The Amazing World of Photography

As I sit staring at a blank canvas wondering what pearls of wisdom may spring forward, my mind oscillates between the origins of this ever changing medium and things I have written about in the past. Just to do a small recap. I have spoken about, the darkroom, cropping an image, darkroom papers, contrast, the Zone System (the what!!!??), filters, artistic style, buying a new camera, buying a digital camera, being sick of overdone images, tripods, the view camera, perspective, photographing icons, silhouettes, composition and lots of other heady type articles that involve both the film and digital mediums.

So what springs forth now. Photography’s origins? From Niepce to Fox Talbot to George Eastman and Kodak, to Kodak again, for they were the first ones to introduce a digital camera to the world. I wait to see what will light up my mind.

I think about professional photography that once was a robust industry, but that is not the case now. The appreciation for fine photography has gone out the window in so many cases. And I mean great captures not graphic design imagery that people try to pass off as photography. That is purely imagination via computer skills. There is of course a place in the world for that and many people I know have suggested where that could be, but I think that’s a little harsh ( you needed to hear where it was ) for that style of “imagery” will appeal to some.

So many people have picked up a camera now and spruke that photography is there #1 interest yet they know very little about the medium and its origins. They just don’t seem to be interested in the great photographers of the past. The pioneers that set the bench mark with imagery. The place that you get your inspiration from. So often the reason that you go out to make pictures. Too many people now talk about the how toos of photography, yet talk from a platform of ignorance.

I started with photography fooling around with my dad’s box brownie, but really that wasn’t a start. I bought my first camera at 17 to photograph motor racing. An “all I could afford” 35mm SLR, then I up graded to a real SLR, a Canon something, FTB, I think it was, and then in 1987 I purchased what I thought was and still is the greatest camera Canon ever made, the New F1. I still have that camera, it still works and it is still fantastic. If it could auto focus then perfection would be its name. Along came the Canon T90 which I also had and used it along side the New F1.

From there I moved into Professional Photography, then bought a medium format camera, a Mamiya RZ. A beast of a thing and for some reason I traded it in on a Bronica GS1. The GS1 was more versatile which is what my photography was becoming and I was sick of doing weights every time I picked up the RZ. Then I purchased a 5 x 4 Linhof Technika in 1994 and three lenses. Used that for 10 years before purchasing a 5 x 4 Ebony. Oh and recently I have had a fixed lens view camera made for a reason or two. I’ve had a few digital cameras as well and my current one is a Fuji digital X-T2. In the past 5 years I have owned 5 or 6 digital cameras of varying types. What does that say about the current state of affairs.

So that has been my money spending spree of camera equipment over the last 30 decades. I still have, as I have said, the Canon F1, as well as the Bronica, the Ebony and the Fuji. Believe it do not I still use them all for different things. The first three are film cameras and the other is the other.

Which do I prefer, you may ask? Well the one that gives me the best photograph, and that seems to depend on what sort of mood I am in and whether or not I am “seeing” that particular day or not. I have tried sending the camera out on its own, but it just does no good. It only seems to function when I am there to hold its hand. Giving it to someone else doesn’t seem to work either. The pictures are always different than mine. What ever happened to that saying attached to that camera which told us, “We take the worlds greatest pictures”. Maybe I have the wrong camera. And if you are in the market for a new camera then here is what Mamiya told us. “Master of the Medium”. Ka ching is all I can add to that.

It has always been that this hobby/profession/hobby for so many is more about what equipment you have rather what kind of photographs you make. But I can live with that. I, like the next person, like equipment, the look of it, but if I did not satisfy myself with my photographs then I think I would move to tiddly winks. I find photography is all about what you produce rather than what you produce it with.

It’s a bit like cars. They all get you from A to B, but if you have an appreciation for them then you will buy one that you feel good in. For years I had practical cars for work, children etc, but for the last, almost 10 years now, I have entertained myself with my long lost loves. Not vintage, but brand types that have always had models that I drooled over. I still get from A to B.

So this amazing world that we live in and love to explore, can go home with us because we are able to capture things that we see with an apparatus called a camera. I still, after all this time, find this incredible. What a gift if you can elicit oohs and rrs from people you show your photographs to. What joy to know that you have snared an image that will soar to great heights. Unfortunately these are few and far between.

In some ways photographs are like movies. So many are made to a formula. So many just look the same as the next persons. Maybe 10% of all people photographing are doing something different. This can be from alternative processing, to film and darkroom, to well seen and printed digital work.

Always a good test to see if your photographs stack up or not is, once processed in their natural state, that is camera to computer, film processing to contact sheet, see whether they are interesting before all the bells and whistles are added. If so then maybe you have a winner.

On the other hand if you feel that you are close, but have just missed it by a bees wing, then try and determine what went wrong. This often can be just as educational as having a success. For we all learn by our mistakes or hopefully do. The first thing to do is look at when the photograph was taken and what the weather conditions were like. Wrong time of the day? Too much contrast? Too dull, too flat? So often bad weather makes the best images. As a rule I hate bright sunny days with blue skies. I would much rather a stormy changeable weather. It has so much more atmosphere.

And speaking of bad weather, I have just found a photograph that represents that, Maples, Uplands. It was taken a few years ago as I was exploring the area around Omeo. I had driven quite a way down a gravel road looking for pictures and then when it started to rain, and I do mean rain, I decided to head back to the comfort of a cafe about 45 minutes away. Just when solid bitumen kissed my tyres I saw the scene through wiper blade clearances. I stopped and looked. After 10 or so minutes the rain eased, stopped long enough for me to get out of the car and take a more compositional look.

As the rain came down again I retreated to the car. After maybe 20 minutes it stopped again and I jumped out, grabbed my camera and made a picture. As I packed up my 5 x 4” view camera the heavens started again, albeit slowly, but I was happy that I had waited and made a picture. The water in those paddocks is very unusual, but I thought helped with the photograph. I hope you’re not thinking I should have gone straight to the cafe.

Whilst I am talking about images, another one I have offered here was made in Yorkshire also a few years ago as I was driving around early one morning, and I might add, not having much success. My mood at this stage was getting a bit grumpy for I was up, I was out there. WHERE ARE YOU IMAGE? I was about to call it a day and return to my hotel for breakfast, when out of desperation I turned off the road I was on, went down a small side track and at the top of the hill was faced with what you see here. I stopped, pulled off the road as best I could and made the picture. I think that the reason I thought the image worthy was the way the trees ran down the hill. Once again the weather was very changeable, but for the next 10 minutes was very obliging. Also made with a 5” x 4” view camera.

And the third picture was made with my Fuji digital X-T2 just a few short weeks ago, that is at the end of June. We had had a heap of snow the night before so I headed up the mountain early the next morning. I was greeted to fog, fog and even more fog. I love it. For this image I decided to include the road. I guess I thought it made the scene look like an island.

These picture examples show that things can happen when you are out in not the best weather. But then again what is the best weather for photography? I would say the day you have success is the best and that can be at anytime. Sitting home won’t accomplish anything and certainly not deliver anything.

Anyway enough of all this. I need to move on and write an article for the magazine. The problem is I just don’t know where to begin. As the Irish critic once said, It all began at the beginning. Now I wish I’d thought of that.