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Getting The Most Out Of Your Camera Gear

Posted by: Jim Zablotny on 06/12/2013 - 9:50 AM

Last Sunday, I decided to go try and get some bird images from a marshy fen area near where I live. I decided to leave my extension tubes back at my car. Birds, as usual, were not very cooperative and stayed well outside the 300mm. So I decided to take a round-about way back to my car. As I approached a grassy field, I ran into a common ringlet butterfly which is about an inch long resting on the tip of a blade of grass. Where's that extension tube now that I really need the darned thing! The light was perfect and I decide to shoot this small target with the 300mm. I set up the tripod at the minimum focusing distance for the lens and began firing away. The end result came out very nice and a slight crop was done for composition. Please feel free to add your camera/photographer problems that worked out in the long run.........................Jim

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Posted by: Paul Cowan on 06/12/2013 - 10:10 AM

Just over a year ago I was off for a month in Crete, Greece, and the night before I left my Canon 5D MkII died (it turned out eventually just to be a well-hidden date-time battery that had run out after several year of marking time) so I had no choice but to switch to film. I relied almost entirely on a 1980s East German Pentacon Six with an 80mm lens, extension tubes and rolls of expired Fuji 400H film (that's ISO400). This is one of the shots from that trip:

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Posted by: Rich Franco on 06/12/2013 - 11:48 AM

Jim,Paul,

Here's a classic. Many years ago, 25 or so, I had a friend that owned a small company, 100 people or so,from around the country and were celebrating an anniversary of the company and he wanted a shot of all the employees and it had to be at the hotel, near our airport, didn't want anybody driving around Orlando, I guess. Anyway, I scouted around for a good spot, to put people in chairs in the front, the management team and owner and then people behind and gradually higher up, so their faces could be seen. Well the hotel grounds were flat and no little hills where I could position the people in rows of 20 or so. SO, I came up with the idea of using the roof. a nice flat 3 story roof and I would be able to shoot down and with everyone looking up, get all the faces.

Had to convince the Hotel management that I NEEDED to be on their roof, show that I was insured for this and was granted permission to get on the roof. Of course, being the "professional I was, I wanted to get up now and shoot the image, without the people, just using a few chairs to show where the people would be next week and make sure, everyone would fit and there would be no last minutes of " I don't fit in this shot" while I was on the roof, yelling instructions. It worked out and the day started. I had a realtively new assistant, and he was in charge of loading up the gear and I was in charge of the cameras. I had decided to shoot this group image, with my trusty 4x5, because the owner wanted really large prints made for each of his locations. And of course, being the "professional" I was, I also brought my Mamya RZ 6x7 camera gear too.

Well lunch time came and everyone started to come outside to get the group shot and it was Florida and hot, so I had to work fast. I gathered everybody up, got organized and told them, that I would be taking a lot of images, with a large camera and then a smaller cammera and I would tell them when I was done and it would be fast.

Shot all the 4x5 we had brought, about 5 holders worth and then for the backup, the RZ, using some really good, Agfa color negative film, that at 100 ASA, was almost grainless. Things went well, we got the gear and ourselves off the roof and down the 20 foot metal ladder to the roof and got back to the studio and relaxed. The 4x5 Polaroids looked good and I decided to rush the 4x5 film over to the lab and be able to see it in 3 hours. I sent my assistant to unload the film in the darkroom and he came out ashen! Ready to puke! He had grabbed EMPTY 4x5 film holders by mistake, no film, nada!!! For those that have never shot 4x5 film, the only way to know if there is any film in the holder, is to shake it and hope to hear it move or to get into a dark space and open the film back and feel the film, which we both didn't do.

Now the whole job rested on the single roll of 120 film I had shot!

Well, the 120 film was the savior and we were able to make big 20x24 prints and the client was happy and he only saw 8x10 proofs , never asked to see the 4x5 film and I got a few gray hairs that day and also a check!

Rich

 

Posted by: Billy Griffis Jr on 06/12/2013 - 12:34 PM

Jim - I do that all the time. I normally leave the house with a 200mm lens attached, the longest one I have and it does a great job. But this time of year birds are increasingly difficult to find in the leaves, (amazing how a bright red cardinal can hide) and I don't get many shots, but I still try.

So I get out walking around, and I find butterflies everywhere, insects just begging to have their picture taken...and the 200mm just doesn't usually cut it. but I do now and then get a decent one with it, so I still try. No examples to show off, I have too many good ones taken with the lens and extension tubes I actually need for those shots...but I have been able to get good shots that I normally would not have even tried with a 200mm lens. Butterflies, dragonflies, people, mushrooms...

So then I go out with the 50mm or the 135mm and some extension tubes, and yep, you guessed it, birds every time I turn around...I'm beginning to think they KNOW when you're not set up for that type of shot...

Similar to this, I started carrying a camera with me at all times because...

Out walking the lake bank, a shadow goes by and I look up just as a Hawk screams...2 of them circled me several times, then flew away, I've never had a better chance at a close up shot, they were no more than 20 feet up. Where was my camera? On the kitchen table a mile away...Two such incidents and that stopped, I haven't left home without it in 20 years.

 

Posted by: Roy Erickson on 06/12/2013 - 12:49 PM

Today we went for a ride out into the country to a little town about 20 miles away - too hot, to bright a sun - but I was still hoping to find a cactus in bloom - too late. I took my Nikon and the two lenses I have for it, the tripod, even an extra battery - not a single picture - but - i've learned to carry it anyway - if you don't - there will be the perfect shot and you'll be muttering to yourself.

 

Posted by: Jim Zablotny on 06/12/2013 - 1:14 PM

Rich and Paul--that knowledge about film comes in handy. Paul--the expired film and your technique saved the day for you. Rich that roll of 120 should be enshrined. Billy, I've noticed the same thing. Leave some essential piece of equipment or camera back at home and photo ops show up in tantalizing fashion. Roy, I hear you. I have to start wearing my fishing vest as it has all sorts of pockets for storing gear.......................Jim

 

Posted by: Paul Cowan on 06/12/2013 - 1:15 PM

Nice story Rich. I remember when I was the editor of the Stornoway Gazette in the Outer Hebrides 30 years ago my photographer came out of the darkroom one day looking crestfallen and announced that he had shot an entire assignment without loading the camera! It happens. He was a jolly good photographer, too, and is now a famous film-maker for Discovery Channel (which is almost a pity, since his black-and-white stills work was so good).

I didn't know sheet film rattled in the holders, I thought it was in too tight for that. My 4x5 mistakes so far include two double-exposures, a couple of times I put the dark-slide in the wrong way round when loading and so developed the film without ever shooting it (a waste of Velvia!) and I think I took one shot with an empty holder (again, probably a dark-slide mistake). For everyone who doesn't know, a dark-slide has a white top on one side and a black top on the other, so when you load you always put the white side facing out and when you have shot the film you switch it round so the black top is showing to indicate it has been used. And a dark slide is......

 

Posted by: Rich Franco on 06/12/2013 - 4:25 PM

Paul,

If you give the holder a vigorous shake, the film will slide and you'll hear it. In fact, years ago, when I was shooting studio stuff and ads and things, I would shoot multiple exposures "in camera" on the same 4x5 sheet! I would mask the center area, expose the film to say a flame source, slide the dark slide back in, remove the mask from the center and then cover the borders and expose the center! And to do this, the film would have to be taped down, since if it moved even a 1/16 of an inch, the image wouldn't work. If you ever want to try this, I'll try and remember how I did this,exactly, I think I had to go into the darkroom and remove the mask or something. Now a few clicks and it's done!

Back then, you'll remember people called "retouchers" who would make the composites from multiple sheets and cut and trim the images and then backlight the "new" multi-layered image and the shoot an 8x10 sheet of film for the clients!

That reminds me of ANOTHER screw up of mine! When I was doing Cibachrome for all the Ad agencies and other pro shooters, I had a 20" Ciba processor that could do 16x20's, called a CAP 40. Of course, it had to be exposed in teh dark and then after the print was in the processor, the lights could be turned on. I was making 8x10 contact prints for an Ad Agency of this famous Golf guy and they had retouched the original 6x7 film to have the guy wearing yellow pants, instead of some other color, to work with the ad they were running. I needed about 20 8x10's done and in a hurry to, always in a hurry with the Ad Agencies! Well, I was about halfway and I grabbed the ciba 8x10, which if you've ever worked with Cibachrome, you know how thich the paper is, walked over, put it into the processor and turned on the lights and saw the actual ciba paper on my easel!!! The 8x10 retouched film, had come off the easel set-up and layed on top of the ciba print and that's what I grabbed and sent into the processor!!! I turned the machine off and tried to grab the orignal film, but it had already been pulled into the developer about half way and the retoucher's ink/paint was all gone from those yellow pants!

I immediately called the lab that made the film and told them the story and I was coming by and needed a new "original". Fortunately, they still had the retoucher there and a few copies of the old style pants and just had to color in the yellow and re-shoot the film and give me the 8x10 sheet to finish the job!!!

It was a long night, but I delivered the contact sheets the next morning, on time!

Rich

 

Posted by: Paul Cowan on 06/13/2013 - 6:32 AM

Masking like that sounds pretty difficult, Rich, but good to know about, anyway. I think you could probably multiple-expose using a Grafmatic holder without taping. The film is held under rails along the whole length of both edges with those - they really are very nice accessories.

Did the sheet film holder always end up in the same place, though? I'd have thought there would be a strong risk of the holder being slightly out of position if you take it out to change the mask and then replace it.

On the newspapers back then - we didn't work with retouchers - except the most simple spotting out of defects in plate-making negatives. The advertising people handled all the creative stuff and just sent us the finished results to cut into the page negs..

 

Posted by: Billy Griffis Jr on 06/13/2013 - 10:21 AM

Paul your story above reminded me of something my brother did when he was overseas in the military. He bought this nice 35mm point and shoot underwater camera. Digital didn't exist yet..It had a slanted frame, so you could frame the picture over a diving mask, and a pointer that set the camera at minimum focus distance, nice rig, took good underwater shots.

So he took it out for a test drive...grabbed a shot of a starfish, the biggest sea turtle he'd ever seen and 3 or 4 other things...then removed the lens cap...never saw the turtle again, or the starfish...

 

Posted by: Paul Cowan on 06/13/2013 - 11:00 AM

I'll bet most of the oldies here have forgotten to take the lens cap off at some time, Billy. The humiliation of hearing your subject say "wouldn't it work better with the cap off?" was one of the great training experiences. It helped you to understand that you do everything carefully and methodically. That was one of the great things about moving to an SLR, never making that mistake again!

 

Posted by: Jim Zablotny on 06/13/2013 - 12:27 PM

Been there done that with the lens cap and sd card too. Lens manufacturers should put a glow in the dark message on the inside of an slr lens cap that says "Lens works best if you remove the cap!" LOL..............................Jim

 

Posted by: Rich Franco on 06/13/2013 - 12:28 PM

Paul,

I just remembered how we did it, after you mentioned the moving of the film back! We would first put the object, say a vase of flowers, in front of the camera, maybe 3-4 feet from the lens and focus on that and behind the vase, maybe 2-3 feet, was a black Gatorboard, 4' x 8' with no light falling on it. We would light the vase and flowers, keeping all light off the board ,expose the image, remove the black board and then shoot what ever background we needed, a water fall or something. We would then refocus on the background image,which would create a soft edge on the first image when we shot the second image. Of course, in the second image, we would keep the light off the flowers, completely dark and when we photographed the back image, there would be a perfect silhouette, black on the film.

I think I got this right this time. The distances might be off, but the concept is right! And the studio had to be perfectly black too.

Rich

 

This discussion is closed.