Saturday, December 20, 2008

Woe-be-gone the bad days

For every success story a photographer has, he or she probably has just as many failures or embarrassments.

Like the time I took pictures at a property assessment protest rally in downtown Indianapolis and brought along two cameras -- one equipped with a standard walk-around lens and the other, a telephoto lens to handle close-ups. I viewed this as an ideal chance to satisfy two class assignments -- a news coverage photo assignment in my correspondence course through the New York Institute of Photography, and a need for a multiframe photo essay for my Advanced Photography class in the Continuing Education Program at IUPUI.

I woke up late that morning, so I had to rush to pull together my gear, head out the door and drive downtown. The fact that I rushed should have sent out Hitchcockian warning signals of what was to come, but it didn't.

It wasn't until I got there that I realized I'd brought only one battery (I have four, one for each camera and two backups). Three of the batteries must have gotten separated from my camera bags (probably from needing a recharge) and not returned, and I hadn't noticed or thought to take inventory before heading out the door. Luckily, I did have the one battery, and it appeared to be fully charged, so I spent the whole shoot swapping out the battery from camera body to camera body to take my pictures, but still feeling a bit uneasy about my sloppiness while pulling together my gear.

I was relatively satisfied with my images, and I dutifully turned in my assignments. The NYIP needed prints, and I submitted them; the IUPUI class teacher wanted the images in jpeg files that he could compile for a slide show in front of the class, so I emailed those to him. So on the day my Advanced Photography class met to look at everyone's essays, the teacher pulled up my photos on the projector and asked me why I had shot some of my frames -- on a day of bright sunshine -- using an ISO of 1600 (a setting used rarely, and then only in extremely low-light conditions).

I cringed and felt that familiar tinge of red-faced embarrassment. In a very quick flash, four things became readily apparent.

1) The teacher was one of those who pulled up the "Properties" data of each jpeg image to check out such things as the image's date, the identity of the camera and lens used, the f/stop and shutter speed settings, whether flash was used, and, of course, the ISO.

2) I hadn't checked that ISO setting on the camera before taking my rally pictures. I really did know better, and if had checked, I would never have used 1600 because that setting would compromise the image quality by introducing a lot of grain, or noise as it's called in the digital realm.

3) The 1600, I then recalled, was what I'd last used with that camera. It was for an indoor low-light family outing.

4) Finally, it also explained a nagging question I encountered, but hadn't bothered to explore, on the day of the shoot: Why was the Program mode on my camera allowing me to shoot at such fast shutter speeds? I'd recalled seeing the numbers "1/2000" and "1/5000" flash on the LCD, which was astounding for my telephoto lens, and I just didn't take the time to investigate it then because I was already freaking about the missing battery and wanted everything else to go smoothly.

My brain had crunched all of that information in the nanoseconds after the teacher had posed his question. I decided to respond as succinctly and face-savingly as possible. "That was an error," I mumbled ... or maybe it was, "That was an oversight." I was prepared to spill the gory details if he chose to lob me some follow-up questions, but I was sincerely hoping he wouldn't. To me, in my humiliated state, I was already viewing this as unwanted drama, akin to the Arlo Guthrie Alice's Restaurant/Thanksgiving Day Mass-a-cree.

Mercifully, the teacher moved on, making no further issue of it; I think he was satisfied that he had made his point -- and had let us all know he checked that kind of stuff.

No comments:

Post a Comment