One Piece At A Time

“I wouldn’t mind trying a couple of Shoots of my own.” I say to the Old Timer Assembly Line Portrait Photographer. “But I don’t have the money to buy a whole studio.”

“Oh, I’ve got equipment.” He says as we pull into his driveway.  “I’ve been doing this for a while.  You tend to pick up a few things here and there.”

As the garage door opened, I could see a stack of light stands, a couple of tripods, a ZII camera case, and a couple of light kits.  Scattered around the back of the room were all kinds of odds and ends collected from the many Companies this photographer had worked for.   As with most other Big Talkers, he never did have a Shoot of his own, and so far as I know, the old photo gear is quietly rusting in his garage.

I have had the chance to help myself to equipment from time to time.  The odd light stand, the occasional posing table, a background here and there and all the furcraft table covers I could ever want.  But I never managed to squirrel away a light kit, a camera, or anything really all that expensive.  Other photographers have tons of junk stored away-and most of it they never even think of using.  One fellow photographer was a Manager when a Company went under and they told him all they wanted back were the cameras-so he tossed just about everything else.

A couple of years ago The Company had a side business which I briefly worked for.  While there I was given a complete portable Studio-which I did not sign out and did not write down the serial numbers.  I sent most of it back, and started using the rest in my regular Company Studio, as it was newer and better equipment than I already had.  A less honest person might have kept it all-or taken it to a pawn shop.

I still have plans of opening my own Studio one of these days, so I am always on the lookout for odds and ends.  A man came in to have his portrait taken one time and told me that he had a couple of Hasselblads he wanted to sell.   I said I’d be happy to look at them, even though my interest in all other film cameras is pretty much nil.  I never saw him again, so I guess he changed his mind.

Another time a man told me he wanted to sell a light kit, as he was moving and didn’t want to lug it around any more.  The light kit was an older set of three Novatron lightheads, two umbrellas, two large light stands, one background light stand, the powerpack, and a sync cord.  This is a pretty basic light kit, but it is the kind I have used regularly over the years.  I offered him a $150 and he took it.  So now I am one piece closer to having my own Studio.  This man also said he had a Hasselblad and a couple of lenses to sell, but he also never returned.

The lure of owning a Hasselblad is that they have amazing optics and you can get a digital back for a film camera and drag it into the 21th century.  The problem is that a digital back cost $20k so you might as well go ahead and find yourself a DSLR that you’ll be happy with and spend the rest of the money on, oh, a new car.  I’m sure that someone out there has an old Hasselblad and an old Phase One H5 back that they are not using.  If that someone is reading this, drop me a line-I could put that old camera and digital back to good use.

A few years ago I found a photoblog where a fellow was a bit more serious about his cyber begging than I am.  He didn’t want an old 501C, he wanted a Hasselblad H4D-60 Digital SLR, which clocks in at about $40K.  He said that with such a camera, he could become a great professional photographer and everyone that helped him could take pride in his accomplishments.  That’s a tad beyond the standard Buy Me A Beer badge.

I have used Hasselblads here and there and they are way cool cameras.  I took some portraits of The Wife with my Om-1 and with a rented Hasselblad.  The Om-1 pictures came out pretty good, but when compared to the images from the Hasselblad it was like night and day.  The Hasselblad images were sharper and clearer and you could see details that were merely blurs in the Olympus images.  But I don’t shoot with a Hasselblad for The Company, so I won’t need one of my own any time soon.  There are way too many Pro Grade DSLRs out there now for under $500, so when the time comes I will just have to make up my mind.

One item that I really love using is the Pocket Wizard-a way cool doodad that trips the lights without the use of cords.  I have always been a big fan of moving around the Studio and dragging ten feet of cords all over the place can be a bit of hassle.  Plus it is a major tripping hazard for me and anyone foolish enough to enter my part of the Camera Room.

Then there are all the odds and ends needed in any portraits studio-backgrounds, stands, props, light modifiers, posing stools, posing tables-and of course, a better camera, better lights, bigger softboxes, more lenses.   And that most elusive of all items-someone who wants to have their portrait taken.

At the moment I have a pretty good computer and some software to view the portraits with.  I have a Lab I like.  I have a light kit that will get the job done.  I have a pretty good camera, but I am always on the lookout for a better one.  I have a couple of backgrounds, a few stands, a tripod that will work for now, and several years experience taking family portraits.

And once I get those first few Shoots of my own, I will need a Passer or two.  But first things first.  There are still a few pieces missing here and there.

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