Fritz Pölking

A Pilgrimage Into Digital Reality  

1. Revival..

Last time I was at Yosemite National Park was in 1978, 25 years ago. That was the year here in Germany when driving on Sundays was limited to the even numbers on the license plates one Sunday and the uneven numbers the following Sunday.

In the States you were only able to buy gas if your tank was at least half empty in order to avoid panic-buys.

That was also the year John Wayne died of cancer he contracted while filming a “Dschingis Khan” piece. This was a movie they filmed in parts of the USA where underground nuclear testing occurred. Almost everyone who was involved in shooting this movie died sooner or later of cancer.

What impressed me most at the time was the TV in the bathroom of a hotel in San Francisco . If you were watching a drama and had to go to the bathroom you could continue watching it in peace. I was extremely impressed.

The RV we rented in 1978 in San Francisco
It was snowing in spite of it being July and we escaped from
Yosemite National Park  
and the cold into the warm
Death Valley close to Las Vegas .



In 1978 a 9 x 12 colleague was taking pictures of Yosemite Valley  
from the sunroof of his car. Back then he needed 12 minutes for his picture. 
I went there too and took my Kodachrome – 64 slides with the Olympus OM-1 in 2 minutes.


Today a 9 x 12 colleague still needs 12 minutes for his picture,

but me with my digital camera and small picture format,

include the copying of the pictures to my laptop and white balance them,

with a hard drive and the time needed in the evening in the hotel

to change the picture from RAW to TIFF and giving it some form in Photoshop,

to run it through a color management system, burn it on a CD-Rom,

then to finally save it on the desk-top at home

by now I need about 13 minutes per picture….

You can’t stop progress…..


Even though it was already October 2003 and the season was already over, Yosemite National Park was very crowded. I haven’t seen a National Park be so crowded for a long time. Especially in Yosemite Valley you have the feeling that you are in a big city during rush hour.

In spite of the park being so full, this National Park is – especially for landscape photography – a perfect destination. Here are a few pictures from that October in 2003 that I took during my five-day stay there, before I continued on to Death Valley even though it did not snow at the National Park this time, on the contrary, in spite of it being October it was very warm there.




6 pictures with the EOS-1 V and the
4.0/17-40 mm and 4.0/70-200 mm, on Velvia -50
(exp. as the 40 ISO) and with the pol-filter and tripod.

2. Approach to Digitals

The photography ship is undoubtedly taking course towards Digiland – and recently at full speed. It is relatively unclear which harbors it will weigh anchor in, and it is even more questionable if it will at all.

  Let’s remember video. There were three systems: first the one from Grundig, later it was re-named as System 2000 and then VHS and BETA joined them.

  According to the opinion of experts, BETA was the best system, then the Grundig-2000 and least of all VHS which, in spite of this, was the only one that survived because the manufacturers having the cleverest license policies from all three competitors.

  Now we have three different directions in digital photography as well: One is pushing towards a whole-format chip, the other system towards the extended factor of 1.5 and the third group around Olympus and Kodak, the open ¾ system, which is especially attractive for wildlife photographers.

  A 2.8/300 mm is in this system a 2.8/600 mm and all the lenses are specifically calculated for digital photography and no “compromise lenses” that came from analog photography.

  I dare question if the Nikon and Canon photographers will change to that. They had been “cheated” by Minolta and Olympus not too long ago and will hardly be open to risk another change to a completely new system. Concerning the enormous amount of money for a complete set of professional photo equipment, most professional photographers quickly lose their sense of humor and their level of tolerance is zero.

  Before the AF-time, Olympus started an alternative professional system to Nikon and Canon. Two wonderful and very good professional lenses – 2.0/200 mm and 2.8/350 mm – and the alleged professional cameras OM-3 and OM-4 that already brought the beginning of the end, emerged. In actuality they were tuned-up amateur cameras and after the first two pro-lenses “that’s all she wrote”. Olympus ended up doing nothing further for their SLR-clients, tried to get as much money as possible from the existing material and just let the whole thing die out in turn leaving the clients with partial equipment “standing in the rain”.

  Minolta did the same thing a bit later: The era of auto focus was started with a professional fanfare:  A Minolta 9000 (the first AF-SLR in any case) for professionals – the Minolta 7000 for amateurs came later – and with two superb lenses, the first AF 2.8/300 mm on the global market and the first AF 4.0/600 mm on the global market. Nikon needed another 12 years in order to offer their customers an AF 4.0/600 mm.

  After such a grand beginning, professionals were counting on a fantastic and quickly expanding professional AF system, but – that was it. The pro-9000 with its miserable view finder should have been quickly followed by an improved pro-SLR and two lenses are a bit meager for a professional system. But Minolta soon let the 9000 die out and never came up with a real professional camera – only, just as Olympus before that – some face-lifted, tuned-up amateur cameras as pseudo-professional casings.

  If you consider the company policy of Olympus and Minolta you don’t have to wonder about the fact that the market is under firm control of Canon and Nikon and that it most probably will stay that way. You can fool photographers once but it is much more difficult the second time around.

  On this tour in October 2003 I had taken the new digital EOS-300D as my second camera. First impression: a good and – relatively – inexpensive digital SLR for those who want to take digital pictures with an SLR for their own enjoyment.

  Professionals and semi-professionals will more then likely have to wait until summer of 2004 until a completely suitable digital-SLR will be on the market for nature photographers – and as a serious alternative to the analog SLR.



Nature photographers are known to be inventive: 
in order to take analog and digital photos simultaneously (without having to drag two tripods around with me)
 I mounted (sometimes) the EOS-1 and the EOS-300D next to each other on a Burzynski Macro Slide.


Here are some digital results from this trip, most of them saved in a jpeg-format.

  Why jpeg and not raw?

  First of all, I get about 40 large/fine jpeg pictures but only 16 raw files onto a 128 MB CF-card.

  And then, a jpeg-picture is done and finished in the camera. So if I take more then 200 pictures during the day and have them saved in a jpeg format, they are done in the camera and I can watch TV in the evening.

  If I save in the raw format they are exactly that: raw and I have to take each and every picture, convert it to Photoshop and work on it. So much for watching TV that evening….


Mono Lake , EOS-300D, 4.0/17-40 mm, pol-filter, tripod.


Antelope Canyon , EOS-300D, 4.0/17-40 mm, no filter, tripod.


Synopsis of the three-week digital try-out:



  1. The fun-factor
  2. The pictures turn out better because you have direct control.



  1. You only have about 6 Million pixels per picture for info rmation, sharpness and fine grain at your disposal.
  2. Whereas a KB-Sensia-100 has 25 Million pixels and the new KB-Velvia-100 has even 50 Million pixels.


What does application tell us?

American picture agencies use the benchmark of 6 Million pixels being enough for editorial publishing and 11 Million pixels for advertisement.

So if you have an affordable digital SLR you have to use the format to its full extent and later – according to this rule – you should avoid making any big cut-outs.



  Such a magnifying glass for your digital SLR should definitely be part of your equipment 
in order to judge the picture - even in sunshine - directly after you take it.

You can get these through your camera dealer from Startec GmbH.

More info rmation on this LCD-Monitor viewer called “Digifinder” is available under

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