It’s 120 not 120mm – I don’t care

Well maybe I do care a little. It’s always good to get these things right and I’ve enjoyed the various posts outlining the history of the designations of Kodak Films. I’ve always referred to the format in question as ‘120’ and until reading these posts I hadn’t noticed that anyone referred to it as ‘120mm’ (I’m not disputing that some do, just that I’d never noticed).

However, there seems to be some sort of campaign at the moment to ensure that the heinous crime of referring to ‘120’ film as ‘120 mm’ is eradicated.

I read quite a few film photography blogs and it seems that I can’t look at one nowadays without seeing a post on this subject. Just a few examples:

I’m very grateful to all of these guys. Their blogs are great and I’ve learned a lot from all of them.

But enough is enough. Some of the posts refer to this as a crusade. If you want to wage a crusade do it for something meaningful e.g. Climate Change, Ending World Hunger, Reducing Child Mortality etc.

Social media – some thoughts

I recently had a lengthy conversation with my friend, Ken regarding social media. This made me think a bit about my own involvement.

Ken is a very casual user of Facebook. My wife, on the other hand, is a very active user of Facebook and Instagram. She has created and administers a Facebook group on blue and white china and is a very active participant in groups related to her passions: roses, gardening etc. She documents her daily activities on her main Facebook page.

I’m somewhere in the middle. I’m an instagram user but have never posted anything. Between 2010 and 2015 I was a fairly active Flickr user but haven’t posted anything in years. I occasionally post to Facebook (mostly pictures). I’m also a member of a number of photography related Facebook groups. I enjoy reading the posts in these groups and very much appreciate the wealth of information and knowledge I’ve gained through them, but I only rarely post to them.

My wife seems to spend a lot of time on social media. She reads and comments on posts. She replies to every comment she receives etc. Until recently I couldn’t understand why this required so much of her time. I’ve had cause to change my views, however.

It seems to me that the way she does things is the way that social media should operate. If you’re going to be part of a community you need to give as well as take.

I’m in the midst of a small experiment. Instead of merely “lurking” I’m trying to contribute more content and I’m trying to reply more to other peoples’ post and to reply to comments I receive.

It’s still early days, but one thing I have learned so far is that to do this well requires a significant investment in time. I wonder if I can keep this up.

The frustrations of being an “artist”

I recently came across an interesting post from Andrew Molitor on his blog: Photos and Stuff. It’s titled: I am a snob.

He provides a few examples to illustrate the problem he’s addressing:

Along the way I figured out enough about Ansel Adams style landscape photography to know that I could probably, by applying myself diligently for a year or two, get good enough to churn out black and white landscapes of a certain caliber more or less at will. Perhaps not Adams, but anyways Picker and a whole lot of other acolytes. Pick up a copy of LENSWORK and you’ll see a lot of this stuff. This is not because I am special, it is because I am a normally competent human being. Almost anyone can learn this. There are 1000s, maybe 10s of 1000s of people out there banging out this material on a regular basis.

Basically, though, I am lazy. I don’t want to do all that hiking, and I don’t want to arrange my life such that I would be able to do all that hiking. It takes more than normal abilities with the camera, it takes a commitment and a lifestyle that I found unappealing.

The same story can be applied to, say, photographs of models. Again, I learned enough along the way to see that if I applied myself for a year or two I could get Quite Good at it and then I could churn out Fashion Styled photographs, or Figure Studies, or whatever. Again, the skills necessary to grind out the pictures are a minor part of it, it’s the business of rearranging my life to make room for a lot of hired models and lights and enormous octoboxes that I found uninteresting.

Ditto macro photography. I never did make a serious attempt at wildlife photography, but by now I see the pattern. I could buy the gear, devote some time to learning some skills, and then I could rearrange my life, and lo, I could churn out endless Birds In Flight or whatever.

And goes on to say something important:

The question arises naturally: if I am so damned serious about photography, why am I so unwilling to rearrange my life a bit in order to do it better, to produce better photographs?

It is, essentially, because I perceive the kinds of pictures I could have made down any of those paths as not worth the trouble. They would have been fine pictures, but they would have been just like a lot of other pictures put out there by a lot of other normally competent people who applied themselves rather more diligently that I am willing to apply myself.

I have exactly the same problem. Through study, practice and decent gear I can become reasonably proficient in most genres of photography. But unfortunately, from my studies of great photographers I know that I’m not likely to reach their exalted levels.

So what to do if you know that the chances are that your pictures are not often likely meet your aspirations. As one of the comments to his post says: “Sounds like the perfect recipe for frustration …”. Indeed it is, but the alternative would be to stop entirely and I can’t do that. So I’ll just keep plugging away and hope that I’m able to produce pictures, which show improvement over time even if they aren’t masterpieces.

Mr. Molitor puts it much better then I can (in one of the comments):

Well, there are two parts to my response here.

1. This is the system, the philosophy, I use to judge other people’s work. It is, essentially, the belief that some work is better than other work, together with the idea that there is some very very good work indeed.

So, that part impinges on my picture-taking not at all!

2. It does affect my aspirations for my own work as well, of course. If we take as my personal Mt. Everest something like “to make something as good as Minamata” well that’s pretty demoralizing on the face of it.

Still, I am having a good time doing a lot of practice climbing and summiting smaller peaks and so on. If I continue to work my way up, making better work, well, I may never end up at the top of Everest, but I will still be pleased with myself.

Having a very high goal maybe just means never running out of things to do?

So why the quiche at the top of this post? He uses the example of a quiche in his post, but I’ve already quoted too much so you’ll just have to read it.

Taken with a Sony RX-100 M3.

100 Most Inspirational Photography Quotes of All Time

Some great quotes here. Below some of my favorites:

  • To consult the rules of composition before making a picture is a little like consulting the law of gravitation before going for a walk. Edward Weston.
  • The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it! Ansel Adams.
  • There is a vast difference between taking a picture and making a photograph. Robert Heinecken.
  • Sharpness is a bourgeois concept. Henri Cartier-Bresson.
  • Don’t shoot what it looks like. Shoot what it feels like. David Alan Harvey.
  • You can look at a picture for a week and never think of it again. You can also look at a picture for a second and think of it all your life. Joan Miro.
  • Great photography is about depth of feeling, not depth of field. Peter Adams.
  • Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow. Imogen Cunningham.
  • We don’t learn from our good images; we learn from the ones that can be improved on. Jen Rozenbaum.
  • The best camera is the one you have with you. Chase Jarvis.

2019 New Year’s Resolutions

I probably shouldn’t refer to these as “resolutions” as I can’t say that I’m truly “resolved” to do any of them.

They’re more like “desires” i.e. things I would like to focus more time and energy on – other factors permitting.

  • Continue to update this site, possibly with lesser frequency. At the moment I average around 40 posts a month. That’s probably too much.
  • Get back to using a film camera every month i.e. twelve posts per year.
  • Produce a new photobook every quarter i.e. four per year. Subjects to be determined.
  • Master Flash Photography. At the moment I’m useless, particularly if it’s in low light with people moving around.
  • Improve ability re Wildlife (especially bird) photography.