Tagged: photography style

Simplifying

Fuji X-T1

I got rid of my Leica X2, Canon 70D, Ricoh GR, Olympus TG 820, and Nikon 1 J5 cameras along with all the gear that goes with them.  I am shrinking and simplifying my photography gear and making some other adjustments.  I have gone lighter and simpler.  I kept my Fujifilm X-T1 and prime lenses to photograph events, etc. at Homewood as well as for my personal photography.  I also plan to get rid of lots of straps, camera bags, etc.  In addition to the X-T1, I have kept my Lumix LF1.  I am keeping it temporarily for a pocket camera, to make close-ups, visual notes, etc.  I am the closest I have ever been to using only one camera and one lens at a time and simplifying my photography to match.

An even bigger change might be in what and how I photograph and blog about, but those changes are still in an incubation phase and, at the moment, only limited by my gear and subject availability.  Not having longer focal length zoom lenses will necessitate some changes.  While I am working this out and no longer trying new or different cameras and lenses, I will be photographing and blogging less.

One thing that has happened in the last month is that I have taken a larger percentage of pictures for Homewood and a smaller percentage for myself.  This shift might continue with my current lenses since I am in a better position for documentary or street photography.  Whether or not I will make that my primary personal style will depend upon my travel opportunities and how much variety in locations and subjects I can find; but, more Homewood photography and less personal photography usually means fewer pictures for my blog.

Dark Heritage

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I have searched for new or different things to photograph and found some things that concerned me, so I am going to start another category called “Dark Heritage” since our children and grandchildren will be inheriting both the good and the bad that we have created.

I will use this category to show the old, the rundown, the world left behind, decay, gloom & doom, chaos, the environment of old, trash, dead & dying, etc.; i.e., things created or formed or influenced by the past which will create problems in the future.  Some might call it the historical breakdown.

I believe that our future will be haunted by our past, and it isn’t always pretty.  Looking forward into the future, it is hard to be positive due to all of our past transgressions no matter whether they are economic, environmental, or societal constructs.  I believe that in many ways that we need to undo or redo our world constructs.

Many consider the camera as recording a current point in time and that is how they use it.  This new category will be used to record the past as seen today.  When I am being descriptive and I might sometimes, this category will be more meditative and dwell upon the current and future as formed by the past; or maybe they could be called the urgent realities.

Another use for this category is to address the failures of our society to harness the terrible commercial energies that have, or are destroying life as we know it.

I will focus on the small towns, suburbia, and the border areas since they are changing and evolving rapidly.  I have no interest in the big cities.  Big cities don’t look much different today than they did 30 years ago and won’t look much different in another 30 years.

Style-wise, I will sometimes make my images moody and dark in keeping with the dire consequences of things created or formed in the past without adequate consideration of the future associated costs; but, I will also use monochrome, color, etc. depending what works best with individual images.  I would like to have a particular style for all of the images in this category but they might be too diverse for that.

To a large degree, the pictures in this category will be more like my personal view of the world.  As Claire Yaffa says “The happiness and sadness resides in us. It is our choice to discover how to convey the feelings of who we are and what we want to say.”

Simple but Colorful Dilemma

Since I haven’t been taking many pictures lately, I have been using my time to try to decide what I’d like to do when it warms up next spring.  I am thinking about what I would like to photograph and what camera I would prefer to use.  I thought that one element of this process should be to look back through some of my older pictures and pick out what I liked and so I did.  The above are one set of results.  I liked their simplicity and color and that they all had black in them.

I deliberately didn’t look at what camera I used or any other details about the pictures until I was done.  Looking back later I noted that a different camera was used for all four of the above, but that they were all taken with a long focal length lens.  Probably the only thing significant about the different cameras is that I have used many different ones; but another possible factor is that it indicates that the particular camera didn’t matter.

The long focal length is more troubling for me.  I have liked long focal lengths since they enabled me to extract details from around me while blurring out the backgrounds.  The troubling aspect is that I have had more problems with heavy camera-lens combinations.  As a result of that, I have been carrying around and shooting primarily my Ricoh GR with a fixed effective 28 mm lens.

The problem that I need to resolve is that I prefer small light-weight cameras with prime lenses like the GR or a Leica X2 or the Fujifilm X100T while at the same time I preferred images made with long focal length lenses.  This presents a real dilemma for me.  Should I use a camera I like to hold and carry and seek out new compositions that I might like, or choose a camera with a long lens and shoot images like above?  If I use a long lens, I might need to use a light-weight camera lens combination with a smaller sensor and lower image quality to keep the weight lower.

Learning What Appeals to Me

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I prefer to make images that are independent of specific places.  I like landscapes.  I like images that make me think or raise more questions than answers.  I like to make images that the normal snap-shooter doesn’t see/make.  I prefer calm, quiet, and simplicity.

In addition, I prefer to take pictures with a small camera and lens, and to always have it with me.  With the cameras that I have, this generally means photographing with a small prime lens; but, if all I have are distant details to photograph it means a long zoom lens.  This doesn’t make for a simple or light-weight setup.  I will write later about how I am trying to reduce this complexity and what I am trying to do to achieve sufficiency and simplicity.

Introspective Style?

In addition to my going through and using all of my lenses and cameras to decide what works best for me, I have also been giving more thought to narrowing the type of pictures that I make.  I will continue to strive for a degree of variety but at the same time I would like to concentrate on what I refer to as mini-landscapes or details and write more introspectively … if I figure out what that is. 🙂

Get the Picture vs. Get a Better Camera

Ambulance

In the past 4+ years that my blog has been up, I have used lots of different cameras.  The sensor sizes have varied from 1 / 2.33 to 1 / 1.7 to micro 4/3 to APS in more different cameras than I can count, or remember.  The quality of my images has varied a bit with general improvement as time went by and as I predominately used APS size sensors.  During this evolution my highest image quality (IQ) was obtained with my Fujifilm X100 and then with my Fujifilm  X-E1 cameras and various XF lenses.  Another major factor in my improvement in IQ was achieved through my switch to taking my pictures in only raw format and then using various software programs to develop them.  The issue I am pondering now is “what is next?”  Should I continue to seek better image quality or just worry about getting the picture?

Before I go further with this line of thought I want to say that the needed camera quality, and thus the needed image quality depends upon the type of pictures made.  If I wish to continue taking pictures of flying or even sitting birds, I need a sharp telephoto lens and the focusing speed of my Pentax K-50 and a minimal focal reach of 200 mm (I really could use a longer reach).  If I wish to make pictures indoors under poor lighting conditions I really need my X-E1 and excellent fast lenses to keep the noise down and resolution up.  This means that I cannot separate the quality of my cameras and lenses from the types of pictures I want to make.

There is another factor that affects my camera choice.  There have been two times in the last 6 years when I could not walk without a cane or walking stick.  Needing to rely on such a device put a damper on my ability to carry and use a larger, heavier camera.  Being the realist that I am, I know that it is highly likely that sometime in the future I will be using such devices again and thus I am constantly on the lookout for a better camera for such circumstances.

Taking all the above into consideration I ordered a very small Panasonic Lumix LF1 camera with the intention to first try the smallest and cheapest camera that looked promising.  My intent is to try it and see what kind of photographs I can make with it.  In addition, I hope to use it as an always-with-me pocket camera.  One of my justifications for thinking that I might get by with such an inexpensive, small sensor camera is a growing realization that the most important factor in my photography is composition.  I am hoping that always having a camera with me will enable me to make more images as I travel a further distance from my Villa so that I can find new scenes to photograph.  To those who suggest an iPhone, my answer is that maybe eventually, but for now I want a larger sensor, the ability to make raw images, and a zoom lens without the monthly data costs.

I have learned that many of my viewers only look at my blog to see the pictures.  They don’t care what camera I used, and many don’t even read what I write.  Some only look since they are intrigued about what I photograph almost every day even when I am not traveling to new places.  For those of you who have noticed, I now rarely state what camera, focal length, setting, etc. I used.  It isn’t as important as the composition and my vision for finding images.  The purpose for me writing this article is to inform those few who are interested in my approach since they have, or might have, similar problems and beliefs.

Finding the proper balance between camera size, weight, image quality, subjects photographed, camera availability, etc. will take time and will change depending upon circumstances.  I will see how easy it is, or isn’t, to use the LF1 and whether the quality is sufficient for some uses.  The amount of use will also change over time as my needs change, the amount of light available, etc. and whether or not I end up adjusting my compositions to fit the camera rather than choosing the best camera for the subject.  It is sort-of the old issue of which came first, the chicken or the egg.  If the LF1 isn’t sufficient, I will continue looking for an easy to carry camera since being able to take pictures at any time is sometimes more important than achieving the ultimate image quality for the pixel peepers.

My Photography

My photography is my hobby.  It is what keeps me thinking and helps fill up my time.  If I am not taking pictures or working on pictures I am usually reading about photography on the web; but that isn’t enough.  I started this blog to create another avenue for keeping busy; but it still isn’t enough.

What I photograph depends upon three factors.  One, I find that I need to like the camera and lens combination.  I have to like to use it.  The weight, ergonomics, build-quality, etc. need to feel right in my hands.  When I go out to gather photographs I carry my camera in my hand most of the time but I use a strap around the wrist or neck for safety reasons in case I drop the camera (it has happened).

The second ingredient is a suitable subject.  I like to make lots of pictures on a daily basis but I don’t like to have to travel far to find them.  During the last two years the bulk of my pictures have been made while walking about the grounds here at Homewood at Plum Creek.  Since I don’t photograph many people in the interests of privacy, I find that my subjects are very limited.  I mostly have to photograph mini landscapes and the sky if I use the images on my blog.

The final factor is that I need to be interested in the complete process of making the picture.  It needs to be fun for me.  Since probably the easiest part of photography is taking the picture, I concentrate on seeing the image as I walk about and then on discovering the picture within the picture as I develop it on my computer.

The above two images are representative of my preferred photography.  While taking one of my recent daily walks I took around a dozen pictures.  The two above were parts of color pictures of a much larger area.  When I looked at them on my computer I wasn’t interested in what I saw.  They were just the same old scenes that I saw almost every day.

One other part of the “interest factor” is simplicity or minimalism.  I tend to prefer simple scenes that aren’t too cluttered.  When confronted with a large image my first reaction is to look for the “picture within the picture”.  I start cropping out subsections of the original picture and then I try various techniques in the development process to eliminate the clutter and confusion.  One of my favorite techniques is to eliminate the color.  I try to draw your eye to the element of the image that first attracted me to take the original picture.

Now you know what I most currently prefer to do with my photography … make images that others didn’t see:

  • Make pictures that can be taken with a hand-held camera that is easy to carry on my walks.
  • Find subjects within walking distance of my home.
  • And use my processing to find and make the image within the picture … images that most wouldn’t have seen the way I saw it, even if they had been standing right next to me when I took the picture.

Some refer to this type of photography as contemplative photography.  If you are interested in seeing what others do in this genre, take a look at this web site.

Do I also like to make other photographs?  Yes, but I have drifted to the above situation because of the confluence of the events of aging, location, economics, etc.

Does this mean that is the only type of pictures I will show in my blog?  No.  I have another over-riding urge and that is to make pictures every day and I don’t usually find the kind I most prefer to make; therefore, I will still occasionally take the more common “snapshots” of whatever goes on around Homewood and use them to fill-in between the images I most enjoy to make.

Getting back to something I mentioned in the first paragraph … my current level of photography isn’t enough to occupy all of my available time.  In addition, I am finding it harder and harder to find subjects to photograph under the limitations I have alluded to above.  I need to find new opportunities to make pictures and to expand my interests.

While I have several ideas in mind, they all have a downside.  Most of them will not expand my immediate opportunities to create pictures for this blog; therefore, the frequency of my blog posts might go down and become more erratic.  My goals will be to find additional outlets for my time that eventually lead to additional photographic opportunities; but in the interim, I should be able to continue to post photographs even though they might be less frequent.  Don’t be alarmed if you see gaps in my posting.  It will be because I’m exploring other things.

Some Reflections on my Photography

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I make pictures because I enjoy it.  I like finding the picture within the picture.  What I initially take is often not what I end up with.

I would make money from my photography if only I would stop taking pictures.

There really isn’t much to photograph around here.  Just flowers, some wildlife, clouds, etc.   Many, if not most of these kinds of things require a medium to long zoom lens.

But I don’t like carrying big, long, heavy zoom lenses; therefore, I have been slowly taking a different approach.  I have most recently, in the last year, looked for and found a camera I like to carry, hold, and use.  I am now in the process of trying to find things to photograph with my Fujifilm X-E1 and smaller, wider lenses.  This is not the normal process of first choosing a subject and then a suitable camera and lenses to match the need.

In addition to actually taking the picture, I like the limited creativity that processing presents; therefore, I look for subjects to photograph that also require work to process.  The image above exists only due to some processing with LR5.

But I haven’t been able to close the circle, at least not yet.  I am still looking for subjects to photograph.  Ideally, photography and travel go hand in hand.  Most people go to the locations which contain the types of subjects they prefer to photograph.  I am still being a contrarian and looking for suitable subjects close to home.  At the moment I am not very optimistic that I will find much to photograph, so I might need to try something different … or be satisfied with fewer pictures.

What/Why?

I like to take pictures and I like to process them; but I often don’t know what to photograph.  Recently I had one of those days.  I was taking a walk and had nothing in mind to photograph.  On days like that I often just start taking pictures of something … anything.  That sometimes gets me thinking in a particular direction and leads me to focus on one type of subject, but not always.  By the time I finished my walk I knew I had a bunch of assorted pictures and didn’t think any of them would be keepers; but since I love to work with them on my computer I downloaded them and started working with them.

When I have an assortment of pictures and don’t know if they are worth keeping, I first look through all of them in color.  My first screening is for a group of subjects … maybe it is red objects, or whatever.  This group failed that first screening.  I then go back through them and try cropping them differently trying to isolate out details.  I did that with this set but still wasn’t getting any good vibes … they were still too busy.

I next tried various ways of processing them in color and then in B&W.  Most often the process turns into a practice lesson learning how various pictures respond to different techniques.  For this set I ended up turning them into higher contrast B&W images but only using LR5 to do it.  My recent conversions to B&W have all been with Nik Silver Efex Pro 2, but I wanted to see what I could do with just LR5.  They aren’t much but I still had fun processing them.

Doctored

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I took the above while walking at 6:32 am one day.  Yes, the cloud was pink for a short while.  One of my viewers referred to my pictures as “doctored”.  In the above version I have increased the contrast slightly and cropped a section of the original picture which is shown below.  That is how I “doctored” it.

Orig

Why did I “doctor” it?  The answer is because I like it better.  I used the original picture, or snapshot, to create an image I like.  I like my images (I’m not calling them art) to be interesting and a bit mysterious, if at all possible. I want people to look and think about what they are seeing.

There are some photographers who create art by not only changing the contrast but by adding and removing objects and/or by distorting objects.  I have seen pictures which you would never recognize even if you were standing right in front of the original scene.  I don’t do that other than to correct distortions, remove an extraneous something projecting into the picture, etc.  For example in the above I would straighten the scene and correct the distortion so that the building wasn’t leaning and remove the little triangle in the lower right; but, in this case that wasn’t enough.  The thing that I do a lot of is crop the image to create a composition that shows only what is necessary.  I like simple pictures.  In this case I prefer the first version, not the original.  The very act of cropping also alters (doctors) the picture significantly since you are then looking at something differently … maybe not as it would be seen naturally.

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