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Our Cover Picture: WBTA member Phil Swift of Willow Bay Boats builds a range of wholesome traditional-looking craft in modern epoxy-strip plank.
This is the cabin version of his 17' (5.2m) Shilling. Photo: David Harding at www.sailingscenes.co.uk
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T h e Gr i b b l e
Ihad it in mind to run a clutch of reviews of digital cameras in this issue but not one of them has made it into print. These omissions are entirely down to pressure of space – several articles in this issue ran longer than expected and none would serialise satisfactorily – and not because I remembered just in time that this is not What Camera? magazine.
You see, I have come to the view that every custom and semi-custom boatbuilder, professional and amateur, should have a decent digital camera as part of the tool kit and that all the boatbuilding colleges should teach their students how to use one.
In our world of mass production, whether it's cars or furniture, computers, clothes or any one of a million other artefacts, not forgetting production boats, the manufacturer invariably commissions a professional photographer to provide 'product shots' for the marketing department. Whether used on the packaging or in the press, the pictures show the product in the best possible light to persuade the customer that it's really worth the money. Some companies also need a detailed record of the product's assembly for training or repair purposes. Such pictures always demand considerable skills from the snapper – and the Photoshopper – and are therefore never cheap but since their cost can be amortised over a production run of hundreds, if not thousands, they are a worthwhile, not to say essential, investment.
The custom and semi-custom boatbuilder does not, of course, do production runs. In fact, it's often the very avoidance of that peas-in-a-pod repetition which motivates him or her. But when every build is a one-off, the like of which the potential customer cannot see on the next mooring, it's even more essential to have good photographs. Yet the cost of employing a pro photographer to record each stage of construction can be daunting. So what is our poor boatbuilder to do?
Fortunately, these days, there is a cheaper – and far less worrying – alternative to sending your daughter away to do Photography at Art College; you buy a camera capable of large format, high resolution shots.
The automatic digital camera could have been designed with the boatbuilder's workshop in mind. Its zoom lens will usually be able to get worthwhile shots, despite the cramped conditions and crepuscular light. Its autofocus can see when you can't, so all you have to do is concentrate on breathing in and bracing yourself to avoid camera shake. Its large LCD will let you see just how much unsightly clutter around the boat is in shot, so you can move it all and try again. And again and again... because with a digital camera you are no longer paying for film and processing.
But, says you, I'm a backyard boatbuilder; why do I need a digital camera? For sending your entry to our 2010 Amateur Boatbuilding Awards, of course. Full details next time.
Pete Greenfield www.watercraft-magazine.com