SoCal PhotoExchange

Pentax Spotmeter V – User Report

Posted in Camera equipment, Photo techniques, Photography by douglaspstockdale on February 7, 2018

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Pentax Spotmeter V 2017 copyright Douglas Stockdale

For my analog/film photography, I have been a long time user of spotmeters, my first was made by Soligor and when I dropped that too many times, I replaced it with the Pentax Spotmeter V. The Spotmeter V is an analog spotmeter that has since been replaced by Pentax with a digital version. The meter will measure the luminescence of a very precise area of the subject designed by a round spot much like a bullseye within the meter.

What brought me to use this precise light meter tool was my introduction into the zone system many, many years ago. In a future article I will discuss the zone system in more detail, suffice to say when using black & white film that was hand developed, there were a number of film processing tricks a photographer could use. This was predicated on the fact that they knew the lighting conditions of their subject and what the black & white values that they wanted in the resulting print. The secret trick to make this happened depended a lot on using a spot meter that could record exact light readings in various places within the subject; from the lightest values, mid values to the darkest values.

One thing that I did not like about the lesser expensive Soligor spotmeter was the undersized handle grip, which was rather annoying and maybe a reason that I dropped this delicate instrument one too many times. The Pentax in turn has a large handle and from that perspective alone is a delight to use. You can really get a grip on this little beauty.

The second was the Soligor had a two phase scale; you had one set of values with a slight squeeze of the button and if needed a different sensitivity, you squeezed a little harder to get the second set of light values. In comparison the Pentax has one continuous scale within the view finder, which is much easier to use, especially if the light values were in the mid point of the scale that for the Soligor had the readout jumping between the two values and a bit confusing to know exactly what was going on.

To use this spotmeter requires the photographer to take the value(s) viewed inside the meter and then translate it to the rotating scale on the outside of the meter, see below, to determine the required camera settings. As example, if reading a gray card (18% gray) and the meter pointed to the value of 10 & 1/2, you moved the dial to point at the 10-1/2 mark and for an ISO 100 film, you could chose a series of exposures that provide you with an appropriately exposed film (e.g. 1/15 sec at the half click between f/8 and f/11).

The final luminescence value determined for the mid-point is called the exposure index (EI) and when using the older Hassleblad lens, there is a corresponding EI scale on the lens. Thus this meter and lens make a great combination. When the EI is set on the lens, the aperture and shutter speed sequences were coupled together and locked in. A change in the aperture created a corresponding change to the exposure time. Thus a photographer could make one exposure and then quickly change the coupled exposure index settings for a different combination and still have the desired film exposure.

Although I no longer hand-process my film, I still depend on this meter to evaluate the lighting of my subject and then determine what my exposure should be.

This Pentax Spotmeter V has been a work-horse for me and has been trouble free for the past ten plus years. recommended.

Cheers!

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Really Right Stuff ball-head system – User report

Posted in Photo techniques, Photography by douglaspstockdale on February 1, 2018

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Really Right Stuff BH-40 and mounting plate with Hasselblad 2017 copyright Douglas Stockale

The review of the Really Right Stuff (RRS) ball-head system is the second part of my series on tripod systems and last week I discussed the Gitzo carbon-fiber tripods. To create a really good camera support platform, you need to use equal parts tripod and the means to hold and position the camera system. While the tripod provides the basic support I have found that a well design tripod head can make the photographic experience a lot of fun or if not well designed it can be a lot of frustration. Having used a both a ball-head and a pan-head, I do really, really do prefer the ball-head system for the following reasons.

First, I will admit that the pan-head systems have come a long way since I purchased my all-in-one tripod that included a pan-head camera mount. From my discussions with other photographers the pan-head seems better suited for those who need precision and are not in any big hurry, such as architectural field work. Essentially you have three levers to control changes; for the vertical, horizontal and tilt. I just found it frustrating to use a pan-head as a change to one of the three levers usually entailed adjusting the other two, which is why you better not be under a time constraint.

Since my field work is usually more dynamic and after frequent struggling with a pan-head I made the change to a ball-head support system and I am glad I did. I can vouch for all of the comments that I read about the Magnum photographers almost elusively using a ball-heads as I now realize that a ball-head makes a ton of sense. Set up is fast. And faster still if the ball-head is smooth as silk in operation.

After a lot of checking and reading reviews I concluded that the camera support system made by Really Right Stuff (RRS) was my choice, although a bit more pricey, these are made by a US machine shop which is run by photographers. They have created a really nice market niche and in my book have shown that they can create one of the best ball-heads in the market that is made in the US. Lots and lots of precise metal machining going on.

I acquired the middle of the line PH-40 which is predicated on the weight of the camera system, with the BH-55 meant for the really heavy cameras, e.g. a load view camera or DSLRs with some really long lens. RRS also has some lighter and more compact ball-heads as well. At the time I bought this ball-head I still had my Mamyia RB-67 with the prism, which is a heavy beast (since changed to the Hasselblad system) and a bunch of digital cameras including a full-frame DSLR.

The ball-head weight issue for long lens (my longest zoom is the Canon 70-200 mm f/4 L lens) is with all of that heavy glass hanging out at the end of the lens acts like a big gravity lever that can result in ball-head creep. This occurs once you lock the ball-head down for your composition (or a pan-head), there might be a tiny bit of moment in the camera/lens due to the amount of static weight being placed on it. Even with the relatively light 70-200 on my Canon, I still recheck the composition before committing to the exposure.

Although the ball head comes with a threaded screw, what makes this system work even slicker is when you pair a ball-head up with a quick release system. This also requires a matching mounting plate dedicated to the camera base. In my case I opted for a lever quick release base mounted to the ball-head and I have not had any issues with snagging this lever and inadvertently having the camera come off. The design of the lever does require some force to engage it, thus it does take some effort to open and close so a slight brush with your clothes is not going to allow a catastrophe to occur. For a square format camera like the Hasselblad a simple bottom quick-release plate will suffice, see above.

For a DSLR with a rectangle format, I would recommend acquiring an L bracket (see below) that once the camera is locked down for the composition, the camera body can be quickly changed to for an alternative framing. Although an L bracket does add a bit more weight to potentially an already heavy camera such as the Canon 5DMk3, I have found that the L bracket weight actually seems to act as a counter balance to the battery and hand hold aspects of most digital camera systems. The camera as a whole now seems more balanced and for hand holding situations, the horizontal framing process seems quicker now. Maybe it’s just me, but I get similar comments from other photographers when they pick up my rig.

I will be honest; the majority of my work is with horizontal framing, but when I wanted a quick vertical framing after the camera was set-up, it was lightening fast to change the body and quickly get the exposure. When you are working with a fluid situation, the amount of time to make a camera change can also make the difference in getting the alternative shot.

My one gripe; the quick release plate does include a leveling bubble, but this bubble is concealed when the camera is on the ball-head. If for an architectural composition in which the horizon and verticals need to be in alignment this would require removing the camera body and checking the bubble or setting up the tripod and get the bubble right before mounting the camera body. My work around for speed? I purchased an inexpensive bubble that slides into the flash bracket of my DSLR (regretfully not shown below).

All in all I have now used the RRS BH-40 for over five years through the US, Europe and Asia. It easily dismounts from the tripod to reduce size for travel and is an absolute delight to use; very, very smooth operation. It is really great that when you are engaged with a subject that you don’t find yourself worrying about your support equipment and it essentially becomes an extension of your creative imagination.

It’s also my option that Really Right Stuff is the top of the line for ball-heads systems. Not the most inexpensive system, but you only need to buy it once and you should consider this a valuable investment in obtaining great photographs.

Cheers!

RRS BH-40 ball-head with Canon 5DMark3

Gitzo compact carbon fiber tripod: user report

Posted in Camera equipment, Photo techniques, Photography by douglaspstockdale on January 24, 2018

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Gitzo G1228 Mountaineer Reporter Carbon Fiber Tripod, copyright Douglas Stockdale

A number of years ago when I bent and broke for the last time my aluminum tubing heavy duty tripod, I decided to make an investment in a carbon fiber tripod. One of my many reasons for selecting the Gitzo G1228 as the tripod’s name implies it that it’s meant for backpacking and mountaineering; rugged and light weight. The carbon fiber materials were very much lighter than the beast that I had before and every bit as rigid and has held up very well over time which is the reason for this user report. By the way the current Gitzo model is the G1228 MK2.

My intent was to use if for my DSLR and medium format cameras with light to moderate weight lens. I understand from others that this tripod can probably handle a light weigh 4×5″ camera as well. I was also intending to travel with it on airline flights and when the ball head is removed, the tripod collapses and measures 20 1/2″ which is ideal for stuffing in an overhead bag that fits in the overhead bin. I have since carried this tripod with me on assignments all over the US, as well as to Europe and Asia. No issues.

The downside to this compact travel size tripod is that when the four section legs are fully extended as well as the column fully extended my camera is almost the right height for eye level viewing. The less you can extend the tripod legs usually the greater its stability, which is the whole reason for its use. So when I using this tripod with my camera rig, such as in both the photos, I try not to extend the column if the composition appears to work. I have also found that when the three legs are held together, the tripod can double as a monopod and provides just enough added stability when working with an active situation (perhaps looks a bit weird, but it works).

The legs are secured or extended after a quick twist of the heavy duty locking rings and I prefer this over the flip-tap type leg systems. It seems that the flip-tabs keep getting snagged (not great for packing with clothes) and are always in the wrong place. The leg sections always seem to extend quickly and smoothly.

Since I am a big fan of ball-heads to attach the camera to the tripod, having the option of a plate to attach the head design of your preference was a nice feature. This also allows a more compact size for travel when I remove the ball head.

The Gitzo is very stream line and robust and has done by me very well for the past five years.There was a hook that threaded on the bottom of the column, but I seemed to have lost that a while ago. If you can keep track of your hook, that is idea place to attach a bag or some other object to provide additional stability for the tripod, such as on a breezy day.

With a lot of my travel assignments now by car/SUV, I am considering a longer tripod. I would prefer that I do not need to extend the smallest legs and still have my cameras at eye level. I would also buy another Gitzo again when I am back in the market for another tripod; little pricey, but worth it.

Cheers!

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Challenges and Joys of Medium-Format Macro

Posted in Camera equipment, Photo techniques, Photography by Gerhard Clausing on January 23, 2018

Recently I have picked up my Pentax 645Z again, to rediscover the world in miniature. The depth of field/focus can be very minimal at close range, seemingly elusive. I have a razor-sharp macro lens that I bought used at reasonable cost (compared to similar Hasselblad and Leica medium format lenses), the Pentax 645 120mm f/4 SMC FA Macro, that makes it possible. Several such excellent automatic and manual Pentax 645 lenses are left over from the film era and are shunned by some photographers who would rather spend thousands for a similar lens with the “digital” designation.

So, with or without extension tubes, there is a world in miniature to be discovered. The live view function on the rotating viewfinder makes it even more possible. The subtleties of color captured with a 51M pixel sensor and the information-gathering ability of these large lenses are amazing. And the time and money saved by not having to process and scan film is substantial, of course. So my idea is to capture a dreamy world, whether it is one of my “selfscapes” or the stuff that we all have around the house, such as my desk surface that becomes a constructed landscape, or the flowers in a vase that have seen better days.

Hope you enjoy the images below. – This is also a forum for exchanging information, so if you have any questions about this or would like to share similar guest contributions, please let me know in the comment section below, or send me an email!

Cheers!

Gerhard (Gerry) Clausing

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All images © 2014-2018 by Gerhard Clausing

Creating “Contact Sheets” Using Adobe Bridge and Photoshop

Posted in Photo techniques, Photography, Uncategorized by Gerhard Clausing on September 13, 2017

If you have wanted to create sheets that show sets of images in your folders or  series, in order to print them like the “contact sheets” from analog times, this is fairly easy to do. Reasons for doing so might be that you want to keep a printed visual record of what’s in your project folders or project collections, or you might want to document possible sequences for presentations or for photo books, to name just some reasons for using this process.

Here’s an example that goes through six easy steps. You need to have both Bridge and Photoshop running on your computer. I am currently using Bridge CC 2017 and Photoshop CC 2017 on the PC, but this works similarly on the Mac and with older versions of the two programs as well.

Step 1: Open Bridge and open the folder that contains the files that you want to print on a sheet, in the right order. Here I am using a folder with twelve “Bodyscapes” files of mine as an example.

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Step 2:  From the menu, select Tools > Photoshop > Contact Sheet II.

Step 3:  The “Contact Sheet II” window will be activated in Photoshop automatically:

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Step 4:  Select the size you want the pages to be. For instance, I usually use 8×10” for printing properly on 8.5×11” sheets.

Step 5:  Select the number of columns and rows you want – 4×4 is a good place to start. Do not use filenames as captions unless you want them to be appearing.

Step 6:  Hit the “OK” button, and BINGO! The contact sheets will appear in Photoshop as if by magic, in sequence, and can then be saved and/or printed.

And there’s my contact sheet for this folder!

Enjoy!

Gerry

 

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Jason Fulford & Gregory Halpern – The Photographer’s Playbook

Posted in Books & Magazines, Photographers, Photography by douglaspstockdale on December 3, 2016

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Copyright 2014 Jason Fulford & Gregory Halpern published by Aperture

While in Santa Fe last month and visiting the photo-eye book store, I had an opportunity to purchase a copy of Jason Fulford and Gregory Halpern’s book The Photographer’s Playbook. The subtitle reveals the essentials of this book; 307 (photographic) Assignments and Ideas, which are distilled from 307 photographers, curators, photographic academia and workshop leaders, including Aline Smithson, Mark Steinmetz, Jim Goldberg, Stephen Shore, John Gossage and many more. From my perspective, this book draws heavily on a few photographic academia programs for BFA and MFA photographic degrees.

It appears that the book is focused on young and inexperienced photographers who are searching for the reason to be a fine art photographer (as part of a BFA/MFA program) or for a photographer who is stuck in a dry spell as to how to find conceptual ideas to development next. If you have the technical side of photography down then working through a bunch of these assignments could provide you with an equivalent BFA/MFA education as to the conceptual projects you work on. What may be missing is the group critiques offered in the academic programs and instructors that might challenge you (alternatively a best friend that can continue to say “No, try again, dig deeper”). So find a small group photographic/artist peers that you can count on to be candid and talk/show the work/assignments, a group who can say “Very cool, I see where you are going, keep at it, dig deeper”

To be candid, there are some ideas within this book that are similar to other ideas I have developed over the years to help me consider photographic options and move my concepts forward. I will continue to write about some of them, such as my post earlier this morning about experiment-play (games), a frequent idea (27 different variations) that is recommended in this book. In my case, experiment-play was what I was doing that led me to my Memory Pods project that I have been working on for just about three years. Recently, experiment-play is what inspired me to start the Middle Ground (aka Life in the Slow Lane) project earlier this year.

To be fully transparent, as a portfolio reviewer for LensCulture, we also provide some resource recommendations as part of the portfolio review and this book is one that I recommend to photographers who have a photo technique but appear to looking for a project to apply their process. Recommended!

Cheers,

Douglas Stockdale, Editor

(originally posted on Singular Images)

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FREE – Test Think Tank’s Photo’s New Camera Carrying System

Posted in Photographers, Photography by Gina Genis on March 15, 2012

Think Tank's New Modular System

Hey Photogs, want to try out this cool new camera gear carrying system for FREE? Think Tank has allowed my followers to do just that for 28 days. It’s great because you can configure it to your personal needs. Add a lens pouch, take one away. Travel with everything, or travel light. Your choice. Click here for full details.