Trying to get to grips with the square aspect ratio

I have a few square format film cameras that I haven’t yet tried so I thought to try one of them. However, it occurred to me that I have only very limited experience with that format and there was a very real possibility that I would waste a lot of expensive film trying (and possibly failing) with a film camera.

So, I thought I’d practice with a digital camera. I knew that I had at least one digital camera that would allow me to see at 1:1 aspect ratio on screen: My 14-year-old Panasonic LX-3. But did I have something a bit more recent? Well, it turned out that I did. In fact, I had more than one. My Panasonic Lumix GX-85 and my Sony RX100 (and maybe others that I didn’t check) also did. Since the RX100 is very small and light I thought I’d take that.

So how did it go? Not surprisingly not that well. The RX100 shows you the 1:1 a2pect ratio in the viewfinder, but it doesn’t actually crop the image. Rather, when you bring the image into Lightroom it shows the full picture with the 1:1 crop superimposed. With almost all of the images I decided to reject the 1:1 crop and choose another one (e.g. 4×6) that I’m more familiar with. I guess I don’t’ yet see images with a 1:1 aspect ratio. I’ll have to practice more.

Taken with a Sony RX100 MIII

What’s with this stuff about pre-visualization?

I believe that this originates from Ansel Adams who said:

“In my mind’s eye, I visualize how a particular… sight and feeling will appear on a print. If it excites me, there is a good chance it will make a good photograph. It is an intuitive sense, an ability that comes from a lot of practice.”

I get that. That’s pretty much what I try to do with my photography. When I see something that interests me, I have a sense of how the final photograph should look. In effect, I visualize how the final image will look and do all I can to get it to look the way I visualized it.

What I don’t get is where the “pre” comes from. The prefix “pre” means something that comes before something else e.g. “The tree was almost certainly planted pre-1700.” or “She attended a pre-adolescent dance class.”

So “pre-visualize” would suggest something that you do before you “visualize”. What is that? Am I missing something?

I quickly browsed around the internet and couldn’t find a quotation where Adams uses “pre-visualize”, although I did find examples (such as the one above) where he does use “visualize”.

Admittedly, I didn’t spend much time looking so I might well have missed something. It was just a passing thought that I don’t really want to spend more effort on.

Am I an Artist?

I had a friend, now departed, called Paul. Once upon a time he was a well-known daytime TV star. When I first met him, he was 80 years old, but still very active. One of his activities was to periodically have lunch with a group of people who called themselves: “Writers, Artists, and Thinkers”. He encouraged me to come along to these gatherings. Although I did go to a few I was somewhat reluctant for two reasons: First, I’m a bit of a loner and don’t like to mix with people I don’t know; and second, and perhaps more importantly, I’ve never really thought of myself as belonging to any of these categories.

However, lately I’ve been reading a lot of stuff about art, creativity, imagination etc. So I’ve decided to give a bit more thought to the subject of whether or not I might be an artist.

I suppose the first thing to consider is how do you define art? The Merriam Webster dictionary defines art as:

“The conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects.” The dictionary also defines a work of art as something that is “produced as an artistic effort or for decorative purposes.”

Another thing to consider might be: Is Photography even an Art? This question has been debated since the appearance of the first camera. It’s still being discussed today. I don’t want to get into the details of this discussion here, but I’m convinced that it has now been decided in favor of photography being an art. Photographs now appear on the walls of museums and prestigious galleries and often command large sums of money. Because of all the challenging creative decisions (e.g. regarding lighting, composition, subject, symbolism, lens choice, point of view, timing etc.) the photographer has to make in order to make a compelling picture, it’s not a stretch to see photography as an art.

Billions of photographs are taken every day. Should they all be considered art? Perhaps not. I think it all depends on the intent of the photographer. Many, probably most of billions of photographs don’t intend to be anything more than a simple record shot e.g. here’s a picture of mum and dad at the beach. I believe that to aspire to be an artist the photographer must go beyond the simple record shot, generally taking more time over the selection of a subject, looking at the the subject from all angles to find the best position, patiently waiting for the right light, pressing the shutter just the right moment etc.

“Put another way, a photographer’s art is the ability to capture a moment of reality and turn it into viewable image of interest and/or beauty…The process of judging whether photography is art, reminds us that neither painting nor sculpture is as pure an art form as is sometimes supposed. Bronze sculpture can be cast and recast in a large number of copies; and our knowledge of Greek sculpture comes not from original Greek statues but from Roman copies. Furthermore, it has been estimated that as many as 1 in 10 paintings that hang in the best art museums, are copies not originals. At the end of the day, a camera along with a dark room and its processing chemicals, is not so very different from a painter’s brushes and paints. It remains no more than a set of tools with which a photographer tries to create an image: an image to stir our soul, in the way that images do.” (Is Photography Art?).

Of course, none of the above addresses the issue of talent. I might be able to meet the standard of the definition, practice all the creative factors mentioned above and still produce mediocre (or worse) results).

Salieri in the movie “Amadeus” comes to mind. He had some talent (probably much more in reality than in the movie). His tragedy was that he had devoted himself whole-heartedly to God and his music and probably thought he was doing all right, but then came Mozart, and unlikeable person with who had much, much more musical talent and to whom composing remarkable music seemed to come easily. In the photography world (and in other creative endeavors) I imagine that there a many more Salieris than there are Mozarts.

So, in light of the above, am I an artist? I still feel that calling myself an artist feels a little pompous. However, I suspect that I probably am. I’m just a very mediocre (at best) one. I don’t think Vermeer has much to worry about.

In future I’ll refer to myself as an artist who uses a camera as a tool, rather than as a photographer, which seems to emphasize the technical aspects (F-Stops, Apertures, Shutter Speeds, ISO, burst rates etc.) over the more creative aspects. As I’ve discovered you can (and should) master the technical aspects, but even if you do this alone won’t necessarily make you a better photographer.

A Visit to Boston – Day Three – Final thoughts

I thoroughly enjoyed my short visit to Boston and enjoyed very much seeing some old friends that I hadnt’ seen for quite some time. I really like Boston. I’d been there before, when my younger daughter was studying at Boston University. I remember meeting people, going out for meals etc., but I don’t actually recall looking around Boston. This time I saw a lot more, but somehow, I felt that I hadn’t seen as much as I had wanted to. There just wasn’t enough time.

I’d like to go again, take my time and see more of Boston.

And to close I thought it would be appropriate to show yet another cow, this one seen outside the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel on Copley Square. Hope you like it.

Taken with a Sony A6000 and 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 OSS.

You’re a photographer. You’re not a Photographer.

Earlier this month I published A Rant. I let loose on a photographer whose work I largely respect and admire except when he goes on at length along the lines of “Your not a photographer if you use an iphone; don’t print your work; don’t use a sophisticated camera etc. You can fill in the blanks.

He’s at it again, this time on his YouTube channel.

This time he made me think about who is a photographer and who isn’t. He seems to feel that unless you reach a particular standard (presumably defined by him) you’re not fit to call yourself a photographer.

I don’t agree.

As far as I can tell a photograph is “a picture made using a camera, in which an image is focused onto film or other light-sensitive material and then made visible and permanent by chemical treatment, or stored digitally.”. Photography is “the art or practice of taking and processing photographs.” It follows that a photographer is someone who practices the art or practice of photography. So everyone who practices photography is a photographer. The word “photography” was created from the Greek roots φωτός (phōtós), genitive of φῶς (phōs), “light” and γραφή (graphé) “representation by means of lines” or “drawing”, together meaning “drawing with light”.

So let’s have no more of this “You’re not a photographer if…”. If you’re using a camera to take/make/capture (whichever you prefer) something, then you’re a photographer.

To me photographers fall somewhere along a whole spectrum depending on their talent, skills, experience etc. On one end are the truly bad photographers (see picture on the left above taken by me sometime in the 1980s), on the other are people like Robert Frank (see picture on the right above) who’s acknowledged to be a superb photographer. All other photographers are somewhere in between.

So it’s not a question of “You’re a photographer – You’re not a photographer”. Rather it’s “You’re a bad photographer; You’re a mediocre photographer”; You’re a good photographer” etc. “I think that’s what my blogging/Youtubing friend is getting at.