Jul 29, 2018
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I'm Gonna Keep This Short
First up are large-format cameras, also called view cameras. These are those old, hide-your-head-under-a-cloth cameras, with their lens centered on a square board in the front, a cloth over your head in the back, an accordion in between and a tripod underneath.
The basics of the design go back to the earliest days of photography, with the concept of projecting an image through a hole going back a millennium or more. (Review Episode 5 to refresh your memory of the camera obscura.) All cameras that come to mind are just different versions of these components and how they are assembled — in essence, the elements and functions of the camera in even the lowly point-and-shoot are derived from, in miniature, those of the view camera.
Lancaster & Son view camera from Birmingham, England, circa 1898. Photo by Justin Cormack via Wikimedia.
The above example exhibits the main components and general layout of the type. The lens is on its lens board, the accordion (often called a bellows) stretches out behind it, ending in a wooden boxlike structure that would hold the focusing screen, called a ground glass and, when the time is right, the film. You can kinda see how this device would articulate for transport and storage, with the lens board sliding back into the wood box of a body at the back, the wood base would then fold up with room for the lens in that slot. The leather case in the background might be its travel luggage.
Note, too, the lens cap lying nonchalantly on the table? The films of the era were so insensitive to light that exposure times could run several to many seconds, or even minutes depending on the aperture and lighting conditions. No need for a fancy shutter that clicked open and closed precisely — you, as the camera operator, might time the exposure by counting aloud or checking your watch, uncovering the lens with that cap to start, sliding it back on to stop.
Belying my characterization of them being old, hide-your-head… contraptions, view cameras are still being manufactured by several companies, and they use new materials, techniques, and precision. For example, below is a modern, monorail camera from Arca-Swiss. It is sleeker and, in some ways more versatile, though you can probably correlate most components, piece by piece, between the Lancaster & Son and this one. And while this one is pretty much squashed for transportation, perhaps even in a backpack, notice what might appear to be a ruler dangling from the front of the bottom of the assemblage — that's a continuation of the monorail that can be snapped into place to stretch this baby out.
View cameras are no longer restricted to film either. There are some digital backs at the smaller sizes, like 4 x 5 inches, and I saw an 8 x 10 that was black-and-white only. And some companies, like Arca-Swiss, have versions that can accommodate our everyday digital cameras in place of film or large digital sensors. In the audio I allude to some advantages of view cameras over our everyday cameras, and I may cover those advantages in the future, but for now just know that some of those advantages are available — for a price.
Arca-Swiss Field Classic view camera for 4-by-5-inch film. Photo provided by Arca-Swiss.
Wikipedia has an article about view cameras with illustrations and photos. No need for me to repeat their work, so you can head on over there to get your old-timey fill if you've got a hankerin' for that sort of thing.
When You Gotta Keep It Covered
The business end of a lens, the front element, is subject to more than light hitting it. Dust and fingers and other gear all have chances to land a blow. A simple piece of kit is included with every lens to cap off that exposed piece of glass: the lens cap. You probably have one and might even use it. If so, good. If not, possibly not good.
If every lens comes with a cap, what am I on about? Well, sometimes you lose a cap. (I lost one on the Space Mountain ride at Disneyland in about 1980, but that's another story.) Other times you find yourself with extra caps! I'm not sure how that happens, but I'm pretty sure that's my current condition.
One cap I've never lost, despite its many attempts to escape, and for which I have no substitute, is the original that came with my Nikon 14-24 millimeter zoom. Those escape attempts are the result of how this cap attaches to the lens: poorly. (rim shot)
The cap, as you can see in the upper photo, below, slides over the widest part of the lens barrel, that roller coaster edge you see on the lens behind it. Looking at the front element of the lens more closely, below that, you can see the critical job for the cap. But because the cap is plastic, it has worn a bit larger on its inside, where it interfaces with the lens barrel, plus you put a bit of heat on it, like, say, daytime in Arizona, and the plastic expands and doesn't even attempt to do its job. As a matter of fact, when I pulled the lens from its case for these photos, the cap stayed put — not on the lens, but in the bottom of the case!
Here you see the KUVRD Universal Lens Cap snugged around not just the lens, but around the original lens cap and draped past its edge enough to assure a firm grip. The ULC would have fit by itself, but that bulge of glass seemed too tempting a target for the springy rubber ULC to guard against bumps and protrusions bumping and protruding onto that glass. So, here I get the best of both worlds — snug and rigid.
KUVRD claims the ULC will cover 99.99% of the lenses in the world, up to 150mm in diameter. This lens, or rather this lens cap, is 105mm, so it's well within their design range. Next to the lens, in the above shot, is the plastic jar in which ULCs are delivered. This gives you a sense of how much stretching the ULC is capable, as one is resting comfortably in that jar right now — not folded or collapsed or otherwise forced into a compact dimension.
The company also touts the cap as suitable for covering a lens from the back, further protecting an unmounted lens from loss of that rear cap, and providing bump resistance to both ends. For suitably small lenses, they advertise fully enclosing them front and rear, overlapping the rubber, and dousing the lens in water or sand with no ill effects. I didn't test this, but that might be desirable for you real rugged outdoorsy types.
You can learn more about the ULC, currently available in the one one-size-fits-nearly-all size, and in sets of from one to 10, at www.kuvrdcamera.com. (Hint: the more you buy, the lower the price.)
You Oughta Shade Your Glass
As every lens comes with a cap, so do they come with a hood. Back in the day, they didn't, but anymore a shade is either built into the lens or is supplied to be attached as needed. And do you know when you need a lens hood? Always!! (Look at that — you got me all worked up and I used two exclamation points.)
I'm serious, if not one hundred percent accurate in my assessment of "when." The number of times, the number of situations, in which a lens hood should be removed is in the low single digits of percent, that's for sure. A lens hood provides more than shade from sun striking the front element of a lens, but I see people out int he world, out in the sun, with lens hoods attached to their lens in the stowed position. The putting-the-lens-away position. So even the obvious reason for a hood is ignored by some people. (If you see me grimacing at a camera-heavy event, or rolling my eyes, it could be because I spied a reverse-mounted lens hood.)
Okay, the obvious reason for a hood is to shade the front element from the sun. But the sun isn't the only source of light in the world. There are streetlights and spotlights and other optically crisp light sources. Keeping their rays from directly striking the lens is about keeping contrast in the photography and preventing lens flares from sprouting across the image. But crisp lighting isn't the only light you should worry about either. Any light source that is not the light reflecting off the objects in your composition, the light that is making them visible, any other light striking the lens from other angles, whether crisp or soft, bright or dim, is working to reduce the contrast of your image. Block that light if you can.
The hood also acts to physically protect the front of your lens. It pokes out there to take any physical abuse first and, hopefully, solo. When the camera is hanging from your shoulder, or resting on your car seat, or even being looked through on the front of your face, you might not notice the physical presence of a branch or a purse or a chain link fence and, rather than noticing the sound of glass being scratched or smudged or, again, scratched as it encounters those objects, the hood might be just enough to keep the scratches and smudges and scratches away.
And why don't you want smudges and scratches? Because even if you can't see them in focus in your images, they are contributing to, again, lowered contrast and, sometimes, visible blurs of lightness. Dust and pollen can do that too, and a lens hood acts as at least a bit of a shield to those, and other airborne contaminants, from landing on the glass.
Finally, in a narrower sense of protecting the lens, a lens hood can protect the fine threads around the inside of the end of the lens, the threads into which you might want to screw a filter.
There you have it: unless you have a very good reason to not use a lens hood, an actual, positive, "lens hood bad" reason, you should be using a lens hood at all times. I do, and I'm sure you want to emulate your photography hero, don't you?
When You Gotta Look Good
My guest this episode is Jameca Hall, a fashion model and competitive bikini wearer. I know that sounds odd, the competitive bikini wearer part, but that's one of the things she does. And that and modeling are not all she has her sights on — she has a degree in international business with an eye to travel.
Her path to bikinis and international business is one of her own making, though not of her original design. Listen in for the story and catch up with her on Instagram at @JamecaHall.
Jameca Hall. Photos by Jack Haskell.
"They Oughta Have a Statue of Me. At Least a Bust."
I quote a couple people in the episode, but my favorite for her audacity and wit is Mae West. (I actually quote her in the opening and the closing of the episode, as well as in the quotations segment. If you would like to read an interview with West in the year before she passed away, here's a link: https://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2007/sep/21/greatinterviews) You'll also find quotes by Dana Owens and Criss Jami, each with good things to say.
Mae West, circa 1927, and Dana Owens, AKA Queen Latifah, performing at a BET event. Photo of West is uncredited from LA Times archives, photo of Owens by forcefulally, each sourced from Wikipedia.
…say "thank-you." So, thank you.
Thank you for reading and, hopefully, listening. And thank you for leaving me comments below or on iTunes — and for rating the show there, too. I enjoy each and every comment, each and every question, each and every rating.