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Tuesday
Feb242009

SCL Photo Podcast 34: Lunch Break!

SCL PodcastTake a short walk with me on my lunch-break...

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Monday
Feb162009

SCL Photo Podcast 33 - The Argument For Film

SCL PodcastTake it with a pinch of salt, but today I make the argument and state the case for shooting Film as well as Digital!

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Show notes:






My Notes:

Feature: The Argument For Film

(Sound of Eos 50e at maximum fps)

That's the sound of a new, second hand 35mm film slr I picked up at the car boot sale this morning. Its a Canon EOS 50e, with a 28-80mm Auto-focus f3.5 zoom lens. It goes from full auto, point and shoot style, to full manual where you choose all the settings. It can shoot at about 3 frames per second, the auto focus can track moving objects, it can work out the correct aperture to have two different objects in focus yet the rest blurred, it has centre-weighted, spot and evaluative metering. Its got a built in flash, or can use an external flash and meter it automatically. It tracks your eye across the viewfinder and activates the nearest AF point so that it focuses on what you're looking at. And it only cost me £40.

There's loads of good stuff on ebay too, lens, filters, adapters, batteries etc, or maybe you've got a real camera shop near you that deals in second hand kit - just talk to the owners and find out the history of the camera, make sure it turns on, the lens is clean and operates smoothly, and the shutter works. If its an older model make sure the light-meter operates too - but hey. half of the fun of working with the older, clockwork powered cameras is the lack of electronics - less to go wrong and they'll last forever.

So that's the first argument for thinking about shooting film - the hardware is incredibly cheap. You know me - I've got a couple of manual Minolta SLR's, a Practika, a Beirette and an Olympus film point and shoot, all bought at the local car-boot sale, and all, apart from this Canon, for less than a tenner.

Next up, quality of your images. With film, it's all down to the film you put in, your technique, and your lens. The film depends on how much you want to spend, but its pretty cheap anyway. Technique? Well, that's something you learn and get better at. So it's only really the last thing, the lens that we control with our purchasing power. And you know that boca-backed portrait / macro style that's all the rage, photo's where the foreground and background are blurred, with all the main subject, or parts of it, in focus? Well that's incredibly easy with a 50mm f1.4 lens. And that came on a Minolta that I paid less than a tenner for. The equivalent digital lens is hundreds of pounds.

It could be argued that film prints look better than digital too. There's no noise - just grain, which has an organic, natural feel that often adds to the feel of the photograph, not take it away. With film you're always going to have the pleasure of looking through glossy prints, a much nicer experience than just looking at images on your monitor.

If we're talking detail, why not step up to medium format film? More expensive and rare, but the kit is still available. The reason why Ansel Adams photographs are so full of detail is because he was creating large negatives which make beautiful large prints - the bigger the better.Another argument for Film is the ultimate portability. No computers, usb leads or chargers required. The battery in my new Eos 5e is good for 90 rolls of film, more than enough for any holiday or adventure. Would any digital camera last that long?

Something that we're all obsessed with is backing up our digital photographs, and thinking about how we can archive them for the future, but if we really think about it - even if we copied them to dvds, cd-roms, multiple hard-drives or the all-conquering DROBO, do you really think our ancestors, our great grand-kids or other relatives are going to be able to read them? ard-drives fail within a few years, especially if not used, and plastic media slowly falls apart. Sure, we could print out every digital photo we shoot, but how long does your average printer photo-paper last? A few years at most before it becomes brittle and turns to dust. Film has the double back-up of the print and the negative - which if store correctly will last for decades, and as long as they've got some sort of scanner or cameras in the future, which of course they'll have, they'll be able to scan, or photograph those negatives and re-produce those photo's, just like I did with my Dad's old film slides from the 1960's.

The final reason to shoot film is that it makes you a better photographer. Only having 24 or 36 exposures on a roll, which will cost you a tenner to develop, makes you consider each frame more carefully. You slow down and think instead of just firing the shutter off. Shoot a roll of film and your digital photo's will be better, guaranteed. Going back and shooting a roll of film every few months will keep you sharp, and you'll become a better photographer, taking fewer, but better, photographs.

So what are you waiting for? Think of all those family parties, get-togethers and special moments that you've captured on digital, but won't be there in 40 years for your ancestors to see? Surely it would have been better to shoot with film as well, so all those memories are saved forever, for a future and for people that we cannot even begin to imagine?

Next weekend, get down to your local car-boot sale and look for cheap film cameras. Check ebay, and the classifieds in your newspaper. Ask your relatives, there's probably at least one that's got a really good film SLR collecting dust in the attic, which they'd be more than happy for you to have, while they make do with a seemingly "cheaper" digital camera.

Get a Film camera, grab a few rolls of film, and go out and shoot -you won't regret it, in fact you'll wonder why you didn't try it sooner!

Few, I hope that was interesting to some of you guys. Take what I've said with a pinch of salt, and I've obviously exaggerated quite a bit, but maybe those who have only shot digital will be encouraged to try film, or those that have film cameras tucked away will think about firing them up again. In reality, I know that the cost of developing and printing is prohibitive - so why not have a film camera as well as your digital - so for those extra special memories, or those scenes that you want to last forever, shoot them on both - digital for ease of use, and film for longevity.

Oh, and as a PS for this article, just to show that although I love shooting film my, but digital is what I take most of my photographs with if anyone out there's got an old Canon digital back that they'd like to donate, say an old 10 or 20d, I'll use the lens off my new 50e, and it'd be much appreciated!

I'd like to thank Ted Marshall for the inspiration for this podcast - he's a dedicated Film Shooter who I've shared several emails with, and hopefully he'll be joining our Flickr group soon to share some of his great images.

I'd also like to thank Mathew Clark, or clarkysnap as he's know on Flickr - he came up with the great idea of asking for responses or questions to the podcast or blog in audio terms - so what I'd like for people to do is to think about Film, maybe you shoot in now, have in the past or are thinking about in the future - record a response in mp3 format and email it to me at scalespeeder@gmail.com. It could be that you agree with what I'm saying, or maybe you think film is dead and digital is the only way forward - but what I'll try to do is collate your responses and play them in a future podcast. If you can't record audio, just send me an email and I'll read it out.

Photo Assignment For February - "The Third Dimension"

Long Term Assignment - "Where I Live"

Technique challenges (No Time Limit):

No Sky Landscapes

Fill The Frame!

Dawn / Dusk shots

A Landscape Style Shot With Strong Foreground Interest

Remember to email me your photos if you'd like to me work on them for the Photo Workbench.

To contact me, just click on the link near the top of the page under the big picture.

Thanks for listening, see you on Flickr!

Join the Flickr Group!

Cheers, Rob.
Tuesday
Feb102009

Photowalk 67: Clouds And Blue Skies = Black And White

Flats Near Forton Lake."I see a red door and I want to paint it black..." Well, not quite, but today there were blue skies, nice white clouds, a Cokin Polarizer on my Fujfilm S5700 S700, and a spring in my step!

Come with me as we take a walk around the Explosion! Museum end of Priddys Hard, with an eye for finding shapes and shadows...





Flats Near Forton Lake.
Flats Near Forton Lake.


The way I convert to b&w is with the Photoshop (or Elements) Black and White Adjustment Layer, experimenting with the different colours until I get a nice starting point, my favourites being red or green. Then I add a colour balance layer, shifting the highlights and shadows to the colder, bluer end of the spectrum (-3,0,3) for both (thanks to Victor W for that one), then I add a curves, and finally a levels adjustment layer, adjusting the contrast with both, remembering to apply them in Luminescence Blend Mode so they don't affect the colour.

If it's necessary I'll use layer masks with the curves and levels adjustment layers to change specific areas.

Artillery Piece At Explosion! Museum
Artillery Piece At Explosion! Museum


I took this one as I was headed back from the bridge, through the car park of the (soon to close) Explosion! Museum of Naval Firepower. The shape of the mortar caught my eye, so I backed off, dropped to one knee and tried to get everything straight. A touch of zoom to minimise lens distortion, but if you look closely at the low wall, then the top bricks you'll see that it isn't quite right.

Abandoned Buildings, Priddys Hard
Abandoned Buildings, Priddys Hard. 41 of 365.


This one was photographed through a security fence - so I had to get my lens in-between the rails and line up the shot.

View Of Navy Fuel Depot From Forton Lake Bridge
View Of Navy Fuel Depot From Forton Lake Bridge.


A mundane shot made a little more interesting by the bridge strut.

Thanks for looking, Cheers, Rob.
Monday
Feb092009

SCL Photography Podcast 32: Shoot With Something Different

SCL PodcastToday I talk about the benefits of using a camera that you fit in your pocket, and how using different cameras could improve your photography. (Apologies for the buzz half-way through, not sure where it came from!)

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Download / listen to the mp3. (Right-click then "save target as" / "save link as".) (Did I say it was free?)

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Show notes:





Saturday Afternoon Kick-About: Half Time. 38 of 365. (Taken with 2.0mp Kodak Easyshare CX4230)
Saturday Afternoon Kick-About: Half Time. 38 of 365.


My Project 365 on Flickr

My Notes:

Feature: Shooting With Something Different

I'm going to start with an apology about today's subject - many of you may already have gone through the thought processes I've been struggling with over the last couple of weeks, so it may be old hat, or you may disagree with much of what I'm about to say, or it may seem obvious, but I'm starting to think that the cameras we use could well be limiting the type of photography we're creating - and that as photographers we need to question the tools and techniques that we use and recognise that it's good to try something different, even if we think it may not be technically better.

If you follow my Flickr photostream you'll know that I started a new project at the beginning of 2009 - with the aim being to take at least one photograph everyday and upload it to Flickr. At first I thought it would be easy. I tend to go out and shoot a lot anyway, so how hard could it be? Well, actually I have found it really difficult. You see, I have this routine when it comes to photography. I have this checklist I go through when I go out - batteries, lens, tripod, settings, you know the thing. I load up my camera gear into my bag, then head out to see what I can find. Now that's fine when I've got plenty of time, but what about when I'm out with the kids or the Mrs - shopping or playing? I feel naked if I don't have my bag with all my gear, which I have to admit isn't much, and anyway it's not practical to lug around a camera bag when you're going to be playing football down the local park, or are walking back from the shops with carrier bags full of groceries.

I could get a bit philosophical, and pine after all the shots I've missed when I didn't have my camera with me, but the truth is that if I didn't have my camera bag over my shoulder I wasn't really thinking about photography - and there's the problem. I've found that if I'm carrying my camera, I'm always on the look-out for shots, but if I haven't, I'm not.

But because I'd committed to this 365 photo's project, I can't afford to be like that - I needed to be in "photo" mode all the time, and now I understand that the only way that works for me is to have a camera on me.

So what was I to do? I love my Fujifilm S5700 S700, but it's simply too big to fit in my jacket pocket, and even if it did I'd be scared of braking it, as it's my main camera. The camera on my phone is really bad, it takes pictures the size of postage stamps, so instead I turned to my first digital camera, a Kodak Easyshare CX4230 - a compact with a 2 mega pixel sensor, 3 times optical zoom, but best of all it takes OK images and fits in my pocket. I also wouldn't really care if I broke it, I could pick up another, probably better one for a few quid from the local car-boot sale or on eBay. But the point is that I now always have a camera on me. It's fully automatic, so I don't have to worry about ISO, shutter speed or aperture - I just point and shoot - maybe they'll be a little composition, but I think now I've got a great tool for capturing the moment.

It's like when my and Oli, my son, were playing football down the park a couple of days ago. We stopped for a breather, he sat down with his back to the changing rooms, and I just saw the composition - football in the foreground, shapes and textures of the building, and Oli too. I reached into my pocket, turning the Kodak on as I stepped to the right to get into position, then just took a couple of frames. I didn't review them at the time - the Easyshares screen is too dim to look at in daylight, so I just turned it off and popped it back in my pocket, job done.

Now I'm not saying that the compact camera is the ideal camera, far from it, but as photographers we owe it to ourselves, the world around us and our art, to always be carrying a camera, and we should know how it works, how to get the best out of it, and be ready to use it. It could be a compact, your cell-phone camera, or an SLR, anything as long as you're always carrying a camera.

There's another benefit to this too. You'll probably know that I've started to build up a collection of cameras, mostly purchased for a few quid at my local car-boot sale. I've three old film SLR's, a Beirette viewfinder film camera and I just got an Olympus Fully Automatic film compact too. You may think, what's the point - but they're all very different photographic tools, and by using these tools, by understanding how they work, and by physically walking around and trying to take photographs with them, I'm expanding my views on what photography is, and more importantly starting to realise that the camera is just a tool to help us realise our artistic vision, in the same way that a painter uses different brushes or paints.

You can apply this to using different lenses on SLRs, and also to the technique you use when you shoot. I'm an aperture priority ma. I'll set my ISO low, then dial in a medium aperture for a respectable depth of field, then compose and shoot. But this is limiting and can mean I miss the moment. Why not just shoot on auto for awhile, or go the opposite and try full manual? How about ignoring the histogram or light-meter in the camera and just estimate the settings, making adjustments based on what the photo's look like on your view screen?

One of the weirdest feels I've had, photographically speaking, was, and is, using my Beirette viewfinder camera. You see it's fully manual, no electrics and no light meter. I was standing there, in front of Forton Lake Bridge, with this ancient camera in my hands, trying to figure out the settings, which should be simple, but my brain was shouting at me that it wasn't. You see, with the Beirette you only have three shutter speeds - so that's set by the ISO of the film you've loaded. Next up you gaze at the subject and sky and decide whether its sunny, overcast, or something in-between. You then turn the aperture dial to one of those settings. I'm serious - you turn the dial to a little picture of a sun, cloudy sun, bright cloud or dark cloud. Next up you estimate how far away your subject is, in feet, then turn the lens to that. Then you just look through the dim viewfinder and take the photograph.

This all sounds simple, and it is, but I was so blinded by technology, from using complex digital and film cameras, that I had to keep re-checking the settings I'd dialled in, because my brain just couldn't accept that photography could be so simple. Of course the Beirette will probably take lots of over and under exposed shots - but the experience of using it has helped me really think about the metering on my S5700 - to understand that a correct exposure is in the eye, and brain, of the photographer, and not in the silicon chip of the camera.

Well, I've been waffling on about these subjects for long enough now - after you've listened to the podcast, find the podcast notes post on robnunnphoto.com and leave your own thoughts in the comments - are you going to always have a camera on you, and are you going to photograph with something different sometime soon?

Photo Assignment For February - "The Third Dimension"

Long Term Assignment - "Where I Live"

Technique challenges (No Time Limit):

No Sky Landscapes

Fill The Frame!

Dawn / Dusk shots

A Landscape Style Shot With Strong Foreground Interest

Remember to email me your photos if you'd like to me work on them for the Photo Workbench.

To contact me, just click on the link near the top of the page under the big picture.

Thanks for listening, see you on Flickr!

Join the Flickr Group!

Cheers, Rob.
Monday
Feb022009

Photowalk 66 - Snow!

D98 HMS York Type 42 Destroyer Taking On Supplies At Priddys Hard. 33 of 365.I wasn't planning on going out shooting today, but hey, if you look out of the window and see a nice blanket of now, it's got to be done!

I took my usual route, the sky was almost a blanket of grey, but I got some OK snaps.





D98 HMS York Type 42 Destroyer Taking On Supplies At Priddys Hard
D98 HMS York Type 42 Destroyer Taking On Supplies At Priddys Hard. 33 of 365.


I can't resist a resonably close photo of a Destroyer, and for some reason (probably the low tide), HMS York wasn't moored in the normal place when she was taking on ammunition. This meant that I could get a fairly clear view, so I set up my tripod, included the little boat for foreground interest and shot a HDR.

Rear Face of Fort Brockhurst, View Towards Keep
Rear Face of Fort Brockhurst, View Towards Keep.


Another HDR, this time hand-held. To get 6 exposures, I used auto-bracketing on my Fujifilm S5700 S700, overexposed by a stop and a half, took the three frames, then under-exposed by a stop and a half, and took three more.

Photomatix handled the Tone-Mapping, with a slight curves adjustment in Photoshop.

Fort Brockhurst Moat Walk, Snow
Fort Brockhurst Moat Walk, Snow.


As I was wandering around the Fort I was looking for angles that I hadn't shot before, so I climbed up onto the Redan (earthworks in front of the Fort) to get a view back down and along the moat.

My trusty Cokin A Grad filter got a run out today - just look out for the shots where the sky looks a bit darker near the top. I would normally use my Polarizer, but on overcast days that doesn't work. I've got mixed feelings about using the Grad - sometimes it looks ok, but I think I prefer just plain white skies.

This one's turned out a bit grey, so I'll give it another go soon.

Monks Walk View Towards Fareham
Monks Walk View Towards Fareham.


Having snow makes exposure a little tricky, the camera automatically wants to darken the scene, so the snow can get a bit grey, so I dialled in some over-exposure with Exposure Compensation to brighten it all up a bit.

Snow Covered Branches, Monks Walk
Snow Covered Branches, Monks Walk


Not sure what these are, and I think I've over-cooked the colour in post, so it deserves a second go.

What was cool about this shot was that I had to use manual focussing on my S5700 S700, which to be honest I'd avoided in the past, but it was easy and worked well. OK, maybe not so well because it is a little soft, but I'll definitely not be afraid to use it in the future.

Fort Brockhurst Central Ramparts
Fort Brockhurst Central Ramparts.


I like the reflections, but not the foreground bushes.

Fort Brockhurst Central Caponier
Fort Brockhurst Central Caponier


Now, if it just stays really cold a little bit longer, the moat might freeze over, and with snow on the Fort, that'll be a really nice photo....

Thanks for looking,

Cheers, Rob.