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  1. #31
    brian steinberger's Avatar
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    I thought of my Holga immediately when I began reading your thread Thomas. Why do I use this camera? Because of the look it produces. And certain subjects just call for this look. And I think the Holga is a somewhat of a "surprise" camera in general. As I think other cameras are as well, rangefinders and pinhole cameras come to mind. Isn't that what is lacking from digital these days? The element of surprise? SLR shooters may not be familiar with surprise as much as Holga, pinhole, or RF shooters. I know the norm is to get the shot perfect in camera, but with a Holga it's alot of guesswork and that can be fun seeing the results once you develop the film!

    I shoot all MF rangefinder for my work and the main reason I do so besides their portability is because of the sharpness of the lenses. They are they sharpest lenses in MF and I just drool over a print with sharpness, a little bit of grain, and tonality galore, and my MF RF lenses produce this for me. Could I do the same with a Hasselblad lens, probably, not quite as sharp. With a 35mm Leica? Probably at a smaller print size though.

    So I shoot the camera and lenses that fit the results I enjoy. Plus a little surprise is fun!

  2. #32
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    Thanks for your informative reply. We've discussed this before, and I am glad you chimed in.

    I don't think of you as someone that is grasping for straws in order to make good photographs. Regardless of the equipment you use I enjoy your photographs.

    It's 100% agreed that our cameras and lenses are just tools, and we have to choose something that works for us. I can understand why someone would be interested in paying a lot of attention to what lenses they use, and in your case Andy, shooting wet plate you need a faster lens to make it work well. My own interest in portraiture dictates my lens choice by aperture as well. I like a 25mm aperture. Period. The depth of field is perfect for most portraits at that amount of lens opening, so I use lenses that are capable of a 25mm aperture (50mm f/2, 35mm f/1.4, 100mm f/2.8, 150mm f/5.6, 80mm f/2.8). Lenses with with smaller max apertures would not be as useful for me, from a purely practical standpoint. Then, of course, I photograph other things, and then the maximum aperture is not so critical, but I don't like having one camera for each application, so I use the same stuff for everything I shoot. Maybe that's not so different from choosing a lens based on other parameters, like out of focus areas, but I usually don't notice swirly corners and so on until someone else points it out; I just look at the content, the composition, the gesture, and so on and based on that I decide whether it appeals to me or not.

    That's how my brain works, and it's so interesting to hear from others how they make decisions or view things, and if you don't ask they usually don't tell it.



    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Moxom View Post
    Remember, these are just tools that allow your vision to be recorded. Regardless of how the lens signature looks. Many people are using these older lenses in a way they were not initially created to do. Like you said Thomas, the lenses like the old petzvals were made large and fast to cover a relatively small area in the sweet spot of the lens, for the processes of the day. Now, everyone and their monkeys uncle are using them for creative or pictorial effect. I'm guilty of it too.... However, i go back to my original statement about them just being tools to achieve a creative goal based on the vision of the photographer. I never thought i'd be where i am with wet plate was it not for the look of the images, taken with old glass. I used to think like many others that photos were meant to be sharp front to back. I still like and make images like that, but i also grew an appreciation for pictorialism, and the way they can take you to a more emotional state about a scene/portrait. It doesn't have to be perfect to make a superb image. The equipment that is available to us to realize these images, goes through many fads/phases. Sometimes we jump on the train, and have a blast creating something new and different to our normal comfortable way of image making. Currently, i am liking older glass as it is less clinical, less contasty, and more importantly, EASY to use. It does not get in the way of image making.... Certainly wet plate has a learning curve especially the chemistry and maintenance. But the equipment... cameras, lenses are as basic as you can get. It is the antithesis of being in control and opens the artist up to chance, serendipity and uniqueness of each image they create. As you know, i have also spent a lot of time making old lenses fit modern camera bodies, and made some images that became a theme for me, that i was able to complete, and show. During that time, it was the shake up i needed to finally cut loose and bring back the passion. I realize I am only one voice in the choir here, its a personal choice, but I do believe that older glass, and sometimes legendary examples of it can open up opportunities to an artist. It just depends on how your style and vision evolves. I'm not saying the images are better for it, as in some situations, the bokeh, signature can look over done, and cliched. Remember, EVERYTHING has been done before, its just a choice where it takes you and how your creativity exploits these lens features, or a choice not to exploit them. Doing it without it getting in the way of the creative process is the key for me.
    "Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank

    "Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman

    "...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh

  3. #33
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    Thomas I think you are right. And you also describe my work. I do obsess over how lens signatures draws out the most interesting part of the image, the smoothness of the gradations of the large format film, the tones or graininess of lith prints and I confess; I have been surfing the Scully/Osterman webpage since watching the Sally Mann exhibition last weekend. It is like I let the gear take me for a ride to see what will happen. I am aware that it is not the best way to work to make good photographs, but I like working with this gear and like you say, the best part of photography is to have fun! At the same time I really like what comes out of my process and I am relieved that I have decided that I don't try to be original and don't really care what other people, like my friends, say about my images.

    Another finding for me, when I started working with large format, to be able to print bigger with smooth gradients, was that the details all got in the way of the image when I used my Nikkor lens. I was disappointed with all my LF-work until I bought some old lenses and used them with open apertures. For me the lens artifacts is the content! For some reason, when I use my Rolleiflex I want sharpness and tend to work with different subjects.

    /matti

  4. #34
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by brian steinberger View Post
    I thought of my Holga immediately when I began reading your thread Thomas. Why do I use this camera? Because of the look it produces. And certain subjects just call for this look. And I think the Holga is a somewhat of a "surprise" camera in general. As I think other cameras are as well, rangefinders and pinhole cameras come to mind. Isn't that what is lacking from digital these days? The element of surprise? SLR shooters may not be familiar with surprise as much as Holga, pinhole, or RF shooters. I know the norm is to get the shot perfect in camera, but with a Holga it's alot of guesswork and that can be fun seeing the results once you develop the film!

    I shoot all MF rangefinder for my work and the main reason I do so besides their portability is because of the sharpness of the lenses. They are they sharpest lenses in MF and I just drool over a print with sharpness, a little bit of grain, and tonality galore, and my MF RF lenses produce this for me. Could I do the same with a Hasselblad lens, probably, not quite as sharp. With a 35mm Leica? Probably at a smaller print size though.

    So I shoot the camera and lenses that fit the results I enjoy. Plus a little surprise is fun!
    The lack of control, and slight element of chance and surprise, are the reasons I like something like a Holga too. Plus it's fun to make conversation around it; imagine talking to somebody you haven't met before, and they ask what your interests are. I bring up photography obviously, and when they find out I sometimes use a Holga, or a pinhole camera, they are surprised at first, but many of them understand the nice feeling of letting go of control, of just enjoying the moment, taking a picture that might turn into something cool, and be happy with that. That's a great aspect of the Holga, Diana, much of the Lomo equipment, pinhole cameras, etc. There's a fun factor and a relaxed way of taking pictures that is in such stark contrast to almost everything in life these days. Great point, Brian.

    When I first started using the Holga, I was amazed by what I could achieve with it. My first foray was in 2006 when I went to the Minnesota State Fairground for the 'Back to the 50s' car show. 15,000 restored vintage vehicles, and five rolls of film = choose wisely what to photograph! I brought Holga and Tri-X, processed in Pyrocat, and printed 9x9" prints from the negatives, and they blew me away. The next year I brought the Rolleiflex, using Tri-X also processed in Pyrocat, and printed 9x9" prints on the same paper, and guess what - I did not miss the Holga qualities one bit, because the pictures felt just as meaningful and important regardless of camera. That's how I made up my mind that the Holga is fun, but I don't feel like I need the funky lens qualities. So, to each their own, and when we choose our equipment it had better be something we like, enjoy, and have fun with.
    "Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank

    "Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman

    "...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh

  5. #35

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    hi thomas

    i have said this before, not sure what threads i said it in
    but gear is a distraction ... that said ....
    obsessing about lenses or oof area signatures,
    alt process or primitive photography techniques
    or a certain kind of "whatever" really has a lot to do
    with the images made, and the fun making them.

    in the end for most people here and elsewhere
    photography is a hobby, and plenty of people obsess over the little things
    because it makes them feel good, and because they can.

    this is true with every hobby under the sun think collectable chrome on a harley,
    or a air intake on a classic muscle car, safari windows on a classic vw bus,
    or chasing " the red cent " or a 1913 mound buffalo nickel, or steel pennies,
    or specialized rock climbing gear, or a certain kind of tube amp ...

    i don't think much matters unless you want it to matter ... and then it matters a lot ...
    Last edited by jnanian; 09-06-2012 at 07:07 PM. Click to view previous post history.
    im empty, good luck

  6. #36
    eddie's Avatar
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    Thomas,
    Interesting thread, with some excellent responses.

    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas Bertilsson View Post
    Do you think that people obsess over lens signatures and bokeh mostly because their photography in general is lacking?
    I actually think it's the opposite. I think often their photography is lacking because they obsess over the items you mention. Their search for the "perfect" lens, or "silver bullet" film/developer combo can keep them from image making. I often wonder how anyone who obsesses, in the fashion you describe, ever makes an image they find satisfying.

  7. #37
    polyglot's Avatar
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    I think it's just one more dimension of or opportunity for gearsnobbery and GAS. There are those who use the imperfect/unusual/expensive/whatever to improve their photography and do wonderful original things with the exotic equipment, and there are those who are inspired by that and think that buying the same gear will get them the same results. Some people see only the gimmick and hope it will make up for the composition.

    It's no different in my view to those who buy 300/2.8 birding lenses, f/1.0 rangefinder lenses and the like.

    Petzvals etc are just one more thing, one more silver bullet that isn't. In the right hands, they're a powerful tool to make unique art and in other hands they're a crutch for bad photography.

  8. #38

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    pretty much -- when ur starting out you want the best, after you get good you realize that it is you, not the equipment.

    Bill Maulden, the WWII cartoonist, wrote that when he started he had to have the best paper, the best pencils and so on, but later in life he'd grab any old writing instrument and slam out a Pulitzer prize winner.

    great photography is 5 percent equipment and 95 percent you.

    which is not to say I'm trading away my Leicas any time soon

    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas Bertilsson View Post
    I will say something that might not sit well with everybody.

    Do you think that people obsess over lens signatures and bokeh mostly because their photography in general is lacking? Basically substituting technique or lens artifacts for content.

    For example, look at how a lot of over 100 year old portrait lenses are used with wet plate and large format. If you look at many old portraits, the sitter is always centered, and the background is out of focus so that the fall-off imperfections of the lens aren't apparent (or minimized) in the photograph. They tried to work around the shortcomings of the lens. But today all that funky stuff at the edge of the lens' image circle is embraced as 'cool' and 'interesting'... Why? Does it really make the photograph better?

    I think about this a lot. Please note that I don't consider my own work superior to others in any way, it's just a question that I'm interested in. And I do realize it's mostly a free world, and people are free to do whatever they feel like, and the best part of photography is to have fun! So if it's fun to use these old lenses, or being fascinated with their qualities then I'm absolutely not calling it wrong or anything like that. It's all good to me. But when I look at photographs I really don't care much about those things. I have a couple of lenses that I know well, use often, and don't really wonder much what's on the other side of the fence.

  9. #39
    MattKing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by polyglot View Post
    I think it's just one more dimension of or opportunity for gearsnobbery and GAS. There are those who use the imperfect/unusual/expensive/whatever to improve their photography and do wonderful original things with the exotic equipment, and there are those who are inspired by that and think that buying the same gear will get them the same results. Some people see only the gimmick and hope it will make up for the composition.

    It's no different in my view to those who buy 300/2.8 birding lenses, f/1.0 rangefinder lenses and the like.

    Petzvals etc are just one more thing, one more silver bullet that isn't. In the right hands, they're a powerful tool to make unique art and in other hands they're a crutch for bad photography.
    Actually, I think the 300/2.8 birding lenses actually do make some sense, for those who really love photographs of birds, and are dedicated to that part of the photographic world.

    Those lenses are an example of where a specific, special purpose tool serves the interests of the photographer's vision, because it increases the likelihood it will be brought to fruition.

    Those lenses help good bird photographers succeed - they do not make mediocre bird photographers better.

    The problem is that many people confuse the two situations.

    I do think however that it is more than fine to appreciate the qualities of the equipment and materials we use even if the results we obtain from them aren't always great works of art .

    I enjoy the qualities of the equipment and materials I have and use because it is pleasurable and satisfying to use them. That pleasure and satisfaction comes from both using them and obtaining results from them.

    I'm also willing to look for new things to use, in the hope that I'll find new sources of similar pleasure and satisfaction - not because I think that what I currently have somehow leaves me incomplete or unable to accomplish good things.

    I guess what I am saying is that as long as one uses the gear one has, it is a real thing, with its own value.
    Matt

    “Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”

    Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2

  10. #40
    Poisson Du Jour's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas Bertilsson View Post
    I will say something that might not sit well with everybody.

    Do you think that people obsess over lens signatures and bokeh mostly because their photography in general is lacking? Basically substituting technique or lens artifacts for content.
    [...]
    Yes. Most definitely. I am not in the least interested in bokeh, lens signatures, aberrations (other than those I judge to be visibly unacceptable or colours of the engravings... just photographs built on skill and experience.
    .::Gary Rowan Higgins

    A comfort zone is a wonderful place. But nothing ever grows there.
    —Anon.






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