Batwister, this is not abnormal in my opinion. Just remind yourself we view the legacies of our respective favourite great artists through a very distorted lens. We see the great results, with the intervening years of unproductive hair pulling, countless abandoned works and mountains of failed efforts edited out.
Whatever you do, don't go down the equipment rat hole. And a view camera won't solve viewfinder coverage "problems" either - although it will introduce a whole new set of problems. Everything involves compromises.
Something just occurred to me, batwister. Maybe what you need to do is actually shoot a lot more film. Seriously, go nuts. Instead of shoot one, take it to the lab, get the results, and do it one by one, go and buy 25 rolls or more of film, and then spend a whole weekend photographing stuff.
I had personally noticed in my fridge a couple of bricks of Agfa, which was expired. Since I had been shooting sheet film, I decided to embark on a use-it-up campaign. I took my Holga, since I don't care about it, and bicycled up and down alleys, photographing stuff. Just using up the film, roll after roll. And what happened? I got a lot of good shots! Sure, some didn't turn out. It's a Holga. But a lot of them did! And really, the real fact of the matter is that many things are a numbers game. You have to keep making the shots.
Also, I just realized that you are going to a lab. Can you process B&W film at home? I use my bathroom, and I've done so for years. Then the cost comes down to time and chemicals.
I think Brian has made an excellent point. I must admit that I tend to treat even 35mm film as if it were 8x10 sheets :D and expect an LF hit rate which is completely unrealistic. I really should "bang away" much more than I do.
However while film is relatively cheap, full roll processing and printing isn't and the OP may be caught in a bit of a bind.
If it is possible and you can find a lab prepared to print only the negs you want to be printed then there is a good case for home film processing where only a changing bag or lightproof cupboard is needed.
You are then in a position to process and discard the failed negs. This may be unrealistic of course but I hope not. DIY processing might well give you a sense of control that will help matters
Black and white isn't a problem at home, but I prefer consistency in quality control with colour. As to Brian's suggestion, I'm going to try and shoot 10 rolls in a couple of weeks - a lot for me.
Originally Posted by pentaxuser
First, I have to send my Pentax back for the fourth time in as many months because of a shutter issue which won't go away. The only place with Pentax parts in the UK are flummoxed by it. My Hasselblad back is dead and needs to be sent off as well. So this is at least another three weeks hiatus, if I send them off at the same time - £££. Constantly switching from the square to the 67 brings its own set of issues too, which aren't helping my growth as an image maker. You might better understand my comment about the universe trying to tell me something. Not hearing voices yet though.
It looks like I'll be forced to pull out the DSLR at some point.
Thanks for all the advice.
Well I certainly hadn't realised you had all these accompanying photographic problems. These are bad news. The good news is that my conclusion now is that you are justifiably frustrated and this is bound to affect your outlook. In fact if you weren't more than a little peeved and generally down in the mouth then I'd be worried about your mental state :D
It is like that very good book I once saw debunking the belief that we are all a mass of neuroses and on the precipice of terminal depression. It is called I'm OK, you're OK.
I pronounce you "OK"
Umm, I doubt that.
Originally Posted by batwister
To be blunt IMO "artistically" that's nonsense, great photos can be made in any format. Format only becomes important when the paper (output size) is defined before the shoot or the subject itself defines it and even then it is only a marginal concern.
I did an employee-of-the-month shoot this week, 3 separate subjects, oilfield mechanics in their normal work attire and baseball caps and as I walked in to do the shoot the client specified 12x24 paper vertical and wanted the background behind the receptionist's desk (which could not be moved) with the company logo which were all under fluorescent office lights, and as he's walking away says "make them look good". The format of the camera was completely irrelevant, as it should be.
You can also see the format vs subject definition play out in many movies quite starkly. The movie screen is a fixed entity, you can't tilt a theater 90 clockwise on demand and because of that dutching/tilting the camera is reserved for special effects. Cinematographers can still focus our attention on a vertical or square portrait within that fixed horizontal frame. They use lighting, DOF, somebody's head in the way, color, focal length, and other tools to creatively "crop" our attention down to the subject.
The camera in your hand is just a tool, like a screwdriver or a paint brush, it is just a means to an end; the camera does not define the output or focus the viewers attention, we as photographers and printers do.
With regard to the malfunctioning equipment, that's a real problem. Get one camera really fixed and then go shooting. If it helps cut some masks in various formats to fit say your Hasselblad's viewfinder so you can see/experiment with various crops while you are out shooting.
I think this is generally true. With many of the square formatists I look at however, their chosen frame format defines their aesthetic - which tends to be more formal and balanced compositions - 'zen' like in a word. Then there are those photographers who through simply investigating the medium, mix up the cameras they use. But very few IMHO work this way successfully. I take your point however that it shouldn't have to define your working method as many painters use different canvas proportions while maintaining their style. Andrew Wyeth used the square quite a bit. Thinking of the Pentax as a 'Super SLR' though, it's a very different beast to the Hasselblad. If the 'Blad is a Rolls Royce, the Pentax is a Ford Mustang. You just wouldn't drive them the same way - or even on the same roads!
Originally Posted by markbarendt
Anyway, today, after a few exposure failures with the Pentax sticky shutter issue, I made an image which felt significant. I've been thinking about a body of work through which I hope to define my critical practice and this image could potentially be the stimulus. Then again, I haven't seen it yet... :errm:
That may be key to your troubles, broken camera shutter or not. And I don't want to imply inexperience with the new subject matter, but instead the question whether the new subject matter touches you emotionally as much as natural landscapes. I know from personal experience that I won't ever enlarge a single negative that I shot "because I should take at least some pictures when I'm already here", regardless of how much effort I put into composition, lighting and whatnot. Just looking at these negs in the dark room makes me almost sick.
Originally Posted by batwister
Maybe it is not a change in equipment or technique, but a simple and brutal change in subject matter that will get you back on track.
Well, you've got me thinking. I suppose because pressing the shutter is an act of consummation, most of the time, it can be enough to satisfy. It doesn't help that, with traditional photography, we're aware that there's a literal chemical reaction taking place as well as psychological. It's so easy to become addicted to this and it takes real introspection to recognise. It's like the climax of loveless sex most of the time - after which comes the inevitable nagging sense of remorse. I suppose when there's a true realisation of something great, you know it before the act, and don't have to kid yourself afterwards. But anyway, too much metaphor for one day.
Originally Posted by Rudeofus
Batwister, a basic law of photography is that all latent photographs are superb until processed, then the photographs decay into something more realistic.