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My Old Camera - Day 5

The F-707 is not a D200

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THIS PAGE: Shark Boy

Jewelry Collection

Tekke Turkoman Jewelry Collection   1/3 @ f/4  iso100
Tripod  Full Manual Exposure
Ambient Gallery Light and extensive post production

For full information on any of the objet d'art on this page, visit
Joel Cooner gallery online
or contact Joel at the numbers on his site.

Monday February 27: I didn't use my new camera today. At all.

Instead, I went to work, as I often do, at Joel Cooner Gallery, where I'm the photog and web guy. I was mostly photog today, shooting Malaysian shields, African masks, a little club with a carved face handle, a Japanese Tiger scroll and a collection of Tekke Turkoman jewelry — the usual mix.

I didn't bring my new camera for a lot of reasons. Starting with I still think of that big lunk as precious. Too precious, so far, to bang around in my car going anywhere but the lake. Another, more practical reason is that fabulous as it is, the D200 is not a studio camera, although calling my setup at Joel's a studio may be stretching definitions.

I usually set up in the back showroom, where a large (6-feet diameter) waist-high glass top table intrudes from my right, between me and my camera and whatever I'm shooting. A wall of cabinets encroaches from the left, limiting placement of the second reflector light.

Around the riser I use are other objects, some of which move, some don't. There used to be a shield, which I'd carefully unhang, lean in the corner, then hang back up after the shoot. It's since been replaced with larger, heavier objects.

cane handle - photo by J R Compton

Small Wood Club   1/4 @ f/4 iso100  tripod   ceiling light with bulb fill

If an object cannot or should not be moved, I set up lights in the gallery, using whatever I can (ladders, couches, the floor, etc.) to get the angle I want. If its front surface is not reflective, I might use on-camera flash (when there's no other way), but I often fill light in where it needs be with a white foam, packing material reflector. Lately, I've learned I can use flash on flat work framed behind glass, if I shoot from an angle, then square it up in Photoshop later, although remembering the aspect ration is sometimes a challenge.

Nice thing about shooting in Joel Cooner Gallery, is I can always check color, shape, texture, etc. directly from the piece itself, instead of relying on my memory of it, as I must do most most other places I shoot art. After one big error in that regard, I now shoot straight on, too. Not for content, just for shape. Waste a frame, save a shape.

I broke the main light the day after Joel bought it, several years ago. It's been dangling by some wire I tied it to the top of the pole with ever since.

I didn't even want to mess with that today. I've been using the gallery's ceiling lights, pointed wherever Joel last left them. He has a flair for dramatic light, and he usually places a strongly visual and important object on "my" riser. So there's plenty of light from above. Today I only added a soft fill.

I prefer ordinary household bulbs, about 100 watts, because brighter bulbs melt down and heat up too much, and the 707, which is almost always on a tripod, will adjust to any length exposure I need (like the D200, up to 30 seconds). Unless I really need more depth of field, I set the aperture at f/4, that lens' optimum f/stop (most lenses do best stopped down two stops).

The Nikon camera does not tilt. Well, it tilts, but its eye-only viewfinder tilts with it, seesawing up and down. The 707 lets me angle up or down on shots, so I can see what I'm shooting on its bright but tiny, 1.8-inch live monitor.

No way I could max out the height of the tripod, as I sometimes must, point the D200 down, and still get my eyeball close enough to the viewfinder to see what's in front of my lens. That giant 2.5-inch monitor on its back is just that. A monitor. Of what I have already shot. It's not live view.

I wish it were. It'd sure be handy if that were an option. I've noticed on digicam sites in the last week or so that several new (not yet available) cameras will offer that option. But they're not the Nikon D200.


Tilting the 707

images of the swiveling (tilting) F707 purloined from Steve's Digital Camera site

My Sony F707 has a swiveling body. With the camera flat on the tripod, the body/monitor end tilts up about 80 degrees and down about 45 degrees. That's a lot of flexibility built into a camera. Many more recent Prosumer cameras have articulating live-view monitors that swing, tilt and twist, so one could see their own self-portrait. But not my new Nikon. The D200 is built for action, not for a static studio setup.

I'm frankly amazed that a camera that costs nearly two thousand dollars won't let me use it easily in a studio setup. But it doesn't

Most of my shots at the gallery today were at objects on the wall. Only two in "my studio." Then Joel asked me to shoot the jewelry collection on the glass-top table in the sitting area up front. It sounded easier than it turned out to be.

Clicking through the long series of resulting images looks like a slow action animation. With each click, one or another piece of jewelry jumps, twists or straightens. It's comical. A stop action video of me lining everything up from behind the big pots behind the couch, then circling the table to nudge something or adjust the foam reflector balanced on the edge of the table, then back to my titled 707 and go click, again and again more than two dozen times, might be even funnier.

Eventually, after 26 what turned out to be prelim shots, I got everything just where I thought I wanted them, the reflector right, the background — oh, the hell with the background, that's what Photoshop is for. And I shot the photo at the top of this page.

I wish the fourth piece in from the right leaned a little bit the other way, the bracelet on the left were about another inch to the left, and some of the pieces still aren't as bright as I'd like, but the whole shoot today was just for JPEGs to send to Joel's clients and maybe eventual use online, so great resolution and perfect composition weren't that important. The shoot should have been easier. It should have been quicker. But the reason some of my photos turn out so good is that I'm obsessed with nearly all of them.

I didn't use any lights on the jewelry shoot. Only the tungston lights in the gallery ceiling and a bit of daylight filtered through a nearby window (meaning I had to get rid of bright bits of blue on the right sides of the bracelets). That the jewelry sparkles and glows from apparent darkness is mostly due to diligent use of Photoshop.

I didn't put that much time in the one I gave Joel at the end of the working day today, because I had to work up a bunch of Malaysian shields, too. But I spent a couple hours masking The Jewelry Collection to show you.

Shark Boy photo by J R Compton. Copyright 2006 by Joel Cooner Gallery. All Rights Reserved.

Shark Boy   1/2 @ f/4  iso100 ceiling light with bulb fill

This is today's other "studio shot." I usually make up easily remembered, sometimes ironic and generally humorous names for the pieces I shoot for the gallery, then Joel changes them to their proper titles later. But this one he already had a name for. He called it "Shark Boy."

It's a full-face mask from I don't know where or when or made by who, and it would make a nice print up to Super A3 size (13 x 19 inches), and I may get permission to use it to do just that, it would sure look good on the wall of a gallery or art center — simple, straight-forward but really weird in several dimensions, especially that nose.

I'm sure as this journal goes on (and on), I'll realize other features the F707 has that the D200 hasn't, and there's already ample evidence of a mob of versa visas. But the 707 is and has been a marvelous and capable little camera (I'm going to have to get Anna to shoot the two cameras side by side; the size difference is staggering.) that I'll still use for specific purpose shooting, from time to time.

[All shots taken with the Sony F707 with a Zeiss Vario Sonnar 9.7-48.5 f/2-2.5 AF lens (equivalent to 38-120mm on a 35mm camera).]