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Wednesday, 17 December 2008


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Boy, Mike, how right you are.

Before returning to photography in 2000, I spent 20 years devoting my art to the creation of large appliquéd nylon kites. I achieved a fair amount of success and recognition, particularly for a style of appliqué popularized by Randy Tom and Jose Sainz. After practicing this method for 5 years, I had the opportunity to attend a workshop given by Jose. I quickly signed up, more out of hero worship at the feet of the Master than any expectation of great learning.

Within the first 30 minutes I discovered I had been holding the scissors totally wrong. Something that basic. By using both holes in the scissors, my wrist became locked and lost 70% or so of it's flexibility and range of motion. The difference in smoothness and control was truly astounding. I felt like Young Grasshopper, but the improvement in my work was immediate and quite noticeable.

BTW, I commend you on you DSLR review. Well reasoned and nicely said.


Who cares about 800 megapixels... That photo looks extremely nice.

Hmmmm, that's 10 megapixels per square inch of film area. So, a 35mm negative is the equivalent of a 15 megapixel camera, and a Pentax 6x7 negative is the equivalent of a 50 megapixel camera. I'll buy that.

This aspect is a huge part of why I am drawn to photography. Just learning enough about a Leica M with one 50mm lens, Tri-X in D76 and printing onto one size of Ilford FB paper in Dektol took hundreds of rolls and several years. yet I found all of it absorbing.

Then I bought an M8 and started again.


"So here's a guy who's very experienced, knows his equipment like the back of his hand, and who really is a very fine craftsman, and yet he still had something to learn about his equipment after using it for years and years."

That sentence, near your article's end, actually embodies the most significant take-away point. Of course "knowing" a mechanical contraption such as a LF camera is a very different proposition (perhaps simpler?) than "knowing" a sophisticated electronic device such as any current high-end digital slr camera.

Nevertheless, it's hard to doubt that mastery-level knowledge of the photographic tool is essential for consistently achieving masterful results. The tool must become a prosthetic extension of the craftsman.

But achieving such mastery with today's digital cameras is rare even among professionals, and extremely rare among amateurs. Pros who use a particular camera daily may master its functions and characteristics. But amateurs who use their camera mainly on weekends and vacations, and who are compelled to update to newer models every 18-24 months, will never approach mastery.

The age of digital photography is an extraordinary time to be a photographer. But, at least thus far, its tools tend to have much shorter in-hand lives, and hence less learning time, than those of the film era.

Perhaps...just perhaps...this may change for a while. The shriveling economy and availability of credit will certainly have an impact on digital camera sales. (Canon, just last week, announced their gloomy expectations for 2009.) Concurrently, the top prosumer and professional models have reached zeniths in resolution, features, and performance. There's hardly anything left to desire. So, given these situations, we just might find more photographers genuinely living with their cameras long enough to master them.

Personally my recent 5D Mark II purchase marks my Full setting for the foreseeable future. I have more than enough truly fine tools to handle any imaginable photographic project...and I have every intention of mastering those that I've not yet mastered!

p.s. That image of Howard's looks gorgeous.

OK - so how do you hold scissors?

Beautiful photograph, sign me up.

Did someone say "print offer"? Hmmmm...

excellent writing, as ever.

I'm waiting for that offer from Howard. Hope you convince him as you did, once in a time, with Carl Weese. (I missed it!!!)

Bauru- BR

I took one of Howard's workshops. He's a very sweet, unassuming man, kind of like Chet Atkins with a view camera. He's an effective teacher, too. He had huge numbers of his own prints for us to look at, and a pretty good collection from a lifetime of print-swapping.

He keeps threatening to retire from workshops...maybe he already has.

Yes, Howard tells me he's retired from teaching workshops and from writing for Photo Techniques, where he's been a Contributing Editor for several decades. Now he's only photographing, so he says he's happy!

Mike J.

Just today I learned something new about the Linhof 4x5" Technika V that I've been shooting for several years.

The infinity stop for my 360mm lens is in a position which requires pulling the top focus rail forward one click stop, which puts the pointer on the rail in an awkward position if I want to use the focus scale for that lens. I either have to do something like draw a line on the rail or file a mark on the rail or not be able to use the full range of the scale, and the official Linhof repair technician suggested that there was no good solution for this, and just today it occurred to me that I can just slide the removable focus scale mount forward, so that the infinity mark for the 360mm scale lines up with the pointer.

It's not something that I need very often, since the lens is rangefinder cammed, but once in a while I need to know the focus distance for use with manual flash or for calculating depth of field. Another conundrum solved.

Hi Mike:
A few years back Howard switched over to using a 5x7 Deardorff - he refers to this as his "small format" camera (much smaller than the 11x14 that he used for a while!).

Although Howard retired from teaching workshops, his own photography hasn't subsided one bit - his most recent photographs of British churches and junkyard abstracts are absolutely outstanding.

I have the great fortune to live in the same town as Howard and as a result I continue to keep in touch and benefit from his photographic knowledge and wisdom. He is extremely generous and inspiring!


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