Nov 28, 2017
What could the mockumentary "This Is Spinal Tap" have in common with the podcast "All Things Photography?" If I have to tell you, it's not going to be funny.
But there's nothing funny about today's episode, except for the jokes, the bad puns, mangled German, and general sense of Freude (though that might be replaced with Schadenfreude by the time you finish listening…) So, turn up your earbones, close your eyeballs, and stumble into the audio world of photography.
Your Honor — the Cheese
The company ARCA-SWISS was founded in, you guessed it, Swaziland, I mean, Switzerland by a pair of brothers. They did things, good things, making cameras and stuff, and eventually the company was bought by some other people, who moved its headquarters to France. (Exhibit A — the shortest history of ARCA-SWISS ever written!)
One of the products developed at the company was a system of connector components for cameras and their supports. In other words, metal brackets machined in such a way that a tripod head, with matching opposable jaws, could quickly and reliably capture a bracket — attached to a camera — and hold that bracket/camera for whatever it is you do with a camera. Take pictures, I suppose. Over the years their system has spread to scores of companies, worldwide, and a very wide range of components are now available, from those scores of manufacturers, that have simplified and made consistent this reliable method of attaching things. (Exhibit B — a wordy yet oddly non-helpful description.)
Listen to the podcast, though, and all will be forgiven, I mean, explained. Or at least, it will be expanded to explain how the jaws expand to clamp the bars and what cheese has to do with any of this is anyone's guess. (Fine, it's the Swiss thing. Get it? Swiss cheese?) (See? Not funny, just like you said.) (Exhibit C — I rest my case!)
A selection of ARCA-SWISS-standard components. Clockwise from the top: a panorama head on a bar that has its own clamp at right angles to the bar at one end; a zoom lens collar/foot with an added plate; a bar/plate with a clamp in-line with the bar; two small clamps mounted in ball jointed arms (those arms are not ARCA-SWISS-style elements), plus one small plate in one of the jaws; a custom foot for another zoom lens that replaced the original, rather than being added on.
A Plate o' Brie
Have we not gotten past the cheese thing?
Fine. Just get on with it.
I use ARCA-SWISS-style components for attaching all my cameras to all my tripods and my monopod. As a matter of fact, I have a couple of ARCA-SWISS-brand tripod heads! The reason I can now say "…all of my cameras…" is because I finally got the part I needed for my Sony A6300. What I got is a Sunwayfoto PSL-A6300, a two-piece bracket (also called a plate!) that screws onto the bottom of that camera to provide the features needed to be grabbed by the jaws of the various tri- and monopod heads.
The Sunwayfoto PSL-A6300 kit is comprised of a two-piece bracket with accompanying hardware to fasten the two together, attach the bracket to the camera, and safety stop pins on the bottom and side, plus three hex key tools for attaching or otherwise modifying the assemblage.
This bottom view shows the additional threaded hole that allows the camera/bracket assemblage to be screwed onto a tripod if an ARCA-SWISS-style clamping head is not available, the two safety stop pins on the bottom bracket, and the slot in which the camera attachment screw slides, which allows an offset connection if desired. (I probably should have cloned out the hex key tool that's holding up the camera, but I've left it in for a little behind-the-scenes excitement.)
Here is the PSL-A6300 installed on my Sony A6300 mirrorless camera. You can see the safety stop screw on the upright bracket, the screw for connecting the upright and bottom brackets, and a lot of dust in that eyepiece. One of these things doesn't belong…
My camera, in bracket, mounted to an ARCA-SWISS-style clamp on a tripod head. (None of the components shown, by the way, are actual ARCA-SWISS brand, though I own a few, and apparently I like the word "assemblage.")
It's a simple little item but makes a big difference when I want the camera held steady, especially since I don't have a tripod head that doesn't expect a bracket. I like this product and you can do more than like it — you can buy it — for $44.95 via this link. You can also learn more about it, at the manufacturer's site, via this link.
You Want Mozzarella With That?
I sure hope there is a reason for more cheese…
Mark Treadwell started C.R.I.S. Camera Service over 30 years ago to distribute camera repair and test equipment, and soon added a host of other services for other brands. Still in the early years, he moved the company from California to Arizona and over the rest of the years added and lost clients, but always with his eye on the future and how he could best manage it. He seems to have done okay with that, and he sat down with me to lay it all out. It's a shorter conversation than most, but it's packed with industry insider information, so you'll want to listen closely and quickly.
Me: So, no real reason for the cheese thing?
Other me: Well, their main client is Manfrotto, and Manfrotto is from Italy, and you know what they make in Italy, right?
Me: * sigh * Cheese?
Other me: Ferraris! Oh, yes, and cheese.
Me: (slaps forehead)
Mark Treadwell, founder and owner of C.R.I.S. Camera Service.
To learn more about C.R.I.S. Camera Service, you can click on over to their web site, www.criscam.com, and tell 'em Mark sent you. Wait, that might be confusing, because he's Mark and I'm Mark and, oh, Shanklish!
When You're Down, Stay Down
In episode nine I showed how looking up at a subject, by moving to photograph from below its level, gave the subject an air of grandeur, or menace, or reverence. Here, in episode eleven, I suggest you go all the way down to the ground and stay there! Or, at least, stay there long enough to photograph things that are down there. It's more awkward to move around down there, so hopefully you'll spend more time taking advantage of that lower energy level to look more extensively and see — and photograph — things you would normally have dismissed. C'mon — getting to the floor, or the dirt, with a camera is not really that Gruyèreling… (Oh! Trying to slip one in, eh?)
This sign post, seen only at its bottom because my instruction was to not shoot up, as though a Lilliputian, definitely puts us near the sign. Being down here we see seeds, white and filamentary, caught in spider's web. Swooping into the distance are power lines, their poles visually repeating the much smaller pole before us, my large aperture keeping the depth of focus shallow and, thus, our mental focus on the pole and seeds and gravel.
These were imaged just feet from each other. On the left, I was drawn by the contrast of colors and textures — brown and black and grey, stone and dirt and feather. On the right, a more complex set of contrasts — brown and grey and white and green, stone and dirt and shell and water. All of this in the middle of the Arizona desert.
I have no explanation for why this wooden frame, painted black with a pink W, was discarded against this shrub, a blue nylon bag with, I think it was, a steel rod encased, lying before it on the gravel. It's just weird — so, interesting.
Quoting The Copyright Issue
Bill Stilton (Really? Stilton?) (Fine.) Bill Stettner (Thank you.) came up through commercial photography to become one of its more successful, and artful, practitioners. His experiences and abilities lead him to preside over the Advertising Photographers of America organization, and he worked hard to secure for photographers their rights to the images they created. I didn't realize it, but from before he entered the field in the 1950s, and up into the 1980s, copyright apparently didn't automatically accrue to the photographer. Stettner was a major force in changing the laws, but since the previous beneficiaries of the status quo were the advertising agencies, his clients, they translated their loss into his, and he was never hired again.
Let me state, though, that I base this bit of history on a recollection by photographer Peter Adams, coincidentally my quotee in episode 10. Bill Stettner passed away in 1994 and I've not been able to reach Adams for more information, nor have I found other mentions of Stettner's role in changing the laws. I do share this quote from him, though, and count this as corroboration, "I have never regretted taking the high ground on the copyright issue - even though now there's not a single advertising agency who would employ me. My stand put me out of business!"
I've also been unsuccessful, so far, in finding an available image of Stettner — if I can rectify that, I'll post it. This image is from a video with and about him on YouTube.
The View from Here
Episode 11 is in the mirror, and there's no looking back (though it looks pretty much the same from that direction, too). It was fun while it lasted, but number 12 is standing like a deer in my headlights, or, rather, I feel like a deer in the headlights of number 12, wondering what in the world I'm ever going to do…
Meh. It'll all work out. We'll finally learn about Fox Talbot, so there's that to look forward to, right?
Thanks for reading and listening. As always, always, I'd love for you to subscribe via iTunes, where you can (please) leave comments and rate the show.
Stop it, already!