Weather Photography, Science and Beauty

Somehow I’ve gotten backlogged with a flood of mails lately, both at home and work, and have carelessly
lost track of several. The hate mail goes in the usual place where it never again can be found.

Fortunately, some of the notes have been very complimentary of the SkyPix galleries, and I appreciate that. I’m hugely glad that those pages can bring some enjoyment and learning to folks. That makes it worthwhile. It’s about the beauty of science, the science of beauty, and how it all comes together seamlessly in our grand skies.

Several folks have asked about photographic equipment. I admit to being rather bare-bones, taking a minimalistic approach and getting the most for my money. In other words, I’m a miser. But I still want excellent results! The good news is that it sometimes is possible.

As something of a photographic traditionalist, I’ve always used all-manual SLRs. The past 6-8 years mainly have been using a Minolta MG, of roughly 1987 vintage, that I got from my late ex father in law. Before that, from about 1990-97, was a 1978ish Pentax SLR, which he gave me when he obtained the Minolta. Before that, from 1986-90, was an old Mamiya from the late 60s, which he replaced with the Pentax. As you can see, the pattern here definitely is of shameless acceptance of others’ hand-me-downs that were still of fine quality. 🙂

Most of my lenses (mainly fixed 28 and 50 mm, doubler apparatuses, and adjustable 70-200 mm zooms) have come secondhand from pawn shops, friends or E-Bay. I’ve managed to save thousands over the years in photography equipment by being parsimonious that way, while still seeking high quality. B&H Photo‘s dump-sales on bricks of excellent quality Provia
100F film have been wonderful too. It goes to show that being a cheapskate can pay off.

However, I probably will take those savings and make the digital plunge in the next 2-3 years when 12-15 megapixel bodies (the best of which match medium format film in resolution) fall under about $2500. I already have mastered digital workflows from an ongoing, lengthy project to rescan old slides into commercial quality archive files of maxed-out size and resolution, and the savings in film procurement and developing will slowly chip away at the initial cost.

As for filters, only in the past 2-3 years have I begun using any — and only in extreme contrast settings such as bright late day sky and dark ground, where a 2- or 3-stop graduated neutral density filter is needed
to force the film to expose to a closer approximation of what the eye sees. [Naturally, I didn’t pay for most of the filters either…I inherited them by marriage, since my wife is an avid photographer as well, and more talented than I at composition.] But I would never, ever use filters to put an artificial affect into an image that wasn’t visible with my eyeballs. Call me a purist, but the conscience just won’t allow it.

Same goes for Photoshop effects. I do only what is necessary to render the slide as it was taken, which mainly involves correcting scanner biases and removing dust and scratches. Digital alteration of an image (such as deleting or introducing objects, changing colors from the original or other common, deceptive practices in digital processing) is not done. If that puts me at some sort of “disadvantage” for being a purist, well..so be it! I do this because I love it, not to compete with anyone. If an image is aesthetically pleasing or commercially viable, such will be the case without any need for alteration. Excellence, like beauty, is self-evident. I strive for both in depicting that two dimensional, partial rendition of the majesty of the stormy sky. Whether I succeed is for others to judge.

Enough for today…thanks to Ed Hettman for his offline correspondence about these topics.



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