Frustrated, Getting Worse with Time

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by darinwc, Feb 1, 2012.

  1. darinwc

    darinwc Subscriber

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    I think over the years my photography has gotten worse instead of better.
    Does anyone else feel like this?

    Perhaps it is just a raising of standards, perhaps it is just the newness of the medium is fading.
    Perhaps my eyesight is failing, or my patience for technique is getting short.

    In any case, I'm getting frustrated and debating on throwing in the towel.
     
  2. David Lyga

    David Lyga Subscriber

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    If you could see my parents' wedding pictures (1946) your assessment would be confirmed. The blacks were black and the whites were white and detailed. If you look at B&W movie films from the 1940s, travelogues in B&W from that era, and from other sources you will be confirmed.

    Something happened though the decades that transcended Ansel Adams and made 'photography' more 'for the masses' rather than 'for artistry for artistry's sake'. - David Lyga
     
  3. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    I have been in your situation a couple of years ago.

    After a while I figured out that all I am required to do is to enjoy myself, and in order to do so I had to start focusing on what's really important to me - making prints, and focusing my efforts in all preceding steps on precisely that.
    In order to accomplish that I had to clean up what I was doing - strongly limit the use of lots of different cameras, lenses, films, papers, and developers. In order to get any sort of consistently good output that's what I had to do. I have a few cameras, but mainly focus my efforts with two cameras, one film, two papers, and one developer for each category. It helps me to eliminate those items as variable, so that I can focus on subject matter, framing, and lighting.

    And, eyesight failing should make all your prints look better! :smile:

    You should figure out what it is about photography that you're trying to achieve, and what about it is that you enjoy. Then focus on accomplishing that and remove all obstacles to getting there. Keep your mind clear, and your thoughts pure, and be somewhat ruthless about it. Sounds like you need to shake up what you're doing.

    I hope you get it figured out, and please don't throw in the towel.
     
  4. David Lyga

    David Lyga Subscriber

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    Find only ONE scene, large or small, from tabletop to scenic view, something that you like and something that is static. Then close in to it like you would close into a treasure found.

    Analyze why you like that scene. Think about why and what could be made even better. Is it the basic aesthetics? Balance? Color? Light play? A synergism of various traits? Then begin photographing it in various ways: more exposure, less exposure, more development, less development, different filtration, different vantage points.

    Darin, 'seeing' is hard work as is the acquisition of technical proficiency. Boredom comes easily and we must fight the impulse to refuse to see beauty in our own back yards. Sometimes something seemingly unrelated can manifest where it theoretically should not. When I was a child I was brought up in the Byzantine (Ukrainian) Rite of the Roman Catholic Church. There were pesky 'holy days' often and many a time after coming home from high school my father would command us all to go to church in the evening for the holy day. I despised this because I was exhausted. I forced my self to do this (by necessity, there was no way out!). One of the times was the stations of the cross. I was forced to analyze the various Icons in that church (St Michaels Ukrainian Catholic Church in Terryville CT) and come to grips with the fact that, aesthetically there really was something there. The next week I dragged my Minolta Autocord into the Church when it was empty and came back with literally revelatory, beautiful B&W photos that are possible with unrushed time exposures. that was when I was 16 in 1966. Moral: from pain and suffering I acquired an appreciation for beauty which, before then, I simply took for granted.

    Darin, beauty is hard work, like studying, digging a ditch, making enemies your friends, acquiring empathy without selfishness. That is really the REAL facts of life. You are justified in feeling this boredom, especially in these uncertain times. But remember, you have easily at your disposal, equipment and materials, no matter how inexpensive, that Matthew Brady would have killed for. Thankfulness begets and precedes aesthetic wisdom. - David Lyga
     
  5. pbromaghin

    pbromaghin Subscriber

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    This is exactly how I felt 2 years ago. I was ready to never pick up a 35mm camera again. Then I bought a primitive Zeiss 6x6 of a pre-WWII design, ditched color, and started estimating the focus distance, using sunny 16, etc. Now I love it more than ever and my photography has really improved. You don't necessarily have to step way back to the stone age like I did. The point is, maybe you just need a change. Do something crazy and shoot a completely different format, film and subject matter for a while.

    Your mention of a raising of your standards is very perceptive. I do know from 35 years of martial arts that this feeling often pre-sages a breakthrough. It doesn't mean you really are worse, only that you've grown enough to perceive your faults. That is a necessary, but not sufficient condition for improvement.

    But like you say, go not to the elves...
     
  6. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    Sounds like somebody has SAD, and it's manifesting in your favorite "hobby"(for lack of a better term). Go off and do something else for a spell, then come back and reassess your work.
     
  7. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser

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    hi darin

    the thing that helped me was having no expectations.

    my eyes are not what they used to be either ...

    sorry to hear of your troubles
    john
     
  8. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    What an interesting way to view things. Thanks for sharing this most profound though.
     
  9. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    Analogue photographers have to try harder than our erstwhile contemporary digi-toting tramps. Digi is the new rage. We have to innovate and go out there and show the quality of analogue and how much more superior it is in terms of longevity, purity and bespoke value.

    Jnanian makes a good point about one's fallability as time goes on: my eyes are not as good as they once were and focusing is a chore (but never insurmountable) and I have to look long and hard at detail on the lightbox with a loupé and magnifier alternately. None of this worries digi people with cameras that focus themselves and record everything for them. But I'm happy with my lot and will remain so!
     
  10. Dan Daniel

    Dan Daniel Subscriber

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    Take a break. Read a book, not about photography. Travel. Put the camera down. Pick one photographer,only one, and look at his/her photos. Imagine yourself in the same location, and try to comprehend why they put the camera in that one spot, that light, that moment, that print.

    My thinking is that for me,photography is about the world outside of me and how I 'position' myself in relation to that world. Position in the broadest sense-not just physically, but intellectually, emotionally, historically, etc. And sometimes I (excuse me here) can crawl so far up my own rear end that I lose sight of what makes photography interesting to me.

    So I take a break.
     
  11. jeffreyg

    jeffreyg Subscriber

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    Two simple suggestions:
    1 take out some old negatives that you once printed and reprint from scratch - don't look at the original prints or notes
    2 revisit a place or subject that you haven't been to in a long time and take only one lens to come up with a different perspective

    http://www.jeffreyglasser.com/
     
  12. JMcLaug351

    JMcLaug351 Member

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    Darinwc, I know what you mean. I've been there and back. I stopped photographing for about five years or so and came back to it. If it is of any help to you at all I've looked at the photos you have posted here on APUG and I think some of them are among the best I've seen here on APUG or anywhere. I'm thinking first of the one called "Legs" I think. I even remember the first time I saw it. I said right out loud "Wow, that is so good, so very good". There are several others as well that I think are wonderful and have wished I could do as well. I hope this helps. Sometimes all you need is for someone else to tell you what you really already know to make it all seem better. I had a good friend who did that for me once and it was a huge help. I hope I helped you.
    JOHN
     
  13. Tony Egan

    Tony Egan Subscriber

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    Raised standards will be part of the issue. For about a year now I have been scanning all my negatives from the time I got my first Olympus Trip camera in 1979 and I have just reached 1984. Man, was I a terrible photographer then! Obvious things like direction and quality of light, clarity of composition, appreciation of background and depth of field, vertical and horizontal tangents etc etc didn't seem very apparent to me then. I probably wouldn't press the shutter on most of the photos from that time but think of all the memories not captured and learning not achieved! Keep shooting, and don't be too tough on yourself.

    On the other hand, I often think of one of my favourite quotes about photography by Robert Adams. "People photograph to keep in tact an affection for life". I find my photography is going well when all other things in my life are going pretty well and vice versa. Is it the photography which is causing some of the loss of affection or other things? If it's the photography that's causing some of the misery then worth dropping it for a while and find some affection for life in other ways. You might find that you really do "need" to keep photographing after all.
     
  14. dehk

    dehk Member

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    [​IMG]

    Just look at "How good you think you are"
     
  15. mark

    mark Member

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    I am definately in the "Damnit I suck" stage. I know how the OP feels.
     
  16. mooseontheloose

    mooseontheloose Subscriber

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    I also feel your pain -- sometimes I wonder why I even pick up a camera. When I look at my older negatives they seem better to me than what I am currently creating -- more varied and interesting compositions, better capture of light, better development, etc. Of course there were some mistakes, but I seem not to have improved on those either. In the past when I got into a bit of funk I usually tried something new -- a new camera, new film, whatever, just to spark my creativity once again. And now I've got too much stuff! :wink: Maybe Thomas is right -- simplifying things and having a real focus on what one wants to achieve is a way to push forward.