Monday, April 15, 2019

Taking Note

Many years ago a teacher told me "A bad pencil is better than a good memory any day."  I have found that he was absolutely right!

This past week I was making an entry into my darkroom logbook and noticed Volume 1 sitting there.  The first entry is dated April 15, 1994.  That was the year I moved to California and had just got my West Coast darkroom up and running; that entry captures details about what worked well and what didn't in the new darkroom.

Twenty-five years later I am still at it and up to Volume 7.  Every print I make, every solution I prepare, and every problem overcome in the darkroom I record in the logbook.  I do the same thing in the field with my camera, documenting how I structured the image and how to control it in the darkroom to create what I visualized at that moment.

The whole art of note taking seems to be fading.  That is sad.  We're in too big a hurry.  Maybe we don't understand the value of taking notes.

But I am a firm believer that if you really want to get good at something, you need to record what you are doing.  Getting good (and getting better) in photography is no different.  Writing it down helps you clarify your thoughts, helps you remember the details later, and compels you to pay attention to what you are doing.

I know people who keep a journal every day - and they can't image a day without it.  I feel the same way about photography and my logbooks.

Take Care,

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Where To Buy This Stuff?

People ask me where to buy equipment for darkroom and classical film photography.  Well, you might be surprised how much is available new.  While digital has taken over the general consumer market, film and darkroom are still very much alive and equipment available.

The 4x5 camera, lenses, and film holders
I bought used on eBay.  The tripod (Ries)
was new (and worth every penny).
That said, I buy much of my equipment on (believe it or not) eBay! 

The first question that immediately follows is "how do you know you are not getting screwed?"

Well, the secrets to buying on eBay are 1) doing your homework, and 2) patience.

There is probably a ton of information out there about what you are interested in buying.  Most lens manufacturers have archives of their classical lenses and a search of the internet can yield a lot of information.  There are websites that post old user manuals.  And you can sometimes get tidbits of information from user forums.  Keep a folder in your bookmarks just for photography equipment and start building a library of useful sites.

You might also be surprised how often eBay sellers do not know the value of what they are selling.  With these folks ask simple questions until you are satisfied you know what you are getting.  There are also sellers who really know their photography equipment - they will often provide plenty of information in their ad describing what you are looking for.  Oh! Let's not forget pictures!  Be sure there are pictures of the actual item you plan to buy.  No picture, no deal.

Seller ratings are also useful if taken with a grain of salt.  Often people do not post negative feedback for fear the seller will ding them as well.  On the other hand, don't get hung-up on a seller with "only" a 97% positive rating.  If they have sold 1000 items you are bound to run into some grumpy people when you sell that much stuff.

To bid, or not to bid?  Or more accurately, to bid or to "Buy Now."  I've done both. The key is to decide what YOU think is a reasonable price first.  If the Buy Now price to near that - just buy it.  If there is some distance between what you are willing to pay and the starting price, Bid!  Just don't get caught up in the bidding and pay more than you think is a fair price.

Finally, be patient!  Put several ads of the same item from different sellers on your watch list and track the prices.  Unless the item is really rare, don't jump at the first item listed.   You will get an idea of the condition of available used equipment and what is a reasonable price soon enough.

Of course, do not ignore you local camera store (if you still have one in town), there are camera swap meets, and there is nothing wrong with buying new - sometimes it is preferred.

Happy shopping!

Take Care,

To get you started....

Old Camera Manuals
Large Format Lens Primer
Darkroom Equipment Refurbished