Equipment and Technique

Since March 2009 I have been using a Nikon D90 with a Nikkor 17-55 mm f/2.8G ED-IF lens. I also have a Nikkor 180 mm f/2.8D AF ED-IF lens, but I seldom use it. I use the D90 to simultaneously capture a 4288×2848, 12.2 MB raw (NEF) image and a 3.0 MB (“Normal”) JPG image at the manufacturer’s Recommended Exposure Index (REI) of 200 with automatic white balance.

I decide on focal length of the lens (for a particular angle of view), aperture number (for a particular field of focus), and distance to the subject before I think about exposure. I shoot in Manual mode adjusting the shutter speed to target the midtone on the in-camera exposure line. I make my first image using the camera’s segmented/matrix metering. After I get over my excitement about the scene, I switch to spot metering and get (and record) shutter speed or exposure compensation values for all the important surfaces in the scene. Based on what I see, I adjust the exposure compensation to place a particular surface at the appropriate (one-third stop) target in an eight-stop photosensitive range.

The whole process is thoroughly explained in my book, Photographic Exposure Calculations and Camera Operation.

I initially used a Nikon N6006 with a Nikkor 24-120mm (f/3.5-5.6) lens and later used a Nikon F100 with Nikkor 35-70mm (f/2.8), 180mm (f/2.8), and 24mm (f/2.8) IF-ED lenses with Kodak Ektachrome VS 100 slides. I scan selected frames at 2450 dpi with a Nikon CoolScan V ED (dynamic range of 3.6, that is, 12-bit color range) to create 25 MB files.

I “develop” my image files using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. The steps in my image workflow include:

  • Convert my NEF image files to DNG files on import.
  • Color code the DNG files as “Originals – Do Not Edit”.
  • Add location and description keywords to selected images
  • Stack the DNG and JPG images with the JPG on top.
  • Rate the images by promoting and demoting them in comparison with other images of the same rating.
  • Create a copy of the DNG images that rise to the top of the ratings.
  • Color code the copies as “Copy for Editing”.
  • Move the Copy for Editing to the top of the stack of similar images.
  • Log my observations about and changes to each images that I “develop” on a page created in an online (Circus Ponies) notebook with an adjustment (workflow) template.
  • Examine the Histogram for gaps at Blacks and Whites ends.
  • Align (rotate) and crop the image.
  • Visualize and remove spots using either Clone or Heal Spot Removal.
  • Create a Snapshot named “Rotate, Crop, and Spot”.
  • Examine the image with a Black & White Treatment for contrast.
  • Auto Tone the image and record the values.
  • Examine the image for clipping.
  • Examine the image with a Color Treatment to see the effect of Auto Tone.
  • Adjust the Exposure, Contrast, and other Tone parameters to extend the edges of the Histogram without clipping and to produce a natural appearance.
  • Examine, record, and adjust the White Balance.
  • Use the Tone Curves, the Target Adjustment Tool, and the region adjustment sliders to adjust the exposure and contrast of particular regions of the image.
  • Ignore Presence adjustments as they tend to make the image appear unnatural.
  • Sharpen the image using a slight Amount adjustment to activate the Detail sliders, a Radius adjustment, a Mask adjustment, a Detail adjustment, a larger Amount adjustment, and a final Detail adjustment.
  • Adjust the Luminance and Color Noise Reduction.
  • Check that Lightroom automatically included a Lens Correction.
  • Examine a Spot Proof of the image.
  • Calibrate my monitor to create an accurate ICC profile to include with the image.
  • Print the image with a Relative Colorimetric Intent on glossy paper with a copyright statement, title, capture date, and print date in the Photo Info below the image.

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