When a friend asked me to shoot her wedding, which was held a few months ago, I agreed to be second shooter, as I am not a professional and don’t have the experience or skills required to get the shots that people usually expect. This worked out well, as it left me to shoot documentary-style most of the day, which is what I do best.
In the time leading up to the wedding, which was actually delayed for eighteen months after the bride was involved in a very serious collision with a truck, I had a lot of time to think about (obsess over) all the details I needed to make sure I had right. Aside from working my way through a passing parade of cameras and lenses to get a kit I was confident with, I spent time working out how to comfortably carry two cameras.
One idea that really caught my eye was the Holdfast Gear Money Maker which is a beautiful bit of kit, but given I had no plans to keep two cameras around after the job, and certainly couldn’t justify the expense, I set out to make my own version.
For a while I had been using a silk necktie as a camera sling, worn cross-body style, and loved how light and comfortable it felt, so I applied the same principle to making a double sling. I ordered a couple of swivel clips, slide buckles and jeans buttons online for a few dollar, and found ties in complementary colours in a thrift shop – this all cost around ten dollars.
To make one, you will need:
2 neckties, approximately the same width and length – you could go all-out and get two the same!
You want the two ties to join and make a figure 8.
Start by putting a tie over each shoulder, with the wide end sitting at the top of your chest and the narrow end hanging down your back. They’re slippery, so it helps to pin them in place to your clothing.
Grab the narrow end of one tie and bring it up under the opposite arm to the wide end of the other tie. Slip on a swivel clip (or tripod quick release clip if preferred) and let that drop down. Now take a slide buckle and thread the narrow end through it, then take the wide end of the tie and thread it through in the opposite direction to, and over the top of, the narrow end. Use a safety pin to pin the tie to stop the buckle working loose when there’s weight hanging on the swivel clip. (You can stitch this if you prefer a neater finish, once you have positioned the sling to your liking, but using a safety pin keeps it adjustable.)
Repeat the previous step on the other side.
Remove the pins holding the ties at your shoulders if you haven’t already.
The last part is to determine the best intersect point at the centre back. To work this out, attach the clips to a camera lug at either side, and move about as you would when shooting. Use a sturdy safety pin to get the right position – for me, this was higher up my back between my shoulder blades.
When you have found the “sweet spot”, place the jeans button halves on the front and back sides of that point, so that the spike will pierce through both ties and join the smaller metal half. This is not easily removed, so make sure to get this step right! Hammer the two pieces together. I used a jeans button because I wanted a strong pivot point, but you may find an alternative works for you.
Try on and admire your new bit of kit. The weight of the cameras keeps it in place once you’re shooting, and if you don’t stitch the shoulder join, you can adjust the straps to the desired length.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: front view; shoulder buckle detail; swivel clip detail; back view; button detail back side; button detail front side.
For everyday carry with one camera, I have a variety of thrifted ties, that I swap the buckle and clip on, to suit my outfits – it’s comfy and gets lots of compliments! It also helps protect my camera when stored in my bag.
A few months ago I picked up some hinged, vintage cigarette tins at a swap meet stall, figuring they would make excellent cases for some bespoke, handmade photo books. Soon after, a project came to mind that would feature photos from a family weekend by the sea, and I planned to use this pale blue tin as it would complement the sea-and-sky colours.
To start the book, I measured the insides of the tin, subtracting a border to allow for the rounded corners, and laid out the pages in Microsoft Publisher. I then cropped the photos to match the page dimensions, before inserting them into the publication document, and added a title page. They were printed on a basic Epson ink jet printer using matte double-sided photo paper, allowed to dry, then trimmed to size. I folded each page in half and attached them along the side edges to form one long concertina. The final part was to attach the end pages to the inside flaps of the tin. The result is a tiny keepsake, to be treasured by the recipient – hopefully – for many years to come.
Given that my paid employment involves handling hundreds of books every week in a public library, it isn’t surprising that book creation is part of my favourite hobby, and is a great way to curate a collection of photos. Over the years I have used Blurb’s and Mixbook’s online on-demand print services, and been very happy with the process and results of each – it’s a method that satisfies my craving for a professional-looking product, and I particularly enjoy the design element.
At other times, a bespoke, handmade book is even more fun, particularly for giving on special occasions. On the occasion of a friend’s recent retirement, I created a tiny concertina book, Looking Down: photographs by Melanie Y’lang, that fits inside a vintage hinged cigarette tin; the tin forms the cover and protects the book entirely, while providing a firm structure for sitting it on a shelf as a sculptural object.
It was a fun and therapeutic process, from measuring up the tin and creating a design on my computer, to printing the pages on watercolour paper with my Epson printer and assembling the book. And best of all, my friend loves it!
Sometimes I don’t feel like going for a walk on the roads close to home, so this track a few kilometres west of Harrow is another favourite, especially after rain when the scent of the native bushland is magnified. This photo, taken after a wintry summer’s day, reminds me of walks taken long ago through dripping pine forests near where I grew up. I was recently reminded of these times when I got in touch with a kindhearted man who gave me art lessons back then, and showed showed me new perspectives on art, life, music and cooking.
There were big “hurrahs!” at my house when I discovered that the new PEN is perfectly well suited to being used for Through the Viewfinder (TtV) photography, which I had abandoned after selling my DSLR last year and discovering that my XZ-1 couldn’t do the job.
Because I had decommissioned my TtV contraption (I had sewn together two neoprene lens bags, cut a hole in the bottom one for the Duaflex’s lens window, and stiffened the unit with a cut-down plastic soft drink bottle – it was rudimentary, but it worked!), I needed to start again.
Rummaging around in the pantry I discovered a bottle of port…and, more importantly, the box it came in, which happened to have a window already in it for the Duaflex to peer out of. I dropped the Kodak down the bottom, packed it with nylon stockings, then cut a hole in the box lid for the PEN’s lens to slot into, reinforced it with electrical tape, and I was on my way – simpler, cheaper (free), and in fact better than my original version.
Saturday night: my favourite French film, Amelie, screens on TV, but I have only half an eye for watching it as the unlikely-yet-undeniable urge to polish furniture (using the “Aged Bourbon” solid fragrance for polish, as it’s made with beeswax and vegetable oi – purchased here) and rearrange the little details of my home overtakes me.
I am fascinated by how putting together a storyboard of such images creates a feeling that I hope is a true representation of how others might see my home – or, at least, represents how I see it. Certainly, it is a romanticised view – but then, isn’t that what humans are all about?