Back to School – Where Have All the Cameras Gone?

Back to School

Recently I decided to sign up to do an AS level in Photography at the local college. The course requires you to have a â??good, basic 35mm SLR cameraâ?, so as soon as I received confirmation of my place on the course I excitedly marched into town to buy one. Iâ??d been saving up a bit and had a budget of £200 – more than enough to get a basic SLR I thought. Well, you see it would have been enough if I could have found one.

In my local town centre (which is actually a city centre) there are three photography shops. One is part of a big chain. One is part of a slightly smaller chain and the other is an independent store. I went to all three and not one of them had a 35mm film camera in stock. In fairness the two chain stores did both have a second hand section that did contain film SLRs, but these were archaic to say the least, and to be honest I didnâ??t want to buy a second hand one. I had saved up my money and I wanted to treat myself.

Neither of the chain stores ever stock film SLRs and would only be able to order me in the very expensive top of the range models. The independent store on the other hand was the most helpful and offered to order me in Canonâ??s recently released EOS 300x (which I now have in my possession and love by the way).

The really odd thing about all this though, is that despite not being able to sell me a camera there and then, all three of them had piles and piles of multi-grade paper, all the right chemicals and a plethora of film to choose from.

I asked the independent guy why he didnâ??t keep them in stock and his reply was very simple, â??no one buys them.â?

So hereâ??s my question – What do all the film photographers do when theyâ??re kit wears out. Are they going to have to go digital? This isnâ??t something that bothers me too much. If Iâ??m honest I prefer digital and the flexibility that it offers me anyway, but I bet thereâ??s going to be a mass of disgruntled film enthusiasts out there when this happens.

I even checked the internet. Again, unless you want to buy the very top end kit it isnâ??t much easier to buy a brand new camera from there either. Not using UK websites at least. Does this mean that we really are going to see the death of film? Once all the second hand kit dries up and every piece of existing kit breaks / wears out is that it? Are we going to be left with lots of rolls of film (that we can apparently buy almost anywhere) but have no way to use them?

If you check out most of the manufacturers websites you can see that there are less and less film cameras in their ranges. Some manufacturers have even stopped producing them all together. Is this the real beginning of the end? Is this even a big deal? Will Mildred get together with Trevor? Who knows? We sure donâ??t. What do you think?

The Problem with New Kit Me.

Kettle

My kettle broke the other day – a major catastrophe when you drink as much tea as I do. So into town I went to find a Kettle hardy enough to supply me with my daily two gallons. I ended up buying one of those kettles with the filter in it. The water that comes out is almost as clear as if it were fresh from a mountain stream. It boils so fast I barely have time to select a tea bag before it starts to cool down. All in all itâ??s a magnificent piece of equipment. There is one downside though. With a traditional kettle you want to fill it just before you boil it. With this you need to fill it after youâ??ve used it to make sure that enough water has filtered before you next want a cuppa. Otherwise thereâ??s a bit of a wait as the water trickles through the filter. Such a small difference and worth adapting to for the spring-like H2O. The trouble is I canâ??t adapt. I never remember to fill it once Iâ??ve used it. Iâ??m stuck in the habit of using the old kettle. The same is true of my new camera.

I needed to buy a 35mm film SLR for a course Iâ??m taking at the local college. I mostly use my canon EOS 350D so I thought Iâ??d buy the closest thing I could to that â?? the canon EOS 300x. It is indeed very similar to use but it does of course have itâ??s differences. Itâ??s driving me nuts! Iâ??ve read the manual. Iâ??ve sat on the couch without film in it practising whilst watching telly. Iâ??ve even tried writing it down to get it to sink in and I just canâ??t get it. When it comes to crunch time and I have to actually use it to take a photo I go right into auto-pilot and try to change the settings as if it were my digital. Now I know this is nothing to do with the camera and everything to do with me being a useless git, but how do you overcome something like this? Am I destined to be unable to operate my camera without having to really think about it? Am I finally going to get the hang of the film camera and then struggle with my digital? Will I forever be in a limbo state unable to use either camera properly? What can I do?

Please send answers on a postcard to 43 Chilton Avenâ?¦actually, you could just use the comment form below. Let us know if youâ??ve had similar troubles and what you did to resolve them.

Back to School – An Introduction

Back to School

Iâ??ve been a semi-professional photographer for some time now and without blowing my own trumpet too much, I think I could be described as a decent photographer who occasionally achieves exceptional results. Without being too self deprecating, I believe the occasionally exceptional results have come about more through luck than judgement. This is something I would like to change.
Generally speaking I would have to say that the development of my photographic skills has been pretty steady. I have seen improvement from one shoot to the next and every now and again I have had a Eureka moment where my skills seem to take a massive leap upwards. Recently however this development seems to have stopped. My photography skills seem to have reached a plateau. Iâ??ve reached a certain level of attainment that I just canâ??t seem to improve upon. This isnâ??t to say Iâ??ve mastered the art, far from it. Itâ??s just that Iâ??ve reached a level that I donâ??t think I can improve upon without some help.

I think this has come about because Iâ??m self taught. Iâ??ve learnt through experimentation, reading books and magazines, researching on the internet and seeking advice from other photographers. At no point have I had any structured tuition. Itâ??s true that many photographers have learnt this way and theyâ??re doing just fine but I think that somehow Iâ??ve just managed to miss out some of the essentials. I feel Iâ??m lacking a solid foundation in the basic principals of photography and itâ??s this that has caused a stunting of my development.

Iâ??ve decided to do something about it. Iâ??ve signed up to do an AS level in photography at the local college. With a bit of luck I hope this will fill in the gaps and get me back on track again.

Iâ??m going to attempt to chronicle each of my lessons / lectures (I wonder what they call them nowadays?) here on The Decisive Moment. Hopefully theyâ??ll be good reading.

Have any of you experienced reaching a plateau? If so how did you get yourself going again?

Inspiration – Can It Be Self-Induced?

Uninspired: Copyright Georgios M. W. Denmark

I sat down at my PC last night to write the next article for The Decisive Moment. Nothing happened. I stared at the monitor for a while, looked through my notes, made coffee, picked up a book, browsed my image folders; nothing.

So today I am having to play catch-up and not only do I not feel inspired, but now I feel pressure to feel inspired. I find myself wondering what is inspiration and where does it come from? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, inspiration is “a supposed creative force or influence on poets, artists, musicians, etc., stimulating the production of works of art”. Okay, well it’s definitely inspiration I lack today (although calling these articles “works of art” might be pushing it a bit!).

The same thing happens with my photography, too. I know what it feels like to find yourself inspired and it is wonderful when inspiration occurs while you have the time and opportunity to take advantage. Sometimes you just look at something, pick your camera up and you are off. What I want to know is how to induce inspiration when I’m not feeling it. Is there a technique I can learn?

I’d really like to know what other people do. Where do they look for inspiration? Does it just come to them?

Perhaps we can get some feedback and suggestions and come back to this topic another day? Inspiration permitting, obviously.

Where’s the Silver Lining in the Cloudy, Stagnant Pool?

The Cascade, Virginia Water, Windsor Great Park

For the last few weeks I have been promising to take my eldest son (George, aged five) to Virginia Water on the edge of Windsor Great Park to photograph the waterfall. We were planning to arrive there in time for the sunrise so, as you might expect, the evening before was spent making sure batteries for both our cameras were fully charged and that all kit was laid out ready to go.

The getting up and getting there went off without a hitch. However, as we prepared to take the initial test shots, George reported battery failure. “No problem, I brought plenty of spares” I reassured him. I took the freshly charged batteries from my bag and replaced the duds in his camera. He switched on and… nothing. Three more sets of freshly charged cells later and… still nothing. (I’ll be ranting about this another time.)

Okay, so the sun is creeping up over the trees and we don’t have time to go to buy some more, so we agree to share my camera. One memory card each, taking it in turns to compose the shot, George operating the shutter release.

The “silver lining”? George gets to use Daddy’s “big camera” and the experience was a little more shared than it might have been.

We move down to the edge of the stream and perch carefully on a large flat boulder to get some low shots. We are a bit too close to get everything in, so we need a lens change. This is the point where it turns out the batteries in my brain are also going flat! I flip the camera onto its back and undo the lens. Then, as I reach down to pick up the replacement lens, I catch the tripod and catapult the lens out of the mount. I watch it falling (in slow motion, of course) towards the boulder we are stood on, anticipating the smash as lens and rock make contact. But it doesn’t break. No, it bounces and continues its slow-mo trajectory towards the stream!

As I jump into the stream (anyone who knows me will realize this is a shameful exaggeration!) I expect to struggle to locate the lens, assuming it would have sunk immediately. Instead, it was bobbing on the surface, making its way towards the faster flowing section. I was quite surprised that it floated, although this was short lived. A rapid series of bubbles escaped from the lens and it sank like a stone.

I have dried the lens out, but I have no doubt it is ruined. There are water stains on the internal glass surfaces, there are bits of mud visible between lens groups and I can’t begin to describe the sound when I turn the focussing ring!

The “silver lining”? It was a cheap lens (about £75) purchased as a fill-in while I save up the £900 for the one I really want. Throwing away £75 still hurts, but imagine doing that with a £900 lens you spent a year saving up for! Also, we did have a great time and we will always be able to look back and laugh about that time Dad threw his lens in the river and dived in after it (I’m sure I’ll be embellishing it even more over time!).

If you try hard enough, you can always find a positive among the negatives.