With a conventional camera the expectation is that your photo will at least resemble what you saw through the lens finder. Obviously there’s a ton of variable that affect the final outcome but there’s not a lot of surprises. When I started experimenting with toy and vintage cameras it altered how I saw the world. I’d be driving in my car and something would catch my eye and I’d find myself thinking that would look great if I shot it with my Holga/Diana etc… it freed my mind of what made a conventionally good photo regardless of what camera I was shooting. I saw the world differently. I didn’t realize this was simply a form of pre visualization. I grasped pre visualization in the most literal sense. The boring zone system sense which while helpful took almost all the fun out of photography. Another benefit was it teaching me the effect of latitude on film. Or at least that with modern film and scanners it’s almost impossible to not get a workable image. And while not technically perfect or ideal the exercise taught me how to overcome issues that come up when working with film. I learned how to push and pull film when needed. All in all I think everyone should own a “toy” camera and shoot it once in a while. Have fun with it and the learning that comes along won’t feel so academic.
My Diana clone is a 4×4 with working aperture. It’s a fun camera and I realized today I had a full roll of film loaded. I think I’ll take it out this weekend to help me remember that photography is fun.
For years I’ve tried to wrap my head around the appeal of landscape photography and possibly photography as a whole. On one hand it’s hard to deny the awesomeness of the natural beauty that exists in the world. Even in an urban park there are opportunities to creat compelling landscape style images. On the other hand as an artist what is gained by adding to the onslaught of millions of landscape photos? Great art transcends and it has been argued that most photography doesn’t qualify as art just as it’s been counter argued that everything is art. As a photographer none of this matters. That being said I still care, at least a part of me does. But it doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy hiking out to a nice spot and taking the 1,000,000th photo of a peak and valley.
A funny story (fiction).
I hiked up to the vista only to find another photographer quietly staring at the mountain with his camera set up on his tripod. I left him alone and took a few photographs. When the other photographer noticed me he walked over and struck up a conversation.
“The lights not good. There’s just overcast and no visual interest in the clouds. I’m not sure I’ll even take a photo today” he said.
I nodded and said “I got a few shots in”.
He gave me a crooked smile and asked “you think they’ll be any good in these conditions?”
“They’ll be at least as good as the photo you didn’t take”. I said. Luckily he got the joke and didn’t bludgeon me with his camera.
Sometimes you have to work with the light you have and make the most of it.
In 1984 Ansel Adams passed away and his work must have been widely celebrated because I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know him or his work but this was long before I had an interest in photography. When I did eventually take up photography being a landscape photographer was of no interest. The landscape where I grew up was beautiful and I appreciated it but the idea of photographing it seemed about as cool as safari vests and Birkenstock sandals.
Most photographic instructional books tend towards landscape or portraiture as the majority of photos fall into one of those categories. You can then further divide that into indoor studio and outdoor photography and divide more ad nauseam. I’ve read quite a few of books and articles over the years and gleaned what I could apply to what I was doing but a lot of the techniques weren’t relevant to me.
I’ve mostly worked with black and white film and never attempted to master the process in the “fine art” sense. Mostly I find it tedious but every part of the process is an art unto itself. Taking the photo is just the first link in a long chain of events to get to the final image in print. Now, with digital interpolation we’ve added a few more steps to digitize the film and for the majority of our work the virtual world is where it hangs and the hard drive or cloud is here it’s archived digitally.
As I get older I realize the days of photography having a social impact are long behind us. That’s not to say photography isn’t important or relevant as a document for posterity but of the millions of photos shared daily few of any can change the world. This is from the viewpoint of a jaded middle aged man so take that for what it’s worth. I’m enjoying creating the illusion of the peace and quiet of nature at the moment and finally applying some solid photographic discipline that’s been honed over the 150 or so years of the practice.
I’m a gear head by nature. I love mechanical things. I love sculpture and industrial design. Cameras of the 20th century were mechanical marvels. Lots of tiny parts assembled to work synchronous with each other to divide fractions of a second multiple times. Or sometimes they were simple levels and fulcrum. I could talk about gear for hours. If film become obsolete I would still appreciate and collect film cameras.
Gear can get in the way of photographing, but more often than not for gear heads it can get you out there shooting in places you might not otherwise explore just to be out taking photos. That’s the nice side of it. The not so nice side is you can spend more time worrying about the gear you want than using the gear you have. For the most part I’ve been GAS free for almost a year. It feels good. There’s gear out there I want, sure, but I’m not preoccupied with it.
It’s the tail end of a long summer and my shirts sticking to my body like a wet blanket. Oddly, I’m thinking about winter. My last serious photo outing was six months ago when I drove from my home in Virginia to Asbury Park, NJ for a chopper show and swap meet. I brought along a Polaroid SLR and my 35mm Nikon.
While driving to the boardwalk with Bruce blaring on my radio courtesy of Spotify I was overwhelmed by the sights of the city. Often when I’m driving I see buildings I want to photograph but don’t have the time to stop. I make mental notes to come back one day and explore. When I walk I see things I miss while driving and more often than not I end up with photos very different than my original inspiration. The best way to see the world is as a pedestrian.
Unfortunately I only took a few photos that trip but I definitely want to go back. New Jersey has a charm very familiar. It’s the same charm that Oakland has for me. It’s not glitz and glamour it’s grit and grime. Blue collar bars and rusty cars.