Thursday, August 1, 2013

A different approach

Conventional wisdom says the best portrait lens is something around 85mm (on a 35mm camera) but, like all rules, this one is meant to be broken. Shortly after I started working for a newspaper in northwest Florida, I also had several opportunities to assist a local fashion photographer named Michael Belk. I had first met Michael through one of his workshops and he gave me the opportunity to work with him on several occasions. While I got to assist on some of his fashion gigs, I also helped him with a few portrait sessions. Michael was using medium format equipment for his fashion work but for the intimate family portrait sessions he usually brought out a Leica rangefinder as his weapon of choice. I really don't remember what focal length lens he used but it was probably either a 50mm or 35mm. This allowed Michael to not only be a little closer but to add some of the surroundings into his portraits. Toss in the fact that Michael has this welcoming personality that relaxes just about the most jaded person in the world. I saw him work with children as well as adults and his ability to capture the essence of a person was amazing. No pretense for this guy. He brought out the true personality of his subjects.
It is that approach that I see I will need to take in my shooting from now on. With the change in my equipment, I can no longer stand at a distance and zooooooom in on someone. I have to get up close and personal on occasion to get the shot. This shot I chose for this entry is one of my first attempts to get a decent portrait using my new Fuji. Since it has only a 35mm fixed focal length, the need to be a little closer was necessary. For this portrait, I was fortunate. The subject is one of my granddaughters. Since there is a relationship already, it is easier for me to close the distance. And easier for her to relax and drop any pretensions. I really like this image of Sami and I hope to get many more of her and the rest of my grandchildren on my X100S journey.


And, as always, make a comment!! Let me know what you think! Until next time, keep on shooting.....

7 comments:

  1. Nice portrait Richard. I am finding it fascinating to follow your journey from the world of Nikon into Fuji. It must be quite a cultural shift.

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  2. Absolutely, David! After decades with a primary focus of shooting for publication, this is a turning point in my photographic life. Spending a decade shooting for a small weekly newspaper was so much different. The need for a variety of lenses, at least two camera bodies, etc., was fun and challenging. Now to be back to my roots of a single camera (but I have a X-E1 w/35mm 1.4 on the way), it is a challenge to try and develop my "shooting eye". Now, without a zoom lens, I have to move again. Hopefully, I will be up to the challenge.

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  4. Richard, talking of challenges with a different camera, this afternoon I bought an old Weston Master II light meter on eBay (cost me £3.20!) with a view to dusting off my old Zenith B from the loft and running a roll of black and white film through it. My Zenith B last saw the light of day about 30 years ago. It was my first ever SLR camera which I bought second-hand when I was 14 years old. Even in those days it was pretty basic, but all I could afford with my pocket money at the time! It has no form of metering on it at all and after manually focussing at full aperture you have to remember to turn a ring to stop down the lens to the required aperture before pressing the shutter release! I stopped using it when the separate light meter stopped working - but not before it had taught me a lot about the basics of photography.

    I came across it in the loft the other day and thought it might be fun to run a roll of film through it again - it will be a very different experience to my usual Canon DSLR!

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  5. What a trip down memory lane this should be, David! I still run a roll of Tri-X through my dad's Yashica Electro35 GS. He bought it in England in the early 1970's while visiting my sister and her husband (that's another story!). This old fixed lens rangefinder has been as much help in getting my "shooting eye" back to some semblance of normal as anything. There is just something about having a finite number of shots that gets one to slow down and try to make each one count. Are you going to do your own processing?!?

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  6. You are right, there is something about that finite number of 24 or 36 shots instead of an infinite number of digital shots, that slows you down and makes you think. Alas, I won't be doing my own processing - although I did all my own darkroom stuff many years ago. I don't have any of the equipment any more - and it's too easy to send the exposed film off to a company that will process it and put it on a CD for you. Do you still do your own processing?

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  7. Yes, I do. I have a changing bag and a Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 for scanning. Since I don't shoot a lot of film, I have gone from using D-76 developer to HC110 because it comes in liquid form. I usually wait until I have 6-8 rolls to do then spend the day processing. I still get a thrill when I open the can and first look at the film! For printing, I have taken a Epson R2400 and, using Jon Cone's Piezography System, converted it to a b&w printer and use a QuadToneRIP that works to my satisfaction. I, too, got rid of my enlarger long ago but kept my film cans to do developing. Added in a changing bag and I am good to go!

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