Dr. Ellen K. Rudolph Blog On the Cusp of the Digital Era – Dr. Ellen's Blog

On the Cusp of the Digital Era

Posted on February 5, 2012 By

I was fortunate to be involved in photography in the very early days of the digital revolution.

Photography has always been fun, but the onset of the digital era absolutely thrilled me; I couldn’t wait to see what they were going to come up with next!

Imagine what Ansel Adams would think about being able to shoot while tethered to a laptop, or to hold a powerful DSLR body in his hands.

Photographers now are routinely shooting weddings while tethered, which allows them to present a slideshow at the reception following the wedding ceremony. Not a bad marketing strategy for reprints, eh?

But product shoots really started the revolution in tethered shooting, for there is no better way to evaluate lighting effects or to give clients immediate feedback. Seeing the image on a monitor sure beats analyzing a tiny LCD.


I appreciate the immediate feedback of digital imaging. The ability to see what I just captured is highly reinforcing psychologically.

So look at your LCD, and use that capability to fine-tune your compositions. Don’t be one of those (gasp) who tries to save battery power by turning off the LCD!

Let the Artist in You Emerge

I find myself experimenting far more when I can see the effects on the spot. I take ‘test’ shots all the time to see what I can see, mainly to check whether what I see in my mind’s eye is manageable in a DSRL frame. Sometimes it isn’t, but then that also gives me the feedback needed to adjust for other possibilities on the spot.

This doesn’t mean I shot a 100 images to find one that works. It just means that I using my digital camera in the same way a piano turner uses his tuner to perfect the keyboard sounds he hears.

Today, there is no reason to be content with your first shot.

In Any Case

If you are doing a close up, get in even closer for the next shot. Keep moving in. And check your progress every step of the way. If a full frame vertical works, try a diagonal for effect. Lay down on your back and shoot up, you would be surprised at what you can achieve in a garden of flowers from that vantage point!

In other words, experiment! That is the luxury digital photography has afforded us.

Digital in Field Conditions

Everyone is taking their digital bodies into the field with them today, of course, but in 1999-2000 I was one of only a handful of brave souls who dared to do that. I took the original Nikon D1 into the Australian Outback with me for a year and what an experience that was!

Dust was a huge problem. But worse, I was shooting primarily in remote 4-wheel drive conditions in the Outback where sudden glitches could not be fixed. Shooting digital became an all or nothing proposition out of sheer necessity.

Nikon’s digital batteries were also far less capable back then, compared to how they are today.

We had a specially outfitted Land Rover Defender with dual batteries. The second battery allowed us to add electrical outlets so that we could plug battery chargers into them. We even plugged in a small refrigerator for film (and wine, of course).

Accidents Do Happen

This little guy (below) caused me to completely trash an older 80-200 F2.8 zoom. In the process of photographing him while sunning himself on a remote road one early morning, he suddenly turned and rushed me, hissing loudly! I was on my knees at the time, and from my vantage point it looked like I was about to become his breakfast.

I lurched backwards self-protectively, only to end up with a hurtful swelling the size of an egg on the back of my head. By then, of course, the lizard was long gone. And all I had was some Motrin to ease my pain.

The lesson I learned was to not encroach for so long!

frilledlizard_au*Australian Frilled Lizard Chiamydosaurus kingii

During an average shooting day I would have to routinely download files to my Mac laptop as the Land Rover went bumpity bump bump over Outback roads from hell.

But I got the shots!

And I felt like a conquistador exploring uncharted waters with my new digital tools.

NOTE: I had film cameras with me, but they were far less fun to shoot with by comparison.

Difficult Shots Made Easy

Shooting in the Australian Outback definitely made my life easier in difficult conditions when light was problematic, such as in 50,000 year old Aboriginal caves in Queensland’s Cape York Peninsula.

These caves were narrow, too low to walk upright in, and often times I had to lie on my back to shoot up at cave ceilings where most of the Aboriginal cave art was located.

I found film to be chancy at best under these circumstances because I couldn’t judge the outcome like I was able to using a digital camera.

*Dr. Ellen shooting 50,000 year old Aboriginal cave art

Creativity Par Excellence

Shooting digitally allows for creative expression more than ever before.

My digital tools are like veritable paintbrushes in my hands. Every plug-in, every new enhancement in Photoshop, and all the new color management and printing capabilities make this digital craft truly an artistic one…also a demanding one, for keeping up with the computer end of things is no small matter.

Rodeo_au*Outback Rodeo Action