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Monday, 29 March 2021


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You can pick any technique you want, and you'll find outstanding pictures that were done that way, or using a completely opposite method. The only criterion is whether that technique serves the purpose, whether the purpose is photographic or pedagogical.

Limiting the number of exposures you take is laziness, either at the taking stage, or at the editing stage.

It all depends on what you are doing. If you are hired to shoot a bottle of over-the-counter pain reliever, how many angles clearly show the label? From my POV hundreds of shots are not needed. YMMV.

Reportedly HCB didn't do his own lab work. Why must I?

Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket is based on Gustav Hasford's The Short-Timers https://msuweb.montclair.edu/~furrg/i2l/shorttimers.pdf It's a FREE download.

A great example of how to write engaging prose.

"By nature I'm relentlessly a middlebrow autodidact". Love it. I had an artist friend, may he RIP, who had a business card made up for himself. It was simply his name in a formal script, and below it in the same script, "dilettante". Thanks for reminding me of him today.

I wonder if Dylan Thomas and Emily Dickinson would have been so productively reticent if they had ready access to a state of the art word processing program and a very fast computer....

Just sayin'

I shoot a lot, every day of the year, I process everything, and I email a lot of shots to friends everyday too. Is it too much? Maybe. But I have a lot of fun, so it is all OK by me.


If someone is successfully creative, then how can you criticize his/her methods? Real creativity is mysterious enough, and arises from such complicated psychological conditions, that almost any criticism will be somehow wrong. A teacher, of course, may criticize any process, but that usually comes in the context of trying to get a pupil to find his/her best working process, whatever it may be, photography, pottery, dance, welding, whatever. Once it's found, it's best left alone. IMHO.

I think your post about the iPhone as a teacher hit the nail on the head the best. Using each tool for its strengths is the best way to learn what it has to teach about it and about photography in general.

I decided early in 2021 that I'm going to do my best to stick to three cameras -- my Nikon Z7, my 8x10 Kodak 2-D and my Rolleiflex 2.8D. I shoot each one of those completely differently and each one teaches me something new.

While I wouldn't say that I default to "spray and pray" with the digital, I do feel freer to take chances with it. It's also the most responsive of those cameras by a wide margin. It invites a more prolific and reactive shooting style. I'm nimble with my digital kit and can react to changing light or fast moving subjects most easily with it. The keeper rate is pretty low but I kind of expect that going in.

The 8x10 is all the way on the other end of the spectrum. Given what a sheet of 8x10 film goes for (especially color 8x10), I'm very slow, deliberate and contemplative about how I shoot it. More than once have I invested 20 minutes or more setting up a shot and have arrived at the point where I've pulled the dark slide and am about to trip the shutter with the cable release when I feel a shooting pain in my wallet and ask myself, "do I *really* want to take this shot?" More than once, I've put the dark slide back and walked away from the scene without an image despite a huge time investment in trying to get one.

The Rolleiflex lies somewhere in the middle. More nimble than the 8x10 but far less than the Z7. The thing that it teaches me the most is to think about is composition. Something about using the square format with a waist level finder invites me to try different perspectives and compositions in ways that the other two cameras don't. It's also the camera that brings me the most joy to shoot with.

What I appreciate most about this camera combo is that there are manifold and diverse lessons waiting for me should I choose to be open to being taught. Others' mileage may vary as the adage goes, though.

"I'll be adding the book to my ???

Mike, don't keep us in suspense! :-)

[Sorry. Fixed now. --Mike]

10 rolls is my maximum ever on tour in China. But that is the exception that proves the rule - usually I am quite parsimonious as a shooter. I budget 5 rolls per day on a trip and usually bring home enough film to last some time upon return. Even with digital I continue to shoot in the same way. Of course, I still remember the shots that I didn't take that probably were "money shots". Coulda, woulda, shoulda as we say in New York.

The end result is all that really matters.I think the risk of heavy shooting is that it makes the very difficult task of properly editing all the more unlikely. I noticed this again last year after spending a brief couple weeks with the relatively slow Leica Monochrome. (Slow to me because I am accustomed to Sony A9II's blazingly fast eye-autofocus.) I shot maybe 1/8 of the frames, but still had winners. Another reminder of my favorite ever TOP post, Redact and Reify.

Horses for courses, of course. Portraits are rather different from sports action, neither is quite the same as landscape, and so forth. And like most amateurs I do some of everything, rather than focusing on one thing and getting really good at that (a topic discussed here before).

This seems to me to connect to the disdain many people attach to "chimping" (on a digital camera, stopping to review what you've just shot). Since that's the universal term for the action, I suspect they've lost that fight :-) .

I've gotten photos I love because it was possible to experiment widely ("spray and pray") and review results accurately in the field ("chimp"). Like, a cannonball (bowling ball fired out of a 6.5" bore black powder mortar) almost frozen in flight just beyond the edge of the ball of flame from the muzzle:

I'm sorry but my brain and my fingers just aren't fast enough to do that by pressing the button just once, 150 ms before "the decisive moment" (or whatever the delay was on that camera; for a DSLR that was a vaguely typical delay I think, when pre-focused).

But some years I look at my contact sheets or equivalent, particularly from a formal or candid portrait session, and say to myself "Too many of those shots are essentially identical!" I gave myself an exercise to try to address that, couple of decades ago now; I set up a portrait shoot at a party (with many people I could ask to be subjects) and brought my 4x5 film camera, and gave myself a limit of two sheets per subject. I got multiple rather good portraits, and I got no pairs of sheets that were practically identical. Possibly I've even done better at directing subjects and models since then.

My conclusion on this is that one should control what one can rather than depending on luck to produce something good; but that one also should not ignore opportunities to gamble a bit, to take risks in hopes of an especially good outcome.

On the cannonball shot, I already had earlier photos showing the size of the muzzle blast (it was boosted with a couple of baggies of gasoline, that's not all from the propellant, there's only about 1 oz of black powder under the ball). That let me frame to safely include it all. Firing the thing was done with a fuse, so the exact moment it would go off was uncertain. I used rapid-sequence shooting (pushing the release a beat after the sparks of the burning fuse disappeared into the hole). I was very surprised to actually catch the ball in flight, that sharply. But pleased. And, because I was reviewing the shots after each trial, I knew I had that shot, and could go on to other things. There was just too much uncertainty flying around to plan it all out, get everything ready, and get that photo in one try.

I shoot sports, so "spray and pray" is--possibly--the reality rather than intent. With the speed of the action, waiting for "the moment" is not an option. It all comes down to what we photograph and an appropriate method for that. Labeling either extreme as good or bad is simple, but not useful.

If you consider the maturing phases of normal photographers (of course there are "wunderkinder" outside of any norm), the sheer volume of images taken usually will speed up the process of learning.
At least that's my experience, comparing the number of exposures made when I was a teenager, using film, and having rediscovered photography in the digital age.

When you are convinced you've learned enough, it can well be that a more terse approach suits your working style best, but then you have experience enough to adjust to your liking and your necessities.

One of David Vestal's columns in "Creative Camera and Darkroom Techniques" talk about an assignment given to in a college course. As I recall, half of the class had to make as many clay pots as possible in a given amount of time. The other half of the class had to produce the most perfect clay pot possible in the same amount of time. Vestal found that the most perfect clay pot was produced by the high volume group not the quality group. His point was that shooting a lot of frames would produce great pictures while shooting sparingly would not.
For a number years I shot mostly with a view camera because I thought there was a close match between the number of decent negatives I could produce and the number of prints that I had time to make. I think that I missed a lot of opportunities.
Maybe shooting a lot and learning how to edit effectively is the answer.

Ha! Hugh admits he was being an agent provocateur.

Pour épater la bourgeoisie nothing less. So, as an alternative to Lazy Mike (that's me, not Mike J), he proposes Machine Gun Kelly.


Choose your pistol!

Shooting 19 rolls a day?? Wow Hugh, that's nothing.

When I was younger, I could shoot 50 rolls a day, process and print.

Until I realized the Photo ID business was going nowhere.
Just kidding, just kidding.
Meant to provoke a laugh.

Sugar is the silent nutritional crisis that is hiding in plain sight.

Who knew? Me, for one. I've always tried my best to stayed away from both salt and sugar. I spend a lot of time reading labels when shopping.

It may be hard to believe but I've actually found a tomato sauce with no-added-salt! However a favorite food of mine, sauerkraut, does contains sugar 8-0

Cost. In the old days every (film) shot cost you some money plus storage. Digital, no real cost. That is the biggest factor - by far. I always take a bracketed shot (-1/3 0 and +1/3) for every single picture. 99%+ are trash. I do not care. If I get a wall-hanger out of 1000 shots I'm really happy. Unfortunately, I've run out of wall.

If there's a picture, you take it; if not, you don't.

When finally buying my first digital ILC that I could (barely) tolerate, then yes, shot quite a lot just to learn what it could do. But now I find myself shooting much less. Sometimes this is subject related, ie. the situation was fleeting. More often though, it is that I’m now much more familiar with the camera.

One more comment. Not sure whether Hugh trades in his cameras. If he does its not one I’d want to buy used, what with the shutter at 90% through it’s service life.

I think Hugh should be forgiven for his tone. The "spray and pray" pejorative has been way overused, I think by those still having trouble with the adjustment from film to digital.

This whole issue surely has evolved with the evolution of photographic technology. I've recently sorted through my old slides and also my more recent digital photography, trying to reduce the quantity of both.

Slides were relatively expensive and the culling of them had to await their development and was a bit involved, some sort of light table first, then into the projector. And always hard to part with a physical photograph. To me that encouraged a more deliberative approach to image capture.

Digital photos are essentially free and can be checked easily and quickly on the camera itself and then on, say, a laptop, a much better device for separating the wheat from the chaff. You can do some quick cropping and editing to see if there is improvement to be made or not. This all lends itself to capturing more images and a more efficient search for the keepers.

So with digital I take more photos than I did with film but I've learned it is important to get on with the culling and editing quickly and get rid of those images not worth keeping before they accumulate to the point of being a burden.

I also get a lot of enjoyment from taking photos. And editing them. So what's wrong with taking more? But as Mike says, to each his own.

Also, amused that the phrase "spray-and-pray" has made it over into photography (from firearms) with the negative connotations intact!

The issue of photography and art has amused me for years. It’s really interesting when you get someone like Barbara Kasten
Ske builds acrylic sculptures to create photos of the light created.!
We have been watching Art in the 20th Century on PBS which covers her in the Chicago shoe in Season 8.

Cindy Sherman has been discussed here several times before. I remember one comment wondering what she really looked like. Well PBS Art 21 has a feature on her that is fascinating and lets you see the real Cindy Sherman: https://art21.org/artist/cindy-sherman/

In response to Thomas Mc Cann, the columnist he recalls is possibly Victor Blackman, a veteran of the Fleet Street press pack and a contributor to AP for many years.

For me personally, a day out on the street means 10 to 20 shots. I do photography for my own creative pleasure and that is how I enjoy the process most. If I had clients to serve or book contracts to meet, I probably would act differently, but I don't.

The occasional photograph taken emerges from the many that are deliberately not taken. The event of the realised photograph occurs when the choice not to take the shot does not happen.

I am talking digital here. In my medium format film days, I'd come home with 1 or 2 rolls, so not much has changed.

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