April

Arlo

The past month has been defined by the gradual onset of spring. Winter is slowly fading, and although it hasn’t given up easily, the warmer weather and longer days are slowly winning out. This has led to an increase in the amount of time spent outdoors, which in turn has led to more opportunities to shoot. Still, I’m far from having the kind of time I used to have to get out and shoot; perhaps this is the new normal? As much as I’d prefer it not to be, I think it may be.

Evening Swing

I have been meaning to do a write-up of a camera I have been loving lately, the Ricoh GR. It has come to be my go-to camera every day, everywhere, for virtually every situation. The focal length was a bit of a problem at first, and it’s still not my favorite, but I’m learning to work around it and challenge myself; other than that, the camera is essentially perfect. If Ricoh made more of these, in different focal lengths–say, 21-28-40, or something–they’d sell a boatload. It’s awesome.

But that leads me to another point I’ve been pondering: gear. I’ve come to despise talking about gear. I spent the better part of 5 years obsessing in varying amounts about the type of gear I was using. I was fetishizing the equipment rather than what I was doing with it, and in the process spent a lot of money buying and selling various types of gear. I was a digital convert, a film purist, and Leicaphile…in short, I’ve covered the gamut of gearhead obsession and self-identification.

Sunrise

Over the past few months I’ve given myself some distance from gear-based forums. I’ve stopped following many on various social media outlets that only talk about gear. And amazingly, it all came about naturally. I just…stopped caring. I no longer care to debate the optical qualities of a certain lens, the megapixel count of a given sensor, sharpness, resolution, etc etc. I just don’t care. Because I don’t care does not mean I am on some high and mighty, holier-than-thou moralistic crusade; if that’s what interests you, then knock yourself out.

There are camera collectors, and there are photographers. I believe that due to the technical side of the art form, those two necessarily converge at some point in all those who take photographs, but how much varies. I used to be equal parts collector and user, and in some instances was more collector than user. If you take photographs of your cameras, or choose your camera as an accessory you’d like people to see, you’re in that territory as well. Like any recovering cameraholic, it has taken distance and time to be able to see that about myself.

What I’ve come to understand, only more recently, and with the benefit of space to reflect on this, is that my priorities were skewed. Yes, the addition of a new camera is always a thrill, but it’s a cheap thrill. Before long, you’re stuck in a never-ending cycle of adding yet another piece of gear to achieve the same rush again. Eventually you don’t even use the equipment you have assembled, despite your reasoning to yourself that you’re only acquiring the gear to use, and that it will help you somehow. It won’t. The ever-shorter window that you own the gear before swapping it for something else means you can’t. You don’t get to know it; rather than becoming a trusted old friend, the article in question is never more than a passing acquaintance, something you only know superficially before bidding it adieu and welcoming another.

Last Snow

Increasingly, I have spent more time shooting for myself. And if I’m honest, I can barely tell the difference in varying optical qualities of lenses and sensors most of the time unless I’m looking at them side-by-side at the pixel level. When it comes to photographs that mean something to me, more important is that I have the photos, not that they are technically perfect. When someone looks at the photos of my life, will they care if I used the Summilux or the Summicron? When I look at them in ten years, will I care? Will I even notice?

So the GR may not get a review, as I have done with previous cameras. I have to say that consistently, it is the camera reviews I have done that garner the most page views. I get more traffic from them than from anything else I have posted over the years. I guess that says a lot about others as well, and how the prioritization of gear has consumed photography for a lot of folks.

Expect to see less about gear going forward.

Happy Ninth

One: Walking

I want to say happy birthday to the little being who has half of my genetic makeup, and who is halfway to adulthood. Wow, does that make me feel old–”halfway to adulthood”. It is what it is, and today is his big day.

I’m glad that despite all the gear I’ve gone through over the years, one thing has remained constant: I have tons of photographs of my son. They are among my most prized possessions, and in the event of a house fire, I’d grab them instead of any camera every single time. Without hesitation, every single time.

Happy birthday, buddy. Enjoy it…time flies. Let’s take a little stroll through the years, shall we? Cue the nostalgic music!

(Get ready for a long line of photos.)

Two: Strutting

2.5: Smiling

Three: Watching

3.5: Embarassing

Four: Blowing

4.5: Ringing

Five: Peeking

Six: Losing

6.5: Staring

Seven: Laughing

7.5: Dangling

Eight: Popsicling

8.5: Evolving

And finally, we have arrived at the modern iteration of my offspring. He is now nine years old, almost done with third grade, and halfway to being a legal adult. I told him if he made weird faces they would get stuck…looks like I was right.

Nine: Goofing

One more time, happy birthday! I will always be your #1 fan, no matter what.

Love, Dad

Long Layoff

Lines – February 2014

So, it’s been a while since I’ve posted–it’s been a long time since I’ve even looked at WordPress. There are a lot of reasons why that is, ranging from work, to family, to winter light being hard to come by, but the biggest reason of all is that my inspiration for taking photos has waned. I still usually grab a camera when I go out places, but not always. Often, I’ll take it out with me and then not shoot anything. I don’t see any photos at the moment; nothing grabs me and demands a photo be taken.

Perhaps it’s a temporary thing, perhaps not. I wonder sometimes–worry, even–if my love and passion for photography has started to fade. I haven’t been looking at photos, I haven’t been shooting. I abandoned my film project for the year after a month. The motivation to carry on just wasn’t there. My motivation to shoot, to share…all of it. Perhaps other things have simply taken my time and attention momentarily. I’m not sure.

Empty – February 2014

My thoughts on photography have begun to shift. I’ve begun to ask more fundamental questions about the point of making photographs, the way I make them; about the process of photography, and about what role photography should and will play in my life going forward. I don’t have many answers at this point, only questions. Some recent influences have caused me to question a lot of this, and it’s probably good to have more questions than answers–but it’s not always easy. Perhaps that will be the focus of upcoming blog posts. Then again, maybe it’s best to figure it out on my own and come back when I’ve got a direction?

I’m fully aware that today’s post is a mess. The photos have no focus, and I was tempted to not even blog at all today, but thought that I should post something from the past few months. I’m not even sure who wants to read the narcissistic, self-indulgent, woe-is-me ramblings from some guy who takes snapshots of his daily life. Regardless, I’ve put together a few shots of my recent collection. I’m hoping the warm weather will finally re-introduce my will to go shoot; coupled with more hours of daylight, that usually does the trick. Winter up here gets to be really long, and by the end I’m worn out.

To all who keep visiting: thanks. I’ll try to get things up and running more frequently again.

-Trevor

Megan – February 2014

Franklin Freeze – February 2014

Lines – February 2014

Winter – February 2014

Last of 2013

3 of 5 – Saint Paul, MN

(I should apologize in advance for the rambling, aimless nature of this post. If nothing else, scroll down and see a few photos before closing your browser window.)

I have previously outlined my project for the year 2014, and these don’t fit that. However, I sent off a batch of undeveloped film in December 2013 to clear out the backlog of rolls before the project started in earnest. As long-time readers will know, I often keep film around for months before processing it–in fact, some of the shots for today’s post were shot in early June 2013–and I didn’t want to get rolls mixed up with the ones from the upcoming year.

Scanning my film with my new Pakon F135 is incredibly efficient and saves me a ton of time and money. Previously, I had been sending my film out to be scanned, which is incredibly costly. I’m been incredibly happy with the results so far, and would recommend the scanner to anyone looking for a great option for scanning 35mm film.

Above – Saint Paul, MN

I’ve written before on the importance (for me) of letting your images sit before looking at them. I find that waiting to look at them allows me to see them more objectively; it can be difficult to see the images without remembering the moment you took them. Excitement at the moment of capturing the image(s) can spill over to the review time and one can confuse this excitement for thinking you’ve got a strong image, simply because strong images often provoke strong emotional responses.

By allowing images to sit, I can see them at a distance. While I certainly still remember each image I’ve taken–the camera/lens/film it was with, where, when, and other details of the time–I appreciate the separation of viewing them later. Finally, I find that my favorite part of making images is just that: making images. Looking at my own photographs isn’t really enjoyable for me. Yes, you get the odd bout of excitement when you see that you’ve really captured a good photograph, but it pales in comparison with the enjoyment I get from simply shooting the images to begin with. I’m not sure if it is this way for other people who are serious about their photography (rather than those people who could care less about photography and simple want images to see later), but that’s how I see my image-making. It’s the process, not the end result, that matters.

Up – Badlands NP, SD

I think that’s why I shoot film now all the time. I hate spending time editing digital images. I hate spending time in Lightroom, Photoshop, flickr, or anything else. I don’t even really like to process my film at home, so I send it out. I have begun scanning with the Pakon F135 simply to save money, not because it’s something enjoyable. It’s not.

All of this rumination doesn’t really have a point other than this: this year is going to be challenging. Seeing my film faster, not seeing in color, never having a digital camera as a crutch…it’s all going to push me to make stronger images. At the end of this year, I may not be any better at making photographs than I am now. In fact, I may regress. But what’s important is that I’m doing something new. Something that I enjoy, and since it’s my hobby that’s what is most important, after all.

Winter – Saint Paul, MN

I’m hoping that I will push myself and end up with some strong images at the end of the year. I hope that it helps me to progress as a photographer, and doesn’t end up frustrating me. But maybe that’s what I need. We’ll see how it goes. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy some of the final images of 2013 before this blog goes strictly monochromatic.

Cheers,

Trevor

Top 20 of 2013, Part 2

Here is the second part of my top 20 photos that I took in the calendar year 2013. As I said previously, they don’t stand together as a set very well, because they represent a whole year and were not intended as a set when they were taken. Try to think of them as individual images that stand alone–I didn’t want to break them up into 20 different blog posts to keep them as individual images.

Without further delay, here is the second part of the series. I would love to hear your thoughts!

NYC, April 2013

London, January 2013

Yellowstone NP, June 2013

Washington, DC, March 2013

Yellowstone NP, June 2013

London, January 2013

Annapolis, April 2013

Baltimore, February 2013

Gettysburg, February 2013

London, January 2013

Top 20 of 2013, Part 1

I am a week or so late, but I’ve decided to make another contribution to the endless “Top XX of 2013″ lists that have been everywhere of late. I figured I’d post a set of my favorite images that I took last year. I debated on how to present this list; the nature of such a list means that the focus will be on single images. However, having them presented as a set means they won’t necessarily flow well, since they weren’t intended as a set. So I’m presenting a set that doesn’t fit together as a set, which makes it seem a bit disjointed. But try to think of them as individual images.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and I will post the second part in the near future. I’m sure I’ve forgotten some images, but this is what is my top 20 as of today (it can change over time). I also wanted to avoid posting a set of images that only included my family and friends.

This first set isn’t in any particular order, but this is the first half of the top 20.

Wyoming, June 2013

London, January 2013

NYC, March 2013

Mount Rushmore, June 2013

London, January 2013

Annapolis, April 2013

Montana, June 2013

Delaware, March 2013

NYC, April 2013

Saint Paul, October 2013

New Year, New Challenge: The Black and White Year

Shadow – Minneapolis, MN

A while back I blogged about the challenge I set for myself in 2012. To recap, it had been simply to shoot a roll of film each week with the goal of shooting more film again, since I had slowly but surely gotten away from analog photography over the past few years. In that, it was a success. For the full recap, click the link and read the post.

Moving ahead, I want a fresh challenge. After considering some ideas (thanks to all of those who emailed or commented me with suggestions!) I have decided to undertake a challenge (with a few key differences, but building off the same essential idea that less is more) that I read about from a blogger in Switzerland. I have never met him, nor do I know him any more than superficially, but I enjoyed his blog and his journey. Since he got his idea from another blogger, and since the idea is nothing new, I don’t feel bad about copying his idea and moving ahead with it in my own way.  He is simply the last straw that convinced me to simplify in order to move ahead (NOTE: he has since finished his challenge and removed his blog). There is a dedicated flickr group for this concept, and many have drawn inspiration from this post for this idea.

This is 2014, with my trusty rangefinder. This is my black and white year.

Since 2012′s challenge suffered due to a lack of rules and guidelines to keep it going and focused, I intend to ensure that this year’s effort does not suffer from a similar loss of inertia by installing firm rules. You might have guessed the rules based on the title of the challenge, but I think it is valuable to spell them out all the same and hold myself accountable. I have outlined a set of rules, and a set of goals, for this challenge.  Read on for the details.

Snow – Minneapolis, MN

Here are the rules:
  1. The entire challenge will be shot: A) with a single camera; B) with the lenses I currently own (28/1.9, 40/1.4, 50/1.5); C) on black and white film (Kodak 400TX/Arista Premium 400, Fuji Acros 100 and Neopan 400, and other films; I want to experiment with some different emulsions that I have not had the chance to try yet); and D) will last one calendar year (2014).
  2. For this year, the focus is improving my photography, which is another thing I want to improve.  My street shots range wildly in quality, and I want to address this. In part, this is due to editing; it is also because I need to learn to compose images better, and learn patience in shooting the out in the streets.
  3. I will shoot no less than 2 rolls of film per week. I may shoot more, but this is the minimum each week. I will continue to use my phone as a digital camera for snapshots of things, during those times that I can’t have a film camera with me, and will post some to the blog from time to time.
  4. I will send the film out each month (more regularly than I usually do, which is every 2-4 months) to get quicker results. At this point, I would like to do so every 2 weeks. I have decided not to process the film on my own, due in part to the fact that I will not have a dedicated space available and I simply can’t take on that task when I am gone from home. So, for consistency’s sake, and for the sake of not overwhelming myself with constraints and more work, I will send it out to be processed for me.
  5. I will create sets on flickr to upload each roll in its entirety (this will serve as my contact sheet), and choose 3 images from each roll as the best. This will help keep the project transparent and
  6. From the edited images, I will, at the end of the year, choose 20-30 images which I will put into a book (via Blurb). This will also allow others to see the final set of images in book form. The final selections will also be published into a set on my personal website.
  7. I will not be buying any new photographic equipment for the duration of 2014. I want to renew my focus on my photography and get away from the incessant temptation to acquire new/better/different gear.

Wind – NYC

Here are the goals:
  1. To stop focusing on the acquisition of new photographic gear, which can be fun and interesting, but also presents pitfalls. Firstly, the constant financial output of constantly adding more gear, which while not out of control, can easily get to be so. Second, I’d like to familiarize myself with a single piece of equipment so that it becomes an extension of my hand, and of my artistic vision.
  2. I want my photography to improve, and I want to have a solid portfolio of images at the end. To date I have too much of varying quality, and I hope that this project will help me to find the motivation to get out and shoot the streets more often, as well as help me to focus on a particular genre of shooting and improve the overall quality of my images. Perhaps I will even begin to develop a personal style of shooting, which I have not yet found.
  3. By forcing myself to shoot regularly and often, I will make sure the project has a chance to show improvement in my work. There is a minimum of 2 rolls a week, but I may shoot more certain weeks (while traveling, if the weather is nice, etc), while understanding that certain weeks (bad weather, work/school/family commitments, etc) may not leave me as much time. By ensuring that I have to shoot at least 2 rolls, I always get out to shoot. This will hopefully help me to stay in the rhythm of it, and force me to think creatively.
  4. Timely results help to reinforce how things are going and keep me on track.
  5. Having to choose 3 shots from each roll means I will really have to edit carefully–I’d say that I generally get 6-10 “keepers” on a roll now, so that means that only the very best shots get picked as finalists.
  6. Creating a book and publishing the images will allow me to have a printed, bound, edited collection of images I can keep to remember this year of growth.
  7. I want my work to improve, and so this is an attempt to harness creativity by stifling options. When forced to do more with less, I’m hoping that I will respond with a new way of seeing things and a fresh drive to get me where I want to go.

This is the challenge that I have laid out for myself. I imagine there will be some challenges, but that is part of the fun.  Overcoming and adapting to them is part of the fun, and what will–I envision–help me develop photographically and artistically.

Morrill Hall – East Lansing, MI

Though this is surely going to be littered with challenges, I think I’m ready. I want to get better with my photography and really devote serious time and attention to doing what I love; perhaps with the right push I can even get to the point that I begin to show things in public. Maybe I’ll take the leap and attempt this professionally. On the other hand, maybe I’ll hate it so much that this will drive me toward a new hobby!  Seriously though, I think this will be fun and the blog will help me to remain consistent and hold me accountable for the project that I have laid out. That means I’m counting on you all to keep me honest!

The thought of doing this for a whole year is exciting, but also intimidating. What if I can’t keep up with my own rules? What if I quit? On a more pragmatic level, what happens if my camera breaks, or is stolen? The hurdles seem innumerable, but like I said, that’s part of the fun in the challenge. What good is a challenge if it doesn’t actually challenge you? Although my own sense of self-doubt is already greater than it should be, particularly when it comes to my photography, this is something that I can conquer. And, in doing so, perhaps I can get over some of my own doubts about my work.

I’ll need a lot of help from my readers to keep me going. I foresee dark days ahead, so keep me honest and help me to carry on when the going gets tough and life weighs me down. I’m not going to quit this.

A black and white year. I’m ready.

It’s on.

Angles – London