27 November 2021

One More Time with Regards to Beginners

Art Model, Dana

In November of 2005, I photographed my first nude model. This month makes 16 years since I began my favorite genre of photography. So with respect to my beginnings, I'm going to address an idea for beginners! However, if you aren't interested in getting better at photo or at least learning more creative and fun techniques, don't worry about this blog post. Then again, read it anyway and see if your curiosity is piqued.


That's right. I am talking about stepping away from the digital world and falling back to the stone age before a camera even needed a battery. Yes, cameras existed even then and if you take a look around, you'll witness the re-emergence of the film genre. BTW, all the images in this post are my early work shooting film. 

Look for an old camera that your mama used to use, or one that's been passed down through your father's lineage. Ask them! They just might take you up to the attic and pull out an old box full of pics, old film cannisters, and maybe even a dusty old camera.

Art Model, Dana

OR, go to a thrift store. They almost always have something. If you see a camera and it has the letters, L-E-I-C-A on it, in that exact sequence... or a big red dot, GET IT! Buy it for whatever they want. If not, just look for something that seems like it works. If there is a local camera shop nearby, take it to them and let them have a look at it and clean it up. 

OR, take a look at Amazon, Ebay, or any online used gear retailer and type Canon AE-1 Program in the search bar. If you are afraid of Canon, check out the Nikon F2, unless you want to get away from the BIG2... then bless yourself with a Pentax K1000. Go this route if you want an easy entry into the 35mm film genre as there are still plenty of camera choices, lens alternatives, and film formats readily available and you can always find someone to develop the film.

If by chance you are feeling froggy and you have nerves of steel with the heart of a champion, say no more and orient your quest toward either a Hasselblad 500 C/M, the Pentax 67, or a Mamiya RZ67. Lens choices can get steep with these but you can find some deals. You are really taking your coffee no sugar if you find a twin lens reflex system like a Rolleiflex, the Yashica MAT-124G, or a Mamiya C330. You don't need an additional lens budget for these cameras because they come with fixed lenses anyway. These cameras use medium format film. Much larger resolution than 35mm film, but might be more difficult getting it processed. You can easily do this yourself, though with a few lessons. Developing your own film just takes a commitment and for some, it's the least fun part of photography. I loved it!

Art Model, Kate in a Tribute to Jerry Ulesmann


I'm not going to get into the technical aspects of digital vs film. This post isn't about the analytical, technical, logical, and certainly not mathematical. Instead, I want to focus on the imaginative, artistic, and intuitive elements.

Film helps you See

Particularly in Black and White photography, color can be a distraction that deviates your mind away from the composition. When it's all B&W, composition plays a greater factor. When you look through the viewfinder, yes... you are still seeing color. But when you get that roll developed in B&W you see what you were pointing your camera at and how it turned out. You begin to see in B&W. Even though color elements are the input into your eye sockets, your brain will soon interpret those signals into B&W. THEN you begin to better see lines, patterns, geometric shapes... like circles, triangles, and rectangles. You'll see vanishing points, repetition, and anchoring elements. Balance will become important and you will develop your style much quicker.

Film helps you be Patient

Back in the military, I trained soldiers to slow down. Survey the landscape. Find your target. Aim. Breathe. Take your shot. The mechanics of shooting a weapon are the same as shooting a camera. Survey the landscape. Find your composition. Aim. Breathe. Take your shot. In both cases, you press the shutter/trigger with slow deliberation. Trigger squeeze and breathing control are two elements of marksmanship and it's the same with a camera. 

Shooting rapid fire shots don't let you hit a damn thing. Limit yourself to 36 shots and you WILL learn to compose better. You will think about each shot and be more deliberate with your shot selection. It's inevitable. If you want to slow it down even more, shoot from a tripod and really see your shot. I follow this guy on Facebook. He's the father of a friend/client of mine who I worked with doing desert shots near Las Vegas. His dad is always out somewhere knee-deep in a stream or barely visible in the bushes somewhere. The man is enjoying himself and making money selling his art. But he puts in the time! He's not shooting film, but he does shoot from a tripod and I'd imagine it isn't just because his gear is heavy. His name is Sam Pathi and he's a bad ass landscape photographer. You want a role model? Inspire to be like this guy. You can see his son, Eric on IG @ericpwiseguys

Art Model, Jacinda

“You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” – Ansel Adams

Film will help you Make Photos

Ansel Adams is arguably the most famous photographer all-time. That was one of his quotes that suggested that a photograph wasn't something that already existed and you simply needed to grab it. Instead, it was something you create. You make it. You don't simply take it. Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO are the elements you use to create the exposure you desire for any given scene. A shot does not exist without these three elements in some mix. Each one regulates and manages how light is used to make a photograph. Don't just use full auto. Learn this and practice.

You also make a photo by learning to focus manually. It takes an added second or two to turn that focus ring (at any given aperture, focusing at any given range). You decide how much of a scene you want in focus and then manipulate the lens to make that photo. Learn those techniques and practice.

Film will help you Save Money

This isn't as intuitive as the previous listed advantages, but it still goes on this list. You are definitely going to save some cash with film. You're looking at maybe a $250 initial investment maybe if you're going 35mm film. Expect to spend a grand for the camera, batteries, storage cards, lenses, etc. if you start out digital. Chances are, you'll likely find a deal on a digital camera that comes with a bad, tripod, and more. 

This might not be the case if you get really interested in photography and you need to make a more significant investment. It will happen. The more you know, the more you grow. The more you grow, the more you go broke. Kidding.  I should have said. the more you grow the more you need dough. But if you are getting better AND got the budget, mosey on up to the medium format systems and challenge yourself. Instead of 36 exposures a roll, you get 10 to 15 shots depending on the camera. That Pentax 67 will give you TEN shots! Talk about shot planning! It uses 120 roll film. And medium format utilizes a variety of sizes which explains the different range of shots. 

* * *

Film is not dead. It declined for a while, but it's back. The Lomography phenomenon (and company) along with Kodak, Fujifilm, and others have fed the resurgence of love for film. But I say it's mainly because of people like Dave Rudin who refuse to give it up and continue to do professional and artistic work with film. It's huge here in Vietnam. There are good functioning cameras all over the place and in the hands of the young and eager. I love it.

So do yourself a favor, Rookie. Reread the blog. Do some more research. Get yourself in a good camera system that you feel comfortable with. Go buy some film and go shoot. Kodak TMAX 400 was my all-time favorite film to utilize. What is yours?

Art Model, Laura

Art Model, Laura

14 November 2021

What Camera to Buy Right Now for Beginners? Yeah, See Here's the Thing...

Art Model, Viki Vegas

“It is an illusion that photos are made with the camera… they are made with the eye, heart, and head.”  
-Henri Cartier-Bresson

Let me start of with this, there is no such thing as a Camera for Beginners. There is only ever the Camera that you NEED. That's what you go on. But for the sake of this topic, I'll buy-in to the notion of a beginner level camera. That being said, I'll concede the concept of Entry-Level Cameras. I know... am I quibbling over semantics: beginner vs. entry? Well, hell yeah. Entry level describes the camera, not the consumer. It is usually a base-model thrown in to get attention for the people who just want a decent picture. Okay, maybe that is what a beginner needs. 

Nah, screw that! I do not concede and here's why:

You may be new to photography, that's okay. And it doesn't mean Entry-Level is for you! I've been teaching photo for years. The number one question I get is, "What kind of camera should I buy?" My answer is always the same. You get the camera that you need! Buy what fits the reason you want to take pics and also fits within the constraints of your budget. There has not been a single time in all these years that I have recommended an Entry-Level camera to someone. NOT ONE TIME! I do need to qualify that a bit in that I've been asked to recommend one Entry-Level system over another when those were the only options. That's the only time.

Here's the deal. If money is not an obstacle and you are not concerned with practicality, there's a good chance Leica will come up in the conversation. Leica cameras are the opposite of Entry-Level. But you can start with them if you can swing that price point. I've sold them to first-time users who wanted to have a camera that not only took pics, but also made a statement. However, being more reasonable, if you ask me what you should get, the first thing I'm going to ask in reply is, "What do you want to take pictures of?" And that is where it begins. 

Art Model, Viki Vegas

In all likelihood, it's going to start with lens choices. Say for instance you tell me you love bird watching and it just so happens that you are traveling to Costa Rica. Does camera come into play? Not at first. You have a lens requirement. You likely need super telephoto capabilities. The camera might come into consideration because of WHERE you are going. Entry-Level cameras aren't traditionally made to be durable. The are generally plastic with no weather sealing. If you are traveling to Costa Rica, you may want to pay attention to the humidity and the probability of heavy rains. The lens won't mean a thing if you can't keep moisture out of your camera. You need something that can keep the electronics inside dry. 

If you are a grandpa wanting to take pics of the babies eating up the living room carpet, then your needs are not that demanding. An Entry-Level system isn't too complicated and there is not a need for anything specific. Chances are, the camera will sit on a shelf for most of it's life as the cell phone proves to be more convenient. You don't really love photography for the sake of photography. You just like good pics every once in a while. You're not trying to learn something new, grow and develop lighting skills... you just want to fill the picture album like your Nana did for you as an ankle-biter. In this case, an entry-level kit, (camera and the lens it comes with) may not be a bad option.

There are a lot of used systems out there if budget is an issue. You can still get a good camera and lens if you're not sure if you'll stick with photography long enough to make it worth a brand new camera investment. Buying used gear is an excellent option. Renting is another possibility, either from your local camera shop or from online businesses like BorrowLenses.com or LensRentals.com. If you are torn about whether to drop some serious cash on a new system, rent the camera system before you buy it. See how you like it. Either way... buy new, buy used, or rent... you need to be aware of your primary considerations.

Art Model, Viki Vegas

“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.”
– Dorothea Lange

Think about the Lens first.

Lens choices address the needs of photography faster than most those of the camera, (unless video are the primary goal). The lens is first described by it's focal length and those usually come in these categories: wide-angle, normal, telephoto, and super telephoto. You can throw in Macro, tilt-shift, and ultra wide-angle, as well if that's that's what you need. However, the first 3 mentioned focal length perspectives are going to cover about 90% of shooter needs.

I deleted 4 paragraphs that go into describing lenses and things you need to consider. But that's making this post too long. Instead, check out my previous post detailing much more material on that matter here: => "Getting into Photo, Part II : The Lens".

Art Model, Viki Vegas

And then there are camera considerations.

First consideration that everyone looks at is megapixels. But in all honesty, it really doesn't matter! Most digital cameras now come with at least 24 megapixels. For 90% of you, it's more than adequate. But depending on what you want to do, maybe more is necessary. The more important the detail, the greater the need for a higher MP camera sensor, but 24 is damn good. Full disclosure... I am a megapixel nut. There. I said it. 

Durability is also a factor. Will your camera be subjected to rain, dust, and high/low temperatures? Can you reasonably expect it to get banged around a little bit? I'm not talking about being dropped. That sucks for any camera. No matter how careful you are, if you're going into harsh environments, the camera is going to take a beating. I'm very careful with my gear. That didn't mean squat when some rednecks in a big white Ford pick-up started doing donuts and belching exhaust as I was doing a photoshoot in a dry lake bed. I was shooting with 3 studio lights (on battery packs), softboxes, and at the time, I didn't see a need to shut my camera case with all my gear in it before those bastiches came flying in with their monster truck. And then they took off. Dusty gear and dusty models. At the end of the day, I was just glad they didn't run over anyone. The point is, your camera needs to be able to stand up to unpredictable situations, accidents, and unforeseeable circumstances. 

Size Matters! This is what I've found. The bigger the camera, the less you shoot with it. Chances are, if you're not making money doing this, you'll keep that big camera on the shelf as something nice to look at, if you start out with a large, heavy system. You'll opt to using your cell phone more times than you would think, especially if you have a really nice phone. For damn, sure look at mirrorless cameras. No need to go DSLR and lose out on all those advantages. Pretty much all camera manufacturers, except for Pentax are leaving the DSLR in the dust. It had a beautiful run, but now it's watch has ended.

Art Model, Viki Vegas

Other than cameras and lenses, consider these other accessories. Tripod! Just friggin' get one. Not a cheap flimsy one, otherwise what's the point! Get a cable release to actuate the camera without you having to push the button. Have a comfortable neck-strap. Don't get sold on anything gaudy, I mean... come on. All you're trying to do is take the pressure off your neck. Invest in a good, convenient bag. Shoulder bag, backpack, or sling bag... depending on how much gear you'll have with you. And that doesn't just mean camera stuff. Gonna be out all day? Pack a lunch. Bring water. Have some drybags in case it rains. Purchase extra batteries and storage media, probably more than you think you'll need.

Check out more from my previous post about cameras here: => "Getting into Photo, Part 1: The Camera"

So yeah... think about these things when you're ready to get a camera system. Personally, I'm still a Sony guy. And I still like Fujifilm cameras. If you can spend on a decent system, a Sony a6500 with your choice lens selection, will likely fill all your needs. A Fujifilm X-T2 or newer will likely do the same. I had a Fujifilm XE-2 and I can't speak enough how amazing that camera is. It was repeatedly submerged in the Pacific on my back, cuz I almost drowned, and the camera came back after sitting in some rice for a week. Amazing pics with that thing. 

Study up. You have no shortage of options. 

Art Model, Viki Vegas