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Monthly Archives: February 2011

What is my photographic style?  This is a question that often arises in discussion among photographers, although it is perhaps even more common within nature photographers as they seek to better understand their own work and the motivations behind it.  It has been said that a photographer does not decide upon a style; it discovers you.  This is a topic upon which I have devoted some thought as of late.  What have I learned?

– I most enjoy nature photography when it extends my interaction with the natural environment, whether by focusing my attention, keeping my longer in the field, or showing me things I missed as I review the frames.

– I am a believer in the importance of previsualization, but have found that my passion wanes when I go out to capture shots to check off a list instead of going out to interact with the natural world and ideally returning with photographs resultant of that experience.

– I love the technology.

– As a friend and fellow photog pointed out last year, I tend to view the environment (or at least compose my shots) in a very geometric manner.

– Ultimately, my passion to observe nature with gratitude, awe, and study guides my developing style.  I do not think the awe can be ignored.

A good friend recently brought to my attention a rumor of a 16.7MP Canon body on the way to market.  What impresses me about this potential development is that the camera is stated to be full-frame.  As any regular reader of this blog has likely noticed, I tend to think a lot about matters related to image quality; I am especially intrigued by diffraction (see here and especially here for my previous relevant comments).  Diffraction seems to be a big deal these days among photographers, especially among nature photographers intent on squeezing the last once of image quality for large prints out of their small sensors.

Yet, among the numerous books I have read over the years by such luminaries as Rowell, Shaw, and Adams, I do not recall any major diatribe regarding the evils of diffraction on image quality beyond more than a side-note.  I suspect this relative absence of concern is an artifact of the difference between digital sensors and their emulsion-based predecessors.

Film emulsions based on silver halide technology featured individual light-sensitive grains in the submicron range.  Even the dye clouds around the individual grains manifested at this extremely small scale.  Contrary to the pixels of current digital camera sensors, which range from 5 micros to more than 100 microns and are separated by quite discreet boundaries susceptible to the effects of diffraction, the silver halide crystals of film benefitted from their minute size and essentially random orientation throughout the emulsion.  The result was that the effects of diffraction, which physics assures us were certainly present, were largely washed out across the subatomic interstices of the emulsion.

The difference is further complicated by the fact that the typical digital camera sensor relies upon a Bayer array to replicate via interpolation the eye’s response pattern to visual light.  Film provided three separate color-responsive layers in the emulsion.  What so intrigues me about the Sigma’s Foveon sensor is that it offers a digital analogue to this aspect of film.  Nonetheless, the Foveon sensor is still limited by the size of its pixels.

Perhaps the most intriguing possibility of relevance on the horizon is the advent of quantum dot technology.  Its application to photography has the potential to surpass the grain limit of silver halide crystals while obviating the need for a Bayer array.  Such arrays of nanocrystals might be the next major evolution to photography since the rise of the first CCD and CMOS sensors.

It should be an interesting next few years.  In the meantime, I shall continue to look toward the horizon while remaining quite satisfied with the tools already at hand.

As much as I would like to dedicate significant time to shooting on a regular basis, this is not currently realistic given my familial and professional responsibilities.  What I have instead attempted to do these past months is take advantage of fleeting winter moments by having my camera at the ready.  This has primarily materialized in my developing an increased awareness of morning sky conditions.  I might not have ready access to my own proverbial Listening Point; yet, nature often provides her visual bounty if only we wait and watch.