Part of our mission here at Field Photographer is to help our readers become better photographers. Both in person and from readers on-line, we are regularly asked for advice on how to become better with a camera. The following are five things anyone can do to improve their picture making ability. None of them are terribly complicated or very expensive. There are no cryptic, esoteric secrets involved. I don’t doubt that investing years of study and tens of thousands of dollars going to photography school would make you better than when you started (or maybe not, judging by some of what is currently in fashion from visual academia). I am advising neither for nor against formal education. What I am saying is that there are a number of things anyone who is truly interested in the art and craft of photography can do to become much better.
The oddly and charmingly named (but what Voigtlander is not oddly and charmingly named) 35mm Color Skopar is among the smallest and lightest 35mm lenses you can get in Leica M mount. At around $500 new, it is also one of the least expensive. It is an excellent choice for your 35mm lens whether or not price is a consideration.
Andrew and I have a fondness for Kodachrome that often comes up in our discussions of films photography’s past and future. For my part, I never actually shot much of it. The first time I’d ever bought any was for my 2003 venture to the island nation of Haiti, and nearly all of the film I shot on that trip was stolen or lost coming back into the U.S., so I’ve never seen my own images on Kodachrome.
Go wide! Go wider!! Go as wide as you can without going too wide!!! This is how I think about the 20mm lens and, to be specific, the classic 20mm f/2.8 Nikkor in both auto and manual focus. In my long experience with this lens — I have used it in its MF and AF versions as one of my primary working optics since around 2000 — I have found it to be a special lens in particular and generally as wide an angle as one can get without entering the realm of special effects. Lenses wider than 20mm can come in handy for unique perspectives and situations, but rarely for every day use.
MONTERREY — I have shot tightly framed portraits of people since I began taking photos at age ten or eleven. A certain style of naturalistic headshot, the subject fully aware and looking straight into the lens, has been a major element of my work for my entire photographic life. I still have almost every negative I ever shot and though I hope I have learned a thing or two along the way, I am still rather happy with many of the portraits I took of my classmates, teachers, and family back in Junior High and High School.
A few years ago, in the last days of the common film era (CFA) and the beginning of the Age of Digital (AD), point and shoot film cameras were common items. Even as the digital writing was on the virtual wall (for those who cared to look) the camera industry introduced an entire new format, the Advanced Photo System or APS. The system used a self-contained, more or less idiot-proof cartridge designed to address various perceived problems with 35mm film. It used a somewhat smaller negative (30.2mm x 16.7mm as opposed to 36mm by 24mm) (think APS-C sized sensors as opposed to “full-frame” sensors), had no film leader and, among other features, nearly every APS camera could be easily switched between several aspect ratios. These were simply crop modes but they were briefly quite popular, so much so that many 35mm point and shoot models followed suit and added a panoramic mode.
I have been working as a documentary photographer off and on in Latin America for over 15 years. Some of my favorite memories and images have come during Holy Week, Semana Santa. I have photographed these incredible expressions of faith on three previous occasions in Central America. First in Antigua, Guatemala, then in Santa Rosa de Copan, Honduras, and last in Santiago de Atitlan, Guatemala. All of these were marked by procession all day and night, intricate carpets of flowers laid out on the streets, the dirge-like antique music of marching orchestras, the stations of the cross and other reenactments of the crucifixion and resurrection. Continue reading “VIA CRUCIS”
We talk a lot about gear, about boots, cameras, knives, and tents but too little about books. All the great adventurers I know are great readers. They travel far in their minds as well as across continents. As well, they gain inspiration, ideas, and, indeed, advice and knowledge on gear and preparation from other travelers, even those from previous centuries. And a book or two should be part of your gear, something to fill time while waiting at dusty bus stations or when you’re at your hotel in a city too dangerous to wander out at night or when you simply need a few minutes or hours of quiet. I love e-readers but they run on batteries. A good paperback is always ready and when you are done you can pass it on to another traveler or often trade it for a new book in a café or hostel. Continue reading “10 BOOKS TO HELP YOU ON YOUR ADVENTURES…”
Sometimes you should listen to the voices in your head and sometimes you shouldn’t. Do not run with scissors in traffic. Do not befriend Nigerian royalty. Do not shave your head and climb that bell-tower. But if the voices are telling you to hang onto a particular lens, that someday you’ll figure out what it’s good for, and that someday you’ll figure out how to use it correctly, then listen. Continue reading “THE VOIGTLANDER 15MM F/4.5 SUPER-HELIAR V1”
You shot your rolls of film, developed them or had them developed. You looked at the prints (or jewel-like slides)– the only way to look at your photos unless they were published — and decided which ones you liked. When you were learning photography you looked at the negatives and picked one. You held those little frames to the light or looked at them through a loupe over a light table. You made contact sheets and looked at those through a magnifying glass, at tiny windows into the worlds of your own past. They were full of mystery, tiny little scenes that you had chosen, burned into silver halide, glowing frames of silvery greys and blacks, the direct opposite of what you had seen. It was up to you to think about them, think about what you wanted. Then you had to turn the lights off, turn on the red light, fit that chosen frame into a holder, fit it into a larger frame, make decisions and then commit to it. You held your breath and pushed the button and the light came on, changing the photo paper invisibly, immediately, and forever. You took that piece of paper and slipped it beneath the developer. Again you held your breath, waiting, wondering. Would it come in a rush of overexposed blacks or a tentative, underexposed outline of whites and greys? Or had you calculated correctly when you committed light to the paper as you had when you opened the camera’s shutter to expose the film. Continue reading “PRINT YOUR PHOTOS (PROBABLY A BETTER TITLE OUT THERE)”