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

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.


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.



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.


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.