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Sunday, 22 September 2019


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1. Stop chasing after silver bullets. The camera/lens combo in your hands is more capable than the camera/lens you dream about.

2. Ditto

3. Ditto

That’s an easy one to answer. I wish I had carved out more time for making photos out of my ‘other life’. It’s all too easy - if you’re not a professional - to de-prioritize spending time making photos. That’s a regret as I realize now in my 50s that photography brings balance and calm in a way that other pursuits do not.

I am 62 now and about to do something I've never done with my photography. My first (and maybe only!) gallery show :)

It's too soon to say how rewarding it will be of course as the show opens one month from now.

I would be most pleased so see and meet any TOP readers in the Los Angeles area at the opening reception on October 26!

The Perfect Exposure Gallery, 2424 W. Valley Blvd., Alhambra, California. The reception is from 6PM until 9PM, free, and open to the public.

And Mike, if you're interested, I'd be happy to write an article for TOP about the experience :)


I enjoy exploring places with a camera in my hand - it opens my eyes to all sorts of things that I never would have noticed.

I also enjoy the fact that photography is so diverse - there's always something new to discover. I've been reading your blog since 2008 and you still come up with different perspectives to make me think.

Photography is my hobby - so whatever time I spend on it is never wasted.

I think the only regret I have is attempting too many styles of photography over the years instead of trying to master one.

In the future my aim is to concentrate on what I call Route 66 style of photography. Those vintage scenes and remnants of days gone by. I just finished building an almost good looking wooden 5x7 camera and hope to use that for a lot of it and contact print the results.

Most rewarding? Lately, it's been...

  • Learning more about the area I live in, due to...
  • My ongoing project of recording the architecture of the area before the local council lets the developers demolish a lot of it to build yet more 'luxury flats*' that no-one can afford.
  • And making sure the pictures are technically and compositionally competent.

* that's 'apartments' to you. ;-)

Most rewarding things:

1. Developing an eye for colour, composition, content. A little step into a world far, far away from my usual one.

2. Contributing to local non-profits by providing no-cost pix for web, annual reports, on and on.

3. Finding and appreciating artists like Fred Herzog (See item 1.), Arbus, Eggleston, Shore and others. Another step into that other world.

For this week, the things I've enjoyed most about the pursuit of photography are:

1) like you, discovering the work of other photographers through books and gallery shows

2) having more of an excuse to be outside because that is where I most like to be

3) "Mastering" (and I use that term loosely) the craft of pt/pd printing

I wish I didn't waste so much time on GAS; the research, buying, etc. I would tell my younger self to pick a format and film and learn to express my heart through that medium.

Great topic!

I wish I'd taken more photos of my grandparents and fewer photos of girls I dated. LOL I'd tell myself to keep those Canon lenses I sold a while back, thinking I would buy replacements from other brands for their bodies. Good glass is priceless.

I guess I am basically a collector of interesting images that I've been lucky to see. I've used any tool to do it; a Graflex 4x5 to Pixel 3 and it all works... I'm just trying to please myself and build an autobiography. Get around to interesting places, look, plan, shoot, move on, repeat. I keep telling myself to shoot more. I usually spend twice as long in Lightroom editing and processing this raw material. I enjoy both sides and the technical aspects of both. I guess I'm more of a craftsman than an artist... I try to show art if I find it. I feel that I should work harder to plan and "make" images, but I keep finding easy stuff. So photography has always been a casual hobby for me, but yet I've spent a huge amount of time and money on it... and it still pays off.

I suppose I'm really a documentarian. I like fairly literal pictures (mine and other peoples) that have a sense of time or place, or both. That doesn't mean some 'art' can't be brought to bear on the documentation, but I'm not too interested in landscapes, flowers, macros, sports or wildlife. Consequently what I most enjoy is:
– Going over my Lightroom catalog to see how people and places have changed over time. And wonder about the people/places that are now lost for one reason or another.
– Making pictures today that I think may have staying power for the future.
– Making prints of good quality and giving them away (which I believe enhances the aforesaid staying power.

If I could talk to myself in my photographic youth ('60s and '70s), I would insist that I get out much more, and shoot far more B&W film of everyone and every place that was around me. Ignore those who discouraged my photography (and there were plenty of them), and forget about lusting after more lenses, a better camera, etc., or trying to get better at shooting bees on flowers and beautiful mountains. Just buy film, and shoot, shoot, shoot. The basic cameras I already had were more than capable of doing the type of work that I wish I had done more of. (It also wouldn't have hurt to get better acquainted with the great documentarians of the day via the library.)

I have enjoyed _finally_ understanding lenses and to find ways of examining optics that can be applied to the real world.

For far too long I was obsessed with resolution when, in fact, I wish I'd expanded my considerations to include looking at the effects of under-corrected spherical aberrations on out of focus rendition and to find commercial manufacturers who knew what lens design was capable of.

Oh well, it's all water under the bridge and I'm very happy to find new ways to make images that please me.

Oh, what I wouldn’t give to be able to recommend to my eleven year old self who had just been given a Brownie Holiday flash in the 1950s:
1. Take lots of pictures of family, friends, activities and the general neighborhood and area. Yes, I know it is expensive but you can probably become the family photographer and get some help.
2. Study photography. The Boy Scout Photography Merit badge is a good place to start.
3. In a few years, get a 35mm fully adjustable camera, perhaps an Argus or even a Kodak Retina, learn to use it and continue taking lots of pictures.

1. Being out on my own in the wilderness.
2. Poring over camera reviews.

No regrets!

I guess your question is directed at more serious photographers and I'm purely a hobbyist (worse, a retrograde hobbyist since I mostly shoot film), but I'll chip in anyway.
1. The delayed gratification of developing and printing (B&W) or getting prints and scans from the lab (colour).
2. Using and learning about old mechanical cameras.
3. Being more in tune with my surroundings (noticing things, speaking to strangers if I want to take a portrait, and so on).

What would I tell my younger self? Read TOP! (I only discovered it this year.) Actually I'd probably say, look at other photographers' work and try to develop your own personal style.

Discovering the work of other photographers through books and museum and gallery shows: Yes

"Obsessing" over lenses: never, and I have a few

Mastering traditional darkroom craftsmanship: I mastered Cibachrome printing

I see the world differently now. I pay attention to the light, and little details that make or break a potential photo. Not enough attention sometimes, but that's part of the learning. The other enjoyable thing is meeting other photographers, though I separate out the social activities with other photographers, away from photographic activities with other photographers. It seems I can pay attention to the chat, or pay attention to the photography, but not both at the same time.

I would tell my younger self:

1. take more photographs of those you love. These may be useless to the world, but important to yourself.

2. take good care of the negatives, never lose any of them

3. make prints and hang them

Darkroom work, though I wasn't very good at it, and have no urge to do it again.

Anticipating exploring printing with carbon inksets. I've seen some really beautiful monochrome prints from this inkjet alternative. That would be after I make significant enough progress with döstädning, Swedish death cleaning.

Hello Mike,

I have enjoyed and still enjoy :
-visiting exhibitions and discovering photographers' work.
-drinking a coffee with a nice photography book.
-reading about cameras and lenses and ebaying for some. Every now and then acquiring a symbolic one (Plaubel Makina, minolta CLE, agfa super isolette)...
-dropping a film to the lab, anticipating the day I can get the negatives and the prints.
-being in the moment, as an invisible spectator, calm and focused in the viewfinder. A strange sense of consciousness.

I have enjoyed but stopped enjoying :
-Trying to collect photos of photographers on the web. Bookmarking, classifying, saving jpegs, labelling,backuping, ... just to discover later that I wouldn't even know what I have saved for inspiration, or that webpages went offline,...
I still wish there was a way to curate, maintain this seamlessly and that there would be mental "shortcuts" to access them. Thankfully, I quit and rely on memory, books and websites like yours.

Regrets :
-I regret I joined the instagram train. An horrible waste of time and a downright form of addiction.

-I regret I hesitate to use my film cameras while they were built to capture !

-I have enjoyed spending an awful lot of time reading about sharpness but I'm now totally cured and, in parts thanks to you, I now appreciate lenses for their "character".

-Spending too much time "editing" raws.

-I regret I didn't take any photography classes.

Wishes (e.g. room for improvement!) :
-I wish to print more, display and discard much more!

-I wish I had this thing that makes some photographers comfortable with showing their work.

-I wish I could approach strangers in the street and find better ways to engage with them.

That was just a few from the top of my head,


Things I did that I'm (still)glad I did, even though I don't use all of them now:

1. Get the best equipment I could financially.
2. Read technical books and manuals
3. Learning Zone System
4. Designing a collegiate darkroom
5. Teaching photography at a college
6. Learning fine arts repro photography
7. Learning large format photography
8. Learning about equipment

Things that I should have done:

1. Pay more attention earlier to photographers (I was caught up in the rest of the visual arts).
2. Spend less time trying to do "classic" landscape photography, as opposed to finding my own vision in photography earlier.
3. Spend more time learning professional commercial photography, fine arts repro and architectural/interiors.

My glads outnumber my regrets, so I guess I'm ahead.

The most important things for me, are saving natural moments in time, (the content) and showing these moments off to both those who already enjoy nature and those that do not. I am, in part, a propagandist.

Well, I have come to terms with the fact that I will not be the next HCB or Alex Webb ;-)
I focus mainly on documenting my family and kids. This is something I truly enjoy and hope they and I will enjoy in the future.

I have wasted way to much time on fretting over cameras and lenses, most of which I would never buy anyways.

Another very rewarding part is that I have come to appreciate others' photography. Both at exhibitions and by slowly building a small photo book collection. I really enjoy watching documentary style photography from countries and places I do not know and will not have the chance to visit.

My greatest joy in photography is seeing work that just humbles and bowls me over! And occasionally, I get to create something that I can appreciate...

Compared to life, photography seems a considerably more trivial pursuit, and therefore harder to separate and distinguish those failures necessary to learn and advance, from those that are of no inherent value or consequence.

Gear acquisition cautions: Buy only what you are going to use, not what you think you MIGHT use. Minimize, minimize, minimize!

My source of fun: Getting out into the world with my camera. No particular goal in mind; just looking at the world. THEN, months or years later, culling through all the images to create thematic books.

Inspirational device: Join a photo critique group and stick with it through thick and thin.

My father introduced me to photography in 1958. Sheet film, temporary darkroom in darkened kitchen. For too long, I concentrated on technical aspects. Sharpness, tonal range, etc. Sometime in the late 60s, early 70s, I finally learned to pay careful attention to the people to whom I gave photographs. What an amazing discovery: they cared about the content much more than the form. Form wasn’t irrelevant, but it was secondary. That discovery had been made a few billion times before, but it was new to me.

Since then, I have sometimes found one of my pictures on someone’s refrigerator. That really makes my day.

I've never been much interested in the technical side of photography which is why I'm not better at it. My ideal camera would have medium-format resolution, be about the size of a credit card with a tiny 35-135 f1.2 zoom lens with perfect autofocus and have one setting: "Automatic."

I'm really interested in the world, in images and "visions" and what's going on. Cameras (in the widest sense, both stills and videos) are excellent for capturing reflections of the world at one particular moment. You can then contemplate that capture (as you can't in a moving world where everything is constantly changing) and perhaps learn something from it. For example, if you have faithfully recorded your family, you can watch as the family members change over the decades, and consider how those changes happened, and why. I have a picture of my grandfather with other soldiers, as a young man in Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American war, and I can see my face in his, and feel that blood connection to a time now gone by more than a century. Photography is most valuable, I think, in forging connections between the viewer and to other people and places and events, both personal and cultural/historical.

That's why I like it; the lenses and so on don't much interest me, nor am I much interested in using cameras as a self-conscious art-making machine. It's least valuable when it tries to become like painting, abstracted and manipulated, when in becomes more a reflection of another person's unknowable mind and intentions than a reflection of an external reality.

For me being present in the world has been the biggest reward.

My philosophy of photography is “Look See Do”.

Several years ago I created a website about this very topic.


My only regret is not discovering the joy of working on projects (instead of randomly taking photos) until roughly a decade ago.

Greatest enjoyment from photography?

Seeing and experiencing things I would otherwise never encounter. Last week I got outside before sunrise to photograph the full moon setting behind a giant oak tree across the road with a very long lens (600 mm + a 2x tele-converter). Movement caught my eye, and I finally realized I was seeing hundreds of monarch butterflies flitting around the tree and crossing in front of the moon. It hardly matters what the photos look like, the experience was priceless.
The same goes for the many perfectly calm mornings I've spent waiting for the sun to come up through the fog filling the Genesee River gorge without another person in sight. Yes, I've gotten a few very nice photos. But the Zen moments are the perfect balm for an over-committed week.
Seeing viewers catch their breath in front of a really nice large print is also pretty cool.
Getting to play with all the great gear is a bonus.

From learning the hard way, the technical skills are the easy part. Learning the Art of photography is the tough part. The three most important things for me are:
1. Learn to see:
We all see differently. Developing your own sense of vision gives
you confidence in the validity of how you see the world as averse
to how others do.

2.Master the tools you have, not the ones you wish you had:
As beginners we always think better tools will make us better
photographers, but the quest for "better" gear can force us into a
continuous cycle of relearning and away from the real goal of
creating images. You'll learn more faster from mastering the gear
you have and then adding new tools, than from constantly learning new tools that you never master.

3. Develop an appreciation for Art of all forms ... including the ones you don't like:
Soak up as much of the work of other photographers as you can,
but do not limit yourself to just that. Photography is at its core an
Art Form like music, painting, ballet, etc. Never discount the
capacity of other art forms to teach you and inform your work.

4. Focus on content:
Your technical skills are a necessity, but the ability to develop and express the content within you images if more important.

Just my two cents worth.

The things that resonate for me with regards to photography is the learning that has come with "getting to know your subject".

I have broadened my knowledge of photography along the way to be sure but the knowledge gained from reading up on the subject material that would occupy my lens' field of view has stayed with me and enriched my life. The hunting and mating habits of dragon flies; the meteorology behind thunderstorms; urban planning modalities and the ways we write ourselves onto a landscape; how the night sky swings around...the list of things examined grows ever larger. It's the examining that comes along with the imaging that I find has been most influential and as rewarding as the image making itself.

Discovering that I could use a camera to follow a theme and explore a matter visually, silently, in (usually coloured) little rectangles.

What's rewarding?

First, I'm rewarded by learning to see things differently. I used to take pictures of rainbows, sunsets and flowers but over the past few years my interests have become catholic. Hell, I can get excited over a crack in the sidewalk if the light looks good and the texture moves me.

I've also gotten great rewards from discovering the work of many great photographers, especially photographers from the 20th Century. Books have become my passion in this regard and the house is overrun with them. Again, my interests are wide-ranging. Sometimes I discover a photographer whose work I simply do not like but that's also rewarding when I can articulate in my mind what I dislike about it.

And finally I guess I would say it's rewarding to go through a continual learning process. Seems like I find something new to discover every week or so. It's more fun than any other learning process I've ever gone through.

Oh, yeah. Advice to my younger self from the old fart I am today.

"Look at everything. Even crap you don't like. When it comes to other photographer's works, learn from the best and know why you think they're the best. Don't start smoking when you're in high school and learn how to relax when you need to. I screwed up on those last two. Fixed the first, still can't say I've had much progress with the second."

My favorite thing is how photography takes me out of my brain. Even if I don't get any successful pictures, it's worthwhile.

Probably my biggest regret is putting too much pressure on myself to get group shots for so long. I don't do that any more. Bought a selfie stick and I just take those pictures with my phone at family gatherings if someone wants one.

The single greatest joy photography has brought me in the nearly 60 years that I have been practicing it, is that Dorothea Lange was indeed right "A camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera" There is not a day that goes by that is not enriched because of the active looking that all photographers learn to do.

Having been a commercial photographer the problem solving nature of photographing (and building) a set one day, a model the next and a Bar of soap or bottle of Cutty Sark the next, all on deadline, was not only fun, but applies to lots of other things in life.I feel enriched by that.
Having shot events with my Daughter, I learned a whole new fast paced kind of work that is all about capturing the moments that never happen again. I loved learning to do that.

While I've taken lots of family pictures in my life, I wish I had started earlier and focused on more mundane things. Pictures of my extended family doing ordinary things are the missing treasures of my life. We think we'll remember, and we sort of do, but through a layer of gauze for each year.
To quote Lange again, "Photography takes an instant out of time, ALTERING LIFE by holding it still" (Emphasis mine)
You see, we only saw the movie, and sometimes the Still can be a finer thing.
I'm grateful to have learned photography with Film and darkrooms and view Cameras and that I know who Sheimpflug is----- all the better to appreciate the wonders of Digital.
I wish it hadn't taken 25 years to learn where to stand and when to press the button.
I wish I'd learned sooner that where you stand and when you press the button are more important than everything else.

I love that there is always more to learn, and I have come to love passing some of it along. Both printed pictures and occasionally helpful advice.
My oldest Daughter is a photographer and now more often than not , I am the assistant. What a joy

Hi Mike, I got into photography as an additional way to appreciate nature while bushwalking, including multi-day hikes. I’m enjoying learning to see light, shades, tone, colours etc. Also learning to see in terms of perspective and angle of view / focal length. Keen to give more impressionistic photography a go.
To re-iterate others’ comments:
- you don’t need to cover all focal lengths. Go easy on the GAS.
- take lots of photos, including of family, and then edit, edit, edit I.e. cull down to a handful, and share them around. You don’t need to keep every image.
- give it time, you won’t become a master overnight (still nowhere near that), and enjoy the learning process
If only I had the time to buy and read all the photography books that I want to.

Mike, you hit a hot button issue with me as I think through how I want to use photography for the remainder of my years. I have few regrets about my journey in Photography. Photography has taken me many more places than I would have gone, if I had not developed an interest in Photography. Many of my trips and travels have been to capture the "essence" of the place, and explore the culture. It has allowed me to see the countries with a different eye. An eye trained to find the light and enjoy the culture of the land I am visiting. Attempting as best I could to become a temporary local.
My major regret is that I have spent way too much time obsessing about gear and image quality. I have never regretted buying a camera or lens, but I have regretted selling my Nikon D700. It is all I ever needed. I loved that camera, but I let the Photography culture convince me that I needed 36 mega pixels to be a good photographer. Was I wrong. All that is needed is an experienced eye and an adventuresome spirit. I hope to make my way in a minimalist fashion for the rest of my photography days. I really do believe in the creative power of limitation. Truly, less is really more when it comes to photography. Good discussion topic. Thanks


Traveling to places significant to me to document life there.

Learning to see the world in a different way.

Memories. A record of my life that becomes more important as the years pass.


That I didn't stick with one film, one developer and one paper early on and really get to know them.

That I never had a someone properly teach me traditional printing instead of muddling through it by myself.

Note to younger self:

Hang onto that Pentax Spotmatic and use it consistently. Use it purposefully until you can make it produce anything you want. Avoid buying any other camera or gear until it is absolutely necessary to achieve something the current equipment will not do. When digital arrives, resist temptation until the Nikon D90 or its Canon equivalent comes along, then apply the same discipline as above.

Find pleasure in the process and genuine satisfaction in what it produces — or pitch the whole thing and learn to play the piano.

I discovered what kind of photography I liked, and why I liked it, thanks in no small part to TOP.

I cured my GAS. I am happy with the camera and lenses I have. No desire to change or upgrade.

I actually did some serious research to try and understand how my camera worked and how the information recorded related to what I could see in an image. Then I wrote a book about it.

1. I feel rusty now. There was a time when I, I think, incredible photographic reflexes. I could walk through a space briskly and mine it’s visual possibilities. That, to me, was enormously satisfying. But I love in a slower,
sparser place and time now. So they’ve grown dull.

2. So I had to learn a different way to take pictures. And that’s been satisfying too. I like these ones better.

3. Loved making darkroom prints, it’s been 17 years!

As far as regrets, I wish I hadn’t overvalued ‘natural’ light. I came to lighting too late. It just opens up so many creative possibilities.

For me discovering cameras and lenses, such as the time a camera store loaned me an early Leicaflex with an Angineau 45-90mm lens and this was to me the most beautiful view through a camera I have ever seen. I used to haunt the camera store windows when I lived in San Francisco.
I grew up with life, Look and National Geographic and I was fascinated by the photographs and later learned photography studying the photo magazine annuals.
Its the world of photography that could take you
anywhere and communicate the reality of other peoples and places.
Through photography I have an ongoing love and awareness of light and lighting every day with or without a camera.

I would have told my younger self:

1. The camera and lens you have is good enough.
2. Take more photos. Not just a few more. Lots more. Film and paper cost money, it is true. But time is irreplaceable. So: 4x on pictures. Hey, younger self, that money you spent on gear could have been spent making images.
3. Take more pictures of the ones you love. My father has been gone for almost 10 years, and I find myself searching for even out of focus pictures of him. And asking his friends for snapshots of him. You get the idea. And voice recordings. Should have done more of those as well.

The things I would tell my younger self are:

Ignore most of the 'shoulds' ie you should have x lens, you should aim for absolute sharpness. Instead photograph what excites you and you are passionate about, and portrays your point of view.

Shoot for yourself, don't worry what others think, if they like it then great. Make sure you are happy first.

Always take more images, all the time!

1. Actually setting out with a camera with the purpose of taking pictures, and taking them.

2. Printing.

3. Exhibiting.

I really, really get wound up in processing my photos in Lightroom. I get pleasure out of "completing" a photo, and marveling at it, even if I go back and redo it later over and over (which is so easy to do).

I enjoy making a set of photos from, for example, a vacation trip, and getting a look for the whole set to express the place or the feel or the light (Provence, last year).

I enjoy getting one big-ass print occasionally, that covers the front of the fridge (30"x40"). I enjoy seeing it for months at a time.

I get so wound up for in the light room for so long, that when I go outside, I subconsciously think, "oh, those clouds could use a little tweak".

I put off processing a new set for a while, and let them stew, then enjoy seeing them fresh.

I also enjoy taking the shots in the first place, and I know when I've hit a good one, but the real joy comes later, in the light room.

And, yes, I do really enjoy discovering the work of photographers I had not known, mostly through the web. This too often leads to buying more photo books. "Flor Garduno? Who dat? Oh, my. Wow. Wow". Click, buy, click, buy.

After 40 years and despite all my geekery and obsessions, I've come to the realisation that it isn't photography that I have a passion for; photography simply allows me to explore my passion. And that passion is a constant unending exploration and curiosity about people.
Somehow, framing the questions I have about people is best done by photographing them. That's how I find out about the world, who we are, what they care about, what we care about, their culture, my culture, what really matters to us, my audience and eventually myself. Photography is just the means to that end.
I don't claim to have found the answers, but that doesn't stop me asking the questions.
The phrase that sums that up for me is,"love people, use things; not the other way around."

Good questions Mike.

I’ve thought about this many ways, but it’s really clear now that there are only two things: family and beauty. Technical characteristics don’t even place.

If I could do things differently it would be this:

1. I would take a picture a day of my family, friends, teachers, and world. At least one picture of each person! To heck with technical merit or artistic ambition.
(Color film, any kind, from 1979 to 1999, age 8 to 28, 7400 frames. Olympus XA, 35mm f/2.8 auto exposure.)

2. All my artistic ambitions could be satisfied until the age of the digicam with a TLR with a Tessar lens, Fp4, D-23. Probably one print size. Completely and totally adequate for expressing my vision in every way. Additional fussing about grain, sharpness, or acutance, would change nothing.

I’ve had a lot of fun reading forums, and shopping for lenses, and met some neat people. That was time well spent, but not really necessary to my photography. I really enjoyed messing about with new camera technology as it came about. I like flower pictures, sunsets, scenics, and so on as much as anyone. That said, while do anything superzooms are fun, and help make neat pictures I wouldn’t be able to otherwise, those pictures aren’t as important to me as the ones in the first two categories. That kind of thing isn’t as necessary to me as family. Or art.

Seeing photographs in person, and finding the occasional photo book has been enlightening. I wish I could find a photo book that really resonates with me as much as my favorite fiction. I’ll keep looking.

My time spent reading about politics, finance, and computing was fruitless, though. In the most literal sense: it bore no results!

Abbreviated personal history: I got hooked in 1982 in High School. Became a pro in 86 mostly weddings and events, some light commercial. Realized after about 7 years there were easier ways to make a lot more money, that didn’t turn what I loved into a job.

Most rewarding
1) The other photographers I’ve met talked to and shot with. Getting to see other people’s work unfiltered, and get their critique
2) sharing my own work unfiltered with them. Painful sometimes but rewarding...
3) Meeting the people who were my subjects/clients. Again some times painful but over all people are pretty neat.

I’m glad I made a run at the pro life but I do regret it too. I’ve made a lot better living doing something else and been able to shoot what I like without the grind of making a lIving. I wish I’d figured it out sooner. I wish I hadn’t let the concern about my gear slow me down and that I’d remembered the quality of work produced by simple cameras when I was first getting paid for it. I wish I’d spent more time with younger photographers as I grew older, I might have been able to offer something, and I know I could have learned something.

My most rewarding is being able to experiment in many different combinations of analog and digital. We’ve got great computer programs, and while old analog equipment is cheap, a twenty-year+ range of digital cameras can make great photographs too proving you don’t have to have the latest and greatest. The mobile technology has evolved to be easy and amazing in all it’s forms. We each got here by many different paths, each experiencing the trials and tribulations that accompany those journeys. The results speak for themselves, whether you need a show or published a book for others to see and critique, or just for your own satisfaction.
I’d tell my young self that there’s nothing I can think of to improve the path he’s on...

1. Has been seeing and recognizing light in its subtleties and glories. It is vastly more rewarding than gear talk and measurbating. This had a secondary effect to mature into my own unique style of photography.

2. Is using my new appreciations of light for my nature and abstract photography.

3. But definitely not least, is I am amassing a collection of photos of Jazz musicians in remarkable and beautiful light. My wife performs with them and I make friends. Thus I have close ties, and camera work with them is intense and rewarding. And they love it too.

My old-guy advice to my young-guy self would be:

1. Take more pictures of the people in your life. The people you love, friends, neighbors, co-workers.

2. Shoot more.

3. Worry less about results.

4. Have fun.


I remember it vividly. As a teenager, several decades ago, I am out with my first camera. Pressing the shutter to capture that stretch of snow in the frozen field before me, in that special evening light. As I pressed the shutter, suddenly I understood: taking this photograph has meaning. Experiencing that connection with the moment for me still is the enduring source of the joy and exhilaration that photography can give. I thank my younger self for having been open to that experience; and I ask my older self to remain open to all such experiences.

Photography at its core is documentation: of patterns of beauty, of exceptional events, of the ordinary things around us, of people that weigh upon us, of people that pass by. Documentation requires precision in the individual shot, but it also requires repetition, persistence, systematic stocktaking. After several decades of using the camera to experience the moment, I regret that I don't have many "serial" outputs, documenting how everyday things change, slowly, as the years pass. I pursue such projects now, but those missed daily records of the past cannot be taken retrospectively, they are lost forever. So I say to my younger self: be a record taker, of that frozen field before you if you wish, but also of everything else around you, big and small.

Oh man, down the rabbit hole we go!

So many gifts to even begin to try cataloguing, and for this I am profoundly grateful. They flowed more freely once I separated the notion of "making a living" from "pursuing photography".

I'm currently in year ten of an online gallery, with a goal of posting eight images a month. It's been a project well worth undertaking.

As for regrets: early on I remember trying to sell some images to a regional postcard company. Needed to have someone dressed in red in the photo, they said. That set me back a year or two, away from the moody landscape shots I liked taking (and soon got back to). So my one bit of advice to my younger self (after figuring out how to make a living), is not to be too concerned about where the pack is going. Nurture yourself, and nurture your vision.

My enjoyment is not so focused on equipment but taking pictures. Here are some of the things I've enjoyed doing over the years.

Some time overlap, you might notice

~1958-1979: becoming competent at B&W photography, learning camera work (exposure, composition) and darkroom work (development and printing). Shooting whatever came in front of me, friends esp. and travel documentation. Practically all the photos I have on my walls today are B/W from this era!

1963-1967: Astrophotography as a student, using a telescope and occasionally a Speed Graphic to take photos of celestial objects. Tricky to get exposure and development right.

1964-1972: sports car racing photography, capturing cars (still and at speed) and racing personalities (Shelby, Donohue/Penske, McLaren/Hulme, etc.). Fortunately all is now in the care of the IRRC - the racing library in Watkins Glen, NY and/or in more than a dozen books.

1980-2000: Learning/using product photography for my own company - saving $$ when it was scarce, and documenting my family growing up.

1995-date: Photos for web publishing, stories told in photos, creating an online encyclopedia of tech for fiber optics. In the earliest days of the web (1995-2005), I did HTML programming and creates some very early websites, including putting many of my own photos online. I used to get tons of comments and requests to use photos - a rock band in the UK, a bar in Rio, etc. Once commercial photo sites became popular, traffic and comments evaporated. When I get time, I'll delete them.

2000-date: History of photography, viewing exhibits of various icons and pioneers as well as unknowns who created a visual history of the past. LA has an especially active group of museums for photography - The Annenberg Space for Photography, the Getty, MOPA in San Diego, etc.

2003-2017: Documenting the flora and fauna of our farm, "Food Chain Farm," from birds to black widow spiders. Also the natural world around us, the open sky, storms, wildfires, etc.

2017-date: Finding I can do as much with an iPhone as I could do with a camera, save the telephoto work with my "critter cams" on the farm. Building my ~1,000 image screen saver of abstracts.

Strangely enough, the digital era was a time of doing lots of research on cameras and lenses but I remember it was a chore, not enjoyment. Editing on a computer even less enjoyable. And printing digital was a #$%^&*()+ disaster.

While I never regret taking as many photos as I did, I now face getting rid of thousands of slides and negatives after scanning what i want. Tossing them in the trash is something I have not yet faced up to. And then there is that half-full 2TB drive....

I think in my case it has been an evolution through so many phases that it's hard to pin down. Currently I would say that:

1) photography has taught me to appreciate composition in many forms, when viewing painting, sculpture etc. in a way I never suspected I would.
2) learning that, like a hammer or chisel, a camera is simply a tool, and should be treated like one.
3) technical perfection is often the worst way to judge a photograph.
4) and sometimes it is better to just look and not take a photograph.

I take photographs to amuse myself as well as the occasional spectator. Exhibiting photographs for mutual pleasure is similar to a comedian telling jokes to an appreciative audience. But comedy is more serious than photography.

Viewers who see more in my photographs than I do probably have better vision. Those who see less than I do may be right, and I remain partially open to their criticism.

Photography for me became a gateway into art in general and a better appreciation of the world around me. I love its fusion of art and science.
I consider myself lucky to have built my own darkroom and having learned to print.
It taught me to see in a way I hadn't before.

I wish I had taken more pictures of the people and places in my life, some of whom are not here any more.

1. Being on a road of discovery - with strong connections to the real world.
2. Reporting about it by making things (prints, preferably).
3. Being open, present (most of all, but not only, visuallly - as that’s simply the area where my talent is to be found).
4. (Sorry, Mike) Working with photographic tools, the craft.

I like well made mechanical objects, film cameras and lenses in particular.
Holding, handling and carrying a well made object with inherent unlimited creative potential is enjoyable and exciting, even when I am not able to fulfil or realise that potential.
It began as a hobby back in the mid 70's, thus I feel very fortunate that I have photos that documents periods from which there are not nearly as many photographs - as is the case today.
I regret spending too much energy on accumulation of cameras/lenses and swapping between them. It would have been nice to have had one camera/lens today that I had worn into a personal object with dings and brassing that reflected all the years that has passed.

What do you mean by "succeed"?
Making money and enjoyment are not the same thing, and in many cases they may be mutually exclusive... Look at Peter Turnley, a spectacular career in photojournalism, but is now teaching workshops: maybe that's what he wants to do, but it certainly aligns with the fact there's more money in teaching amateurs than in going out and making photos these days.
Maybe it would be better to ask how to "enjoy" photography, as a life long... affection?

[The important thing is what you mean by "succeed," not what I mean by it. --Mike]

1 Creating art, the pinnacle of human endeavor.
2 Recognition from peers.
3 Working with and for other artists.

(Sorry again Mike...) 5. Sharing my work ! How could I forget? Presently, I am having a show in a small but very nice gallery in my neighbourhood, with pictures all taken ‘en passant’ in my home town, and am enjoying it immensly. These are the pictures on show (albeit digitally): www.hansmuus.com/expositie-kapper/

Make more time for the mundane things that 'will always be there.' One day they won't be. That applies to people as well as places.

Be more diligent about documenting names, dates and places. What is clear to you today, may become faded (or lost) in fifty years.

Think more about sharing. That picture you have, or a person or place that no longer exists, may a lot of meaning for someone else.

I took up photography 'seriously' around 2002, and for the longest time I had a love/hate relationship with it: I mean, I hated it because it drove me nuts, but I couldn't stop doing it. It was only three years ago, and many images (and cameras) later, that I finally felt like I knew what I was doing and so could relax enough to enjoy it.

So, gifts:

Seeing the work of well-known photographers. Life would have been poorer if I'd never encountered W. Eugene Smith, Edwin Smith, Henry Wessel, Trent Parke, et al.

The ability not so much to consciously look as to recognise when the visual 'nerve' has been tripped and something is present to observe. A photograph is an act of paying attention, of noticing.

Building up an archive of successful (for me) images that repays browsing time and again.

I should probably say I regret the time lost trying new gear and different cameras but it was all interesting and I usually got at least a few worthwhile pictures from each one. Done with that now though - I guess I somewhat lament the ones I held on to that go unused due to lack of time and need.

My advice to beginners would be to look at lots of books of photographs as opposed to books about taking photographs, and don't waste time taking photos of things that are 'supposed' to make good photos if they don't hold any inherent interest for you (sunsets, flowers, wildlife - all fine if you have a personal fascination with them but otherwise a fruitless pursuit if you're just chasing the Likes of others).

Also: process is important but nobody cares how hard you worked. The result has to be its own reward.

Learning to really "see" and therefore enjoy the simple things around me.

Access to the internet as it has exposed me to the world of great images.

Getting to have a print offer here on TOP.

Questions like this can send me down rabbit holes, but:

1. Losing myself in concentration while working a photo and really thinking about light, composition, mood, gear, settings and so on.
2. Printing, or even opening on a computer screen, an especially successful shot.
3. I'll admit it: When someone says, "Wow! Great photo."

Experimenting and learning while shooting a digital SLR...and then going and shooting 300 rolls of b&w film. Then going back to digital with much greater knowledge after shooting a variety of cameras and formats.

I never stopped shooting digital while shooting all that film, but making so many pictures manually or semi-manually really taught me a lot.

The best part of photography for me has been working with the forms, colors, tones, lights, lines, spaces, and the movements of my favorite subjects.

Advice to a younger me: shoot, shoot, shoot, study, study, study.

Regrets. Whazzat?

So many excellent comments here. The TOP readership is really the creme de la creme. Here goes with my comments for what they are worth. Really learning to see; this took a long time to learn as I had no formal training. Realising that personal projects were a way of developing my creativity (for what it's worth!) As with others here, spending too much time obsessing and testing equipment, especially in the film era. Ironically the digital age seems to have freed me from this.

I find myself enjoying the Post Processing process. I like screwing around in LightRoom.

I regret not taking more pictures of everyday scenes and life in my fair city. Funny how things change without my noticing them at the time.

I think the most rewarding thing about photography for me was simultaneously learning new ways to see the world, and coming to understand some things about how I saw (or didn't see) the world and made sense (or didn't make sense) of it.

This is a process of self-discovery, obviously, and I believe that to advise anyone on such a thing, one can't be too specific. I came to photography late, so this would be my nonspecific advice to a not-so-young me:

1. There are a million reasons to photograph. Figuring out why YOU photograph is the most important thing on the agenda, because it'll put everything else in perspective and make clear what you should do next.

You won't get anywhere until you become a beginner, so:

2. Ask questions, no matter how stupid you think they sound. Ask them all. Ask until you run out of questions.

3. Listen to the answers, no matter how stupid you think they sound at first. Listen to them without judgement, but put them all to the test.

*To get YOUR answers, ask YOUR questions.

4. At first, say "yes" as much as possible. It's the best way to learn how and why to say "no".

Favorite things about photography:

1. seeking out and showing other people things they've never seen, or in ways they haven't seen them
2. being one of those spectators to see through other photographers' eyes
3. accumulating, playing with, and ultimately disposing of piles of gear (when I could comfortably afford it) – an amusing self-education, but not the least bit necessary in the end

Regrets & time machine advice to my younger self:

1. do go on and figure out that polycontrast paper stuff, and work harder to develop more skill in inkjet printing
2. keep up the astrophotography I dabbled with in the '80s
3. delay college until I had a good reason to go, and find work that would lend itself to or benefit from photography as an adjunct

Most rewarding for me has been:
Acquiring the skills to photograph in a consistent manner, with desired results.
Discovering and exploring the work of other photographers which lead to expanding my photography into other categories beyond landscape - such as vernacular, portrait, macro, etc.
The experience of traveling to more locations that lead to unique and beautiful memories, captured using my cameras.
Making new friends to share the experiences through a common passion for photography.
Things I wish I had done more of - pursuit of Photography in earnest at an earlier age, where by I would have had the physical stamina to explore more exotic places. I started taking pictures around 8-11 years old due to my fathers passion and business as a photographer. I regret setting it aside off and on until later in life.

Hmmm. Three things. Well darkroom work was fulfilling when I had time for it, partly because it taught me what had to be mastered to get an image that could be grown into a nice print. I made the obvious choice between a career in science and engineering, and photography on the side. Photography on the side has never gotten old or stale. But pushing the sliders around in a digital rendering program is just not as satisfying as waving my hands under the light of the enlarger, and watching prints come up in the developing tray, even though it is about 20X more productive. I got a real kick the other day out of tweaking a portrait up from OK to bright and eye-catching while the subject watched the changes take effect and was amazed.

I like the challenge of long term projects. It took nearly 10 years for our department to go from digging a hole in the ground to having a new building to work in (these things only move at the pace at which the money is raised), but I got to know all phases of the process, and we are still using the pictures in many different ways. I've been working over an even longer period on the ways in which Jerusalem differs from the "shining city on a hill" that you hear about, or the preserved 17th century Poland that our ultra-orthodox community recreates. And there is a lot more to do.

And as an engineer I love seeing all the ways that cameras can be made to do their thing, ranging from super simple examples that do a few things really well, and the modern ultra-mirrorless DSLR, in which every thing someone just had to have is offered somewhere deep in the menus. Occasionally I get to beta-test one of these, and it can get exciting.

My big regret is one that we had no control over: I wish digital photography had come about 20 years earlier.

I was always light sensitive. I also loved color, architecture, people's facial expressions, quiet nooks, had a decent photographer's eye for many things, but never knew it. My parents were children of the Great Depression, & hammered it into me that photography was too expensive for simple folks like us. I grew up afraid of cameras: fragile, expensive, too complicated, too time consuming to use. And I thought I had no artistic talent because I couldn't draw. Yet I've loved looking at fine photography for years: the work of the great rock photographers was as moving to me as the music.

So I avoided taking pictures until the digital age: 2005. What a revelation to take a picture & see it blossom in full color on my computer screen. It was also a revelation that I could record things that I saw; the quirky things that delighted me now splash across my monitor, evergreen and amazing still.

So my note to younger self: 1) Just take pictures of whatever catches your eye -- they interest you for good reason; 2) Save your money, get a camera, & learn how to use it; it will pay off big time when the digital age arrives, for you'll have had a head start in knowing how to photograph well, and you'll have an absorbing hobby for your later years.

I had a brief infatuation with photography. But I soon decided that the only way I enjoyed pushing-the-button was if I was being well paid.

The ultimate hubris, is calling your work Art. Whether it is art or not, the world will make that decision—not you. It's sorta like calling yourself a best-selling-author, when you can't give-away your vanity-press books.

I'm nonpareil, what would I gain from perusing the photos of others? I may be supremely arrogant, but my saving grace is that I'm a non-pretentious craftsman. BTW I'm so vain, that I have always assumed that the song was about me 8-)

The most rewarding things about photography for me would be:

- My father teaching me how to develop black & white film and prints when I was 10 years old (47 years ago);

- My re-discovery of the joy of photography in 2014, when I finally upgraded from film to digital, after learning that you couldn't buy film outside of cities, then discovering the liberation of chimping and of not being limited to 36 exposures; and

- Being taught by my youngest daughter, a Fine Arts student at the University of British Columbia, why my good pictures were good.

We are the sum if everything we have done and everything we have experienced, wishing we haven’t obsessed on something after having done it, after acquiring the knowledge, then deciding it wasn’t worth it, is a sort of catch 22.

Advice to my younger self? Do more, travel more, and keep taking pictures!

Things I’m glad I did:

Went to university for Photography but as a BS instead of a BA
Worked my way through school printing other peoples pictures (great way to evaluate how to make a better print with less emotional involvement)
Had an extended career as a commercial photographer
Moved to a new career when the above stopped being rewarding
Continued photography as a non-career
Learned to view the world in terms of light, shadow, color etc.

Things I wish I did or was sorry I did, and sometimes still do, sadly:

Didn’t print enough - For me, my editing for the screen is not as polished as edits I do for a print.
Selling all of my view cameras when I closed my business
Dismiss photography/photographers with less than well realized prints
Attend plays and concerts and get distracted by the staging of light, shadow, color etc.
Spending too much time editing video projects instead of just using it for capturing family life
Taking more pictures of “mundane” family life

Two things come to mind that have really been fulfilling in my practice of photography. The first is seeing the gradual improvement in the quality of work over a period of time. This includes seeing a number of images through to the final framed print hanging on the wall, and being thoroughly satisfied with the result. Especially true of images where I have an idea or visualization and am able to execute to achieve a physical print that matches the original intent. The second is the interaction I've had with those viewing my work at local gallery and art shows. A few years ago I was invited by a local gallery to begin displaying and selling prints through their location. While present for a show shortly after their opening, I was displaying a number of images of a local historical landmark that had recently been dismantled and disposed of as a result of some questionable small town politics. Several of the viewers literally teared up upon coming across my prints, thanking me for creating a set of images that captured their memories of the beloved landmark. That experience allowed me to recognize that I was able to reach people on an emotional level with my work.

Access to interesting people and places - it took me until my forties and I've not achieved much yet (56 now) but oh my goodness how much I have enjoyed discovering that, despite being an INTP (or maybe because of this), photography has a depth and resonance for me that has been a life-saver.

1. Spending more time studying the work of photographers I find inspiring.

2. Keeping some cameras and lenses for longer periods.

3. Focus more on the subjects/themes I am better at.


Yeah. A ton of them. But not one single regret concerning photography. I don't regret any of the bad pictures I've taken, the mistakes I've made or the money I've spent in the process. They were all steps along the path.

Now if you wanna get into the regrets in other areas, we need a lot more time and space to do so.

I’ve been an industrial designer all my life.
Well since I’m about 8 years old. I was the one in the family willing to read instruction manuals and understand mechanical concepts. So I was the one in charge of the picture taking since then.
My interest for machines kept me interested in photography and since owning and understanding machines involves using them from time to time, I took pictures. And people liked theses pictures quite a bit so I kept doing this, renewing the equipment regularly to satiate the industrial designer’s curiosity.
And it’s the same story with hifi equipment, musical instruments, computers, drawing equipment and a multitude of sports...

I'm solidly in the landscape camp, and I appreciate that photography has pushed me to get out more, more often, and deeper; pushed me to return to places to learn them better and to forge a connection with some places while also pushing me to explore new ones.

Top 3 pleasures/rewards
• Exploring outdoors in hope of 'finding' a nice image
• Editing my own photos digitally
• A nice, unposed portrait

Top 3 cautions/regrets
• All the time you will spend in the darkroom will be a waste (trust me)
• Thinking that small-sensor images will satisfy
• DPR forums. It's toxic territory.

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