This week has been more of the same: organizing, editing, vomiting (words, that is), digging through notes, re-editing, etc. So, instead of repeating the last blog post in different words, I thought I’d reflect on some things I learned about the impact gear has on photographs, with some comparison before and after editing photos sprinkled in.
In preparation for the cruise, I figured I needed a DSLR camera with a couple lenses, a good mic, and a tripod. While this was a great starter kit, I would make quite a few tweaks if I were to go on another cruise. For starters, using a tripod on a close-quarters ship where there is constant action is a bit ridiculous. By the time I had set up the shot, the action had moved somewhere else and I had missed a scene of the sequence. Sure, I used the tripod to film a couple context scenes—like a single shot video of the MOCNESS being deployed that I can use for my own reference or post alongside a story—but ultimately, it was a clunky piece of equipment that I rarely reached for, but that I still had to load on and off the ship.
I talked to Mark Farley, the videographer on board, about my frustrations with the tripod and he shared that he also brought a tripod on the previous winter cruise before learning the same lesson. This time, he brought a gimbal—a piece of equipment that can keep a mounted camera parallel to the earth. Essentially, regardless of how bumpy you walk or how unstable your ground is, a gimbal can get a smooth shot that won’t leave your audience nauseous. It was comforting to hear that someone of Mark’s professional level went through the same process I was going through when it came to using the right gear. That got me thinking more about Mark’s kit and how it was specifically tailored for his purpose.
Mark uses a Sony camera that has a small body and an inaudible shutter. This set up allowed his picture taking technique to be very casual; he walked up to people in the lab, peered over their shoulders, saw the shot he wanted, extended his arm to get the camera in the right spot, and then used the large digital display to line up his shot. The whole process would take seconds and no one even noticed the camera was there.
On the other hand, the Canon 5d Mark ii I was using—a great camera—has a loud shutter click and most settings force the photographer to use the viewfinder rather than the digital display to see what’s being captured. This resulted in me having to stick not only my large camera in people’s space to get the shot, but my head as well because my eye had to be glued to the viewfinder. Additionally, once someone heard the shutter sound, they knew they were being watched and would change their face, posture, action, etc. from something authentic to something posed.
As someone whose primary medium is paper and pen, I hadn’t fully considered the discomfort and obtrusion that a camera can bring. If someone isn’t accustomed to being interviewed, all a journalist has to do is turn the interview into a conversation and the discomfort fades away. If someone isn’t accustomed to having their picture taken and is uncomfortable, you can’t remove the camera and take pictures with your eyes instead, the camera has to be there.
The realization that a camera can get in the way of getting a good photograph entertained me for a while before it was time to get back to my word vomit.
I am a third year journalism student at the University of Oregon with a focus in traditional written journalism and interview techniques. Science communication is an underrepresented field of journalism that I’m excited to explore and produce content for through this internship.