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  1. #1

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    Turns out I don't know how to use the viewfinder?

    Good morning! By way of introduction, I'm back to photography after a good while. I learned darkroom mechanics when I was younger and took slides for art back in the day, but now I'm pursuing street type photography to shake up my aesthetics and hopefully get some pretty images made. So basically, I'm happy to count myself as a rank amature and ask extremely stupid questions!
    So anyway, a couple rolls now I've got shots which I clearly remember composing, and am really looking forward to printing, but when I hang up the film I look for them, then that's not what I shot! My subject is there but not in the way I put it together. I know that I can fix this by cropping in the darkroom, but composing in camera is like one of those basic skills I need...
    i can think of a few reasons I'm messing these up and was hoping for some tips.
    1. Haste, shooting in public is still fairly new to me and I'm getting tunnel vision on my subject maybe?
    2. Glasses, I wear them and they do set my eye back enough that I'm not getting things framed perfectly?
    3. To borrow from another shooting activity... Jerking the trigger? Again in my haste am I not paying enough attention to sight picture and release and pulling the camera?
    This is happening on both my slr and my rangefinder (don't worry, both film! I've never owned a legit digital camera) so I cant blame it on parallax.
    Practice I know will be the biggie, but with the delayed gratification between exposure and dev, it's hard to reinforce those skills, so tips would be greatly appreciated!

  2. #2
    Europan's Avatar
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    Youíre giving half of the answers yourself

    or

    The answer lies in the question, sometimes:

    Why haste?
    Right, be yourself, give yourself all the time there is. Adjust your sight through the finder by either screwing a lens to the eyepiece if feasible and then no glasses or by turning the camera downside up for better glass-finder contact. Why cram your nose on the housing?

    And yes, slowly increase pressure on the release button, just slowly and constantly until the apparatus comes to decide itís time to fire.

    Third hint from me is―I know you donít like that―use a tripod. Take a solid tripod with you. Photography has to do with time. To have no time and haste around leads nowhere. 2013 will never come back again. Take a slice of time out of this year, carefully. It will show!

  3. #3

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    All good advice. I will add that beyond developing good camera skills be patient and learn to anticipate your subjects next move, hang around the location so that you blend in and don't expect every frame to be a winner. Study the work of noted street photographers but develop your own vision.

    http://www.jeffreyglasser.com/

  4. #4
    Hatchetman's Avatar
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    I guess awareness is the first step. Honestly I have a hell of a time composing on the fly. I get tunnel vision, cannot see the periphery, even the most obvious things. My subject winds up centered too, even if I'm trying not to do that. Manual focus helps to a degree. I get that variable taken care of ahead of time. One less thing to worry about.

  5. #5
    flash26c's Avatar
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    Shoot wide open to isolate subject from backround - faster shutter speed will freeze your subject - good practice for focusing skills

  6. #6

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    For situations where focusing on the fly will be difficult consider using a wide angle lens stopped down and set at it's hyper-focal distance. Most manual focus lenses have a scale so you can see what generally is in focus at a particular f-stop. For example, a 28 or 35mm lens @f22 with the focus set at 12ft might have everything from say 5ft to infinity in decent focus or you can estimate the distance you will be from your subject and preset that but still stop down as much as possible. That way you can concentrate on your composition and not the camera.

  7. #7

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    Flatteringly excellent advice from all, and thank you. The big picture is that I need to take the lumps and pay the dues associated with a new medium.
    On the technical end of things, I'm limiting myself to a normal lenses for now, so that I can actually get some pitures made between the pull I feel toward long lens head and shoulders shots and the what seems to me the alien-ness of composing wide angle. Daylight and camera choice is keeping my stops small, but when I can I play with shallow depth of field. That aspect of composition will hopefully come more in time. I do need to also look at modifying the tools to work with my face, haha.
    Haste, patience, intuition and tripods... All these open the can of worms for me, I was educated in studio painting and hit a wall with it. I'd always admired several public photographers and so am chasing their work. Hauling a tripod down to piedmont park kind of terrifies me, the studio rat in me wants to go unnoticed, for fear of disturbing a moment that I cannot create. The uniqueness of each passing second in 2013 (or 500th of a second) makes me want to speed up and grab it but those who pointed it out are right that without care, then that's not giving the moment it's due. I'm used to building a picture, so going out with and realizing that there are already pictures there for me to do service to is exciting. I do need to slow down, take care of the exposure control I can up front and make the mistakes so I can learn from them.
    thanks, all, again
    Also, I'm trying not to think myself into inaction again :P
    Last edited by Lauris; 05-09-2013 at 11:10 AM. Click to view previous post history.

  8. #8
    Sirius Glass's Avatar
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    By the way, welcome to APUG.
    Warning!! Handling a Hasselblad can be harmful to your financial well being!

    Nothing beats a great piece of glass!

    I leave the digital work for the urologists and proctologists.

  9. #9
    Dr Croubie's Avatar
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    Technically-speaking, there could be a problem, which SLR do you have? Be wary that the cheaper ends of the scale (at least, what was the cheapest ends when they were new), the viewfinder will show less than you get on film, some as low as 80%. Not a problem per se, you get more on film than you framed, but it means you have to crop in the darkroom. The better ones (when new) will have bigger viewfinders, my EOS 3 (once the second-best they everr made) has something like 97-99% visible, the 1/1n/1V I think all have 100% viewfinders.

    Ditto that with Rangefinders, some brands set the frame lines to be correct at infinity, some at 10'/3m, some deliberately crop tighter so you get more on the film than what you think when you click the shutter (at least it's better than getting less).

    There could also be a problem with shutter-lag, the time from when you press to the time the photo gets exposed. Again, the more expensive the SLR, the better (as a general rule). Canon's latest flagship digital which shall remain unnamed, it takes 55ms, down to 36ms with some special functions. EOS 3 also has 55ms according to an unquoted guy on a forum i just googled. Cheaper SLRs are probably slower. Some leaf-shutter rangefinders are probably faster. My MF SLRs are damn slow, I saw a smiling person when i clicked the shutter, when I developed the film I got a stupid expression with half-closed eyes. Digital P&Ss that autofocus each time can take 3 seconds sometimes (hence I don't use them).


    Also, there may just be a metaphysical problem, in that you said you were a painter. Maybe you're still looking through "painter's eyes", you're seeing the world how you want to paint it, not how it will appear on film. You need to learn how to see through photographer's eyes. And the best advice I can give on that is practise practise and practise.
    An awful lot of electrons were terribly inconvenienced in the making of this post.

  10. #10

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    Sirius, thanks!
    Dr C, I'm almost embarrassed to name the cameras here where you guys have the good equipment, but the spotmatic I've had forever and is in who know what repair, it was for slides back in the day. The rangefinder is a retina iia which is just delightful to hold, in known good shape and replaced a broken canonet. Neither viewfinder, I'll admit, is optimal, but I was more inclined to chalk it up to user error and upgrade when I have the skills to push the equipment. (if you really want to give me a reason to hunt down a contax, though...)
    The metaphysical advice applies regardless, thank god it's fun!

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