Digital Outback Photo
- Photography using Digital SLRs


Portfolio Work #002

A Lucky Shot, Theory & Reality

essay by Bettina & Uwe Steinmueller




Everyone knows that luck is part of photography:

  • Being there (vantage point)
  • Weather
  • Light
  • Exposure
  • Framing
  • Focus

The above photo was taken 8/11/2000 at Point Lobos (China Cove) with a Nikon D1 and the AF-S 80-200mm f/2.8 lens + 2x Nikon TC-20E tele converter (f/12, 1/640sec, ISO 400). The photo was not cropped.

This is one of our best photos for the last 2 1/2 years. Without the fog and the faded coastline of the Carmel Highlands it would be just a nice Pelican group shot. We think of it as a landscape photo with Pelicans.

It should be pretty clear why we were more than lucky:

We had no time to select the background (which is key for this photo)

  • The birds are in focus
  • The lens/converter combination does deliver soft images (we later rarely used the TC-20E for that reason).
  • This is not a problem here as the subject benefits from the slight softness.
  • Exposure was correct
  • Our vantage point was near perfect
  • Shot freehand (was mounted on a monopod, but the legs were not on the ground)

Then there were a few factors that allowed us to take chances:

  • 1/640 was the right shutter speed
  • The AF worked
  • We had checked the exposure before we took this shot
  • The lens is excellent
  • The 2x adapter not too bad either
  • The D1 with it's 2.7 MP sensor is a much better camera than some mightbelieve

Note: Actually prints up to 10x15" look much better than the small web image make you believe.

Theory & Reality

All the parameters are not really in favor to get a photo that would be part of our portfolio.That is the theory. The reality tells us that this photo works.


  • Take your chances
  • Judge the final photo (reality)
  • Subject matters
  • Detail and ultimate sharpness is not everything
  • Photos like this can hardly be planned

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