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Rough guide to photography
I've been asked so many times about how the photos on the site were taken that I decided to put together this rough guide to photography.
I've posted up a few tips and hints that might hopefully prove useful to some of you and included some tech stuff for those interested in that kind of thing.
The most important thing to do is to not to get all wired up about technical stuff or worrying about your camera gear, but just use any old camera and get out there and take some pictures!
what to buy?
I've had quite a few letters asking about what equipment was used and what camera gear I recommend. Hopefully some of you might find this useful:
If you're starting off in photography, I'd always recommend resisting the urge to go out and buy the latest whizz-bang autofocus camera with a billion lens and get yourself a cheap secondhand manual/semi-automatic camera instead and spend the rest on film.
You'll learn far more about photography by going out taking pictures and experimenting with different settings than letting some all-whirring wonder camera do it all for you. Photography is all about what you're seeing and not what groovy buttons the camera has.
Great pictures can be taken on cheap cameras - and crap pictures can most certainly be taken on expensive ones too!
Digital cameras are getting better all the time, although they've still quite a way to go until they can match conventional film cameras for quality and economy.
Most of the new 'mega-pixel' ones are easily good enough for web photography, but you'll be pushing it if you're hoping for big prints off them. One of the best things about owning a cheap film camera is that you'll probably take it places that you'd be too worried about taking an expensive camera.
Good cheap and reliable film cameras include Pentax MX1000, Canon AE-1 (look out for the 'Canon Cough'. If the shutter squeaks loudly then steer clear!), Olympus OM2n/1n/10, and any old Nikon.
Always buy the camera from a reputable dealer or take a boffin friend along with you to make sure you're not buying a turkey. For the greater part, old cameras can perform just as well as their modern counterparts, but there are duff ones out there - be warned!
There's only one real way to learn about photography, and that's to go out there and take pictures!
I started by buying up cheap outdated film stock and catching a train out of my town and taking pictures of anything and everything. I used a manual camera and made a note of the camera's settings when I took the pictures - that way I could try and work out what went wrong when I got some blurry wobbly mess back from the chemists!
Look out for things that you like and don't worry if your friends think they're "cool" or not. Looking back through my photos it's often the everyday ones that still seem to strike a chord with me.
There's a lot of good books out there which can teach you the basics, and I'd recommend looking out for the cheaper straightforward books or reading some of the weekly photography magazines. If you're broke you can always get down the library!
It's also worth checking out some of the great photographers work for inspiration and ideas. I've always enjoyed the work of André Kertesz for its simplicity and superb composition, along with the likes of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paul Strand, Bill Brandt, Andy Goldsworthy and Richard Long.
Remember most of these guy's photographs were taken on simple rangefinder cameras without any of the flash stuff seen on today's cameras - proof that it's not the equipment that matters, but the talents of the photographer!
As I'm sure some of you know, processing your own prints can be a real pain if you haven't got your own darkroom to hand.
Black and white printing is pretty easy and no matter what the text books say, you don't need masses of equipment, industrial heaters or rubber suits - just a bit of space where you can black out the light. Over the years, I've managed to construct makeshift darkrooms in bathrooms, bedrooms and in one particularly uncomfortable case, a tiny shower cubicle!
If I'm working in black and white I generally get the negatives processed professionally (after a couple of disasters, I'd rather pay to make sure the negatives are intact!), and do the printing at home.
Although black and white printing is really cheap, getting the negatives processed can prove more expensive than colour prints.
One cheap alternative is to use Ilford XP2 Superfilm or Kodak B&W Select Plus and TMAX-T400CN. These are a black and white films that can get processed as a regular colour film, so its cheap to get the film developed and you also get prints thrown in too!
Because it goes through colour print chemistry, the prints sometimes come out with strange hues - try and ask for sepia as it can be a nice effect. You can then print off your own prints at home using the negs which print as regular black and white.
Colour printing is an expensive business, and not really to be attempted at home unless you can muster up a decent darkroom space. Transparencies give far better quality than colour prints, but cost a bomb to print. Luckily, colour print film is getting better all the time, and even your standard old chemist can normally offer cheap 7" x 5" prints.
The older photographs were taken using an Olympus OM4, a twenty year old Olympus OM2n and the superb (and sadly discontinued) Olympus XA, a tiny compact camera that has a fast lens and full shutter/aperture control. Because it's so small, I tend to carry it around with me a lot more than I would a bulky SLR, and it's capable of some great results. If you see one in a second-hand store, snap it up fast!
I've got a couple of lens which I use regularly, mainly a 24mm wide angle lens, a 50mm f1.4 standard lens and a 28-150mm zoom. I don't use filters that much, but sometimes an orange/red filter can help boost up the sky for black and white photos. My tripod fell to bits a while ago so if anyone's got a sturdy tripod that they're not using, get in touch with me!
The black and white pictures were all printed in various temporary darkrooms using an old Durst B30 enlarger and a dodgy old safelight held together with tape.
Almost all of the newer photos were taken on Sony Cybershot digital camera which is an excellent camera - small, kinda stylish with a good battery life. I forked out for the 64meg memory stick which means I can get around 200 high quality pics in one go. The added bonus of the Sony is its swivel lens which lets me take sneaky pictures while people aren't looking!
I hope you found this guide useful, and that you'll enjoy the photographs. Thanks for dropping by!
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