On An Island (not Dave Gilmour)
By David HAGUE
Give an infinite number of monkeys a typewriter, so the saying goes, and one must end up with at least one copy of the complete works of Shakespeare. No mention of how they’ll change paper, get extra ribbons or who is even going to proofread for absolute accuracy, but why let reality spoil a perfectly good theory?
On the other hand, give 17 journos an SD card based digital still camera, plonk them On An Island (apologies to Dave Gilmour) and will you get any decent photos? Indeed you will.
Add to the mix, underwater housings, the Great Barrier Reef and snorkelling gear, and will it make any difference? Absolutely.
But what if a wild card is thrown in? What if say, world renowned landscape photographer Ken Duncan and surf film maker extraordinaire Jack McCoy were also there, but instead of their cost-the-earth digital trinkets, only had the same equipment. What would happen then?
This was the scenario I have just been through over the last weekend on Lady Elliot Island on the Great Barrier Reef out of Hervey Bay in Queensland - at the invitation of Panasonic I hasten to keep the record straight. And the results were, from a creative point of view, truly spectacular.
It was amazing to stand side-by-side with these imaging luminaries, under exactly the same conditions as they, and see the differences in shots between yours and theirs. Then, after listening to some advice for only a few seconds and taking another shot (or video clip) and amazing yourself with the difference.
The cameras in use weren’t mortgage-your-kids-and-wife models either, but Panasonic’s new consumer range of digital stills (around the $400 mark) married for underwater work with housings capable of 40 metres depth say Panasonic. The results were astonishing. The benefit of advice from KD and J McC was a bonus and showed that even a neophyte can take excellent photos by “looking” at the scene and compositing correctly with the available light. This new generation of digital cameras takes all the hard work out of the nasty bits such as aperture and speed settings, ISO, and even the auto focus was as good as I have seen in cameras 5 times the price and more.
The one with the best party trick though in my opinion, was the model SW20 that is waterproof for 1.5 metres (although I suspect there is a safety margin there of at least ½ a metre) and records to SD card video and audio in MPEG 2 format. All for $760 or so. Amazing.
This is not intended to be a puff piece for Panasonic; yes the trip was one of the best PR launches I have been on, and we were well looked after, but it is more to say that digital photography and video has improved and evolved huge amounts in a very short time, and now, anyone can get brilliant results, with the simple caveat that the hardware does NOT and never will make the final image. It is the operator and what they see and how they use these tools to interpret it that counts.
I suspect giving Ken Duncan a Box Brownie say, and me the top of the range Hasselblad will still mean KD ends up with the better photo! But for the sake if my ego, I have no intention of testing that ...
And Nick R... you wuz robbed :)
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