New Video: Andy Hunter - Transition by Simeon Smith

If you follow my blog you probably know how much I work with Andy on the Presence App, a mindfulness / meditation / prayer app for apple and android. 

Here's a video I worked on for the app that has now been released on YouTube. It's probably the most proud I've been of a piece of visual work I've done, and it's a real privilege to be able to set Andy's music to my images.

Have a watch! 

The geeky bit, because I know so many of you love my quirky gear; this was shot using the following cameras and lenses.

  • Pentax Q7  with a 1960s Yashica "D" mount 1.9, 13mm cine lens. 
  • Lomography Lomokino 35mm film video camera.
  • 1980's Lomo 135BC Compact camera with clockwork autoadvance. 
  • Canon 5D mIII, 14mm 1.4

Subscribe to my blog!

* indicates required

Diana Day 2018 by Simeon Smith

It's no secret I love plastic cameras. So when Denise (https://twitter.com/mybluephase) got in touch asking me to help with some graphics for Diana Day 2018 I jumped at the opportunity. 

Here's the plan: 

  1. Grab a camera; A plastic Diana Camera, or clone. 
  2. Shoot some film with it on August 4th.
  3. Upload the images during the rest of the month.
  4. Tag your images #DianaDay 

This is something run by the community for the community, for fun. Not for glory or prestige, thought there's plenty of that too, but FUN is at the heart of this event. 

Join in! 

(and if you don't have a Diana camera and are local, let me lend you one)

(and yes, that's my adorkable 4 year old in his Buzz Lightyear PJs)

Subscribe to my blog!

* indicates required

The Greatest Lenses You've Never Heard Of: D-Mount Cine Lenses by Simeon Smith

The photos in this post were chosen as they show off the qualities of the lenses, not because of their artistic merit, so... back off, okay?!

In 1932, Kodak introduced Standard 8mm cine film. It was really just re-perforated 16mm film, and had a few quirks, the most notable was that midway through shooting you’d flip the reel around to shoot on the other side of the film. It was a smart way of doubling the economy of shooting 16mm, which was out of the reach of most amateurs. 

This film was slow, with ISO 10-25 being the most popular, like most film in the 30’s, but that meant it had decent grain and a lot of definition could be captured across those tiny 8mm frames. The low ISO meant that the lenses would need to open wide to let as much light in as possible, but that was quite easy as the lenses were so small.

These fast and tiny lenses were called “D mount”, but were pretty useless on 35mm cameras, as the image they produce is so tiny. 


Shift forward eighty-something years and digital camera sensors come in all shapes and sizes. D mount adaptors exist for most digital mirrorless cameras, but they’re particularly useful on the Pentax Q7, which has a sensor size of roughly… 8mm. (Older Pentax Q cameras have a smaller sensor, so some cropping will occur… and, well, they’re not as good). 


As these lenses have been pretty redundant for the past few decades, most of them are crazy cheap. I bought 3 different ones to try out and had change from £20, for the lot. I was then gifted a 4th.

With a (rather dirty) L39 lens for scale. 

With a (rather dirty) L39 lens for scale. 

What did I get? (focal lengths are obviously a LOT shorter) 

-Yashica 13mm, f1.4 standard prime lens. 

-Wirgin 1 1/2” Telephoto, f1.9.

-Kern Palliar 5mm, wide angle, f1.9

-Taylor, Taylor and Hobson, 13mm, f2.5 standard prime (tiny!)


What should you look out for? 

Wide apertures is where it’s at for these lenses. I have a 13mm (50mm standard frame equivalent) 1.4, and a 1.9 telephoto. Given how small the glass in these lenses is often their construction is pretty simple, and that gives you some amazing swirly bokeh similar to antique portrait lenses. Disregard the brands you know. The only brand I’ve heard of from the lenses I have is Yashica, and “known” brands like canon seem to drive up the price. Quite a lot of these lenses don’t have a manual focus ring, I’m supposing because focus was originally on the cameras they were intended for. It’s not necessarily a problem as they’ll probably focus to infinity screwed fully into digital adaptor, and you can focus closer by unscrewing them slightly. 


What should I use these lenses for?

Seriously? Everything. The swirly bokeh works amazingly well for portraits, and most of these lenses close to f22, meaning they’re perfect for sun flares in the autumn and spring, and for that weird “almost pinhole” look. They were also designed for video, so excel at moving image. 


Now I’ve bought a small collection, I’m ready for the rest of you to give these great lenses a try and drive the market prices up! 

How to Take Great Photos with a Rubbish Camera by Simeon Smith

I’ve been encouraged to write this post by some people at work. Not to blow my own trumpet, but they were saying how I get better iPhone snaps than they do, despite having the exact same handset.

Move! I squatted uncomfortably close to this street performer.

Move! I squatted uncomfortably close to this street performer.

My father was a very early adopter of the digital camera. When I was a kid he bought one of the first Kodak point-and-shoots that came out. It was heavy and shot just a couple of dozen photos before it’s four AA batteries died. I think it was around 1.2 megapixels? Something like that. Back then, anyone would have killed for the cameras we all have in our pockets on the back of our phones.  

Take the photo that no one else is taking.

Take the photo that no one else is taking.

In comparison, in 2017, rubbish cameras don’t exist.

What has changed is what we expect from them. 

I don’t want to make this post about phone cameras specifically, or about how to edit easily, those are other posts. These are just a few ideas to help you make better photographs, regardless of what you’re shooting on. 

Force depth of field. 

Force depth of field. 

  1. Move! Most people see something they want to shoot, lift their camera to their face, and take the picture. Most of the time the exact place you’re standing when you think you might want to take a photo isn’t the best place to shoot from. So have a look around. Try holding the camera at different heights. Turn around before shooting. Do a full 360. Ask yourself, is this the best light available? Is this the best background I can shoot the subject against? Is there anything that I can use as foreground? Is this the best way to frame the subject?
  2. Take the photo that no one else is taking. If everyone is taking photos of the whole room, shoot a portrait. If everyone is shooting a landscape, shoot something close to you. We’ve all seen those viewing laybys on the side of the road, and everyone stops, gets out of the car, and takes the same photo trying to get as much of the scenery in as possible. Look around and do ANYTHING to make your photograph unique. Shoot between the railings. Get some height by standing on something. Wander another 100 yards down the road. Anything. 
  3. Force depth of field. When photographers say “depth of field” they’re talking about how much of the picture is in focus. These days the fashion is for  the extremes, probably because the extremes usually cost money. People either want a very shallow depth of field, with just a sliver of the subject in focus (to show how expensive their lenses are) or they want a composite HDR photo where EVERYTHING is in focus and super detailed (to show off their photoshop skillz). Truth is, there’s a lot you can do to achieve this on any camera. If you want a shallow depth of field with out-of-focus background (Bokeh, in photographer-talk), use low light and shoot really close to your subject, or put something a couple of inches from the camera for a blurred foreground. To achieve a photo that’s really sharp all over shoot on auto with a lot of light – the camera’s lens will close, it’s iso will go down, and your photo will be “sharper” all round. If you’re using a camera phone, tap the sky, the rest of the photo will darken, shoot, then brighten up the photo in the edit. You’ll end up with a washed out sky, but you’ll have a lot more of the photo in focus. 
  4. Hold stuff in front of your lens. You can get great fake lens flare by shining a torch across the lens. You can get amazing hazy reflections by holding a small mirror under the lens. Try wrapping cellophane around the edges of your lens for a soft focus portrait, or colour in half of the lens with a washable felt-tip pen for a great gradient filter look. Take off a ring and hold it right next to the lens to catch the light reflected in it. Fake some foreground by picking a few blades of grass and hold them poking into the edge of the frame. There are no rules, just try holding stuff in front of the lens.
  5. Work your subject. Never take one photo of a person. Moreover, never take a dozen identical pictures of someone from the same place with the same pose and the same background. Your subject will relax with each click of the shutter. Move closer to them, then further away. Try head on, and then from an angle. Talk to them. Tell them they look great, or if you don’t want to sound pervy, tell them the photo is going to look great. When you’ve got a dozen different photos, pick the best with your subject. Find one you both love, then delete the rest. 
Hold stuff in front of your lens.

Hold stuff in front of your lens.

Work your subject. It took a while to get this stranger to look at ease. 

Work your subject. It took a while to get this stranger to look at ease. 

I asked Rachael, my wife, who happens to be a much better photographer than I am, if she had any tips of her own. She sent these over:

Turn your phone upside down. Shot by Rachael @ Our Beautiful Adventure.

Turn your phone upside down. Shot by Rachael @ Our Beautiful Adventure.

  1. Turn your phone upside down: I learnt this tip over on Instagram, many years ago. If you turn your phone upside down and place it on any surface; table, sand, grass, whatever you've got to work with, it will give a lovely sense of depth to your photo and if your light is right you might just get some pretty bokeh in the foreground. 
  2. Leading lines: Simeon has mentioned framing already, but don't forget to look for lines. They are usually in abundance out and about, and can just as easily be found in nature as on the city streets. Use those lines to draw your audience's eye to your subject. 
  3. Silhouettes: To take a silhouette on a fancy dslr takes knowledge of settings and light and it's not always easy to get it right in camera. But on a phone, silhouettes are super easy as it usually does the job for you in the right light. Head out at sunset and it's not difficult to make a big impact photo. 
  4. Outfits: If you want to take amazing portraits one thing that's easier to change than your camera is what your subject is wearing. Next time you see a powerful photograph check to see what the subject is wearing. Quite often if you visualised the same photo with them in different colours or scruffy clothes it might not have the same impact. Think about colours and how it will contrast with your background, and encourage your subject to get a bit dressed up for you. Trust me, it can make a big difference.
Silhouettes. Shot by Rachael @ Our Beautiful Adventure.

Silhouettes. Shot by Rachael @ Our Beautiful Adventure.

Rachael has her own blog over at www.ourbeautifuladventure.co.uk, so make sure you visit her site and subscribe if you’ve enjoyed her contribution. 

"...one thing that's easier to change than your camera is what your subject is wearing." Shot by Rachael @ Our Beautiful Adventure.

"...one thing that's easier to change than your camera is what your subject is wearing." Shot by Rachael @ Our Beautiful Adventure.

5 Photography Quotes that have Inspired Me by Simeon Smith

I started writing about these quotes, but I stopped. I'd rather let these great influencers speak for themselves. 

“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” - Henri Cartier-Bresson

"Taking pictures is like tiptoeing into the kitchen late at night and stealing Oreo cookies.” - Diane Arbus

"There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer." - Ansel Adams

"More Megapixels, More problems." - Eric Kim

“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera." -  Dorothea Lange

I shot all the photos in this article to Fomapan 400 on a Lubitel Universal TLR from 1980.