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.

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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

Max’s Florida Adventure

002_24A

Mimi

Here is a set of Max’s Florida adventure in 2008. As I have mentioned previously, my extended family generally meets on Anna Maria Island, Florida, for a week of vacation in July each year. I have posted my own shots from these trips in other posts, but going through my archives recently, I found some rolls of Max’s that I scanned from 2008. Here they are.

Papa

Papa

Little did I know that my son is quite the street photographer! He is definitely developing his own visual style, although things have changed since he took these over 4 years ago now.

I really love the grainy look that a lot of these have, coupled with the flash. It has a certain Martin Parr quality to it, like something out of his supermarket series maybe.

Mimi II

Mimi II

These were all taken with a small disposable film camera, on his own, at the age of 3.

Here’s to unbridled and uncorrupted creativity!

Open

Open

And here he is shooting the shooter. Gotta love it!

Yours Truly

Yours Truly

Honestly, I think that if I hadn’t told you these were taken by my son, you might not have known. They stand together as a set well, don’t they?

Honestly, after reviewing these two rolls taken that summer, and then a few other rolls that he has taken over the years, I really think I need to get him taking more photographs. I love these shots.

Palms

Palms

He has been shooting more of his little Fuji Instax Mini lately, which he really enjoys. Since I got mine out, he did the same; he really likes getting the shots back immediately, and at his age and experience level it is nice to get prompt feedback on what is and isn’t working.

He spent the day at my parents’ house for Thanksgiving sneaking around and trying to catch candid shots of everyone doing their thing…I think we may have a miniature Bruce Gilden on our hands.

Perhaps a future in street photography for my boy?

Beach

Beach

I hope you like today’s images, which are much more fun and carefree than the blog has been lately.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, here is another reason to shoot film: it’s cheap. Get your kid some disposable cameras and let them go at it. They won’t break them or lose them, and if they do, you’re not out much money. Secondly, not getting instant feedback meant that for this group of images, the imperfections stayed around; had they been taken on digital he might have attempted to delete some and correct some of the shots.

I’d love to hear what you all think down below in the comments!