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Tuesday, 04 August 2015


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What a nicely written column. It serves as a picture...although I did not count the words.

Being a writer that's a photographer is much like being an accomplished golfer who thinks he's a hockey player (ala Adam Sandler).

Sorry for the lack of participation of late, but we drove from Mexico to Pa. over the last 9 weeks with extended stopovers in Grand Tetons and Gros Ventres and points east on a self imposed Americana Project.

Missed you, Mike.

My two centavos.

Ouch ! That hits close to home ! I am aware of it, and not thrilled with it. But life gets in the way (or maybe I'm not dedicated enough) and it's a lot easier to find time to read than to shoot.

What about someone whose favorite thing about being a photographer is taking pictures--that is, going out there, frequently, looking, composing a picture, and releasing the shutter? The rest of it, for me, is secondary to taking the picture, my favorite part, by far, of the photographic process. Bill

Nicely captures a point that I have had to struggle with a few times. To combat being a photographer/photography enthusiast who doesn't photograph I try to carry my camera with me as much as possible, and ideally in my hand (as opposed to in a bag).

This post serves as a good reminder and I will save it for when I need reminding again =)

Great warning (erm, article). Does finally trying to learn optics seriously qualify as a diversion as well?

I always tell people that I dabble in photography. I think I'm pretty good at the mechanical and technical parts of it, but I lack the focus, time, and the artistry to really do more than dabble.

Maybe when I stop programming computers all day I'll find some way to do more.

Perhaps I'm in the opposite way of thinking. I love taking photos, and would do it even if no one else ever looked at the results.

But I've had a habit of seeking out new things in my life that let my photos become useful.

I'm a family documenter -- it brings me closer to them. I've joined several non-profits and occasionally my pix or slideshows are useful. Various city agencies have used a few of my pix. I contribute to a few blogs around town, and lately a writer from a local news outlets is calling me.

So, even in mid-geezerhood, I'm learning about stuff and meeting new challenges and new people.

Thanks, photography. Let's keep it up.

Ctein's wonderful dead-tree book Post Exposure includes a description and photographs of his then-darkroom, which was (as I recall) a basement whose walls he covered with black plastic wrap of the trash-bag variety to absorb stray light. About as far from the 'perfect darkroom' construction project as you can get, but judging by the amazing quality of his prints, that's irrelevant to, you know, actual photography and photographic printmaking.

It helps to get smacked upside the head now and then with a reminder that photography is (mostly) about the photograph, not all the gear or ancillaries we tend to pleasantly obsess about.

So I'll be getting up tomorrow morning at 4 am to photograph the sunrise at Letchworth State Park, rather than culling my overflowing photo book collection as I had originally planned.

Thanks Mike!

One could argue that playing all day with photoshop is photography in today's world.

Ha so true, I print about 10 photos a year but reAd TOP every day! It's funny my real passion is surfing and I surf everyday but only engage with surf media about once a month!

Since I work in the photo/video industry I am constantly surrounded by photography. Which means that I normally take it for granted. As a result it is only when I make a concerted effort to get away from work and play photographer that I am able to remember what I like about taking pictures. Even then it really has to be the right mindset and subject matter to get me to forget about the hardware and just concentrate on the image. Sadly this doesn't happen often but when it does it really is a very nice feeling.

Laughing, as before reading this, I had just pulled several items from being listed for sale, and decided that I was done with trying with the digital camera upgrade race(buy used camera slightly after launch at discount from early adopter let down by reality vs. expectation, sell ahead of rapid depreciation all such creatures face). It brought considerable peace,as I want to be shooting, not shopping. I've had times where chasing gear was all I had time to do, and it's fun of it's own, but like you say - it ain't photography. 'Pics or it didn't happen' is a rather literal thing w/ this hobby:)

Funny, I also tell people I'm a writer when they ask about my photography.

On the other side of that token: I do like the actual photography much more than all the work afterward that's also par of the course of producing a photograph, be it via a dark room in the past or on a computer nowadays.

I very much agree, Mike. Though I would suggest that getting that portfolio or print exhibition together are also core activities to being a photographer.

And thanks for your past urgings on that score.

I've always found my photography ebbs and flows in practice, but I'm always looking photographically whenever I'm "out and about" even without a camera. Does that count?

I find it easy to divert while sitting at a computer. But because I need to access computers during the creative process, I chose years ago not to have TV in my life. I also chose to give up newspapers when I realized reading the headlines online would suffice. I found this has helped me a great deal to economize my time. When I want to get a lot of shooting done, I will not turn on the computer for that day. Learning to be a disciplined artist is part of my creative process.


You probably don't remember, but several months ago (I think it was) you were talking about your OT diversions and I commented that I couldn't wait until you started discussing woodworking.

Thank you for fulfilling that prophesy.

While I'm here would anyone else like their future told? ;-)

"You'd think this would go without saying, but photographers photograph."

What does that mean? For most of its history, photography covered a process, from exposure to print. We tended to draw a distinction between Photographers, who controlled that whole process, and more casual folks, who pointed the camera, snapped the shutter, then left the rest of the process to others, dropping off film and picking up a packet of prints.

Although with more variations, much the same distinction still applies between those who work as hard or harder in the digital darkroom, to take the simple exposure to the finished product, web or printed image, and those who have their 'phones and tablets automatically put every shot on the web in social media sites.

So, my question is simple, what do you mean by the verb "photograph"?

Is extensive darkroom work or post processing part, or a "distraction". What about printing, matting, framing?

My question is serious. I'm not sure the line is as clear as you make it sound. HC-B and Peter Turnley and others made/make finding, framing and actuating the shutter at the perfect moment Photography. For Sts. Ansel, Edward and others Photography included extensive darkroom work.

Some photographers I know go to some effort to find equipment and technique that will allow their exposures to be used as they come out of the camera. I sometimes wish I could do so, but find digital darkroom work, often extensive, necessary to achieve what I envisioned when I pushed that little button.

Is time and effort spent before the exposure in order to avoid time and effort after more or less of a distraction than time spent after?

Perhaps one might say Photographers make finished, displayable images?

Then anything that doesn't contribute directly to that process must be a distraction. \;~)>

I didn't have a darkroom in my last house (1985-1995) because that one was going to be perfect. Well, and also because the basement there wasn't that suited to holding a perfect darkroom. (For *this* house, I'd already started doing digital printing, and while I had a plan for where the darkroom would go, I never came anywhere close to building it.)

Still have all the darkroom gear though, sigh.

I like to indulge the diversion of reading about the house moving adventures of a photography writer. That's pretty much exactly the same as photography, right?

My ex claimed to be interested in gardening, but then never did any. Turned out she was really interested in looking at gardens, not the same thing. To a large extent, gardening is digging in dirt under a hot sun.

Probably happens a lot with pseudo home renovators. Coming up with the vision of what you want your bathroom to look like, is not the same thing as hammering and assembling the plumbing. I've bought a few houses in which I've had to fix the previous owners' efforts, and I hate doing renos.

Well, plenty of people are interested in art, without being practicing artists, or interested in sport without playing the sport, so perhaps we shouldn't be surprised if some people are interested in photography without photographing.

Maybe it's because photography is so ubiquitous in everyday life (both taking and seeing photos) we think it is something anyone can do, so if you are interested in it, you should do it. We don't have the same expectations in other fields - that someone interested in art should therefore make art, for example.

Diversions - moving house for example! Seriously though, pro photographers spend so much time doing all of the other business things - software engineer, accountant, filing clerk, computer wizard, salesman, equipment maintenance, debt collector, marketing wizard, schmoozing, it's a wonder we get to take any pics. And all of that before we spend time on TOP... Hope move going well.

This is a wonderful essay.
It helps to sort out things we easily confuse.
Talking about,reading about, preparing for, buying for, debating about or thinking about photography are not the same as doing photography.
As you point out, nothing wrong with any of it as long as we don't confuse the activities.
You should run it once a month.... better yet, come up with a code word for it so you can give us a course correcting ZAP in a word or phrase.
Like Fred Picker's "Assume you're standing in the wrong Place"
Take time to enjoy your adventure, we will be here when you return. Hungary wor all the things we do here that are not Photography, but feel good anyway ;-))
Perhaps you could take Pictures.

I have a blog on photography and developed a keen interest in the work of great photographers, to the point of being familiar with people seldom heard of, like Chargesheimer or Oscar Marzaroli. I never thought of such activities as diversions and they certainly don't interfere with my photographing. Blogging helps me organize my ideas; knowing the masters (and even the unsung heroes) of photography makes me richer and more cultured. They don't detract me from photographing.
It's a shame some get so carried away for lateral interests that they completely forget to simply take pictures, but photography is, in this regard, quite similar to listening to music: at some point one might become an audiophile, permanently worrying about how the interconnect Y will fare against Z in their system and forgetting the simple pleasure of listening to the music. That happens. It shouldn't, but it does. The problem is those engaged in such distractions have poor awareness of what's happening to them. As the old saying goes, 'oh well.'

That's great insight Mike. My weakness/addiction is RAP (Reading About Photography) - you and Kirk Tuck being frequent drugs of choice.

I suspect one of the biggest (and most enjoyable, I admit) diversions for photographers is reading a certain MJ photography blog!

You have finally written a column that doesn't make the spectre of guilt rise up in me. Am i organized enough? (no) Do I devote enough time to learning how to print better? (sometimes) Should I pay more attention to my weight knowing full well how to lose it? (not much) But......Do I go out and actually photograph, look, take pictures, almost every day? A resounding yes. I love the act of looking, noticing, seeing and photographing. I do not do well if I don't/can't take pictures for even a few days.

Good column. I think of the time spent reading as learning, part of the creative process.

I think it's existential. OK, it's more, like, dialectic. You want to perfect (note I didn't say to _be_ perfect), and you practice, and you go to the masters, and they say "use your legs..." and so on. Or, like a certain MJ suggested, try using one camera and one lens for a year. Then you go to all the sites you like (including the one by that MJ), and you read cool stuff about the Canon 5Ds, or Zeiss Otus, or perfect darkrooms, new printers, etc. I think it's inescapable. That's it. Let's deal with it. Learn to live with our own contradictions. In the meantime, I got a beat-up Contax lens for my 6D, with a small chip in the front element, for very little, and I am stunned. Otus Schmotus. Or....? How about the Sigma, it's only one grand...

"Easy to think, hard to do" brilliant John Camp! I think there my be a lot of human unhappiness and regret tied up in that phrase.

Funny! I browse to TOP & VSL and a couple others every day. And every day I growl at myself, "Quit the f###ing reading, and go out and take some f###ing pictures!" So, I am aware, but I keep doing it. Sounds like I'm hooked. No, no! I can quit any time I want.

I have found it interesting in this online digital age how many photographers spend so much time discussing the financial health of camera companies and pontificating about the sales prospects of new models of cameras (eg mirrorless vs DSLR). As I recall none of this took place in the pre-Internet era. Photographers then just bought a good camera and used it, they didn't discuss the financial health of the company that made it. I suspect this new trend is due to just how much information is available online these days. It does strike me as one of the more pointless non-photographic things you can do, and I write that as someone who does it myself at times.

I'm a tinkerer. Admitted that to myself years ago. I collect piles of photo junk, but of course don't see junk, I see "inventions". A third party bellows for my Pen F, a T mount, sheet aluminum and a series 5 ring and lots of cutting, drilling, and tapping and I have a rig to mount a 90 Elmar lens head on my Pen F that will focus from infinity to 1:1
Do you think I ever used it?

Getting to this very late. (Yes, because of photography activities!)

I agree with your fundamental sentiment here, Mike; Photography = Photographing

There are, however, very necessary footnotes to this judgement as a few others have noted. Here are mine.

1. Being earnestly engaged principally in photography does not mean being a snap-happy fool. Spending a whole day to, for example, record only one or two photographs might seem ridiculous in the age of the 64Gb memory card. But it's perfectly valid to come home with <10 files on your card!

2. As somewhat of an adjunct to #1, many of the world's finest documentary photographers can spend long periods of time planning and arranging photographic missions. Additionally, many (most, actually) art world photographers spend as much (probably more) time dealing with their exhibitions, their publications, and other satellite activities. In either of these cases the ratio of shutter-time to other time for many of these folks would suggest them to be mere dilettantes.

One reason that I've little interest in formal representation, for example, is that suddenly photography would be driving me rather than vice-versa. If I'm going to go back to being driven by an ambition I'm sure going to undertake something far more lucrative than photography!

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