Good read; One camera, one lens, one film, one year

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by bdial, Dec 18, 2013.

  1. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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  2. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    Great article.

    No matter if film or digital.

    Learning to see and shoot with one prime lens is a game changer.
     
  3. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    It's nice to see these things happen. I've always believed in photography being about seeing, and when we switch materials around too much we distract ourselves from truly seeing.

    Thank you.
     
  4. Richard S. (rich815)

    Richard S. (rich815) Subscriber

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    When ever I shoot each photo I only use one camera, one lens, and one film. :smile:

    I simply enjoy the different and varying handling, feel and craftsmanship of so many of my old and classic film cameras that I'd have a hard time sticking to this. Often before a shoot I'll see which of my cameras "calls" to me and go with a last minute gut feeling as to which I'll use. Of course more serious work or jobs require the right tool no matter what and that overrides any romantic notion of some camera or my gut calling to me. But luckily I make a decent living outside of photography and do most of my photo work purely for simple enjoyment and for myself.

    That said I admire the spirit and idea of this kind of project and will likely step up and do it sometime. For now if I do this kind of thing it only lasts a week or a month.
     
  5. David Allen

    David Allen Member

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    A very important point. Photography is all about seeing, seeing and seeing that is backed up with sound technique to realise what you saw. Outside of when I worked commercially (often not knowing what the next assignment was when contacted via my pager), for my own photography I have always followed the one camera, one lens, one film, one developer, one paper approach. I do this because I can concentrate on making photographs. If something interesting is too far away and I can't walk closer to it then I simply ignore it and move on to something else. After 12 years with my current combo, as soon as I see something that would make a good image I can already picture in my head exactly how the print will look. This to me is far more interesting than endless testing (I only test when one of my key ingredients - usually alas paper - is changed and I have to find a replacement), changing equipment, etc.

    Bests,

    David
    www.dsallen.de
     
  6. Alan Klein

    Alan Klein Member

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    I find that shooting MF landscapes slows me down and requires me to think about what I'm seeing. The separate light meter, tripod, setting up the focus, aperture and shutter speed, everything manually. Pretty much as he described in his blog. Of course he was describing street photography where you're using one lens for the most part. However, also using different fixed length lenses add to the seeing. It requires me to stop and think even more about what the subject is because I have to select and mount the right lens to frame it as my vision wants to see the final picture.
     
  7. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    But if you read his text again carefully, the end goal is not to think more about what he's doing. It is to get to a state of mind where you intuitively know what to do, without thinking. That's the distinction. You are so in tune with your equipment that you no longer have to think about what you do, you just react.

    For landscape photography that may or may not apply. Things don't move very quickly in a landscape, where you may end up waiting for a long time for the right moment to take the picture. The weather could be changing quickly, though, in which case you would need to react quickly. But then the discussion might maybe be steered back to talking about film and developers. In landscape photography it's not uncommon to use all sorts of filters, neutral density, graduated filters, contrast and color filters, and sometimes exposures can be extremely long. Do you really know how to use your film, without looking it up, by just taking a light reading at all times? That's important knowledge too and is a big part of the chain of events.

    I'm fascinated by the simplicity of the task of using one 'everything' for a long period of time. It is such a simple way of approaching photography, and such a good way of becoming a better photographer, yet many of us are so brainwashed and indoctrinated with the idea of the camera, lens, film choice and so on being important, that we find ourselves justifying carrying more than one of everything. :smile:
     
  8. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    I think the article makes a good point, but at the same time, the "one of everything" approach is a bit gratuitously restrictive, I think. Is it really helpful to say "I'm going to forgo shooting indoors this year" because the film you chose is too slow, or conversely "I'm going to shoot studio macros on Delta 3200" because you made the opposite choice? Or to force yourself to shoot your kid's baseball game with an 8x10 and a 210mm lens?

    Generally I think it makes more sense to make restrictions like this into a non-exclusive project; not "I will shoot with nothing else", but "I will concentrate on working with this toolset". But I'm a big fan of "horses for courses", as well as of messing around with different gadgets, and I suppose somewhere out there is the photographer who *would* use that 8x10 at the baseball game and get terrific results.

    -NT

    Edit: Also, did anyone else have a large-format giggle about "small" apertures meaning f/8 to f/11?
     
  9. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    I am going to throw this out there only to stimulate discussion. I think you're very level headed, so don't take this the wrong way.

    Don't you think that it is BECAUSE OF the challenges that one 'everything' presents that make you a better photographer?

    I think it's important to make a distinction here that it's about fundamental qualities of seeing and feeling your way to the end result, and for this exercise you'd have to learn how to expand your capabilities to compensate for some of the challenges.
     
  10. MDR

    MDR Member

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    I think this is extremely funny on many photo forums people claim that the get superior photos and learn to see better using only one lens and how new and refreshing this experience is but in reality most photographers until after WWII only used one camera with one focal length
    and they created some great work but mostly mediocre to bad work. In reality most people never learned how to see and only using one camera and one lens won't teach them how to see imo. Going out (also at home) and really start looking at things will teach them how to see a camera and lens can't do that.
     
  11. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member

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    The point of one camera, one lens, one film (and one developer) is to eliminate as many variables as possible so the beginner can concentrate on the work at hand, learning to make pictures with a camera whether that camera is an 8x10 Deardorff or a Kodak 35.
    When you are utterly familiar with the equipment and can use it intuitively (as Thomas pointed out) to get exactly the technical performance you need, then and only then can you begin to learn to "see". A Maslow's hierarchy of learning, if you will.
     
  12. MDR

    MDR Member

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    Emil I have to disagree seeing comes first everything else second pure seeing with our eyes and mind without camera is the ultimate reduction, cameras and lenses are already an additional tool that hinders the visual development.
     
  13. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    I profoundly disagree with you. The actual trick is to learn how to become a better photographer. If your mind is occupied with things like what film to use, what lens to use, or anything of that nature, it means you have less brain capacity left to focus on the actual photograph.

    What is it, in terms of 'seeing', that you think is made better by adding more equipment to the camera bag?

    By removing all of these obstacles, and using as little equipment and material as possible, has two benefits:
    1. You become so intimately familiar with the equipment that you don't even have to think about it. Your reaction to the subject matter in front of you is instinctive, because you can feel, like a domino chain reaction of a split second, what needs to happen. That takes into account all sorts of lighting scenarios, compositional elements, how to treat light and so on, because you are so familiar with your materials that you know these things like the back of your hand.
    2. As a result of being so familiar with your materials and what happens to them at the time of processing and printing, you actually get more performance out of them. You have to use your materials a lot, break rules with them, and go way beyond their limitations in order to know everything there is to know about them. That takes time. Lots of time. Years even.

    If you're not able to see the advantages of doing this, then you could probably benefit from trying it yourself. I've done it for six months and found it tremendously rewarding. I plan on doing it again to see if I can learn more.
     
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  15. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    You may be right but for most people and especially beginners, they need the crutch of a frame, to develop the ability to see. Some sort of parameters or framework to learn how to collect in the shot, and extract it from the entire panorama that their eyes see.

    In fact if you walked outside right now, and formed a frame with your fingers, no matter how proficient you are at photography and move that around, you would find an interesting shot that you probably wouldn't otherwise have noticed.

    Then after a lot of that exercise, a person can then walk outside perhaps and see those things without the frame.

    In the blog a lot of people may think that they should automatically use a 35-50mm ( in 35mm format) but sometimes a longer lens can even be more interesting since our eyes see in something like 35-50mm. And a longer lens makes us see in a different manner.
     
  16. GRHazelton

    GRHazelton Subscriber

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    I recall once having my 50mm and 135mm for my Praktica LTL both in for service for 6 or 8 weeks, leaving me with a 28mm and a 200mm. Since I shot almost exclusively on Plus X, souped in D76, and printed on Ilford fiber paper I sort of did the experiment for a month or two. I was surprised and pleased with the some what higher percentage of "keepers" than when I had the full complement of glass.
     
  17. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member

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    Seeing may come first, but if you're still thinking about whether or not the camera/film/lens combination is going to work the way you want, you won't be thinking about the picture you want to make.
     
  18. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    I would go even further and suggest a good learning tool is something like a Zen pinhole camera. This allows only one shot and no viewfinder.
     
  19. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    Well, yes, but with reservations. There are challenges and then there are challenges, as it were; trying to use a completely wrong tool for the job, like shooting sports with a wide lens on a large format camera, is probably too much of a "challenge" to be a useful experience.

    Also, what's reasonable to take on will be different for someone who's strictly trying to develop their skills than for someone who wants to optimize the end product. I'd hate to feel that I *had* to decide to miss a shot because I'd sworn off that tool for the year.

    Agreed, and it's hard to say in advance what challenges can be compensated for, really. Sometimes a seemingly inappropriate tool works better than expected, and you wouldn't learn that if you reflexively went for the obviously appropriate one instead. Tradeoffs, tradeoffs.

    -NT
     
  20. David Lyga

    David Lyga Subscriber

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    There is little more liberating than walking around with a meterless camera, one whose aperture and shutter speeds I have overwritten with EV values. I simply decide what 'number' the scene calls for and choose (based upon depth of field needed) the proper combination that I must set. I also like to judge distance and, although I love the metric system, I cannot leave my 'feet' behind; they are so ingrained into my mind.

    In fact I think that forcing oneself to come to grips with light values is one of the better things one can do to round out the obvious need for believable composition. (Yes, Blansky, holding your fingers a certain way to frame scenes creates more opportunities than one could imagine). And too much information can stunt one's intellectual growth (as GRHazelton found out that more and better results came with having only the 28 and 200).

    I would like to read a legitimate essay about how artists of time past dealt with an inability to buy proper artist's materials and still managed to trump the odds. In photography, likewise, I derive comfort from less bells and whistles. And, please do not avoid or try to deny that different exposures present different perceptions of the scene at hand. Sometimes shadow detail becomes mandatory. Sometimes NO shadow detail presents MORE of a photograph.

    In summation, don't go by formulas. Go by the acclimation of perception through intelligent trial and error. - David Lyga
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 19, 2013
  21. MDR

    MDR Member

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    "acclimation of perception through intelligent trial and error" I like that. "a good learning tool is something like a Zen pinhole camera" I like this idea as well no viewfinder is a liberating experience and one really has to learn to visualize in ones mind. I think it's interesting to note that some of the better photographers came from some other artform. HCB and Man Ray for instance started out as painter so were visually schooled before they started out as photographers. They learned to see before they turned their talent to photography.
     
  22. VaryaV

    VaryaV Member

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    I have to agree with MDR on this one. I am an artist by training, we were taught how to see first. I agree to a point that it's important to know your tools, but if I am a painter and I were to get so hung up with sable hair brushes and whether they're 3 hairs or 100 and the more exotic the sable, the better I will be able to apply paint...

    If I had to 'think' so much like that instead of 'see' so much my feet would never leave the ground. It would kill the soul of my work.

    This is just my opinion, though, and my style/philosophy of working isn't for everyone. I just see so many people become crippled by getting so hung up in the mathematical/technological side of things they forget 'how' to see.

    I do think though, it (the article) does bring up a very pertinent discussion. :smile:
     
  23. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    I think that's hugely important, and somewhat underappreciated in photography---maybe due in part to our collective fondness for gear. (And/or to the modernist reaction against pictorialism: We aren't supposed to learn from painting, we're a whole different artform! I think that attitude isn't nearly as strong as it used to be, though, back when pictorialism was widely considered to be just a sentimental dead end from which the modernists rescued us.)

    -NT
     
  24. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    And discuss we shall.

    What good is seeing if you don't know how to translate it into a work of art?
    In the end you must use your materials, and my opinion is that you don't actually know what to look for unless you know how the rest of the work flow.
     
  25. David Brown

    David Brown Subscriber

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    This (to me) is another of those photography memes that just simply, well, may or may not apply. I have to go more with Nathan than Thomas. (And, Thomas, you and I are usually on the same page.)

    No, I do not think I am brainwashed in thinking that the tools and materials I use are important. I think those choices are important. And no, I do not, quite simply, think the "challenges" of one camera, one lens would in and of itself make one a better photographer.

    I'm happy that some feel this approach was beneficial to them. But I am often taken aback, then, by their evangelical zeal in promoting "simplicity" as a panacea for all photographers. I compare it to woodworkers who have an almost religious conviction against using power tools. Yeah, your work may (or may not) be more "handmade", but my joints fit. :wink:

    I am an apostle of settling on a small list of materials, i.e., film paper and chemicals. And I preach to those who have ears to hear, that keeping it simple in the darkroom (especially with film development) is a good thing. Simple, however, does not mean restrictive.

    So, am I going to make better photographs because I only take one lens with me? I own and use many different screwdrivers and wrenches, etc. I own and use many cameras and lenses.

    YMMV :smile:
     
  26. NedL

    NedL Subscriber

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    Hi Cliveh, not just a "learning tool", but also ongoing. I love going out with a 1-shot camera ( w or w/o a viewfinder! ). The article is close to what I do all the time anyway and not just as a temporary learning experience or "exercise".