Earlier in the year I ventured out into the Irish rain and tried to document the event of the summer.
In June Bavaria City Racing brought Formula 1 to the streets of Dublin. More than 100,000 spectators were expected to gather for an adrenaline-fuelled afternoon with Superbikes, Super cars, Touring cars, Formula 2, WRC, Drifters, and demonstrations from internationally celebrated F1 cars and drivers.
The map of the taken-over streets
This is what I managed in the midst of the worst weather of the season.
I shot in three different locations. It was well worth the extra effort to talk to bar-owners in the city centre to let you up to the top of their buildings to allow you to shoot from above.
I found a great article on buying the older retro cameras on Ebay.
The trouble is, after you have read this you are going to be poor and partner-less. On the brighter side, you will have an immense collection of the greatest light recording tools on the planet!
“One thing I’m always amazed at is how some of the best cameras can be bought on ebay at great prices simply because few sellers spend just a few minutes cleaning up the cameras they find at garage sales or in the attic before photographing them and listing them. The metal bodied cameras of the 1930’s through 1970s were built like battleships. They clean up beautifully. I’ve collected more than 150 cameras on ebay over the last 2 years and have had great luck in winning high quality equipment that I shoot at least a roll of film with each of them.
Somebody may consider this a sacriledge, but I clean up each and every one of them using baby wipes. These things clean up everything from leather to metal and plastic parts. and I have never seen it damage any camera with whatever chemicals are in the wipe. Maybe some other brand might do damage, but I can vouch that the Kirkland brand from Costco does no harm and does a great job in taking off everything but corrosion. Clean lens glass with proper lens cloths, though and use proper lens cleaning fluid (if you must) so you don’t take the delicate coating off lenses and mirrors.
Beyond that, one usually just needs to replace the light seals on most cameras and get the proper batteries and then you have a camera that takes great, razor sharp pictures. The great news is that there are great sellers on ebay that sell light seal replacement kits and hard to find batteries. I’ve bought from each of them on more than one occasion and have been very happy with their products. I suppose the most common of the no-longer-available batteries is the 625 mercury cell that was commonly used in such popular cameras of the 1960’s and 1970’s like the Cannon FTb SLR, the Canonet Series of Rangefinder Cameras, The Nikkormat FTn, Nikon F, and the Minolta SRT Series of SLR’s. Sure, there are ways to use hearing aid batteries to replace this no longer available button cel, but I’m a very satisfied user of the Wein Cel MRB625 that provides the exact 1.35Volt power those cameras (and their meters) were designed to use. Even though they are the zinc/air type they still last over a year in storage after the tab has been removed. At about $6 per cel they are worth being able to use these classic cameras at their original specs.
Another great product to know about in restoring old cameras is Ronsonal Lighter Fuel. Used sparingly, this is a wonderful solvent that frees stuck parts such as leaf shutters and aperture blades. It is thought to be a very pure solvent that leaves little or no residue after it evaporates. I’ve been able to take wonderful pictures with many seemingly hopeless cameras because this stuff loosened up the old lubricant in cameras that haven’t been used in decades. Usually, there’s nothing else wrong with them”.
First of all it would be unfair to assume that all persons originating from Transylvania are Vampires. I live with one and my neck is relatively bite-free. I do, however keep a large garland of the age-old pungent rose in our kitchen. Joking aside, the reason I am interviewing this interesting gentleman today is to show the determination he had to provide for his family through a really tough Communist regime. These were times without Facebook and camera-phones, where making a side-living from photography could have landed him in serious trouble with the Romanian Securitate resulting in substantial fines, and even Jail. I got to know Dorin Avram and his family through my partner who happens to be his niece.
When did your passion for takings photographs begin?
“I always liked the Photography. After I got married and we had the kids, I started it professionally to make a second income.”
Is there a photographer that you particularly liked back then?
“No, there was none.” (It’s important to state here that during Communism, only classic literature and political propaganda would have been stocked in the libraries. Researching photographers would have been near impossible).
What year did you start taking photographs to make extra income and what camera did you use?
” It was in the year of 1986. The camera was a Zenit 35mm Rangefinder. I did weddings, baptism, birthdays and all kinds of family portraits”.
I assume you couldn’t send your negatives to a camera store to develop and print them. How did you get your hands on the chemicals and paper?
“Well, the photo paper I bought now and then from photo shops, but in bigger amounts for storage, and the solutions too at first. Later on I bought the chemicals from the pharmacy and mixed the solutions myself. I had a scale, that was very accurate. You had to have the exact amount of each chemical for the solution!”
Roughly how long during the Communist regime were you in business for?
“From 1986 until 1991 when we left Romania to come to Germany. The communist regime ended 1990, so I did it for about five years.”
It’s said that one in three Romanians was an informant for the Securitate*. Where did you do your processing and was it well hidden?
“There was a secret room in our apartment, which was my laboratory/ darkroom. I think it was around 1.5 by 2 meters long or something like that. The door to it was our coat rack and you could open it, if you pulled a secret crank and rolled the door open. The door was really heavy.”
I’m sure everyone would love to see how you organised yourself. Could you draw a quick picture of the set up?
If you were caught by the authorities what was the penalty?
“It was a high monetary penalty. How much it was, I don’t remember. Prison was less the case.”
Do you think people are as passionate about photography now, as you were back then?
“I think yes! I see Artemis for example; she takes pictures of everything… I think she is more passionate about it now than I was then. I tried a lot back then and I did everything myself (developing etc.), but today I think it would be too expensive for me…
Were there any moments when young children would sneak in and open the secret door, or turn on the light by accident, destroying your pictures? For example young Artemis or Alexandru?
“Yes… but only the pictures on the paper were damaged, but it almost never happened. It wasn’t as tragic, because the film itself wasn’t damaged and I could just do it again and I had always enough photo paper.
Last year, at your son Alexandru’s wedding in Germany, I saw you with a Canon DSLR. Do you prefer digital cameras now, or do you still have a love for the old film?
“I prefer the digital photography, it’s so much easier!”
Would you ever get back into taking pictures for a living, or have you ‘hung up your boxing gloves’?
“If I could make good money again then probably I would.”
*Control over society became stricter and stricter, with an East German-style phone bugging system installed, and with Securitate recruiting more agents, extending censorship and keeping tabs and records on a large segment of the population. By 1989, according to CNSAS (the Council for Studies of the Archives of the Former Securitate), one in three Romanians was an informant for the Securitate. Due to this state of affairs, income from tourism dropped substantially by 75%, with the three main tour operators that organized trips in Romania leaving the country by 1987.
It turns out that because I’m studying a course in the journalism faculty I qualify for a Press Pass (NUJ Card). I’m not really sure how it works but now as I have one, I’ll take you through my research into what it actually does, and see if it will get me free into the next ACDC concert.
The NUJ‘s Code of Conduct has set out the main principles of British and Irish journalism since 1936. The code is part of the rules and all journalists joining the union must sign that they will strive to adhere to it.
Members of the National Union of Journalists are expected to abide by the following professional principles:
NUJ Code of Conduct
At all times upholds and defends the principle of media freedom, the right of freedom of expression and the right of the public to be informed
Strives to ensure that information disseminated is honestly conveyed, accurate and fair
Does her/his utmost to correct harmful inaccuracies
Differentiates between fact and opinion
Obtains material by honest, straightforward and open means, with the exception of investigations that are both overwhelmingly in the public interest and which involve evidence that cannot be obtained by straightforward means
Does nothing to intrude into anybody’s private life, grief or distress unless justified by overriding consideration of the public interest
Protects the identity of sources who supply information in confidence and material gathered in the course of her/his work
Resists threats or any other inducements to influence, distort or suppress information and takes no unfair personal advantage of information gained in the course of her/his duties before the information is public knowledge
Produces no material likely to lead to hatred or discrimination on the grounds of a person’s age, gender, race, colour, creed, legal status, disability, marital status, or sexual orientation
Does not by way of statement, voice or appearance endorse by advertisement any commercial product or service save for the promotion of her/his own work or of the medium by which she/he is employed
A journalist shall normally seek the consent of an appropriate adult when interviewing or photographing a child for a story about her/his welfare
The NUJ believes a journalist has the right to refuse an assignment or be identified as the author of editorial that would break the letter or spirit of the code. The NUJ will fully support any journalist disciplined for asserting her/his right to act according to the code
Instructions on how to go about applying for entry to event
Request access in advance either by phone or by mail. Put written requests on company letterhead. Explain why you wish to cover the event and any special requirements you have, such as equipment or crew members that you will be bringing.
Show up to the event promptly. Make sure the press pass is visible. Be ready for a security check.
Introduce yourself to marketing and press coordinators. Ask to be included on future e-mail lists to receive notification of upcoming events.
If you need to try to gain access to an event at the last minute, try showing up to the venue and asking to speak with the press coordinator. It’s possible that showing your credentials and explaining your need for access could get you in. But it may not work for more secure events.
Know the rules and follow them. Once you are given access don’t go into restricted areas.
Be prepared to undergo a background check.
Simply designing a press pass using your home computer and printer will not be enough to gain you entrance into events.
As a follow up to the lens-less camera post earlier, Camera Obscura, I thought I’d explore another means in which to take a picture without a lens. Inspired by those age-old office party bum shots I thought I’d try a photocopier. Well, a modern day document scanner. So I set about it with a shelf of old camera junk, and my head.
Here are the results.
Although it looks a little creepy it was very quick to do and free if you already have a scanner!
I was asked to think about taking a few shots for a new cafe opening down on the River Liffey by Mr. McCabe himself. He loved the fact that the opening was going to coincide with the Dublin Tall Ships festival arriving down the Liffey in late summer. As a result he wanted nautical themed pictures that would look great even when the festival was over and the ships had sailed. As his new branch is a stone’s throw from Dublin’s central artery, this made perfect sense. I thought about it for a couple of days and decided that the best place to fit the brief was the Howth Marina, situated thirteen kilometres north of Dublin. Emails were sent and within a day or two I had the location set. I packed a lunch, warm jumper and weatherproof jacket and set off. I knew Ray was looking for around eight images, so if I aimed for about ten to fifteen, he’d at least have a choice. Here are a small selection of the final prints I’ve chosen to show you which will give you an insight to what was going through my head that day with regard to fitting the brief and the customer’s specifications.
I had the lass in the print shop finish off the days work which she then submitted to Ray and he was delighted. He just received a custom collection for a great price, and in the space of a couple of days. Aim to be a little cheaper and a whole lot more reliable. I think this small business tip should fare you well. Three jobs like this per week would make life very comfortable indeed and would make the Canon 5D mkiii seem ever that little bit closer to being mine. Ach, I’m dreaming again, till next time.
When asked to go down and take shots of your mates band make sure you do it justice. Every job you encounter will take you on to the next, so make sure it’s correctly executed. You can be sure that if you’re last shoot was a little lazy then you will only get half the cash for the next one if anything at all! You should be aiming to increase your income. Not eventually be that guy who works for free but it’s ok because he’s not that great. Even if it is your best pal’s first live performance do the best you can. I have to make it clear though, some free work is never a bad idea if you know it may lead on to another project.
In order to set up your camera correctly to allow for all available light in the venue, you’ll have to get down there the day before and check for yourself.
I usually bump up the ISO to 800 or 1600.
Change mode to monotone (Most will tell you not too but I get faster, clearer, sharper images when the camera doesn’t have to process colour).
Use a fast prime lens like the super reliable 50mm. Best investment I ever made and not a great expense either. For Canon. For Nikon. The 50mm prime lets in a whole heap of light with its shallow depth of field. This allows you pinpoint the exact location of your viewer’s attention.
Try to leave your flash at home. Good flashes are not cheap and this will ruin your hot-shoe connection if someone knocks it, trust me. Fixing your camera’s hotshoe and a broken flash will destroy your insurance policy.
Get to know the whole band, not just the lead guy, to the point that when you’re snapping away, they will not be distracted by your presence during a song. And when you want them to turn and face you, all you have to do is gesture slightly. Do not take the attention away from the stage!
Do hand out business cards. It’ll quickly get fans to leave you with some space to work if they think they are helping you promote their favourite band. Speaking of which use the Security guys if things get out of hand. Equipment damaged by beer and elbows quickly adds up. Think about insurance.
I think I’ve covered all the technical aspects, now it’s up to you to get out there and capture what makes this particular band special using nothing but imagery. As always I’ll leave you with a wee example. This is Worth and Bondi. I’ll stick a video at the bottom of the page for you. See if you can tell me what the drums are..
Here are the shots.
I’ll leave the comments open to you guys on this one.