Thursday, December 6, 2012

10,000 Revisited

Greetings, volks. Welcome to Hohenfels Volks, THE place for our place! Everywhere you look, you’ll see white! Winter is here for the long haul, and that means it’s time to get some seasonal shots. I hope everyone is getting geared up for Christmas and some great photography.

Earlier today, we had blue skies and some nice clouds, perfect for the landscape shooter in all of us. Of course, things turned ugly quick, and left us in the midst of a dark and icy wall of snow. As often happens, the sun managed to beat back the snow and again we were ready for making some great shots.

Enough weather, that’s not what we’re here for, right? Today we’re going to talk about pride and accomplishment. It’s also a chance for an exercise in good old-fashioned photography. Even though we’re using our digital cameras, and often forget the importance of each shot we make, we can return to the old ways. Remember, as Henri Cartier-Bresson said, “You’re first ten thousand shots are your worst.” In a much older post, we addressed this and modified it to be about 100,000 to 1,000,000 shots. This is due to the inherent nature of instantaneous feedback and automatic cameras.

In the earliest days of photography, folks used glass plates for their negatives. Then film came along. In those early days, your film, or plate, was only sensitive to blue light. This made balancing your light and color very important. With the advent of thinner films and panchromatic emulsions, more sensitivity was added. Then, of course, came color film. When you shot either a sheet or roll, you couldn’t change your ISO or color balance. Film and digital sensors can be thought of as the same thing, and for the rest of this article will be used interchangeably.

Film costs money. It cost money in the old days, as well. When a photographer made shots, he weighed the value of the film and the shot. Every photograph was precious, and had to be made with care. Exposure, color balance, even composition had to be weighed and given some measure of value in relation to the photo. Photography took time, to both master, and in terms of the individual image created. Light meters for measuring exposure, going back to the 1800’s, are available on auction sites all over the internet. Focusing aids, powder flashes, apertures, and even shutters were part of the photographer’s knowledge. In many of the older lenses, the aperture was adjusted using an insert placed in the lens at the time of the photo.

Now that we see how valuable the image was, and the knowledge to make an image, we can see how those early photos, and those that have come down to us through the years, were not the product of guesswork or automation.

For the next few days, try doing an exercise in film. Choose one ISO for your camera, choose one color balance, and only limit yourself to 36 shots per session. Remember, getting your color balance and ISO right will require thought and planning. It will also require learning about your intended shooting situation. If you’re shooting outside, shoot in daylight or around 5200K, and inside shoot at tungsten or around 3200K. If you’re shooting in bright conditions, choose ISO 100, in the dark ISO 800. Finish your 36 shots before changing your settings. Also, don’t look at your images on the camera monitor, or delete any shot. Wait until you get home to see what you have. This will encourage you to value your images, while also helping you improve.

Hohenfels Volks: Dresden Christmas
EI 500, f/5.6, 1/60, 56mm
I couldn't resist this shot, the mix of shapes, textures, and tones are intriguing! Shooting manual all day, let me have control of the camera, instead of the camera controlling me. It also allowed me to use my knowledge to get what I wanted.

This little exercise will require you to know your camera settings, it will require the knowledge to get the shot right, and it will allow for a sense of visualization to settle in. Visualizing your image is an incredibly useful tool in photography. This is a great time to undertake this exercise, as our changing weather conditions, and lighting, will challenge even the best without proving impossible with a little effort. As an added bonus, it’ll make every shoot an adventure, and every moment until the photos are loaded like Christmas. It’s a fun way to experience the anticipation of Christmas with a gift in every session! It’ll also make shorter work of getting the best shots, since you’ll be improving with each photo made. You’ll also develop your confidence, which always helps! Remember, a great camera doesn’t make a great photographer, any more than a great kitchen makes a great cook.

Please feel free to share your photos on our Facebook page. Everyone here would love the chance to see your work! Is there anything you’d like to see here? Do you have a question or an idea? Share your thoughts here or at the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page. Of course, commenting on both Facebook and here is always appreciated, too! Don't forget, we're on Google+, too!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Greetings, volks. Welcome to Hohenfels Volks, THE place for our place! Old Man Winter is settling in for his long stay here in Hohenfels! I hope everyone is settling into their anticipation and excitement for the long nights and brilliant moments ahead.

It’s certainly been some time since my last post! I’ve been quite busy as usual. Branching out into large format photography has filled me with new ideas and visions. I hope to make some of the winter shots I’ve been visualizing and preparing for. Large format gives you a way of relating to the scene and subject that it’s hard to imagine without seeing it. This leads us to today’s basic topic, shooting tethered.

One distinct advantage of the digital age is the ability to hook up to a computer and see our images presented quite large. When we load our photos onto our PCs, it gives a way to see detail an ordinary 4x6 print denies us. It also gives us a tool to learn far more rapidly, by allowing us to honestly assess our images in all their glory, and with all their flaws.

But, as many folks don’t know, it also gives us a way to see those flaws prior to making our shot. It allows us to compose our scenes at a scale which invites a more involved relationship with the image. It allows us to troubleshoot our images prior to recording them, and to resolve any images that may prevent the full realization of our vision.

Previously, this has been the domain of those with large format cameras, like the 8x10 field camera or a 4x5 view camera. The composition was done on a negative sized piece of ground glass, with the image upside down and inverted. This naturally led to a slower pace and more contemplative image creation process. Combined with film costs, equipment costs, and time costs, large format photography was largely practiced by those making money from it. With the proliferation of digital cameras and the advent of sites like E-bay, large format become reasonably priced to anyone with the desire and motivation to learn the ins and outs. The format can be daunting and challenging, sometimes extremely so, but it can also be rewarding.

Now that we have DSLRs capable of producing extremely high quality images, and the capabilities of our computers, we can all practice Large Format.

Now that the background is behind us, the steps and equipment are quite simple. You most likely have the equipment you need, as it probably came with your camera. This would include a USB cable to connect to your computer, and the capture software that allows for control of your camera. If your camera didn’t come with the capture software, your manufacturer may have it at their website. If not, there are commercial options available that run from free to higher priced options. You’ll want a tripod and maybe a platform for your PC if you want to use a laptop from other that your desk. That’s it. Just start the software, and for Canon’s, select Remote Live View.

Once you’re connected, you can control everything. You can focus in the autofocus mode using the software, or in manual mode. Both ways give you a giant magnification and full control of your focus. You can control white balance and display your camera’s metering, which will allow you to control your exposure and place your values below, at, or above, neutral gray. It allows for full functionality of the camera, and can even capture directly to your hard drive. The beauty is in a few Windows hot key shortcuts, you can zoom in the live preview, making your preview as large as your monitor. How’s that for large format? Focus, DOF preview, and exposure controls as if shooting directly form the camera, and viewing from the computer, it can’t be beat. You’ll know if you have a keeper even before making the shot.

This has been around some time, just search for tethered shooting, but the first thing to learn is exposure, white balance, and how to use your camera. Once you know these things, you can move on, in ways I can’t even begin to touch upon here! Using tethered shooting will give you an appreciation for all the detail in the scene and lead to a new found way of looking at the smaller parts of a scene to see the big picture. It also saves the frustration of having to sort through the good and the bad. You’ll find yourself making fewer bad images when you shoot tethered.

It has its drawbacks. Who wants to carry a tripod, computer, and cables everywhere? Who feels like lugging extra stuff to make the picture? There are trade-offs in it, but you’ll find if you’re shooting something for your own vision, or if your doing something where there is time to set up and work that way, tethered may be your new default!

I hope this gives you some new ideas. Getting out there and shooting , tethered or un-tethered, will give you the winning shot this winter, so get started making your images now!

Please feel free to share your photos on our Faceboook page. Everyone here would love the chance to see your work! Is there anything you’d like to see here? Do you have a question? Share your thoughts here or at the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page. Of course, commenting on both Facebook and here is always appreciated, too! Don't forget, we're on Google+, too!