I recently had reason to go back through my files for a project I am working on to free up some storage space on my hard drives. A (very) few may find that subject interesting, so I’ll try to include that in a future post, once the idea is more thoroughly developed. In the meantime, I excavated some long-forgotten photos in my Lightroom catalog, dating back to my very first digitally-originated photos from my Canon G5, which I acquired in late 2004.
The G5 was the camera that convinced me to make the move from film to digital. Even though it was a measly 5 megapixel point & shoot, the fact that I could get some pretty darned nice photos from it without having to scan film was the clincher. I was shooting medium format film at the time, and while I loved the images and the overall aesthetic of MF, being able to skip the scanning step was incredibly freeing. Of course we now spend that time in Lightroom or Photoshop, but we didn’t realize that at the time!
I’ll try to post photos from subsequent years as I go, but for now this is a blast from my (photo) past. Nothing extraordinary, but a whole lot of fun!
I mentioned in an earlier post about how I struggle between color photos and black & white photos. While the black & white versions are OK, I tend to see and feel in color so the color versions of my photos often win out over the black & white versions. Here are some sets of images from that same post, along with their counterparts. I’d love to hear some feedback on the pros and cons. I know that ultimately my photos need to reflect my voice, but I also know that I have lived a pretty sheltered existence when it comes to my experience with black & white photography.
Kathy & I attended a jazz concert recently with two of our favorite jazz musicians. Afterwards we were talking about the music and how different a live performance is from the recorded music that we listen to at home. When we’re at home we tend to listen to “quiet” music – light jazz but also classical, guitar, piano, new age-y spa stuff. And it’s almost always instrumental. We find that vocal music interferes with our ability to think, especially when we are writing or reading. And if a live version of a tune comes on, I often skip it or remove it from the playlist.
Of course when we go to a live show we expect to be entertained. A lot of the music we listen to at home would put us and everyone else to sleep if we were to hear it at a live show.
The explanation I came up with has parallels with photography. Most of us spend our photographic time as observers, looking outward to see what there is and responding to it. We’ll sometimes be participants, such as at a wedding or baby shower. That is a little different because we are part of the action, rather than being outside looking in. But we take on a different role when we are participating in the action, and people respond differently to us when we are obviously taking pictures as opposed to an anonymous observer.
When I listen to music at home, I intend for it to support whatever I’d doing, which is usually to fade into the background. I am an observer but not actively involved in the performance. When I photograph, I generally try to be a part of that same background, observing and recording but not participating. On occasion I will photograph an event, and in that case my role changes. I am then part of the “performance” and an obvious participant. And there is a recognizable difference in the photographs that result from the two roles, in many ways like the difference between a recording and a live performance.
Technically, we don’t have a back door. But we do have a screened porch at the back of our house that overlooks the woods next to our neighborhood. Kathy & I spend a lot of time on that screened porch, it is our outdoor space where we relax and unwind after a long day or a long week.
This past weekend was just about the ideal weather here in Charlotte – temperatures in the upper 70’s on Saturday, low 70’s on Sunday. We spent a lot of time on the porch.
These trees are directly behind our porch, and this is the second fall since we moved in. They sometimes call my name, and the call got especially loud on Saturday so I got out my camera. Nothing special artistic-wise, but it was good to answer the call and take a few shots. In a couple more weeks the leaves will all be gone.
We all get attached to our equipment in one way or another, and the more we use our cameras and get familiar with them, the more attached we become. But over time our needs change, technology improves and we end up making a switch. Sometimes making that switch can be hard, sometimes it can be easy.
I tend to be a pretty loyal guy by most standards. Kathy & I will be celebrating our 35th anniversary later this year, although that probably says more about her willingness to put up with me than it says about me! I tend to drive cars much older than most of the people I know, and I wear clothes until they are hopelessly out of style. I used Canon digital SLRs from my first one in 2005, and my first digital camera was a Canon G5 point & shoot. Over the last 4 years I have owned 4 Canon bodies and a bunch of lenses.
Full-sized and full-frame SLRs have become the standard for a lot of photographers. While there are and have been real and demonstrated advantages to larger sensors over the years, a lot of the so-called conventional wisdom has been as much marketing driven than anything. And that marketing was very effective, because the quality was very good, and because none of us wanted to be left behind. Over the years, the price tags of these big cameras and their accompanying lenses got bigger and bigger. The cameras themselves didn’t get bigger, but new lenses added to the collection and didn’t replace anything. Old bodies became backups or converted to infrared, and our camera bags and our closets kept getting more and more full.
A lot of people have more camera equipment than I used to have, and some of them actually use it all! But once the gear I was using stopped fitting into a big Think Tank rolling bag, I knew it was time to make a change. The big bag was hard to get in and out of the car and took up a lot of space. Traveling by air with a lot of equipment is no treat, as it is physically a pain and can be challenging with all the security rules. I knew that the airlines were very unlikely to let me take my rolling bag onto a plane, so I got what I could into a backpack and carried it on.
Our recent vacation to Colorado was probably the turning point for me. I had already been contemplating a move and had rented an Olympus OMD EM1 and a Fuji XT1, which I actually rented twice and was pretty sure I wanted to buy. The trip to Colorado proved to me that if I was going to continue to travel the way I want to, I was going to have to make a choice, and that choice was probably going to result in carrying less stuff. That combined with the fact that the next Canon camera was likely to render all of my ancient lenses obsolete, it made sense to start making the change now rather than waiting.
My original plan was going to be to sell off just my surplus gear and replace it with the Fuji and a single lens. I would continue to use the Canon 5D Mark III as my primary camera and would have the XT1 as a backup, instead of the old 5D. Made sense and I was ready to roll. I had previously decided to just sell my stuff to B&H, because I didn’t want to mess with Ebay or Craigslist. I did offer my stuff to a few select friends that I thought might be interested, but getting no takers I filled out the online form with B&H, liked the prices they were offering and sent off a box of old gear to the B&H used department. About two weeks later I had a gift card worth enough to pay for the Fuji, a lens and some extra cards and batteries. Sweet!
Back to that loyalty thing again – I’ve never been fond of owning different types of cameras and always having to decide which one to take with me and which one to leave at home. My philosophy has tended toward buying a camera that best suited my needs and using it for everything. Why bother with a camera that isn’t my best camera? That way I never have to worry about it – I always have my best camera with me, so if there is a shot worth taking it is worth having the best camera for. Despite our best guesses, there is no way to know ahead of time what kind of photographs will present themselves and whether the camera I chose to take with me was suitable. If I only have one camera, I always have my best one with me!
So between processing the Colorado photos from my Canon cameras and waiting for the Fuji to arrive, I started looking back through the photos I had taken with the two rental Fujis. I was and am very impressed with the quality of files out of that camera. I think before the UPS package even arrived I had decided not to wait. I did wait, but decided that I was going to sell the rest of the Canon gear and buy as much Fuji stuff as I wanted. And as it turned out I sold off all my Canon gear, bought the XT1 and four lenses and still have a little money left over!
So there’s that story. I know the real questions are about how I feel about the XT1. But that will need to wait until my next post. Fear not, though. It is mostly written, so I just need to come up with a few more photos!
I had a conversation recently with my favorite bartender Brian about different versions of cocktails. I had asked him to make me a Negroni, because I had never had one before and I knew that “his” version would be a good example of what the drink was “supposed” to taste like. Brian likes to tweak ingredients and often makes his own. The classic Negroni is made with one part gin, one part vermouth rosso (red, semi-sweet), and one part Campari. Pretty basic, and if you made one with just the bargain basement variety of ingredients, you’ll get the classic cocktail. But add in Uncle Val’s Gin, Carpano Antico Vermouth, Aperol instead of Campari, and you kick it up a few notches. Brian’s comment to me was that when making a cocktail, if you didn’t start with good ingredients it didn’t matter what you did but just wouldn’t get a good drink.
I think a good photograph also needs to start with good ingredients. You can’t take a boring photograph and turn it in to something amazing using only software. I recently read a caption on Facebook that had me shaking my head:
“I processed the five image HDR via Photomatix Pro with deghosting, double tone-mapping, and a Photograph subset. Final editing in Nikon Capture NX2. This was a tricky situation as I was at the site at high noon when there was so much contrast and haze in the sky. I also did a Black & White subset adjustment to the final image as well.”
What that tells me is “I was there at the wrong time of day, the light was terrible but I took a photograph anyway, hoping I could turn it into something interesting in software.” What that tells me is that it was time to find something more interesting to shoot, or else go have some lunch.
Sorry, just a bit of a rant, but I had a really good bartender story and this seemed like a good way to tell it. Oh, and I also have a few new photos to share. Enjoy!
A group of co-workers and I often go out to lunch on Fridays. This past Friday we had a little larger group than usual, and while we were waiting for the elevator, one of the guys said, “gee, we may need to take a bus.” And I replied, “maybe we need to call an Uber.” The resulting exchange went something like this (paraphrased):
Me: We could call an Uber and have them bring a van.
40-Something Somewhat Tech Aware Guy: Have you used Uber?
50-Something Less Than Open Minded Guy: What the hell’s an Uber?
Me: I’ve used Uber several times, it’s great. Works well. You just pull up the app, it tells you where the nearest car is, tell it where you want to go and they come.
40-Something Privacy Sensitive Guy: How do you pay them? Do they have your credit card information?
60-Something Fox News Addict: Don’t you worry about getting kidnapped or murdered? What kind of background check do they do?
Elevator stops at another floor.
30-Something Hipster Guy gets on, someone we know. He hears the conversation and asks, “you guys talking about Uber? I work for them, good way to earn some extra money.”
We went on and took two cars. 50-Something Less Than Open Minded Guy wanted to drive because he doesn’t like to ride (also a Control Freak?) and 60-Something Fox News Addict drove (needed to get a Rush fix on the way).
That 30-second elevator conversation reminded me of how different our impressions of something can differ depending on our perspective. Our recent conversation about cameras is another example of how where we come from can impact our impression of something, our point of view and our opinion.
In one of Brooks Jensen’s latest Lenswork podcasts titled “Your Photographic Will”, Brooks explores the idea of what to do with all of our photographs when we head for that big darkroom in the sky. Brooks raises some good points and has some interesting suggestions, including deciding whether we should give away, sell, donate or destroy our work while we are still around to do something personally with it.
I’ve always found such discussion to be somewhat presumptuous, since for most of the photographers I know, I can’t imagine that anyone, not even our families, is going to give a flip about our photographs when we’re gone. Heck, for the most part no one gives much of a flip about our photographs while we’re here!
There are a number of photographers these days who are making a significant enough contribution to photography that their work is important enough that they need to think about such things. Brooks is probably one of those photographers, if for no other reason than being the editor and publisher of one of the pre-eminent fine art photography magazines around. But for the most part, photography has become so ubiquitous and there are many photographers making reasonably good work these days. The chance of anyone’s work achieving whatever level of acclaim is necessary to be considered important enough to worry about is pretty slim.
As much as I enjoy printing, I have never made a darkroom print, so I don’t have an inventory of prints that I have made over the years. Heck, I’ve never even been in a darkroom with someone else developing or printing, let alone done my own! Most of the inkjet prints I have made over the years have gone directly into a frame, been shipped off to a customer or torn up and tossed in the trash. I don’t keep a ready supply of prints hanging around in boxes.
I’ve given some prints away to friends over the years, but I’ve always felt a little guilty giving someone a gift that they were going to need to spend money to have framed. In our previous house I had made and framed a number of prints, but I made a conscious decision when we moved to our new place to start from scratch. I did keep and hang a select few of those prints, but many of the prints were from my early days of printing and not of a quality that I considered to be worth hanging on to. So I tossed most of those in the trash and either repurposed the frames or took them to Goodwill.
Recently I have been making some new prints of some of my work for specific locations in our new home. I have a few more to make and plan to do a blog post about them when I’m done. But those are prints done for décor, not for sale to anyone else. I have made “test prints” on my own printer but then shipped the files off to be printed by a lab on canvas or wood. There may be a metal or glass print in my future, but we’ll have to find the right photograph and the right location.
So as far as my own “Photographic Will” there’s not much to get excited about. My camera gear is probably worth more than my inventory of photographs. Other than a few boxes and binders of slides and negatives, most of my “serious” photography is on a single hard drive, backed up in multiple places, of course!
One of Brooks’ suggestions that I really did like was the idea of producing a printed book or a series of books of our photographs. There are many places to have books made, and they could be given away to family and close friends now, while I can enjoy sharing with them. I like that idea and am currently thinking of a few ways I could present my photographs that was meaningful to me while at the same time was something that others could enjoy too.
I’m actually kind of glad that I don’t have a lot of stuff to keep track of or worry about. Kathy already thinks I have too much stuff, but by a lot of people’s standards I don’t have much at all. She is definitely glad that it is all contained in a single room of our house. Except of course for the prints that I’ve been hanging on the walls. For that I think she is happy, or at least she hasn’t told me to stop. Yet!
I was talking recently with a friend about some upcoming concerts here in Charlotte and what our interest was in attending them. Kathy and I love to see and hear live music, but find the cost of the tickets – especially for decent seats – and the crowds to be huge turn offs, so with rare exception we usually pass.
One of the recent announcements is for a jazz series, with several artists that I would like to see. Also just announced is a concert by Billy Joel. That would also be a great show, but based on prior events by big-name performers, chances are good that the cost of seats will be in excess of $100, but I’m just guessing. This runs counter to most people I know (shocker!) but I would be more likely to spend $100 (or $200 for both of us) on a nice dinner and/or a bottle of wine than on a concert, regardless of the performer. And I don’t part with that kind of money easily, so you get the gist.
At some point during the conversation it occurred to me that, for the most part, popular performers are those whose music has words. More often than not my preference is for music that doesn’t have words. And then I wondered how that translates to other parts of my life. For example, I tend to take photographs of scenes without people, but a large percentage of all the photographs taken on a given day – at least those not of food or cats – are photographs of people. I tend to seek peace and quiet, while a lot of people seem to like noise and drama. Different strokes, as they say.
This is not to suggest that music without words means that it has negative space. In most cases that is far from the truth. But I find that the introduction of words to music can be like people in a photograph. More often than not I prefer to leave them out.
The whole idea of negative space comes about when I think about my photographs. A lot of people are afraid of negative space, just like they are afraid of silence. But my favorite photographs are often those that have large areas of negative space. Not negative space in terms of “nothing,” but negative space in terms of sky or water or a solid color. Negative space, like silence, tends to make some people uncomfortable. I find it soothing and feel that it often adds balance. Not always, but often and under the right circumstances.
So what about those concerts? It’s too soon to tell but my guess is that we’ll opt for a few of the jazz concerts and skip the others. But who knows? We might decide that it is worth the money to see a big name like Billy Joel.
There’s a sign in front of a church that I pass by that is advertising for an upcoming “financial planning” seminar. The sign has a picture of some snake oil salesman-looking guy holding a bundle of cash and says “Normal is Broke, BE WEIRD!” I’m not sure what kind of financial planning seminar would be held in a church but I hope it doesn’t involve praying for more money. 😉
Right after I pass that church I get to the Walmart, which seems to be a much more popular place for people to spend their time and money, because Walmart is always packed and I only see people at the church on Sunday. Maybe the church needs to take marketing advice from Walmart and attract people there by having sales.
I guess it’s the whole “SALE!” thing that is on my mind, mostly. But it ties into the idea of financial planning because the two ideas seem to be diametrically opposed.
Because I don’t watch television, don’t listen to commercial radio, have Ad Blocker on my browser and stopped subscribing to the local “junk mail disguised as yesterday’s news” newspaper I am mostly insulated from all of the “it’s on sale” mentality that gets people all excited about Black Friday. But I hear people at work all the time making plans to go shopping on Friday because “they’re (whoever “they’re” is) is having a sale on (INSERT NAME OF ITEM HERE).
Kathy & I just don’t buy stuff. Other than trips to Lowe’s to buy the few things we have needed for our house, we buy food, wine and gasoline for the car. I will admit to making a few trips to Best Buy while I was rounding out my Sonos system, but that’s it. We went to Target a few weeks ago and bought a few things that we needed, and realized that was the first time we had been there since January. And it’s not because we shop somewhere else – I haven’t been inside a Walmart in probably 5 years!
Just for fun I pulled up Walmart’s (and this is not a slam at Walmart, they just make a convenient example) Black Friday ad and looked through it. In a 39-page ad, there isn’t a single thing I would buy now. It’s not that there isn’t anything I would have, but generally if there is something I need I already have it, and if I need to replace something I have, I usually can’t wait until it’s on sale!
Admittedly, some of the sales are pretty good. If you just happened to be in the market for Beats wireless headphones ($280 – really?) $149 is a pretty good price. I liked the idea of Skullcandy earbuds for $9, but if I needed a set I would already have some that I paid $18 for and wouldn’t be laying up extras “just in case.” About three quarters of the pages are for clothes and junk toys that I wouldn’t buy for anyone’s kid. And best of all, if you don’t have the money for all this stuff, they have special financing available! Take 24 months to pay for this year’s crap! What a deal!
I’ll admit that the excuse that a lot of people use is that they are buying Christmas gifts, and to a certain extent that is probably true. But I’m not as concerned about who the stuff is for as I am that people feel like they have to buy stuff at all, for them or for someone else.
Anyway, I’m really not judging. Really! Some people enjoy the thrill of the chase, some have money to burn and shop just for fun. I choose to do otherwise. So do what you want, buy what you need and remember to share some of your good fortune with others less fortunate than you. What am I doing for Black Friday? I usually go to work on that day since I often figure it’s a lousy day to waste a vacation day on. This year though we’ve decided to do something a little different on Black Friday. We’re going to the beach for the weekend. Have fun!