the person, or the equipment, the film and paper
photography forums like any forum i suppose where there are materials, and equipment
seem to be 90% going on about cameras and lenses and sharpness and resolution of film and tonality of papers.
why is this so when the papers, films cameras and lenses just seem to
be bought and sold and gather dust on the shelf.
people gravitate to what they are used to what they feel comfortable with
( or without )
and in the end it doesn't matter, does it ?
i've seen some stunning photographs made without cameras and lenses, as much as i have seen
stunning photographs made with plastic cameras ( toys? ) or negatives smaller than your little finger nail
or 100 year old cameras or materials ready for the trash heap.
you probably don't have to look far to see what side of the table i tend to eat on,
but what about you, if you gravitate to pristine clinical image making tools and the highest resolution film
why do you do this, or why .. not?
i know people who might say it's just a tool in my toolbox that i can use or not use when i want ...
but that isn't really what i am thinking of ...
I like using a view camera or a medium format camera on a tripod and viewing a groundglass for either. Both force me to slow down, use a tripod, look at the image with two eyes as I will the finished print. FOR ME, I need to take time looking closely at the image and making decisions, both intuitively and with conscious thought.
I suppose I could take my time with any camera but I need the tripod to hold things steady while I look around the image area... and again, I just can't compose with one eye in a viewfinder (prism) like I can with two eyes looking at a groundglass.
I'll start it off, John (oops, too late). I, like you, like the surprise of throwing in various unknowables, the "what happens if I do this?" of old equipment photography. I use things that no one in their left mind would ever thing of using and sometimes (note emphasis) am absolutely thrilled at what happens. The fact that I would be very unlikely to repeat the success is irrelevant- no, perhaps it's even the point of it all. Of course, I have far fewer successes than I have failures- or "mediocres," which are worse.
It is the chance effects that stun me.
On the other hand, I have nothing but respect for those who plan just what they want, take the time to train themselves, get the proper equipment and achieve a repeatable level of success with most of their shots (nobody's perfect). Pre-visualization, good equipment and self control are wonderful. I just don't do that very well.
I'm not afraid to admit that I'm taking the easy way out here. I also am not afraid to admit I like it that way. I do have some very good equipment, and I have been known to actually focus (both mentally and optically) on what I'm doing, but, for me, that is a chore–well worth doing at times but far less fun. I think maybe when I grow up I may be better at it, but that better come soon, I'm almost 63.
I am not at all sure what your point is but it seems to be that the tools do not matter. The right tools matter a lot. I knew a guy who owned three classic Dusenberg automobiles and I am pretty sure the tools in my garage would not work with them. Nor would the Dusey tools do much for my (metric) Toyota.
Do some of us babble on about the "best" camera, lens, film and whatever? Yes, we do. Some of us are stuck in the mud and swear the LeiNiCan is the only camera any person should buy -- because "I" bought it and "I" am the smartest guy in the world. But a lot of us are trying to figure out how to get the best photographs we can, and which tools will do that for us.
Film photography used to be on Broadway, baby, and now it seems relegated to providing a breather between strip tease artists in back alley clubs in the Bowery. Off-Off-Off-Off-Broadway. Take-it-off-Broadway.
But I digress. Film is becoming a niche like silkscreens are to oil painting. It is here to stay but it is not easy to master, which I say is a good thing. It's not good enough to just phone it in.
By the way, the "big" piece of art over my living room couch is a silkscreen by a well known artist.
John, a million people may have a million different reasons for the MO they use and decide to follow. As long as any individual follows the path that they believe is right for them and makes them happy, then amen.
“The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention”
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High end equipment has never made me a better photographer but to a degree I find that it can allow for a more transparent working method. A V35 is a far more efficient tool than a rickety Omega. There are times I use a Hasselblad like a Holga, and times that I use a Stylus Epic to make pictures others would delegate to a 4x5.
I have a Russian sonnar knock off that renders beautifully, but for the sake of fluidity and ease of use, I haven't even looked at it since I put a summicron on my M2.
I find that I derive very little enjoyment from wrangling crappy equipment, I just don't have time for that stuff. Consistency and reliability are the name of the game in my eyes and from an equipment standpoint that is a guarantee that you only get with well maintained equipment, be it an old folder or a Hasselblad 503CW.
The image, person, equipment, film, and paper -- as well as the light.
All are equally important to me, all part of the process.
At least with LF landscape, a bad day of photography can still be a good day of exercise.
Well, John, it matters to some of us. I do admit that I am sick of talking about tools and materials, but I do not discount their value to the individual. It's only when they out-value the resulting image that I think there's a problem. And, I suspect, this applies to you, too.
Originally Posted by jnanian
I am influenced by my background in music, where there is definitely a difference in the music made based on the quality of the instruments being played. Yes, a really good musician can make music on a poor instrument, and a bad musician is not helped with a first-rate instrument. But what we are after is the really fine musician playing the really fine instrument! It makes a difference, and one can hear it.
The variable there is not having to fight the weak instrument. I find it is the same with cameras and photo materials. I want consistency and quality. I then do not need to overcome the weaknesses in either.
Other photographers like the unpredictability of certain things. I do not. It's really that simple.
I rarely know what your point is ...
Originally Posted by snapguy
I eat on both sides of the table... (but, I do admit the threads about whether to buy the 1.4, to replace the 1.8, a bit ridiculous. That sort of post seems, to me, to be magic bullet chasing.)
Originally Posted by jnanian
My work varies, from wanting tack sharp images, to things some people would argue aren't even photographs. I like the dichotomy I've found in my work. Keeps it fresh... keeps me engaged... and keeps me striving for more.
An open question deserves a rambling thought. Literally the question might be understood as "why do we talk about gear when it's the photography that's important" - yet I fall for it every time - I think it's just an opportunity to talk about what's on our minds...
The gear for me is provisions. What I do with it is photography. I have no problem talking about how I provision a trip...
Just came back from a trip where I spent the day sitting in one spot. Thought about my forum posts and others' occasionally since my mind was free. The weather was partly stormy. It'd rained Friday night, and by morning the storm was clearing but we had partly cloudy skies. I was thinking about the long range of light with sunlight-dappled leaves. And how easy with a few minutes' wait, the scene would fit the film's range easily.
I had four pieces of photographic paraphernalia with me. Only one required batteries, the Sekonic Twin-mate. One was a spare box of film. Another was the Weston Master II with Zone System patches and the fourth was the only camera I brought with me, the new (to me) Kodak Retina I with f/3.5 Ektar lens.
The Retina had been just CLA (by me) and film, light meter and shutter all were in a calibrated state. So I KNEW my shutter speeds. When I want 1/40 I select 100... The film EI could be either 100 (because it is) or 64 (to suit my taste). I had a full range of shutter speeds, but as you can probably tell, without a tripod my choices were 100 (1/40), 250 (1/80) and 500 (1/160). Fortunately the Master II HAS these shutter speed markings, and the day provided opportunities to use them.
With partly cloudy skies, the light was changing rapidly. Not only that, but I was stationed at a corner where it was dark - a forest shaded road junction. My job was to tell the mountain bikers to turn left (straight ahead was certain misadventure). Each rider passed my station exactly once, they all had to learn the route anew each time.
In the morning, the still-wet trail caused inexperienced rider's several spills. Only one rider was significantly shaken, the rest of the incidents were minor and they bounced right back.
I nicknamed the event "Ouchery".
Now comes the part I regret. Dusk arrived and so my opportunities to photograph came to a natural end. Sure I could have brought more gear (I could have checked the PC contact and brought a small flash). What WAS I thinking? Sunday, I knew we'd just pack up and go. So at the end of dusk Saturday, I rewound and decided to NOT load the second roll of film.
Too bad. Sunday morning we had more rain. I would cherish photographs of young, (miserable) campers packing up in the rain. I missed foggy hillside views. Sure I would have had to tend to moisture with a paper towel and kept the camera in a chest pocket.
Oh well, next time I'll do it right and treat film like the commodity and time as the more precious resource.