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Scotty Alan Photography

Does gear matter? Yes and no!

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In photography, I believe that gear does not matter just as much as I believe that it does matter. What I mean by that is, I believe what is most important is knowing how to use the gear you do have to get the results you want. And if you are running a business, knowing how to use the gear you have to produce the results your clients want.

Lets take a trip back down memory lane. Let’s go back 25, 30, or 40 years ago… We had film cameras that shot 1, 2, and 3 frames per second. We had cameras that did not offer 12,000 ISO. We did not have cameras or lenses that offered optical image stabilization. Anyone who remembers photography from back in these days, or anyone who has two brain cells for that matter, knows that there were hundreds and hundreds of thousands of great photographs made of wildlife photography, sports photography, portrait and documentary photography. These professionals, and even great amateurs alike, knew how to use the gear they had and use it well. (The image below was taken with a 30+ year old all manual film camera)

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The digital cameras that have been released over the last 5 or so years, and especially recent releases, are so much more advanced than they were 20, 15, and even 10 years ago. There are cameras offering higher frames per second. There are cameras that offer auto tracking. There are cameras that offer super high ISO performance, and the list goes on.

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There are many things to ask yourself, look for, and consider, when purchasing a camera. Do you need full frame or can you get by with a less expensive camera that has a crop sensor? Are you going to be shooting sports, action, and wildlife? If so, you may need something that offers faster auto tracking and more frames per second. Are you going to be mainly shooting portraits? If so, you may be able to get by without needing a camera that offers 10 or 12 frames per second. If you are going to be shooting concerts or in scenes where there is not as much light you may need a camera that offers better high ISO performance. These are all things to consider when purchasing a camera. However, I would argue that the majority of the cameras that have come out in the last 5 or so years can get the job done in most situations.

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I would also like to add that one should also not go broke trying to buy the most expensive gear. Do you really need that 1.4 or 1.2 lens when maybe a 1.8 lens can get the job done? I was recently scrolling through a photography group on Facebook and I was seeing all of these portraits that were shot at f1.4 and f1.2 where the eyes were sharp and the ears and hair were out of focus because of such shallow depth of field. While that can be nice, there are many other aspects of a portrait to consider. How will you compose it? What kind of lighting will you use? Do you want to use ambient light or some sort of flash? Do you want the image to be high key or low key? Will the portrait evoke any emotion with the viewers? Just because someone has a lens that opens up to f1.4 or f1.2 and they can keep the eyes in focus and blur the ears and hair does not necessarily mean they area better photographer than you. It merely means they spent the money necessary to purchase a lens that opens up to f1.4 or f1.2. Don’t get me wrong. Some situations may call for an f1.2 or f1.4 setting but if that’s not an option lowering you shutter speed 1 stop or raising your ISO may be just fine as well.

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I believe that it’s on the photographer to study the type of photography they want to do, and practice, practice, practice. There are endless quality resources online to help photographers learn the craft. There are many social media groups where people are involved who love to help. Learning the craft is absolutely, without a doubt, more important than having the newest camera. Don’t get me wrong having new gear is fun and exciting. I’ll end with these two statements the first by photographer and “youtuber” David DuChemin and the last by myself.

“Gear is good, vision is better.” – David DuChemin

I’ve never once in the 20+ years of doing photography had an unhappy client because of the gear I used. I’ve never once lost a gig because I was using a 5+ year old camera and not the newest one out. Not one person can tell what images in this blog post where shot with what camera. And for the record, I’ve even recently done gigs where I used my fathers medium format Bronica ETRS film camera from the 1980s that offers no auto functions what-so-ever.

If you are new to photography or you’ve been at it for a while and it feels like you’ve hit a wall, don’t be discouraged. Don’t give up. Yes, gear will matter to a degree at some point, but your ability to learn photography and your vision are more important.

Here are some helpful references to check out:

“Q & A” by Zack Arias

www.dedpxl.com

“Visionmongers” By David DuChemin

David DuChemin on Youtube

Amar Talwar on youtube

Ted Forbes “The Art Of Photography” on youtube

 

Sivion : “Dark Side Of The Cocoon”

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Sivion is a musician residing in Dallas – Fort Worth metroplex. He’s been creating music for more than 20 years now. Shortly after he started performing live in the Dallas area I became a fan of his soulful, positive, lighthearted music. Eventually, I had the pleasure of meeting Sivion at a local event. Back then I was a newbie in photography and I was combining both my passions, photography and music, as often as I could. I would go to local shows and take as many photos as possible. I’d share my pictures with friends, post them on the internet, and show my work to whoever wanted to see it.

After photographing an event that Sivion performed at, one of my pictures ended up becoming a CD cover to a live performance that was recorded at the Gypsy Tea Room, which is now where the Prophet Bar is located.

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Over the years Sivion and I have kept in touch mainly though social media. After recording his 5th studio album, Dark Side Of The Cocoon, he still needed the artwork for his album cover. So we put our heads together to create what would be the images for his newest release. Sivion’s previous work has come across as very lighthearted and melodic but this project was different. He wanted something that was more dark which went along with the feel of the emotion within the content of the album. We set up a day and time and decided we would shoot the photos in his living room. I reassured him I could create whatever he needed for the album. The night I went over to his place it was cold, stormy, and windy, which is actually kind of a parallel to the feel of the album. I set up a simple black backdrop and one flash inside of a octabox which was placed to the right of the camera and him. After a short while we got what we needed. Job complete. (Previously, we had met up and made some photographs outside for the album as well). Below are the original images for the album. There were two different pictures used for the back as one is for the CD version and the other is for the vinyl album.

Picture for the front cover:

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Gear used: Fuji XT 10, Fujinon 55 – 200 F3.5 – 4.8 lens, Yongnuo 565 EX speedlight inside of a Newer octabox.

Picture for the back cover of the CD:

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Gear used: Fuji xt 10 with a Fujinon 18 – 55 F2.8 – 4.0 lens

Picture for the back cover of the vinyl record:

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Gear used: Fuji xt 10 with a Fujinon 18 – 55 F2.8 – 4.0 lens

This has become my favorite albums that he has created thus far. It’s deep, it’s personal, and it will speak to you. I look forward to more projects from him in the future.

Sivion is also a member of the hip hop collective Deepspace 5 which just released their newest project “5:55“. All proceeds from this album goes to support hurricane relief in Puerto Rico.

Instant Success

In 2008 Polaroid announced they were ceasing production of their line of instant film. Later that year Impossible Project announced they were going to keep the film alive. They purchased some of the machinery from Polaroid but had to reformulate the chemicals needed for the film. Although, it was not impossible, they did it. Excitement was everywhere for the niche group of people who still enjoyed shooting instant film. Once the film released many were disappointed. With long development times and sub par results the film produced many thought shooting the film was not worth the money or time. However, hardcore enthusiasts still supported the company and the film.

This past summer I took a Vintage and Toy Camera class at Brookhaven College. One of the assignments for the class was to shoot instant film. Although I dreaded spending the money on the film I did anyway. I shot the Polaroid Spectra with color and black and white Impossible Project Spectra film. The results below.

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Fast forward to about a month and a half ago and I heard rumors that Impossible Project was going to announce something soon. People were hyping it up a lot. The news was going to be well worth the wait. Announcing Polaroid Originals. So back in May of 2017 Impossible Project bought the Polaroid name from Polaroids largest shareholder. In September 2017 Polaroid Originals released all new films and announced a new camera which is the Polaroid One Step 2 . As soon as I heard about the release of the new film I rushed over to Dons Used Photo Equipment and purchased some Polaroid Originals Spectra film . Once I shot this new film I was surprised, shocked, and in love with the results. Below are the results from the first pack of Polaroid Originals film I shot.

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So with this new film, along with better image quality, users also get faster development times as well as getting the film at a lower price point. The film is roughly five U.S. dollars less expensive than it was previously. As you can tell, the pictures are sharper and more rich with color than previously as Impossible Project. While these results from Impossible Project were not an instant success as this took years in the making, I would say that this instant film is a tremendous success.

Vintage and Toy Cameras

It’s been a long while since I’ve been in school. However, back in early summer of 2017 I decided to take a continuing education photography class at Brookhaven College called Vintage and Toy Cameras. This class was a photography class in which we learned about, made photos with, and experimented with old film and toy cameras. I really enjoyed this class as it really helped me understand the process of how people had to use cameras long ago. In contrast to todays digitally instant world, photography then was a long tedious process that took hours, if not, days or weeks to see the images. Some of the cameras I used for the class were familiar to me, some were not so much. I decided to write this blog to share with you the different cameras I used for the class and elaborate a little on how I used them and what it was like using each one.

Holga 120N

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The Holga is an all plastic camera with an all plastic lens. There is essentially one shutter speed (plus “bulb mode”) and one f stop / aperture. The shutter speed is relatively dependent upon on the age and “wear” of the shutter mechanism. It’s said that the shutter speed is anywhere from around 1/60th of a second to 1/125th of a second. The aperture is set to around f8 to f11. The only real control one has with this camera is the ISO or film speed. Below are some images I made with these cameras for class.

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Bronica ETRS

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The Bronica ETRS is my most prized possession as this was my fathers camera when he did photography in the 1980s. After graduating photography school he gave me this camera as this was an unexpected pleasant surprise. The Bronica is a medium format camera that shoots 120 or 220 film. 220 film is harder to find these days but 120 is still readily available in both color and black and white. This is considered a modular camera as the camera comes completely apart. There are different lenses for the camera, different types of viewfinders, and grips. One can also purchase several different back for the camera so one can shoot multiple types of film during any particular event or photo shoot. Here are examples of images that I made with this camera for class.

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Kodak Brownie Hawkeye

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I cannot remember exactly where I bought this camera but I would guess I found it at a thrift store or an antique shop. I’ve had this camera for several years but I had never shot it until I took this class. The point of the class was to challenge ourselves to use cameras that had very little control. Like the Holga cameras above, this camera has only one shutter speed (plus “blue mode”) and one aperture. The only control one has with this camera is by using different film speeds.

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Kodak 110

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The Kodak 110 had its popularity for a moment in time. I remember as a kid having a couple of these at one point. I think I was around 7 or 8 when I got one similar to this but in blue for Christmas. The film for these cameras are super small so the resolution is not all that great. However, these can be fun little cameras to play around with and experiment with. The first two pictures were made with Lomography Red Scale film. The rest of the pictures were made with Lomography slide film.

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Lomo Fisheye

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Ive had the Lomo fisheye for several years now as well and can remember using the camera only one time before taking this class. This camera gives a very wide angle fisheye look to the images. I was actually quite pleased with some of the results I made with this camera.

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Lomo Instant

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The Lomo Instant is a newer camera that spits out “Polaroid like” photos known as the Fuji Instax mini. These are credit card sized photos that are fun to see in minutes and share with others. This particular kit came with a 35mm lens and a macro lens. the wide angle lens is built into the camera. There are a few different modes this camera allows for such as different f stops, keeping the flash off, or turning the flash on. So there is a little more control with this camera than cameras like it such as the Fuji Instax. For the class, one of the assignments was using flash with a toy or vintage camera. I like to challenge myself so what I did was set up a flash off camera, put it in slave mode, and then used the flash from the Lomo Instant to trigger the flash that was off camera. This was the outcome…

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Polaroid Spectra 

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I really do like instant gratification, although not always is instant gratification the best thing for us. LOL. It’s said that good things come to those who wait. However, sometimes that is not true either. Several years ago Polaroid stopped making film. Then Impossible Project, now known as Polaroid Originals, came along and started making film for these cameras ago. The Impossible Project film was OKAY at best. Most either hated it or just dealt with the quirkiness of it. Here are some of the images I got with this camera for the class. (NOTE: Polaroid Originals film is 10 times better than Impossible Project film was. An article is soon to come.)

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Zenit

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The Zenit camera is a Russian camera that is very… temperamental to say the least. I think I hear someone say some sort of joke about how these camera were made by drunk people. One of the assignments for class was to take a photo with a “janky” camera. I decided to go camera hunting. I went to Denton Camera Exchange (which is an absolutely awesome place to go for cameras and film in the Dallas Fort Worth metroplex) and found this camera and lens for $20 which I could not pass up. Before I purchased this camera I tested it in store to make sure everything worked and it did. Once I got home that afternoon I was cocking the shutter and firing to make sure it would work before I put film in it. I did this several times. Then all of a sudden something happened to the shutter mechanism. After toying with it for a while I got it working again. I quickly put film inside and made some photos. Toward the end of the roll the shutter started messing up again but I did get one good photo from the roll. Although this camera was a headache, was it worth the $20 purchase? Absolutely! The lens is relatively good and I can use it wth an adapter on my Fuji XT 10. Here is the one photo I was pleased with.

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Zeiss Ikon

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Last but certainly not least we have the Zeiss Ikon. One part of our assignment for class was to use the oldest camera we could. I inherited this from my wife’s grandfather after he passed away shortly before we got married. This camera was made in the late 1930’s and when I got this camera it was not working as the shutter was stuck. After a little work I got the shutter working again and ended up with some surprising pictures.

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In conclusion this class was amazing. It was a pleasure getting to work with old cameras and getting a feel for the process of shooting film formats,  different types of cameras with limited settings, and functions. I would take this class again in a heartbeat and would recommend this class to any photographer who loves the art and history of photography. If you have any questions about the cameras or what types of film were used leave a comment and I will be happy to respond.

 

 

Throwback Thursday 1960s Style

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Every so often I will work with someone who has a particular theme in mind for a shoot. This shoot was a 1960s pin-up style shoot. I did a little searching on social media and found some willing volunteers that had vehicles in which they let us use for the pictures.

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The time of day we were shooting was in the late afternoon and early evening. It was starting to get somewhat dark. During the whole shoot I used one to two Yongnuo 565ex speed lights. At times I had one of the speed lights in a octabox and at other times I shot both speed lights bare bulb. In this set of photos all of the images were captured using two speed lights bare bulb except for the head shot in color which was captured using an octabox.

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All of these images were created using a Fuji xt 10 and a Fujinon 55 – 200 F3.5 – 4.8 lens.

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So I started photography back in the film days and I still shoot it. I particularly love black and white film and the whole process of developing it. It just feel so much more hands on and organic. It’s very rare that I do not bring a film camera along when doing a photo shoot. These black and white images below were shot with a medium format Bronica ETRS. The film used was Ilford Delta 400.

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In the image below you can see the octagon I used in the reflection of the door.

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Rock Hunt

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Recently, I discovered the painted rock hobby that kids and adults alike are involved with. I’ve found several at local parks and have let my kids hid them again for others to find. Friday the 13th is traditionally thought to be a day of random bad luck happening. However, this past Friday the 13th was a blast. Several people painted rocks and organized a rock hunt at a local park. Around 40 people showed up for the event and plenty of kids left happy and excited with their findings.

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Photography. Dance. Music.

Photography and music are big passions of mine. While I’d argue that I cannot dance, I really have the utmost respect and admiration for those who can. For this shoot I photographed a young lady who is involved in music, dance, acting, and modeling. Talk about talent. She’s got it. Here are a few images we ended up with for the day…

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Black and White On Both Sides

Here are a couple of images that I recently made that will be in “Black and White On Both Sides” which is a book I will be publishing later this summer. I have really enjoyed playing with lighting over the last several years. I really like high contrast and low key black and white imagery. I decided to take on a project that consisted of nothing but just that.

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The above image was created with a speed light placed directly behind the subject.

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The above images was made using a speed light inside of an octabox to camera left.

Olympus Stylus Infinity

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So this little camera pack a good-sized punch for a point and shoot camera. I previously did a blog on the Minolta Hi Matic AF 2 and said that it was one of my favorite point and shoot cameras. This Olympus is right up there with the Minolta. This was the second camera that I brought with me to San Diego our wedding / honeymoon trip. I shot around 6 rolls with this camera and focus hit nearly every shot.

This camera has a 35mm F3.5 lens, which isn’t super fast but isn’t too terribly bad either. There is a f2.8 version as well but I don’t know if I can justify the cost different in the two cameras. I did not run into a situation the whole time on the trip where I thought I needed a faster lens. The camera has multiple flash settings including turning it off. One downside to the camera is that when you turn off the flash and then turn off the camera and then turn the camera back on, the flash is automatically set to auto mode again. I’d rather the flash be set to off by default. The camera feels very good in the hands and is small enough to fit in a front pocket in your jeans. Everything about this camera is automatic (except being able to control the flash functions). I do like the fact that this camera can read film DX codes and can shoot faster films than ISO 400 and ISO 800. When you are finished with the roll of film the camera also automatically rewinds the film for you too. Two other features worth mentioning are the tripod socket on the bottom and the self timer mode.

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The only downside that I can think of with this camera is the flash being turned on auto automatically when the camera is turned on. Overall this camera is almost the perfect point and shoot for just about any situation. I bought this camera for $15 and have seen them being sold for $30 and even a little more. This camera is well worth the purchase if you are looking for an all around film point and shoot and can deal with the flash function.

Cons:

  • Some might say the f3.5 lens compared to the f2.8
  • focus is a smidge slower than I would like but definitely not a deal breaker
  • The flash function

Pros

  • very very compact
  • very nice sharp lens
  • auto rewind
  • reads DX codes
  • can be had for a great price

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