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SNAP SHOTS   by Harry Flashman


Is it time to go back to square 1?

The 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 “photography”.
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 actually was!
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 excellence.
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 background clutter.
4. Specialize. Take pictures of one subject, say boats or trees, until it is mastered.
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 failed.

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Is it time to go back to square 1?