Jan 2, 2018
Welcome, welcome, one and all. This is Episode XV, by which we know it's not (yet) part of the Star Wars canon.
The Truth is in the Telling
If you need to gauge the amount of light entering your camera, your best bet is to put a meter in the camera and have it look at the same things you're looking at. While it's looking, make it evaluate not just the overall amount of light, but figure in the relative sizes and positions of large light and dark areas, look for super-bright spots, understand the colors in the large areas, maybe even compare all of these measurements to tens- or hundreds-of-thousands of previously stored measurements from others' photos, calculate the requisite settings based on the assigned sensitivity of the recording medium and the restrictions placed on the calculations as made by the user, or include sensitivity as another controllable factor, then control all allowable factors to capture a perfectly exposed image. And do that up to 20 times per second, please.
Well, shoot. I just explained the first segment of today's show. Why even hook up your headphones?!
For one thing, you'll enjoy the dulcet tone of my voice (huskied up a little with a slight cold), and in the audio I explain things using Skittles brand candies. That's gotta be worth something, right?
I don't dig deep into the history of light metering, but after I recorded the audio I stumbled upon a site where that author does. If you are interested, you are certainly welcome to read about the first light meters at http://www.jollinger.com/photo/meters/other/invention.html, and I can assure you, not only were they not in the camera, they left a lot to be desired and to be puzzled over.
I couldn't put my hands on my own Weston light meter (mentioned in the audio), but rest assured that I own one and it's around here somewhere. To show one, then, I turned to Wikipedia where user James Petts supplied this image.
The Devil is in the Details
If you need your camera held steady but want to be able to point it anew, then again hold it steady, in a single swift motion, a ball head is just the ticket. There are choices galore with balls that range in size from about 20 millimeters (that's eight-tenths of an inch to you and me) to 55 millimeters, and possibly larger that I've not seen. Their prices span a ten-times-greater range, from less than $20 to over $600. That's a lot of choices, and one good choice among those is the new Desmond Photographic Demon DB-44.
The "-44" in the name tells you its size, 44 millimeters, which puts it in the upper ranks geometrically, and thus also in load-carrying capacity. They rate it at 30 kilograms, about 66 pounds, but you'll never bolt together enough camera and lens to test that. What you would do is attach your camera with its ARCA-SWISS-style plate (review episode 11 for more info about that), turn the large silver knob anti-clockwise to free the ball to wander, point the camera, then turn the knob anti-anti-clockwise to freeze the new position.
There's a blue knob coaxial with the large silver one, and it's a welcome presence. You see, when you release the ball the camera might suddenly tilt over on the ball's stalk. That can be at least surprising, and inefficient as you must re-frame your composition, but it could also damage the head and the camera. It's not the sudden slip-sliding to the extreme of the ball's movement that's the problem, damage-wise, it's the sudden stop when it gets there. Well, the DB-44 has you covered — the blue knob is used to add just the right amount of friction to the ball's movement. Smaller cameras need less friction, larger cameras need more, and the blue knob click-stops wherever you turn it. It's a good thing, and I like that it is coaxial with the large silver knob, so my hand need find only that one spot to adjust either. Nice.
Also nice, the small silver knob locks or loosens the head's ability to spin about on its base. I use that feature mostly for pointing the camera left or right, a motion that's possible using the ball alone, but by executing that move using the panning base I keep the knobs in the same relative position to me and my camera. If you point left or right using the ball itself, the knobs keep showing up in new locations!
The Demon DB-44 ball head features adjustable friction for when the ball is released, a panning base with degree markings, a bubble level on the ARCA-SWISS-style camera clamp, and twin drop notches, all wrapped in a sturdy and attractive design. The camera in the lower photo is positioned with the ball poking its camera-clamp-stalk through one of those notches.
All these features, plus useful and attractive details in a well-made design, are available for only $79.95 (at the time of this writing, January 2018). See all the Desmond ball heads at www.desphotodist.com/heads.html or head straight to Amazon for more information about purchasing the DB-44 at www.amazon.com/dp/B00TQ54CZO.
The Klukas is in the House
Listeners to All Things Photography will recognize the phrase ARCA-SWISS because it gets uttered in almost every episode! At least it seems like it. Heck, I mentioned it today, already, in the note above about the ball head. There, and in most instances, it is in regards to a system of quick-connect components for cameras and tripod heads. Actually, the company ARCA-SWISS is most about what are called view and technical cameras. Those boxy frames with an accordion bellows between the front and back, where you hunch under a cloth to see the composition projected upside-down on a piece of glass. In addition, there are now ways of attaching normal digital cameras, or specialized digital sensors, to some of those boxy accordion things, with a full suite of accessories whether you're shooting film or digits. And, yes, ARCA-SWISS makes tripod heads and plates for cameras.
The company that became ARCA-SWISS was founded in Switzerland, then was moved to France under new ownership, but if you want access to information and support for their products in the United States, you contact the guy I sat down to chat with: Rod Klukas. He came to the company after plenty of training and experience in photography and its equipment, and he shares stories of all of that. Listen in and learn about those big cameras, lots of schooling, and his path in and around photography as art and science.
It's not a selfie; Rod has kindly thrust his hand up to block the sun from striking the lens of my camera. Thoughtful and, knowing him, unsurprising.
To contact Rod, and learn more about ARCA-SWISS products, hop over to his web site, www.rodklukas.com.
The Proof of the Pudding is in the Tasting
If you aspire to be a writer, you must read, for in reading you see how others approach the craft, how they see the world, how they might be better than you. Wanna be a better photographer? You should look at photos. Lots of photos, and not just photos of pretty flowers or kittens, even if your goal is prettier flowers and kittenier kittens. There's always something to learn, even when you aren't studying, by studying the photos of others.
The point of that short screed is to encourage you to visit a web site to see a wide range of images — different styles, subjects, approaches, intents. The site is Don't Take Pictures. What's up with a web site name that suggests you shouldn't bother owning a camera? Here's what they say:
"Over the years, the term 'taking pictures' has begun to be replaced with 'making photographs.' The change signifies a distinction between the widespread use of cameras in the modern world and the more systematic, thoughtful process of creating photographic art."
I'm actually suggesting you look, first, at their Photo of the Day. They post one every day, which is why they call it Photo of the Day. Smart, huh? I guarantee that as you scroll through their archive you will find images that make you smile, ponder, laugh, shake your head, and perhaps even emulate. (As proof of how smart they are, search for "Water Park, Denver." Stunning, right?)
Here's the link. Use it. Don't lose it. I approves it. http://www.donttakepictures.com/photo-of-the-day/
Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder
Edward Weston got a shot at the soapbox this time. One of the greats of early 20th Century photography, he was contemporaneous with his contemporaries, photographing from 1902 to 1948, and had probably the most eclectic range of styles and subjects of all of them. I open his quotes with "Composition is the strongest way of seeing." You might recognize many of his works, especially his photos of bell peppers or nautilus shells. He was also a pictorialist, a portraitist, a nudist — sorry, I mean, he photographed nudes — and more. Because of his years in the field, he spoke many words of wisdom and I share a few more in the podcast. Listen in and get wise.
Edward Weston photographed by Fred Archer, circa 1915.
See some of Weston's work at the web site edward-weston.com, begun by one of his son Cole, and operated now by his own children.
The Check is in the Mail
Episode 15, I know we said we'd have the cash for you at the end, but we spent the cash on Skittles and paper towels. But we'll send along a two-party out-of-state non-imprinted check, post-dated to next week if you don't mind. Also, you'll have to tell them your name is Victoria. Cool? Cool.
Thank you, thank you, for listening and reading. I can add a third "thank you" if you'll add a comment below. C'mon, folks — click, type something, click again. (I think that's how it works…) I will be sorely disappointed if you already know everything about the art, craft, and history of photography, and I've just been telling you stuff you already know. Or that I've gotten every fact right. Or you understand why I say/write some of the things I say/write. I mean, even I don't always understand why I say/write what I do. But I will say tune in next time for more photo fun in the sun with a bun on the run. (See?!)