Today's project, children, will be to make you into The World's Greatest Photographer - using a common digital camera and a few props that you will have around the house.
You will need the following:
DSLR or rangefinder camera with APS-C sized sensor.
30 or 35mm lens.
TTL cable for your flash and camera - a short one will be fine.
A flash bracket for your camera.
A tan gabardine trenchcoat.
A battered fedora.
A car with a police radio in the boot.
The combination of an APS-C camera and a 30 to 35mm lens will most closely approximate the camera used by Arthur Fellig but on a small scale. He used Speed and Crown Graphics with 135mm lenses. You'll need to set your camera to monochrome to approximate the film but remember that when you come to process the files you should crop them to a 4 x 5 ratio. Arthur used plates and films of this size.
Okay - look at the Speed and Crown Graphics in Arthur's hands and you'll see that he has a flash gun on the right hand side with an 8 inch reflector. You can see a clear Press 25 bulb in there. This generally gave him a guide number of 200 to 220 with Super XX film. f:22 at 10 feet - f:32 at 6 feet.
The 6 feet is for portraits of people being restrained by the police and the 10 feet is for corpses and crashed cars.
You'll need to rig up a flash bracket on the RHS of your DSLR that slightly elevates the flash to simulate the Press 25 position. Connect it to the hot shoe of your camera with the TTL cord and start out using the TTL setting until you get the feel for estimating distance and power. Then fly on manual. f:32 gives you great depth of field anyway.
There may be some little debate about whether the police radio is strictly legal. Likewise the business of barging into domestic violence, car crashes, and gangland shootings. By all means pussy-foot around obeying the law if you want to, but don't blame me if you miss the shots. Of course, you can always go back later with the car crashes after the ambulance leaves, but you can't generate a fresh corpse and pool of blood these days without a great deal of explaining.
The demise of traditional photo-journalism in favour of mobile-phone pictures should not affect you - you will essentially be your own agency and as long as you have the files to submit, editors will look at them. Timeliness is always important, and the papers do appreciate you getting the images to them before the subject starts to clot up.
To this end, you might consider installing a computer and transmitter system in the boot of your car to instantly send the pictures to the papers of your choice. These are available in many forms these days and are quite reliable. The boot on modern cars is smaller than that of the sedans of the 40's but there should still be space in there for a fifth of rye and a humidor of cigars.
Cartier-Bresson? Who he?
Labels: Canon, Cartier-Bresson, flash, Fuji, Leica, Nikon, Pentax, Weegee