A photographic exercise

Shooting old skoole style

Due to a conversation on the Dpreview forums, it got me thinking about the ever increasing quest for the next best gimmick or “new feature” for the next camera model being released by our favourite manufacturer. Whom ever that may be.

In reply to the conversation I wrote this:

“Initially I had the same reaction, but then the term purist got me thinking. What is a purist?

For me at least that would be someone who eschews all the technical bells and whistles and wants something far more simplistic. For me this would be from my days using the Practika L2 and my venerable Pentax k1000.

Simple effective cameras whose only technical help was an inbuilt light meter, all the rest you as the photographer had to figure out as you went along. So for me a purist would be someone who uses aperture and shutter settings only ( remember fixed ISO or ASA for film ) is limited to natural lighting conditions and who needs to have some sort of plan or approach to what they set out to achieve in a photographic session.

Looked at this way modern mirrorless and DSLR’s are overkill for achieving the results looked for by our purist…. maybe there something in this, however I do like my bells and whistles.”

Now this got me further thinking, we used to get great photos with these manual film cameras, no image stabilisation, no ISO settings ( other than what your film was rated at), or any of the extra bits we love about our digital photos.

Check out some of the K1000 imagery here at the Pentax Forums 

So try this exercise, it doesn’t matter what lens you use:

  • Set your ISO at 400
  • Set camera to manual mode
  • Turn off Image stabilisation
  • Set your Metering to average (or similar such as evaluative)
  • Turn off auto focus and focus peaking.
  • If no inbuilt light meter use histogram
  • Turn off LCD and image checking ( no chimping allowed )

The object of the exercise here it to use only aperture and shutter to get your images. If your camera doesn’t come with a built in light meter option use your histogram, and remember to expose to the right.

Of course you will be manually focusing as well as our old film cameras never had AF.

You may want to brush up on your histogram knowledge and heres one of many places to see whats going on Photographylife

You may wonder why I mentioned turning off the LCD review mode, well thats simply because the old cameras never had visual feedback of any sort and we are trying to go as purist as we can get. For those of you who have cameras without a view finder use the screen to focus and compose your shots and if the option is available turn of the LCD when the shot is taken. Depending upon model this may not be an option.

So whats the point of this exercise?

The point is to have a better understanding of our photographic process. Modern cameras and indeed cellphones make it so easy to snap away without much in the way of conscious thought.

When the camera is doing the focusing, doing the metering, setting the ISO ( especially Auto ISO ) and the many other auto functions a modern camera is capable of we tend to be more removed from the process. We see a scene and go “gosh I want to photograph that” and using a camera that you have set or preset means you can literally snap away. But are you really obtaining exactly what you see? I’m as guilty of this as the best of us and often fall prey to that instant snap type of reaction, and on reflection often find I didnt get exactly want I wanted to remember or portray.

Often this is something as simple as missing the fine tones in a subject, or being too quick and missing a clear detail, this is especially easy to do when shooting macros of insects.

Sometimes you just need to slow down and think things through a little bit to get a better shot, whether it be to capture really fine detail or a subtle colour shift in your image.

Have a go at this exercise and see how you get on. You maybe surprised, and if you want to share a photo or two with us that would be great. Have fun.





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