TechTalk

A collection of technical notes about my photographic gear and general technique.

Equipment Reviews

See the equipment reviews page for some reviews of the Sinar A1, Pentax 6x7, and Mamiya 6 cameras.

Genres

I mainly shoot (in no particular order of significance):

I do very little work with flash or artificial lighting. I've never done a conventional wedding (and never will if the happy couple knows what's best for them). I don't do much glamour work, either -- I have the distressing tendency to make people look interesting, which is rarely what the client wants...

Quite a lot of my shots are done in circumstances where I am either blatently trespassing on private property or I'm in the less-safe parts of town. I guess I've learnt to cope with this by being able to setup and take a shot with the 4x5 in a minute or two, at least with some forethought; the 6x7 with the tripod takes only seconds. These shots, of course, are always the ones where you need the 4x5 rather than the 35mm....

Formats

I shoot in (and own cameras for) digital, 35mm, medium format, and 4x5. In medium format I use a mixture of 6x6 and 6x7. I have reviewed the medium and large format cameras in detail elsewhere.

The way I tend to use the different formats and cameras is something like this:

Films

I swear by the following films (purists will probably throw up their arms in horror!):

I use Readyloads (or the Fuji Quickload equivalent) whenever I can in 4x5 -- the price increase is easily outweighed by the cleaner negs.

Note that I use colour negative (C-41) film (rather than transparency / slide film) more than most photographers in my situation would. This is mostly because 1) most of my work is printing -- I do very few transparencies for final use; 2) I believe I can get more accurate and / or "pleasing" (not often the same thing as "accurate") colours with C-41 films; and, 3) with digital scanning and storage, longevity is less a big issue (but we'll all have to cope with the endless new media cycle...). Since I also do much of my work in harsh lighting (desert or mountain sunlight, for example), colour negatives are generally a much better choice for me.

Darkroom

I have a darkroom set up in my house. It's not ideal, but it's good enough to be able to develop my own films and print and colour prints at sizes of up to 16x20.

I use an Omega D5 4x5 colour head. The Omega seems to be hell to keep properly aligned; since I use all three formats on it at a time, it's even harder trying to re-align it for different formats.

I'm not (yet) a Zone System devotee, so I usually just follow the film manufacturers' directions when developing film. I guess I'm not really obsessed enough with technique.

I print black and white, colour negatives (RA-4), and transparencies (Cibachrome). I'm not a particularly good printer, and if I had the money, I'd pay someone else to do it for me (as long as they followed my directions). Digital is another matter....

Digital

Most of my image manipulation and editing is done using Adobe Photoshop on a battered old Macintosh G4. I also use a bunch of third party filters (in conjunction with the standard Photoshop filters, of course). Nothing special here.

I use Robyn Color in San Francisco for drum scans, and do the rest myself on a Umax flatbed. I use the Umax for things that don't need the much better quality of the drum scan (it costs at least $50 per scan on the drum...); images intended for publication (rather than viewing on the web) are nearly always done using the drum. Most of the Web images were scanned using the Umax from pre-existing prints.

I've also used Kodak's Photo CD (Pro and Consumer versions) for Web work. I used to recommend the consumer version for cheap (US $1 or $2 per image), relatively-high quality images for Web and other uses where image quality doesn't have to be quite as good as can be got from drum scans, but lately I think it might be easier to do your own. I've reviewed the Pro version elsewhere -- I also recommend this for similar uses, albeit at a higher price (but then maybe a good Nikon 8000 MF scanner makes more sense nowadays...). Many of the newer images in Pandemonia are derived from Photo CD.

Video

Starting in 2001, I've also been doing a lot of digital video (DV) work using Final Cut Pro on a Mac and a nice Sony VX2000. The results are way too large to be put up on Pandemonia, but I'm working on another web site for these.


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