Saturday, 19 January 2013

Professional? ...and Real Professionals

I sometimes pick up a photographic magazine other than the two to which I subscribe. This month I picked up a copy of Professional Photographer. Because clients demand video (who wouldn't), still photographers are having to learn cinematographic techniques and language. Many seem to be going about it the hard way by using a DSLR. The only advantage (and there are lots of disadvantages) of using a DSLR rather than a camcorder that I can see is the ability to use shallower depth of field to isolate the subject — as on a 35 mm film camera. I read with some amusement an article on the art of focusing and the concept of focus pulling because it had a box at the foot of one page entitled Focusing Jargon Buster. There were definitions for sharp, soft, rack focus/pull focus and, would you believe it in a 'professional' magazine, depth-of-field!

I first saw the art of focus pulling in the 1970s when making an Open University/BBC programme with that great BBC cameraman Henry Farrar and his assistant (the focus puller). As each shot was set up and timed, a thin length of sticky tape was attached to the distance scale to show where the focusing ring had to be moved to at a particular time in the shot, as the camera was moved, the lens was zoomed or the subject moved. Complicated takes had several bits of thin tape. It was the focus puller's job to move the ring gradually to the next mark at the right time. It was a pleasure to watch the masters of their craft in action. And remember, there was no way to check whether they had got it right until he film was processed. Also remember that this was location filming and that film was expensive.