by Harry Flashman
Is it time to go back
to square 1?
digital evolution has progressed to the digital revolution, and with each
new “app” (how I dislike that contraction), the art of photography is being
murdered. You can now get rid of warts, wrinkles around the eyes, grey hair,
poor focus, wrong exposure and all the other factors that make for inferior
photographs, and all with the click of a mouse. I’m sorry, but this is not
I think it is time we went back to basics and stopped relying on ‘post
production’ electronic corrections, and let’s start with the camera.
In my time I have bought and sold many cameras, including Lumix, Nikon,
Hasselblad, Voigtlander, Cambo and Minolta. There was also one I threw away,
called a Golden Dream Pigeon. I threw it away, not because it didn’t work,
but because it took lousy photographs. It had also cost 90 baht, including
the film, so I was not losing much!
What I learned from my Golden Dream Pigeon was simply the old adage - you
get what you pay for! Unfortunately, all of us fall into the trap of the
tight fist. Why spend big baht when a much cheaper article will surely do
the same job just as well. I rationalized Golden Dream Pigeon’s purchase in
this way but I did not think that it could be quite as dreadful as it
As justification you tell yourself that all you are paying for is the “name”
plus very expensive packaging with the high ticket items. Unfortunately, in
photography, you pay for more than the “name”. You are paying for that other
ingredient called Photographic Quality.
The interesting feature about photography is that the measure of excellence
is always the end result. In other words, the photo says it all. A clear,
sharp and well exposed shot shows the camera was top quality, the camera set
at the correct exposure, the lens let the light rays through without
distortion and the image was focused correctly.
So let’s look at some of these basic factors. First, let’s deal with the
camera. What is often not realized is that the principle function of the
camera body is really just to record the image and be able to alter the
shutter speed and aperture required for correct exposure. It’s still just
like a Box Brownie - but smaller with built-in goodies.
The cost of the camera body today depends on the degree of sophistication in
its built-in features. Electronic multi-pattern metering, different exposure
modes, smart cards and memory stick replaceable electronic gadgetry, LED
viewfinder displays, dedicated flash electronic circuitry and ergonomics in
design all add to the cost. None of the above was available in the Golden
Dream Pigeon, by the way.
Next item is the lens. The equipment necessary for the super sharp snap is
the super sharp lens. The sad fact is that no matter how good or expensive
your camera body, you will only get lousy pictures if you use a lousy lens.
A good lens is just as important as a good camera body.
If excellence is your pursuit, look at good quality “fast” (f 2.8 or better)
fixed focal length lenses from the same manufacturer as your good quality
camera body. Sure, you can get a “bargain” at some camera shops (and Duty
Free outlets) who will sell you a Nagasaki 28 - 3000 zoom for your new Nikon
or Canon or whatever. Certainly it will be a cheaper outfit than a Nikon
lens on a Nikon camera - but in saving a few baht you just lost out on
Now, there are six simple steps on the road to improvement,
1. Take more shots. Some may fail, but one will be good.
2. Move in closer. Many shots fail by being too distant.
3. Keep it simple. Photos are far more effective with one subject and no
4. Specialize. Take pictures of one subject, say boats or trees, until it is
5. Read books on the subject. Kodak “How to …” books are instructive and
easy to follow.
6. Edit your own work by constantly sorting through your photos and
discarding the failed shots. Be ruthless! And remember just “why” the shot
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