Playing The Long Game: Outdoor Photography With Telezooms

But a window on MY soul?


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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But a window on MY soul?

25 Feb 2021 9:39AM   Views : 1309 Unique : 833


A lot of reflection going on at present… Taking pictures over the internet has been interesting, and has cast a lot of light on the things that I do and don’t do in my pictures. I’ve missed being able to use precise and subtle focus effects, and the large variety of lenses I often use to achieve them.

That’s the main reason that I have done very few self-portraits, rather than the camera-shyness most people blame. I’m at ease with being the subject of other people’s pictures, honestly. That’s not terribly practical at the moment (but do get in touch if you want to try it: I understand the technology reasonably well now, and I have all the kit to do it. Please don’t push my levels, though.

I have done some silly self-portraits, often related to haircuts. You can see a variety if you search for ‘self-portrait’ in my portfolio here. My favourite is the one I called ‘The Prayer of the Night Shepherd’ which just happens to avoid including my eyes. Is that because I needed to look at the rear screen to get the focus right? Or is it so that you can’t see into my soul?

The technical side is a big part of it. I like to use a very shallow depth of field, and tethered shooting doesn’t allow quite enough precision with choosing the focus point. The difficulty is that even switching the point one’s looking at from computer screen to lens may cause sufficient head movement to lose focus… And fan of older techniques and kit as I am, I don’t have a selection of head and neck braces lying around!

Thomas Holm, about whose ideas I’ve written a time or two, uses a wet-plate image of himself as his avatar on Purpleport. On his own website, he points out that he’s not really that scary, but staying still for a 17-second exposure is hard work… (So many things set off costly trains of thought: that portrait may have unlocked the concept of a full-spectrum camera. Have you ever seen an ultra-violet portrait?)

We always feel a need to do ‘something’ with self-portraits. Something to hide our real selves behind, whether it’s clothes, or activity, playing a rôle, or something else. Almost anything but staring straight into the lens, unblinking and vulnerable. Suddenly, the idea that taking a picture of someone is stealing their soul makes sense, in a way. Maybe it’s not so much the risk of theft, but of someone knowing what is inside me. I may be afraid of looking there myself…


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dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
25 Feb 2021 9:41AM
Well, there you go. The reason I haven't tried any fine-focus pictures in remote shoots.

I don't know why, but for some reason, the eye focus function of my Alpha 7R III doesn't seem to work when the camera's tethered. I don't know why: if you have theories, please tell me.

Having a plane just behind the tip of my nose razor sharp isn't quite what i was aiming for.
PaulCox Avatar
25 Feb 2021 11:26AM
Would I be right in saying that your 2 photos in the blog are the same only the first one has been post processed. Or am I completely wrong. Paul.
GGAB Avatar
GGAB 7 31 1 United States
25 Feb 2021 12:33PM
I don't know what is going on with the Alpha 7, however you are allowed to Grin
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
25 Feb 2021 2:18PM
Paul -

Different background, different settings, and different light: minimal processing on both images. The top image used a Samyang 85mm at f/1.4: the lower one used the more-responsive Sony f/1.8 optic at f/5.6. Neither has focus as good as I'd expect with either lens if I was shooting live. It may be the difficulty of shooting holding a laptop, the delay in shooting (not great, but not zero, either).

George -

Under normal circumstances, the Alpha 7 3rd generation bodies have eye focus that beat anything that came before. Suddenly, Sony's AF had everything from Nikon and Canon beaten: taking shots like these with wide-field AF, I'd usually get pin-sharp focus on the eye, even at f/1.4, or near to that. See THIS picture at f/1.6.

Tethered, and unable to watch the image as well as look into the lens, it hasn't worked. It may be my technique. It might be the fact of tethering. But that sort of portrait of me will have to wait until the late Spring or early Summer and the easing of UK lockdown rules. I've tried, and failed in natural light. Studio conditions might be a different kettle of fish!
Robert51 Avatar
Robert51 14 12 147 United Kingdom
26 Feb 2021 12:00AM
John just to let you know when using a delay timer the auto focus works when you press the button, not when the shutter goes. So if you set 2 second delay and are using a remote the focus may be off. The best way with delayed shots is to use MF. The use of AF on a tripod is when most people are doing self portraits, other times when your behind a camera on a tripod you will be in MF. Just a thought...

John had another thought some cameras want IS turned off when on a tripod. As most cameras have image stabilisation it may be a Morden problem.

dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
26 Feb 2021 7:50AM
Hi, Robert - no delayed action was involved: the camera was tethered to a laptop, and the delay was under a second. The problem is about staying still at the same time as operating a computer program which requires hands and looking at the screen.

Manual focus simply isn't an option at f/1.4 when using this setup - you can see from the upper shot how slender the depth of field is, and achieving it without the sitter in position is not on.

I can envisage a more elaborate setup with a separate large screen set up next to the camera, and a mouse attached to the computer to actuate the shutter instead of using the touchpad on a laptop. Manual focus might become an option, as well - Sony Imaging Edge software has a facility for it - the essence would be to allow a magnified view of the eye on screen sufficiently close to the lens that I could look directly at the screen while appearing to look directly at the lens.

Or maybe it's simply that I'm rubbish at multitasking, and being photographer and model at the same time is too much of a stretch for me!
Robert51 Avatar
Robert51 14 12 147 United Kingdom
26 Feb 2021 8:56AM
I don't think multitasking was invented by a man John, we have enough trouble doing one thing at a time and are far too lazy

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