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Wednesday, 10 February 2021

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From a lot older guy,

There is firewood to be brought up to the porch, pictures to be taken, a gorgeous day outside. BUT ... I'm going to have to put boots on, dress warmly, and who knows what the wind chill is. I feel like my 3 year old grandson, kicking and screaming all red-faced, full of protest.

Then I make myself go outside. It's wonderful! Whatever was that angst all about?

Repeat daily.

Welcome to the club.

Mike wrote, "I went out photographing yesterday."

I go out photographing every day that it isn't raining hard. I start (after coffee) my day with a walk and almost every day come home with new photos in my phone -- some quite passable. Every one a learning experience.

Mike: I remember feeling that way when I was a kid, taking pictures with my Dad's old postwar Zeiss. I loved the sound the shutter made (somewhere between a zip and a snick) and the way the sound marked the slice of time and the view through the lens you just sampled.

Was that a Zeiss Contax rangefinder? The one with the vertical focal plane shutter? For several years as a teenager I used my father’s prewar Zeiss Contax, and your characterization of the sound the shutter made—“somewhere between a zip and a snick”—describes it perfectly.

[Here it is: https://tinyurl.com/flt0l2cu
--Mike
]

Sunday mornings have been my photography time for many years, and yes, my older bones want to stay in the nice warm bed during the cold winter. And with the pandemic, where to go to shoot has been problematic.

So I drag myself out of bed, walk the dog, and then drive into NYC. And go to the same old places. But now I see brand new things or see the old things in a different light (pun intended).

It can take some time to get the eye going, but once it kicks in the time flies and the camera and I are one.

Creative sparks -- a new lens, switching between the b+w film camera and the digital camera, walking the old familiar route in the other direction.

After a recent snowstorm I set out to capture sunrise photographs of the new snow in one of the nearby National Monuments. Upon arrival I was dissapointed to find that there was not as much snow as I had hoped.

In one way it was a photographic bust. Still, I was happy to be there at sunrise, alone, taking photographs and enjoying myself.

More details and photos here.

Hey, Mike - I hear you, The pandemic has many of us sticking close to home. My own photographic "subjects" have been reduced to my own back yard and a nearby park. But this is ok in that it has forced me to explore those subjects more closely, to seek out new ways of seeing the same old same old. I think of this as a gift from the pandemic, which has offered few others.

Seems more like a case of overthinking and person of any age can suffer from it. It can happen with any activity one enjoys, cycling for example. After checking the weather several times, I might start thinking, "It's too windy/sunny/hot/cold. It's Saturday so there'll be too many people out." And I'll think about where I'll ride and start picturing various streets and trails I've ridden hundreds of times and wonder if I should bother... then I remember having these thoughts before but once I'm out on the bike none of that matters and it feels great.

Photo-Dawg.

Yes, I recognize the syndrome immediately. I think you hit the nail on the head with your reasoning: one has already covered one's local turf thoroughly; ad nauseam, in fact.

It's what happens if one lives away from cities: one becomes dependent on larger motifs in nature, rather than on just the kind of tighter, conveniently scaled compositions favoured, on his city walks, by Saul Leiter. Which I guess is why so many landscape people seek out wide-angle lenses, whether they are the best tools much of the time or not. Close-ups in nature share too many similar features to remain exciting for very long: another rock, another tree... that's why the grander vista - think Tuscany - appears to be rather fetching: so many slightly hidden details once you start to study an image, which today, with our newly-found Internet impatience, we probaby don't care to do very much.

As a result of heart attacks, I have managed to be convinced that I need a lot more exercise than I used to give myself. Consequently, to dull the boredom of solitary walking down the same old roads, streets and boatyards, after my wife died I began to carry along a camera in order to give myself some sense of doing, rather than just existing during that trudging along for an hour or two. I never carried a camera before I was alone, unless for work purposes. All of which really proves the late Terence Donovan's oft-quoted words: the greatest problem for the amateur is finding a reason to make a photograph. How true that turned out to be in post-pro times!

Playing.

Okay, it can be fun, but rather than thinking Friedlander, I guess I'd be more inclined to think of the late Garry Winogrand: he perhaps unintentionally proved, by leaving so much unprocessed film at his death, that the results ultimately don't mean squat: it's the therapy in the snapping that matters. Or he just proved we, as photographers, are all a bit nuts.

For me, after much time trying to settle for cheap substitutes found in nature or simply on the streets, I have to admit that the photography of people is the only genre left that I find interesting. I don't mean grabbed, intrusive street, I mean managed work with a decent model of some kind. Instead of trying to snatch fugutive images of reflected strangers in the windows of shops, how much better to have a willing model and creating something of real beauty, something about which one can say yeah! We made that together! It'll probably never happen again for me, which explains my now and again stuttering starts at shooting snaps off my patio - snaps of blasted trees!

St Ansel really must have had problems in the extreme. And he even had to clamber up ladders to reach the top of his woodie (car).

To conclude: I don't think one should necessarily equate a realistic sese of déjà vu with either laziness or old age; rather, it's the comforting sound of common sense asking you to think again, and to avoid masochism at all costs. Who was it that said that if you recognized a picture in your viewfinder you should not make the shot?

Right on, Mike, you summed that up beautifully. Like you, I was first drawn to the camera as a precision machine that felt good to hold and was fun to play with (my Dad’s was an early 50s Exacta, and I still have it.) When I realized I could express myself visually in ways I never could with traditional art methods, I was hooked for life.

An added benefit of getting out there: even if your percentages are low, the more you shoot, the more keepers you get. I’m reminded of the famous words of Weegee, when asked how to get good pictures: “f/8 and be there!”

Yes by all means go out and play, not feeling like your a photographer, go out and pretend your one and take some pictures and pretty soon your inner photographer takes over and boom you have taken some photographs. Photography is not really a rational activity anyway. And with digital it doesn’t even cost anything, the marginal cost of an individual photo is 0. $€£¥ whatever it’s still 0

You don't have to be old to suffer from "Photo-Dawg syndrome." In 1945 while stationed at Lowry Field in Denver, I made a trip one weekend to Estes Park. I had with me a Super Ikonta B camera. While looking at a mountain scene thru the viewfinder, I asked myself, what are you going to do with the photo? I had no answer, so I took no photos.

That's me to a 't,' except that it has nothing to do with age. I didn't take pictures in NYC for years because I felt it was done so much better by others than I ever could. And nowadays I too have this feeling I should go out and shoot only to decide to stay home instead.

When I do go out and get out of my car and walk around, I do enjoy shooting and think I should do it more often.

But then I open the images on the computer and with few exceptions, I'm back at thinking my images really aren't that special.

So, I have to keep focusing on the fact that I enjoy the process of observing and shooting. It's just that that's easier when the weather is warmer, we can travel over a wider area and not everybody wears a mask...

My take on the first part of your essay is I'm now sometimes possessed of a "Half-Day Photo-Dawg syndrome." Having just entered year 78 of my life, my efforts to "get moving" in the am hours don't always match my pm capabilities! Been doing lots of Redwood National Park photography but mostly starting at 11am to noon! My Bad. It works out better when I have someone going along with me and we set an earlier meeting date I don't dare miss.

I'm in sync with your second part of essay - once I'm out there and get my first "Great Picture" feeling, I'm good till the sun says "no more of me, it's quittin' time"

I know what you mean! I lent most of my current gear to my brother and sister-in-law for a few weeks (that's a different story) partly because I just hadn't been shooting for a while and I have lots of shots from last year on the hard drive to keep me busy. But then we had some nice winter sun so I dragged out my old 5D that I use with old manual lenses, and it was FUN!

I started to think, "gee, I could shoot with almost anything". Now, granted, even an old 5D that has been broken and repaired a few times is not, you know, a Diana. It's still a serious piece of kit. But with no IBIS, no auto-focus, no "handheld high-res mode", a big heavy body that doesn't fit my hand, terrible battery life (has a current leak, or something), it feels like a whole bunch of compromises every time I raise it to my eye and yet I'm always happy I got out with it, rather than sitting at home in front of the computer.

I think your "photo-dawg syndrome" might be related to the advice we give younger photogs: "shoot everyday". You can always learn something new and maybe being old and jaded just means that once in a while the "new" thing we learn today is just to remember that you can always learn something new.

Man, were I you, I’d be out the door! I hope you do take advantage of this beautiful day. It’s gorgeous here on long island as well, but I took my water pill, so I ain’t going nowhere! Do it while you can, because one day, God forbid, you may not be able to! Plus, I think most of your followers would like to see some pictures from you. Take a dog, and enjoy!
Fred

Recent cognitive research suggests that older people are able to focus better upon a single absorbing task, one of the benefits of aging. The downside is a reduced ability to avoid becoming disrupted by multiple inputs.

Well, in terms of all that has been shot before, &etc., you could always just pull a Sherrie Levine: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/267214

I suffer from photo-ennui. I suffer from gear- ennui. I need a new hobby.

I've gone out the last two days. I roll a dice and pick a lens based on the number, with the dice number being the first number of the focal length (for crop sensor Fuji): roll a one, that's a 16mm, two is 23mm, etc. I have every number covered other than four, so I use the 18-55mm zoom if that comes up.

I'm getting pretty bored shooting the same small downtown, but every lens change makes me "see" differently, so I get my variety that way. Ironically, my best shots are being made with longer than normal focal lengths as opposed to my standard range. Might have to reevaluate.

I have motivation to get out because in a short time, the heat will make it too uncomfortable to tolerate. Today, I sweated thru my shirt in an hour. I see the cold fronts up north on the news, and I'm jealous. My A/C is on constantly.

I know exactly how you feel. I admire the young YouTube vloggers who get up at 3 in the morning, drive for 2 hours, then hike 10 miles up a mountain to get that perfect shot of the sun rise. I just can't do that. Fortunately, there are more subjects to shoot than sunrises, sunsets and big vistas. I just love that feeling of being out with my camera thinking of nothing but subject, composition, gesture and light. It must be how athletes feel when they are "in the moment"

I sometimes have this syndrome too. Like getting a wheel moving....once past the inertia stage, it starts to roll and better still gathers momentum like moving down the slope.

With digital, it's machine gunnin' time. With film, the brakes come in when I reach the last frame (which can be the 36th or 37th and on a good day up to the 38th). Job well done!

I often find myself very much afflicted by this same syndrome. And while I also know that the vast majority of the pictures I will take have already been done better, it's that one in a thousand (million?) shots that pop up that make the effort worthwhile. I've landed a few whales this summer/fall/winter simply walking around my city and shooting whatever falls to hand.

I've forced myself to wake up to go shooting on a Saturday or Sunday morning likely 50% of the weeks since August and it's helped me to not only stay sharp, but also to get out of the house and explore, bond with the new rig (X-T4), and has actually spawned a promising new project (and maybe a second) for a small show whenever *all this* is over.

Lacking some of my normal outlets for photography (most dearly I'm missing the live music - for both the music and the photos), the consistency and exploration have kept things fun and interesting. Get up and do the work, the photos will come.

There are a hundred hokey sayings that I could tack on here, but I will spare you.

Mary Poppins always says that A job once begun, is half done.

My partner, the lazy procrastanist, doesn't quite get that. But she's an angel, so I let it slide.

Hi Mike,
Maybe take a leaf from Mr Tuck’s book. What if, at the end of your walk, you simply formatted the card? Enjoy the act of photographing and not worry about the end results. If the problem is ‘been there, done that, got the photo/t-shirt’, then take it out of the equation and focus on the fun of using gear, even if you photograph the same scenes over and over in different light or times of the year.
Cheers

Mike," you can never step in the same river twice" of whatever that quote actually is. You can go to the same place a hundred times and get a hundred different pictures. I do it on purpose. and granted Ido come home without having pressed the button sometimes, but the act of going out fills you with anticipation of possibilities, because you never really know what you will find.
By going out, you are doing your part, you are there, empty and ready.
It's a little like fishing, you don't always come back with a fish, but you were out, being a fisherman.
It's Much harder to catch fish without leaving the house.....

The act of going out energizes you, thats why, once you start, you don't want it to end. It is also why I do not mind coming home occasionally without having made a single frame --the process is partly its own reward . When I do get something I feel doubly rewarded.
There is also the element of practice , going out to be sure you are at the top of your game should opportunity arise . But also the more practiced I am the luckier I seem to get.

I sent around your last blog about the Instamax prints, and that got about 20 photographers I know out of their lethargy right there!

Both! I also have a heavily reduced COVID risk, better weather and a 10 year “youth” advantage. Wu Wei as an excuse?

Yep.

All sounds very familiar.

Welcome to photo-inertia. You are not alone.

You are exactly like me while I am already like you 10 years early.

I feel just like you, about photographing, and about going out these days. And also about Lee Friedlander.

Eolake

Following you for years, even subscribed to the 37th frame. That long. How 'bout taking some more photos of your life, your place. I don't know, maybe more pictures of those dogs or that pool table or maybe even your lunch? We're all here because we appreciate your view. Photo's showing that would be interesting just like that click of Dad's old postwar Zeiss. I'm just saying...

Hi, Mike. I wrote recently about the way I go out with a camera and why it’s not to make photos but to “attract” them.

https://6x6portraits.wordpress.com/2020/05/14/i-dont-need-anything-but-this-leica-and-this-notebook/

Maybe a different approach that could work for you, perhaps?

I get what you mean but find in my case that, as I am never totally satisfied with my stuff, getting out for a better attempt is usually worth the effort.

Plus, when I'm out working on a project, I always see something 'off-topic' that is worth pursuing. Or when just out and about, I see something that may kick off another 'project'.

I find that when I'm at home I get preoccupied with the many day-to-day things that get in the way of taking photos. A short trip away, preferably a longer excursion, removes me from that daily routine and provides the opportunity to see subjects in a way that stimulates my photographic senses. Try a trip to somewhere that is out of your element - you are close to Quebec with its French-speaking culture. Get out of town for a few days and immerse yourself a different environment and see if it doesn't jump-start your craft!

Just as any art form, the photographer needs to have something to say, and he needs to put his efforts into soul searching and subject.

Many people have deep artistic passions and psychological needs, but in most people these are notoriously inconsistent motivators.

It’s better to have also a strong sense of duty, or ambition, or competitiveness.

Nature seems to understand a parallel situation. A mountain lion, for example, that waits until it’s hungry to start hunting is likely to experience starvation regularly, predation being a low success rate effort. Instead, something routinely motivates it to start moving through its home range. Then come the instinctive reactions to detection of prey.

The process of seeing with a camera is more important to me than having every shutter release generate a masterpiece. I walk with a camera to practice my craft and to get exercise for my eyes, my brain and my body. The camera and its good company are just the whip creme on the top of the sundae. Or, for you, the kale on top of the cabbage.

It's the walk itself that's most important. The camera is the turbocharger.

Try coming home and re-formatting your memory card (after taking a quick look through to see if you got lucky along the way) and see if that doesn't lighten the implied load of being responsible to the art world.

I understand the photo-dawg syndrome. I have a little of it myself, except I tend not to want to keep clicking. I will get a few shots I like and then call it good. When I first started out I took a ton of photos for hours and hours.

Recently a few changes in my routine have helped. I've been enjoying the "film simulations" that Fuji has in camera, and all the variations that people share in a Facebook Fuji film simulation page.

Then I started using Fuji X-Raw Studio, which stores all the profiles I want, even "push" versions, so I can preview the image full sized but still use the camera for export after making changes.

Finally, I recently discovered that I really like printing on matte paper, particularly really nice matte paper, in my case Epson Hot Press Natural. I always avoided matte because I thought it would be boring, but this looks rich and appealing, and makes me look forward to printing.

My favorite saying is, "Inspiration (the muse) exists, but it (she) has to find you working."

A good book on the reluctance to get started is The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.

Getting here very late so I'll be brief.

I understand and sometimes share your feelings. During the pandemic I've spent the majority of my time working on book-type projects, requiring me to look back at thousands of images I took from exactly the same vantage points (my home) over 12 years. Guess what? None are identical. Never. Nobody cares if YOUR photo looks like others. It's yours.

Inspiration? The late Henry Wessel often made two remarks during interviews. First, he also remarked how no two of his photos are alike. Second, he felt that if something attracted his eye it was reason enough to click the shutter...without over-thinking. Think later.

(KQED Henry Wessel feature: https://ww2.kqed.org/spark/henry-wessel/)

As long as you don´t feel a strong need to post an image of your toes, a PDS is fine now and then...

Unless one is selling their photographs, I feel that the photographs are for the photographer FIRST. If others like them, great.

It doesn't really matter if there are many other similar photographs by others - they are not yours. As other commenters have said, playing is what it's all about anyway.

When you said photodawg, I presumed photos of doggos would be forthcoming...Disappointed!

Having a new pup (Bobby, now 8 months old) has meant that my photographic focus has become Border Collie shaped, as he encounters new things (squirrels & snow, for example). Mostly with my iPhone, but my Fuji has seen its share of Bobby...

"...I remember all the photographs that are out there..."

I hear you on this one, however, for me, the only way that I can keep making my own photographs is to remember that they are totally insignificant and hardly anyone will see them. That frees me to just make pictures I like; sometimes other people like them too. Thinking I was making significant Art was frequently paralyzing for me.

Probably quite a few of us go about our lives with an imaginary frame hanging invisible in front of our eyes. It can be any angle of view or aspect ratio, 2:3 or 1:1 or whatever.
When you ‘see’ a photo then return and try (and sometimes even succeed) to create that image we imagined.
Anyway that seems to be what drives me most of the time to go out with a camera.

Sometimes I take 5 shots of the same thing purposely to delete later.
Sometimes I am surprised by one of the shots.
Sometimes I keep one.

When we lived on the farm, I shot dozens of photos everyday, documenting the flora and fauna, sky and weather, etc. around us. Had two cameras, one for wide/macro, one for long (critter cam). I also did lots of photos to illustrate my books and articles.
After we sold the farm moved into the city, most of my photography was for illustrating my articles - who else excitedly shoots photos of crews installing telecom cables in the city.
With the pandemic, avoiding people on the street became a hassle, so we searched and found great hiking in the mountains within an hour of us. Now we hike in beautiful country with hardly a sign of civilization 2 or 3 times weekly.
We're a decade older than Mike, but regularly hike 2-4 miles on mountain trails. It's helped us lose 20 pounds in the last year too.
At first, I took a few photos with my iPhone and they were very pleasing to me. After the discussion in TOP, I wanted to try B/W film again, so I bought a camera and tried it. While I liked the results, waiting 2 weeks and paying a lot for results exceeded my patience. Then I invested a small amount (~$370, less than a P/S) in a 10 year old Oly M10 and a lens, played with setup and programmed two function keys, one to do color to my liking, one for B/W to basically emulate Tri-X. Now we're having fun with B/W, learning that post processing is nothing like color, and the results are quite pleasing.
And that is the key. It pleases me. I'm the only one I have to please.

Sometime many years ago I decided that I should not worry about other people taking the same images. Yes, many touristic images will be the same, but these are simple holiday snaps, or fun images to make. All serious work for me will always be unique, because (luckily for the world) I am unique, and the way I see the world will be different from others, and therefore the images I create will be different.

And of course, just going out and playing with a camera is fun. I'm having so much fun with my recently acquired Hasselblad. And while I have a Nikon D800, I have more fun shooting with my Nikon 1 V1 with its 1 inch 10 MP sensor.

In the age of unrelenting change in technology, cameras, software and internet images, it can me me feel like I have no chance in photography. My interest started late in life but I must remind myself....I am no professional and I will not be making a living taking pictures. I have an original Fuji x100 I am desperately trying to learn on and a Nikon V1. Taking pictures of my family and kids are really the only photographs that have mattered regardless of their technical or artistic impression. That is the joy. However, when those moments are not accessible, I find it very hard to just go out and take photographs just for the sake of doing so or practice.

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