Friday, 31 December 2010

The death of Kodachrome

 

A truly rotten way to end 2010 with the news that Kodachrome slide film is no longer with us. Kodak announced the cessation of the production of  chemicals required to develop this film back in the summer. After complaints they agreed to supply one production line in Kansas, America until the end of the year. The last film to be processed went through the machine this week.  To mark this momentous moment in photographic history, fans from around the world travelled to Kansas to watch their film being developed. 

The death of this film is of course due to the vast strides taken in digital imagery.

Kodachrome to me will always remind me of my father. Kodachrome 25 with its slow speed and luxurious colour reproduction made it the choice for the discerning photographer of the time. It was a pig to get the exposure accurate, and with only 24 or 36 exposures to a roll of what was very expensive material, you were very careful on the choice of your subject. Development was included within the cost, it came with a little yellow envelope in which you sent the film away. After a couple of weeks the slides were returned, mounted and ready for the projector.  Many a happy evening was spent reviewing the images. I still have all of those slides safe and sound.

I too used Kodachrome, although at the time my budget as a student made it more difficult to justify, and so the cheaper products made by Barfen which I then developed myself were often used. For those special assignments and holidays it was always the Kodachrome though.

RIP Kodachrome

 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1343015/Last-roll-Kodachrome-film-developed-digital-revolution-brings-75-years-camera-history-close.html

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Rogue FlashBender Review

 

Let me introduce you to my new friend, the Rogue FlashBender.  I had this given to me for Christmas, and it really is a cracking little addition to the camera bag.  I apologise right now for the image quality, this was a very ‘rough and ready’ test to make a comparative assessment of the FlashBender.

Mounting a portable flash gun onto the top of your camera is probably the worst possible position for it.  The combination of a small rectangular light source mounted parallel to the lens will inevitably create flat lighting. When used for portraits the effect can be unflattering.

DPP_0001

In this example the pop up flash makes the face appear flat and a harsh shadow has been formed under the chin. Although not that noticeable, the shadows on the wall behind the subject are also objectionable.

So now lets mount an external flash unit onto the hot-shoe. Again not the ideal location, but with most flash units allowing you to tilt and turn the direction that the flash is pointing we could bounce the light off the ceiling.

 

DPP_0002

In some cases this will work and produce better results. We now have more of a feeling of depth to the subject but we do have quite heavy shadows under the eyes.  If the ceiling is not white we will end up adding colour casts to our subject, also the light has to travel twice the distance, (up to the ceiling – and back down again) with a high ceiling we may not have enough power to illuminate the subject adequately.

 

So now lets take a look at the Rogue FlashBender distributed by Expo Imaging.

 

Available in two sizes – (buy the bigger one)  it is in a nutshell a super little reflector which is held onto the flash head with a wrap round Velcro fastener.  The reflective surface can be altered to a wide variety of shapes to allow it to ‘mould’ the light to your personal needs. It can also be used to block the path of light (flagging) or by wrapping it into a tube shape it will emulate a snoot which is used to produce a narrow beam of light. The shaping is accomplished by three flexible supports sewn into the material. It can be folded or rolled up and stuffed in a pocket easily. There are many reflectors and diffusers on the market, but this one seems to tick a lot of boxes for me. It will never replace my studio lights, but makes a great addition.

DPP_0003

And finally here is the image taken with the FlashBender. The shadows under the eyes are now much reduced, the shadow under the chin is far softer, plus the shadows on the rear wall have been rendered insignificant.

The surface is washable and the overall build quality does give the impression that it should survive some rough treatment.  My only concern would be the fixing to the flash unit. With only a fairly loose friction fit I can quite easily see it falling off when I was not looking. If I were to be using this within a busy social gathering I would consider using a bit of gaffer tape to affix it more permanently.

Amazon currently have the smaller version @ £22 and the larger one @ £30. Worth every penny! 

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Turning Pro?

 

I was at a wedding this week. The photographers for the event were a team who trade as Alfie & Trish.  Very polished and highly professional. I had a long chat to Trish about the business aspect of being a pro photographer. Whilst for the established brand it would appear that the market is lucrative, those wishing to start up may find it exceedingly difficult to get get their business off the ground.  Trish was telling me that she must have had hundreds of people over the last year asking her how to ‘get going in photography’ In all cases she has told them that this is not the business to be in at present. The cost of  cameras in relative terms has never been more affordable, and combined with the powerful software now being sold, it means that anyone can produce above average results. So every one now wants to ‘turn pro’.  Her advice was to keep it as a hobby and enjoy yourself.  I have no reason to disbelieve her, but do remember that Alfie & Trish have a vested interest in keeping down any competition, so presumably even in a buoyant market their advice would possibly be the same.

So if you are thinking of running a photographic business, the emphasis needs to be squarely on the word ‘business’.  It is of no use being able to take picture-perfect images that do not sell.   I have seen some very profitable photographers work, where, to be blunt, the quality sucks, but they have a good turnover. Get the picture?

The local colleges have seen an influx of students wishing to study photography. In a few years time the market may well be awash with young adults with qualifications – but will they find any jobs at the end of their course?  If you fall into this category – find a pro who will allow you to ‘carry their bags’ for them. Expect no reward, but grab as much knowledge as you can. It may even lead to a job offer if you bend over backwards, show total commitment and for heavens sake – never – ever ask if you can leave early as you have to meet your boyfriend/girlfriend to go to the cinema…. It happened to me  with a trainee once – employers hardly offer full time positions to people who are not 100% committed to training.

A mature student who can take good images would probably be better off investing in business skills and time taken to research the market would be time well spent.  Look to local government business start up advisers. They have some excellent information and courses available for free in most cases.

So, where am I at present in the scheme of things after giving all this advice? Truth is, I don't know! I think that will be another entry in this blog on another day.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Photographing Snow, and why does it cost so much to print it out afterwards?

 

Two items I wish to talk about today. I don't want to turn this blog into an area where I am repeating information which is readily available elsewhere, and probably written far better than my humble ramblings. However for my Facebook Friends who may wish to go out and photograph the snow, I give some brief words of advice.

Let it snow

Depending upon your camera, the method used to measure and evaluate correct exposure - to give a ‘not too bright’ or ‘not too dark’ image, can be one of many. The most basic method is one of averaging the light on the entire scene and then referencing it to a neutral grey.  This can lead to all sorts of problems when the image you wish to capture is not an ‘average’ image. If its predominantly black or white the cameras metering system will be fooled into attempting to correct the blacks or whites towards a neutral grey.  Most cameras when photographing snow will attempt to reduce the light getting to the film or sensor too much, giving a rather muddy appearance. Its time for user intervention!  We need to override the exposure, or compensate for the error. So, look for ‘exposure compensation’,  it may be a symbol or  labelled +/- EV, where EV is the ‘exposure value’. Adjust it to add more exposure by setting it to +1EV to start with, if it still looks poor  try +2EV. Be wary of over doing it.   If your camera has the capability of manual mode then you can increase the exposure by either adjusting the shutter or aperture accordingly. Email if you need further help.

 

Inkjet Costs

A recent article by Photoradar  attempted to report on the age old question of why ink cartridges cost so much. Personally I consider Epson failed to give an answer which was in any way ‘an answer’.  In true politician style it appeared to be turned about and used as a PR exercise.  The inkjet market seems to be modelled on the same sales strategy as the PAYG mobile phone, sell the initial hardware cheap as a ‘loss leader’ then reap high profits from the continuing sale of cartridges.

So, as a photographer what is the best option?  My choice is to invest in a cheap and basic inkjet printer, not the top of the range models with several cartridges that cost a fortune to replace. This can be used for the odd proofing of  images and for the day to day family photos.  Then, choose a couple of labs to print the rest of your work. I use two or three, a pro lab for when I need the very best and then others for the budget conscious work and if I need to produce a couple of hundred small prints for the family album. The internet allows you to seamlessly upload images from within many applications, and with the rapid turnaround of some companies, a few days waiting for prints to be delivered is far more sensible. 

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Just an amateur (photographer)

 

What is a professional? Well, my definition is a person who makes money from his skills.  How many times have you heard someone say ‘I am only an amateur’ in relation to their hobby?

Everyone repeat after me

An amateur can be better at their craft than a professional.

 

The difference is not so much about the quality of the end product, but the additional steps needed to ensure that the product or service is delivered - every time.

So a pro photographer will have in place a back up plan, back up equipment, and with any luck a backup for themselves too. This is in no way a definitive list.

Pretend you are are wedding photographer…

What do you do if the heavens open up with the worst rainfall in living memory?  The interior of the church cannot be used as another wedding follows…

Half way through the wedding you drop your one (and only) camera..

You wake up in the morning to discover that you have succumbed to the Swine Flu.

And if you do manage to produce a product, and the bride and groom are not happy, you could end up with a legal claim dropping on your doormat. You do have professional liability insurance in place don't you?

So, if you call yourself an amateur, rejoice in the freedom to create the best work that you possibly can for yourself and others without the stress associated with earning money from your hobby.  

If your work is as good – or even better than the full time professional then you  are not a mere amateur.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Greeting cards from Moo.com

 

IMG_3595blog 

I received last week a set of greeting cards that I had printed by moo.com  I was attracted to the fact that you can have a small run printed, with the added bonus that the cards could have a different image on the front of each and every one.

As is the way with most on line services nowadays, the software is intuitive and easy to use. When you upload an image file the software attempts to resize your pictures to suit the chosen media. However time spent editing the pictures in your favourite software package prior to uploading will ensure far more reliable results. It is always a good idea to check any printing companies minimum requirements for image resolution, dimensions, file formats etc. This information can normally be found within the help section.

I left the inside of the cards blank although you have an option to have text printed if you wish, and to the rear I added my web address and phone number as the idea of the exercise was one of ‘self publicity’ and a little market research.  As a photographer there is no excuse for not using your own work when sending out cards. After all, a simple Christmas card may end up leading to a profitable commission.

Within a week I received a box of cards with envelopes. The packing was first class, and the contents were equally superb.  After I had individually packaged them in clear envelopes they looked as good as any retail offering.

I plan on using Moo again.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

The French Polisher

 

Many years ago, I worked in a company that also employed a French polisher.
His main role was the restoration of pianos. The various smells that emanated from
his work area were sometime pleasing – smelling a little like wine, whilst at other
times the smell was downright offensive. I would pop in and see him and ask how he
put up with such an awful smell, his answer; ‘What smell?’  He had worked for so
long with the smells that he no longer noticed them.

We as photographers can sometimes be guilty of the same thing. We fail to see the
opportunities to capture images within our own local environment, we have become so
used to the sights and sounds local to us that we choose to ignore them.

So today when you leave your home, try to take a little time to look again with fresh
eyes at the world on your doorstep, you may be surprised at what you find.

My friend the French polisher gave me many words of wisdom, another tip was
on the polishing of flat surfaces. ‘Concentrate on the edges, the centre will look
after itself’. It occurs to me that this too, is useful to remember when taking photos.
We tend to focus on the subject placed in the centre of the frame. So like the
polisher, try to concentrate on the outside edges of your images too,  they are just as
important to the whole composition of the final image.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Shadows

Probably the worst time of the year that you may decide to take a photo will be mid-day during the summer.  The sun will be high in the sky creating very flat, bland lighting.

Autumn and winter give the exact opposite. The sun will be low on the horizon, creating dramatic shadows and far more appealing landscapes. People’s faces, if posed correctly, will have far more appeal. 

Our mind is truly amazing, given a small amount of information in a flat two-dimensional image, it is able to recreate depth and perspective, you, as the photographer, must ensure this happens by using the existing light to its best effect.

It is often said that photographers look for ‘good lighting’. What we really ought to say is that photographers look for good shadows. For the parts of the image that we cannot see can be equally as important as the parts we can.

So now is the time to get the cold weather clothing on and to head out for a walk along our coastline. Observe the shadows being cast on the land from clouds, trees, buildings, they are equally as important to the overall scene.  Look at how waves appear more pronounced with the additional contrast created by this dramatic lighting.

And as a plus, with the clocks rolling back an hour and the days becoming shorter, we no longer have to get up at an unearthly hour to photograph the sunrise too.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Facebook Abstraction

As promised, the critique on the submissions. I awarded John first place for his shot of the yellow fibre optic lamp. This was interesting and captured the spirit of the project.  I guess the low light levels gave difficulty with the exposure; I would like to have seen the blacks boosted to give more contrast perhaps.

Michele’s drinking straws was captured well; an energy saver lamp placed to the rear gave a surreal glow.

Both Dorothy and Sarah entered photos of everyday objects. Cellophane when scrunched up reflects light at lots of various angles and can be used to good effect. Perhaps try this again, pulling back a little to get a sharper image, and try to use a source of coloured light to add to the effect. Tea bags were a novel idea; sometimes the most mundane of objects around the house can be used for inspiration. Technically both shots were out of focus – a limitation of the cameras I would guess. 

Steve’s capture of the corks was also a good one; the image was well composed and interesting.

So thanks to you all for giving it a go, I wanted to show that we sometimes take for granted the mundane and that it is not necessary to travel miles for inspiration, sometimes it can be found on your doorstep.

http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/pages/Paul-Clark-Photography-for-Thanet/167727298579?v=wall

Saturday, 16 October 2010

First Time Blogger

Well, here I am doing something I never considered I would do.  So - why I have I joined the great blogging community?  The past year has seen me receiving many emails from friends with photographic questions. Some are of a technical nature; others are more to do with style and composition. I thought it would be nice to share these questions and answers with my friends on Facebook. With the limitations of FB on text and layout I realised that the Blog seemed the way to go - so here I am.

Hopefully I will try to share some of my experiences here, and in doing so motivate those who wish to take better pictures in joining me in sharing their work.


For those of you with 'point and shoot' cameras, there is still a lot you can do with them. If enough were interested we could arrange a photo walk one Sunday. These are very popular amongst the photo community, allowing you to pick up some tips on using your camera whilst getting some exercise and a coffee along the way. Drop me a line if you would be interested in having some fun.