Tag Archives: 35mm

Outer Banks: Kickin’ It Old School With 35mm Film, Pentax K1000

Many months ago I decided I wanted a photographic challenge, and so I picked up an old Pentax K1000 manual SLR camera off eBay. The plan was to start shooting with some Kodak TRI-X 400 black and white 35mm film. However, the film and the camera sat around for months unused. Then came a trip to the Outer Banks in North Carolina for a Thanksgiving vacation, and along came the big Nikon D7100, small Sony RX-100 II, and yes, the Pentax K1000. I was determined to finally use the film camera. I haven’t shot with film since the early 1990s, and even then I shot with automatic cameras. The Pentax K1000 is fully manual. However, there is one handy feature in the K1000, and that’s a built-in light meter in the form of a simple needle that appears on the right side of the viewfinder. Put the needle in the middle using a combination of aperture and shutter speed, and your photo “should” be properly exposed, notwithstanding the look you are going for in a particular scene.

Since film costs money, and since good developing isn’t exactly what I would call cheap (I recommend The Darkroom), I was determined to change my mindset when shooting with film. I can’t just snap away hoping to get a good shot. I really needed to put some thought into each shot. And with that, I actually only shot two rolls of film the entire week.

Here’s one of my favorites.

Whalehead Club decorated for Christmas. Corolla, North Carolina - Outer Banks

Whalehead Club decorated for Christmas. Corolla, North Carolina – Outer Banks

And here’s another angle of this impressive structure.

Whalehead Club decorated for Christmas. Corolla, North Carolina - Outer Banks

Whalehead Club decorated for Christmas. Corolla, North Carolina – Outer Banks

Whalehead is a historic home located in Corolla, North Carolina and was built by Edward C. Knight back in the 1920s. It was his “duck hunting” home away from home. Now completely restored, it is open to the public for tours and other events, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

Sometimes when you shoot with film, you get happy accidents that create neat effects, something you’d never get with a pristine digital photo unless you decided to add it in “post.” Take for example the photo below of Bodie Island Lighthouse, with film flaws and a curious but beautifully placed light leak.

Bodie (pronounced "body") Island Lighthouse - Outer Banks, North Carolina

Bodie (pronounced “body”) Island Lighthouse – Outer Banks, North Carolina

I’m always looking for lines and shadows, and as I was walking the boardwalk in Manteo, North Carolina, I spotted this neat intersection of lines and shadows created by the boardwalk and a bench not quite enjoying the shade of a tree

A bench on the boardwalk in Manteo, North Carolina

A bench on the boardwalk in Manteo, North Carolina

And finally, I look for juxtapositions, sometimes blatantly obvious, like the Full Moon Cafe basking in the bright sun.

Full Moon Cafe & Brewery - Manteo, North Carolina

Full Moon Cafe & Brewery – Manteo, North Carolina

Overall, I’m quite satisfied with many of the 70 black and white film photographs I captured during my week in the Outer Banks.

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6 Things I’ve Learned About Street Photography (So Far)

Sidewalk Circulation

Here are 6 things I’ve learned about street photography (so far). I present them to you, the aspiring street photographer.

  1. Stand Still — As you walk the streets, its easy to become overwhelmed by all the potential photography subjects. When you start to experience sensory overload, find an interesting background, or simply a street corner, and then stand and wait. Your subjects will come to you.
  2. Click the Shutter Anyway — There will be that voice in your head telling you that getting this shot might be awkward and uncomfortable. Push yourself to raise the camera to your eye and click the shutter anyway. Passing up these moments makes capturing the “decisive moment” all the more elusive.
  3. Shoot Wide — Don’t be afraid to shoot with a wider lens. It might be tempting to use your long telephoto lens so that you can stay far away from your subject, and possibly go unnoticed. While there’s nothing wrong with using a long lens if you are going for that specific aesthetic, the experience might be less than fulfilling if you are a fan of classic street photography from the likes of Joel Meyerowitz, Garry Winogrand, or the master himself, Henri Cartier-Bresson. Ideal street photography focal lengths are 28mm, 35mm, and 50mm. If you are still apprehensive, start with 50mm, which will allow you to stay the furthest away from your subjects, then graduate to 35mm. But all rules are meant to be broken, that is, assuming you have a good reason to break them. Just don’t let fear be one of those reasons.
  4. Avoid Eye Contact — Okay, this one will be controversial, and there will be some who will give you the exact opposite advice. I’m not saying you need to avoid eye contact or socializing in all situations, but if you are after true candid photography, it requires you to take photos without permission. Most people aren’t going to confront you, but that possibility will always exist with street photography. To help ease the process of capturing candids and avoiding confrontations, try to make it appear that you are looking past your subject. One thing you can do is keep your camera raised to your eye after taking the photo, pretending to shoot something that is just past your main subject. This works best if you are using a camera with a viewfinder (especially DSLRs), but it can also be accomplished even if you are composing your shots with a LCD screen (you just can’t hide behind the camera).
  5. Look For Conversations — I find some of the more interesting street photography photos (see above) in my collection are street conversations. Look for two, three, or more people congregating and conversing, particularly if they are oblivious to their surroundings, and then move in to get your photo. It might be helpful in this situation to have your camera in continuous mode so that you can snap off two or three captures.
  6. Use A Prime Lens — Related to #3, I highly recommend you use a prime (fixed focal length) lens, or alternatively, set your zoom lens to a focal length and leave it there. I can’t tell you how helpful this has been for my street photography. It really helps you to see your shot before you lift your camera when you know exactly what your field of view will be. In this case, using a prime lens is less about optics, and more about simplicity, and that’s why a zoom lens is fine, as long as you can discipline yourself not to actually use the zoom capability. Pick 35mm or 50mm and stay there. If you are out for a couple of hours, maybe shoot 35mm for one hour, then shoot 50mm for the second hour.

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Gear Lust: It Matters Not What’s In Your Hands, But What’s In Your Head

When you find yourself in the throes of a major case of GAS (gear acquisition syndrome), you need to walk out of the store, or move your mouse cursor away from the Buy button. Next you need remind yourself that it is your imagination and creativity that most contributes to your passion, not the gear. What matters is not what’s in your hands, but what’s in your head.

I’m not saying you should never buy new gear, and in fact, I offer you a twist later in this article (more on that in a moment). What I’m saying is, don’t purchase gear with the belief that it will improve your work on the merits of the specifications alone. Think of all the iconic photographs from decades past, many of which are not superior on a technical level, even when they work exceptionally well on a compositional and emotional level. That new Nikon or Canon DSLR or that new zoom lens aren’t going to offer you any greater ability to tell a story with your photographs. The only thing that can do that is your imagination.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Slow down.
  • Don’t take a lot of photos, concentrate instead on what you are trying to accomplish.
  • Beyond the anchor or subject, pay attention to what is in the frame, especially at the edges.
  • Think about your composition and how different elements in the frame are flowing and interacting with each other.
  • Are you trying to tell a story with this shot, and will the composition offer a message to the viewer?

If you are overcome with the urge to buy a new piece of gear, instead look for inspiration by browsing the works of your favorite photographers, or better yet, discover new ones. And if that doesn’t quiet the desire for more hardware, pick up the gear you already own and go out and shoot! Because at the end of the day, taking more photos is how you improve your art, not buying new gear.

But if you still can’t resist that temptation, I offer this suggestion (here’s that twist I mentioned earlier): Head to eBay and get yourself a cheap film camera, like the 35mm Pentax K1000 that I just bought. But wait a second, I thought you said, “it’s not what’s in your hands, but what’s in your head.” — Yes, indeed I did, but I’m also realistic about gear lust. Sometimes you just need to buy something. But instead of the typical lens or camera body upgrade, take a hard left into uncharted territory and buy something you never thought you’d ever buy. For me, I never thought I’d go back to film. Hell, I never really shot much film in the first place. I think the last time I used a film camera I was in my teens in the early 1990s.

I want to reiterate that your imagination is the most important thing, but if gear is ever going to have any impact at all on the creative process, it’s likely to happen when you choose a piece of gear that really shakes things up, and makes you look at your craft in a different way. And in the case of old 35mm film cameras, it’s an inexpensive way to satisfy that hardware craving. Well, at least the gear is cheap. If you really get hooked, the film and developing costs could start to add up! Oh no, what have I done! 🙂

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Dusting Off An Oldie But Goodie, The Nikon D40

I bought a refurbished Nikon D40 five years ago, and at that time, it was already a 2-year old model (introduced in 2006). But the D40 had (and still has) a cult following. The Nikon website still lists the now discontinued D40 in the archive section, and it has a 4.5 star rating with over 1200 reviews. Here’s a sampling of some of those reviews:

nikon-d40

Sam (May 19, 2013) 5 stars —  “Compact and easy to use.” – I have used this camera under a wide range of conditions including sports under poor light condition and always with good results. Ex. High School Basketball (with a AF-S Nikkor 35mm 1:1.8 G lens.

DS1987 (June 29, 2012) 5 stars — “Perfect camera” — This camera exceeds my expectations, for a long while i favored my old canon 35mm slr over the new digital slr’s. But when i bought this to replace it i quickly found that i can get great quality pictures faster and easier no 35m film required. perfect camera for hobbyist or professionals.

ShaldonB (May 15, 2012) 5 stars — “Totally Flabbergasted By My D40” — Some photographers out there ([particularly] people who are new to the art) always think more is better; bigger is better. Fortunately, in reality, that is not the case. The simple design of the D40 makes it perfect for anyone from amateur to pro. It is truly capable of handling anything a professional grade camera is -if you know how to use it [correctly] that is. Because it is compact and light weight it goes anywhere! (up rock walls and mountain sides!) And because it is no longer in production (sadly), it is easy to find one in immaculate condition and [extremely] well priced second hand. I love mine! There may come a day when my D40 fails me and I will have to find a new camera to shoot, that will be a sad day, but until that time I wouldn’t choose to shoot anything else!

The Nikon D40 enjoyed a long production run of over 2 years before being superseded by the D3000. And I used my trusty D40 for close to two years before moving on the greener pastures (the D7000) in late 2010. Since that time, the D40 has been sitting in a camera bag, possibly never to see the light of day again.

For a good while after buying the D7000 I would take it pretty much anywhere I went. The idea was simple, you can’t take any photos if you don’t have your camera with you. But eventually I grew tired of lugging around the weight of the D7000 and a few lenses every where I went, and I didn’t exactly like the idea of leaving it in my car if I didn’t feel like carrying it on a particular day. So I stopped taking the D7000 with me everywhere I go, and that was about 8 months ago now.

But recently I’ve returned again to the thinking that a photographer should always have a camera nearby, but I’m still not crazy about taking the D7000 everywhere (unless on a specific photography outing). So I decided the D40 was to be resurrected. After all, it is a perfectly capable camera, and it has the added benefit of being compact and lightweight, and I’ll have no problem keeping it in my car when necessary. So that’s the plan, the oldie but goodie D40 will now be my every day walk around camera. Now I just need to decide what lens (or lenses) to keep with it. I still have the 18-55mm kit lens, and the 55-200mm VR zoom (which have also sat idle for quite some time). So I’ll definitely keep those in the D40 bag. But given the D40’s low light limitations, I think I will keep my 35mm prime lens with it as well. In fact, that prime lens (AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G) might just be the lens I keep on the D40 most of the time. I loved that combination when the D40 was my primary (and only) camera body.

And for anyone who might be skeptical of this new plan, here’s a shot taken with my D40 a few years back (yes, some post-processing in Lightroom):

 

My alternate naming for this photo is "Walking Towards The Light." This was taken at the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C. on October 30, 2010.

My alternate naming for this photo is “Walking Towards The Light.” This was taken at the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C. on October 30, 2010.

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