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.
I firmly believe that you can never succeed at an art form like photography unless you can learn to see, sometimes in an instant, the finished artwork as you look at the scene in front of you. This skill, which takes years of practice to hone, is essential and no meaningful work will be produced (except occasionally by accident) without it. This skill of pre-visualising and “seeing” is essential.
The craft of photography is learning how to translate the captured scene into a finished product that matches that previsualisation. This is a suite of skills that encompass camera handling and camera settings (at capture time) as well as various image editing and other intermediate procedures that come between capturing the image and presenting a finished version. This is the suite of skills that garner most of the attention on internet sites because it is easiest to talk about and it is also the subject of most marketing by companies with products to sell to photographers. This suite of technical skills is not essential for the photographer to have, however. In a good partnership, it could even be outsourced since the vision is the essential part. However, it is necessary and if you are a photographer who does their own image processing it can often make a real difference in how close to its potential a good image can come.
I find that I have one or two images that I have never been satisfied with my ability to process into what they should be. Into what I visualised them to be. This is one of them.
This is the fifth time I am presenting a version of this image and I doubt it will be the last. I think it is good to have benchmarks for yourself. We only see how far we have come when we look back.
God only knows what the new year has in store but I believe there are great things afoot. I see the coming year as the year I get truly serious about my craft. More large format work, more passionate portraits, more effort in “seeing” before and after the shutter is pressed. More work actually printed large and hung on walls.
Where are you at? Are all your family photos on Facebook and your iPhoto? Didn’t you love your old paper family photo album? Shouldn’t you have some real memorable portraits done? Do you craft? Do you make or collect things? Photos are memories. Good photos are good memories.
This year I finally got my family nailed down for a family portrait on the Corniche. It was not easy to organise but to me it was important.
When I first got the Crown Graphic this summer I knew I needed a picture of it.
I have been fortunate enough to attend the Classic Car Club meetings in Doha with my 1971 Trans Am (the pictured car is not mine, it is a 1980 Turbo Trans Am). It is a unique event with unique cars and wonderful people. Again, I knew I needed some decent pictures.
I say all of this lest you say to me, “Doctor, heal thy self!”
Give me an email or a phone call. Let’s make some memories!
I grew up in Alaska and I knew the name of one photographer. The name everyone knew. Ansel Adams. I love his work and the power that it evokes. I love the way black and white focuses you in on the essentials in a picture. And yet, I can hardly bear to shoot any.
I love colour. The bolder the better. The richer the better. I don’t like colour to look too unnatural but I just love amazing colour. When nature presents amazing colour it is that amazing colour I want to capture!
This is a shot I took when I first got my large format camera. The shop I bought it from only had black and white film in stock. I like it. I like it for all the reasons mentioned above. But I’m not sure I can bring myself to do it again…
As a photographer I find that I respond strongly to colour. Recently, however, I had a shoot where I had great difficulty achieving the coluor I had in mind. This seeming setback, as so often happens, was really an opportunity in disguise.
Colour profiles are not something I had really been paying attention to. Apart from ensuring that my monitor is calibrated I mainly have been happy just to move around controls until I like what I see. However, the brick wall I hit on this last shoot sent my flying down the rabbit hole of ICC. It just doesn’t seem like it should be all that complicated but the world of colour, like all of God’s creation, is as wide and as deep as you care to explore.
Along the way I came across the work of a great photographer named Joseph Holmes. His gallery is here: