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Joey Terrill: from Hasselblad film to Canon digital - Continued

On set, Terrill shoots with two different basic setups. In the first, he uses his EOS 20D to shoot proofs and then switches to the EOS-1Ds for the production images. This switchover is necessary because, going back to his original Nikon D1, Terrill has used a Sony KV9PT60 9-inch AC/DC portable television to instantly view proofs via the camera's video-out jack. The 20D has such a jack, but the 1Ds does not.

The Sony TV sits on a platform from Matthews Studio Equipment called the Monitor Holder (model #861825), which is mounted to a stand. Terrill tries to orient the monitor so that he can see it but his subjects cannot (to preempt problems with self-conscious or self-critical subjects), and he tips the TV on its side when he's shooting verticals. Because Terrill needs to be able to easily walk into the set and interact with his subjects, he runs a 50-foot video cable between camera and monitor.

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For Golf Digest. Canon EOS-1Ds, ISO 100, 1/125, f/11, golf balls added later in Photoshop (Photo by Joey Terrill)

In the tethered setup, which he has recently begun to use on some jobs, he runs a 25-foot FireWire cable from the 1Ds to his 1.5GHz 12-inch Apple PowerBook G4 laptop, which is in turn connected to a flat panel, the Apple 20-inch Cinema Display. Terrill uses Phase One's Capture One PRO software to receive and display the images as he shoots them. The Cinema Display obviously provides a much sharper and more color accurate proof than the Sony TV ever could.

Terrill shoots all his work in RAW format only. He decided never to shoot RAW+JPEG after running a test where he shot in that mode, segregated the Color Matrix 4, Standard tone curve JPEGs without looking at them first, converted the RAWs to his visual taste, and then compared them. "The difference was so extreme, and the JPEGs looked so bad to my eye," he says, "that from that point forward I never wanted to see the JPEGs because they might influence the way I converted the RAWs. [The JPEGs] were incredibly contrasty.”

Under even light, JPEGs from this camera are probably just fine, he says, but as soon as the light has any real contrast or direction, they look “very much like harsh video images to me.”

Terrill uses Lexar CompactFlash cards–one 2GB/80X card and three 1GB/40X cards, plus a handful of older 512MB/24X units. He tries to spread a shoot across several cards so that he won't lose an entire take if one of them fails.

When he's not shooting tethered, Terrill uses a Lexar FireWire CompactFlash card reader (model RW019) to copy images from the cards to his PowerBook. In his photo workflow, the PowerBook is strictly an additional storage device. "I don't even begin any part of the [post-processing] before I get back [to his Los Angeles studio]," he says. Once there, he copies the images one more time to his desktop computer and only then will he erase the CF cards.

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For Chill Products. Canon EOS-1Ds, ISO 100, 1/250, f/13 (Photo by Joey Terrill)

Because his switch to digital was also a switch from one camera type to another, Terrill has experienced changes, both large and small, to almost every area of his work life and shooting habits.

"When you've become used to a medium format viewfinder, looking through 35mm is definitely a step backward," the photographer says. "I would say that is the biggest weakness. I tend to tripod the camera less with the Canon than I did with the Hasselblad," he adds, and the contrast is even greater when compared to his Fujifilm GX680, which was always on a tripod.

Using a tripod "is a more contemplative way of shooting than the free-spirited way that you might shoot with the 35mm system," Terrill says. "That can be good and bad. Sometimes [shooting handheld] works against you because you're being a little bit more willy-nilly, you're not nailing it down, and you're not paying attention to all four corners of your frame. It can be sloppy at times. If you're a fashion guy you have to love it. If you're more of a contemplative portrait artist, you might have to be careful."

"I tend to use zooms [now]," Terrill continues, "which is something, of course, I never did with the Hasselblad. So I find that my framing changes frequently.

"I shoot more. That's more because I'm seeing what I'm seeing, and I'll think okay, I love that shot; I know I have that particular take or composition. Let me try something different here. I would say my capture has gone up thirty to thirty-five percent. [With film], every time you shot a Polaroid you're waiting around for 30 to 90 seconds to see what it is. So I think you're more prone to accept things, to say, yeah, that's about right. With digital I find myself getting it exactly right. That's exactly what I wanted."

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For the American Hospital Association. Canon EOS-1Ds, ISO 200, 1/4, f/9.5 (Photo by Joey Terrill)

On the other hand, says the photographer, "the [wide-angle] optics are weaker, and I think that's the weakest link in the whole system. The lenses work very well, but they all have some shortcomings. With the fourteen [the 14mm f/2.8L], right near the edges at wide-open apertures you see sharpness falloff. I’m not comfortable using this lens below f/8. And it flares like a son-of-a-bitch. So does my 24-70 [24-70mm f/2.8L], and that's something I didn't see with my Hasselblad lenses. And I don’t even think I’d use the 17-40 [EF 17-40mm f/4L] on the 1Ds.”

Terrill says that the advantages of using zooms, the broader range of focal lengths now in his bag, and the lower weight of the lenses outweigh their drawbacks. Still, he acknowledges occasional nagging dissatisfaction with, in particular, his results from focal lengths under 35mm. "Canon needs killer wide angle glass for [the 1Ds].”

Another by-product of his switch from Hasselblad to Canon surprised Terrill. "I appreciate higher quality lights with digital, " he says, referring to his studio strobes. He used Speedotron equipment for years, but has recently made a wholesale switch to Profoto gear.

If one head color doesn't exactly match another, or if the heads don't put out exactly the same power on every frame, he sees it in his results more easily. "I can't really articulate why that is," he says. "I find that when I shoot the Profoto gear I end up with much better results. More consistent. I got along with the Speedo very well with film for a long time. Now, I find the need to use the Profoto more than I ever did before."

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