The other night we all went to hear jazz guitarist Joe Pass. Our 18-year-old, who worships Joe Pass as the best string-plucker in the business, talked us into going. He thought it would be neat to take some photos of Joe playing, but told me the lighting was really bad. It sounded like a challenge, so I thought, what's to lose and loaded our Nikon with Tri-X black-and-white and off we went.
He was right: The lighting was lousy. I pointed the camera at the stage and the through-the-lens meter registered 1/2 second at f/2.5 -- an impossible hand-held picture, and besides that Pass was bobbing and weaving over his guitar as he played. What to do?
F/2.5 was the biggest opening on the 105-mm lens I was using to get a large image from our seat, so I couldn't open up. The only other possibility, if I wanted that picture, was to raise the ASA dial, checking the change in exposure as I doubled the ASA 400 film speed.
The first click to ASA 800 gave me a 1/4-second exposure, the next at 1600 an 1/8-second and the last notch, at 3200, a hand-holdable 1/15th -- I could make it!
Setting the ASA dial at 3200 (eight times the normal 400 rating), I shot as Joe played. Since at f/2.5 I had very little depth of focus, I drew a careful bead on his eyes and used the split-image rangefinder to get it right on in the dim light. To brace the camera, I rested my elbow on top of the table and held it very steady; and to stop Joe's movements, I waited until he was relatively still.
As we left the club, after the concert, I took a metered reading of the outside scene, lit by street lamps. It was about the same setting I'd used inside. I started to worry -- did I really get my exposure?
The next day in the Darkroom I decided to play it safe. I would make snip tests as the development went on. (A snip test is simply a matter of cutting off a piece of film and putting it into the fixer solution -- all in the dark, of course -- and then checking to see how dense the image has become. This procedure is carried on until it looks about right, and then the remainder of the roll is taken out of the developer.)
But I didn't feel secure even with this technique, because my UFG development chart listed only a possible ASA 1600 by doubling the development time. Then a bright light turned on in my head: I remembered the Factor 8 that I had been meaning to try on just this kind of occasion. Sure enough, this additive guaranteed on ASA 3200 with Tri-X film.
I used Factor 8, roughly judging the recommended proportion (one-third ounce to one quart of developer) to my eight ounces in the Nikkor tank, and started.
The recommended developing time with Factor 8 was three times normal, but since this was the first time I had used the product I thought it best to play safe and pull a snip test just before the time was up. The test showed that I was on the right tract, so I continued the development to the recommended time and dumped it into the fixer.
The film turned out beautiful -- just the right density to print on normal paper with considerable detail in the shadows and highlights. The impossible visual dream had turned into photographic reality.
You may or may not want to take pictures under dim light conditions, but if and when you do, there are some simple procedures to keep in mind that will literally turn dark into light.
First open your lens up all the way to the largest f/stop, such as f/1.4 or f/2. Next take a metered light reading at the recommended ASA for the film you're using. If the shutter speed isn't fast enough, start turning your ASA dial and you'll note that each time you double the ASA setting you can also double the shutter speed. Stop when you have a fast-enough shutter setting to take your shot.
Finally, develop (or have developed) your film at the ASA setting you used. There are many products on the market that will enable you to do this, and it you don't want to do it there are labs that will.
And P.S., a word of caution: Don't change the ASA once you've started -- the whole roll has to be shot at the same ASA setting.
Q: I will be taking a cruise to Alaska next September and would like to photograph the glaciers. Other people's photos that I've seen all have an extremely blue cast in the snow scenes. Can you advise me of any filters to eliminate some of the blue, and which type of film do you recommend for color slides?
A: A 1A Skylight filter will solve the problem of excess blueness. You can just leave this filter on for all your shooting, since there will be no change in exposure and the slightly warm cast won't hurt your other scenic shots.
The slide film I'd recommend is Kodachrome, either 64 or 25 -- the 25 has a slightly warmer cast. The Fuji and Agfa films are also higher in yellow, which cuts the blueness of the ice. Ektachrome, on the other hand, turns out bluer than these -- I'll bet that's what you saw with the cold tones.
Try to take your snow and ice scenes on sunny days if you like warmer tints.
When the sun is behind clouds, the cold blue of the sky reflects on the snow and ice resulting in a very cold overall cast.
Q: I just received a Pentax ME as a present. This is the first 35-mm camera I've owned or operated. I know how to focus and shoot the picture -- and that's about it. Could you recommend some books for a beginner like me? One that explains in simple terms all the functions of a camera? Also, could you tell me what's the correct film to use indoors without a flash?
A: There are several books on the shelves that you should look at. The Amphoto Pocket Companion: Pentax MX and ME, by Gene Balsley, new on the market at $4.95, is a good overall textbook and it's a small handy size that you can take along with your camera. Another is Pentax SLR Cameras, by Carl Shipman of HP Books at $5.95, a clearly written, information-packed book on all aspects of the Pentax SLR. A third recommendation, which will give you ideas and instruction in the use of 35-mm cameras, is the very practical and interesting How to Take Great Pictures With Your SLR, by Lou Jacobs -- another HP Book at $7.95.
The answer to your indoor shooting is to use Type B (tungsten) film when shooting indoors under incandescent lights, but use outdoor color film when shooting with flash.
Q: Without purchasing another camera, I would like to use my Vivitar 603 Telepocket for close-up work. Is there a special lens or any other adaptation that would make this possible?
A: The Vivitar 603 Telepocket camera is not adaptable for close-up photography because its lenses are fixed-focus -- that is, both the normal 24-mm f/7 and the tele 36-mm f/7 focus from five feet to infinity. There's just no way to adapt either a close-up lens or any other gadget so you could focus closer, and even if you change the focus on the lens there's no way to adjust it.
I'm afraid you'll have to exchange your camera for a more sophisticated model if you also want to do close-up photography.
Q: I own a Zeiss-Ikon (German) 35-mm camera that's 30 years old. Do you know of any camera mechanic who can put threads on my lens mount so I can attach the newer macro lenses to it?
A: I called a number of expert repairmen about your problem, and the consensus was that you should get a new camera. The problems of adapting a modern lens to an older camera are many -- and all the solutions are so expensive that it just wouldn't pay to adapt. The new retrofocus lenses used on SLR (single-lens reflex) cameras focus on a different focal plane. And hardly any repair shop has the milling equipment necessary to re-thread a lens mount -- so you would need both a repair shop and a machine shop -- at considerable cost.