2015 11 - Question Time

02nd December 2015
Retford & District Photographic Society - Press Release - Joy Allison
25th November 2015
Images by Jayne Mair

Photographer’s Question Time

A large attendance greeted our expert panel for an evening with a difference when we staged ‘Photographers’ Question time’. Eleven questions had been submitted over the previous few weeks for the panel to answer.

Our panellists were Geoff Stoddart, current Photographer of the Year; Alan Townsend, ‘headmaster’ of the Gainsborough Snappers and a very experienced photographer; Alan Burkwood, President; Russel Nye, a former Photographer of the Year and Alan ‘Infra-Red’ Dibbo. Each has different interests, skills and experience and between them and a lot of good natured audience participation we had a fascinating, instructive and entertaining night.

The first question was easily solved. A member wanted to know how to stop the camera putting the date on prints. In these days of cut down printed manuals it is often necessary to go on the internet to find the full instructions for any electronic device and cameras are no different. Fortunately for this questioner, a fellow member uses a similar camera and was able to speak to him and show him the right menu to change.

Next came a question about how to adjust the camera to accommodate wearing spectacles. There seemed to be almost as many answers to this one as there were people in the room. It really does boil down to what works for you, although suggestions were made for half-moon glasses, soft eye cups, adjusting the dioptre setting on the camera viewfinder etc. The main issue is that in use you not only need to be able to see the subject and the viewfinder, but also look where you are going and for potential hazards. A final tip was to take the shot and then zoom in and look thoroughly round all parts of the image to make sure it is sharp where it needs to be and that you have captured what you intended.

Printing for best results provoked another lengthy discussion. About half the members print their own work while others use professional printers. We learned that sending work away for printing is surprisingly cost effective, and gives an excellent reproduction of what you send them. This is the key point. You need to be confident with calibrating your screen and using the calibrations supplied by the printer to ensure that you are not surprised by a picture which looks nothing like what you have on screen.

The best way to help yourself is to get the image as close to what you want in camera as you can. The panel described how the histogram on the camera will show where you might make improvements to ensure no loss of data in the light areas while keeping all important detail in the shadows. In some cases you may discover that you cannot get the desired effect with one shot and then, while you are still there, you have the chance to take others to combine later if you need to.

Buyers of DSLR cameras are made aware that there is a ‘crop factor’ applied to some which are not ‘full frame’. This term applies to a camera with a sensor which is 35mm - the same size as a traditional 35mm negative. Full frame cameras are more expensive. Cheaper ones have smaller sensors and the size of the sensor is expressed as a fraction of 35mm. The effect of this is to magnify the image you obtain, which in some cases such as nature, may be helpful. If you are using a lens of around 10mm to get the foreground in, a crop factor giving the equivalent of a 16mm lens is not helpful. The pros and cons are technical, but something buyers of new kit would do well to investigate before making what is in either case a substantial purchase.

A member described noticing a black mark in his viewfinder which didn’t appear in images. He asked if he should ‘have a poke around inside’. This produced a resounding ‘No’ from the panel and members alike. Getting inside an expensive camera to clean it is definitely a job for the professionals.

In general terms, the best method of cure is prevention. The panel advised getting ready to change lenses before actually doing so by having everything to hand, loosening body and lens caps and then doing so both quickly and with the camera body pointing downward to stop dust falling into it. A bag, case or other cover will help shield the camera and members were advised to avoid sand and dust at all costs. Cleaning costs around £40, and compared with the cost of a new sensor or camera this is money well spent if you are getting consistent dust spots on images.

Not only does Alan Dibbo work in infra-red, but he has also begun taking images of the stars and moon, so he was the best person to answer the question about how to do this. He said that the issues arise from the brightness of the moon, making it difficult to capture the detail as well as fainter stars. He said that astrophotography is a hobby in its own right and he had joined an astronomy club to meet experts, which he had done. He described his techniques and camera settings, offering tips on how to succeed which other members added to. This is a fashionable area of photography at present and worth investigating. Planning is essential as some types of image require stacking of over a hundred separate long exposure images when processing afterwards. Free software is available to help those who want to have a go.

Filters are often discussed in the photography magazines and mentioned by speakers. The panel used a question about them to describe the different sort of filters available and how and where to use them. They can help manage large differences between a bright sky and darker foreground, reflections from water or shiny objects and the effect created by clouds and water.

A member asked the best type of strap for use with a rucksack, and several different types were suggested. Members offered to show theirs for the questioner to consider. A top opening bag which may have a more comfortable strap than a camera hanging round the neck was another suggestion, with the added advantage of a rain cover.

The final discussion of the night was around whether the camera can tell the truth in the modern age. This covered the range of the debates touched on in previous weeks about what is nature or wildlife, how much should an image be manipulated, should heavily processed images compete against ‘straight’ photographs etc. The debate remains on-going right up to the highest levels and has thus far produced few concrete answers.