Words by Eric Palmer
I have been asked to share the story behind my photography & way I go about things when I shoot, so here I am. I often get asked technical questions from keen upcoming photographers, so Jordan & I thought it would be a good idea to cover a few things that should help you out in understanding your camera better & how to get the best out of it. I’m sure that even if photography isn’t your thing, it will be interesting to see what’s going on in a photographers mind while you pin it past them or float over some dirt jumps.So, here we go…Name:
26 July 1983Afreakin Photography ericpalmer.pinkbike.com/album/
I took up photography in June 2007, I was lucky enough to be given a Nikon D70, few lenses & SB-24 flash that has since expired. Photography was not a foreign subject to me, my mom is a professional art photographer & teacher & have been abused with photographic theory for the last 15 or so years & was never too keen to start with film because of the cost & what would I do with a huge collection of slides. It just didn’t seem worthwhile to me, but after studying animation for 3 years & doing a short editing course my interest in media grew quite a lot since I left school & with photography going digital it meant I could play with my shots & get them out there much easier than before.
An old family friend & professional photographer Willem Oets had recently changed from Nikon to Canon & still had his Nikon gear & offered it to me, which was the start of something quite life changing for me. Rollerblading was my life & the reason for my interest in action photography & because of the lack of rollerbladers in SA I set my sights on downhill. I live really close to a track they use for nationals every year & that’s how the bikers got me hassling them. I knew quite a few BMXers from rolling parks with them, so they have me bugging them now too.
2 years later here I am, having spent all my money on equipment & still spending what I don’t have yet on my wish list. Here is what I have at the moment:
My D70 is the camera I use for the action the most. The fast sync speeds allow you to shoot at 1/640th with flashes, I can push it further to 1/800th. There is some darkening of the flash light when using the remote triggers, so try to stay below that as much as possible.
My D200 very seldomly gets used for action shots, mainly because I can only sync up to 1/250th & is not very helpful in bright light, so if I do pull it out for action it would be in much lower light usually evening shoots. I use it more for landscape, macro & portrait work when I don’t need the faster syncing. On it is my 105mm Macro lens & I rarely use it for action, mainly because it’s a fixed lens & I often can’t get to the right spot to get the shot & have to “zoom with my legs”. It's a great lens, extremely sharp & an f/2.8, but I have to run around too much with it to really enjoy it.
My 24-85mm is what I’ve been using the most for longer shots. It has a nice range from relatively wide to a good zoom, but I’m not always 100% happy with the quality of it & am replacing it with a 24-70mm f/2.8 to have sharper images & more control with the wider aperture.
My 10.5mm fisheye. I love this lens & maybe too much sometimes. It handles difficult lighting situations really well & allows you to get really close, but still keep a lot of the scenery in & is also an f/2.8 & a really sharp lens. Lately I’ve been trying to stay away from it & use the longer lenses, but the quality & fun distortion often is what has me pulling it out of my bag a little more often than I would like. That will hopefully change with the 2 new f/2.8 zooms.
My 70-300mm. I hardly ever use this lens for action because it’s never sharp enough, for landscapes you can get away with it, but on people I find I’m always disappointed with the quality, so it very rarely makes an appearance.
My new 70-200mm. This lens is a beast & is pretty much the best lens out there at the moment, super sharp, f/2.8, weather sealed & all the zooming & focusing is internal which makes it extremely fast & quiet. The only downsides to this lens is that the quality doesn’t come cheap & it’s rather heavy at just under 1.5kg. I haven’t had a proper shoot with it yet, but this is the Rolls Royce of lenses & I'm sure I’m going to be super happy with its performance. Have taken random snaps around the house & is amazing so far, but can’t wait to get out & shoot some action with it!
SB-600 and Pocket Wizard
My SB-600 & Pocket Wizard. This combo was a must have for me, Pocket Wizards are the leading off camera flash transceiver brand & are very simple, but work like a charm. Their range is up to about 450m, so you can be pretty far away & still have your flashes fire, so if you like using long lenses these are a must have. 1 on each flash & 1 on the camera to trigger the flashes & the only time I’ve had a misfire is when the batteries in the flash or wizard are dead. The SB-600 is a great flash & has all the control you need with intensity settings from full to 1/64th & spread settings from 14m (the widest beam) to 85m (the most concentrated). The only downside to this combo is that the SB-600’s don’t have a PC port on them to connect the wizard directly, so you need an extra little cable to hotshoe & adapter. I have 4 Wizards & 2 SB-600’s & am getting a SB-900 in August & that has the PC port, so I won’t have to worry about fiddly connections.
My backup flash, an old Pentax AF-330ftz. I’m not all that fond of this little thing. It has no intensity settings & spread from 24m to 85m, so you can’t control it all that much & it goes into standby every 5 minutes, which is really annoying. It does help me out in tough times though & when 1 of my SB-600’s was in for repair this allowed me to still be able to use 2 flashes during that time, so is not great, but better than nothing.
Something very simple, but not to forget is the rechargeable batteries. Each wizard takes 2 (they last really long) so that’s 8 for the triggers. Each flash uses 4 (lasts 1 shoot if I’m lucky & each flash often goes through 2 sets on a long shoot) so that’s 16. So now on an average shoot I need 24 batteries & now with the SB-900 coming it’ll probably add another 8 to the equation. Making sure your batteries are all charged & ready to go is obviously really important & having spares is never a bad idea, because as luck would have it it’s at the best time of the day that you run out & can miss the best opportunities if you’re not prepared. The same goes for camera batteries & making sure you’ve downloaded the previous shoot & formatted your card so everything is clean & charged up.
I also have 2 Manfrotto tripods for my flashes, I find they work much better than most light stands because you can position each leg individually & works better on uneven surfaces which is where I shoot 90% of the time.
Lowepro - Closed
Lowepro - Open
All that goes into 1 Lowepro backpack that I lug with me everywhere, so the hard work starts long before I even get my camera out & work up quite a sweat just getting to some spots.
I’d like to get into & explain shooting in RAW & it’s ups & downs, strobism, which is basically the use of off camera flashes & how they handle in different light situations & how I go about deciding on what camera settings to use, processing, composition & a bit of my philosophy & the way I approach my subject.
This sums up the first installment of Eric Palmer's
"Through the Lens" Photographer's interview.Check out the second installment here