typewriter 1

This is from the same shooting session as the aeroplane shots in Still Movement. I was just trying to find things to take advantage of the slanting winter sunlight coming in through the window of the séjour. Frances had been using this old Olympia to address Christmas cards (and I had had to repair it beforehand), so it was handy. I liked the shapes, and there is something about the old-fashionedness of a typewriter that seems to go well with winter sun.

As with the aeroplane shots I used the Leica M9 with Visoflex III and 65/3.5 Elmar: arguably the worst DSLR in the world, but with three times the megapixel count of my Nikon D70, a 100% finder, and no crop factor. Also, it's quite fun.

What you can't see in the full-screen shot is that there are wonderful 'starbursts' on the keys (and elsewhere), reflections from the edges of the diaphragm of the Elmar shooting straight into specular reflections. Unfortunately, blowing the image up like this also reveals dust on the keys: we have a wood fire in the séjour and it's seriously dusty. I should have dusted the keys off but as I was shooting, unexpected guests arrived and by the time they had gone, so had the light.

I've always felt that every picture 'wants' to be a certain size, and because of the sparkles, this one 'wants' to be fairly big.

It's quite possible that I'll re-shoot it one day, but the trouble with reshoots is that they are (to borrow a phrase Oscar Wilde coined for quite another occasion), 'like cold rice pudding'. It's just one of those things to remember next time.

typewriter 1 crop


typewriter 2

After I'd shot the first picture, I moved in closer - and it didn't work. The picture needed more 'working space' at the top.

Why? I'm not sure. I think it's the balancing of the black tonal mass of the typewriter with the black tonal mass below the window. I think the tiny fringe of curtain, barely visible in the main picture, helped too. I tried cropping it out, and the picture wasn't as good, somehow.

This is a fundamental lesson. It may be impossible to say, "This picture is good" or "This picture is bad," especially if the pictures are of two different subjects, but it is almost always possible to compare two similar pictures and say, "This picture is better than that one."

If you don't like these pictures, don't ask yourself "Which is better?" but rather "Which is worse?" Again, you can usually tell. And if you don't like your own pictures, ask yourself the same question.

Then ask yourself, "Why is it worse? What is worse about it?" Even if you can't answer the question, you'll probably learn something from trying to answer it.

There are all kinds of things I could have done. For instance, I could have placed a white reflector or bounce beside the camera (a sheet of white expanded polystyrene is good) to kick some more light back onto the typewriter. That would have given more detail in the type basket, but it would also have detracted from the black massiveness of the typewriter. I could have included more of the window. I could have changed the angle to the light. But, as I said, some friends turned up.

The important thing, as I said earlier, is that I liked the look of the light on the dining-room table. I therefore got out a camera and tried a few shots. Some were more successful than others. But the point is, you can learn from every picture you take - so take plenty of pictures.


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© 2010 Roger W. Hicks