Before the D100 I was using an Olympus E10, bought in 2000 and sometimes used for jobs, but mostly as a sort of backup to work shot on film mostly with a Mamiya RZ67. It came into its own, however, on a job photographing Susanna Gelmetti’s cookery school near Naples for a Good Housekeeping magazine feature.
There was a huge amount of material to photograph – classes morning and evening for 6 days plus outings and peripheral stuff – and the journalist I was working with (Felicity Barnum-Bobb) needed to write as she went along so the feature could be delivered on our return. I had originally planned to shoot on film (this was in 2001) but there just wasn’t time. I shot all day, and every minute I wasn’t shooting I was uploading to my computer and editing the results. Felicity would then go through the images and make her notes on them while I slept! Her computer wasn’t powerful enough to view my images on. I had no software for organising the images – only Photoshop, so everything had to be renamed with a meaningful name so it should be found and opened individually to check focus etc, I kept the original plus multiple copies for different purposes because there was no other way of doing it. The E10 had a fantastic lens – a useful 35-140mm – but integrated and not interchangeable although I had wide and telephoto adapters for it. Other than that it handled like a DSLR and although the files were only 4mp they were noise free and could be interpolated up very successfully to make good full page pics or even double page spreads.
I loved digital images from the beginning because of the control they gave me. Submitting film – especially to magazines – left things subject to the interpretation of the art director and the repro house and printer who would take your carefully shot and balanced image and ‘warm up’ the deliberately cool look you had given it, would work hard to find unimportant detail in the shadows that I used to give the shot character or bring up all sort of unwanted colour in an area that I had chosen almost to blow out. Time after time I would cringe when I saw the final result on a magazine page – a vague resemblance to my original vision with all character and individuality removed. By contrast the digital files were ready to go and printers tended to leave them alone.
The Italian shoot was the first job I shot entirely digitally and it worked really well – although it took a long time after that to get magazines to accept digital imagery regularly – largely because they weren’t equipped with digital asset management software and most importantly took ages to discover colour calibration so had terrific problems with seeing the colour correctly although if they left them alone they would work perfectly when printed because my system was calibrated as were the printers.
I still have the Olympus E10 – suppose I should sell it really – it produces a certain luminous quality in its the images that I find unique, but I just don’t use it with all the megapixels now at my command.