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Practice ? again


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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Practice – again

1 Aug 2020 8:27AM   Views : 429 Unique : 285


This is a topic that I keep coming back to – partly because it’s something that we all need to keep doing!

When I was a lad, back in the days of 126 Instamatic film, there was a real cost to learning to take pictures. There was a real premium on learning fast, and not wasting film and money. Work it out: if your first 10,000 pictures are your worst, and you’re using 36-exposure cassettes of 35mm film, that’s roughly three films to 100 shots, 30 to 1,000, and 300 whole rolls of film to reach the 10k mark. My rough calculation is that you’ll spend £4,000 on film, developing and scanning, though you can cut that a lot by learning to develop your own films…


But I digress: if you do it digitally, you can do all of that for very little more than the cost of a camera. The digital revolution has cut costs, and as a bonus, the camera records all the shooting information within the files. So you don’t have to wonder what aperture you shot at, because you can just look in the right place and see it.


I often suggest carrying a camera, because that’s what I’ve done since I stuffed an Instamatic 100 in my blazer pocket at school. I have, on occasion, taken quite a few pictures while commuting by train and bus: made especially easy for me by First Great Western at the start of 2007 when they removed almost all direct services between Thatcham and Slough, so that I had half an hour a day to contemplate my fellow sufferers and the poor souls who worked for that company on Reading station. Yes, I’m still bitter.

This morning, I took a 10-minute stroll along my road with a camera. I shot everything at either 18mm or 55mm, the limits of a basic standard zoom. I shot a comparison of perspective at the two ends (18mm lead, 55mm bottom), I shot an image to demonstrate differential focus at 55mm (a 50mm lens with a 3 stops bigger maximum aperture works so much better…), and a couple of interesting designs I saw. It’s Saturday, so there weren’t many commuters. On a weekday, there are, sometimes in almost pre-Covid numbers.

If you go for a daily exercise walk round the block, take a camera, practice there. You may even end up with a series of images showing the same feature throughout the year… And I promise you, you’ll get better at operating your camera!


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dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
1 Aug 2020 8:29AM
Yes - I know that picture was shot on the Underground. I'm pretty sure this one was taken at Thatcham...

dark_lord Avatar
dark_lord Plus
19 3.0k 836 England
1 Aug 2020 5:40PM
The other difference the first and last image demonstrates is the difference in perspective., in terms of how the wall appears and the background coverage.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
1 Aug 2020 6:12PM
Thanks, Keith. Thinking of 23 months of commuting in Berkshire may have unsettled me as I wrote. I had more grief in that period than I'd had in 16 years of a similar-length rail journey in the West Midlands...

Thank you for the clarification!
philtaylorphoto Avatar
philtaylorphoto 22 334 2
2 Aug 2020 6:56PM
Maybe I was a good leaner. I reckon one of best shots was on roll 64. I was 15 at the time. I reckon I've not surpassed it, and it was in my 1990 ARPS portfolio, aged 30.

When I taught photography in the mid 90s, I used to set students a similar exercise. Stand with your camera by a busy road, and photograph passing cars at each shutter speed and linked aperture, then try the same shots panned. Then, find a park bench, and photograph the end at different apertures.

Other lecturers wanted to teach 'creativity, but never taught the grammar of the subject. They all knew why a Weston meter was useful, that dial was an instant lesson in matching apertures and shutter speeds. Throw in understanding incident light metering, and you had a really good grounding.

Of course, digital makes those exercises an afternoon's work by yourself.

Modern technology makes it easier to a kid learning if you want to. For years I derided Program mode, but I've taken to leaving the grab bag cameras set that way I've found that for those subjects where the important thing is being there, in good light it will deliver. However, a quick glance in the finder confirms the camera has got it right based on the lens in use. However, for non standard stuff, you still need the 'gramnar'.

If you are straying Iinto an unfamiliar genre, digital helps. I sort of fell into a set of regular columns on clubbing and food for 10 years. A good technique training allowed me to see other people's work, and see how it was done. So from job 1, I could see on the camera back where I was going, and learned on the fly. However, you can become obsessed with hairs on mint leaves, and twirling the camera for the longest exposure with synch flash.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
2 Aug 2020 9:10PM
Cheers, Phil!

All the rules change when getting the result, fast, is what matters first, last and only.
philtaylorphoto Avatar
philtaylorphoto 22 334 2
2 Aug 2020 9:23PM
I think the hardest one to get across is that although you can handhold a modern stabilised lens, it doesn't mean you can always use those slow speeds. You might be able to hold a wide lens at 1/4 second reliably, but add subject movement, and the old rules apply.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
3 Aug 2020 7:43AM
Absolutely true, Phil. Subjects can move. Who knew?
philtaylorphoto Avatar
philtaylorphoto 22 334 2
3 Aug 2020 9:41AM
You would be surprised at how many people buy slow aperture lenses imaging they can use slow IS lenses for stage work.

Back to the hated 18-55 f3.5 to f5.6 OS lenses. I wonder if adding stabilisation is a cheaper way of making lenses that work in low light than designing them slightly faster? Mind you, the Sigma 17 t0 40 f2.8 is noth faster and has OS built in?

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