Paul Grayson | The Presidential Inauguration and the Wichita Lineman

The Presidential Inauguration and the Wichita Lineman

February 01, 2013  •  Leave a Comment



Welcome to my Blog 

I participated in the American Presidential Inaugural, although I did so from Wichita, Kansas, since my invitation to Washington appears to have been lost in the post. Now safely returned to my nest in Paris, I inaugurate this blog in the excitement and expectation of discovering photographic insights that have been heretofore lurking in my subconscious, absent the key of blog inspiration to extract them from my brain and my spirit. I hope to share both my passion for this amazing, newly digitized photographic world and the spiritual joy that it provides, being a window on that most wondrous of works of plastic art - the universe.


Technique explanation

To launch this exercise, I chose to discuss the capture of an image that anchors me in Wichita and represented a shooting challenge. Do you remember the song "The Wichita Lineman" by Glen Cambell? well this is an image of one of them. It was "grabbed" from the passenger seat of a car traveling at 40 MPH, through the dirty windscreen. Here is the metadata :

Device: Nikon D800
Lens: VR 70-200mm f/2.8G
Focal Length: 200mm
Focus Mode: AF-S
AF-Area Mode: Single
Aperture: f/9
Shutter Speed: 1/2500s
Exposure Mode: Shutter Priority
Exposure Comp.: 0EV
Metering: Center-Weighted
ISO Sensitivity: ISO 800
I never leave home without a DSLR, which requires me to set a complex instrument according to the environment in which I hope to capture images and to change those settings as circumstances require during the day. In this case,  that environment was dominated by speed and distance, so my lens of choice was the 70-200mm vibration reduction (VR) zoom. In that regard, from the above metadata you may have noted my first mistake i.e. I left VR active, when the shutter speed was above 1/500. VR is optimal only below that speed or thereabouts for most  equipment and leaving it active may actually have deteriorated the acuity of the captured image. That said, I took other measures to make the shot possible.
These were, firstly setting the shooting method to Speed Priority and setting a high speed of 1/2500s. Although it was  was a bright and cloud-free early Winter's day, I set ISO relatively high at 800 ISO, which still resulted in a very useful aperture of f9. Given this hierarchy of setting choices, I would not have cared if the aperture had fallen to f2,8, since the shot would not have been either sharp or bright enough otherwise. Equally, the use of a zoom at distance (200mm in this case) reduces the need for a wide depth of field.
Framing shots in these circumstances is catch as catch can. The chances of getting the horizon correct or eliminating unwanted clutter are low, when traveling at speed, so I shot as wide as possible. This allowed me to crop this image to 1/3 crop of the original. This is where the good news of the Nikon body I was using comes in. The original file captured in Raw was 44MB, due to the D800's 36MB sensor. I could therefore throw away a large amount of data, frame the shot more aesthetically, avoid clutter and still retain a useable file, at least for non high-quality end uses.
I do wonder why utilities are still delivered via cables strung out on poles in Tornado Alley (or even New York and New Jersey for that matter), leading to immediate problems of fire and risk to life and limb, as well as potentially lengthy outages and a very high cost of repair. But they do keep a famous song fresh and provide targets for passing photographers.
Do let me know if any of this was of interest to you by leaving a comment.  
Copyright Paul Grayson 2013


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