Question of the Month
What happens when your LCD Monitor on your Digital Camera dies?
These two images were rather unique opportunities,
with a leopard and cub backlighted at dawn and a
charging lioness, straight at the camera (but attacking
another lioness right next to my window). I had to shoot
with confidence, without an LCD!
I often wondered what one would do if a camera's LCD monitor broke while on a shoot. Besides confirming images and exposures, 'chimping', the LCD display is critical for setting any custom functions, formating a CF card, enabling Live View or video, and any number of important functions.
In August Mary gave me a Canon 1DX camera for my 60th birthday -- a great gift. I used it on several trips, Jaguars in Brazil, Yellowstone, Kenya, and our first Rwanda gorilla trek. To my horror, however, as we started our second Kenya Photo Safari I discovered that my LCD display didn't work. At first I thought the camera was broken but when I switched cards, putting the DX's card in my Mark IV body, I saw that the camera was still capturing images.
Now I had a dilemna, do I retire the DX for the second Kenya trip and second gorilla trek, or do I shoot 'blind' and not rely on the LCD. I decided to challenge myself and shoot the camera without the LCD.
I'd have really been in trouble, however, had I not had my camera set up for how I wanted to setup the camera. So thumb-activated focus, metering linked to the auto-focus point, disabled Live View, and other features were already set. Because, without the LCD monitor I could not change anything!
Since everything was set up my only concern was exposure. Since Mary and I shoot, and advocate, using Spot Metering and Manual Mode, I felt confident that I could set my exposures without having to rely on confirmation via the monitor. The two subsequent trips, Kenya and Rwanda's gorillas, were shot in this fashion and you can see the results, they were fine.
This anecdote reenforces four points. One, set up your camera the way you want it to work as quickly as possible, in case something like this happens to you.
Two, on trips it is absolutely critical that you have a backup camera. Had I not been able to confirm that my camera was working, via switching cards into the camera with a working LCD monitor, I'd have been worried each day when I would download images. As it was, after the first day or two of checking I was confident the camera was functioning correctly, just not the monitor.
Three, I was confident about my exposure because I used manual mode. It is funny, because on the Antarctica trips that we co-lead with several other professional photographer tour leaders, virtually all of them use Aperture Priority and a few of these pros have given Mary and I a kidding hard time about using manual instead of Aperture Priority. I've often been tempted to challenge the most vociferous pro to cover our LCD monitors with gaffer's tape and shoot 'blind' for one or more days, and compare the results straight out of the camera. Most priority mode photographers I know rely on 'chimping,' to check their histogram for the correct exposure. Some pros simply say that the histogram in the 'new' exposure meter, and rely solely on that display to confirm exposure. Imagine being in my situation and having to rely on that!
Four, I think this confirms the importance of knowing Manual Exposure, Spot Metering Mode. Lately, we've had some very serious but somewhat novice photographers who, while on either a safari or photo tour, wanted to learn manual metering and, even under rather taxing conditions, did so and loved it. We would much prefer to have our tour and safari participants learn this method in a less stressful and critical shooting situation, and we'd love to see everyone that did our tours take our Digital Complete Nature Photo Course first, where they not only learn and master manual exposure methods but also learn a good workflow and image management system as well.
I never would have thought that a brand new camera, not subject to any damage or shock, would quit on me like the DX did, but it happened. The lesson -- learn Manual Mode, Spot Metering, it might be your only salvation on a critical trip!
Questions of the Month
How can so many people be so wrong (about seeing a mountain lion)?
What does a Mountain Lion look like on a game camera?
Monopod Field Use - Does it work?
Is there a Mountain Lion Conspiracy?
What gear do you need for Antarctica?
What gear is essential for being in the field?
How Easy is NIK's HDR Program to use?
What is the most endangered big cat to photograph?
Why did we drop our NANPA membership?
What is the best $69 you can spend in photography?
More Questions about Pumas in Pennsylvania
Are the Latest Fast CF Cards worth the Expense?
How does the 7D hold up in a recent shoot?
Which is the better camera, the Mark IV or the 7D?
Are there Mountain Lions (Pumas, Cougars) in Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic States?
Why is bat photography so difficult?
What do I think of the Canon 1D Mark IV?
Why do I advocate manual exposure so avidly?
Where can I find Depth of Field reference charts?
What is the Keboko backpack? Is it the New Best Pack?
Is there a correct position for the upright on a Wimberley actionhead?
How, Who, and Why? The story behind our new web site.
Archived Questions of the Month
Most of my original Questions of the Month for the last several
years are available through this link. The 'look' is from my
original web site, although if I ever have enough time I might
redo these pages to match the new web site But that's not
a high priority.