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Update December 2017

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Update by Natrakorn Paewsoongnern

SNAP SHOTS   by Harry Flashman


Saturday, Dec. 9 - Dec. 15, 2017

Medium Format - is it the holy grail?

As a pro photographer it was almost mandatory that you have a medium format camera.  There was no getting away from the fact that to show an art director a 6 cm x 6 cm transparency on the light box was much more impressive than squinting at a 35 mm slide.  Mind you, when you dropped a 5 inch x 4 inch transparency down beside them, it looked more impressive again.

So if bigger is better, or size matters or suchlike, why did we not use 5x4 all the time?  Size of the camera and ease of use covers all that.  While I have taken a 5x4 on location, it practically required a team of native porters to carry it, the film holders and light-proof bags and the tripod and compendium.  No, 5x4 is wonderful in the studio and impractical in the wild (unless your name is Ansel Adams and you are prepared to wait days to get the clouds in the right place).

Having decided that medium format was going to be needed and that it was much more practical than 5x4, it was necessary to see what was on the market and how did I find them in use.  Fortunately, since there was quite a nest of photographers in my local area it was possible for me to try out various models before taking the plunge myself.

The first was the Pentax 6x7.  I was initially attracted to the fact that it was like a larger 35 mm camera.  A full range of lenses were available from fish-eye to 1000 mm telephoto.  I was sure it was going to be ‘my’ camera - till I used it!  The sheer physical size of the thing made it unwieldy.  184 mm wide, 149 mm high and 156 mm deep (and that is the body only).  And what did it weigh?  A whopping 2.4 kg, that’s what.  Then there was the delay between depressing the shutter and the horrible ‘thunk’ inside as it all happened, the shutter shuddered and the mirror clanked on its way out of the way!  No, it wasn’t a Pentax 6x7.

I then tried the Mamiya RB 67 Pro-S.  This is not like a 35 mm camera, but rather like a large box with a film holder on the back and a viewing screen on the top.  Difficult to get used to initially, but it certainly took sharp photos, but the interlocks eventually wore me down.  To take verticals or horizontals with this 6x7 camera you had to flick levers and turn backing plates - it was all too fiddly, though there are pro photographers out there who swear by their Mamiyas.

However, the medium format camera that everyone spoke about in hushed tones were the Hasselblads.  These had the largest system with four cameras, over 20 lenses and interchangeable backs, including Polaroid.  You can practically photograph anything with a Hasselblad, and even though it is medium format (which they did on the moon), and even the motor-driven ones are not as heavy as the Pentax.  While there is a waist level view finder, most photographers opt for the metering prism viewfinder which was so accurate you could almost dispense with light meters.  It really was the case of a quick adjustment, trial with Polaroid, and if it was OK, blast away.

I have to admit I loved my ‘Blads’, but as the years rolled on and 35 mm film became even sharper, the need for medium format became less.  Even the art directors began to see that unless you wanted to blow the image up to the size of the side of a house, 35 mm was quite satisfactory.

But there was still a great satisfaction to be had from using the 6x6 camera and looking at the gorgeous transparencies.  Unfortunately, except for some very specific reasons, medium format has been superceded and now with the digital revolution will soon be museum pieces.  However, if you ever do see a medium format camera going for sensible money, do buy it.  You will get a satisfaction from your photography that is hard to beat, especially compared to today’s auto-everything electronic marvels.

Update Saturday, Dec. 2 - Dec. 8, 2017

Quick march. But it’s raining!

I am sure you must have seen that excellent piece of photo journalism on page 3 of the Pattaya Mail. The one with the visiting navies marching along Beach Road, but Beach Road was awash with water. About mid-calf deep.

Without wishing to rain on anybody’s party, one gets the opinion that the organizers weren’t Boy Scouts. They weren’t ‘prepared’. It’s not as if it doesn’t rain at this time of year.

So what could have been done? Take the umbrellas that used to be on the beach and supply the troops? Or more practical have an alternate route with better drainage?

So if you were going to get some great shots in a torrential downpour, and there are great shots to be had in the wet environment, what should you do to be prepared? In other words, get your camera safe and water proofed and ready for the rain.

Now in the wet weather, being prepared means that not only do you have fresh batteries, a memory card with room for more shots, but also ensuring that your camera stays dry. This is not all that easy, unless you have an assistant with a large umbrella at your disposal.

Being prepared then means having your camera ‘waterproof’. To do this 100 percent you can buy a Nikonos underwater camera at the cost of many thousands of baht. These are a wonderful underwater camera but for this instance – totally impractical, unless you want to stand at the side of the road in a full wet-suit!

The second way is to purchase a fancy plastic underwater housing for your own camera. Now these can range in price, depending on complexity. Built like a perspex box to house your camera, you can operate all the adjustments from the outside. These are not cheap either, and the cheapest in the range is literally a plastic bag with a waterproof opening and a clear plastic section for the lens. You open it up and literally drop your camera inside it and seal the bag. These can be purchased from major photographic outlets and I did spot one in a photo-shop for B. 750.

A third way is a waterproof disposable camera (yes, they used to make them but they are film cameras). Good for about three meters, so perfectly suitable for rainstorms. If you can’t get one of those, then even the ordinary cheap disposables are a better option than getting your good camera gear doused. I must admit to having dropped one of these overboard one day and the boatman jumped and retrieved it and the final photos were fine – but that was in the days of film, and not fancy electronics.

But you are left with an even simpler way of making your camera waterproof. And cheaper. It consists of a couple of plastic bags, such as you get with every item in 7-Eleven, and a handful of rubber bands and a pair of scissors.

Do the camera body first, inserting it into the plastic bag, but leaving a circular hole in the front so you can screw the lens on afterwards. Some rubber bands and the body is protected.

Now pop the lens into the other plastic bag, making circular holes at both ends and fixing it in place with a couple of rubber bands. Use large bags, so there is slack to move the focusing ring/aperture settings. Make the outer lens hole a snug fit with your skylight 1A and rubber banded in place.

Your waterproof camera for less than one baht. Go out and get wet and shoot! But it is a simple case of being prepared and just jumping in to get some great shots, don’t stage manage, and lots of luck! Look out for photo opportunities, even when it is raining.

When it is raining, it really does mean another photographic opportunity to get different shots. Since we get bright sun for nine months a year, make the most of the rain!

It is a simple case of being prepared and then just jumping in to get the shots. And when you are back indoors dry the camera carefully as there is always some condensation.

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Medium Format - is it the holy grail?

Quick march. But it’s raining!



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