What’s Up With The Return Of Those Old 1970s Film Cameras?   

1970 Film cameras


When I wrote about this year’s Vancouver Swap in April I mentioned that I always go to the event wondering what the latest trends will be, or what is popular with the photographers that attend.

I didn’t discuss it in that article, but, this year those photo enthusiasts that turned up surprised me when they all but ignored the modern digital equipment sellers were displaying, and, instead seemed mostly interested in older 1970s manual cameras and lenses.

I commented about that this week to a photographer who came in to pick up an old Canon FTB camera she had left for light seal replacement. She had dropped it off a couple weeks ago saying it had been given to her. She also brought in an old cloth camera bag and pulled out three old Canon lenses she got with the camera and asking me my opinion.

Other than the 50mm that was mounted on the camera, there was a 28mm, a 135mm and a 200mm. All were Canon brand and, although very dirty from the dissolving foam inside the bag, very great lenses.

I remembered the time period, before zoom lenses, or automatic exposure, when cameras that actually had light meters like that old FTb were the pinnacle of technology. The original owner had chosen the most popular lenses of the day. And now a new owner was planning on putting the 45-year-old film camera and lenses to use again.

It’s been about 16 years since digital single-lens-reflex cameras became affordable and capable of making images equal to, and now surpassing, film cameras.

The photographer I talked to in my shop as well as those I met at the swap meet all owned modern DSLRs. I suppose there is a sense of nostalgia in holding and shooting those shiny, old metal cameras.

The local high schools whereabouts I live have photography programs where students use film cameras and learn to process and print photographs. I don’t know if the same happens in Vancouver where the swap meet was held. Nevertheless, those old film cameras are certainly popular.

There are many of us old enough to have used and even to have made a living with cameras during the 1970s who don’t for a moment regret the change in technology from film to digital. I sometimes wonder how we survived with that inefficient, cumbersome technology from a time period my friend Alex refers to as, “the days of click and pray”.

Digital cameras are a great way to learn photography, with instant reinforcement and no cost unless one wants to make prints; whereas, with film there is the initial cost of film, the cost to process, and the cost to print; however, one can easily and economically scan and download the image file to a computer. And unlike the cost of a DSLR those old cameras have become very inexpensive. That photographer’s whole kit, camera and three lenses here in BC should cost well under a hundred dollars.

I don’t know if it’s the nostalgia, or the low price, that has brought a return of popularity to those old film cameras. Even though I personally wouldn’t want to return to film I do remember how nice it was to hold those old cameras (there is a 1948 Olympus sitting on a shelf in my store that I keep eyeing) that were made by engineers instead of technicians and I will grudgingly admit there is something wonderfully tactile in the quality of an image captured on film.









Photographing the Annual Pritchard, British Columbia Rodeo  


There are always lots of photographers crowded against the fence to capture the action

There are always lots of photographers crowded against the fence to capture the action

Bronco 4

Barrel rider 1

Barrel Rider 2

Bronco 1
Bronco 2

Bronco 5

Bronco 6

Bull rider 1

Bull Rider 2

Another of my favourite events has come and gone.  Along with the sunny warmth of summer, I always look forward to spending a fun, action-packed afternoon of photographing the events at The Prichard Rodeo, and this year didn’t disappoint. What a good time for any photographer that enjoys fast action sport photography.

I have written before about how great the Pritchard Rodeo grounds are for photographers of every size and age.  The grounds have a strong metal fence and provides everyone with a safe, unrestricted view of everything that happens.

 The location itself, wild-like and tree lined, with the rolling hills in the background couldn’t be more pleasant. And this year our smooth talking Pritchard Community Association was able to get the worn-out, old viewing stand changed to a new grandstand with shinny metal seats instead of the rickety wooden ones and a roof that gives lots more shade.

Pritchard is a small rural community not far from the city of Kamloops. And as I usually do at these events, I spent as much time socializing with people I knew as I did photographing the action. And, of course, there are lots of photographers willing to talk.

I like photographing the bronco, and the bull riding the best.  Everything is explosive and the contestants, (I’ll include the horses and bulls as well as the riders) are pitted against each other and seem well matched enough that I can never be sure who will win. I feel for the riders when they hit the hard ground, but I must admit that I enjoy getting photographs of them flying wildly through the air.

However, as much as I like those events, I wouldn’t want to miss the barrel racing.  Trying to capture what seems to me like a gravity-defying moment of horse and rider as they fast and furiously circle the barrel is exciting.  Those young women riders are talented and must spend endless hours in training with their horses to do that.

For those that haven’t read my thoughts on shooting sports before, let me say again that when photographing fast, volatile subjects like those at a rodeo I prefer shutter priority mode where I select the shutter, and the camera chooses the aperture. I prefer shutterspeeds of 1/500th or more if possible. One also must be aware of depth-of-field, and I balance my shutterspeed and aperture taking that into consideration.

All I do is follow the action, choose a position that allows everything to move towards me, and let the camera’s computer handle the rest.  Sometimes the bright sun creates too much contrast, but contrast is easily handled in post-production. Nevertheless, this year we were really lucky with pleasant flat lighting because of high clouds, and even a bit of rain to cool things down.

It was all so easy for the many photographers at the edge of the arena, and I am sure that no matter their skill, most got lots of images worth framing.

As always, I’ll finish my article on the Pritchard rodeo by saying, “No animals, cowboys, cowgirls, or photographers were hurt during the process of having a great time.”

Commenting on Depth of Field     

D of F 3 women                                                                                                                                        

Depth of field is a seemingly elusive topic that I discuss in my classes and repeatedly explain to photographers who come to my shop complaining about problems with their lenses.  The problem is really just a lack of understanding of how the aperture controls the field of focus around the subject.

Long time readers might remember my many articles over the years discussing “depth-of-field”. Hopefully, I won’t bore those that understand how to use depth of field, but it is always a good thing to review this concept.  I will reuse an example I used a couple years ago about a photographer that showed me an image made during a wedding. The photographer showed it to me commenting that he had chosen that lens because it had a wide aperture which allowed for photographing in low light, but was bothered that the expensive lens wasn’t very sharp.

The image showed a view of the central aisle of the church with pews left and right, leading up to the bride in the distant centre, approximately 20 feet from where the photographer was located.  The overall exposure shot at an aperture of f/2.8 was fairly good, however, what bothered him was the guests around the bride standing in the aisle weren’t very sharp

The definition of depth-of-field is, “that area around the main subject, in front of, and behind it, that is in acceptably sharp focus”.  

Wide aperture lenses are very popular and using a lens at a wide aperture like f/2.8 when making a portrait isolates the main subject and produces a soft, out-of-focus background by reducing the depth of field.

The photographer was relying on the wide aperture to increase the exposure in limited lighting conditions.  That additional light allowed for a faster shutterspeed for handholding, but along with the benefit of additional light reaching the camera’s sensor the photographer forgot, or didn’t realize, that the resulting effect would also be a reduced depth of field.   

Using a wide aperture reduced the field of focus in front of the subject of a couple feet and the same behind the subject. That would be fine in a close-cropped portrait, but in that photograph of the church aisle, the guests in the foreground and guests in the background, appeared to be out-of-focus.

                        The further your subject is away the more the Depth of Field.  

                        The closer your subject the less the Depth of field.

                        The smaller the aperture the more the Depth of Field.

                        The larger the aperture the less the Depth of Field.

                        The Smaller your aperture the slower your shutter will need to be.

I prefer using a small aperture for scenic photography and, as in this instance, for interiors.  The answer to that example, and the examples I saw posted online, would be how to solve the low light problem not with a wide aperture, but by increasing the ISO so a smaller aperture could be used.

Depth of field is that area in front of and behind your subject that is acceptably sharp.  Practically, the depth of the field of focus will be 1/3rd in front and 2/3rds behind the subject.  Photographers who understand how to use depth of field will become progressively more successful in their photography.  


It is Independence Day in the USA.

Indepedence day 2016

As I child I remember getting ready with my brothers and friends in the morning to celebrate the 4th.  We’d look forward to spending the day at the huge 4th of July parade and the evenings watching fireworks.  Almost every park had fireworks, so we could pick and choose which to attend.

I seem to remember that next to Christmas, the 4th was my favourite holiday.

Home Studio Lighting for Photographers      

Flash Kit 3

I have written about using off-camera flash several times. Nevertheless, with the conversations I had with two separate, aspiring portrait photographers this past week asking my recommendations for setting up a home portrait studio I have decided to revisit that conversation.

In each instance they were troubled by the kinds of lighting equipment other photographers were advising them to purchase.  Both were upset at how much it was going to cost to get large and expensive studio lights other people were suggesting, and complained that they would have to wait until they had the money before a home studio lighting situation could be set up.

With serious searching they might be able to find used studio lights listed on craigslist, or similar online sales, but that will include additional shipping costs. Further, they won’t have experience with the many brands of equipment available, and are taking a chance that the units will arrive in working condition. And, to confuse them even more they will be offered lots of those cheap, and inadequate, Constant Light kits that were purchased by other unsuspecting beginners.

I knew they were both new to portraiture and just want to learn about lighting. My opinion is they don’t really need to go to the bank just yet, and would be better off starting out with smaller, speedlight type flashes. With the money saved by not purchasing the big, studio type lights they can buy a couple of inexpensive light stands, umbrellas, and maybe even add a soft-box, and a backdrop.

Photographers intent on setting up small home studios for portraits and small groups don’t need to go to the expense of the brawny, studio type lights. They can easily, and without much initial cost, set up a studio with what I personally use, and call my “portrait kit”.

I use older hotshoe flashes for my portrait kit, each with it’s own wireless receiver and stand. I can choose a shoot-through umbrella, a reflector umbrella, or a softbox, and much of the time I include a reflector. It is an inexpensive and easily stored or transported “portrait kit” that I would recommend for home studio photographers.

Wireless sender/receivers come in all sorts of inexpensive incarnations, and it is the same with lightstands and flash-to-umbrella mounts. All of this is much less expensive, and a lot easier to store and/or move around than the big studio-type flash units.

I have been using multiple flashes off-camera since the 1980s, and I always choose inexpensive, used units that I can cheaply replace if they get knocked over, or if I wear them out.

Hotshoe type, off-camera speedlights are perfect for the educational process of learning to use flash effectively, and if they are no longer a good fit for one’s creative growth, the choices as to the next step in lighting equipment will be educated decisions instead of emotional.







Photographing the Chase Falls    

Chase Falls 1

Chase Falls 2

Chase Falls 3

It is just over a year since I talked about my spring visit to a waterfall about 20 minutes from my home. Photographing the Chase Falls is, as the name infers, the falls just across the Trans Canada highway from the center of the small lakeside town of Chase, British Columbia.

Spring with its warm, snow-melting temperatures sure rolled in very early this year. Gosh, who would have thought we’d experience 30+ Celsius at the beginning of June. With that warm weather I was positive I wouldn’t see high, murky, water rushing over the falls.

I arrived around 11am and took the short walk along the sandy path to the falls. And sure enough, although there was plenty of water coming over Chase falls, the creek level was low enough that I was easily able to scramble among the large rocks along the bank and found many comfortable locations to set up my tripod. Ansel Adams said, “A good photograph is knowing where to stand.”

I guess that’s right when it comes to photographing a waterfall, I leaned against a big bolder and pulled out a couple of neutral density (ND) filters so I could reduce my shutter speed by a few seconds, and slow the water down in my shot. Then began moving my tripod from place to place, in hopes of finding that “good photograph.”

Photographing waterfalls and getting that smooth water that is so popular is really easy to do, and not complicated at all. All one needs is a camera, a sturdy tripod and a neutral density filter.

I put my camera on the tripod, focus, place a ND filter in front of the lens, and release the shutter. I rarely bother with a cable release. I usually just select my camera’s self-timer. I use 4-inch by 4-inch square ND filters that are well worn and a bit marked up.

When I purchased the filters they came with a filter holder to attach to the lens front, but that’s just more stuff to carry and instead I hold them by the edge in front of my camera lens and move them up and down so anything on them won’t show up when I take the picture.

I had a nice time taking pictures and even sat for a while on one of the large, smooth boulders just enjoying the cool air and the sound of the water. I think I might go back next week to try out a fish-eye lens that came into my shop.