Category: Tutorials

Where in I try and teach you things.

So you want to run a Photowalk?

So you want to run a Photowalk?

So you want to run a photowalk? Excellent! Running and even just attending such events are actually really good for you as a photographer. Because often we spend so much time sitting in front of a computer or locked in a darkroom so some social interaction is a good thing! Plus you never know you might learn somehting. I’ve attended plenty of photowalks and have been for the past year and a bit running my own Toronto Film Shooters Meetup (TFSM) with some level of success. I love interacting with other photographers both in shooting and just socializing.

TFSM - Summer '14 - Toronto Islands
Abandoned Bike – TFSM Summer ’14

Honestly, to get started you need three simple things:
A Date: Pick one that works for you, sure you can ask around but you’ll never settle it in a group…find one and run with it.
A Location: Pick a spot you’re familiar with.
Food: Yes, make sure that the event begins or ends with some kind of meal.

Once you have those three things nailed, you’re ready to promote your event. Social media is a great way to promote it, but you got to target the right groups. Facebook: Yep, we love it and we hate it, but good chance you have a lot of photography related friends on your facebook profile, send out a group message! Also groups on facebook for your local area might yield some additional attendies as well. Twitter: Always worth a shot, be sure to tag your post with the city name, and photography even photowalk. Flickr! Yes, the forgotten photosharing social media platform, always a good choice because again local cities might have dedicated groups or groups dedicated to the types of photography that you’re using. Other choices that you may want to use are tumblr, reddit, and old school web forums! Always show up early to the spot and try and be visible and keep your phone on, loud, and charged in case people try and reach you. Having a camera sitting out usually helps identify you. And be friendly! Go up and introduce yourself if you see someone looking around lost, they might be looking for your group.

TFSM - Summer '14 - Toronto Islands
Mike in Action – TFSM Summer ’14

When bringing gear to these walks, don’t lug everything and the kitchen sink. Believe me, I know, I’ve done it…and regretted it. I remember the very first Film Photography Project Mid-West Walking Workshop, I had like six cameras with me, and got two more at the event! Way too many and I mean I did use all the cameras I had, but many times I had to carry a majority of them with me. The only saving grace was that the event was over the course of several days and the hotel I was in was right in the middle of the event space so I could easily swap out…but honestly, never again. Today I usually will decided to bring one…maybe two cameras. Usually I’ll go with 35mm or 120, I’d bring my 4×5 since it’s a press camera but only if the event was a dedicated Large format event…and then I’d just bring that camera, nothing more. Bring film…always bring lots of film with you, or better yet, if the event has a camera store that sells film, make a point to go out and buy a couple rolls fresh to shoot. Often I find I’ll shoot more because I can focus on a single camera/lens combo. Plus it’s a lot lighter to bring one camera! And be prepared to shoot less than you expect to, you will honestly spend more time socializing than shooting and you know what, that’s okay to! Because you’re there to network with fellow photographers.

Don Valley Brick Works - July 2013
Cosmic Salad @ the Don Valley Brick Works – TFSM Summer ’13

And last but not least, don’t panic, and don’t fret. Often you’ll do all this planning and have no one show up! I mean that even happened to me at the TFSM Winter ’14 event, I promoted it, I planned it…and it was just me. Oh well, I had a couple drinks at the bar and moved out and did a bit of shooting, the weather was garbage anyways. Did that stop me? Nope, had a great turn out at the Spring event. And yes, you will be faced with possibilities of bad weather, detractors, and people who just are pains…but again don’t panic, and stay super positive, because these are planned for FUN. Keep it loose, and if you want to do this more listen to the attendees, the TFSM Fall ’13 location was given to me by Mike and John, loyal attendees of these events, and sure it rained but it was still a blast! And speaking of rain, go anyways! Weather will be weather, dress appropriately and bring an appropriate camera. Or instead of going out shooting, look around before hand see if there’s an exhibit or gallery show of a local artist and go and look at other work see if you can’t find some inspiration.

Toronto - Spadina Road - April 2014
A dying view – TFSM Spring ’14

And probably the best part about Photowalks, at least what I’ve found is that they’re a great way to lift yourself out of a photographic funk! So get out there, meetup and keep shooting!

Mastering the Basics – The Lens

Mastering the Basics – The Lens


So now that you know what a camera let’s get down to business, the next most important part of the camera is the lens. This is what focuses the light into the camera body and onto the medium capturing that light. Lenses can be at the very top broken down into two categories, those are prime and zoom.

A Prime lens is one with a fixed focal length, such as 50mm, 105mm, 200mm.
A Zoom lens has a variable focal length, such as 18-55mm, 70-200mm, 17-35mm.

A lenses focal length is usually measured in milimeters (mm) but you will often find some marked in centimeters (cm), 1cm = 10mm, therefore if you have a 5cm lens, it’s just a different way of saying 50mm.

Another note before going into the different types of lenses, on focal lengthes. Depending on the size of the recording media, the focal length varies. On Digital cameras that us a crop sensor, (smaller than 35mm) there’s a crop factor. You will find crop sensors in SLRs, Point & Shoot, EVIL, and Rangefinder camera types. You can multiply the focal length by that number, so for example on Nikon’s sensor there’s a 1.5x factor, so your 50mm lens will give you the equivilant image of a 75mm lens. To get over this factor to some extent most camera and lens manfactures have released lenses designed for cropped sensors. Now you can use lenses designed for Full Frame (35mm) sensors on crop sensor bodies, but you will be unable to use crop sensor lenses on full frame cameras. (Well you can, but there will be…issues). The focal length also changes the larger the sensor gets, for here you divide the lens’ displayed focal length.

From here lenses can be broken down further into categories based on that focal length.

An ultra-wide or just wide lens is anything with a focal length of less than but not including 35mm. But they keep the straight lines in the image straight (within reason, most ultra-wide lenses produce some level of distortion). This type of lens is great for capturing buildings, and landscapes. However I would avoid using them in portraits, unless you’re going for that look. You can find ultra-wide lenses in both zoom and prime types. Ultra-wides should not be confused with fish-eye lenses. Fish-eyes althougth they fall into the ultra-wide category by focal length, they often have a field of view of 180 degrees and have a very distorted look to them.

The Deck
Ultra-Wides are great for inside shots, making big spaces look even bigger and grander. This was captured on a 14-24mm lens

The Normal focal range covers 35mm to 70mm, however most people will call a 50mm lens normal as it shares the same field of view as your eyes do. These types of lenses often are great for a carry around fixed focus lens or a simple everyday zoom lens. Most dSLRs ship with a basic “kit” with covers a wide angle through normal usually. The trusty 18-55mm. On crop sensor cameras, a 50mm will turn into the equivilant of a short telephoto (75mm) so I often will use a 35mm lens to get the 50mm (52mm) focal length back. These lenses are great for capturing details and making a great portrait lens. You can get a 50mm f/1.8 (don’t worry, we’ll cover the f number later), for around one hundred dollars these days which make it useful for low light situations and a quick portrait lens. Normal lenses can be found in both zoom and prime, although I prefer them in prime form. Normal lenses especally the the 50mm makes a great portrait lens in a pinch.

Normal lenses especally the the 50mm makes a great portrait lens in a pinch. This was captured on a 50mm lens.

A telephoto lens is any lens that is greater than 70mm in focal length. These often are big, heavy, noticable, and unweildly. Avalible in both zoom and prime types. They’re great for portrait work, and event photography, and more importantly sports and wildlife photography. When it comes to arcitecture they’re great for capturing details of a structure that are far away from you. Such as carved figures or other details on skyscrapers and churches. I primarly use telephotos for portrait work and some street photography.

With a good telephoto you can easily isolate your subjects in the frame. Captured with a 70-200mm lens.

Specialty Lenses
These are lenses that may fit into the above categories but operate slightly differently from a traditional lens.

Selective Focus – These often will blur out the rest of the frame, allowing the person to isolate their exact subject in the frame. The Lensbaby series are famous for these types of lenses.

not so lonely chairs
The selective focus look is rather polarizing, some like it others hate it. Captured with a Lensbaby Composer.

Tilt-Shift (TS) or Perspective Control (PC) – very specalized lens, often used in arcticture shots because you can actually move the lens elements to make lines straight. So in a building where to capture it all you’d have to tilt you camera up, the building would have diaganol lines converging at the top. With a TS/PC lens you won’t have that issue, you just shift the lens up to frame it as you like.

One of many buildings found in downtown Stratford, captured with a 35mm PC lens.

Macro – Macro lenses are special in the sense they have the ablity to focus really close on an object to show incredable detail. They’re usually in the normal to telephoto range of lenses.

More Macro
Close up details aren’t really my style, but I did play with it for a bit. Captured using a 18-50mm macro lens.

Mastering the Basics – The Camera

Mastering the Basics – The Camera

Darth Vader's Camera

The camera. A camera is a device that allows light to be captured on a sensitive media. All cameras operate on this same principle, from the first cameras in the 19th century to the one on your cellphone. Sure, the technology has changed since the first perminant photo was captured in 1829. So what is a camera, how does it all work….it’s actually pretty simple, light is reflected off an object, travels through a lens, and strikes a light senstive media. Yes, it’s that simple.

The complex part is all the different cameras that we have avalible today…

The Point & Shoot
A point and shoot camera is just that, you point it, shoot it, and the camera does all the work for you. Often these use simple viewfinders off set from the actual lens. In the case of digital and cellphone cameras. Most feature a fixed lens or basic zoom. Although not known for image quality, you can actually produce excellent photos from them in the right hands. You often will not have much in the way of control over settings on the low end of the spectrum of P&S cameras, but higher end models feature a full set of creative controls.

If you’re just looking for something simple to carry around, the point and shoot is for you!

New Toy!
The Canon G series cameras, are high end digital Point & Shoot cameras

E.V.I.L. Cameras
No, these cameras will not steal your soul, in fact they’re fairly new kids on the block. EVIL standing for Electronic Viewfinder, Interchangable Lenses, are based on the older Olympus PEN series of half-frame 35mm (film) cameras. These compact cameras often feature near full sized sensors and have a wide range of lenses, and full creative control over the camera settings. Olympus was the first to introduce these digital cameras with their E-P1 series, Panasonic, and Sony all have entries into this market.

A step up from the point and shoot, it gives you quality and a wide range of creative control.

The PEN is Mightier
The Olympus E-P1 is based around the Micro 4/3 sensor and was the first EVIL camera on the market.

A classic design in cameras. The rangefinder at quick glance may be mistaken as a point and shoot, and EVIL cameras may be mistaken as a rangefinder. What makes a rangefinder different is how the focus works. In early rangefinder cameras, there was a second viewfinder, or in this case rangefinder, where the operator would align two images to ensure the image was in focus, then use a second finder to compose the shot. The viewers in rangefinders are almost exclusivly offset from the lens which makes them difficulty to compose a shot, but there are often aids in the viewfinder to help with composing the shot. Rangefinders can feature both a fixed lens (Minolta’s Hi-Matic series, and Fuji’s X-100 digital), or can have interchangeable lenses (Leica cameras, all the them).

Rangefinders are classic cameras, not for the faint of heart, or people on a budget. Great for low profile photography such as street, but packs a punch when you need it, especally with quality cameras and lenses on hand…but they will cost you.

I Leica You, You Leica Me
The Leica IIIc, a classic rangefinder from the 1950s. Hard to use by today’s standards but still puts out quality images.

Single Lens Reflex
When someone mentions a camera this is often what they mean, the single lens reflex, or SLR. SLR’s feature one lens, one viewfinder and a mirror and prisim that allows the operator to see exactly wha the lens sees, henses “Single Lens” the “Reflex” comes when the photo is taken, the mirror moves up allowing the light to hit the media. All SLR cameras feature interchangeable lenses. These days SLR cameras, despite their size and mystic are very easy to use and are avalible to people even on a budget. SLRs offer the best creative control over your photo, from focus, and exposure settings. You can find SLR cameras in digital, 35mm, 120, and even 110 formats.

If you’re looking for a way to expand your skill, knowlege, and understanding of photography, the SLR is for you. Just remember, just because you own one…doesn’t mean you’re automatically a professional. I own several, and I’m still learning.

The WorkHorse
The Nikon F4 is an example of a Professional level SLR from the late 1980s

Twin Lens Reflex
Twin Lens Reflex, or TLR, are cameras that aren’t much in the public eye these days. As the name sugguests these cameras feature two lenses. The top lens, or viewing lens is where the operator composes the shot and sets the focus, the bottom lens, or taking lens, is what actually exposes the media to light. These cameras cut a certain figure and are often rare these days. You can find them in both medium format and 35mm, however no digital TLRs are on the market. A majority of TLR cameras use a fixed lens, however Mamyia released a line of TLRs that have interchangeable lenses.

If you want to try your hand and something unique and new, pick up a TLR.

Rolleiflex 2.8F
A Rolleiflex is a top of the line TLR.

View Cameras
The view camera is a type of camera first developed in the era of the Daguerreotype and still in use today, though with many refinements. It comprises a flexible bellows which forms a light-tight seal between two adjustable standards, one of which holds a lens, and the other a viewfinder or a photographic film holder. The bellows is a flexible, accordion-pleated box, which encloses the space between the lens and film, and has the ability to flex to accommodate the movements of the standards. The front standard is a board at the front of the camera which holds the lens and, usually, a shutter. At the other end of the bellows, the rear standard is a frame which holds a ground glass, used for focusing and composing the image before exposure, which is replaced by a holder containing the light-sensitive film, plate, or image sensor for exposure. The front and rear standards can move in various ways relative to each other, unlike most other types of camera, giving control over focus, depth of field and perspective. The camera must have some means of support, usually provision for mounting it on a tripod.

View cameras are not for the faint of heart, they’re big, heavy, and required a very good understanding of photographic technique, not something you take on lightly. You should also have provisions to develop your own film as sheet film is expensive to develop in labs.

Sorry, no photo, as I don’t own a view camera….yet