Film Macro Lens on Digital

When my mother in law decided she’d stopped photography I aquired her stuff, a pair of film Canon EOS 500s with assorted lenses, including a Sigma 90mm macro lens. I’m a regular digital Canon shooter and so I naturally wanted to try this out on my digital bodies (I decided to use my 450d, not my 6d as a test bed for this). However, despite fitting nicely, every time I tried to take a photo I got a lens connection error and, however diligently I cleaned the terminals, the error persisted. Occasionally I’d have another go, only to have the same result. However, for some reason my duckduckgo fu (I refuse to use Google) went transendental, or I used slightly different language, not sure which, but I found that all film vintage EF lenses were interchangable with digital bodies *apart from some Sigma lenses* due to a slight mismatch in the electronics. There were suggestions of how to take it apart and solder in new chips, or of paying other folks to do it, neither of which appealed. So I left it.

Then, in the middle of the night as sometimes happens I wondered if the secret was just to put some tape over the contacts, that way the camera wouldn’t think it had a lens at all and might work. Then to my surprise, when I did some digging I found this video in which the presenter does just that. But I sat there this morning, methodically put tape over the contacts on the lens, put it on the body and….it worked. Joy unconfined and all that.

Ok, caveat time, I’m not saying to do this. Just because he does it and it works and I did it and it worked, doesn’t mean it will for you.

So today I’ve been, in between working at home due to the lockdown, popping out into the garden and seeing what happens. Broadly the results a good, but a couple of things did prove challenging. The first is that with no communication between the camera and the lens, the autofocus doesn’t work. My eyesight isn’t great and I find using the camera with glasses tricky, so I got a lot of out of focus photos, especially with the very small depth of field. Also the lens has no manual stop down, or it’s fixed at 2.8, I don’t know. However as I didn’t have a light meter with me there was a lot of exposure guesswork. But I got results which I liked. Not sure if I’m going to be doing a lot of this, macro isn’t really an area I’ve ever got into in a big way, though the bokeh is amazing and I might want to explore the lens a bit for for non-macro shooting. 90mm is a fairly useful short telephoto in it’s own right.

So, as is traditional, here are a couple of images. One is your genuine macro type shot of an Acer leaf just coming through, and the other is a telephoto distance shot of our Art Nouveau planter.

How do people find, and keep track of, photographers to watch?

It is a fact universally acknowleged that the photographer who wants to improve needs to look at the work of photographers who are better than they are, who inspire and create great images. The problem I find is how to find new work, and when I’ve found it how to keep track of it. Of course if one had a limitless photobook budget this would be easier, but I for one do not. I do read Black and White Photography and The British Journal of Photography every month, which are both full of inpsiring stuff, but I find the problem is that I haven’t found a way to keep track of them all. I could make notes of their names in a book, or bookmark their websites with something like Pocket or Instapaper, but that doesn’t turn into a way to keep going back and looking at their images.

One idea which is sort of developing in my head is a version of those digital photo frames which you can use to show a rolling slide show of your photos (As an aside I keep thinking of getting one of those) but rather than flipping through my own work it would pull up an image from somebody else’s website and display it. Now all good inventions, well actually all inventions, start with a wild idea: the issue is turning it into a reality. I’ve broken this down into two phases

The finding an image phase.

How do I pull an image from somebody every day? One possiblity would be to use something which already exists like Pinterest to do it, which would definitely be easier than trying to write something which visits the website of a selected photographer and downloads a random image.

The displaying phase.

How do I show the images? I’m thinking of something around the Raspberry Pi computer or Arduino board using Wi-Fi and hitched up to a small monitor, somehow then showing full screen images.

Anyway, it’s a crazy idea in my head at the moment. If there are no further blog posts on this topic you’ll know that’s how it remained!

Lightroom or Capture One – lets look at the workflow and the numbers

Adobe Lightroom or Capture One? A topic which for divisiveness comes close to the dark feud of Vi or Emacs, okay *nothing* really comes close to the dark feud of Vi or Emacs, civilisations have been obliterated after less divisive feuds. However, it’s an ongoing topic on which there can’t actually be as many opinions as their are photographers as there are actually only two options. But you know what I’m saying here. The caveat here is that this is all about me and my workflow and approach, it’s not an attempt to say this is going to be true for anybody else. Also, if you’re looking at this in the future, all these prices might be well out and so my comparisons aren’t going to work.

I’ve been a user of the Adobe workflow for years, and I’m quite happy with it. But it’s important to not just do what you’ve always done and assume you’ll always do it. I believe it was Keynes, but it might not have been, at least in that format, who said that when the evidence changed he changed his mind. So I thought I’d look at the evidence for switching my workflow to Capture One. There was a lot of opinion, most of it being fairly presented as opinion, as to the merits of one or the other in terms of image quality, especially when processing RAW files. At the end of my trip through the Youtube videos on this, I wasn’t any the wiser about if switching would benefit me. So I was on the point of downloading the trial of Capture One and seeing for myself when I decided, before going down that road, to look at the numbers. The difference between the two, and one which I’ve seen as a vote in it’s favour, is that you can actually own Capture One – you can rent it the way you Lightroom, but there is an outright purchase option. I’m pretty happy to rent software, but there are sound financial arguments to ownership too, so a tick to Capture there.

So, currently, I rent Lightroom and Photoshop on the photography plan for which I pay about a tenner a month. If I opted to go the rental route for Capture that would be double that so clearly not a better option for renting it just on the money alone. There is an important note here, the price for Capture One is only £9.95 if you’re only a Fuji or Sony user, but I shoot Canon so can’t take advantage of that discount, and I’m talking about me here. But for you the numbers might be more advantageous.

So I looked at the purchase option, outright ownership, £299.99 and it’s mine for life. Which works out at two and a half years of Adobe rental. Well, I thought, okay but I’ve hopefully got decades of snapping ahead of me so once I own it I own it. But of course with Adobe I’ll be getting all my updates and upgrades in the price while with Capture One there is probably going to be an update along in a couple of years which will be chargeable so maybe not a good deal? That would depend if the version I bought kept doing everything I wanted with it and so I didn’t need the upgrade, which is a significant possibility and so I could consider that.

But

And this is the fly in the ointment now and has been every time I’ve thought of this migration and remains the thing which stops me jumping to Capture. With Capture One, I get Capture One. With the Adobe Plan I get Photoshop as well as Lightroom, which I use for more significant edits and which I know well. Okay I could shift to something like Affinity Photo which I know and like, but which would put another £50 on the migration cost, or something like Luminar which I know is mega popular at another £70, neither of which are huge sums but I’d lose the seamless integration I get and like from Lightroom and Photoshop. They’re both good products, are only going to get better, and I could probably deliver using them, but the right-click >> edit in photoshop and then have the edits come back into Lightroom for further work is something I like.

For me the migration killer is that I get both Lightroom Classic for my desktops and Lightroom for mobile for my phone and tablet, with the ability to synchronise folders between the two using the 40Gb of cloud storage I get. That’s the big thing Capture One lacks, though to be fair it’s never claimed to want to go down this route. It’s heritage, the place it lives and thrives, is for photographers who want to get their photoshoots processed back in the office. People say it’s quick and good and if you’re a modern wedding photographer who needs to deliver 2000 photos to the happy couple asap that’s a sales point. But I like to be able to take an image from a photoshoot, export it to Lightroom in the cloud, then when I’m ready load it on my tablet or phone and put it onto Instagram. Or to shoot a file on my mobile device into Lightroom and finish it on the desktop.

So for me, the reason I’m not even going to try the free download of Capture One too see what the fuss is about mainly has nothing to do with the relative merits of the two packages, which is what most comparisons seem to make their focus. It’s the effect on my overall workflow. I could possibly, if I forgo the updates and subsequent updates to the Apple OS allow the older versions to function adequately, make it financially a better option. But for me the Capture One based workflow just wouldn’t work.

Photographic Expertise

I was reading a blog post yesterday by education leadership theorist Matthew Evans in which he took apart the idea of The Expert. He goes into a fair bit of depth, and I really urge you to read his post, but essentially he says there are two kinds of expert. Those he calls K Experts, who are experts in complicated systems. These are the folks who fix your boiler and make sure the trains don’t crash. They deal with situations and systems which, while complicated, have ‘right and wrong’ answers and definable solutions; you’ve got hot water, your train isn’t on the news. These are the people we think of as experts. Then there are X Experts who deal in complex situations and systems, like Economists and I’d suggest meteorologists and military strategists. They are experts in situations in which possibly there are not ‘right and wrong’ answers, where things are fluid and they’re making choices against that background. They’re the ones we get angry at when they make wrong predictions or choices because we’re confusing them with K Experts. I think I’ve summarised that correctly, but by now you’ve read his blog and will know: if not go and read it.

So this got me thinking about what an expert photographer is.

I’d say that to be a photographer requires some, in the case of good photographers, a lot, of K Expertise. You’re not going to get far without a grasp of the exposure triangle, lens choice, possibly film stock, processing technique (wet or dry, dark or light room), and the rest of it. The more you understand all this the better technically your images get because, ultimately, there are ‘right and wrong’ choices to making a photograph. Right choices give you a nicely exposed and in focus image, wrong choices give you ones like your dad took of you when you were on the beach as a kid. You can get a hell of a long way in photography and never stray for K expertise, you learn more, you practice more, you get more expert.

But what is it that lifts some photographers, Michael Kenna, Walker Evans, Lee Miller, Robert Capa, The Westons (all of them), Bailey et al above this and into the realm of not only making photos which stay with you but make them over and over again? I’m going to tentatively suggest it’s because they’re X Experts. Sure they can understand all the complicated stuff and do it in their sleep but they can also operate consistently when it’s complex. Because the environment around making an image is complex, the light is changing if it’s natural light, if there is a model they’re moving, the environment is subtly altering. Maybe they’re working out of the studio doing reportage, or more dramatically conflict, photography where everything is an unknown. There isn’t a ‘right’ way to make a great photograph, because that transcends being nicely exposed and in focus, it’s about the composition, the light, possibly the colour, the tones, the mood. It’s about making a choice which works in the situation you have in that moment, frequently actually in that split second. They can be as patient as a cat in front of a mouse hole waiting, and then utterly decisive when the moment appears (see what I did there?).

All of us, however little experience we have as photographers, can nail an amazing photo now and again because sometimes we all just get it right by luck as much as judgement. The great photographers get it right over and over again because in the highly complex environment just before the shutter clicks, they’re experts.

Totally rethinking

I’ve been to California.

I’m not just bragging here about my latest foreign jaunt, amazing though it was, there’s a really important photography learning moment to this. We had a couple of days in San Francisco, saw the Monterey Bay Aquarium, drove highway one, saw Yosemite, visited Alcatraz. We did the tourist stuff (though as one local chap pointed out “the reason it’s tourist stuff is that it’s cool stuff man”). I took photos I was happy with, had a great time.

But, for a photo nerd moment, two things stood out. The second was visiting the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite and seeing his photos, actually printed by him, not mediated by a reproduction for publication or anything, actually printed in a darkroom by Ansel Adams so you can see the image exactly the way he meant it to be (some are also printed by his long term assistant who Adams said knew the negatives as well as he did), and actually seeing them in Yosemite in a building he knew and worked in was pretty awesome. But, the stand out, OMG moment of my trip, was a visit to meet Kim Weston in the house on Wildcat Hill where Edward lived and worked, I have to admit I was almost embarrassingly star struck by this. Kim and his wife Gina are lovely people who made us feel super welcome and gave us a great tour. We saw that pepper photo, and that portrait of Tina Modetti, actually as photographic prints on the wall, saw Edward’s darkroom, saw Kim’s darkroom (the latter has an enlarger, Edward’s didn’t) and Kim’s studio. It was all great fun and absolutely one of the highlights of trip for me (even Sue enjoyed it and she’s not a photographer).

What I came away with though, and this is something which has grown on me in the weeks since we got back, was that Kim shoots on film, with a Mamiya 6×7 which he inherited from his father, and a couple of lights. He’s up there in the Carmel Highlands producing amazing work with equipment which is probably older than a lot of photographic Youtubers. So I sit there and watch my favourite Youtube photo channels, which I really enjoy, but they’re using this combination of graduated filters, and they’re selling their presets, and discussing if they should make the move to mirrorless, or comparing one really expensive lens to another….and somehow I keep seeing Kim’s studio in my head and wondering why bother?

Now fortunately, I’ve never been a gear nerd. I have very little ‘stuff’ compared to probably most keen photographers, a fair bit is second hand, or that I’ve owned for years, and I’m happy with that and frankly never want to buy new shiny things. I’m also not going to fall into the trap of ‘gear not mattering’ as Mamiya medium format is really nice and Mamiya glass is stunning (I know, because I own some, well I will if the chap I want to buy it off ever gives me a price so I can buy it). But it does bring home the fact that actually you really don’t need new stuff, or a lot of stuff. Investing in something simple but good is frankly all you need.

The key thing is to do what Kim, and his father, his uncle and his grandfather (and his son, and various other relatives) all did. To take photos a lot, to think about the photos you’re taking, and to really, really care about the whole thing.

Am I doing this? You know, I wonder if I am….

Trying out my Domke Wraps

In the interests of full disclosure I’ve not been sponsored to write this in any way; if the makers of Domke Wraps need to sponsor a blogger as minor as me then in fact I’d worry about them!

For Christmas, I got a couple of the 19” Domke Wraps. I never use a proper camera bag, generally I prefer a no frills messenger bag because it’s unobtrusive, compact and I can fit in stuff like a book, my glasses, cake, etc. Just out of interest have you ever noticed how the makers of camera bags never consider that maybe you need to carry stuff other than camera equipment? Back in the late 70s I had a brilliant waist belt camera bag made, if I remember, by [Cullman](https://www.cullmann.de/en/home.html) which not only took my camera and a couple of lenses but also a few chocolate bars, a can of cola and a paperback; that being the age when I could drop a million calories a day safely and didn’t need glasses. I never saw another one; my local camera shop had this on special offer because they’d been sent it as a distributor sample but it hadn’t actually ever been launched as a dealer item. Generally though I find camera bags wonderfully lacking in usefulness for the average snapper who needs to put a camera in a bag and go out for the day. Every time I hunted for some solution I kept coming up against these things called Domke Wraps, which are a somewhat padded sheet you can wrap around stuff and secure with velcro. Well, I thought, what the hell, I’ll put a couple on my Christmas list.

Well today was the first time I got to try them out in anger. I wanted to go out with my Mamiya 645 shooting this morning and take a couple of extra lenses with me. Now the Mamiya is way too chunky for my messenger bag, and it’s not something I take out for casual snapping, so I’ve got a small rucksack for it. It goes into a sort of padded squidgy box thing from eBay, but I’ve never really had a solution for the lenses…until now! Made the wraps into pouches, stuffed the lenses into them and put them in the bottom compartment of the rucksack. Job done! I was so impressed with just how easy a solution this was and felt confident the lenses were going to be protected enough in there. The big win I think is that next time I want to take one of my digital cameras out for the day I can reconfigure a wrap and use it to protect that in my messenger bag. Got to admit, I’m a convert!

So if you’re looking for an easy solution to carrying your camera stuff in a bag which can also hold a paperback, your glasses, possibly a re-usable coffee cup should you find yourself heading towards a coffee outlet (these days we’ve moved on from cans of cola), and which doesn’t scream ‘camera bag, steal me’ then I’d say they’re worth a punt, especially as in the grand scheme of things they’re not that pricy. Mine, I suspect, came from [WEX](https://www.wexphotovideo.com/domke-f-34l-19-inch-protective-wrap-blue-1647996/), but they’re readily available from other places.

UK Thrift Stores – less good for snappers than their US counterparts

I’m a big fan of the ‘thrift store challenge’ YouTube channel, where they go into ValueVillage (or somewhere of that ilk), buy a camera for less than $5 and see what they get from it. Always watchable and good fun – and if the photographer in question is good enough, the results are somehow comforting inspiring in among the latest gear videos. Mind you they can also be deeply depressing when they do better than I can with a camera which cost me a metric shit tonne more than $5. This example is working at a higher budget, but it gives you an idea and Joey from Awesome Cameras is always worth watching.

The thing I have noticed however, is that in the US and Canada thrift stores seem to generally have a reasonable selection of cameras. Go into a UK charity shop and at most they might have one strange and unbranded digital camera, generally they don’t have any. Said camera might also be significantly overpriced by the way; I saw a digital camera in one yesterday for which they wanted fifty quid, when something at least as good is available from leading online retailers for not a whole lot more. I shop in a town which is both a well heeled area and has a plethora of charity shops, so I’m working off a decent sample here.

I’d love to say I’ve got an insight into this, but I really don’t. I’m not sure if they won’t accept them, and UK charity shops are very picky about what they’ll accept and try to sell. I once asked in a charity shop if they had a pair of jeans they couldn’t sell as I needed a bit of denim for a repair, and the pair they gave me were in better nick than the ones I was wearing every day; there is a bit of a pulled thread in one of the legs which is why they felt it wasn’t saleable. So maybe it’s because they don’t want to take the risk of being saddled with something which they’ll need to dispose of as ‘faulty small applience’ rather than just chuck in the skip? Maybe they’ve got a deal with somebody who pays a flat fee for any they have and resells them through a well known online auction house? Maybe the good people of the UK just don’t ever think that anybody might want them? If anybody works in a charity shop and can shed any light on this then I’d love to know the reason.