There is a lot to be said for building from a foundation of strength and knowledge (and using a reflector to lighten deep shadows and balance you exposure without resorting to HDR). It can be tricky to get exposure right on something this contrasty so using manual mode is a must.

Same image without the reflector just exposed for the highlights. I actually don’t mind this as there is still a hint of detail in the shadow and the diagonal line from the middle to bottom left is stronger but all that black makes it look top heavy to me. I could work if the image was square though.

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Not sure who said it originally but the skills that make a good photographer require regular exercise, not just to maintain them but for any extension of ability. Ultimately it gives you creative choices and control.


Old glass

Old glass

Continuing with the theme of putting odd vintage lenses onto modern digital cameras this week I took the screw mount 50mm prime from off an old Praktica SX SLR  sitting on my shelf, gave it a clean and tried it out.

The results were what I would expect with sharpness and contrast being particularly noticeable. The softness is not necessarily a bad thing unless you want high fidelity. In hindsight should have taken a newer lens with me and repeated the images for comparison but the weather just closed back in.

Older lenses are far more compact compared to their all singing, all dancing autofocus cousins but they are more tricky to fine focus unless you do so with the aperture open at 2.8. I can see the attraction for digital natives that never really used film or manual focus cameras. Having grown up with that technology I found this more nostalgic than novel.

Rolling dice and cheating.

Rolling dice and cheating.

Oddly enough I don’t gamble very much. It has never appealed to me as a way to spend my time.

When I saw the dice in this month’s themes I initially thought of a “high roller” theme for a portrait but without the means to make that happen, I went for something that would let me play around.

The setup was very basic. A card table, small flash connected by cable with a small soft-box attached, larger white reflector a camera on a tripod and some dice. The process is equally basic.

  • Set the camera to manual exposure and focus to around your arm’s length.
  • If your camera and flash supports slow sync or rear-curtain sync flash* then set that. (If it doesn’t you may still be able to get a similar effect but it will be a harder).
  • Compose the image so the dice appear roughly at the size you want them to be.
  • Take a test shot of the dice to get the exposure roughly right.

Once that is sorted hold the dice just out of frame with one hand and then drop them into it. Timing when to press the shutter button is the tricky bit unless you have some kind of automatic trigger. Press too soon or too late and you will have nothing in the frame.

Here are some of the images I made showing a range of effects.

*If you never used rear curtain sync flash before, here is a good  explanation courtesy of the Digital Photography School . Basically you are delaying  the flash from going off until near the end of your exposure. If you have a moving subject you can get interesting effects by pairing rear shutter sync with longer exposures so the available light and flash are both recorded. The end result is a blurred and a sharp image of the subject in the same frame.   You could use this technique to record things like a nail being hammered into some wood, or a football being kicked. It can work indoors or out.

I did mention cheating in the title and what you would not immediately notice is the size of the dice I used. They are huge in comparison to normal dice and give the illusion that I was working much closer than I actually was. You could still use normal dice but I found these were easier to work with.