Friday, 20 February 2009

Photographers, equipment and technical stuff

Some photographers will be able to tell you everything technically about any photograph they have taken; however I have never been like that and whilst I may remember peculiar instances and general trends that is about it and whilst digital will tell all, I rarely look at those details after the event. Whilst there may be the odd comment about equipment after today's piece this blog is about mainly about photography and generating interest in the '4Ws' (why when where what) rather than the 'H' (how). I will, subject to my technical ability include some links to other photographers.

Perhaps it is getting older and possibly a little bit wiser that provides this different perspective. When asked by friends and family 'what camera should I buy? or I am wondering about buying a *****xs mk 24 I respond by asking questions around:
  1. What sort of photography do they they want to do?
  2. Does that camera feel comfortable in their hands?
  3. Does the camera / outfit feel comfortable to carry?
It is not me getting touchy / feely, just put it down to experience and learning a lesson the hard way. I had had a number of medium format SLRs, relatively heavy by modern digital SLR standards but often used on a tripod with a waist level finder. Having had 6x6 Hasselblads with the 110 f2 medium portrait lens when I went digital I bought their H1 and a digital back. The trouble was that I had about two years of right shoulder / elbow trouble and the H1 was designed to be held in your right hand at eye level. By the time the fabulous 110 zoom lens was attached the kilos were rising exponentially and there were many days when I was simply unable lift the camera anywhere near eye level, so now old Hasselblads with waist level viewing and a digital back seem so sensible.

I also recall picking up a Contax RTS when they came out. Nikons were angular rough bricks covered in sandpaper in comparison and the Contax was so smooth nearly I dropped it. Once you were used to this it felt great, but you always felt it should have been in a showcase at a design exhibition rather than being one of two cameras slung round the neck on an assignment.

So Nikon, Canon, Leica, Contax, Olympus, Pentax, Minolta ( the Leica R series cameras were based on them) and now Sigma, Panasonic and Sony all produce great cameras and lenses, so do those who make medium and large format cameras and while I have personal preferences they are mine for my photography and body, not yours for your images and your body. And while you can now do most things with a digital SLR what it does not do is slow you right down, make you methodical and give you that upside down image that works with the artistic side of your brain ~ you really need large format for that.

So here are some simple large format images, scanned from the split toned prints:

Cell 2

Secure ensuite accommodation available

Here I can tell you that the lighting was mixed fluorescent and daylight, a 210 mm lens and camera movements were used, the aperture was probably around f22 and the exposure was long. I also lent against the alarm strip setting it off, but that was not a requirement, just a problem you may encounter in small spaces!

So ... How would you photograph a prison cell?

Do you think less is more in this instance?

How different would it be if it was captioned as:

'Condemned cell'?


'Dr Crippin was here' ?

Yes a picture paints a thousand words, but adding a word or two can paint a thousand different pictures in our minds. Perhaps that is why some photographers provide little information and deliberately leave the viewer to read the image. So now having been told that it was neither a condemned cell nor one inhabited by Dr Crippin where is your mind and your viewing of the images? Your mind probably raced away with both those thoughts. Supposing I had captioned it:

'This is not the condemned cell'


'Dr Crippin was never here';

what images and thoughts would have gone through your mind? Would you have preferred to see the prisoner details filled in on the board adjacent to the door or know more about the piece that these images came from?

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