Sunday, 31 March 2013

Missing photographs

I'm afraid you will find a number of photographs missing from older posts on this blog. I managed to delete them without realising what I was actually deleting and it will take a while to sort out what images I actually posted.

The reason they got deleted is that I was thinking about starting a new online gallery and was going to try Picasa and found that I already had an account. In that account were photos which appeared on the blog. I couldn't remember opening this account but assumed I had at sometime and so I deleted all the photos only to find that apparently thats where the photos are stored that appear on the blog. All to do with Google owing everything and linking everything I suppose but it seems you have to be very careful what you are posting where as its likely to turn up all over the place.

I may well try to start a blog with Wordpress and get away from Google but thats in the future. I'll keep posting here for the moment and will try over time to repost the missing photos.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Wither the weather..

Its dire isn't it? I don't mind it being cold if its snowy or bright, plenty of opportunities to take photographs then but when the wind is this bitter and its dull and grey I have to say I don't have the inclination to go and stand around to try and take photographs.

So, what to do? Well, last week was not a good week for photography - or much else come to that. Monday was fairly normal but then on Tuesday I had to go to the dentist for a repair to a filling, Wednesday I had to go to the hospital for my 6 monthly check up - good news, Thursday I had to take Sarah to the hospital for a check up on her eyes - bad news - Friday I had to go to the hospital for an injection into my back - provisionally good news - Saturday, well no more hospital but then Sarah goes down with the flu and we were supposed to be going to the boat today to move it back to the marina but what with the weather and........ No must stop this, if anyone is still reading lets get back to photography!

Anyway what do do when the weather is foul. How about self portraits? No one really likes having their photograph taken but if you are photographing yourself at least you don't need to listen to the sitters moans. As something different I thought I'd do one as a reflection in something other than a mirror so here's a little teapot -

Not on film, just on my little point and shoot. Anyone fancy doing the same and posting some examples, must be loads of different surfaces you could choose from.

In taking those pictures I discovered I had a  few shots on the P & S that I hadn't downloaded. Nothing to write home about but one I took of a sunlit path could have been quite nice except for the fact that it was over exposed and given that it was only in jpg I had no way of recovering the detail but by some cropping and converting into B & W it makes a passable shot. So its always worth thinking about what you can do to a photo if at first glance it doesn't look that good. Here it is:


Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Thoughts on Tripods

What is a tripod? Well we all know its a device on three legs for keeping a camera steady - don't we? The thing is do they keep your camera steady and is there any difference between the many different models available?

The answer no to the first and yes there is a huge difference in the various models and you really do to a large extent get what you pay for. With prices ranging from around £16 to over £600 there should be some difference too! If you are thinking of buying a tripod you have to consider various options to decide which is right for you:

1 What height do you need it to extend to.
2 What is the minimum height you need? If for example you do macro work you might want to get very close to the ground and then a model where the legs splay out almost horizontally is a great boon.
3 What type of head do you need, a ball and socket or pan and tilt? Both have their advantages and disadvantages and it again depends on what sort of shooting you are going to be doing.
4 Is weight important? If you are going hiking with it you obviously want it to be as light as possible but all other things being equal a lighter tripod is less stable especially in windy conditions.

The best plan is to actually go along to a shop and see and try the tripod with your own gear so that you can check that it will take the camera and any heavy lens and will do what you need of it.

One of the major faults of cheaper tripods is that they are not stable and will vibrate when the shutter is released which although perhaps not being as bad as a hand held shot is not really what you need. Its amazing how much vibration can be caused by just the shutter and especially if you have a DSLR the mirror flipping up. A good way to see what effect this has if you already have a tripod or if you are buying one and they will let you so this in the shop is to half fill an eggcup with water, balance it on the camera and look for the ripples on the water surface when you fire the shutter. Try this also with the mirror locked up -see your instruction book on how to do this if you don't know, it will be in the menu's somewhere - and see what the difference is.

Its also an idea to just flick your finger against a leg of the tripod and see if that creates any movement in the water and that will give you an idea of how stable the tripod is likely to be in windy conditions.

So lots to think about when buying a tripod and it is worth paying a bit more for a really good one. At the end of the day your pictures will be a lot sharper and probably for a lower cost than buying a new quality lens.

If you need any advice on this drop me a mail.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Comparing results

Since starting to use different film cameras and looking at the individual results I've not really been able to make up my mind as to whether there is a great difference in the image quality or not. When comparing two different subjects its hard to be totally sure so I decided to shoot the same picture with all three of my medium format cameras and see if that would give me a conclusive answer to the question.

I chose an old dilapidated barn on the edge of town and set each camera in turn up on a tripod so as to avoid any possible camera shake (although that's another blog subject).

The results are here:

I'd be interested to hear if you have a preference or can see any major difference in quality on the web but looking at the printed results I think in third place is the Solida where the brickwork is not quite as sharply defined but the other two are very evenly matched which, when you consider that the Kodak camera is about 80 years old and over half a century older than the Bronica is quite amazing. Obviously this is hardly a scientific experiment and it may well have been influenced by my scanning but it hasn't helped in my decision as to which camera to use this summer!

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Time for some decisions

Since starting to use film again I've gone from using a 35mm camera through my 6 x 4.5 Bronica medium format and my 6cm x 6cm folding Solida up to the old Kodak 6cm x 9cm and at each stage have really enjoyed the larger negatives and the results I've got from them. Also of course I've had the day with the large format 5" x 4"

Now each time I go out to take photographs I'm faced with the decision as to which to take. Each has its own benefits - the 35mm, ease of use, small size, 36 exposures to a roll, the Solida larger negatives, pocket sized and light, the Bronica, ability to shoot colour and B & W with exchangeable back, use of telephoto or extension tube for macro, the Kodak larger negative still, pocket size. But each also has its disadvantages - the 35mm, small size of negative, the Solida square format, The Bronica, its weight and size (1.7kg) and smaller negative size, the Kodak lens flare due to the lens not being coated.

So each one is a trade off of pluses and minuses and sometimes those make the choice obvious, if for example I'm going out and just want to have a camera in case a subject presents itself it would be the Solida or Zorki 35mm, if I know what I'm going to shoot and its not too much of a walk the the Bronica if I need the variety.

But the time is coming when I'm going to have to make a permanent decision for the summer as I can't really justify taking them all with me when we go away on the narrowboat. It might just be that I end up buying a 6 x 9 more modern folder and leave the rest but that will mean disposing of some I have as I don't think marital harmony will stretch to me having 5 film cameras - so anyone interested in buying any??

On another subject I tried out a ND filter the other day on the Zorki. I've had it a while but never got round to using it. These restrict the light getting to the film and therefore enable you to use a larger aperture or longer exposure times in a given situation. I wanted to use this one to increase the exposure times to get that dream like quality you see on seascapes or river shots. Its a 10 stop filter which means that if the exposure reading without it was 1/30sec the actual exposure would need to be 32sec if you were shooting with a digital camera. If using film you also have to allow for reciprocity failure which means that the film doesn't react to light with long exposures the same way that it does at shorter exposures and with the above example I'd have to leave the shutter open for 2 minutes. This first experiment was not quite successful as the exposure was not really long enough being only 17 sec. and the day, although bright was very very flat and overcast but I'll try some more shortly and see how they look with longer exposures.

and just an odd couple of pictures also from the latest roll out of the Zorki

Friday, 8 February 2013

Does size matter?

I'm referring here to negative size - what else? - does it make a difference to the final image? Well to an extent that obviously depends on what the final image is going to be - a print or an electronic image on the web for example and if a print what size of print. Mentioning digital photography for a moment (Sorry!) there is a huge feeling that more and more mega pixels are necessary for a good image but the same criteria apply as for film. If you are only going to post a photo on Facebook any size sensor from about 3mg upwards would be more than adequate. If you want a quality 20 x 16 print to hang on the wall then yes 16mp upwards might be necessary although I have a terrific canvas portrait of my wife measuring 30 x 24 hanging on the wall which was taken with my original Canon digital camera of 3mp.

Anyway I digress, back to film negative size. The difference it can make was brought home to me last Saturday when I had a day in Norwich shooting with a large format camera. For those of you who don't know, large format negatives start at 5" x 4" and go up from there to 10" x 8" and larger. The camera I was shooting with was what is known as a field camera in that it is easy to carry (compared to other types of LF cameras) and use out and about. The camera itself weighed about 3 kg and the tripod another 2.5kg and then there were the negative holders, lens etc so its not really a pocket job.

We started off at a coffee shop and Paul ran through the controls on the camera and instructed me on how to put the film in the holders and we went to Norwich Cathedral to put it into practise. Its not photography for when you are in a hurry. First choosing the subject, then putting up the tripod, fitting the black cloth and diving under it to frame the shot (which is complicated by the fact that not only is the image reversed left to right which I'm used to on my Bronica but upside down which does take a bit of getting used to). Then its a question to focusing it with the help of a loupe to magnify the image on the ground glass screen. Then with a separate light meter taking the readings and setting the speed and aperture. then  putting the film holder in, taking out the dark slide and firing the shutter, replacing the dark slide and removing the holder from the camera. All done!

We spent several hours wandering around Norwich and I have to say that if you like talking to people about photography carrying a large format camera and tripod are a great way to attract attention! We even had our photograph taken at least twice whilst photographing in the Royal Arcade.

By the end of the day I had decided that I had really enjoyed the experience but was not convinced that it held enough attraction for me to actually buy one. That all changed when I saw the developed images! Paulgave me the film I had shot and I managed to develop them in my tank which is really designed for roll film. Then after drying them I managed to scan them in in slices with my flatbed scanner and stitch the pieces together in photoshop. Not exactly the best way to get the best image quality but what I saw on my screen blew me away. The depth of detail and the tonal range need to be seen to be believed. I'm posting an example below but I don't think that the web image really does the result justice.

So am I going to buy a large format camera? Possibly, although there are two major obstacles. One is my back and carrying that sort of weight around Norwich has reactivated my back problem and the other is that a lot of my shooting is done whilst I am walking the dogs and although they are patient I think it might be stretching it a bit to expect them to sit around for 20 minutes or so every time I want to take a shot. So I'm going to use the 6 x 9 Kodak on a tripod for a bit and see if I can cope with the speed of working. Its not a totally direct comparison but it will give me an idea and after an experiment I did last Monday (see next post) I'm keen to use that format more.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Winter Photos

Great to see the snow from a photographic point of view even if not from any other.

I'm still enjoying my new acquisition, the folding 6 x 6 Solida and used that mainly whilst we had snow around but there were some restricting factors. I had loaded the camera with ISO 400 film and with the brightness due to the sun and the snow was struggling to get the indicated exposure and having to use the fastest shutter speed I had - 1/200 and the smallest aperture - f22 and this has shown up a problem with the camera in that at that small aperture there does appear to be some vignetting. That problem usually occurs at the other end with wide open lens but can be a problem when closed right down too.

Whilst thinking about exposure did anyone have problems with their snow pictures? Either rather muddy and underexposed or with a colour cast? If you did its due to the auto features on the camera making assumptions about the scene its seeing. With both exposure and white balance the camera assumes its seeing an "average" scene and will do the calculation of speed and aperture accordingly but obviously with large areas of bright white in the frame the scene is not average and hence the camera tends to under expose. Likewise with white balance it assumes that all the colours its seeing when mixed together should be a mid grey and again that's obviously not the case. If you shoot in RAW then adjusting the white balance in the computer is simple, if shot in jpg possible but not so easy. If we get any more snow and you have had this exposure problem just use your exposure compensation control to open up the settings a bit.

Anyway here's a selection of my photos, I decided to go mainly for the "Bleak mid winter" look!