Shooting Blind

Shooting Blind

On the first day of shooting for a two-week trip to Hawaii, my camera had an accident. I was shooting incoming surf along the shore north of Kona on the Island of Hawaii, and I had my tripod standing within the surf line with my Nikon D800 mounted on top. I turned around briefly to grab a filter when I heard my friends with me let out a yelp. The outgoing surf had undermined the sand foundation under my tripod and it had fallen over into the wet sand with the back side of the camera down. Fortunately, it only fell onto wet sand and not into the water. I picked up my camera, saw that the power was still on.  But when I started to check the functions of the camera, I noticed a few things were lacking. Primarily, my LCD display was black. Without the LCD display, there are so many functions of the modern camera that are inaccessible. Primarily among them is the histogram display, the modern digital photographer’s way of confirming the exposure out in the field. Other functions often used were also out of reach: self-timer settings, mirror lockup for cleaning (that meant no cleaning my sensor during the trip), LiveView display, card formatting and the new treat of the D800, the digital horizon (a level check for the horizon).

The next morning, I also learned that I had also lost auto-focus and the ability to change out of aperture priority exposure mode. That meant it was going to be difficult to do any low light or nighttime photography. I could use my back up camera of a Nikon D700 to check exposure settings, but I would not be able to set the exposure manually in my D800.

We have all come so accustomed to the convenience of in-field review of the histogram on the LCD, it has become second-nature, even taken for granted, that we have that ability. So, what do you do when you have a digital camera that, for practical purposes, has aspects of an old film camera? You go old school.

The first thing I did was remind myself of how familiar I am with my camera and what it was capable of with each lens. It pays to be out in the field a lot so you know your camera’s abilities inside and out. Knowing how my camera handled light made it easier to start with the right settings, right lenses, and right filters to do the work.  That is basic camera and exposure knowledge that every photographer should have, regardless of the type of camera they are using. But to make sure that I had the exposure I wanted – many of the locations I shot on the trip would be visited only once so I had to get it right – I did something I have not done in years: I bracketed. But unlike how I used to bracket with my film cameras when I was much earlier in my career, I bracketed minimally and confirmed my exposure at the end of the day when downloading.

The other technique I used during bright mid-day, sunny shooting was also an old film technique for ensuring exposure: I employed the Sunny F/16 Rule. Essentially, for shooting in bright, mid-day sunny light, this rule says that when shooting at f/16, your shutter speed will be the same as your film speed, or, in digital terms, your ISO. So, when shooting at 100 ISO, your film speed is 1/100 (or 1/125), when at 200 ISO, then 1/200 (or 1/250), and so on.

After two weeks of shooting on the Island of Hawaii and on Kauai, I proved that I could survive despite lacking these modern tools that we take for granted.  Of course, as soon as I get home, I am contacting Nikon Professional Services to set up a priority repair order on my Nikon D800. And calling my insurance carrier.












4 Responses to “Shooting Blind”

  1. Zach Says:

    Reminder to self: Get camera insurance.

  2. admin Says:

    Yes, indeed! This will be the second time I have put my camera insurance to use in the last two years.

  3. Richard Says:

    Insurance…thru PPA or just what?

  4. admin Says:

    Richard – my insurance is through a partner with NANPA (North American Nature Photography Association).

Leave a Reply