Wow, yesterday was a hard day. It's funny how much of life with a dog is based on mutual understandings—you don't realize how much until all your normal routines are interrupted. I'm sure things will get better as we ease into a routine, but we're in the adjustment phase now. Lulu was up all night on Thursday night, so I got no sleep either. Yesterday was one of the rare times I wished I had a laptop—I ended up sitting with her in the kitchen (where she's confined) most of the day, between trips outside and changing the ice packs. No computer for the dog nurse.
And of course there's no rest for the weary. The PA system at the high school down the street started blaring at 8 a.m. this morning—track meet—thanks for that—and an early bird neighbor decided that 8:45 was plenty late enough for anyone to sleep, so he might as well fire up his chainsaw.
I like my neighborhood, but the noise pollution can be surprisingly bad. A few weeks ago, someone decided that it was a good idea to gun his car down our street at one o'clock in the morning and sound a long blast on the horn. That happened three nights in a row. Just when I was beginning to reconsider my stance on automatic weaponry, it stopped. Knock wood.
A little logic
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I notice—and have noticed, consistently—that people seem to have a hard time understanding the logical distinctions between various statements about the importance of equipment. The exchange usually goes like this:
Me: Good equipment doesn't guarantee good results.
Typical responses: "I hate it when people say equipment doesn't matter." "Sometimes particular jobs require certain kinds of equipment." "Better equipment can improve your results in some cases."
The problem is that all three of those responses are, well, non-responsive. Equipment does matter, in all kinds of ways. And, yes, for various kinds of pictures you do need the correct equipment—sometimes because it's nice to have, sometimes because it's necessary. And, certainly, I've seen many cases over the years when otherwise good work was let down by poor equipment or technique. But that's not what I said. I said good equipment doesn't guarantee good results, and that statement is not logically inconsistent with any of the three classes of responses listed above.
I sometimes wonder how many people have a favorite kind of equipment or a favorite material not in terms of what they like to use, but in terms of what they like to look at. Does that describe you?
I know people who love large format so much that they just aren't really moved by other kinds of photographs. I definitely know people who love and crave color in photographs.
I know people who say they love the look of Leica lenses, but I proved to myself long ago that I can fool those people. It's evil, I know, but if you show a Leicaphile a picture made with a fine lens of another marque and tell them it was shot with a Leica lens, more often than not they won't be able to tell the difference. Might as well keep 'em happy, then.
A Tri-X 400 picture. And it was taken with a Leica lens!!**
I will, obviously, look at anything. I'm equipment-agnostic and material-agnostic (and digital-vs.-analog agnostic, too). But if I search my brain, I think what I like best—the look I crave—is Tri-X 400*. (Maybe some evil person could fool me there, too.) I haven't shot any in years, but it's the look I crave. If I had to look at nothing but pictures made with Tri-X 400 for the rest of my life, I could live with that***.
Mike the Dog Nurse
*Tri-X 320 is a completely different film, and should have been given a different name.
**No it wasn't.
***I really need to get a new scanner so I can post some of my Tri-X work online. I am good and properly jinxed when it comes to flatbed scanners—starting in about 2001 I bought three, each of which cost more than the last, and each of which broke in short order. (If you look closely at the picture above, you can see the banding problem that was the downfall of scanner #1.) I then decided I really, really needed a dependable scanner even if I had to pay a lot for it, so I bought an Epson V-700. It lasted all of four months before it stopped working. It's still sitting here, mocking me. I know there are lucky people out there in the world who own scanners that actually work, but fate seems determined that I shall not be one of them.
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Original contents copyright 2011 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Richard Howe: "I think you can make a stronger statement than 'good equipment doesn't guarantee good results,' namely: nothing guarantees good results. I've made lots of bad pictures with my Leica lenses (and a few good ones, I hope) and some good pictures with my (now antique) Olympus C2000 point & shoot (vintage 1999). The only thing that really seems to help is experience, plus something good to take a picture of, and a little luck too, of course. A friend of mine used to say to me (in another context), 'if you want a guarantee, buy a refrigerator.' I think that about sums it for me."
Featured Comment by Benjamin R. George: "I think the problem here is that making any statement about the relationship between equipment and results amounts to walking in on a very long (and, for the most part, very stupid) internet debate, and as soon as you enter the room, people will try to assign you to a side and then argue with you by arguing against that side's alleged platform.
"Everybody's read some hyperbolic claim about how equipment never matters. Everybody's read some other claim about how if you aren't willing to spend in excess of $5k you just aren't serious about photography. Anytime somebody says something about equipment mattering or not mattering, some portion of the audience will inevitably hear one of these extremes, even if the actual claim being made is a lot more subtle, and has no direct logical connection to either."
Featured Comment by Lynn: "The equipment between my ears produces my best photos, but I do admit it suffers from down time, inexplicable random errors, reliability issues, and can be easily distracted by dogs, children, and refrigerators. I find giving it regular exercise tends to produce better results. Oh, and it does tend to gravitate towards Tri-X and Kodachrome 25 looks, because those were the factory settings it grew up with."
Featured Comment by Paul Amyes: "For a while I taught photography. The thing that I hated was the whole issue of equipment. You had a class of 20 young people who wanted you to hand them a shopping list of exotica for their parents to buy them. They were visibly upset with the college requirement 'a 35mm SLR with with 50mm lens such as the Pentax K1000.' Honestly it was like being in front of a lynch mob baying for blood. They all felt that their creativity was being stiffled by the lack of equipment."
Featured Comment by John H. Maw: "I have found that new equipment often gets in the way of good shooting. It takes time for the equipment to become transparent to the process. In other words I work much better with stuff that I have had for some time and that I can use almost without thinking."