Thursday, August 17, 2006

HVX200/D2H Shoot: Ouch, That Hurts.

My first shot at posting a photo for the front of the newspaper. And I'm ready for it, I think.

The job: Grab a shot of the Bromo-Seltzer Tower, which was requested by the managing editor, since we hadn't had any recent images of the building.
The story: Apartment lofts are being created inside the tower, which was built in the early 1900's, which is part of the big rebirth of Baltimore.
The image: A scene of the tower from the eastern side as the sun sets.
The feeling: Elation and pressure. It's got to be done right. It's for show on page one of the largest newspaper in Maryland. The image must be captured at dusk (after 8pm) and dropped into the live system (by 9pm).

Off I go with the HVX200 and my Nikon D2H, for back-up. When you're about to shoot a job in which you're learning your camera's limitations, you don't want mistakes. I reach the inner harbor area right around 8pm, but the sun isn't quite at the right location, since the tower is still too back-lit. So I move about the area on Lombard Street, looking for a clean image where I can capture traffic, the downtown area, and the tower, with room on the left side so the editors can drop some copy.

Finding my spot on Light Street, I wait for the right moment, which comes within the next few minutes. My camera's set on 1920x1080 (1080i), and I wait for Lombard's light to go red, so I can get into the street and shoot. My camera's hoisted on the monopod in the vertical setting, to preserve as much of the resolution as I can. The image looks more saturated as each red light hits, and I start backing up my shots with my D2H.

With my images written on disks, I head back to the photo department and grab frames off the Panasonic. The image looks stellar. And I'm just tickling inside, anticipating a nice display on A-1. Dropping the images into the live system, I walk over to the production desk, where Julie is readying the images for the page front. And she likes what she sees.

"Great job," she says, as does Swag. I feel tremendously confident as I walk back to the photo department. I can see myself driving into work, past newspaper boxes, glancing at box after box with the image that has officially taken us into the next format of camera.

Barely able to control my elation, I answer the in-house phone. "We have a problem," Swag says. "Can you drop the image from your still camera, instead?"

Oh... my... God.... What's wrong? "There's some kind of halo around the buildings, and it's noticeable on the page printer," I'm told. I simply got the backup shot into the system, since we had our backs to the wall for deadline. There was a sinking feeling. A sense of defeat. What the F---? Curse words coursed through my head and out my mouth as I opened the Photoshop files, searching for the halo effect.

I returned to the production desk, and Julie and Swag both apologized, knowing that I had my heart set on the image running. I looked at the page print, and I saw it. A clean, barely-noticeable but definite white edge around the tower. Swag asked what it could have been, and my mind set my sights on the sharpness, which I had cranked up to 7 throughout the camera's settings. Once you set it inside, you can't undo the sharpness.

So, the moment was gone. Talk about depression. If only I could have gone back there, but it's too late. If only I hadn't cranked up the sharpness as much as I had done. The images look so terrific on the Apple monitors. The blue sky, turning to orange closer to the horizon, with the city street bustling beneath the Bromo tower. It would never be used, this time. And I felt responsible.

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