|Originally posted to Nikon Digest, 6 August, 1997
>I am just wondering if there any photojournalists out there that used to
>use, or still use manual cameras like the F2, F3, or FM2, etc, and if
>they have any tips for quick shooting so that I can get good shots
>without have to spend a lot of time focusing and worrying about correct
>exposure with and with out flash. I use a 24mm, 35mm and a 50mm lens.
I can't claim to be a currently working photojournalist (PJ), but I was doing it in
college 30 years
ago when there WEREN'T any auto cameras.
There are several 'tricks' (common sense use of existing functionality, really) that you
can use to
overcome so-called obstacles of manual camera operation.
Two of your three lenses lend themselves very well to what may be described as 'fixed
You have to understand depth of field and its advantages, but it gives you a very large
PJ. There should be a depth of field scale on all your lenses. It consists of a bunch of
either side of the black dot center of focus indicator. Each line extends back toward the
ring and the ones toward the outside have colors matching the higher-numbered aperture
ie: 16, 22, 32... These indicators allow you to set your lens to be a 'fixed focus' lens
by setting the
aperture to a small diameter (large number) and matching your focus setting to the depth
scale instead of focusing the image on the viewfinder screen. For instance, I have a 50mm
F1.4. If I
set it for F16, I can set the focus ring infinity mark (sideways figure 8) on the light
mark on the left side of the center focus indicator black dot, and on the right side light
I can read that the close end of the acceptable focus range is at about 9 feet away from
camera. I no longer have to focus on anything that's from 9 feet away from me to infinity!
work will be closer, I can set the focus range appropriately and still not have to focus
viewfinder for each shot. In addition, the wider lenses you want to use (24, 35) are even
this practice, because shorter lenses have even more depth of field. You will get the same
focusing (depth of field) range at more open apertures, allowing higher shutter speeds.
only have to adjust the shutter speed dial to control your exposure. The depth of field
be sufficient and focus will always be acceptable. Imagine, having only one control to
each shot! I learned a lot from the photographer for our local newspaper in the small
town where I grew up. He used a Nikon F and 28mm Nikor, along with Tri-X. The 28mm was his
key to simplicity. Having too wide a lens is not a worry because on one end (inside a
will always have wide enough coverage when you can't back up any farther, and on the other
(outdoors and some distance from the subject) you can always crop the print for
Most readers will never notice the wide angle distortion, either. They only look at your
1-3 seconds anyway.
You'll need to use a faster film with the above technique. It requires the lens to be
quite a bit. In outdoor situations this is not a problem. Remember the 'sunny 16 rule':
F16 and the
shutter speed set at the same number as the film speed. When it's cloudy or in shady
appreciate the faster film for the higher shutter speeds it allows. Don't worry about
shots will be reduced to a half-tone (dot) image that will be printed on the cheapest
so grain is totally unimportant. Remember that film is also a tool, and that it will be
expensive tool. If you've shot half a roll in bright sunlight and rated it at 200 to keep
speed reasonable, don't hesitate to take it out of the camera and put in a new roll that
rate at 800 for use indoors or in the shade. FILM IS CHEAP!! GRAIN DOESN'T MATTER!!
If you will be shooting sports, there are two other techniques. One is 'shooting at the
peak of the
action", the other is 'panning with the action.
Shooting at the Peak of the Action.
Shooting at the peak of the action requires some practice, but is a very effective
a sporting event, the most exciting moments occur when the action reaches a climax: boxer
connecting a right with his opponent's jaw, running back diving into the turf of the end
basketball player going up for a layup, hurdler clearing a hurdle, etc. Something else
exactly these same moments: the athlete's motion comes to an almost complete standstill.
said, it takes practice, but you CAN learn to get a high percentage of good shots by
shoot at the moment the action peaks. Spend some time shooting high school or junior high
sports events to sharpen your reflexes and refine your technique. You may even be able to
off the experience on your taxes by donating the good shots to the school yearbook.
Panning With the Action.
Panning with the action is another dynamite technique that can be easily practiced along
of a busy street. Set the shutter speed at 1/30-1/60 and follow the motion of passing cars
the viewfinder. While panning with their motion, begin a slow squeeze of the shutter
the cars pass directly in front of you, the shutter should release. This takes a little
work to become
consistent, but produces very satisfying results. DO NOT jam the shutter button down! This
cause everything to become fuzzy. Squeeze slowly and rely on timing the squeeze to the
directly in front of you where the subject's speed relative to your position is the
produces shots that show a blur of background motion and a remarkably sharp subject. Do
forget to 'follow through'. Don't stop panning when you think the shutter will release.
continue to pan with the subject motion until well after the shutter releases or you will
jam your finger down on the shutter release at the same time you stop panning. This will
nothing but 'garbage' shots that have blurry subject, foreground, background, EVERYTHING!
Pan smoothly and continue to pan as the shutter releases. You can easily begin your
this technique with an empty camera, loading only when you are confident of your shutter
timing (which should only take about 5 minutes!). There are some examples of this
technique on the
NASCAR Brickyard 400 page, indexed from my home page.
Finally, there's no substitute for a good tripod... OK, there are quite a FEW substitutes
for a good
tripod. USE THEM!!! Any rest is better than none! Use a monopod, lean against a wall,
lamp post or anything else that will help you hold the camera still. If you can, use the
stiffest tripod you can carry.
Practice, practice, practice!