Friday, June 8, 2007
Peter Read Miller - At The Speed Of Light
Longtime Sports Illustrated photographer Peter Read Miller is one of the best in the world. The magazine recently made the switch from film to all digital, and the reasons just may surprise you.
Last August, the decision was made to switch the Sports Illustrated photography corps to digital cameras. Many of the photographers had already been doing some digital work, so the issue wasn't completely foreign to them. In fact, it made more of an impact on the editors at the home office than the photographers on the fields.
For Peter Read Miller, the switch began in the third quarters of football games. Miller is the go-to guy on the SI staff for football. In the fall and winter, he's shooting games all weekend, every weekend. Prior to talking with Miller about going digital, I naturally assumed that it was a timeliness issue as well as a cost issue. I figured I could write the article in my sleep—I mean it's almost cliché to discuss the advantages of digital photography for photojournalism. I envisaged a discussion about fast turnaround, no film and processing costs, and easy-to-send images from locations with a laptop and a satellite modem. If Sports Illustrated was going digital, it was assuredly for those reasons.
“SI is committed to running the best sports photos in the world,” says Miller. “Image quality is what matters.” You mean the complete switch to digital wasn't about saving money? Not about being able to shoot to the last out, the final buzzer, the game-over whistle?
“It's all a quality thing,” he adds.
Well, don't I feel a little silly now.
Miller has been shooting for SI since the 1970s. In that time, he never has been satisfied with anything but the very best. Shooting at night or in generally low light has always posed a problem for Miller. Color films are notoriously tricky—colors shift, mixed light sources play havoc, grain gets enhanced to the point of distraction. The previous workflow during a game was to shoot slides during the first half of a game, then as the light began to wane, go to color negative film for its controllability and broader latitude.