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cameratastic

23/365 4/52
23/365 by Tim Caynes

as part of the 365/366/52 projects I’m currently doing on flickr I’m understanding the benefits of having a huge mirror in the hall. I mean, I’ve got a tripod and a wireless remote shutter release for my sony alpha so I don’t have to do the 10 second dash anymore which I used to do all the time when I just had my little sony but even with the remote there’s times when you really want to see what you’re doing when you’re doing it and you’re part of it when you’re in it. the A300 has live view which is great for composition, especially for self portraits, but even though it flips up and down all the way it doesn’t actually flip around corners so you can never actually see yourself when you’re composing unless you can see the live view screen in a mirror, or you’re in a mirror and you’re looking at the live view or your eyes go round corners.

which is how this picture came about. I was originally inspired to do a photo that included as much live image capture technology as possible by another flickr user who I sadly can’t find anymore but they had managed 2 cameras and an iphone all showing the subject and I thought it was a rather nice idea and lord knows you’re always looking for inspiration doing self portraits and as I’d recently done a spiffy self portrait in the large hall mirror that turned out pretty well I knew I could make something like it work. I’ve got an ercol sideboard full of cameras that I inherited from my dad last year and various bits of polaroid, cine, super 8 and brownie stuff so there was plenty of hardware but I really needed to have live view video-type monitors going on to have everything showing everything else in a cleverly ironic post-modern self-referential self-deprecating smug blank art student trend-follower meme-victim kind of way. the only things that would enable that were the sony alpha, my little sony, and my nokia n80 which I didn’t need to give the make and model number of I could have just said mobile phone so I took them all down to the hall mirror, got the alpha on the tripod, stood back, stopped for a minute and then decided this was all rather stupid and I should really get back to writing a user interaction specification for a download widget. and get a coffee. and a bourbon. or three.

when I got back to it I knew straight away that I only have 2 hands and so I would need somehow to arrange everything in a way that it appeared in the photo without me having to hold everything or it crashing to death by laminate floor. as it happens I have a gorillapod for my little sony so I used that to strap it to the sony on the tripod. so that was working ok – look! there’s me in the screen on my little camera in the mirror on the screen of my big camera! excellent! etc. next thing to do was also get my phone into the composition but I didn’t have anyway of strapping it to anything without disturbing the already precarious 2-camera tripod gorillapod art installation thing, so I tried a few test shots just holding the phone and using the secondary camera yes my phone has 2 cameras that must be useful for somebody but the results weren’t that great because taking photos of bright lcd screens is always a bit rubbish and the screen on my phone is pretty brash. mobile phone is out. boo. I’ve only got 2 cameras in the photo. I demand more cameras!

did I say polaroid? a polaroid has live view, right? I mean, you press the button and you can instantly view the results after shaking it like a polaroid picture of course. go get that from the ercol. tried the composition you see here and I thought it looked pretty good and I tried a few more tests with desk lamps strewn around the place to get some highlight going on the shiny hardware (I like how the lens turned out) and I was ready to take the final shot. I just needed to decide whether it was worth taking a couple of polaroids as part of the final shot to get the full-on live view action going. of course it was. I mean, it’s an expensive throwaway, but I don’t use the polaroid enough – its a 636 – and so you might as well just take photos for the hell of it, sorry, the art of it.

I did have a few shots where the photo is popping out of the polaroid on the small screen in the mirror on the large screen but there was a bit of blur going on and they weren’t quite right. I also left the photo hanging out of the polaroid for a while so it developed and you could see the polaroid photo in my little sony on the sony alpha, but it didn’t look quite as good as I would have liked. eventually I got the shot you see here. of course, eventually I got about 327 shots and didn’t know this was the one I would actually use until I’d gone through the whole upload and review process and even then there were about 5 I could have used.

so I’m done then. well, apart from post-processing the life out of it, natually. spending the time on the composition and capture is only really half the story. like boristheblade says, taking the photo is part of the creative process but certainly not all of it, its more ‘a stepping stone to some final product that appeals to me’. I’m not going into all the post-processing details, as it’s very similar to what I did here but if you really want to see exactly what I did in photoshop, its in the saved history in the EXIF data on the photo on flickr, which I notice they don’t strip out like they used to. You’d have to be insane, but you could. NOTE: they did strip it out again.

strike it lucky

beaulieu-sur-dordogne 3
beaulieu-sur-dordogne 3 by Tim Caynes

sometimes you do just strike it lucky. mostly on vacation I’m hawking around my little sony trying not to spend too much time composing perfectly or getting some marvellous depth of field while the rest of the family are walking round the next corner already tutting to themselves and telling me to just take it in rather than seeing everything through a lens. in actual fact, it’s almost impossible to compose perfectly or get any depth of field action with the little sony, especially on a nice sunny day when you can’t actually see anything on the LCD anyway and you’re largely guessing what might come out. for some inexplicable reason also, whatever the aperture the camera decides I should use (in semi-auto mode), the depth of field on landscapes always seems to be pretty much infinite. really, the little cameras are marvels. I’ve yet to recreate what they do with an SLR.

so when something does come out that’s really quite good, I take my hat off to the camera for doing all the work for me. mostly I might spend hours correcting stuff I don’t like or stylising in photoshop so that when I post it to flickr it doesn’t bear much comparison to what came off the memory stick, but occaionally I might just crop some annoying intrusion out, lift the colours, and that’s it. and that’s what happened with this shot of the chapel reflected on the river at beaulieu-sur-dordogne a couple of years ago. I took a little while to position myself precariously over the water in a comedy tourist style, of course, but other than that, it was just a hopeful snap. I didn’t even notice the clarity of the reflection at the time. it was only when I reviewed the hundreds of snaps a couple of weeks later that this one jumped out.

coincidentally, this is well inside the top ten of my all-time most interesting photos on flickr, but it’s not really about how nice or eye-catching it is. the main reason that it gets consistently high viewing figures is that it gets a huge number of referrals from google – over twice as many as from flickr directly. that’s all down to the rather dull title and tag scheme that I’ve used since I started using flickr over 4 years ago. I pretty much just tell it like it is with the titles, like ‘beaulieu-sur-dordorge 3’, which, unsurprisingly, is the third in a series which includes ‘beaulieu-sur-dordogne 1‘ and ‘beaulieu-sur-dordogne 2‘, but I also always include the place name in the photo tags, including town, region and country, and mostly always geotag everything. it’s that no-nonsense, repetitive labelling that seems to appeal to google, and so even though I could title this photo something like ‘refection on the water’ or ‘my holiday in france was rather nice thanks’ or ‘stillness is the sanctuary I seek from the trauma of existence’ or ‘not a kitten’ or something I’ll probably stick to my rather dull convention. because I rather like the traffic. shameless.

my little Sony


after a considerable time monkeying around with manual SLRs, 35mm, APS, polaroids and other format film cameras I did what I usually do when I’m investing in new technology and spent about a year thinking about it, after which I spent about a year researching and reviewing it, by which time every decision I had made was obsolete, and so ended up in Dixons in Heathrow Airport on my way to California to make up globalization strategies and decided that right here, right now, is where I should fork out for a digital camera.

And fork out I did. I already knew that I would end up buying a Sony, following a long history with using their products without a hitch, and so I’d narrowed my choice down to about, well, 1 camera. It was the very spanky Sony Cybershot DSC-W1 which ticked all the right boxes for me, even though I didn’t know what all the boxes meant yet. As I approached the counter without my glasses on, I had no idea whether they had one and as I tripped over a wheelie suitcase belonging to a well-dressed Belgian I was losing the urge to part with wads of cash, but on closer inspection, dodging the attention of the staff, I saw it on the shelf, trying to peer out from between the Casios and Fujis and Canons.

“I want the Sony W1. Can I have one please?”. “Are you sure sir?”. “What do you mean, am I sure? I’ve spent a year being sure about it and now I just want to buy the damn thing”. “We’ve got the new Finepix”. “What?”. “The Finepix sir. And the new Ixus”. “Sony. W1. I want the Sony W1”. “Are you sure sir?”. “YES I’M SURE. GIVE IT“. “Ok sir, that’s two hundred and forty-nine pounds please”.

“What?”

Now then of course, 4 years later I can now buy my Sony Alpha 300 for about that much money, but at the time, it was worth it and for the next 3 and a half years it was the only camera I ever needed. My little Sony. And I still use it in a number of circumstances where a DSLR just isn’t right. Like when you want to stick a camera in people’s faces and run away quickly. Or you might be on the beach. Or you cant be bothered to carry a bag full of kit around. It was the best 249 quid I’d ever spent and it got me on the path to digital photography. No, hang on. I had a Sharp GX10 phone before the camera. I suppose that was my first digital camera, but if that poxy piece of hand-hardware qualifies as digital camera equipment then I’m a middle-aged fat balding old misery.

oh.

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