35mm, Rants and discussions

On taking snapshots

Focus

I may have been a photography enthusiast for around ten years, but I have been a snap shooter for more than forty years.  I keep thinking about the snapshot recently.  Les brought it to my mind, with his comments, but it’s been floating around longer.  What is a snapshot.  Should we embrace it?  Kodak promoted it for decades, the brain child of George Eastman.  A Kodak Moment. 

Many serious photographers would perhaps regard someone calling one of their images a snapshot, as a slight insult.  Snap-shot suggests a point & shoot capture.  Something quickly captured with no regard to setting up a scene, lighting, or using professional photographic technology.

Yet, let’s think about this.  Some forms of “serious” photography are often snapshot.  I am of course referring to Candid and Street Photography.  Were HCB’s wonderful photographs, not sometimes, very well spotted and composed … snap shots?  Is it the subject or the intention behind an image then, that can either make it a snap shot or a “serious” image?  Is the above a snapshot?  It was a candid, a quick opportunity.  Sure I was using a very manual, medium format film SLR camera – but not so technically cumbersome that I couldn’t grab that photo before the guy saw me.  I snapped a shot of him quickly.  Maybe it’s more about intent?  I didn’t know this guy. He never even saw me creeping up to him with my Bronica.

I grew up way back in the Age of Film.  As a child, I loved dipping into the shoe boxes of old family photos.  I started contributing to them at the age of eleven, via my Kodak Instamatic camera.  Snapshots.  I kept it up for years and years with p&s classes of cameras – into the Age of Digital.  I collated a serious of photograph albums, that I regarded as my life-diary, from childhood, to fatherhood.  The Internet and social media interrupted that.  I became more serious about photography.

Family Snapshot. 1999.

I’ve been thinking about this more, while using my 35mm film compact cameras, including an autofocus from the 80s.

I’m aware that much of my photography though, is still snapshot.  Should I cull it?  Should I instead only e-publish or print only my very best, carefully composed masterpieces (as if I had any!)?  At the moment I think not.  I’m starting to appreciate the snapshot.  Even the domestic family snapshot.  I remember that old shoebox.  I keep an eye out for old photos and slides at car boot sales.  I notice many young people on Flickr and Tumblr, using film, to make their own snapshots, sometimes in an almost creative or unique way, different from those that we made in Our Day.  Film snapshot photography in the Digital Age.

Let’s embrace the snapshot.  It shows real life.

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Rants and discussions

Happiness and photography gear

Caught on a car boot sale camera (Kodak Retinette II) and poundland film.

An old gripe of mine.  Allow me to express it again, as a warning to others.

Don’t be sucked into spending money on gear that doesn’t have value in terms of your happiness.  Most of us are enthusiasts and amateurs.  There is nothing inferior about that.  Our enthusiasm can be based on either photographic technology, or on photographic images.  In truth, most of our enthusiasm lays somewhere between those two poles – some more by the technology, some more by photographs.  Either way, what really is important – or should be, to us enthusiasts, is happiness.

It is all so easy, and very common, for novices to be drawn towards spending more money, in the pursuit of happiness.  However, they do not always get what they wanted.  They may find, that their photography doesn’t really improve much.  They might find that spending another grand, allows them to capture some images in slightly poorer light, perhaps slightly closer, perhaps slightly further away, or perhaps with slightly more resolution.  No doubt there is a short lived gratification “I couldn’t have caught that on my last lens / body”.  Wow, look at that moon surface / macro of a bug / etc.  Cool images.  However, does this expensive imagery really enhance your creativity or skill base?  Once you’ve got closer to the moon, what is next?  How much did that image cost in monetary terms?  Has it been done before?  Is someone doing it better with even more expensive, or newer gear?

How much happiness do you think that I’ve had out of the 50p camera project?  Compare it to the purchase of a new upgrade DSLR camera.  The DSLR might have cost you around £500.00.  My XA2 snapshot camera cost £00.50.  Okay, I’ve also used film, but mainly budget or home developed.  Still, how much happiness do you think that the DSLR gives you in comparison?  I’m quite proud of some of the photographs that I’ve got out of the XA2.  They may be lo-fi but some are pretty cool and even unique.  I’ve tried to be creative.  Not always an easy thing for me.  There are no attachments or upgrades for it.  For the DSLR, you bet that you are going to desire new lenses, extensions, flashlights, bags, battery grips, etc.

That is the chief message of this blog.  Think, don’t just spend.

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Internet

Ten Years on Flickr

Bronica SQ-A camera. Zenzanon PS 150mm f/4 lens. Ilford Delta Pro 400 film. Home developed in Kodak D-76 at 1:1. Scanned film on V500.

The above photograph was taken of a rather “arse about tit” gargoyle at Outwell Church.  A naughty and rather rude demon it appears.

Yesterday marked my Flickr 10th birthday.  I uploaded my first image to Flickr on 19th May 2005.  A pair of Fennec Foxes, taken at Colchester Zoo, using a Canon Powershot A60 (or was the A85, I “upgraded around that time.).

At the time I was using digital compact cameras.  I don’t know if you could call them point & shoot, as they were surprisingly well equipped, with f/2.8 lens, shutter priority, aperture priority, and I think full manual exposure modes.  It was later that this sort of class of digital camera seemed to be dumbed down.  My photography was pretty much snapshot and family stuff, as it had been since I started snapping away on Kodak Instamatics many years earlier.  However, my brother had inspired me years earlier with his Canon AE1, and had given me some insight into composition and technique, so I wasn’t totally green.

Flickr at that time was a part of the Web 2.0 initiative of interactive websites entering the WWW.  I had previously hosted my digital images on my own website.  Flickr was not a part of the Yahoo group.  It still belonged to a Canadian firm.

Since then, I’ve uploaded 5,738 more images to Flickr, which have received 4,296,832 views.  Does it all really matter though?  The positive thing about my Flickr experience has been that it provides me with a lot of inspiration – or rather the other photographers there provide me with inspiration.  It encourages me to actually take photographs – sad as that sounds, but it is true.

Now, despite my recent block, I’ve forced myself to use up a couple of HP5 films in the XA2.  I need to go and develop them.  Time to get off the pooter.

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Rants and discussions

Kim’s Story

he Tight Fisted Photographer speaks. Pentax SP500 Spotmatic. Super Takumar 55mm f/2 lens. Rollei Retro 400S b/w film. Developed in R09.

Most of us here are enthusiasts – amateurs, you photograph for the love of it.  What are we hoping to achieve?  We enjoy capturing light, we enjoy making still images, that perhaps, we find interesting, or attractive.  Perhaps they document something that others might enjoy looking at.  Perhaps they tell … or even suggest, a story.  We might like them for hidden patterns, their tones, their colours, or for their visual mathematics We might appreciate the composition.  The perfect photograph.  It makes us look, we appreciate it. 

Now that I have conveyed that opinion to you, here is a horror story all too common.

Kim is attracted into photography.  She uses a compact camera, family members and friends tell her that she has a gift.  She buys an entry level DSLR, because everyone does.  Her photography doesn’t improved particularly at first, but she is intelligent and competent, and masters the controls of her DSLR.  In that pursuit, she picks up shiny photography magazines from the superstore.  They tell her, what she already feared.  In order to improve further, she needed to buy a better lens.  The kit lens was too slow, distorted, and awful.  Suddenly her lens – and even her images, appear less spectacular, a bit imperfect.  They needed to be sharper, more detailed.

So Kim works overtime, goes without evenings out, decides not to holiday (vacation) in such an exotic place.  Pity, she could have had some great photographic opportunities there.  She buys a “great lens”.  Faster, less distortion, wow, this’ll do it.  But then she reads the newest issue of the magazine.  Her camera is entry level.  You can’t progress to advanced photography  with a beginner DSLR.  The sensor is too small Kim.  A larger sensor will capture more IQ.  Best scrap that holiday altogether.  Best cut out the car upgrade, its going to be a tough year.

She buys a full frame DSLR.  Hang on, she’ll need new lenses.  You know where this story is going.  How else can she produce those sharp, full detailed, perfectly exposed images.  It doesn’t stop.  her software is entry level.  She needs a licence for the newest Adobe package.  Best start budgeting tight.

Then suddenly Kim has lost her interest in photography.  There was something missing in her photography.  She did everything right – followed all of the HDR and RAW tutorials in the magazines.  Her images were glossy, highly detailed, sharp as a pin, technically perfect.  People would congratulate her on her wise choice of gear.  What could be missing?

It isn’t all about sharpness, detail, technical perfection.  Not for every school of photography.  We are creating images.  You can create images with a pinhole camera.  You can create images on a disposable film camera.  You can create images on an IPhone.  All can contain beauty and interest.  The great photographs of Henri Cartier-Bresson were far from technically perfect.  But they were often astonishing.

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Monochrome, Rants and discussions, The East English Fens of East Anglia, Zenza Bronica SQ-A

Creativity

Under the gate. Always a way through. Don’t make your own obstructions. Bronica SQ-A camera. Zenzanon PS 150mm f/4 lens. Ilford Delta Pro 400 120 film. Developed in FirstCall R09.

I recently read an article written by … lets call him Ken.  Ken classified photographers (amateur, semi pro, and pro all falling into and across his classes).  In Ken’s opinion (he has a lot of opinion), the lowest grade photographers were the technophiles that obsessed about the technology of photography, without hardly ever taking any photos.  The best photographers, in Ken’s opinion, the top class, were the artists, that used creativity, and imagination to capture great images – using any equipment at hand.

I really don’t know what category I’d fall in, nor should I really be concerned.  However, I am increasingly concerned about my lack of creativity.  When I browse through the uploads of my highly valued Flickr friends, I’m often struck by the creativity of some of them.  While I struggle to find a subject to capture – they find it in their everyday life.  How do they do that?  An image should belong to imagination.

How do I bring creativity into my photography?  How do I break that pattern of thought, and reach through to this?  I think that should be my next focus.

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Rants and discussions, Uncategorized, Zenza Bronica SQ-A

Technology wins this time (or does it?)

My Bronica SQ-A , set up for portrait mode. All photos on this post taken with a neglected Sony A200 DSLR and Sony DT AF 50mm f/1.8 SAM lens.

It’s often suggested that amateur photographers tend to fall into two camps.  1) those that concentrate on the photograph, the image and the art.  The artist.  They understand the rules of light, composition, depth, texture, colours, lines, etc.  They focus (as photographers often do), on the image.  They often also use imagination and even concept.  To these artists, cameras and technology are mere tools – to be used and abused in the magical art of imagery.

As above

The other camp that photographers often fall into is 2) those that worship the technology of photography.  Call them nerds, geeks, or worse – so many photographers fall into this camp.  The DSLR nerd will read and digest every magazine benchmark review of the latest full frame sensor.  The film nerd will post photo after photo of their massive collection of classic cameras and lenses.  The nerd often fills a Flickr photostream with images of gear.  Indeed, they can be addicted to Gear.

As top photo

I probably belong to the Nerd category, but I wished that I belonged to the Artist category.  I’m aware of this, it’s a battle in my photography.  My Gear addiction these days is to film photographic equipment.  I couldn’t compete with the digital counterpart, I couldn’t invest that much money in my interest.  Maybe this is a part of what draws me to film or if you prefer, analog photography – cheap but extensive technology of years gone by.

As top photo

So I’m probably a nerd – but I wish I was an artist.  Here in this shoot though, I’ve allowed my nerdness to run riot.  It is dedicated to my Bronica medium format system camera.  Should I quote statistics, facts, dates, and manufacturing data?  No, I’m going to shy away this time.

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Monochrome, Pentax K110D DSLR and SMC Pentax-M 50mm F/1.7 prime lens, Rants and discussions

Aspiring to become a professional photographer

G20 – the Photographer. Trying to rise above the crowds. Pentax K110D DSLR. SMC Pentax-M 50mm f/1.7 lens.

I’ve ranted on this subject before.  I guess that I should keep away from Yahoo Answers, as it winds me up.  Why do so many young new photographers aspire to, want to be, expect to fast-track to … becoming a professional photographer.  A ‘Pro-Tog’.  Why do many young people also expect to, or desire to make money by selling photos?  Why do they see a DSLR, of any level, as a professional type camera.  You can buy an entry level Canikon brand new for less than two hundred and fifty quid (GBP £250).  You think that’s expensive?  Then try forking out for a new digital medium format Hasselblad for £45,000.  Now that’s professional, or maybe insane.

The crusty old Marxist in me sees it as the value system that Capitalism breeds.  If you don’t make money at it, you aren’t no good.  Money equals success equals status equals happiness.  Poor things though don’t understand.  Everyone has a Canikon now.  Everyone has a cheapo cut down Photoshop.  You need to be real good, and real skilled to make a decent living from a lens.  The sort of good that a proper training or apprenticeship creates – not picking up a lump of black plastic and being told that you’re “a natural” by friends and family.  Suddenly everyone is a Pro-tog.  Everyone has a Facebook page for their photography business.  I’ve even noticed a new magazine in the newagent stands, aimed at the aspiring professional, that is becoming professional!  There are that many that they have magazines for them in every little town?

The real Professionals are under pressure like never before.  Why hire their services when someone in the family has a professional camera and is a natural?  They’ll photo the wedding, or make family portraits.  Look, what wonderful HDR and color splash!  The bride might appear to have three arms but what the hell.  Still, not my problem, I’m not in that business.  Poor beggars.

So lets raise a toast to the humble amateur, who is happy to be an amateur, an enthusiast, that captures light for the love of it – not for the worship of Mammon.  Let us enjoy our creativity. NOT FOR SALE!

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