For some time now I could not find a comfortable walking groove with a large camera and lens. I am 64 and hauling a large camera and a bag of lenses is no longer an easy task. I find that the less I carry the more photos I usually take. More important to me is what happens to my “head space” or state of mind when I carry a camera and keep it simple. When I have my camera at my side I feel differently because the camera triggers my visual attention and diverts my attention to all the other issues that roll around in my head. When I am taking photographs of a subject I become totally engrossed.
I recently purchased the Fuji X-E1. It takes great images and has some functions that my Nikon D7000 does not have. To be fair the D7000 has a few functions the X-E1 does not. To me it is very important to imbed in the metadata of my © and contact information. The Nikon does but the Fuji does not. I do like the images and the simplicity of the Fuji. I am comfortable with having it by my side so I tend to carry it more often. The X-E1 has become part of who I am and is part of my walking meditation or dare I say… prayer. I have finally learned the freedom when I keep it as simple as I can. I’ve heard this before from the old pros but never did really understand it. If you carry a camera often you will usually find one camera and lens that fits your needs and that is what you will most often. Many of us have more bodies, lenses, flashes, filters, bags and other “stuff” at home or in the car.
Some photographers say that if you have a 50mm lens you can always walk closer to the subject rather than carry a 70-200 2.8 and “reach out”. No matter how close you get a 50mm looks different than a 70-200 2.8. They are expressing what is “less is more” for them and the photographs they enjoy making. What is less is more for them and less is more for you may be different. With a 50mm there is the issue of getting in close proximity to the subject and perhaps making them self conscious or even rattling their cage in the process. Second is the issue that the moment you are trying to capture may be gone by the time you walk 60 feet. I love my 70-200 2.8 and I like my 50mm but my knees and wrists don’t enjoy the weight of the big lens. If your in the process of picking a camera, you might want to consider renting the cameras and lenses for a few weeks and work with them. You may be able to do both with a small professional photography store that knows the products. If they are selling and renting to the working professionals they have the great advantage of daily feedback from the pros. I have found Jeff Hirsch and the professionals at Fotocare in NYC to be very helpful and that’s who I buy from. I don’t get any commission from Fotocare but I thank Jeff for keeping me on the right track.
Hope this helps. I’m going for a walk.
A wise photographer told me ”when you can’t seem to find the photo. . . turn around or come in from a different angle” Where is the light in reference to the subject. Here is an example. During a cruse to the Caribbean last month I thought that great photographs would be easy picking. This was not the case for me. 90% of what I came up with was what I call postcards. It was not that these postcard photos were bad. But they were not ka-pow either. One afternoon I got out of the depressing downtown of cruise ship ports and out in the countryside. I came across a lady selling shells and tie die dresses. The color of the dresses grabbed my eye and I began taking photos of the dresses hanging on the line. The vendor lady began screaming at me “no photos” I figured that she wanted some money for me to take photos of the dresses. If she asked nicely I would have been happy to pay her. But the screaming didn’t help my mood. I walked behind the dresses where she could not see me. I managed to get off a few shots before she saw me and started up again.
The Million Dollar Photograph
Photography can be expensive. I love my Nikon 70-200 2.8 lens but I am not fond of hauling it unless I am very serious and have a specific purpose and shot in mind that I know will require it. That said, many times you can actually get some really good work done with a high end point and shoot camera if the shutter lag doesn’t drive you bonzo! Some of these point and shoot cameras even do OK for macro work and in some cases their movie mode is great. You don’t need to spend a million bucks on cameras and lenses and tripods and ball heads and filters and a mule or assistant to carry it all. Whatever the camera you are willing to carry or use that day is your best camera. If it’s $15,000 of camera, lens(s) in a $350 bag sitting in the closet or the trunk of your car it is not much good at that moment. If it’s an iPhone or a point and shoot and you have it with you, on you, in your hands, turned on, and in front your eyes, it’s the best camera. $500 or $25,000 or $1,000,000.
A lot of times less equipment = more photographs. You will find your own daily and changing balance of how much equipment you are willing to carry. My point is that you should always have some kind of camera unless you just want to enjoy the moment without the technology in your face. I think Louis Black said that … photography is for people with a bad memory. Or maybe it was. . . photography is for people with Alzheimer’s. I can’t remember which.
Cowboy Rancher with flowers
Making a good photo that tells a story usually takes some thought. It is rare to pull your camera up and go snap, snap and have a unique photograph. This business of pulling the camera up fast and blasting the motor drive is probably productive for a sports photographer, a war photographer or any photographer who only has a fleeting moment to capture a shot. Many times creating a good photo takes some thought and is more of a zen approach than the gunslinger approach.
The photograph of the cowboy with flowers for his better half can be photographed in a number of different ways. You can go in from the front as a portrait or the back emphasizing the flowers behind his back or from above. I could probably give you a lot of reasons why I like this perspective the best. Most of all the photo is unique. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it done this way. There just happened to be an air duct above the door going to the second floor of the house. A swiss army knife and a 60mm lens stuck down the vent just managed to get it done. . . at least for me.
A week ago UPstrap received an order from Graeme Hunter in Glasgow, Scotland for more camera straps. Graeme included the comment in the order that said: “Got 3 already, fell down a ravine in Tuscany Italy last month after a job & both cameras stayed on my shoulders, I want UPstraps on all of my gear” I emailed Graeme back to thank him and asked if he was OK after the fall. He responded with the entire story of what had transpired while walking back to the hotel after photographing the wedding. Here is Graemes story, a few photos of the event, and the brides thank you for saving her wedding photos from the ravine of death! Graeme has a great dry humor.
“A couple of furniture designers I shoot for flew me out to shoot their wedding in Tuscany, The ceremony in 43 degree heat in Castelnouvo Di Garfagnana was amazing & I continued to shoot into the small hours as the party carried on up the hillside from the brides grandmothers home.
I’m not saying I was sober but I had refused uncle Marios home made “grappa” ( after a lesson learned shooting soccer many years ago in Parma). Anyhoo, I figured that the 5 km walk back to my hotel with some other guests ( younger & fitter than myself’) would do me the power of good. When I shone my torch onto the verge to let a car pass on the narrow road I was sure the ground looked supportive, unfortunately I stepped off the road onto the top of a tree.
Hanging by my fingers ( I’m a big chap) I was struck firstly how odd it was to have nothing under my feet & secondly that I still had my Nikon D3x & 2 week old Nikon D4 on each shoulder. My little Domke bag was held on by the Nikon D4. Quick thinking by the brides sister Chiara rescued my gear ( she was only thinking about the pictures ) & then even quicker thinking by the super fit guest Richard Pontway, with no thought for his own safety, grabbed my hand & helped me up injuring his wrist. The only casualties ? A few cuts & scratches and trousers torn at the knee and my iPhone & room key in my pocket. Then there was the blinding headache the next day which I blame squarely at the locally produced red wine.
UPstrap will notice a few extra sales in Scotland This started after a Getty staffer sang the praises of UPstraps. Since then I can’t recommend them enough! Especially as I’d replaced my 24-70 with a new lens the Friday before & hadn’t insured the lens or the D4!
The upshot ? Bride & groom loved the pictures, I had the closest thing to a holiday in years. They’re beautiful people & I promised Richard I’d shoot his wedding for free!!!!
PS I’m now famous in the town, apparently everyone knew that narrow bit of track!
And who says I put up with the egos on set ? NOTE: My question to Graeme about his work on movie and TV sets where the egos can get out of control.
Graeme Hunter Pictures
hire Grain Store Studios in Glasgow Centre
The quality camera straps that UPstrap builds make a difference for many great and hardworking photographers and for that I feel proud.
The Zen Bell
I still like film but it is a major pain. The upside if film is it slows you down. With 36 frames you tend to think the shot through and frame it better before you press the shutter. I had gone to my hideout in Key West where I catch my breath. I brought the Nikon F100 film camera to shoot the Scala. Not exactly the brightest move in such a colorful town. I was so beat I could only see in black and white. Mac’s truck is down by the docks. It’s been there for years. The bell is behind the room at my hideout. I was trying to slow myself down so I used film to force me to think the shot through and not just blast away with a digital camera. I was playing around with Scala which is a black and white slide film that had been in my freezer for a few years. I think only one place in L.A. processes it. I think you can still buy Scala and a pre-paid- processing mailer envelope at B&H photo in New York that includes a scan of the slides. If you look close a the bell shot you can see all the processing crud that is on the slide.
I like film. It has it’s own character. When you get to understand it it changes your thinking and how you see. And again, it slows you down because every time you push the shutter it costs you a half a buck. I would shoot more if I had an E-6 lab down the street that would process and sleeve.
Pickup Truck – painting
I was at the Santa Fe Photo Workshops. Arthur Meyerson was teaching. Arthur is a great photographer from Houston Texas. It was raining in Santa Fe that day. Our usual workshop schedule was to break for lunch then go out and shoot after lunch. As I was waiting in the lunch line I looked out the window and saw the photo posted above. Since I had my camera on me I began to photograph through the window. Rule #1 carry a camera if you want to take pictures. I think people were thinking I was nuts. This is one of my favorite shots ever. It is not photoshop, it is water on window. It was my French painter on acid period.
Palm Tree at Sunset
Palm Frond through a screen door
Palm Frond Grainy
Palm Tree Shadow on Old Metal Wall
Jay Maisel tells a story about working on a photograph in front of him only to have his wife suggesting he turn around. There was a far better photograph behind him. The point of this is becoming aware of what is in front, behind, up and down, under and over. Where IS the photographic viewpoint that is special to you. Just pulling your camera up fast and blasting away is not exactly Zen vision. My photographs of Florida palm trees were taken over time. Each photograph provides a different viewpoint. The quality of light has a lot to do with perspective and feel.
Large Florida Panther Held by a Beautiful Girl
Florida Panther and Beautiful Woman
Jay Maisel is, in my opinion, perhaps the greatest living photographer. I am honored to know him. Jay is a fantastic teacher, a wonderful person, has a great sense of humor and shares major tips on becoming a good photographer in his workshops http://www.jaymaisel.com/workshop/. The photographs I have posted are to a large degree due to his teachings. One of the main things (I think this is rule #2) Jay speaks to is “going out empty”. This means going out with your camera with no preconceived ideas or concepts. Just being free to allow what is in your field of vision (in front, behind, above and below) to ignite something inside of you, to investigate and follow the story.
I set out one morning just letting whim guide me. I drove from central Florida (Ocala) to the west coast of Southern Florida just before the Everglades. A small zoo popped up on the radar that was about the endangered Florida panther. I stopped and took some photographs through the cages. The crusty old owner comes out of the office/house and asks for a donation. No problem a donation for a good cause. We strike up a conversation and he starts telling me about this woman who keeps a full grown panther in her house. He gives me her phone number. I call her and she, for a price and a few prints, is wiling to pose with the “cat”.
We met at her house the following day. I walk in the front door and there is this “cat” the size of a large dog on the couch looking directly in my eyes. I can feel him questioning my interaction with the woman -am I perceived as a threat-? . CHECK PLEASE! While the girl was very good looking and I knew I wanted her in the shot with the cat, I forced my mind to be neutral about all guy / girl things… if you get my drift. Everything is fine, I’m a punk, couldn’t hurt a fly, I have 4 kids, don’t rip my throat out… PLEASE! please!
I know this cat could take me out in thirty seconds or less. Dead, toast, end of story. The girl and I talk about the “cat” and about the ideas I have for the photograph. I end up with her in a red bathing suit with the cat on a leash (yea like that matters) sitting on a local dock. Using a 180mm tele to keep my distance, I managed to photograph the panther and the girl including the vertical for a magazine. Even with the cat on a leash I was worried the entire time. We worked around sunset and you can see the color balance change or I used a polarizer… This was exciting, unexpected (going out empty) and I was glad to get the @#!* away from the cat. Meow.
The Beautiful Outlaw
Colors evoke emotion. The advertising companies know the colors that evoke those emotions. Here is an example. A headshot of a model, the same headshot, very close to the same expression but the color of her hat and bandana are totally different. I could have had her eye expression more angry. I should have asked her hold old she was or what did she think of her x-husband and just held the shutter down.
Obviously these are set-up or planned photographs. I picked out her as a model including her hat and bandana. What started this was a visit to a used clothing store in Santa Fe. She owned it. I could have spent a week and a bunch of money there making not taking photographs. Model release is really important here.