“Normal Photography”…F5.6 @ 125th

June 6, 2011 § 3 Comments

Bryce 1 "Right Out Of The Camera"


Back in 1972, I was going on a “road-trip” with two of my friends.  We were going to visit a lot of national parks and camp out or live “out of the car” if need be.  Anyhow, I decided to shoot pictures of our trip.  My father had an older Sears rangefinder camera that he gave me to use.  It was pretty cheap, but it had a Zeiss lens.  I didn’t know it at the time, but Zeiss had the finest optics around.  My father didn’t know much about cameras, so I asked my cousin, who I thought knew something about cameras, what all of these numbers meant.  He said that the numbers on the lens were called “F-Stops”, and the numbers on the camera body were called “shutter speeds”.  His next bit of advice was priceless!…”F5.6 is a normal F-Stop, and 125th was a normal shutter speed, so if you want normal pictures, leave the camera set at F5.6 @ 125th of a second”.  Hey, that was good enough for me, so with that bit of advice, I travelled around the country shooting everything at those settings…ALL SUMMER LONG!  We were in Redwood National Park with their 300′ high trees blocking out almost all of the sunlight, and I was at F5.6@125th.  I photographed my friends clowning around the sand dunes in the Mojave Desert National Monument…yes still at F5.6 @ 125th.  When I got home, after two months of “road-tripping” I couldn’t wait to run my film to the lab.  When I received the finished slides, I couldn’t wait to check out all of my images.  I could trace my route by looking at the first slide of each box.  I put them in order and proceeded to look at all of my slides from the trip.  Sure enough, when I got to the Redwood images, they were as black as coal, and when I got to the Mojave shots, they were so washed out that I had to touch the film to make sure I didn’t have an empty cardboard holder.  So many of my shots ranged from totally useless to really bad.  I can still hear my mother saying “that’s not so bad, you can make out some of the trees”(God bless you mom!).  I did wind up with some shots that were usable to almost perfect…I hit Bryce Canyon National Park on a perfect 5.6 @125th day!  My Canyonland shots were close, and with today’s ability to make corrections in Photoshop…well, you can see the difference for yourself.  Both my “failures” and my “successes” served a purpose.  The “failures” made me want to learn the technical aspects of photography, and the “successes” inspired me to get out there and shoot!


Bryce 1 "Photoshopped"


Bryce 2 "Out Of The Camera"


Bryce 2 "Photoshopped"


Canyonlands 1 "Out Of The Camera"


Canyonlands 1 "Photoshopped"


Canyonlands 2 "Out Of The Camera"


Canyonlands 2 "Photoshopped"


Here’s an admission on my part.  Sometimes I look at some of the shots such as the Bryce shots posted here, and I waver between the “Out Of The Camera” and the “Photoshopped” ones as to which I like best.  At least now when I shoot, I use Photoshop to enhance an image rather than to save my ass!


§ 3 Responses to “Normal Photography”…F5.6 @ 125th

  • Great article Jon. A fun story and worthy set of comparisons!

  • Beautiful images! Love the animals and your post production work. Your story about F5.6/125 made me laugh! My husband and I started shooting film about that same time. I thought if my camera meter was smack dab in the middle, I would get a perfectly exposed image everytime and didn’t take into account the direction of the light. And just like you, I had a lot of over and underexposed images. Thanks for sharing!

  • pabloconrad says:

    Really nice write up Jon.

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