Friday, June 8, 2007
Jeff Schewe - Absolute Total Control
Whether it's working up models and intricate rigging or building Photoshop files with seemingly endless numbers of layers, Jeff Schewe is serious about being in control
Until recently, Schewe's choice of camera was either film-based or a high-resolution digital back on a medium-format body. Today, he's happy to add D-SLRs to his capture mix. When asked about some of the factors that determine which he might use on any particular job and how he'd decide, Schewe quips, “Depends on which side of the bed I woke up on.”
To say that he's at home with all of the tools for image capture is an understatement. There are a variety of factors that influence the choice of one camera over another. Says Schewe, “Lots of compositing that requires maximum flexibility calls for digital capture. Fast turnaround time also. Sometimes, I need the look of a particular film—like high-speed or a unique color palette. I can re-create most of those ‘looks' in Photoshop, but it's foolish to force another medium if you can just take the photograph you want the first time.”
The grain structure of a particular high-speed film, for instance, might lend itself to a project. In that case, Schewe is likely to choose that film rather than use a digital camera. While he could re-create the look in Photoshop, it would take some time. The down side to locking yourself in with a film choice is that it leaves you with much less flexibility for the future. If your goals for the image change and the grainy look of high-speed film isn't wanted, you're stuck.
When the Canon EOS 1Ds came out, Schewe decided to create a test between it and a Canon EOS 1v 35mm SLR. Being a control-oriented person, he took pains to make the test very thorough. He expected that the digital EOS 1Ds would outperform the EOS 1v, but he was surprised by how much. “The superiority of digital was startling,” says Schewe. “The 1Ds had dramatically more latitude, it out-resolved film, it had better dynamic range, better apparent sharpness, and it was more convenient to work with. I did get one minor interference pattern in a feather in the shot, but I'm used to dealing with that, so it's a quick retouch.”
When you've got a digital camera that can outperform film, why wouldn't you go digital? There are still plenty of instances when film is required to get a special look or in special circumstances. For example, digital cameras still have a problem with sensor noise, which is especially acute in low light and with very long exposures. In those cases, it would definitely make more sense to shoot with film. But for most 35mm-type work, Schewe doesn't see much reason to blindly stand by film.
This leads to an interesting Schewe observation: “Photographers go digital for the wrong reasons and they resist digital for the wrong reasons. The right reason comes down to what does the image look like.”
At the end of the day, no one cares whether you used a digital camera, Photoshop, 4x5—none of that's relevant. What matters is the image. For Jeff Schewe, absolute, total control over the image and using whatever tools or techniques it takes to get to where he wants to be—that's what it is to be a photographer in the digital era.
It's the right time to be a control freak.
Visit Jeff Schewe's website at www.schewephoto.com.
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