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Update January, 2014


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Update by Natrakorn Paewsoongnern
 
 
 

SNAP SHOTS   by Harry Flashman

 

“Essentials” for your camera bag

If you are keen on photography as a hobby, then as well as a decent camera (generally a DSLR with a range of lenses) you will have a decent camera bag! That bag should be large enough to carry the aforesaid camera, lenses, and a few other items, some of which are important, and some just part of a wish list!
The first item is probably one of the most important, and smallest items and is a spare memory card. There is nothing worse than standing beside a photo opportunity frantically stabbing at the delete button to try and get some space in the memory.
The next item is a small pocket torch. Any photographer who takes his camera out at night will need one. Even if just to see what way up the batteries go in the flash, which always runs out of volts just when you don’t need it. Setting shutter speeds in the dark can also be difficult. Or even seeing what aperture you are selecting on the lens barrel. And in addition to the humble small torch are the even humbler batteries for it. You can guess the scenario.
Another small, but definitely handy item is a remote release for the shutter. Any time you are trying to do a time exposure, it become very difficult holding the button down and not making the camera tremble - especially with long exposures. Cheap, does not take up much space, and very useful.
While talking about time exposures, another useful “camera bag” item is a miniature tripod. With something like this you can mount the tripod on the roof of the car and take five minute moonlight shots if you need it. Often called table-top tripods. There are some with “springy” legs and my late photographic friend Ernie Kuehnelt was kind enough to bring me one from Germany. Well built and sturdy and deserving of a place in the bag.
Now the next one is not so easy to get here, but you can always get someone to bring you one in from overseas. In bright sunlight, the magic brain inside your camera that sets the exposure settings can get confused. Make that ‘very confused’. The answer for consistently correct exposures is an 18 percent grey card. This you place beside the subject and take a meter reading from it. You then set the camera to that f stop and shutter speed and you have the correct exposure for the main shot. If you are serious about getting the correct exposure, and particularly if you shoot slides, one of these is invaluable. Another trick is to select an 18 percent grey camera bag, and you just take your reading directly from there!
The next item that is worth considering, if you are a serious photographer, is a battery charger. You will go through heaps of batteries is you are shooting regularly. This gets expensive. Buy two sets of the rechargeable batteries and a charger and your photography expenses will be a lot less. This is particularly so with the new digitals. They eat batteries, so keep a freshly charged spare in the camera bag at all times. Other batteries you should have include those for any flash guns. There’s nothing worse than whistling while waiting for the flash to recharge!
Another item is again not a true photographic item, but is invaluable. It is a waterproof marker pen. How many times have you written details, names, etc., on the back of a print, to find that it has rubbed off on the face of the next print and so forth? Totally annoying and often requires another set of prints to be made.
Another ‘silly’ item is a box of matches - even if you don’t smoke. The rattle of a box of matches will catch the attention of dogs and children. You set up the shot, exposure selected and then rattle the matchbox. You have about two seconds to catch the ears-up inquisitive K9 look, and about the same for children, whose attention span can be measured in nano-seconds.
Finally, don’t forget the polarizing filter. Use it in the Thailand sunshine and see how much richer your color shots will be.


175 Years of Photography

Very soon we will be coming up to 200 years of photography. Everything about photography has changed remarkably in the past 175 years since Louis Daguerre went on to develop the daguerreotype process, the first publicly announced photographic process, which required only minutes of exposure in the camera and produced clear, finely detailed results. It was commercially introduced in 1839, a date generally accepted as the birth year of practical photography. In the mid-1820s, Nicéphore Niépce had managed to produce an image, but several days of exposure in the camera were required and the earliest results were very crude.
Though photography has been around for 175 years, it has only been in the last century that it became readily available for the amateur photographers.
One reason for this was the birth of the Brownie box camera. This relatively large camera took about a dozen shots per roll. Processing took about a week or even longer, but it had now become possible for Dad to take photographs of Mum and the kids. Popular photography was born!
Of course, these were Black and White pictures, and if you wanted color, for special occasions, it was necessary to have them hand colored. This led to a very specialized branch of photographic technicians and the skills of some of these people are still being looked at in family albums today.
But we do live in a colorful world and the next giant leap for photography was the advent of color film. Not only color - but color available at a price that the world’s amateur photographers could afford. Overnight, the “dip and dunk” B&W labs went out of business!
However, it still took a good week to get your prints back. We all went to the local chemist and waited with bated breath to see the results, but like most things in life, realization was often not as good as expectation.
One reason for this was the equipment, and sometimes our misunderstanding of it. The best cameras were items like the Leica or Voigtlander. Great optics but hardly “user friendly” in today speak. Popular cameras of the day were little gems like the Minolta Hi-matic 7S. Remember them? Little light meter reading on the side of the viewfinder and we were getting closer to getting better exposures each time.
The next step in the 175 years of photography was two pronged. We improved cameras, with the Japanese camera industry becoming dominant, and secondly, we developed a quicker way of D&P (developing and processing). In one fell swoop we had affordable cameras and quicker returns, by then down to two days, or in some centers a breathtaking 24 hours.
Names like Nikon, Canon, Minolta, Olympus, Pentax became well known. They brought in innovations like the Olympus Trip, a half frame camera that could give you 72 shots per roll. And all the time, the optics were getting better, rivalling the German produced cameras in every way. Leica people were buying cameras from Japan with a yellow strap and Nikon became a favorite, especially with photojournalists.
Then came self-contained, automated one hour photo processing and printing. Small shops began springing up everywhere advertising the 1-hour service. It was more expensive than the trip to the chemist, but it was almost instant gratification. You could view your skills (or lack thereof) in 60 minutes. Almost overnight the chemist’s slice of D&P disappeared.
But all the time, the camera manufacturers were producing even better and “smarter” cameras. Electronics, micro-processors and silicon chips were stuffed into camera cases and it became even easier to get a good photograph. And cameras became cheaper again. Popular photography, with instant results, was almost within everyone’s reach.
The development did not stop there, however. The electronic marvels began to take over even more and the first “digital” imaging cameras were born. Suddenly film was no longer needed to get an image. Color labs were the next to disappear!
Digital cameras became point and shoot for the amateur or very sophisticated SLRs with interchangeable lenses for professional results.
But it didn’t stop there, enter the camera-phone, which became so clever in its dual functions that was called the ‘smartphone’.
Is this the end for photography? History tells us otherwise!


Where is the instruction manual?

“When all else fails - read the instruction manual” is always some very good advice, and the answer to many photographic problems can be found in it. However, this does pre-suppose you have read it, or even know where to find it. And even more importantly, know where to find the salient items from all the functions of today’s digital cameras.
When you speak the word “digital” it means you have entered the world of the drop-down menu. How I curse it! They have taken simple rotary dial adjustments and made them difficult because you have to scroll down menus and then scroll across and so forth, looking at the LCD screen on the back of the camera.
Of course, it can get even more difficult, as when the instruction manual that comes with your new camera is on a CD. The CD covers over 100 pages, and of course, is quite useless when you are in the field without a PC or any electronic device that can read CD’s (so far this ability is not available on the ubiquitous smart-phone).
Now the camera manufacturers don’t think they are making it difficult for you. In fact, they think they have made it easier for you! Instead of working out the correct exposure for any shot, they have done the sums for you and all you have to do is select the mode you want, be that fireworks, rainy overcast day, or snowflakes. But you may have to go through the drop-down menu to select the mode of course.
But, a printed manual generally comes with the new camera. Do not lose it. It is akin to your bible. But you must read it first before traipsing outside with the menu for sunset beach selected. Look at that again - read it first.
A few years ago, one of the readers, Don Griffith, wrote to me with some very good advice, for a confused amateur who had written, “I have trawled through the instruction book and menus for both turning it on and also extending the viewing time of the menus but I’m damned if I can find anything about either items.” He had also written, “A question though, I know most of the time it is power economical to leave the LCD off but occasionally it is needed for viewing. Any suggestions?”
I reprint Don’s advice here. And as it was extremely sage advice, so I suggest you read it. “I have a D40 and probably the instruction manual for it is exactly the same as a previous writer. Very badly laid out and confusing - vague language and far too many cross references for someone making the transition up to a DSLR to make total sense of.
“To this end it is very worthwhile investing in a third party book on the camera if one wants to get the best out of it.
“I got one from my local ‘Amazon’ - the beauty of using Amazon being I was able to read parts of it before I bought it to make sure I was not buying yet another confusing instruction book. I bought the cheapest available out of a surprisingly large collection that was on offer - and it has been a complete revelation and consider it has totally paid for itself in the first three or four chapters.
“For example, I have had the camera for 12 months and in the first chapter or so I learnt basic things that I was previously unaware of - like how to use the exposure compensation/aperture button.
“No doubt there are owners of other makes of DSLR cameras with much the same problem - if so it is also worth them looking for a book for their camera as well.”
By the way, when children play with the camera, you can end up with the situation, for example, where nothing on the LCD makes any sense, no matter what you do. The answer for that problem is to return to the shop and look hopeless, and the bright young thing behind the counter will fix it in less than one minute. Unfortunately, you and I are no longer “bright young things”.


HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

“Essentials” for your camera bag

175 Years of Photography

Where is the instruction manual?
 

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