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  1. #1

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    My first job, shooting film...

    I'm currently doing some photography for a charity which involves portraits, on the fly, in quite difficult situations - technically, but also sensitive subject matter. Almost without question, I decided to use the Pentax 67. I started out with a roll of Delta 400, but since they're more interested in colour images, I'm now using Portra 400 exclusively for the rest of the work.

    The deeper I get into it, the more uncertain I feel about my film decision. When I first mentioned it to the development manager of the charity, surprisingly, there wasn't any issue - I sort of made believe it was nothing. The fact of the matter is, since I've sold my DSLR lenses for financial reasons, I don't have much choice but to shoot on the Pentax. So this isn't actually a statement or crusade for film - it's somehow become the only practicality. The fact is that the work is dealing with a very timely issue in the UK, and the true value of the images might well be as historical documents, even if they're not used. Physical, archived photographs feel important for that reason. Someone has to think about the future... Now I sound like I'm crusading.

    The nature of the work means all the shots are handheld. Did I mention I'm using the Pentax 67? A few subjects have become restless while I meter and focus. I'm usually only getting one frame per person for this reason, unless I'm taking candids - which is a little questionable under the circumstances, where consent is important.

    But anyway, it's difficult for me to gauge whether my trepidation is purely about this being my first job (which is also politically sensitive) or the fact that I'm 'doing it tough' in the technical sense. I'm not really under any pressure however and as yet, haven't been given any time limit - except a mention that their last photographer worked for about a month. To get it done within this time frame seems reasonable. The biggest hurdle, as with anything, is being very up front with people and engaging them in the photograph. Then it's just about focusing efficiently with the Pentax!

    So ultimately, these are the things I'm struggling with. Firstly, I keep thinking "stop being so stubborn and just rent a couple of DSLR lenses" and go hard at it, problem free. My relative freedom with the work though means I have the opportunity to tackle my hiccups with the 67, but I suppose the hard truth is I'm not using the right camera for the job - by conventional standards at least. I'm also still unsure about how I'll present the final images within my financial means - whether I get them drum scanned in the city I'm working, hoping to get discount by telling them it's for an important cause. To 'befriend a drum scanner' has always been on my to do list and this situation has made it more vital than ever. I know this is a controversial area on APUG, but it's part of my reality here - shooting film for someone other than myself.

    For illustration, here's one of my first shots from that Delta roll:

    Click image for larger version. 

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    'Cows are very fond of being photographed, and, unlike architecture, don't move.' - Oscar Wilde

  2. #2
    markbarendt's Avatar
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    Looking at the shot you provided I'd say you are off to a decent start.

    When working with my RB in situations like that I really like using an incident meter and monopod (or a tripod spread really narrow).

    One click and I can set the lens, no guessing or math in my head. When I walk back to the camera position I can count steps and use the scale on the bellows extension to get focus close then a quick fine adjustment to focus with the finder and I'm ready to shoot. I assume the Pentax has a distance focus scale too.

    The real trick though is to have practiced your routine well enough that you can carry on a normal conversation about your subjects work, their day, and the weather with them while you are setting up.
    Mark Barendt, Ignacio, CO

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin

  3. #3

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    You didn't say what the charity plans to do with the images. If they plan to use them in newsletter type publications or in web pages, I think you aren't using the right tool for the job (it's overkill). If they plan to make and display enlargements (greater than, say, 8x10), then you are. But if a P67 is what you have, then that's what you use. You may find that your images have value beyond what the charity wants/needs.

    FWIW, back when I was doing informal portraits for a music association, I started with a tripod but then decided not to use it. It had an effect on the subject that inhibited them a bit. Maybe if I was better at it, I could have overcome that. But I sense that in your situation, you don't want the subjects feeling the photo is "too big a deal".

    An incident meter is handy in that you can measure the light without intruding on the subject (assuming the interior is relatively evenly lit). But you do have to consider the effects of artificial existing light on color images.

    BTW, do you really need to go as far as drum scans? Would good quality flat bed scans serve their purpose?
    "Far more critical than what we know or do not know is what we do not want to know." - Eric Hoffer

  4. #4
    MattKing's Avatar
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    I assume that there is an end product that you have agreed to provide. If you have agreed to supply 30 x 40 enlargements, the P67 is an excellent choice, but you will either have to have someone do custom optical enlargements, or consider either drum scans or something of near quality (Imacon?).

    If you are expected to supply prints that are somewhat smaller, either machine optical enlargements will suffice (if you have a source) or scans of more moderate cost will do fine.

    If the expectation is to provide small prints or web suitable digital images, then inexpensive scans should be fine (if done well).

    You can always have negatives re-scanned later at high resolution if a few larger enlargements are needed.

    Around here, labs will provide medium resolution scans from 6x7 sufficient for 11 x 14 prints for about $20.00 per roll (at time of processing).
    Matt

    “Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”

    Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2

  5. #5
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    You may find for the subjects involved (and am not quite sure what they are), that black & white will provide a much stronger impact for what you are trying to achieve than colour.

    “The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention”

    Francis Bacon

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by mgb74 View Post
    You didn't say what the charity plans to do with the images. If they plan to use them in newsletter type publications or in web pages, I think you aren't using the right tool for the job (it's overkill). If they plan to make and display enlargements (greater than, say, 8x10), then you are. But if a P67 is what you have, then that's what you use. You may find that your images have value beyond what the charity wants/needs.

    FWIW, back when I was doing informal portraits for a music association, I started with a tripod but then decided not to use it. It had an effect on the subject that inhibited them a bit. Maybe if I was better at it, I could have overcome that. But I sense that in your situation, you don't want the subjects feeling the photo is "too big a deal".

    An incident meter is handy in that you can measure the light without intruding on the subject (assuming the interior is relatively evenly lit). But you do have to consider the effects of artificial existing light on color images.

    BTW, do you really need to go as far as drum scans? Would good quality flat bed scans serve their purpose?
    Thanks for raising that point about overkill, especially with colour. The images will be used for information packs and most likely online. Maybe flatbed scans would offset the issue of the images being too 'rich'.
    And yes, a tripod would be out of the question of course, for being too intrusive. The key really is to avoid any kind of formal embellishments, which inevitably come with using a tripod.

    I'm using a metered prism with the Pentax. Thankfully the latitude of Portra means I only really have to meter once outdoors, in daylight. The trouble will come with the night shots next week, where I will have to push, and this is where flatbed scans probably won't cut it.
    'Cows are very fond of being photographed, and, unlike architecture, don't move.' - Oscar Wilde

  7. #7

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    The only thing that scares me about shoots like this are the people themselves. They move, they blink, their tongues come out, they roll their eyes, they smile weird for a fraction of a second and there's not a thing you can do about it. So shooting only one frame would give me an impending sense of doom. I just did a shoot where this happened for several frames, it was uncanny. I've begun using a digital back-up for this reason only on shots that have to exist when I'm done. I'm up-front with the client about it too.

  8. #8

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    Personally, I think you are using the wrong tool for the job. The subjects do not care if you shoot film or digital. Maybe to other film users it is impressive. To someone who knows nothing about film, they don't care. They just want some photos of themselves taken. What you should have done is to rent a cheap DSLR like the 40D and some mid price zoom lens like the Sigma or Tamron 24-70 range. And also bring your Pentax with you. You would shoot both film and digital. Then, later, you can decide what you want to use. If the clients want color, you give them color. You don't explain to them why BW is better. You can shoot BW in addition to color.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by batwister View Post
    And yes, a tripod would be out of the question of course, for being too intrusive. The key really is to avoid any kind of formal embellishments, which inevitably come with using a tripod.

    I'm using a metered prism with the Pentax. Thankfully the latitude of Portra means I only really have to meter once outdoors, in daylight. The trouble will come with the night shots next week, where I will have to push, and this is where flatbed scans probably won't cut it.
    So, did they actually tell you explicitly no tripods/monopods?

    I ask for two reasons. 1- When I'm doing paid asignment work with ANY type or size of camera, I use a support wherever physically possible, even in bright sunny situations. This makes a huge difference in the quality of the shots I can get. 2- You have a night shoot coming next week, the darker it gets the more support (and artificial light) is needed.

    As to your night shots posing an issue for post process; only if you scrimp on exposure.
    Mark Barendt, Ignacio, CO

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin

  10. #10

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    Oh, about your shot example? Yeah, I think you nailed the exposure and the tonality looks good. HOWEVER, the composition is bad. Your vertical line is not straightened. Two, too much space above the head. Third, the man's elbow has been cut off.

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