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Our Photo Equipment

David Bailey and Lisa Leinbaugh

Update: Since creating this gallery, we have switched to a medium format camera system, the Pentax 645. However, as of April 1998, all photos in this gallery are from the equipment described below.
Equipment junkies we are not. (Well, David admits to an occasional drool while leafing through Popular Photography.) But enough people have asked, that we figured we ought to summarize what we use--if only to point out that it's nothing special!

We have a typical 35mm system, largely bought used: a couple old Canon EOS bodies (an ancient 620 and a 10s) and three mid-priced zooms (Tokina 20-35, Canon 35-135 USM, and Canon 100-300 USM). We occasionally use a polarizer or Canon's high-quality screw-in closeup "filter" 500T. The main qualities of this equipment are (1) it works, at least most of the time; and (2) it is light enough to backpack with.

But the two biggest contributors to our image quality are film and tripod. We tend to shoot Royal Gold 25 which gives nice grainless prints even at 11x14, along with good color saturation (though some of these images are from Fuji Reala 100). And we use a tripod (Bogen 3001 with the smallish ballhead 3262) pretty religiously, even when backpacking (ugh)--for sharpness and to encourage slowing down and concentrating.

Image quality aside, the most dramatic improvement in our photography followed from setting up our own color darkroom three years ago--you spend a lot more time perfecting a shot in the field when you know you'll spend 2-3 hours working on it in the darkroom, annoyed by any silly oversight made when snapping the shutter! For darkroom equipment, we use an Omega 6x7 dichroic enlarger with a Nikon 50mm lens, and a Jobo CPE2+ processor. Fuji Super FA is our paper of choice for its relative archivalness, though sometimes we use Kodak Portra or Ultra. We've used Kodak RA-4 chemicals exclusively.

We have done Cibachrome a few times, and enjoy its glossy, saturated look for some subjects--not to mention the pleasure of viewing a positive on the easel. But by and large, we still prefer the negative process because it's cheaper, faster, less obviously toxic, and has fewer contrast problems.

The images are scanned on a Microtek II flatbed scanner which dates from around 1990. Still, we use only a fraction of its potential resolution--the images are scanned at 100dpi. Adobe Photoshop is then used to fix the occasional brightness or color-balance problem, and to apply a mild sharpening filter to compensate for the softness introduced by the scanner. The program 'jpegtran' is then used to convert the images to Progressive JPEG.

Now, to balance all this tech-talk, a little philosophy: Why do we photograph? We enjoy the craft. We enjoy holding the finished print or hanging it on the wall. We enjoy sharing our experiences with others, and the camaraderie of fellow photographers. But above all, we enjoy learning to better see the beauty around us every day.