This is the second half of a two-part article in which I moan extensively (but cathartically) about 135mm lenses. I've received a fair bit of mail since posting Part 1 on The Leica Blog — apparently misery loves company.
Short of taking photographs, few things excite a photographer more than planning their next major camera purchase. Conversely, short of a trip to the dentist, few things excite a photographer less than contemplating a backup camera strategy. But all it takes is a single camera failure to nullify the years of hard work you spent building your reputation. Clients don't want to hear "Sorry, my camera broke." They're not paying for excuses — they're paying for images. But here's the thing — backup cameras don't have to be boring. In fact, choosing the right backup camera may actually unlock a world of previously untapped photographic possibilities, while simultaneously helping you avoid the potential pitfalls of the single camera gamble.
Fresh from the whoduthunkit files comes another newflash — I am now a guest columnist for The Leica Blog, and will occasionally hack out... oops... I mean "craft" a column for them, which is called "f/Egor." Since Leica saw fit to give me my own aperture stop, I reciprocated by granting them 30-day exclusive publication rights to each f/Egor article. This article recounts how this strange twist of fate came to occur.
When is a photograph no longer a photograph? At what point is an image so "pimped out" that it leaves the realm of photography, and enters the province of illustration? If you clone a crumpled beer can from of a landscape shot, is it still a photograph? If you merge multiple shots into a single image, can you call it a photograph? If you heal all the pimples on your model's face, is it still their photograph? Where is the soft grey line between photography and illustration, and when do we cross it?
Instinct is traditionally abstract and intangible. Some people have a natural inclination to trust theirs. Others must cultivate the relationship. Many, instead, opt to borrow it from friends, family or colleagues. But Instinct now comes in a convenient and palpable new physical form — a book. Instinct is my new photography monograph — a collection of 70 "street" photographs, culled from a two-year, pavement-pounding, photographic examination of humans simply being.
I'm no etymologist, but personal experience would suggest that the word "vacation" derives from two sources — the words "vacate" and "shun." Vacate means to leave, or to give up a place or position. Shun means to avoid or ignore something. For me, "vacation" means "to ignore my usual photographic inclinations, and to give up taking the kind of pictures I like to take — resorting to generic landscapes and banal 'I was here' photos." Photographs from my recent trip to the scenic Oregon coast belie, once again, my efforts to avoid the trappings of vacate shun photography.
The world is full of many things to see — big, small, chaotic, and quiet. Every person who looks out at this world sees it, feels it, and experiences it differently. The problem, for each of us, is to figure out how to craft a photograph that expresses exactly what it is that we see, feel, or experience. Studying the work of other photographers is the key to unlocking our own inner visual sense. It's through the examination of photo collections and photographer monographs that we discover how other photographers have wrestled a shared vision into a compelling photo. These are the lessons every photographer needs to learn, yet you'll never find them in a "How-To" book.
Unless one's soul is carved from stone, the Rollei 35 is the sort of camera that will infect both photographers and non-photographers with a powerful case of gear lust. I first saw this marvellous mini in the late 1970's — before I had even the slightest hint of an interest in photography — and I remember thinking "now that's the camera I'd have if I had a camera!" Flash forward 35 years (and at least that many cameras) later, and one of those funky little beauties is finally mine. In this article, I discuss how logic — not madness — drove my decision to purchase one, and how the Rollei functions in comparison to the superfluity of digital compacts on the market today.
I'm in love with the night. I enjoy the mysteries that lurk in the darkness, the enigmatic shapes, and the cavernous infinity of a bottomless shadow. In fact, I love the night so much that I want to photograph night itself — and not flood it with artificial daylight. As any photographer knows, the solution to such a requirement is spelled f-a-s-t-l-e-n-s. For M-mount shooters, this has historically meant choosing between an account-draining Leica Noctilux, or the gamble of an older, adapted lens. Now, however, we have a third option — the Voigtlander 50mm f/1.1 Nokton. It's (relatively) inexpensive. It's new. It's built for M-mount cameras. But is it any good?
The internet is boiling over with pretty pictures. Galleries are stuffed full of pretty pictures. Pretty pictures fill the pages of a million different magazines. Photography is now about the medium, not the message. Today, it matters little what a photo contains, as long as it's pretty. My pictures aren't pretty. And the crazy thing is, I don't care. If you find this an intriguing stance then perhaps, like me, you're on a ridiculous quest to uncover the meaning of life.
Camera toters are a curious lot. I frequently witness fashion-conscious point-and-shooters eye each other's stylish little cameras and ask each other questions like, "how big is that screen?", "Is it high-def?", "is that a touch screen?" and, of course, "does it come in blue?" Similarly, I've watched the eyes of SLR shooters as they dart about — not from picture opportunity to picture opportunity, but from one guy's SLR to another. I've observed as Nikon owners nod approval to other Nikon owners, while Canon carriers do likewise. Inevitably, they all ask each other the same question, "how you liking your camera?" In this crazy, gear-centric environment, I've always been thankful that my camera of choice is the humble, unfashionable, unloved rangefinder. No one pays it (or me) the slightest bit of attention, which makes it that much easier to practice my chosen craft… until now. No longer is my Leica 'invisible' on the streets. Everywhere I go, people are looking at my camera and scrutinizing it. They're stopping me, and asking questions about it. Attention is the scourge of the successful street photographer, and I place the blame squarely on the metaphoric shoulders of both Panasonic and Olympus — specifically on their latest crop of Micro Four Thirds (mFT) cameras. Everyone seems to be interested in these cameras. And, because many of them are styled to resemble rangefinders, everyone thinks I have some kind of new-fangled mirrorless, mFT-type camera. So now the camera watchers stop me. And they ask questions. They begin innocently enough with "what kind of camera is that?" But it doesn't take long until their questions gain weight. "What, exactly, is a rangefinder?" they ask. Or, "What's the advantage of shooting with a rangefinder?" The answers become far too involved to discuss in a brief on-street exchange. And so I've written this article in the form of an open-letter to all those photographers who have developed a sudden interest in my little Leica M-series cameras.
If you ever logged into iTunes in hopes of downloading some groovy new organistrum music, then you've run right smack into "it." If you ever went to your local camera shop in hopes of trying out a new rangefinder camera, film camera, or even to buy some film, then you've also run right smack into "it." "It" is the invisible wall that separates your tastes from a generation's. "It" is a mile thick barrier of public opinion that stands immutable between you and your goals. "It" should never exist, but "it" always shall.
With the bulk of Part 1 spent justifying the use of film cameras in today's world, Part 2 dishes on all the good, bad, and curious attributes of the Leica M6 TTL and why, maybe, you should consider adding a film camera to your own bag o' tricks.
To take a photo with the Leica M6 TTL is to take a trip 50 years into the historical glory days of photography — when men were men, women were women, and both could actually take photographs without aid of a computer. This, the first of a two-part article, discusses the relevancy of a fully mechanical film camera in these electronic digital days.
Photoshop CS5 has been on the market for only one month, but if you search Google for the phrase "Photoshop CS5 Review," you'll get 400,000 hits. Needless to say, I don't see any compelling reason to add to that total. Instead, this article focuses on a single tiny feature amongst the plethora of Photoshop CS5 enhancements — the "Content Aware Healing Brush." It may be "tiny," but its time-saving benefit to anyone who spots and heals scanned negatives is huge.
In 1924, Richard Connell wrote "The Hounds of Zaroff," better known as "The Most Dangerous Game." It told the story of General Zaroff, who had become so bored with hunting traditional prey that he turned to hunting the most cunning and clever prey of all — man. In 1948, Eugen Herrigel published "Zen in the Art of Archery", which Henri Cartier-Bresson considered an essential photographic text. How close are the parallels between hunters and photographers? And is there, perhaps, a little of Zaroff in every passionate street photographer?
Every year, a new generation of neophyte photographers become victims of nomenclature — mistakenly assuming that wide angle lenses are an ideal choice for photographing wide, scenic vistas. As an obsessive neologist, I examine how wide angle lenses are actually used, and wrestle with what designers should have named them.