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Penryn Camera Club’s Visit to the Institute of Photography

On Tuesday the 28th of November, 11 Penryn Camera Club members had an interesting, inspirational, and very entertaining (that would be Dave!) afternoon at Falmouth University, where we were introduced to the facilities and equipment at the Institute of Photography, that we, as non-student photographers, can make use of.

This thoroughly enjoyable trip was facilitated by Alexis Gill (Scooby), Technical Operations Team Leader, and Dave Mann, Technical Operations Team Leader, and Technical Instructor.

Scooby started things off, in Studio 1

Scooby in Studio 1

with a talk about what’s available for external users to hire – from camera accessories, through top-end cameras and lighting equipment, to fully equipped, professional studios – and the hiring process. She talked us through the insurance needed for hire of on-campus facilities, and for the use of camera and lighting equipment, both on and off campus.

Scooby and Dave then took us on a tour of the Institute of Photography.

We were impressed by the stunning student photography displayed on the walls of the ground-floor corridors. This is a mix of past and current students’ work, which is changed regularly from a library of their photographs, and around any exhibitions.

There is also a gallery upstairs, which is used throughout the term for student exhibitions and teaching practice. Scooby is happy to let us know when there are set exhibitions that we may be interested in viewing (pre-arranged with her).

In The Photolab, the professional standard print lab, we met Craig Farley, the lab manager, who uses industry-standard equipment, and many years of experience, to provide prints for professionals as well as university students and staff, and the public.

As well as standard photographic prints with glossy or lustre finishes from 5x5 up to 12x18, Giclée (inkjet) prints are available up to B0.

We were able to see and feel some of the papers/surfaces available for Giclée (inkjet) printing, which include Sheer Fabric, Premium Fine Art-Hahnemühle Museum Etching, Matt Backlit Film, Premium Fine Art Metallic, and Self-Adhesive Wall Fabric. There are many gorgeous choices.

The Photolab, the professional standard print lab
This image credit Karen Burton, all the other images credit Carina Stone

Prints can be ordered online at: https://photolab.falmouth.ac.uk/SignIn.aspx Just click on ‘sign up’ to register if you are a new user. The price list is here: https://photolab.falmouth.ac.uk/GuestPrices.aspx

The Institute of Photography teaches traditional analogue processes and has both colour and black-and-white darkrooms. We were taken into the black-and-white darkroom and Dave talked us through making prints from film, including the wet-area process, and the enlargers available (paper can be bought from the Photography Stores). In this fully-equipped darkroom, you can print from any format, and up to 20” x 24”.

We were not shown the colour darkroom, for obvious reasons, but were invited to imagine it by closing our eyes; it did look very impressive.

From the darkroom, we were taken into the alternative and sustainable photographic processes room. It’s not available to external users by default, but Dave and Scooby are open to discussion if anyone is interested. The processes available in this room include Cyanotype, Gum Bichromate, Liquid Light, Mordançage, Blue Toning, Red Toning, Gold Toning, Sepia Toning, and Selenium Toning. A lot of fun experimentation could be had here.

There are also hand-processing facilities to develop your negatives.

Other facilities available are scanners – flatbed and film – state-of-the-art digital post-production suites, and microscopes.

We only got a quick look, from the doorway, into the photo-microscopy laboratory, as it was in use, but here you can hire one of five microscopes (four Zeiss and one Leica) to use on campus.

Back in Studio 1, we learned why Dave is an instructor, as he gave us a hilarious demonstration on how to photograph our programme secretary with a one-light setup.

Photographing Karen

He started with health and safety and studio etiquette, including how not to set up a tripod.

how not to set up a tripod.

We then learned about tethered shooting with Capture One software. By connecting the cable from your laptop to the camera – beware of the trip hazard – you shoot images directly to your computer for an instant live monitor review.

tethered shooting with Capture One

Once connected camera settings can be controlled from your computer, on the left side panel.

Capture One

Studio 1 also has a 60” monitor used when teaching groups, but is also great for seeing image details easily.

Studio 1 also has a 60” monitor

Dave talked about the importance of shooting in RAW, especially for students; taking control of your editing, rather than having the camera automatically edit as it does with jpgs.

The studio lighting system is four Elinchrom lights on a gantry system, and we learned how to manoeuvre these safely into position for the shoot.

Dave showed us the easiest way for one person to attach a small softbox to a light.

attach a small softbox to a light

Hire of the studio includes some light modifiers, and many more are available to hire. We learned how to use the light meter to work out the light’s power setting with ISO as the priority.

use the light meter

Dave also demonstrated how to control backdrop lighting; he added a second light specifically to hit the backdrop to produce a white background, rather than greyish (the backdrop was white).

produce a white background

Then, going back to the one-light setup and blocking light from the backdrop, creating a black background.

creating a black background.

We also looked at the effect of shutter speed when using flash lighting. Shutter speed doesn’t affect how much light from the flash hits the subject. But, if your shutter speed is higher than the maximum sync speed of your camera, part of the shutter will be caught in the shot, so shoot at your sync speed or slower, to prevent this.

part of the shutter will be caught in the shot

A combination of slower shutter speed, subject movement, and both flash and ambient light, is interesting.

subject movement

Everything Dave demonstrated in the studio is there, included in the hire price, which, at £90 for six hours and £135 for 12 hours, is much lower than other professional studio costs. There are eight professional studios available at the Institute of Photography, and they are used by multiple companies over Cornwall, a German film crew during the summer, and many graduates.

The Photography Stores, the Institute of Photography’s equipment hire desk, is operated throughout the year, offering a range of items and spaces for hire. As part of her job, Scooby manages the stores' team.

Have a look at their Facebook page: Falmouth University Photography External Users, where you will find a list of the latest industry equipment – from 8mm to 800mm lenses to underwater camera kits – and prices. Scooby has also given us two hard copies.

Falmouth University is keen to support the local community, which was part of the ethos behind setting up the external hire service a few years ago.

Thank you, Scooby, Dave, and all the staff and students we disturbed during our tour. We really appreciate the time you gave us.

We are lucky to have Europe’s premiere photographic education facility’s excellent resources and wealth of knowledge on our doorstep.

Email: PhotoCentre@falmouth.ac.uk

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