Stream of consciousness

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Thoughts, truths and insights from the years presented in no particular order…

  • Ideas and thoughts are like clouds: transient, yet substantial; sometimes well-defined, sometimes not
  • A photograph isn’t a representation of an object or subject: it’s really the creator’s relationship to it
  • Any given piece of hardware is only interesting because of what it enables you to do, not because of any inherent qualities of the hardware itself
  • Photography is like any other language: profound things can be said, but a lot can also get lost in translation
  • Sometimes, the silence and empty spaces can communicate as much as the filled parts
  • Restrictions in perspective, hardware or something else can force you to focus on fully optimizing what you can get – or moving on. But when somebody else (i.e. your client) is calling the shots, restrictions are just…frustrating.
  • The better your skill level, the harder it is to find a style and stick to it (and really make it yours): the paralysis of choice, again.
  • The more experience you have, the less you shoot – because you know what the outcome is going to be, and if it isn’t better than what you’ve done before, there’s not much point. Yet this results in stagnation, forcing you back to eventually experimenting again and cycling through the low yield stages.
  • Flaneuring: the more you plan, the worse the results. Creative stimulation comes from your unfiltered response to the unexpected.
  • When you buy/bring a spare, chances are you won’t need it and will never use it.
  • If you can imagine something and manage to resist the urge to move on, most of the time, it tends to happen.
  • All successful photography must satisfy the end client, even if it isn’t obvious who that might be at time of capture
  • Postprocessing isn’t going to make up for fundamental deficiencies in composition that were not addressed in the first place
  • Good perspective use should require you to look hard to figure it out – if you read perspective before subject, then the lens is dominating over your subject
  • Excessive bokeh is the crutch that negates context and makes every background look the same
  • Never judge a photographer by their camera, but how they’re holding it and what they’re pointing it at
  • Inspiration cannot be forced and often comes when least expected
  • The more fluency you have in a creative medium, the less fixed things are but the higher the chances of a successful experiment
  • Sometimes a change of environment is required to appreciate your existing environment
  • Creativity is cross-disciplinary; medium is independent of the desire for expression
  • Successful interpretation of an image is as dependent on the audience as the artist
  • It is almost impossible to make a different interpretation of a cliche; and it is completely impossible not to be influenced by the work of others once you have seen it
  • Almost all creative work is derivative, and all photography has to be derivative since it is dependent on physical objects that had to be in existence at the time of capture and therefore created by somebody else
  • Photography competitions are pointless: all judging is relative and subjective. You don’t want to lose the rights to your best images, but entering your worst won’t win, either
  • The line between ‘inspired by’ and ‘copy of’ is perilously thin. If in doubt, avoid and acknowledge
  • Visualize the result before you press the button
  • On a job, expect everything to go wrong and have a plan for it. You’ll usually be glad you did
  • Pick the best tool for the job; attempting to do otherwise can result in some interesting results, but more often than not ends in frustration
  • Stuff always breaks just after the warranty ends
  • Sample variation is real. Quality control now is probably better than before, but so is our ability to differentiate and the internet’s ability to complain and blow things out of proportion. Just because it’s online and repeated doesn’t mean it’s true. Fake news is real
  • Finally: if you as creator don’t know what the photo is about, you probably didn’t compose it right. MT

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Comments

  1. Nice read. Enjoyed.
    However this is not true “Postprocessing isn’t going to make up for fundamental deficiencies in composition that were not addressed in the first place”
    It simply means you are not doing enough post processing. Cropping, Geometric corrections, dodging/burning, digital filters, cloning… keep doing till cows come home 🙂 Welcome to digital photography!

  2. Richard Hsu says:

    “Never judge a photographer by their camera, but how they’re holding it and what they’re pointing it at”, that will surely cure the temporary GAS of the month.

    Also, I feel like you need to give us complimentary magnifying glass to read your website 😉

    • Upside down, and at themselves is probably a good time to sneak away quietly 😛

      My website is digital. You can increase your font size – there’s your complimentary magnifying glass 😉

  3. Nicely written list, thank you for that. I enjoy the clouds and gull as well.

  4. ”The better your skill level, the harder it is to find a style and stick to it (and really make it yours): the paralysis of choice, again.” <— Wow. I honestly thought there was a point after which you’d seen and experimented enough, and it’d become easier to focus. Kind of by narrowing things down to “your own style” by eliminating options that didn’t feel as good. Now I’m glad I didn’t follow that path any further. Instead I got self-restricted by not having enough time, dumping all gear and sticking to the phone. If I ever get more serious again, I’ll try to develop something more original without worrying about what else is possible.

    • I think it might well be binary and dependent on your audience or client, actually: if you have to be commercial and versatile, then it becomes more difficult to be individual and distinctive. If you’ve managed to make it going down the art route, then I think it’s difficult to be versatile. Ironically, you can’t really do either without a decided bias towards style (or not) – perhaps inherent inclination is also a determining factor.

      A phone camera doesn’t preclude style, but it does limit possibilities and tend to push most people into overuse of horrid filters to make up for not understanding the technical limitations of the device and gaining the knowledge to work around them…

      • As a hobbyist I think it’d be more fulfilling to go deep in one direction rather than going shallow in many. Finding a good place to dig takes some time, and easily leads to the latter path. There are always more styles to experiment with, more gear to try, etc.

        I have to admit that due to the lack of time and energy I’ve ended up shallow in a single hole – i.e. using the phone without doing anything interesting with it. Oh well, at least I don’t spend any time reading dpreview, or choosing instagram filters 🙂

  5. I would only add one addendum to your line about ‘fluency’ – something to the effect that, the more one is able, with context, to allow oneself to make mistakes….the greater ones chances are of ‘discovering’ something that truly surpasses what one had originally hoped for. Incidentally, this applies to my own work (and the evolution thereof) as a writer, and I’m not totally convinced as to its appropriateness for imagemakers or photographers (though I suspect there is and are indeed relations between the two).

  6. I enjoyed that list. Thank you.

  7. Fantastic list. All are thoughts that everybody will (should) encounter the the process. In many of your thoughts you confirmed what I also think.

    I am now in stage of “The more experience you have, the less you shoot.” – it is that stagnation that keeps me in the cycle of repeating the photos I have made (similar) many times before, re-considering things already considered before, revisiting places already revisited….as a mushroom picker – going to that places a and spots in the wood where I have previously found something…

    ” it is completely impossible not to be influenced by the work of others once you have seen it”….

    Should we avoid looking at other photos? Or should we avoid photographing what was already photographed? Should we seek to find new ways?

    • Thanks!

      The stagnation part is a tricky one to overcome: on one hand, you have a very high chance of knowing if something is going to work (or not), but then your stands keep increasing to the point where one is compelled to continually repeat a shot until 100% happy. There is of course always the risk one will never be totally happy, and you make the same shot again and again and again…

      Influence: Even if you look at images and specifically tell yourself not to repeat something, the reality is that is a form of influence: the opposite is just as strong a factor on one’s work. The only suggestion I can give is one of self-honesty and giving credit where credit should be due…

  8. I wear my gear rather hard, and never had a failure, except one from a fall (insurance covered the repair cost).
    My wife is very careful with her gear, and she has had one lens fail, just like that.
    Both have had numerous batteries die, but brand name usually work better than the others.

    • Branded batteries usually tend to have higher QC (at least for original ones). Third party ones inevitably aren’t as good, and I’ve tried most of them.

      Failures: have a large enough sample size and you’re bound to see some that are dead out of the box even before being used – happened to me a couple of times.

  9. Kristian Wannebo says:

    Ming,
    > “If you can imagine something and manage to resist the urge to move on, most of the time, it tends to happen.”

    I’m not quite sure of how to read this, do you mean move on *past* or *towards* the imagined?
    Strangely, it makes sense (although different) – and is, I believe, true – both ways!

  10. Kristian Wannebo says:

    Ah, Ming,
    you did choose a fine collection of clouds – some floating free, some connected!

    When I read someone’s collection of thoughts, I usually find a lot to disagree with and begin to oppose…

    Here – nothing of that!
    🙂 !

    I find two favourites :
    > “Flaneuring: the more you plan, the worse the results. Creative stimulation comes from your unfiltered response to the unexpected.”
    &
    > “Inspiration cannot be forced and often comes when least expected.”
    – * –

    ( Btw., many photographers need to have these two printed out and taped to the back of their cameras.
    I see too many “forced” photos even in serious photo magazines – far too often exaggerated in some way, I guess to compensate.)

  11. Cool!

    I just have a comment about “Any given piece of hardware is only interesting because of what it enables you to do, not because of any inherent qualities of the hardware itself.”

    Having an engineering background, I am inspired by great hardware design. It may well be that the “inherent qualities” are not important, and I don’t suggest that MTF curves or dynamic range specifications or number of pixels should drive your photography, but the integration and cohesion of a great platform design means a great deal to me.

    You can waste time fighting with equipment that just doesn’t “feel right,” or if it Just Works The Way You Expect™, great things can happen!

    So, I guess I’m in “heated agreement” with you. Great hardware design is what enables you, not the specifications.

    • Maybe I expressed it poorly: the hardware can only enable you if it’s well designed and well engineered. But being made of brass for the sake of limited edition premiums doesn’t make it interesting. Clearer?

      • Ah, got it. I thought you were alluding to Excessive Megapixelitis or “half a stop of dynamic range will make or break my career.”

        I keep going back to the Maitani days at Olympus. His influence touched nearly everything, and gave it a cohesive whole.

        I tend to like products made by companies where the engineers are in control, rather than the marketing people. Most modern cameras feel like they were designed by committee, rather than by some great visionary.

    • I was wondering about that sentence too, because I agree with it for photography hardware but what if said “hardware” was an expensive watch?

      It’s obviously got extremely limited functionality so it doesn’t enable you to do much, and it’s ability to signal your (real or imagined) wealth is also sometimes limited because not everyone will recognize an expensive watch. So what is left for me is that you can just appreciate the quality of the engineering, the design and the quality?

      • Mostly different: the function of said watch is different to a piece of photographic equipment, which is to make images. What the buyer of said watch expects is down to them – for some, the purpose is engineering and design; for others it’s social signalling; for others still, it’s personal reward. That said, I’ve seen people who wear expensive cameras as neck jewellery, so perhaps I’m wrong…

Trackbacks

  1. […] This seemed like a good idea so I thought I would capture my own stream consciousness made on a wet November afternoon. No reasons. No order. (Maybe) no sense. Here they are regardless. […]

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