“Normal Photography”…F5.6 @ 125th
June 6, 2011 § 3 Comments
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!
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!