So day three of my five days with the D800E was kind of a bust. The weather was just plain blah, and I failed to find any portrait subjects before the light faded.
Then, at the Portrait Society opening, the Nikon and I fizzled.
Our friend John Camp was almost prescient when he wrote, in a response to the "Haptics" post:
As a D3 shooter, I never thought the D800 felt particularly big. I thought it was solid. Then today, for reasons I don't feel like explaining, but which I swear to God are totally legitimate, I went into a mall in Albuquerque and shot a photo of a bigger-than-lifesize photo of a Victoria's Secret model, dressed in diminutive underwear. (Apparently the poor girl can't afford full-sized underwear.) The camera felt like it was the size of a cannon; I felt like one of the world's leading perverts, just waiting for a mall cop to tap me on the shoulder and ask, "Exactly what are we doing here?" I took a half-dozen shots with the 85mm ƒ/1.8G, and fled. So, I'd like to suggest than in addition to the purely scientific measure of camera size, in ounces or grams, there is also a subjective size, which becomes larger under some circumstances.
I found out about that tonight. At the opening, my dragoon pistol turned into a blunderbuss. I felt like a showoff—conspicuous—and the focus-confirmation light kept zapping potential subjects like a laser cat. Now, I'm sure Thom Hogan knows the secret code to turn that bleedin' beacon off, but I don't, yet. I swear, one guy actually jumped when the light hit him. Another looked up like startled prey, saw me, and reared back like a spooked horse. And to be fair, I didn't have the heart for it tonight. Sometimes I just don't have the moxie to stick cameras in strangers' faces. I'm no Bruce Gilden. I work best when I have permission.
Continuing on my recent theme...this is the best picture I took tonight. I must be kind of a lonely guy; even I can see that this is a pretty lonely picture. I mean, jeez.
When I was taking this (ISO 1600, ƒ/3.2, 1/40th, handheld of course), a stranger came up to me on the street corner and said, "Are you really getting what you want there?" Clearly, he was dubious. We had an amicable little chat. Turned out he shoots with a Nikon F, of all things (youngish guy, too), and has been considering getting into digital.
Getting what I want, though? Hoo baby. Wish he could see this. In the original fullsized file, which is roughly two and a half times as wide as my 27" iMac screen, you can see a painting hanging on the wall inside the lighted window, and it's actually possible to discern that the bricks are sharper where I focused—near the lit window—than they are at the leading corner of the building. Even though it's still much more than adequately sharp there. Freakin' amazing.
If this isn't cheating, it probably ought to be.
P.S. I do admit that this would be sharper if I put the camera on a tripod and stopped down more. But for the size print I want to make, it will be plenty sharp.
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A book of interest today:
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Kwasi: "The option to turn off the AF assist has been mentioned. I would add that there's not much loss in turning it off—the D800 will accurately focus in not much more than moonlight, provided there's some texture/contrast in the subject :) .
"And I completely agree on the 'contextual size' thing—it does provoke much more of a reaction than a little compact does—which is why I'm happy to see the likes of the RX1 being brought to market. That said, a lot of that comes from the photographer as well. I've noticed that going from smaller to bigger I feel more conspicuous for a while before returning to my default level, and the converse for going from bigger to smaller. Irrational, but funny."
Steve Jacob: "It is a phenomenon that deserves a column of its own. Why is it when I point my X-pro1/60mm lens at people they smile or happily ignore me but when I did the same with a D700/85mm they scowl or duck? The X-pro1 is not a small camera but it just isn't intimidating. Should we call this the paparazzi effect? Is there something about a large DSLR in the hands of a middle aged man that has unwanted associations with intrusiveness or voyeurism? Or is it simply that the size and styling of the beast that creates a separation between photographer and subject?"
Mike replies: It also has to do with putting a camera up to your face, as opposed to looking down at it (or looking at the LCD). The OM-D would have been a much better tool for me last night—small and paltry-looking, and I would have flipped the viewing screen upward and used it mini-Rollei style. I'll bet I could have taken pics to my heart's content without bothering a soul, including me. But hey, when you have a limited time to try a new camera you do have to force things a bit.
MJFerron: "It's a tradeoff Mike. You feel like a show-off or you can go the other route and feel like a low-level weenie using a baby Micro 4/3 camera. :-) Take your pick!"