The shooting experience

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In the past, I’ve written about our own emotional/ personal motivations, concepts of idealised hardware and even why hardware itself can be a strong creative motivator. I’ve also talked about the appliance-camera and the ideal format. We’ve defined the concept of a shooting envelope – i.e. the breadth of scenarios under which a camera can deliver most or all of its maximum image quality potential – and the degree to which that’s operator dependent (i.e. heavily). I’ve even talked a lot about what makes sense from a commercial and business standpoint, but I don’t think I’ve ever really examined the experience of the process as a whole – as an enthusiast and hobbyist and somebody seeking enjoyment in both the journey and the results. That’s the purpose of this article.

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Why GAS might actually turn out to be good for you

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One is bad enough. Two is…well, probably a signal that some form of clinical treatment is required. Full disclosure: the second one was supplied as a spare for the Thaipusam video; we didn’t use it.

At the risk of severely contradicting myself, I’m going to offer an alternative point of view to several of my posts from earlier this year (namely, this one on diminishing returns; this one on finding the right camera and moving on; this one on ideal formats for a given creative output). Many of you have pointed out in the comments and subsequent emails etc. that things are not really quite so clear cut; I’ve given this some thought and spent some time rationalising my own equipment journey – especially since from an external standpoint, it might appear that I’m probably the worst offender of all. The conclusion, is of course one of very fine balance – like most things in photography; and like most things creative, a little tension is required to produce not-safe and not-boring results. Here are my thoughts on why…

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Discussion points: Critical features

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For most of the history of photography, we only had shot-to-shot* control over four things with our cameras: focal plane, exposure via shutter and aperture, and the moment of capture via the shutter release. There were of course myriad ways of implementing this – but eventually, either camera makers did what was easiest from an engineering standpoint, or buyers voted with their wallets – and the modern control paradigm was born. We have ergonomic grips, control dials for shutter and aperture (either on the top deck within fingertip reach, or on the lens barrel) and some means of controlling focus. Fundamentally, all images can be made with control over these parameters. Yet somewhere along the way, we’ve decided that we cannot live without tilting LCDs, live view, sensor shift and optical stabilisers, auto white balance, panorama stitching, eye tracking AF…the list goes on. I firmly believe that it’s possible to get far too distracted trying to master the technology and remembering which menu item and button was set to do what – and as a result, make an image that’s compositionally and creatively compromised instead of technologically enabled.

*One could also switch emulsion sensitivity, color/monochrome and focal length – I consider these secondary controls because not every camera permitted this between subsequent images.

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Diminishing returns and cutoff points

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The look of money evaporating in frustration

Written as a counterpoint to the earlier justification for being a lens hoarder, I have a feeling this is going to be one of my most unpopular posts ever. It will be widely circulated by I will be metaphorically burned at the stake for it, because it will not make me popular with camera companies, fanboys, enthusiasts or anybody who has a single bone in their body that appreciates a good piece of hardware – I know I do, and it pains even me to write it. But the common sense logician in me demands a stage, so here we go.

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Why the right hardware is liberating

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It might actually be better to start off with the corollary: why the wrong gear is frustrating, or at best, obstructive. First principle: what’s good for you isn’t necessarily good for somebody else, and vice versa. This may seem obvious, but the number of people who are chasing and lusting after hardware that simply doesn’t make sense for them is quite mind boggling – the internet seems to be full of them. Of course, it’s highly likely that those who have found camera nirvana are simply out there making pictures and have stopped thinking about the whole gear train – it seems much more productive to me to spend time making pictures instead of scouring fora for obscure solutions and rumour sites hoping for magic bullets. It boils down to this: most people make different images. Considering this objectively, it means that for different objectives, different tools are required. Yet what I can’t understand is the obsession with finding a one-size-fits-all; the manufacturers want to do this because it makes economic sense, but the whole point of having choice is so we as consumers do not have to.

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Sep 2016 Garage sale: all gone, thanks!

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Despite how this may appear, no, I have not lost my mind. I’m simply (rationally) moving along the things I haven’t used in six months or more; photography for me must run as a business, too. Which is why it’s best for me to allow other people the opportunity to enjoy the stuff I’m not using – plus I’m feeling the slight guilt of underutilisation, and the Alpa FPS is really, really expensive…

In summary, here’s what’s available:

  1. Nikon AI-S 58/1.2 Noct-Nikkor, with original hood Sold pending payment
  2. Leica Q Typ 116 (review), with extras Sold
  3. Nikon F2 Titan Sold
  4. Carl Zeiss Contax/Yashica 2.8/35 PC Distagon AEG Sold
  5. Novoflex C/Y to Sony E adaptor Sold

Full details after the jump, and first come first served. I don’t expect these items to stick around very long. Prices are in USD.

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A question of value, accessibility and medium format…

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Let’s say you’re in the market for a new camera – which face it, most of us find ourselves in frequently, often for reasons of our own doing. It has to be something reasonably exciting, and having played this game and gone through this cycle many times, for argument’s sake, it’s probably going to be at the higher end of the spectrum. We have a lot of choices. What I’ve shown above represents the full spectrum of choices, from the best of conventional high performance DSLR, to the top end of mirrorless, to entry level medium format, to something a bit more unconventional. Figure on spending say ~$12k by the time you’re done – body, a lens or two, and the usual plethora of system-specific accessories.

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Process, equipment, creativity, photography and a confession

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Aargh!

It is an indisputable fact that photographers are all obsessed with equipment to some degree. Though online forums are perhaps a poor barometer of public opinion because one only visits if you are looking for equipment reviews or spoiling for a fight with a troll, I’ve noticed the same thing here – after running this site for more than three years, the most popular posts are consistently the ones that are equipment reviews, to do with system choices, or hardware. Philosophy comes a very distant second – by a factor of three or more – and then only images, which are dead last. Surely I can’t be the only one thinking this ratio is a little odd, given that the whole purpose of the exercise is to produce images?

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Staying on the bleeding edge: an economic strategy

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All photographers like gear; there’s no question that to some extent we’re all equipment hoarders and collectors. But it gets expensive quickly, even if we are lucky enough to be able to write off purchases as business expenses. This post will explain my strategy to minimize expense but still keep yourself happily distracted.

In reality, I think there are three options that work, but you must stick to them religiously – otherwise the costs start to spiral when you ‘jump grades’. Here’s the rundown; in each case, the aim is to take as little of a depreciation hit as possible, and of course keep yourself entertained…

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What camera should I buy?

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I have the answer for you right here, only partially tongue in cheek… 🙂

And if you need a more detailed, considered list, try my Recommended Gear List. Education though, we have in plentiful supply on the Teaching Video Store here. MT

On a more serious note, there’s a special offer going on with the Nikon D750 and excellent all-round AFS 24-120/4 VR lens (I have both) at B&H – $600 off to a total just below $3,000; you can get that here. The Pentax 645Z is also back in stock.