It is quite a while since I mentioned Contre Jour, but it is such an important factor in photography that it is important to learn how to handle it.
Now to explain why this technique is in French - simply, the French were first into photography, so I suppose they are entitled to give us photographic terms such as ‘Contre Jour’ (literally ‘against the light’).
You have gone into 2014 by buying an expensive DSLR camera. Would you now like your expensive camera to start paying for itself? I am sure that for many of you, the answer is a resounding yes.
When you mention night photography, for many people this brings out images of gumshoes taking sneak shots through bedroom windows. This week’s column has very little in common with private eyes or bedroom windows, so if you were hoping for something salacious this isn’t where you should be reading.
I was discussing photography in general with a semi-pro this week. We were going through the remarkable advances that there have been, particularly regarding the burgeoning camera-phone as the medium photography is rapidly becoming based upon.
OK, you have been given a Digital SLR for New Year, and you are keen to improve over the photographs you took last year with your compact point and shoot camera.
Having had a professional photography studio for many years, using all formats of film cameras, I was very reluctant to join the digital movement. However, like gravity, the effects of the digital age could not be ignored, and I joined the evolution (as opposed to ‘revolution’).
The next development in photography I could not have predicted. That was the advent of the phone-cam. Like Dick Tracey’s two way wrist radio, the concept was close to science fiction. But the phone-cam has changed the way we approach the art of taking photographs.
Initially I sneered at so-called photographers holding up their mobile phone and snapping away at functions. With 2 MP, they were lucky to get an image, let alone sharp enough for reproduction purposes.
The next development was the “selfie” which overnight changed normally sane people into narcissistic self-centered people. The ultimate expression of this new development is women using the rearward view function, holding up their mobile phone to apply their make-up!
The initial soft images from the first phone-cams with their 2 MP have also been improved, as the phone manufacturers have now come up with phone-cams with 20 MP. This is more than most compact cameras.
The mobile phone revolution really began in earnest when the BlackBerry came on the market, but it was very quickly superseded by phones from Nokia and the Apple iPhone ranges. Today you must have an iPhone 5 or a Samsung Galaxy S4 to be in the fashion conscious hunt.
However, one of the problems when comparing cam-phones is people tend to read the magic number called megapixels and conclude that it is the deciding parameter between brilliant, good and not so good. 24 MP is better than 12 which in turn better is than 4.
Whilst the above is partly true, it really does depend upon what you want to do with the end result. Are you going to be blowing it up to the size of a barn door, or will it be a 4R (6x4) at most? If you have been hired to produce photographs for billboards, then look at a camera with megapixels coming out its strap swivels. Otherwise, anything from six to 10 MP is more than adequate for the cam-phone.
There is no ignoring just how camera phones have taken over the position previously held by point and shoot cameras. The numbers say it all. By 2003, more camera phones were sold worldwide than stand-alone digital cameras.
In 2005, Nokia became the world’s most sold digital “camera” brand.
In 2006, half of the world’s mobile phones had a built-in camera.
In 2008, Nokia sold more camera phones than Kodak had done with film cameras and became the biggest manufacturer of any kind of camera.
In 2009, camera sales continued to slide as camera phones improved their auto-focus, zoom and low-light features.
In 2010 the worldwide number of camera phones totaled more than a billion and sales of separate cameras continued to decline. Even inexpensive mobile phones were being sold with a camera.
Up to November 2011, US retail sales of entry-level cameras fell 17 percent to 12 million units from 2010. In that same time-frame cam-phone makers sold 95 million in the US.
No, like it or lump it, the cam-phone is here to stay, and the top end models do return sharp images.
So what can you do to get better images from your telephone? The first thing is to remember that you do not have the control over the equipment that you have with a camera. You cannot alter the shutter speed, or the aperture, you have to rely upon the cam-phone to do that for you. You cannot alter the ISO rating either. So what do you have?
You have a screen which shows you almost 100 percent of what you are going to get, while standing some distance from the subject. The cam-phone is making you look more carefully at the total scene. Move closer and get the image to fill the screen and you will have a much better resulting image.
The message is to walk in closer, compose and shoot! And answer the phone as well!
Now that you have your new Xmas camera, how about exploring Landscape photography? Is it easy? Point the camera at rolling fields and push the button. Another great shot - or is it?
Photography is great for bower birds. Collectors all of us, with items kept long after their usefulness has waned. Some of it has become surplus to requirements, some of it is broken and not worth repairing or too difficult to get repaired in this country, and much has become redundant because you have changed camera systems, or even changed complete formats (6x6 to 35 mm for example).
I found myself in that situation a couple of years back after purchasing my Panasonic Lumix Digital DMC-FZ50. It took a year of deliberation (some might call it ‘hesitation’ or just plain ‘dithering’) before I made the fateful decision to a) go digital and b) go Lumix, after more than 20 years of using Nikon exclusively.
Of course, some of you will ask why didn’t I stay with Nikon, with its full range of digital SLRs? Good question, but easily answered. The upper level Nikons are now very expensive, and whilst I had some excellent Nikon manual focus prime lenses, they were not going to be all that compatible with the new Nikon digital auto-focus systems.
That also brings in one of the salient reasons in the purchase of the Lumix - the fantastic 35-420 Leica zoom lens that comes with the Panasonic Lumix, coupled with the electronic anti-shake technology so you can hand hold, even at 420 mm. With digitals these days, I believe that you are best served with electronics from an electronic company, with lenses from an optical company. The Lumix definitely fits that.
Having made the irrevocable decision, I looked at my now defunct Nikon 35 mm film system. I had two cameras, a much loved FM2N, and an FA. The FM2N was the typical journalist’s workhorse with more rolls of film through it than I’ve had hot dinners, whilst the FA was the back up. Only thing was the FA was no longer working, having some kind of internal problem, by which the mirror was locked in the “up” mode.
The lenses were a 24 mm wide angle, old and growing its second crop of fungus (the first was cleaned off about five years ago), a 50 mm ‘standard’ lens and a 135 mm ‘portrait’ lens. I also had a spacer for macro work, which was also very old, but was the good one that still allowed the auto exposure function to work.
Quite frankly, as far as I was concerned, these items were now surplus and it was going to be very unlikely that I would use any of it again (although I would still take the FM2N out of its bag and lovingly stroke it every so often).
It was at that stage that a good friend of mine suggested I sell the surplus items, and said that he had excellent results selling items on eBay in the UK. He was returning to the UK himself and offered to sell them, and I thought, “Why not? I’m getting nothing for them sitting in the old camera bag.”
He had been back a couple of weeks when I got the following email:
That little lot came to 325 pounds sterling, which at current exchange rates is around 17,000 baht, which certainly made purchase of the Lumix a breeze (duty-free price).
His advice for anyone contemplating selling via eBay was to take good photos of the items for sale, and be scrupulously honest in the descriptions. If the item is broken, or scratched or repaired or whatever, declare its condition truthfully and this avoids come-backs later.
The lenses all went for very good money, though I would have thought the 135 mm would have been more desirable than the 50 mm, but the 24 mm did attract the highest bid, as I thought it would.
The moral to this tale, is to look at the old camera gear, broken or otherwise and clear out the cupboard and sell it. You will get more than you ever imagined, but it certainly helped having a friend, a regular eBay user, and stationed in the UK.
Flash photography tends to worry some weekend photographers, so this week we might try to de-mystify lighting.
More than likely, there is a book called Videography for Dummies, and if so, I’m sorry I stole the title!
Video is becoming more popular every day. Have a look in the window of a camera shop and you will find as many video cameras as there are still cameras. In addition, many still digital cameras also have a video capability as do many camera phones these days, so there is probably just as much video work being done as still.