I don’t know really what to write about this photo. I was browsing my iMac on a rainy day, Jeff Buckley playing (as I overheard it in the coffee shop this morning and I couldn’t get it out of my head) the low susurration of rain falling down on the roof. Jeff Buckley singing about something deep and mystical and out of the blue I stumbled across this photo and I kind of looked at it a while.
You see when I started out on my journey (I hate using that word, it’s so motivational poster) I really wanted to capture photos in low light. It was always a real source of frustration that you could go nuts during the day time when the sun was high in the sky, but take your camera to a party or some event where there isn’t much light at all save for candles or the lights of a night club / restaurant and the only options you had were if took along a honking flash that blasted your subjects with alien white light and completely ruined the atmosphere of the place.
Well so I thought..
Then I learned a bunch of interesting things… Say for instance the magical combination of a Nikon D700 and a 50mm F1.4 lens.
You see I was still in my ‘look at me I have a really big lens look how professional I am!’ Phase of Photography and those lenses were you know around F4 F5 etc.. Then stumbling across these awesome photos on Flickr I found the magic of an f1.4. it has such a narrow depth of field I found it mesmerizing. See if you get the focal point wrong (tell the camera what to focus on, the eye for instance) then you are so screwed it’s not funny. Honestly it will be so blurry the best you can do is try to pass of the shot as new wave art of something. But if you get it right.. there is so much more light that is let into the camera.. So I bought a lens, took terrible photos for a very long time because of it’s unforgiving nature. But I persisted and started to actually focus correctly. Well done me!!
Then the next part of the combination was the Nikon D700 camera. To describe this camera I am going to have to use the voice of Richard Hammond from formerly Top Gear and now the show Grand Tour because I believe he would describe it best.. Here we go, set your imagination to 11.
Richard ” I have here before me a Nikon D700 Camera, now discontinued but many people still use this camera today even though it has been taken off the market for many years. Why is that? because this was one of the greatest cameras ever made hands down. This was the year that Nikon got it superbly, wonderfully, beautifully, right. When Canon was offering a measly sixteen or so focal zones Nikon of 50 plus. When Canon was ignoring low light photography Nikon produced something that smashed the competitors. It was fast, really fast, fully built and where it mattered most Nikon just didn’t comprise one bit. Before and after you could say they did but with the D700 it all came together. You see if you look inside the camera *picture a nice CGI based zoom in to the parts* this camera had something that allowed it to bat above it’s weight. In the heart of the D700 wasn’t a D700 at all, it was a D3. Which as you know was the top of the line, cream of the crop camera for Nikon. Retailing at around $13,000… Just for the body. And this heart was it’s this sensor, it was at the time the most sensitive and low noise sensor you can get. Lets not mince words, it was kicking the crap out of Canon when it came to taking photos in low light, and would continue to do so for many years to come. So you had the sensor of a D3 in a camera which was less than half the price only around $5000 dollars. This allowed photographers to go where they couldn’t go before. Take photos in the darkest of dark places and take their careers into new areas. When we talk about Ferrari, Porche, Lamborghini we focus on only a handful of cars in their entire line up where we can say that everything came together to produce something truly remarkable. When it comes to cameras the Nikon D700 was exactly that.
*Richard pats camera and looks wistfully into the camera in that charming British way*
It would be many years until you could say that about Nikon or any other camera manufacturer again. I’m Richard Hammond
So there you are when I heard a bunch of professional photographers were switching from Canon to Nikon because there was no response on the horizon for many years to come I decided that the Nikon D700 was the camera for me. To really drive home how good this camera was. The Nikon D700 was discontinued in 2011.
The photo you see, I took in 2017.
I kept looking for replacements but honestly I couldn’t see any other camera improving my game at that point in time. Oh I purchased other cameras for other reasons, the Fuji X100 for it’s amazing portable amazingness (I’ll write about that camera another time) and a Sony A7Sii for but I still use the D700 as my primary shooter.
So back to the photo. Every now and then I like to just go through my library and stumble across a photo. This one really gave me a huge sense of pride. I wanted to capture photos in the dark using only the natural light around. When this performer was doing her routine I turned the flash off, juiced the ISO to about 3000 and dialed that lens down to F1.4 and started capturing.
I looked at the photo the next day and after a while I decided I needed to make myself a cup of smug coffee 🙂