Author: Uncle Dick

I'll have to qualify that last statement. Nearly everything is a lens. I have owned some examples of optics from 1950's that were made in East Germany that were probably re-purposed Typ 15 bomb fuses. In our homes, however, there are a lot more things that an be used to take pictures than we realise. Let's close the equipment cupboard after taking out one camera body and go exploring. We'll leave the prime lenses and the zooms, and see what else we can peer through. a. The office has a magnifying glass. A cheap Indian-made thing that is more decor than utensil, it still has a simple lens that will let you examine a stamp collection or set fire to dry grass. It will have more chromatic error and focusing problems than you can shake a stick at but the very centre might take a decent closeup image. Attach a toilet paper tube collar to your camera and hold the glass to the front of the collar and go exploring. b. That was awful - this may be better. it's a lens that...

Well, have we got good news for you. Now you do. For the next however long it takes until the government blows the all-clear siren you have all the time you need to do it. It? To make yourself into a work of art. I know lots of people who have been doing that for decades and in some cases should be hung in galleries. Now it is time for others to join them, and it has become a thing. Throw off your inhibitions and join in. I was once a part of a costumed society whose members were enormously talented as clothing and accessory makers. They concentrated upon historical themes and were therefore a rich source of talent for re-creating versions of historical art in my studio. The heading image is one such result taken from an annual society dinner - it was a life/art feast. The faces of the participants were as much a find as the costuming. Well, with the current viral lockdown, people all over the world are recreating art scenes with things found around their houses. Draperies, bedsheets, fruit,...

The landscape and tabletop photographers are doing quite well right now. The wedding and sports shooters are not. We can't do much to make a difference in view of the health crisis in the world, but we can look at the equipment cupboard and speculate: a. The wide-angle environmental lens is going to be pretty quiet for a while - the events that saw its use were pretty close-run and crowded affairs. There was no social distancing then, and you needed the 14mm to get enough of the crowd in. b. On the other hand, this would be a good time to go away and do landscape pictures of distant scenery with the wide-angle...

Okay, you've gathered up your courage to make a video selfie.Now you have to figure out why, and then what to do. WHY This is a big deal in your life - this time. You weren't alive for the Spanish Flu in 1919 but you are for this pandemic. And if you are taking the advice of the government and medical authorities, you are staying home and away from other people. Hopefully you'll never have to do another of these things, so it makes sense if you remember this one. You have thoughts - some of which may be sensible and some of them reprehensible. If you express them to others in person or over social media you may live to regret it - opinions are always potential weapons against us. But you still want to express them. Well, express them to yourself in the video. Tell yourself the story of what you are experiencing, and be as honest with yourself as you can be. Just saying it out loud can relieve a great deal of the anxiety of what you're going through. You...

Because here's where you climb over the barbed wire and stand up. We all take selfies. Even old-school shooters arrange the lights in the good old main/fill/hair pattern, attach the camera to a tripod, and attempt to take a good self portrait. It can be a wearing experience - trying to get most of the bald spots and wrinkled areas to agree with each other. ( Note: hair lights are for people with hair. Eventually they become superfluous...

You'll have to refer back to previous columns to see how the digitising of the slide collection started - the equipment and the discoveries. It is still going steadily, and this apparently is a good thing - a number of photography advice sites say that establishing a routine during a lock-down is a good method of maintaining sanity. I'm not sure if sanity and slide digitising in the same sentence is realistic, but so far I haven't heard voices. The silver elephant in the room is not actually colour slides - it's negatives. I started making these seriously in 1965 and that's not an inappropriate word. After serious came chronic, then grim, and it got worse before it got better. I was a person with money to buy a variety of films - and this meant that I chopped and changed about in emulsions all the time. The driving force was not necessity or skill - it was novelty and the blandishments of the advertisements in POPULAR PHOTOGRAPHY and MODERN PHOTOGRAPHY. It was exactly analogous to the business of continuously switching powders,...

Every mothballed battleship needs a dedicated maintenance crew to make sure that the guns still work, the boiler is swept out, and the plug is still in the bilges. Plus you need to rotate the rats. Photographic organisations - clubs, businesses, and studios - need to do the same if they are going to be laid up in ordinary for several months.  Now is the time to go through your check list; Has everyone who owes you money paid it to you? If they are still dragging the chain get in touch with them and yank it smartly. It never does to be the last shy person in the line of creditors when the bottom of the money pot starts to appear. You may not be nice, but you might be paid. Does everyone know that you are still alive? I don't mean literally, though that is a thought...

If you do not have a discarded software manual somewhere in your workroom - shelf, box, or holding up a short table leg - are you even a photographer? In the film era we had manuals as well - the camera you bought came with one, and you balanced it on your knee as the plane flew you from the duty-free shop to the holiday destination. If you read it sober, you may well have succeeded with the holiday snaps. In any case, you brought it back, intending to read it carefully from cover to cover...

In my case I am shut into a studio, scale model workshop, and comfortable library with a drinks cabinet. As long as the supplies hold out, I am fine. The plan to distill liquor from potato peelings and old spray-painting rags is proceeding well and the still has only gone up in flames twice. Today's Shut-in Idea comes from a photo shoot that was done last year in the studio with John Harney. He's a marine seascape photographer who is wet more often than he is dry -  and wanted a page for one of his albums of pictures  - or for one of the calendars he produces. He came up with the idea of a set-up photo of himself and all the equipment he uses for the shots. You may have seen similar photos done be fire departments, military outfits, and sports clubs. They lay themselves out in precise form as if they were a G.I. Joe or Barbie play set. The work involved is considerable as there has to be a lot of precision in the concept as well as...