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Update March 2016


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Update by Natrakorn Paewsoongnern
 
 
 

SNAP SHOTS   by Harry Flashman

 

Update March 26, 2016

Pensioner and photography both start with P!

The popular notion of being retired is that the retiree has an idyllic life, doing what he (or she) pleases and all day to do it in. Unfortunately, if you ask a pensioner about life, you will get a different perspective. Being a pensioner is all about getting old.
Clinical psychologists have found that one of the quickest ways to get old is to retire and have nothing to do. There is a limit to how many times you can sit on the beach, or play golf. No matter how much of a beach fanatic you are, or an avid golfer, there can certainly be too much of a good thing. This is why I ask you to consider photography.
As one gets older, physical activity is important – just getting out of the house or condo is an enjoyment in itself. This is where photography is so good. Give yourself a small photo project and out you go and illustrate it.
Photography is also an ideal pastime for our seniors, because it is something that can be picked up and put down at will, it is not too physically demanding, and modern cameras can assist in the areas where age has taken some toll. And the end result is something that can give you great joy, be that award winning sunsets or just pictures of the grandchildren.
To play golf you need golf clubs. To play photography you need a camera. Get one with autofocus (AF). There are many reasons for this, but since sharp focus is necessary for a good final print, let the camera do it for you, when sharpness in vision is something that becomes very problematical as you get older. Provided you can point the camera in the right direction, the camera will do the rest.
Most AF ones are a little more expensive, and work by moving the lens in and out electronically to focus on the subject in the middle of the viewfinder, just as if you were doing it yourself. They do this quickly and accurately and will usually give an audible ‘beep’, or a green light in the viewfinder to let you know the focus has been set. Do not be afraid to try the new advanced cameras, they make life easier, so just use them to your advantage.
Stiff fingers? Today’s digital cameras do away with film and any of the problems associated with it. Forget about threading film through rollers. Nothing could be simpler or more fool proof than digital.
Zoom lenses also save you having to go the distance. Is it just too much of a hassle these days to walk up to distant objects to get close-up details? Then a zoom lens will do it for you. With a zoom lens it is no problem at all to get a close-up, a wide angle and a distant shot from the same camera position. Maybe an autofocus digital compact camera with an inbuilt zoom lens is just the camera for you. Just push a button to make the zoom bring the subject closer or farther away.
As we get older, we are also more prone to the shakes. Today’s digital cameras can even compensate for the tremor, with anti-shake technology. This makes photography for seniors even easier.
Today’s camera manufacturers have taken the tears out of flash too. Most new cameras have their own in-built flash which comes on when the light levels are too low, will set their own flash power and give you perfectly lit indoor night shots every time.
So there you have it, retirees. There are cameras available now which can get you into photography! If once you had the ‘photographic eye’, then that ability is still there. All you have to do is get the equipment to let you use and enjoy it again. Look for suitable AF digital compacts with built in zoom, anti-shake technology and auto flash.
Pricewise you are looking at spending something over B. 10,000. There are plenty of choices in the marketplace. Something from the major brands such as Nikon, Canon, Olympus. A hint to the family around birthday should suffice.


Update March 19, 2016

Camera maintenance

My daughter’s first ‘real’ camera has been purchased for her birthday, and she is now ready to take ‘real’ photographs and not just ‘selfies’. The first step towards being the photographer she imagines herself becoming! She repeats “Fill the frame” as a mantra, and that is a good start.
While not the most expensive camera, it was also not cheap. It was not the kind of outlay you would want to do too often.
So here are some tips from me on how to look after your photographic investments, which can run into big money! My favourite lens was a 40 mm Hasselblad wide angle, with a huge bit of glass on the front, that would cost in Thailand over 200,000 baht. That alone makes it worth looking after?
However, even humble point and shooters will benefit from being looked after. Any camera will give you better and more reliable service, and not let you down when you are about to take the one shot that will make you millions of baht in the international news market.
The first concept is to understand just what it is that will go towards destroying your camera. Usually these are simply, dust and grit, moisture and condensation, battery acid and being dropped. Looking after your investment is then a simple case of countering the above factors.
Being dropped never benefits any camera, so the first procedure in the camera shop was to fit a neck strap and get her used to wearing it. Even if not around the neck, the strap should be wrapped around the wrist. The strap is like the safety belt in your car.
Moisture and condensation are the easiest ones to counter, but the dampness comes from more than just being caught out in the rain. Thailand is a hot and humid environment. How many times have you taken your camera outside and found you could not see through the viewfinder because it had steamed up? That is condensation. The best answer here is to keep small sachets of silica gel in your camera bag. When the silica gel changes colour you can pop them back in the micro-wave and rejuvenate them very easily. Many bottles of tablets come with perfect little sachets in the top of them too.
There will also be times when you get caught in the rain, or you may even want to get rain shots. The camera body is reasonably water proof, but you should carefully wipe the outside of the case dry afterwards, and especially blow air around the lens barrel and the lens mount.
Dust and grit is the ever present danger in the environment. How many times have you got a small piece of grit in your eye? Often, I will wager. Small particles such as that can be very bad for the lens focussing and zooming mechanics too. There is really no secret here!
That leads us to the even more serious type of corrosion – leakage from batteries. Just about every camera in the world these days has a battery, even if it is just to drive the needle on the light meter. There is a moral here, isn’t there?
In fact, there are two morals to be learned. The first is to check batteries every three months, I would suggest, rather than just waiting for the batteries to fail or become erratic. And secondly, you get what you pay for – so buy the best you can. It will serve you well in the end. Acid leakage (and even acid fumes) from a battery can totally ruin a modern camera, getting into the electronics so that it never works properly again. The answer here is to discard the batteries every twelve months, even if they seem to be fine, and if you are not going to be using the camera for an extended period, then take the batteries out altogether.
Finally, keep your camera in a soft case that can absorb some shocks. Not the silly leather or plastic thing it came in. If you have not got one – then go out and buy one today. They are very inexpensive, especially when compared to the cost of the camera! Protect your investment!


Update March 12, 2016

Leap Year Brides

Do you have a professional-looking DSLR? If you have, then be warned – you will be asked to photograph a friend’s wedding this Easter (because the wedding studios are expensive). On Leap Years the bride can do the proposals, so be warned again. If you can, find a dying relative that you have to visit that weekend. However, if you like flying in the face of danger, keep reading.
One very experienced wedding photographer even went so far as to call the craft, “Hours of controlled patience, punctuated by moments of sheer terror and intense bursts of creativity.” However, to make it less of a terror, here are some guides to photographing someone else’s ‘big day’. And it is because it is someone’s big day that it becomes so important to get it right. Wedding photographers talk about the three P’s – preparation, photography and presentation. My idea of wedding photography and the three P’s are pain, persecution and panic.
However, looking at the accepted “preparation”. This is very important and will make your job so much easier. This would include going to the church, temple, registry office or whatever before the great day to see just what you can use as backgrounds, and where you can position the happy couple, and their parents, and their bridesmaids, and their friends, and the neighborhood dogs and everything else that seems to be in wedding photographs. Just by doing this, you at least will know ‘where’ you can take some photographs.
Preparation also covers talking to the couple and finding out just what they expect to be taken. As pointed out at the beginning, when you take on photographing a wedding, you are taking on a huge responsibility.
Also part of the preparation is to make sure your cameras are functioning properly, so test them before the big day. Note too, that I said ‘cameras’ because there is nothing more soul destroying than having a camera fail during an event such as this. Preferably, the second camera will be the same as the first, so that your lenses will be interchangeable. Yes, lenses! You will need a wide angle (say 28 mm), a standard 50 mm and a short telephoto (say 135 mm). The wide angle is needed for the group shots and the standard for couples and the tele for “head hunting”, looking for those great candid shots.
Now comes the actual “Photography” itself. You have already written down all the shots that the couple want, make a list so you can cross them off as you go. One series of shots should be taken at the bride’s residence, and this includes the bridesmaids. Many of these will be indoor shots, so do take your flash and bounce the light off the ceiling to soften the effect of the flash burst. Make sure you have new batteries, and a spare memory card!
Now you have to scoot to the church or wherever the actual ceremony will be, so you can get the bride outside, ready to walk down the aisle with her father, or whomever is giving the bride away.
With those shots out of the way, now you can go and get the ceremony and I do not recommend that you use the flash for these photographs. For some religions, this is a solemn time and flash bursts are very intrusive.
Cross off the rest of the shots as you cover them – the signing of the register, emerging arm in arm, confetti or rice and then the formal shots of the wedding groups.
After all this, everyone is dying for a beer and head for the reception. However, you must wait a little while yet. There is the ceremony of cutting the cake to be done yet, and photographs of the guests enjoying themselves (other than you).
Having crossed every shot off the list, make for the drinks department. You’ve earned it. After all, you have probably taken around 200 shots by now!
The final ‘P’ is presentation. Photograph albums are inexpensive, so put the best shots from each series into a couple of albums and present them to the couple as your gift. And as your final job, make the mental resolve to never photograph another wedding as long as you live!


Update March 5, 2016

Where is the hero?

My daughter continues to enjoy taking photographs (as well as the usual selfies). For her, with me rather handy, this means very personal one on one tuition. It also means that I can see immediately what has to be done to improve her skills.
One catch-cry of mine has been “fill the frame” and finally she is starting to understand what is meant by this. The shots which precipitated this were a gammon steak and egg. The first shot showed the table, coffee cups and serviettes. Input by the photographer – nil. After admonishment to fill the frame, the second shot was much better, but there were still extraneous items along with the gammon plate. The third shot concentrated on the gammon plate and very little else, and daughter could see immediately that she had taken a photograph with some impact. It had a “hero” and that was the gammon steak and egg.
For impact, she finally got there. The “hero” was the gammon almost filling the frame, leaving nothing to distract from the reason for the shot.
The next item she was shown was that her hero deserved more than one shot. By moving the platter with the gammon, she could keep it filling the frame, but getting different views, and different light and shadows from the café window.
All good photographs follow the rules of good composition. The best known one of these is the Rule of Thirds, where you position the subject of the photo (that’s the hero) at the intersection of one third from the top or bottom of the viewfinder and one third in from the right or left side of the viewfinder. Look where the egg is positioned!
By just placing your subject off-center immediately drags your shot out of the “ordinary” basket. The technocrats called this the “Rule of Thirds”, but even just try putting the subjects off-center. While still on the Rule of Thirds, don’t have the horizon slap bang in the center of the picture either. Put it one third from the top or one third from the bottom. As a rough rule of thumb, if the sky is interesting put more of it in the picture, but if it is featureless blue or grey include less of it. Simple!
With some cameras where you can make a grid pattern on the viewing screen from the menu, such as on the DMC FZ series Lumix, it makes it even easier to position the subject. With the vertical lines, you will soon see if you have the subject vertical, and for horizontal subjects incorporating the horizon, you can also make sure it is level. This composition is something you can do in the camera as you take the shot. It does mean that you look critically through the viewfinder and position the subject correctly.
Now, that is not the only item you should think about with your photographs, though it is obviously a good start! The next item is cropping, where you get rid of non-important items from the final photo, by literally slicing them away. These are items which do not add anything to the photograph you have in your mind’s eye. This can be extraneous details, such as a rubbish bin, which never does anything for landscapes. Or it may be that the hero is too small – because you didn’t walk several meters closer!
While post-production cropping to fill the frame can be done, it is better to do it in the camera beforehand. You can do this with post-production ‘edit suites’ or even a good Photoshop style program, where you actually do just the same as we used to with two L-shaped pieces of card, but with electronics. Call up your photo on the computer screen and with the cropping tools you can move them around until you feel you have the correct (most pleasing) crop. And fill the frame.
So this week the messages were simple. Remember to fill the frame to give your photos more impact, so walk in closer. Remember to position the subject at the intersection of thirds, and learn how to visualize the crop for dramatic effect and try to do this in the camera viewfinder. That will improve your shots immeasurably.


HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Pensioner and photography both start with P!

Camera maintenance

Leap Year Brides

Where is the hero?
 

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