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Update June 2018


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SNAP SHOTS   by Harry Flashman

 

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 savings later.

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.

Firstly, (obviously) 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 spent.

Other equipment 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 ago.

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 event.

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!

Ansel Adams.

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.

Twilight photography 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 a lifetime.

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 shot.

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 viewing area.

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 art?

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 your art.

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.


HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Carry your bag, Mister?

Buying a large dog

What’s better than two legs? Three legs!

Size does matter
 

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