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Wednesday, 08 April 2015


A Photographer's Desiderata.

Wonderful—I couldn't agree more! Thank you :)

Equipment matters to the photographer, but it shouldn't really matter to anyone else. Not that it isn't interesting to know how the work was done: the equipment, lighting, etc., but really all of that is really unimportant to the viewer. What really matters is whether the work 'sings.'

Good stuff. And I'll admit I was not offended, in any way, by this, or Ctein's previous piece.

Does this mean it's wrong to laugh at the Leikravitz 'cos honestly, I'm having trouble stopping!

[No, we're definitely making an exception for that. [g] --Mike]

It would be interesting to see the age, income and geographic location of the people who were critical of Ctein's comments...to see if one could chart the responses. I was amazed that such an
innocent essay generated so much angst. Perhaps we do live in
a crazy world. I hope none of "them" have an "open permit to carry"...that would be scary.

lovely, lovely post...

"UBU" is generally good, calming advice on many fronts, eh? Spending less time around equipment-oriented sites and more time around art and photography sites is a constructive initiative towards this end.

May I offer a different twist on UBU? Sublimate the medium and technology beneath the objective message. This is one of the most fundamental differences between the artist's mindset and that of the general amateur photographer. If you set out to grab, say, ten images to illustrate a specific message you'll find yourself using the best tools for the job.

Any creative endeavor inevitably attracts criticism. If you plan to practice in such an arena you need to quickly acquire a bit of thick skin. You can't just ignore it though, you have to learn to listen quite carefully to it and see if there is anything in it you can learn. It is up to you to make that judgement, otherwise you end up swinging which ever way the wind is blowing. Unfortunately, instead of involving oneself in such often painful introspection it is often easier to shut out those who don't believe as we do and attack.

You put your finger on it. When I go out with my Sony Alpha 7 II and a prime Zeiss lens, I feel sure that that the color and clarity will be great. All I have to do is pick the subject. So I have sold my Nikon D4 and D800e although there is no rational reason to believe the Sony is any better.


And coincidently why the consolidation of the digital market into 2x3/4x3 aspects and the majority small and smaller (dumb and dumber?) formats has left me wanting.

While it has never been a better time to be a photographer in a way it is worse, everything to me looks like digital imitations of what we used to do for real.

To thine own self be true.

Perfect! Should be posted as a sticky at the top of all camera gear forums.

>To which I would add "...that they like."

It is also possible to make successful photos with cameras we don't like, or even detest. A few years ago I took a week-long trip to Yosemite with a brand new Olympus EPL2, my first m43 camera, which turned out to be the next to the worst camera I've ever used. It was so poorly designed that it pretty regularly made me mutter naughty words while using it. Yet I have a number of very good photos from that trip, here's one I especially like, "Storm, Sierra Peaks"

The camera was replaced by a Lumix GH2 shortly after that and my mind returned to its normal quiet state.

We've all grown fat nourishing our enthusiasm.

Oddly, I find I love to look at a number of types of photographs that I have little to no interest in shooting, and, maybe more oddly, don't have all that much interest in looking at photographs by other people of the types of things I do like to shoot. There is some overlap, just not a lot.

I would note in passing that for some photographers, even some quite good ones, status seems to be critical to the way their personality works. I fooled around with Leicas on a limited basis, and only for a while, before realizing that I was basically an SLR guy (now a mirrorless guy.) But in the Leica general-talk forum that I often looked at, there were frequent discussions about collecting high-end watches, fountain pens and sports cars, and other status symbols. Some of the people most intensely involved in those discussions also posted photos, and some were *very* good photographers. I think of Avedon in connection to these kinds of discussions -- if you look at his life and the way he dressed and the people he hung out with, it's apparent that was a raging status-seeker. And an exceptional photographer. His need for status might have been a symptom of the aggression that also fueled his photography. When you have this type of personality, any suggestion that any of their procedures or equipment might be inferior, also might appear to them to be an attack on their status.

My personal status as a photographic psychologist is purely pop.

This has always been an interesting topic to me. I do catch myself from time to time bristling reflexively when someone isn't doing something the way I would. Breathe in, breathe out. It'll be okay. Spot on as always, Mike.

This topic seems to always kick up with regards to the Holga camera - in my experience a fantastically freeing and frustrating device equally capable of delightful highs and disappointing lows. A Holga in the hands of a master is just as precise and expressive a tool as any other. The debates around this camera (and other toys) could fuel many suns: "That's not a real camera, it can barely focus!", "What a waste of 120!", "It's not art, it's a crutch!", and on and on. And, at the same time, the "serious" toy camera folks are just as enraged by that film-wasting splinter group - the (gasp) Lomographers! As Mr. Vonnegut would say: "So it goes. So it goes."

So, is this just a long, word smith's way of saying that camera phones suck?

Don’t feed the trolls. Research have found that Internet Trolls Really Are Psychos. Let´s not give too much attention to the few who get their knickers in a twist over someone's viewpoint on a specific camera or phone. :-)

"The research validates what most community managers have always believed: trolls are awful people in real life, too."


It is unfortunate that you felt the need to consume this amount of e-ink to state the obvious to anyone responsibly reading this blog.
WTF? are these complainers 10 years old? or just future members of the NRA ( same thing)

Narcissm is no loger a recognized disease in the DMS-5 by the American Psychiatyric Assocition. I am curred!!!

I sometimes have to work pretty hard to avoid being dismissive about choices that make no sense at at all to me. I mean, not artistic choices that aren't my go-to options, but people who say "I use x because it ys more than z does" when I think it's blatantly obvious to anybody who has looked that, in fact, z ys a lot more than x does. When they're not stating preferences, but making statements about measurable performance which are wrong.

Takes me considerable effort sometimes, and it depends on the person whether the effort is a good investment. Actual idiots, no point arguing with them. But if it's possible they could learn better, maybe worth arguing with them. Also, there's the special case we're so good at forgetting -- maybe they know something I don't. So one reason to argue with the crazy-wrong people is if there's a chance the mistake is actually on my side, and that particular person might have the right approach to get me to understand that.

I once had a bizarre encounter with somebody who appeared to me to intend to assert status over me based on his camera. We were all a lot younger then, and he was something like 5 years older than me when I was in college (so that probably put him post-college, which is a huge transition). He kind of ran his eye over my camera, smiled just a little, and said smugly "*I* have a *Nikon F*" while holding it in one hand. I dunno if he didn't recognize what was hanging around my neck, or if I completely misread the whole encounter, or what, but I was shooting my Leica M3 that night.

What matters the most is whether the photographer feels comfortable with and likes the equipment she uses. Neurons occupied in gear envy, irritation at camera quirks, and the like, are neurons NOT attending to the moment at hand and the photographic possibilities.

So, although as a Canonista I have a dynamic range inferiority complex, well, f* that, let's get out and shoot (and at night study up on better post-processing skills).

Ah, the voice of reason ... or a reasonable voice.

I am always curious about what equipment is used to make an image I like, or a photographer's work that I like, but it is the image itself that attracts my attention. Anything else is an afterthought.

Reminds me of an article I posted on a site that I won't name about stitching panoramas with an M9 and happened to mention I also tried some HDR. The comments then flung vitriol about HDR tearing apart the technical details when, much to my amusement, the only image that was actually done using HDR wasn't even commented upon! And only one single commenter recognised and congratulated me on achieving what the article was about, rather than getting incensed by something they didn't like.

Thank you for this post. I've long since settled into my favorite system and don't hesitate to say that my best work has been and continues to be with it. There is something to be said about how a camera or lens inspires the photographer to shoot a subject a certain way. New camera systems are better in every measurable technical regard, but you cannot measure the intangibles. It is the intangibles which influence art.

Well said. Agree win Ben as well.
I hope we don't need a Part III.

Two thoughts:
1. You are absolutely correct about this and
2. You are an excellent teacher of the art of photography.

I am amazed at how individuals become intense and religious in their photographic beliefs.

I was a quiet bystander in a Alternative Photographic conference held in Santa Fe in the early 2000's when Patrick Alt (who makes Ultra-Large format film images) stood up and proclaimed that he was the "Digital Anti-Christ".

Dan Burkholder, who was an early pioneer of digital techniques challenged him rationally and asked why would anyone object to someone using a new tool?

At the end, Dan and Patrick agreed to disagree. But what I witnessed here were polarized beliefs that were in diametric opposition.

I confess that I have been a late adopter of digital image-making starting in 2008, only since I work with computers daily and don't want to have more computers in my life.

My passion is still for sheet-film based image making, but it is gradually getting more difficult and certainly more expensive to work in this medium.

Mike you are right, we have the freedom of choice to use any tool that we want to make our images with and it is important to respect and learn from other's.

I feel privileged to have some of the finest tools to make my images with in both film and digital and in various sizes and formats.

Some people seem to have found the best of both worlds: Carl Weese is an exemplar, he publishes digital images almost daily and has a passion for large format Platinum printing.


Thanks Mike.

It's hard not to feel a sting when someone says that your chosen favorite isn't of high enough quality for them - it's hard not to hear 'it might be fine for someone of your low standards' in that for the twitchy:). It just so silly because either side could be full of it, and who cares? My standard for a good photo: does it make me smile? Yes? Good enough.

This is why I'm a web developer, not a photographer. I love this stuff too much to have to be deadly earnest about it.

Consumer angst is a strange, first world phenomenon. It seems rooted in financial jeopardy. What we buy defines us in some semiotic way, so we are irrationally concerned about getting it wrong.

There seem to be at least five psychological approaches. I have been through all except number #3, but it's one I see all too often on forums.

1: Anxiety. Get what everyone else has. Rely on reassurance from millions of other forum users every time you feel doubts creeping in. Remember, six gazillion users can't be wrong...can they?

2: Denial. Don't want to admit to yourself that you are going to have to make a hard choice at some point. Become a strident evangelist for what you have and react defensively to any perceived criticism, especially when you know it's true.

3: Remorse. Admit you got it wrong and blame everyone else - the manufacturer, reviewers or other fanboy users who suckered you into buying a crock. Tell everyone to avoid it and write scathing Amazon reviews.

4: Logic. Read every review going and tick all the boxes. End up with a Swiss Army Knife that's big, heavy and no fun at all to use. Never use most of the features you thought you needed and sell it a year later.

5: Confidence. Get what appeals philosophically and emotionally. Adapt to it and work around the quirks. Become increasingly attached to it, but hesitate to recommend it widely, knowing how specific your reasons are for liking it.

Loved the 2 part post. It reminded me of this:


It is a youtube link to a british television show called Midsomer Murders. The episode in the link has a film vs digital angle which is absolutely hilarious. I have to remember to wear a black leather jacket the next time I take my dslr out for a spin.

Pretty much the only time I've wasted in photography was time chasing things I thought I "ought to" do. I'm not even saying that the things on the list aren't worthwhile. I'm saying by making them an "ought to" I drained the personal value out of them, and became unable to learn from them.

There are two kinds of "ought to" for me:
1. prescriptives, like "I ought to print"
2. maximizations, like "I ought to do this the cheapest way possible"

The prescriptive stuff isn't so bad, because I can at least learn from the experience. The maximizing stuff is for the birds, since it is almost always about not taking chances, not exploring things, and not spending money. I think some of the latent anger people have is from the frustration that they sunk hours and dollars into maximizing on something that they do not in fact like, or isn't good enough for their purposes.

I can't speak to status seekers, because I don't really understand them.

Laws of the intertubes:

1. Everything is a contest.
2. Informed opinion is the same as uninformed opinion.
3. Opinion stated sufficiently rudely and/or vociferously is the same as fact.
4. Facts stated sufficiently rudely and/or vociferously are necessarily true.
5. Hence, rude and vociferous always wins.

I have never thought that the camera I use makes and difference to anyone else, nor have I felt that because I like using a 4 x 5 view camera that everyone else should use one too, its what I like using and inspires me to go out and create.

Once while photographing at a famous lake in Canada, I was called a dinosaur ( in a loud voice so everyone could hear) by another photographer as I was using my large format view camera, haha! I took it all in good stride, as a compliment actually....turns out he was an ex large format camera user, now switched over to digital, he really couldn't understand why on earth I would use such a contraption of a view camera. I will let my work speak for myself.

I personally have two moods camera wise. The "too sharp", slightly organic and responsive olympus and the quirky, brilliant, smooth and glowacious Fuji. Can't live with just one, gotta have both. Quality difference? Not much, both have strengths, but they look different (I can get olympus close to Fuji, but not the other way round), so its a taste thing not format.

A few years ago I was back in the UK, I was back in the UK and was offered apace on a yatch to sail out and photograph HMB Endeavour out at sea and as she sailed into her home port.
My digital cameras were in Spain and all I had was a twin lens Rollie.
I took four films with me and quickly realised the scorn which was being heaped on me by the masses of photos with huge lenses.
I just sat at the front of the yatch let the ship sail into frame and shot the four films.
Processed and scanned them, made a gift of some prints to the person who had invited me and forgot the event until two days later when there was a knock at the door and a representative from the Endeavour asked if they could use my photos, thereby followed two years of going back to photograph the ship for the society.
I have just about every focal length for FF and APSC but in both formats the lenses I use most are the equivelant of the Rollie's 80 Ie standard and I still get scorn from the guys weighed down with bodies and artillery peices.
Whatever lights your candle.

Perfectly said.
Love your tools. If you love your craft you will.
Chefs travel with their own knives. Not too many.
Appreciate large format landscape even if you never used more than 35mm.
Appreciate a good Lomo, or a good Instagram, even if you only shoot Hassy.
Appreciate that old M6, leave the Kravitz to those that 'need' one.

Long, long ago, when I was first poking around on the internet in the mid nineties, I encountered someone on a forum (mamiya.net, perhaps?) who was adamant that Cindy Sherman's photographs were not "art"...because they were soft-focus. Now, I only know one way to figure out if Sherman's stuff is art or not, and that's to wait a century and see if anyone still cares about them, and you can say the same about any photographer's work.

The soft-vs-sharp debate...I seem to recall Ansel Adams had a few things to say about that. Seventy-five years ago.

I have to say, on gear fora I often tout my own favorite tools, albeit with explanations about their quirks. Eg, I am Ms. EF 400mm f/5.6L ambassador, but I value light weight over image stabilization for hand holding bird in flight photography. I totally understand why someone might hate the lens.



"There is nothing more frightening than the moment we expose our ideas to the world."
-- Brené Brown

This is my favourite video on the topic.



[That's great. Hard to say who wins. --Mike]

Photography is much more like writing than conversation. Powerful images le ad viewers to attribute thoughts, sentiments, and morality to the photographer. Most reactions aren’t about the work itself but about the audience’s experience of the work.

These ideas are important to me when accepting criticism and praise. The audience is responding to something which is more in their heads than it is in my work. Also, my reaction to the criticism and praise is more in my head that it is in the feedback itself.

We love art for its ability to evoke strong reactions. We struggle when those reactions aren’t what we intended. What can we do with this? In writing, I try to be explicit in the criteria I'm applying when expressing criticism. In photography, I haven't found a better approach than to be polite and continue following my passion. I think Tennyson said it best:

Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Make weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

A couple of thoughts:

1. One site's take is that each camera type -- including small sensor cameras -- has its own look, and that once you accept that a photograph doesn't have to look a certain way, there is no hierarchy of sensor sizes or camera types.

2. YOU CAN'T BUY TALENT! So shoot with your eye and your heart and whatever camera you enjoy using.

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