Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Technical Writer Wanted For The Glue Company

No special skills needed - it's a cut and paste job...

If you have a Facebook feed or other social media connection you'll have had any number of people passing on information from others by simple means - they have pressed a hashtag key or a forward button and flooded the computers of their friends with another political meme or picture of a cat riding a motor mower.

It is the civilian version of what used to be the rip-and-read radio news service that interposed itself between you and a teletype machine. It kept you up-to date, but generally the date was July 8, 1959. Still, it was better than waiting for the newspaper to be thrown into the rhododendrons at 5:00AM next morning, particularly if the news was not what the editor or the owners of the paper wanted you to read...'cause then you didn't read it and never even found out that you didn't read it until much later.

Nowadays we instantly read, hear, see, and possibly taste darn near everything over the computer and a juicy news story will be available over dozens of feeds...but if you look carefully, the dozens of feeds are all saying the same thing. Because most of the writers of the various posts are sitting down by the teletype machine with a pair of scissors and a pot of glue.

It's the same for the technical photographic writing. You may see a dozen reviews of a new camera or lens but eleven of those will say the same thing because they have been derived from a press release or product sheet. It is only No.12 that has anything new because in many cases only No.12 has actually had the camera in hand and pressed the shutter button. Don't be too cynical about the other 11 - there may not have been enough of the new cameras in the country when the call for a tech report came out and the writers have just had to wing it.

You can have confidence to a certain extent in the eleven other reports. If they have not been typo'ed too badly you will get the basic information you need. But if you want to really find out the valuable bits, look for that twelfth piece. It is only the people who have handled the equipment* that will be able to let you have a human view of it.

And then come down to the shop and pick it up and form your own assessment. Judge as carefully as you might, and remember that you are as free to have a good opinion about new equipment as to have  a bad one.

*Sometimes with sticky fingers.

Images: farming on a small scale at Cannington Showgrounds.

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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Slowest Light In The World

We are told that light goes at 299,792,458 metres per second. That may be so when there is company present but I can assure you that when you are using a pinhole camera the stuff travels considerably slower. While you might get your ordinary photography with a digital camera in half a second the pinhole camera will require most of the day.

The reason for this is simple: the digital camera opens up to a maximum aperture of f:1.8 and uses an ISO of 6400 - the pinhole camera opens up to f: 248 and uses an ISO of 100. If you opt for the paper negative you have an ISO of 0.6 and if you put a yellow filter in front of the thing you have an ISO of peanut butter. As far as making pictures, choose smooth or crunchy...

Okay, this is not as bad as it seems. The Ilford Obscura camera will not take racing-car pictures at Wanneroo while the cars are circling the track, but it will take pictures of them while they are in the pits. And with a bit of management the pit pictures will be free of human interference. The camera system will also be suited for landscape shots on cloudless days, dreamy sea pictures, and interior long as you can stay inside for an hour.

The calcu-later* kit that comes in the pack enables you to see what the equivalent shoot time will be for the Obscura compared to the results from a standard light meter. Those people who do not have an old hand-held meter can always use the screen readout from their digital camera to tell them what the standard exposure for a scene is - and then you can dial it onto the converter. But be aware that the converter dials are not corrected for reciprocity failure.

This is a phenomenon that occurs when you are using really long exposures - the recording medium gets less sensitive the longer the time is extended. A rough rule of thumb for the really long ones will be to double what the calcu-later says. Most pinhole shots benefit from longer exposure.

Of course the whole business happens on a tripod. In the case of the Obscura, though, as it has a flat bottom, it can be placed on any solid surface for the duration of that exposure. You set it, open the shutter, and read a book until the time comes to close it. In case of a dull day, I recommend you start on " War and Peace " and go on to reading a comic if you finish before the camera is ready.

You might laugh at this ( and you might laugh now, thank you...) but even with f:16 lenses and 400 ISO films in medium format cameras I remember leaving shutters open for 20 minutes to record projected images on a screen in a darkened studio. Literally set and forget.

A question from the readers; " What exposure times do you use  if you are using studio flash? ". I don't know, but as I have a studio flash outfit and tabletop models that will not move, I intend to find out. The trick will be to use multiple pops of the strobe system to lay more and more light onto the emulsion. I intend to use a digital setup to tell me what would be successful with a standard lens and then convert it with the calcu-later. I'll bet that will also need double the number of pops...

* Pun, John, pun...

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Monday, May 1, 2017

20 Square Inches Of Trouble - Sheet Film

No apologies for the inches, children. It is what the adults use to measure photographic surfaces.

Even if we do give in to buying inkjet paper in A4, A3 and A2 sizes, we still get boxes of 6 x 4 and 5 x 7 from Ilford. And we measure print sizes in 8 x 10, 11 x 14, 10, 12, and 20 x 24 as well - it must put the wind up to the bureaucrats in the EU standards Department something chronic.

We also measure one of the standard sizes in the industry for sheet film as 4 x 5 inches. Europeans tried for years to make this into 10 x 12 centimetres but it never really took off - people still think of 5 x 4 or 4 x 5. 20 square inches of sensitive emulsion to put into the new Ilford Obscure pinhole camera - for good or ill. There is a 10-sheet box of it included with the kit - Ilford Delta 100 - a tabular grain film of excellent tonality.

Note: you can also get Ilford HP 5 and Ilford Delta 400 film in 4 x 5 packs from the regular fridges at the Camera Electronic shops. They are the larger 25-sheet boxes.

The convention of sheet film is familiar to all the old hands - but newbies to large format need to remember that the sensitive emulsion side of the film is TOWARD you when you can feel the film notches on the right hand top corner of the film. You will feel, rather than see them as you will be in total darkness for this loading and unloading procedure.

In the case of the Obscura, as soon as you are sure it really is entirely dark, open the box, locate that upper right notched corner, and lay the sheet into the large of he two boxes. Then drop the smaller box into it and press until the magnets catch. You are loaded for ( extremely slow ) bears. Unloading is the reverse of the procedure, and you can make use of the three-tray spare film box that came in the kit to hold your exposed film for processing later.

Now 4 " x 5 " is a little bit larger than the sensor on the average digital camera or mobile phone....and records a geat deal of information. The pinhole of the Obscura may be laying in a slightly soft image, but it will be laying a lot of it in there. If you were to make a contact print of the resultant negative - provided it was a good exposure - you would be amazed at the amount of detail that has been captured. If it is a bad exposure, you will be struggling to see anything.

The best hint I can give with the end result is for people who have good scanners like the Epson V700 or 800 series. You'll have a sheet film holder in your standard Epson kit and can easily translate a negative to a digital file. I do it all the time using the " Home " setting in the software. There is plenty of detail captured from the sheet negative.

Users of sheet film who develop their films with traditional developers like Rodinal have sometimes bemoaned the grain structure that it produces. Scanned work in small sizes exhibits none of this problem and the contrast of the grain is excellent. Remember that you can also use Kodak Portra sheet film for colour work and have it developed at a professional lab.

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