with eyedropper on defaults and gamma at 128 Sharpened at about 200 amount, 3 pixels, level 3

This Great Horned Owl image was made with a Nikon Coolpix 5000. I used a process called “stair step interpolation” to enlarge and crop the digital image file. While the image hear clearly exposes the limitations of the small P&S sensor and small digital file, I was pretty surprised about how far I could push it.

Copyright Andy Richards 2002

My first digital camera was a 3 megapixel Canon point & shoot.  I shortly traded up for a Nikon point & shoot that was more sophisticated and higher megapixel (but still only about 5).  Neither of these were ever intended to replace my SLR cameras.  It was my foray into digital.  By then, I knew it was a matter of time until an affordable digital SLR (DSLR) would come around.  For me, that happened in 2002.

I live in a largely Agricultural area and serve many clients in the Ag Industry, so it was natural that I began shooting some Agricultural subjects. It is still an area where my portfolio is surprisingly weak. Saginaw County Granary Copyright Andy Richards 2002

I live in a largely Agricultural area and serve many clients in the Ag Industry, so it was natural that I began shooting some Agricultural subjects. It is still an area where my portfolio is surprisingly weak.

Saginaw County Granary
Copyright Andy Richards 2002

My first DSLR was the Nikon D100.  By then, I was shooting the “upgrade” to the N90s, the F100 and it was perhaps the best quality camera body I had ever owned.  I had hoped that the D100 would be essentially an F100 with digital “guts.”  Not to be.  But wanting to take the plunge into digital, I traded the F100 in.  Over the years, I progressed through a number of “upgrade” DSLRs, eventually so-called “full-frame.” And then I regressed back down to carrying a Sonyrx100iv a couple years back. :-).

Saginaw County Farm Copyright Andy Richards 2002

Saginaw County Farm
Copyright Andy Richards 2002

Exposure media and mechanics remained essentially unchanged for a half-century

It is almost cliche’ to say the changeover from film to digital revolutionized the photography industry.  But SLR pentaprism cameras were introduced to the consumer the year I was born – 1957.  Over the next half-century, the mechanics and materials of the boxes changed.  The lens technology changed.   Electronics enhanced and in some cases replaced mechanics.  But the exposure method and media remained essentially unchanged.  Until digital.  Digital changed everything and from my perspective, for the better.

Tractor in the Fog Copyright Andy Richards 2002

Tractor in the Fog
Copyright Andy Richards 2002

By 2000, computers in the household were relatively common.  In most business settings, they had become ubiquitous.  I carried a Laptop Computer, and suddenly, with the advent of digital imaging, I carried my much-desired “color darkroom” in that laptop!  Even in the late 1990’s when scanning became available to consumers, I began using Photoshop to work with images.  From the day it debuted in 1988 as a graphics artist program, Photoshop was an insanely complex program.  Both the software and my ability to understand and use it were pretty rudimentary compared to where it is today.  It has — largely — become a photographer’s software.  And, at the same time, a number of other photo-editing softwares have become available and in a couple of cases pretty much go head-to-head with Photoshop.  So when in 2002, I got my hands on my first DSLR, I was off and running.  I now could go from capture to print, all in my own home with my own equipment.  That early DSLR was 6MP (contrasted with the 20MP my A7 sports today).  Yet the images were pretty amazing.

Red Tailed Hawk Nikon D100; Nikkor 28-200 Copyright Andy Richards 2002

Red Tailed Hawk
Nikon D100; Nikkor 28-200
Copyright Andy Richards 2002

What I have seen in later years, and hopefully the technical quality of the images show it, is a continual increase in image quality.  At first this was by gaining megapixels.  As technology allowed, it became about larger sensors at still affordable prices.  In my own little world, I believe I have maxed out the “necessary” MP size and now I am amazed at how technology is producing better and better images with smaller sensors (which opens the door to smaller, lighter equipment, and–perhaps more importantly–smaller and cheaper high quality optics).

Nikon D100 Copyright Andy Richards 2002

Nikon D100
Copyright Andy Richards 2002

 . . .  and perhaps more importantly, smaller and cheaper high quality optics

I saw a brief video of the Light L16 camera, a soon to be available pocket sized camera with multiple small lenses built in and will give the user the ability to control not only focal length, but depth of field, and adjust them post capture (“The L16 is a compact camera that uses multiple lens systems to shoot photos at the same time, then computationally fuses them into a DSLR-quality image“).  Technology is certainly fascinating and exciting.

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2 Responses

  1. I well remember the time when I concluded that medium format film camera systems were doomed. It was shortly after the Canon 1Ds debuted.in 2002. I was at a John Shaw seminar that was sponsored by, among other vendors, Epson. During a break in the presentation I wandered over to the table hosted by the Epson rep; he had a series of sample prints from his company’s new photo quality printer series. One of the samples was a 20×30″ print of a rose close-up. It was a terrific print (no surprise, given that it was supposed to show off what the new printers were capable of doing. I wanted to know what the source had been. I assumed a medium format film camera.

    “Medium format?” I asked.

    “No,” he said. “The Canon 1Ds.”

    The exquisite print had emanated from a camera that was on the market at the time. Granted, it was an $8000 camera, but I knew the price of comparable equipment would fall dramatically in short order. I had been in the early stages of shopping for a medium format system…probably the Pentax 67 or the Mamiya 67. At that moment, I stopped considering MF film fixed-back film systems. I knew that their days were numbered. (Sure enough, not long after this experience I was talking to a used camera dealer who told me he couldn’t give MF equipment away, let alone sell it.) In less than a year I had acquired a D100 and the Rubicon had been crossed.

    • Funny. I attended the same John Shaw Seminar in the Detroit area (Ann Arbor, I think) a few years back. A two day deal, which focused heavily on PS/LR and post-processing. I, too was impressed with quality of prints. It lead me to the purchase of my first Epson photo printer.

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