June 23, 2018 - June 29, 2018
Carry your bag, Mister?
Do you have a camera
bag? Sooner or later, if you are a photography enthusiast, you will want to
expand upon your current equipment. Even when just starting out you should
have an eye to the future, as money spent wisely now can result in great
Photo shops have many
different types and designs for you to choose from, but what should you, as
an enthusiastic amateur, carry around with you? The following is what I
would consider to be a good collection which will stand you in good stead
for many years, and allow you to photograph almost anything.
you need a good camera - an SLR (single lens reflex). The first pointer is
to select a good brand. There are many to choose from, but if you look at
the pros who are out every day shooting countless images, you will find the
same names on the camera cases. When actively running my studio I used Nikon
for 35 mm work - bulletproof and quality lenses. Others such as Canon,
Pentax, Olympus, etc., are also excellent brands, all of which have
interchangeable lenses too, so your basic system can be enlarged upon over a
period of time, and your original lenses will still be good.
The SLR is the center
of your equipment. It is this camera that will allow you to be creative in
your shots. It is this camera that will win you awards and recognition. It
will be expensive, so choose wisely. For my money, the ideal “starter” SLR
would still be a Nikon but look to the top of the line.
Now you look at lenses.
The “standard” lens that will come with your SLR will most likely be a 50
mm. Buy firstly a wide angle lens. Around 28 or 24 mm is good, or even 20 mm
for very dramatic shots, but the distortion problem can be a little much at
this wide angle. The next lens you should buy is around the focal length of
135 mm - the ideal lens for portraits.
No zooms? No, I
personally do not like zoom lenses. The sharpness is not as good as “prime”
lenses (though the manufacturers say they are much better these days), but
even more importantly, zoom lenses make for lazy photographers. Instead of
walking in to compose the subject, the photographer zooms in. The depth of
field is lost, the flash is too far away and the chance of a perfect shot is
lost. You don’t really need a zoom!
The next item is
‘insurance’. You should have a small point and shoot to use if you have a
problem with the SLR (it does happen). Again, stick to the better brands if
you want to get something which will last, and even more importantly, one
that will return crisp images. Olympus makes some very good small point and
shooters with excellent lenses. This camera is also for those situations
where you don’t want to lug all the gear, when you need something light and
pocket portable. Get one with a 24 or 28 mm lens and built in flash which
can be turned off.
The next important
piece of equipment is the bag you carry your equipment around in. My choice
is the soft padded camera bag with adjustable divisions. Waterproof in
tropical rainstorms is important, so get one that has the zip fastener
covered by a lip of material. Some exterior pockets to carry batteries, a
spare pair of fold-up reading glasses (if you need them) and a pocket torch.
Again, get a good one. My bag is quite battered and worn, but is now over 20
years old and has been round the world several times. It was money well
includes filters, and I would refer you to previous articles on this subject
- but do use adaptor rings to bring all the lenses to the same size. Again a
cost saving later. And a good quality tripod, mentioned a couple of weeks
Finally, have some
spare batteries there is nothing worse than running out of power just when
you have come across Angelina Jolie sun-baking incognito on Jomtien Beach.
June 16, 2018 - June 22, 2018
Buying a large dog
I haven’t got a dog and a cat just
doesn’t cut it as far as a robbery deterrent. Some time back, in the “film”
days of photography I was robbed.
It is still painful to recall the
My cameras are not just means of
earning a living, they were also my friends, so to lose one is a disaster.
Ask any photojournalist how they feel without a camera and they will all
tell you the same story - it is like having your arm chopped off!
In my case, I would carry my cameras in
a large battered grey bag. Two Nikon FA’s, one Nikon FM2N, a couple of motor
drives, a Metz 45 CT1 flash, plus filters, three lenses, tripod adapter for
a Manfrotto tripod, spare cables, wires, black tape and a notebook. Two of
the three cameras were always pre-loaded with film and a lens mounted ready
to go. This is nothing out of the ordinary, it is just the usual kit and
kaboodle for an active commercial photographer.
Keep reading, as much of this tale may
refer to you. The other evening, my wife and I went out to dinner, leaving
the porch light on to make finding the keys for the triple locked front door
easier when we came back. Returning an hour later we noticed the porch light
was off. Having been robbed last year and my wife losing all her jewelry, I
opened the front door with dread.
My fears were totally founded. We were
greeted by entire chaos. Every drawer in the house had been tipped out on
the ground, every cupboard’s contents strewn all over the floor and the
hatch in the bathroom ominously open.
Also ominously open was the battered
grey camera bag, which had been left behind for once, since I was having a
“night off”. Needless to say, the bag was empty, other than the flash gun
and a few filters that the kamoy had left behind.
With the house dead-locked everywhere
and all windows barred, the kamoy had removed some roof tiles and come in
through the ceiling. Apparently this is a common way to gain entry to what
is otherwise an “impenetrable” home. The felon comes one evening and removes
the roof tiles then returns the next day and does a quick robbery as soon as
the occupants are out, taking anything that is small, valuable and easily
carried. Like my cameras!
So what can you do to try and stop this
dreadful scenario happening to you? Well, the first thing is to attempt to
make your home as secure as you can possibly make it. Consider bars in the
ceiling as well as the usual ones on the windows. Motion detectors around
the house can make sense. So does a large dog.
After all that, what else can you do to
protect your investment in camera gear (and other valuables)? Well, it’s
called insurance. I was led to believe that cameras could not be insured, so
did not have any insurance. This was incorrect advice. A very brief chat
with Jack Levy at Macallan Insurance Brokers revealed that you can insure
your cameras against theft from your home. This is as part of the house
insurance policy. You would, of course, have to detail all the items you
want to insure on the policy.
Of course, insurance does not stop your
cameras being stolen. Insurance also does not replace your prized camera
with one exactly the same - in many instances this may be impossible
following model changes and availability from the manufacturers and other
such variables. In my case, the beloved Nikon FA’s are definitely not the
current model, but at least it will be such that you can go shopping without
it costing you an arm and a leg.
Being robbed of anything is a dreadful
experience. Losing your cameras really is like losing an arm, a devastating
experience. I sincerely hope this never happens to you, but in the meantime
a large dog will help.
June 9, 2018 - June 15, 2018
What’s better than two legs? Three legs!
Do you use a tripod?
Do you even have a tripod? A tripod is the most underused item in
photography, but has the ability to widen the scope of your picture taking.
However, a tripod
can do much more than just enhance your shots. This three legged device will
open up completely new avenues in photography and let you produce new and
different images that are otherwise way beyond your reach.
So what can you do
with this tripod that you can’t do without? The first and most obvious is
time exposure shots. The whole secret of time exposure is to keep the camera
still, and you won’t do that by holding your breath, leaning against a tree
and gripping the camera tightly, let me assure you. As much as you try.
Unless you are good for holding your breath for several minutes while
standing perfectly still.
and night photography opens up a whole new range of pictures and effects.
Just the simple expedient of being able to keep the camera steady while you
shoot 30 seconds or longer exposures will result in some great photographs.
Ansel Adams knew this 80 years ago.
Try taking a shot
just after sunset, for example. Set the camera on f11 and give it 30
seconds. You will be very pleased with the results.
Did you know that
the very best landscapes during daylight hours are also best taken on a
tripod? To get the huge range of depth of field necessary for these shots,
you will end up with slow shutter speeds. The tripod ensures there’s no
blurring. Those flowing milky, misty waterfalls are also best taken with a
tripod as again a slow shutter speed is required to capture that effect.
Even nature shots
are done best with this piece of equipment. You can set up the camera and
then leave it, so that the birds, etc., can get used to its presence, and
then with a cable or remote shutter release you can get the nature photos of
Another type of shot
that needs a tripod is the panorama. A compilation of images which when
placed together form a wide angle view of any scene. This can only be done
exactly with the use of a tripod.
Even when shooting
still life images, the use of a tripod makes these shots a breeze. You can
set up the shot and then make minute adjustments while looking through the
viewfinder. Again you can use a slow shutter speed to be able to use very
small apertures (around f22) to get the very fine detail into the
So what should you
look for and what should you spend? There are several items in the
specifications that you should ensure is on any tripod you buy. The first is
that it is heavy with strong legs when extended fully. The “locks” on the
legs must also be secure. The lightweight aluminium ones are generally
useless, especially outdoors, where even a slight breeze makes it unstable.
Another item is that
the actual swivel head incorporates a spirit level, so that you can ensure
the top swivels in a true horizontal arc. The tripod head should also have
calibrations, so you can swing it a definite number of degrees. A removable
“shoe” is also a good item, as you can then position the camera on the
tripod, but also remove the camera to take other shots but then replace it
in exactly the same position. The legs should be able to be spread out
widely so that you can get the camera very close to the ground, and finally
if you can get one, see if the tripod center shaft can be removed and turned
upside down, as this can get your camera completely at ground level and also
immediately above an object placed on the ground.
How much will this
cost? Expect to spend a minimum of 6,000 baht. My own Manfrotto cost a lot
more than that, let me assure you, but with now more than 30 years of
faithful service, it has been a bargain!
June 2, 2018 - June 8, 2018
Size does matter
You are an enthusiastic photographer,
having sent many rolls through the processors in the days of film. Where did
you put the prints you have taken over the years? Somewhere your friends can
look at them and ask the questions where, how, when? Unfortunately, like
many other photographers, the prints sit in a drawer in the lounge room.
Then you moved over into the digital
era and now have hundreds of thumb nails you can flip through, while looking
for the photo you took of your parents 10 years ago. Or even the photo you
are particularly proud of in B&W.
Worse still, you try to show someone
your photographic masterpieces on your mobile phone with its 7 x 13 mm
There is an answer to all this. It is
called Wall Art. Wall art is something you should aim towards. Be proud of
your images. Be bold. You can keep the images on the wall for as long as you
want. And change for others when you want something new.
So what type of image is good for wall
First prerequisite is size. A tiddly
little 3 x 5 may be fine for looking at in your hand, but you could scarcely
hang it on the wall. The smallest you can accept is a 10 x 8, for wall art
as size does matter.
Now comes the next problem – if you
blow up an average standard print you begin to lose sharpness. Go to 20 x 24
and you will have lost sharpness. This does mean that you have to reject any
“soft” images for enlargement and only go for ones that are pin-sharp. Be
ruthless with yourself. And don’t listen to anyone else. These are your
images for your enjoyment.
Subject matter with wall art pictures
is up to you, as all the Thai girls say, but pick one that you enjoy and
more importantly, one where the subject fills the frame.
Now to the frame for wall art: The
frame is merely to stop the image being damaged. The framing shops will want
you to get a large ornate, gilded one, because they are more expensive and a
wide matte ditto. Reject all those, as the subject for wall art must be the
dominant part of the image. The subject has to be the Hero. A smooth border
and a narrow matte is all that is needed. Don’t let the frame maker hijack
However, at the weekend I saw another
way to get some great wall art – on a canvas backing on an artist’s frame.
The print is stretched over a wooden frame (like an artist’s painting) and
it makes for a very dramatic way of display. Not cheap, the one in the shop
was a 20 x 24 and they wanted B. 1,500 for it. The framing is actually done
in Bangkok and takes 8 days.
The best way is to download your
selected image on to a memory stick and present that to the shop. I always
make a copy from the original and present that to the framers, so that you
haven’t lost your best image if something goes awry. Oh yes, the name of the
shop in the Central Festival was called Eastbourne.