•COMING IN SEPTEMBER, 2015•

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

by Emery Roth

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Blacksmith's Vice


PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: (On Lens Choice, part 3)

Even before I saw Will's shop I suspected that at least to start I would be shooting hand-held. I wanted to explore various perspectives and elevations quickly. The space was a bit tight but allowed me to move around Will and the hearth on three sides. Depending on the angle I could get back as much as perhaps ten feet but sometimes just 6. I could get as close as I dared.

As it turned out Will frequently turned from hearth to anvil and back. They stood at ninety degrees to each other, and by shifting positions I could look into his face across either or view him in profile. There was constant tension between the desire to angle up into Will's face or down at his work on anvil or hearth. As I moved, the background changed presenting compositional opportunities and dangers. Shooting with a zoom and hand-held provided rich options.

Most of the time I like shooting from a tripod. When my pack is on my back, my tripod and camera are likely to be on my shoulder. When I see a promising image I enjoy standing and fine-tuning the composition, and I may stop and shoot from a single position for 5 minutes or 20 minutes, and, when the sky was changing, I've often shot for three hours without repositioning more than ten feet.

I've only been shooting from a tripod for the last 5 or 6 years. It keeps me from rushing and makes me look harder. When I saw this wall in Will's shop, I knew I wanted to photograph it. It is a window Vermeer would want to paint. The light was perfect, outlining the edges of the iron scroll and some of the other iron pieces hanging in the window revealing them in high relief. The orderliness and nature of the stuff drew me. On full resolution copies I've spent a long time zooming and enjoying the particulars, like characters in a drama.

Whether I got the composition right or not, I needed the tripod to study how the layers intersected and to provide separation between them at critical places. A slight move up, down, right or left made a huge difference. A tilt sent the perpendiculars diverging. Sometimes the eye is quick in finding a composition, but fine tuning often requires a tripod.

I also needed a tripod as this is an HDR made from 4 distinct exposures ranging from 1/50 sec. to 1.3 seconds. Of course these shutter speeds alone call for a tripod. Whether one shoots most often from a tripod or shoots hand held more of the time will often be dictated by subject, but ones preferences and practices make up one's "camera habit," and that will determine what lenses one should choose.

Once all photography was done from a fixed camera, but even today practice ranges from those who shoot mostly with tripod-bound, medium and large format cameras that must be patiently set up and viewed with the image upside down - to paparazzi who snag photos by the dozens, one-handed, from the top of a no parking sign. There are so many ways to be a photographer. Shooting style leads to lens choice and is entirely personal.

Back at Will's, I spent most of the shoot with the 18-200mm zoom, first without tripod and later on the tripod but with the head free to move. My 18-70mm zoom is a better lens and would have done the job better; almost all shots were under 70mm, but I no longer pack that lens.


to be continued...