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Tuesday, 26 May 2020


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"... I started this one in 2005, and I was 48 at that time. That's a little late in life to find your bliss."

Nooooooo. Don't say that! I just turned 60 this month and I feel like I'm just starting to hit my stride.

If you want some true bliss Mike please listen to a singer named Morgan James, you won't regret it I promise. She will give those speakers of yours a workout.

I wish I had gone on photo shoots with other photographers more.

I learned more about life and photography from sidekicks. Yes, it’s an endeavor that one can do solo, but it’s much more fun with two.

I remember almost every single occasion of shooting with friends and mentors. Mike, you are thankfully on the list.

The memories make me rich.

I would invent a time machine so I could send my 1990 self an Olympus C-8080. With an instruction manual. Oh, and some batteries. And CF cards. And . . . (Not something different, but still.)

A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.

- John Barrymore

"I would have stuck with film". I am hearing this more and more from people who jumped on the digital train and now regret the opportunities they missed in those intervening years.

Never too late to learn. So, even if you buy/borrow/rent some gear to test occasionally for TOP, settle on one digital camera for yourself, take it everywhere (assuming we’re ever allowed to travel), take pics of family and friends, make small but well crafted prints (and keep your machine unclogged), and start an archive from this day forward. If those things are that important....

Or, do the same with film, but I think that wouldn’t last.

Start doing things differently now so in another 10 or twenty years, you won’t be saying the same thing.

Having made my previous comment on regrets, I should add that I’m now taking an early retirement package (brought on by the crisis at my art museum employer) and could not be happier to look forward, not back. I’m shooting every day, printing, working on a database of my existing prints, exploring the hundreds of photo and art books in my library. I’m grateful for fine health and the support of a (photo curator) spouse. Moving on, moving on.

Chit Mike I was 45 when I got into photography 20 years ago. Yeah late to find my bliss too but it's helped keep me sane all these years. Despite my digital distractions I do want to make 8x8 prints with a beautiful Minolta Autocord I picked up.

"6. I would have printed smaller." Bravo

Your number 4:I didn't take digital serious. I should have gone digital earlier. I switched from 100% film to 100% digital in August 2004. Should have done that at leat 2 years before. At that point digital (for colour photography that I do (BW is different)) had become far better than the quality of colour film.

#1 and #2 I think I have done OK for my whole life. I have even scanned all my old Velvia 50 slides. I think I can find any image I have taken in a few minutes. So I took that advice almost 40 years ago. :-)

But my biggest regret is not taking any workshops early on in my life. That is a great way to learn and get in contact with people interested in the same kind of photography that you do. And to focus in content, not gear.

I'm 48 now! What should I do?!

[You should realize you are young. --Mike]

Pepys, Defoe and Dickens might argue with you in regard to blogging Mike.

It is just the path to publication has become more direct.

Most people's published blogs are read by only their author, but the successful ones are the good ones and they will age well.

As Robert Anton Wilson wrote... "It steam engine's when steam engine time comes."

If you had stuck with film, writing this blog may have been a little tricky.

I agree with your points, except number 3 ( I would have stuck with film ).

Photography itself is an adventure and, sure, I wish I knew tons of things earlier that I know now and would love to know now things I've yet to learn ...
But I wish I'd shopped differently - this applies to other aspects of life, but I've learned not to buy things thinking I might need them and to wait until I do. And conversely, I wish I'd just gone for "good stuff" instead of bargain shopping.
I wish I'd use a tripod more.
When it comes to family & friends, I wish I'd shot more video. (But not less photos!)

Photography is a meandering path, though. Some obvious things aren't that obvious until much later; mistakes must be made, but often you don't even know what's a mistake until you've made it a 100 times.

We don't know each other, but I've read TOP over the years, so I think I've got a good handle on your thinking. (Before that, when I set up a darkroom in a basement I used to get the magazine you edited). So may I be honest?

You spend too much time fussing with unimportant photographic things and too little time making photographs. It just doesn't matter what you point at the subject, it matters where you point.


[I'm not a photographer. I decided to be a writer instead. It was what was available to me. --Mike]

For me:

#1 YES! I definitely miss pictures of old places I worked, the early computers I worked with, and places I lived, especially short-term, 6 months to a year in a few places, or a few months in the summer. I'd also like more pictures of myself from those periods (but with friends; not sure I could really have done this on my own too well, but I had photographer friends).

A good bit of that was simply the expense of film at the time, for me.

#2 Yes! That's always good. Mine is pretty clean from when I started organizing it at all seriously (about 8th grade) through 1986, then goes pretty bad, and then when it became all digital it got good again (around 2002).

#3 No! I'm glad I went digital as soon as I did. Digital is just so much better for the kind of photo work I do.

#4 Yes. Or, well, I think I already did.

#5 Maybe. I didn't spend that much time. I'd change my first "good camera" purchase (Miranda Sensorex) to either Pentax or Nikon, and skip the first Olympus excursion (1987-1994, OM-4T; went back to Nikon when it became obvious autofocus mattered to me). Spent a lot of time looking at medium-format gear, and maybe should have owned more serious stuff there (at times I had a Yashicamat 124G, a Fuji GS645, and a Norita Graflex; the Yashica was the only one that did me much good).

#6 No! I would have printed larger. One of the clearest things having more money, and digital printing, have shown me is that I and most other people like photos considerably larger than they were reasonably able to get them in the film era, and I would attempt to work with that.

I do not particularly wish I had started TOP :-). But if you had done so earlier, I would have hoped to find it (or just finding it closer to when you started it) .

Yes. Just yes.

My photographic life reflects yours through 1 and 2 them departs. I have no regrets and won't go back to film. I'd be the last to say it was a 'comfortable' transition. I had developed a high level of darkroom skills that were suddenly irrelevant and I had a whole new set of skills to learn. OTOH it was e dating my images and exciting. I now had just as much control over color as I formerly had with B&W and (super bonus) the technology was taking care of the organization by dating my images and recording the technical data for me.

My photos have always been about the image and the process, while important, was secondary. Consequently, I had little motivation to record the process and that was the source of my disorganization. Having the record of process done for me by software was and remains very freeing. When I think about what I miss about film it is the sense of hard won expertise that few could claim. The automation of digital opened that up to a broader segment of the photographic community and I confessed I felt a bit of resentment that I had been 'set back'. Never-the-less I won't return to film as a main medium. I may occasionally shoot B&W film but will digitize the negatives and print them digitally. It's easier. I remember one of my art history professors responding on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel when a student asked about how Michelangelo painted it lying on his back under horrible conditions. Her reply was "That is irrelevant. What matters is what he created." I just do what it takes to make the images I want.

I should have gotten a Leica IIIf when I was 26. I had seen one (with a collapsible 50mm) in a used camera shop window in Melbourne in 1980 for about $450. It was difficult for me to buy it then...being on a $333 a month fellowship. Instead, I bought a $75 used Pentax SV + 55mm f1.8 Super Takumar. In retrospect, I should have gotten the Leica and fasted one day a week for four years.

As a "middle" aged photographer at 48, I very much look forward to reading the comments from some of my seniors. I will take the thoughts to heart. Fortunately, and I'm sure partly due to my various readings on TOP, I am at least paying attention to many of Mike's thoughts. This Covid time could prove to be a bit of a blessing in time. Time to attack some of the organizing that would never otherwise get done. And if not now, when?

". . . I would have taken digital more seriously."

A few years from now . . . ". . . I would have taken phone cameras more seriously."

They aren't right for me, for FL range, subject matter and tech things like HR and focus bracketing. But for your preferred FLs and subject matter, I'd think they would be quite useful.

Part of it's about technique. I have lovely small prints form my first, 1.9 MP digicam. One may do far more today with the right models of phone cameras, right phone app and the right post processing software.

Blogs ain't a thing now- and looka U!

I reflect a lot on my past deeds and have always found that some of the most significant successes of my life derived from some of my most significant mistakes.

Everything's a whole.

Hi Mike, no need to publish this comment. Just wanted to drop you a note semi-related to this post.

Photography had sorted faded out of my life for a few years but about a decade ago I was assisting a wedding photographer, shooting small events, and doing lots of personal work as a side hustle. I shot digital for all the paid work but dabbled in film for fun.

Fast forward to this past October and my wife and I welcomed our first child. I decided it was important to start taking photos again because I remembered how great it was to flip through all the photo albums my Mom had of my childhood.
I thought I had been doing a good job of backing up my digital photos and kept all the negatives and small prints in boxes. But when I started looking for a scan of a particular negative I discovered that my back up hard drive didn't have any photos prior to 2011. I searched other old hard drives I found in drawers but as yet have been unable to recover the older photos. The only saving grace is that I uploaded a lot of photos to Flickr back then and was able to download them and at least have all of my "good" photos recovered. I also printed a lot more back then so I've got a physical copy of the great photos. In the in-between years I mostly posted to Facebook or Instagram and the resolution on those would hardly qualify them as back ups should I ever need to recover photos from that era.

Coming back around to your archiving topic, the discovery of the missing years of photos made me take a strong look at how I could preserve my photos (especially family memories) for my son. I've started shooting more film again and paying to get 4x6/4x4 prints so that there's something physical to pass down to him. I'm uploading digital photos to as many cloud services as I can (right now Amazon, Google, and Flickr) hoping one of them will still be around if I need it. And I've decided to start printing more digital photos, both small 4x6 "record" photos and making photo books of vacations or periods of Henry's life.
It worries me to think that there's an entire generation of kids that might not have photos of their childhood because their parents only took cell phone photos and shared them online.

Sorry for the long-winded anecdote. But being at the earlier stages of life this post was a nice affirmation that my new archiving efforts will be appreciated down the road!

"I would take more record pictures of the places and people that were important in my life."

Oh! How I regret not having acted that way anymore!

I wish I had gone with other photographers on more photoshoots.

I learned more from sidekicks about life and photography. Yes, it’s an endeavor that one can do solo, but it’s much more fun with two.

I recall shooting with friends and mentors every single day. The best article ever I read on this website.

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