Fine films produce beautiful images, but if you seek to publish your work, it’s important to recognize that the marketplace is now oriented toward digital photography. Slides must be scanned or “digitized” prior to submission to most magazines and agencies.
The obvious advantage of the digital platform is the ability to immediately review and reshoot work. This is also nice in a group tour or workshop setting, as you can share your work with fellow photographers and your subjects. When lighting gets challenging, particularly when mixing ambient and strobe light sources, you can rely on the camera’s built in histogram which is displayed in the digital SLR’s LCD screen.
It can grow surprisingly dark on the tropical forest floor on a cloudy day, but the highly diffused lighting can be wonderful for landscapes. Digital cameras allow you to change your ISO or film speed on the fly. There will be no more film changes, accidental double exposures or wasted rolls.
Professional D-SLR cameras now offer ISO settings up to 6400, but it is best to operate at 800 or below to minimize “noise” – the digital equivalent of grain in film. Always test your results with your camera, but today’s Pro D-SLR’s generally record detail much better at these high ISO’s than their film counterparts.
Digital imaging allows for color corrections to be made “globally” to a group of images shot in the same lighting situation. Be careful with the use of warming filters. Light reflected from the forest vegetation will naturally produce a greenish color cast in your images. When reflected skylight combines with the amber tint of a warming filter (cyan + yellow), scenes can take on additional green cast. Bruce Farnsworth generally shoots without a filter on the lens for maximum sharpness. He uses Adobe Lightroom to edit and color correct his work.
Additionally, the challenging light conditions found in most of Ecuador’s habitats make the use of flash — and many times multiple flashes! — a necessity. Getting the right lighting is tricky, and being able to check the histogram and LCD screen on your digital camera is a huge help in ensuring successful photos before you leave the scene.