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Issue 3 (Jun 1998): Visual Eyes

column photography cameras film filters

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#1 Mike Woeller

Mike Woeller


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Posted 01 June 1998 - 04:02 AM

Before I go into more specifics about setting up shots, I’d like to spend one more column on gear, specifically films and filters. Films may seem like a no-brainer to most, just go in and grab what’s cheap, but there is much more to it than that. Filters, on the other hand, may seem unnecessary, but they are a vital part of the photographic equation. Lastly, there are a few other points to make your kite photography better and more enjoyable.

There are two basic types of film, chrome for slides and color for prints. Both types also offer black and white versions. The difference between the two is self explanatory, one you get slides for projection, the other you get prints. When choosing a type of film, keep in mind your purpose. For personal use, prints are generally the most popular choice, because you need no special equipment or storage devices. If you plan to do a bit more with your photos, you may want to consider slides, though. Most magazines and ad agencies will take prints or negatives, but almost 90% prefer slides. Also, slides make for a better presentation if you plan to use these for workshops and such. Most photo labs will transfer between the two, but this is an added cost to your processing. All films come in varying speeds, available from the low end of 25 ISO (ASA) up to 3200 or 6400 ISO (ASA). Film speed is definitely something you must consider before your outing. Different speeds are used for different lighting conditions. Low-speed film requires more light for an image. Higher speed film will use less and expose faster. On a sunny beach, use a lower speed film, such as 200 or 100. Higher speed tends to overexpose on bright beaches. Higher speed film can be used indoors, for indoor competition or people shots. Higher speed film can also freeze fast action. As a rule of thumb, keep at least one roll of 200 and one roll of 400 in your bag if you are unsure of the weather conditions.

Filters are generally thought of as for the more "creative" photographers, and for many, they are. But if you own an SLR camera, or a large diameter compact camera, you MUST have a skylight, 1A, or UV filter on your lenses. The reason is simple: protection. Most kite events are held at a beach, and all the wind can kick up sand. Skylight and 1A filters are plain or optically coated glass that does not change the picture any and fits over your lens. With all that sand and debris blowing around at events, scratches can occur. It is much easier too, on the heart and pocket to replace a $10-$15 filter than a lens worth $100 or more (sometimes a LOT more). UV filters do the same thing as skylights and 1A’s, but also function as a glare reducer, providing crisper pictures. Other filters fliers may find of use are cross screen filters for the night flies. These produce little star points on lights and can spruce up those lit up kites. Use in moderation, because if there are too many criss-crossing light bars, your subject tends to be obscured. Another filter kite-fliers may find useful is a polarizing filter. This reduces reflections and glare you are not distracted by them. Good for displayed kites or plaques at awards banquets. For an auto-focus SLR, you will need a circular polarizer, which costs a bit more. One other is a neutral density filter. This is a saving grace for SLR photographers caught with fast film on a bright day. This filter cuts down light without affecting color. So, if you have 800 speed film because it was cloudy earlier and then the sun comes out, you will be able to put this filter on and finish your roll. The last filter that helps is what’s called a correcting filter. This is mainly good for indoor events. Most film is daylight film, meaning it is balanced for natural sunlight. If you go into a gym or civic center that uses fluorescent lights or those big tungsten lights, you will get an off color cast to your pictures if you do not use this filter. These filters are available in tungsten and fluorescent varieties and are much cheaper than buying many rolls of pre-balanced film. Your local camera shop can help you choose the right filters for you.

One other thing to remember about your kite photos is the processing. Over half of the shots many people throw away because they "look funny" are NOT the fault of the photographer. In our age of auto-everything cameras, it is almost (but not quite) impossible to take a bad photo. Some errors are made in the processing end. If you have a local camera store that offers one hour processing, I would recommend going there, even though it may be more expensive. Why? This is because they take more time to color correct and exposure correct shots and do their best to save as many shots as possible, instead of leaving the machine on automatic. Also, many camera shops take better care of their machines and clean them better. And in most camera shops, you won’t pay for shots that don’t turn out. If you go to a drug or department store, see if they have an out-lab service. Many times, they do offer this at a savings. Out-labs still have a better track record than most drug or department stores inhouse developing because they take a bit more time with your film.

Last Note: In the most recent Kiting AKA newsletter, the AKA announced a photo contest. The prize is a one year free membership to the AKA. As soon as I get more rules and details, I will post them here (with AKA permission). I encourage everyone who reads this to enter. Not only do you have a chance at a great prize, but the fun of going out and finding great kite photos is hard to describe. As my boss, Joe Iaconelli, once told me "There is a great shot in everything, it just takes the photographer to make the world see it."
Mike Woeller

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