Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Shooting film in 2020

Perhaps you have heard that film has made a comeback. I shot film for years before digital made its appearance; initially, black and white that I developed and printed myself, and then color slides (which I also printed a few times). I am pretty much a confirmed digital photographer these days but film still has some appeal, and I still own film cameras, so I have given it a try to the tune of about 10 rolls of film through various cameras.

Shooting film comes as a shock because there is no feedback after you have taken a shot....no chimping! I feel as if I am shooting blind and crossing my fingers until the film is developed and scanned. Plus I am used to taking several hundred shots at a typical portrait session on my digital camera. Film cameras don't shoot that fast which is a good thing because it would be extremely expensive. Actually, slowing down and planning a shot in detail first is not such a bad idea.

Let's talk about the cost of film and developing. A roll of film presently runs around $10. Some is cheaper and some is more expensive. I am mainly referring to 35mm film but a roll of 120 is much the same price. A roll of 35mm gets you 36 shots whereas a roll of 120 gets you 8 or 12 in the common formats. If you send your film out to be developed and scanned, you are looking at $15 to $20 depending on the quality of the scan, plus postage. So a roll of 36 shots can easily cost close to $1 per frame whether it is a good or bad frame. If only half of your shots are good, that amounts to $2 per good frame. So most people cannot afford to shoot without careful planning and execution. The cost to purchase and process a roll of 12 shots on 120 film are about the same but you only have 1/3 of the frames meaning that the cost per shot is three times as much as the 35mm frames....as much as $6 per shot at a 50% batting average.

So how about the colors and resolution? Film has distinctive colors depending on the brand and the particular film from the brand. Film also has grain which is visible in proportion to the film speed (ISO). 100 ISO has relatively fine grain compared to 400 or 800 ISO which can look very grainy indeed. Assuming you want the film scanned so the photos can be used on a computer, on-line, or on a digital printer, the scanning resolution can be chosen to produce digital files of various sizes, much like digital camera files that vary by megapixels. Which size do you need? Well, after spending the money for film and developing, it makes sense to choose a high quality scan. Scanners can also affect the color balance so some commercial scanners allow you to choose whether or not they perform a color balance for you. Again, it makes sense to get the best results unless it is a "test" roll. Should you scan your own negatives? Yes, if you have the time and the money to invest in a good scanner. Mine cost around $350 and it is very capable but quite slow. It is a plustek. If you scan your own film, you can get a roll developed for $8 or you can do it yourself at home if you want to mess with chemicals and fight dust.

Interesting truths....good digital cameras can produce far superior files than scanned film. If you look at a photo at the pixel level, you will see far more detail and sharpness in a digital camera photo than a 35mm film camera. How much does that matter when viewing or printing? Not much if you are talking an 8 1/2 x 11 print. Larger prints will definitely show the limits of film in terms of sharpness and grain. But larger prints are usually viewed from farther away so it is up to you whether it matters. On the other hand, the combination of film colors and grain makes for interesting photos that many find attractive.

On the good news side, quality film cameras can be purchased inexpensively. Although some favorites such as Leicas command high prices, a Nikon F SLR costs next to nothing.

So that is an overview of shooting on film. It is fun and I continue to do it on a small scale. Film cameras are simple compared to digital with only three basic adjustments - shutter speed, aperture and focus - compared to pages of menus on digital cameras. Pick your poison!

Colin Ward Photography

Kodak Ektar film shot with a Contax Tvs.

Ilford FP4 shot with Pentax Point and Shoot

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Beware of Organized Photography Trips

I enjoy teaming up with a few other photographers and models to shoot in interesting locations that would otherwise be inaccessible or expensive. I wanted to travel a bit further afield to try my luck so looked into a number of different organized photo tours. I started with a weekend in a location that I could drive to with a group called the IBMS. It went well and was fun so I budgeted for four trips in 2019. One was within driving distance in Florida and the others were out of the country in Cuba, Jamaica and Mexico. Most of the organizers wanted full payment up front with pricing that varied from $400 for the Florida trip to $6000 for Cuba (oddly, Cuba is an expensive place to travel). Two of the trips were organized by fairly well-known tour groups and two were organized by photographers of my acquaintance, one a roommate at a previous event and one who was a friend of friends in Florida.

I ponied up for the trips and began to make travel plans. Little did I know that three of the trips would be cancelled because too few people signed up and paid. First was the trip to Cuba that I was really looking forward to. There was a drop dead date by which a call would be made as to whether there was enough interest or not. The trip was one person shy of breaking even for the organizers so they cancelled it. I received a refund of my money promptly, and fortunately I had not made flight reservations yet so I did not lose any money.

The second trip was the trip that was fairly close to home for which I paid $400. It also was cancelled due to insufficient paid reservations. In this case, the organizer turned out to be a dreamer who is incompetent as an organizer and who had spent the money on other things. I have received partial refunds of my payment to the point where I finally have my refund (a year later). The loser who organized the trip has more excuses than Carter has pills.

I should mention at this point that the trip to Mexico took place and was successful (with the IBMS) and there were no financial issues.

Of the original four trips, the one to Jamaica remained, but again it was cancelled due to a lack of paid reservations. I had been pressured to pay in full ($1,000) a year ago and once again the organizer, who had been a roommate the previous year, seemed to have spent the money elsewhere and was unable to refund my money. After much complaining, I received a partial payment of $100 but I am still owed $900. The organizer has been taking his own photography trips as evidenced on Facebook, but does not have any money to repay me.

After three of the four trips were busts, I was hesitant to trust anyone else with my money but I did substitute a great trip with UTAdventures late last year and had an excellent, if expensive, time in Mexico. I will leave you to draw your own conclusions about what to do if you are tempted to follow this path. All I can suggest is to only trust a company with a great reputation and a solid history. Let the buyer beware.


Saturday, April 11, 2020

"Stand in front of more interesting stuff"......

I saw the above heading credited to photographer Joe McNally. I don't know if he was the first to say it but I am sure many other photographers have thought the same thing. I look at and study hundreds of photos in a week. I see great photos that are inspiration to me but I also see a lot that have no appeal except perhaps from a technical aspect. I assume the photographer was practicing with a new piece of gear or testing a new technique. In my humble opinion, a photograph must have impact in order to grab the attention of viewers, and impact primarily comes from the content, not the sharpness or fancy lighting. I was reviewing YouTube videos of certain film cameras and noticed vloggers going on photo walks to try out the film cameras and returning with mostly uninteresting shots.

Much as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, art is a matter of taste. But with millions of photos being uploaded to the internet every day, the photographer who expects his photos to be noticed for any reason must insure they have impact and are not be lost in the morass. It is imperative that he or she stands in front of interesting stuff!

Colin Ward Photography

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Cleaning your camera lens.....the best way.

Camera lenses are constructed with extreme precision in order to provide the sharpest and highest contrast photograph possible. Photographers spend hundreds to thousands of dollars to get the perfect lens for the shots they want. So it should be no surprise that keeping a lens clean is very important to getting the maximum performance from it. Some older lenses have scratches, dirt and haze on them. Photographers are often told that the finished photograph will not show the dirt and scratches. It is true that a piece of dirt on the lens will usually not show up as a blob on the photo, however dirt, scratches and haze will definitely affect the sharpness and contrast of the photo. So how should we clean our lenses?

Lens cleaning fluid which evaporates quickly is frequently sold along with soft cotton or microfiber cloths to clean the lens without damaging it. While this combination works to some extent, a sheen is often left on the lens which can be seen by closely inspecting it under a light. The sheen will will resemble oil floating on water. This is not really acceptable.

So what is the best way to clean a lens? Simply use tap water and an all-cotton Q-Tip. The procedure is to wet one end of the Q-Tip under a cold tap and shake off the excess water. Then apply the wet end to the lens glass and gently wipe it around. On a large lens, it makes sense to work on a section at a time; possibly a quarter or half of the surface. Roll the Q-Tip between the fingers while wiping and the damp tip will remove the dirt and film from the lens. As the water begins to dry, switch ends of the Q-Tip and use the dry end to finish the job. The last of the water will quickly evaporate leaving the glass completely clean, dry and undamaged. Obviously this method will not repair existing scratches but the use of a pure cotton tip will prevent any new ones. If it is a removable lens, turn it around and repeat the process on the rear element. Do not allow water to get onto any other areas of the lens, particularly any electronic contacts.

And there you have it.

Colin Ward Photography

Monday, March 23, 2020

Who is This Guy and Why Should I Read His Blog?

The Photographer is a pretty old guy who has a ton of experience that he feels he should share with those who don't want to repeat mistakes that have already been made. He has lived through phases that were all influenced by his early life. He grew up in England and moved to the USA at age 14. His dad was an engineer who took him camping, took him sailing, bought him a camera, and tolerated his playing the guitar. His mother played an important role in all this by allowing it to happen. So the photographer has spent a lifetime with these influences and has homed in on photography as one of his last phases! You can check out his photography web site here Colin Ward Photography. And yes the photographer's name is Colin Ward. Please check out the web site and follow the blog because there will be some opinionated and hopefully useful material coming. Colin