JMorris
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Joined: Sat May 08, 2010 8:12 am

Photographing In Museums

Sat May 08, 2010 8:45 am

This topic has probably been raised before but, if it has, it deserves to be raised again if only to allow some frustration to be aired and possibly for someone in the museum sector to take note.

As a keen aircraft and railway photographer for more years than I care to remember, I find that those who set out museums are often those who do not appear to take photographs in similar circumstances themselves. I accept, that by taking my own photographs, I may not always buy a guide book which would contain ideally composed photographs of the exhibits and that layout of the exhibits could possibly have a commercial aspect.

I also accept that, in the main, aircraft and railway exhibits are large and have a large footprint that may be the cause of cramming them into as small a space as possible. As to lighting, until the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton, UK, refurbished the aviation history hall the lighting was terrible. My last visit there was a vast improvement and they are to be congratulated.

Similarly, if any members have visited the Royal Netherlands Air Force Museum at Soesterberg, it is noticeable that the interior lighting is very poor and, if entering from a sunlit outside it is a little while before your eyes can adjust to the low lighting inside. Most photography, without a tripod, has to be done with flash and then 'tweaked' on the computer.


In contrast, the Luftwaffe Museum at Gatow in Berlin, is the complete opposite with interior exhibits well lit with natural light and the exhibits are spaced to allow the visitor to see, and photograph, them in almost isolation.

Computers and digital photography can correct a lot of issues but, if museum curators and staff thought about why people visit their museums and consider that many, if not most, have some form of image recording devise with them then many would be happier and less frustrated.
 
dendrobatid
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RE: Photographing In Museums

Sat May 08, 2010 11:41 am

John

Unfortunately, yet understandably musuem curators are more concerned about their exhibits than the public who wish to photograph them. I have recently been to the RAF Museum at Hendon where conditions varied dramatically across the museum with the Battle of Britain section being particularly poorly lit. I commented on this whilst there and was told that the bright lights had caused fading on the precious aircraft and, of course, these cost a fortune to run too. As a result highly efficient LED lighting was being installed and the expensive lights were not being replaced as they failed. It made photography in that section very very difficult. This one worked, not many others in that section did at all

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Photo © Mick Bajcar


At least at the RAF Museum tripods are allowed (with a pass) whilst at others you are even prevented from taking mini ones in (Musee de l'Air, Paris for instance)
Digital does have advantages that you can up the ISO between shots where needed and flash painting can sometimes work too - in this one my apprentice, Willem Honders, open fired the flash to put some light into the deep shadows

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Photo © Mick Bajcar


I love the challenge of photographing in museums and wrecks and relics in other dark places. For museums, the preservation has to come before the consideration of our photography. In the RAF musuem the guards on the props are particularly annoying too, but without them you can just imagine some little darlings swinging on them !

Mick Bajcar
 
2H4
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RE: Photographing In Museums

Sat May 08, 2010 8:01 pm

Some things I learned about shooting in museums:

Looking For Advice On Camera Settings In Museums (by 2H4 Oct 5 2008 in Aviation Photography)#12
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aviopic
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RE: Photographing In Museums

Sun May 09, 2010 12:23 am

Quoting JMorris (Thread starter):
if museum curators and staff thought about why people visit their museums and consider that many, if not most, have some form of image recording devise with them then many would be happier and less frustrated.

Yes and no.
It is true that many of the museum visitors carry some kind of recording device but most of them don't care much about the outcome.
In fact most of them I've met over the years don't even have a clue and those who do(like those blooks with a.net on their mind while shooting) make sure to have contacted somebody inside to see if a special arrangement can be made.

Quoting dendrobatid (Reply 1):
in this one my apprentice, Willem Honders, open fired the flash to put some light into the deep shadows

Like my student Mick  


Museum's in general try to appeal to as many people as they can because they are usually on a very tight budget(or even without one at all).
The usual result is often that try to cramp as many a/c inside as they can which does make photography a bit harder but on the other hand gives a challenge to make the best out of it.
One should realize though that if it were the photographers way every museum needed 10 times the space they currently have and for that there simply ain't no funding.
Or have halve the amount of a/c which would keep the general public away.

It is my believe that a photoshoot in a museum can be a lot of fun it just takes a different mind set.
A few pointers:
- Switch a.net mode to off.
- Switch photography mode to on.
- Think out of the box.
- Don't go for the obvious(many before you have already done that, no point in repeating).
- Think detail rather than a clean clutter free a/c.

So apart from a wide angle take a tele as well.
Use the available light as much as possible to preserve the atmosphere.
Flash only if it adds something(like in Mick's example).

I'll try to show the difference with a few examples, remember though this is nothing against other photographers as there is no right and/or wrong......... just differences.

Two photos of the same a/c at the same place to show the difference in lens selection.
One more or less a typical museum shot as many would have done with a wide angle lens accompanied by a flash and there is nothing to fault it really.
The other from a different approach namely a 200mm lens and tripod in order to isolate the subject from the clutter.

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Photo © Tristan Van Der Vlugt
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Photo © Willem Honders




Two more to show the difference in light(flash) selection.
Again one more or less expected in a museum with a direct flash, perfect and nothing to fault it.
The other was made in self timer mode and a separate flash used to give a tiny fill flash near the registration to keep the atmosphere as is.

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Photo © Derek Ferguson
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Photo © Willem Honders




So try to enjoy next time and if you are left with some a.net material at the end of the day it's a bonus but even without it you should still have had a great day doing photography.

Willem
The truth lives in one’s mind, it doesn’t really exist
 
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ptrjong
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RE: Photographing In Museums

Sun May 09, 2010 11:55 am

Quoting JMorris (Thread starter):

As said above, the majority of museum visitors don't care about (proper) photography at all, and the museums have other worries.

The older hall of the Royal Netherlands Air Force Museum at Soesterberg is indeed pitch dark (it feels more like a war memorial than as a museum), but on the other hand it allows tripods, and decent results can be had.

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Photo © Peter de Jong


The other hall is lighter and nicer, but even then, you're much better off using a tripod. So I'd advise you to invest in one.

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Photo © Peter de Jong


Gatow is similar I think, but doesn't allow tripods, or at least some of the custodians don't.

Peter 
The only difference between me and a madman is that I am not mad (Salvador Dali)
 
viv
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RE: Photographing In Museums

Sun May 09, 2010 1:15 pm

Quoting dendrobatid (Reply 1):
my apprentice, Willem Honders

Highly paid, no doubt! But he is a fast learner, I think.

Museum photography presents challenges of lighting (not enough or difficult white balance) and composition (clutter) that I enjoy.

For lighting, I use a tripod, high ISO, or flash, depending on the shot.

For clutter, I focus on details, as Willem mentioned.


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Photo © Vivion Mulcahy


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Photo © Vivion Mulcahy


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Photo © Vivion Mulcahy


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Photo © Vivion Mulcahy


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Photo © Vivion Mulcahy

Nikon D700, Nikkor 80-400, Fuji X Pro 1, Fujinon 35 f/1.4, Fujinon 18 f/2
 
2H4
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RE: Photographing In Museums

Sun May 09, 2010 3:11 pm

Another thing I've learned (largely by necessity) is that you can have a lot of fun with longer lenses at museums. I have a 180mm prime which forces me to get creative, and sometimes the angles you find turn out to be somewhat interesting:



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Photo © Jason McDowell
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Photo © Jason McDowell


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Photo © Jason McDowell
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Photo © Jason McDowell


MyAviation.net photo:
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Photo © Jason McDowell


MyAviation.net photo:
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Photo © Jason McDowell


MyAviation.net photo:
Click here for bigger photo!
Photo © Jason McDowell

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aviopic
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RE: Photographing In Museums

Sun May 09, 2010 10:22 pm

Quoting viv (Reply 5):
Quoting dendrobatid (Reply 1):
my apprentice, Willem Honders

Highly paid, no doubt! But he is a fast learner, I think.

I'll talk to you in Bitburg  
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