What equipment do you need to take a great photograph?
This photograph was taken with a cheap plastic camera with a plastic lens bought at a drug store in South Africa. It was loaded with the cheap Fuji film that they give you for free in Qatar when you get your film processed and pay for prints. Whatever redeeming qualities this picture have did not come from the crappy camera or the crappy film.
So what equipment do you need?
I recommend the following equipment list:
One or two eyes. You should keep these open. Try to use them to really see the world around you. If it seems like everything is the same hour by hour and day by day then consult your user manual. You are not using them properly
One heart. Keep it soft. Allow things to move you. If you have set up a firewall and access control list to limit what has access to your heart consider drastically opening the ruleset. A lot of mundane things are often part of a default “ignore” list. Although this is considered an industry standard “best practice” I strongly advise you to consider removing most items from this list
One brain. Use this to store as much technique as you can. Try every new technique you hear about that interests you until you don’t have to think about it. Store macros for all your commonly used camera equipment. Consider not adding to your equipment until you have all commands for all your current equipment automated. One word of caution: use your brain to automate the process of capturing what your heart and eyes are captured by. Do not expect good results from simply firing off these automated processes at random objects that your eyes have not been captivated by or your heart has not been moved by
Well, that’s it. Take with you the above three items and use them as directed. Along with that you should have some sort of camera or camera phone (or even pen and paper). If you make proper use of your equipment you should have no trouble at all making stunning world class photographs!
Sometimes you just need a tripod and don’t have one. Other times you need two tripods and you only have one. This photo relates to the former. I am currently experiencing the latter.
Here’s the thing. Are you going to let life stop you just because you don’t have an 800WS monolight, or an 85mm f1.4 lens, or the latest super camera body? Good tools can certainly make the work easier and give better results than poor ones when skillfully and artfully used but even bad tools are better than no tools and you may be surprised at what you can build for yourself if you think through your exact requirements.
As I write this I am timing an eight minute exposure. I’ve taken a few frames tonight with the Crown and I like the way it looks out there on the balcony with the lights behind but, of course, it only looks like that on its tripod. What is the Retinette supposed to stand on to get the right angle? Why, my makeshift tripod. Here’s the bill of materials:
One Polaroid back for a large format camera
One TV remote control
One camera bag for a large format camera
One chair (stood on end) from inside the hotel room
One outside chair (already on balcony)
To assemble, simply stack all of the parts with the highest number at the bottom and the camera resting on top.
Now this is certainly not the finest tripod known to man. In fact, I won’t be surprised if I later find out that it shifted at some time during those eight minutes and ruined my shot. However, neither was the roof of someone’s Jeep a perfect tripod either. But without it, I would not have the picture you see above. If you later see the picture I made tonight then you might want to remember this emergency tripod recipe!
As I sit here in my San Francisco hotel room I really need to get to bed but the travel half way around the world seems to have whacked my body clock. So I’m exposing.
I made a very conscious decision on this trip that I didn’t want to be wasting my time getting sucked into “tourist snapping”. No digital, no 35mm SLR. I took only the Crown Graphic to force myself to be selective and not be tempted into any “casual” photography.
Large format is not casual.
However, I did want something carryable so I also took along my Grandfather’s old tourist camera from the 1950s — his Kodak Retinette. No exposure meter, no rangefinder for focus. Just a peephole for framing.
It is so freeing.
I’ve just taken two shots off the balcony at f11 and two minutes. Well, two minutes felt right. That should be about EV0. Assuming that there is iso100 film loaded in that camera. I’m actually not sure. Just did this last one about four minutes twenty. It should fill in the shadows a little more.
Now I’m off to try to sleep. I won’t see anything that I’ve taken until I get back. Maybe even some time after I get back depending how busy I am. I know I’ll have some thick tasty negatives to work with at some point. And that is good enough for me.