It was 18 below zero (–28°C) here when I woke up this morning. It struck me that this is a perfect day to get outside with the Olympus E-M1 and test a) how easy it is to work its controls with gloves on, and b) how well it operates in the cold. And I certainly hope someone, somewhere, is doing that. I'm staying inside, where the furnace is doing its good work and keeping the house toasty, despite the ice that's building up on the inside of some of the less well insulated windows. I didn't even put the garbage out today. I don't suppose they're collecting it—if I were a garbage collector, I'd damn sure stay home today even if the city did want me to work, which they probably don't—but I ain't going out there without dressing for it, and I ain't getting all padded up for the cold just to set out the trash.
I'm going to be worried about homeless people all day, I already know it.
I used to joke that I'm a curmudgeon-in-training, partly because I've always thought the word "curmudgeon" is hilarious. The dictionary definitions are all disappointing; yes, okay, it's a "surly, bad-tempered" person, I suppose, but the word has particular overtones of cantankerousness and irascibility that to me are necessary to its meaning. It's not just nastiness; it's grouchiness with undertones of outrage and affrontedness that's particularly associated with a certain stereotype of old people, particularly old men. But—and this is important—old men who aren't depressed. That's part of what I like about it. You can't be a curmudgeon if you're resigned, dejected, or defeated. Curmudgeons are soldiering on with the good fight. They might be grumpy and suffer fools poorly. But they still care.
And I find the curmudgeon in me is pretty short-tempered about all this "connectedness" business. The proper response to the image tsunami is to show less of your work, not more of it. In my opinion we should all become far more critical editors of our own work. We should take more time between taking and showing, not less. Phil Davis used to say (too colorfully for me) that photographers with new work were like two-year-olds who're proud of their poop. "Mommy, look what I made!" Three weeks later when you're over that first flush of "look at this!" is the earliest you should consider showing another human what you've done. Got great new work you're all excited about? Great, see if it holds up after a month and then show your friends.
There's enough photo-garbage out there for the next million years. Why add to it?
The vast swamp of "imagery" we're living in makes it less necessary for each of us to trot out everything we do that we think others might approve of. At the very least, we ought to wait until we have something we really like before we throw it out there.
Also, we should start being less afraid to try things that are different. Everybody seems to want to shoot photos just like everyone else's. Why? What's the use? Okay, I get that process is important and a lot of people are just having fun and there's nothing wrong with that. But I'd love it if I saw more pictures I've never seen before. Instead I see nothing but pictures I've seen before.
Of course, I'm as bad as anybody else. I'm not holier than thou, or than anyone. But as much as I don't want to go back to developing film at the kitchen sink every night (which I did for years and years), there was something good about the pace of picturemaking back then, and all the drudge work it took: wait till you finish the roll, wait for the developed film to dry, wait to go through the contact sheets frame by frame with an illuminated magnifier, wait till you can get in the darkroom again to make a few workprints of the marked frames...that slow pace and all that time passing imposed a natural brake on overproduction and made it much harder to get carried away by meaningless crap. Ansel Adams did say at the end of his life that he thought the next big revolution in photography would be electronic imaging, but he also said that photography had already gotten too easy and he hoped it didn't get any easier. If he'd only known.
You can ignore me today. The Packers lost yesterday, essentially because our defensive line doesn't understand the definition of the word containment. I'm feeling surly, bad-tempered. Or maybe it's just the cold.
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Featured Comments from:
Marc Rosen: "Mike—I took the challenge and tested the E-M1 at lunchtime in Chicago today. It did fine, controls did their proper and expected things. The zoom action on the 12–40mm ƒ/2.8 got a little stiffer. I am not as weather resistant as the E-M1; I lasted about 20 minutes in the –45 or so wind chill. Here's one shot:
Mike replies: I see what you did there. One of the best TOP comments ever! At least I'm not too much of a curmudgeon to laugh at myself....
Winsor: "You pressed a button for me. I think curmudgeons are over with. It might have been OK when everyone was younger than the individual who decided that curmudgeonly behavior was an amusing and acceptable since he was probably being taken care of anyway. My brother, seven years my junior, decided in his mid-fifties to not deal anymore and be a curmudgeon. It is not funny. It is not endearing unless someone younger just feels sorry for you. It is just self-indulgent and silly when your seniors are still rational and able to cope."
Mike replies: You make a good point. It's actually a lot cooler when old people decide to retain their sense of humor, hope, and joy, and make the effort to get along with younger people, and deal with the inevitable shocks and setbacks of decline with equanimity and fortitude...even though that isn't really very rational. :-)
Scott: "Buy multiple memory cards. Shoot with one and shelve it for a couple of weeks before even importing the photos. Then wait another week or two before selecting the ones you like and want to work with. That's the best way I've found to begin editing with digital capture. That, and turn off image review in camera. I also have developed many rolls at the kitchen sink. I'm nostalgic about it but don't really want to do it again."