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02-24-2016, 05:31 AM - 3 Likes   #1
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Some mid-winter musings

Recently wanted to update my beloved little Canon S95 so I got on the internet to see what was available.
I normally don't keep up on what's the latest in gear until I really feel the need to actually buy something.
Seeing all the new gear got me to thinking about my interest in photography for over the last 60 years.

What strikes me the most between say the mid 1950s and now is that a certain mystique has gone out of photography. Back then photography, at least technically, was a sort of black art who's secrets were only known to a select technical priesthood. I remember endless debates among photographers about who had the best tone and what their technique was to accomplish it. I'm speaking of BW, color was only for the home snap shot of the family vacation. Now, of course credible photos can be created with the press of a phone camera.

Another thing was that, at least among those I ran with, the creative side of photography was held in high esteem. Everyone was well familiar with the works of Brassai, Evans, Sanders, Weston, Kertesz, Parks, Stieglitz etc. If you were serious about photography it wasn't unusual to take a few classes in Art at the Institute or university.

I remember when the full auto diaphragm came to SLRs. A very big deal. Before that SLRs were very specialized. Once in a while you might see a sports photographer on the sidelines with an Exacta and a 400mm glass who was perhaps the only one in town who knew how to get a decent image out of it. The gear and technique was very slow complex and baroque. SLRs weren't ready for prime time until they solved the diaphragm issue - which, of course, was the beginning of the end for the rangefinder.

Finally digital. What can I say? For me the single most important thing about digital is the PP. It put me back into the darkroom of the 1950s seeking that perfect tone but with Photoshop. Better, faster, much much more subtle control than messing about with chemicals and easier as well.

What I don't like about digital - the bodies are too big and/or too complex. Too much stuff that I neither want nor need and only impedes the creative process by getting in the way. They are a triumph of marketing over function.

Well it's 6:30 am and time to feed the cats - take care folks,
Wildman

Nov 1956. Wildman cub reporter on assignment with his Nikon S2.
I only got the job because I was dating the editor's daughter.


Last edited by wildman; 02-28-2016 at 02:32 AM.
02-24-2016, 06:10 AM   #2
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Thank you
02-24-2016, 06:12 AM   #3
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Great article, I enjoyed the read.
02-24-2016, 07:08 AM   #4
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Thanks from me as well. Informative--enjoyable.

What do you think you'll replace your S95 with? Or will you?

I too wish DSLR's were more focused. Less frills, no video, fewer options. I can handle tech, I've been using it all my life. I just love simplicity. For instance, I wish my K3 only had Av, Tv, TAv, M, B, X. X can go too really.

I'm not sure if there is a camera that really zeroes in on photography anymore. Maybe the Nikon Df?

02-24-2016, 08:23 AM - 1 Like   #5
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There is still mystique, it simply has moved up the ladder. Those color snaps are now everywhere, and the best work still requires attention to detail and skill. The sports shooter is ubiquitous now, but lots of pedestrian shots which would have been considered remarkable a generation ago.

Another thing happens that is interesting to watch. Instead of taking an art and photography class to make best use of an expensive and difficult resource, people can learn the same skills from the other direction, by taking lots of shots and learning from others.

In the short time I've been on this forum I've seen reasonably accomplished photographers improve their skills and produce dramatically better work by being in the presence of people who are capable and demanding in their own work. No hectoring or criticism, but simply a high bar of quality being set and some help and encouragement to attain it. I take wildlife shots, many of which are only possible due to the technical advances. I know what it takes to get a great shot. When I look at the stunning stuff on the 645 forum and am moved by what I see, I know that the same effort, skill and determination along with good artistic sense goes into those shots. And if I wanted great landscape shots the same determination and persistance that I have applied to wildlife would be required for that genre. And every other one.

A definite change, but I have no doubt that those masters you mentioned would be producing stunning work today. They took their art and craft to it's limit at the time.
02-24-2016, 08:42 AM   #6
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Adding some random musing of my own, to this trail of thought. Reading the article and thinking into perspective these concepts came to mind:

Progress, an ever-refining process with clearly good steps taken forward and inevitably steps backwards. Driven by need but mostly by consumerism and greed and shoved down our throats by aggressive marketing. The perpetual running of man towards more, a higher number, and forgetting the reason of this insane chase.

Let's say one would be aware of this and stir it in another direction, for example a FF with 20MP and no video at all. This would mean suicide. Look at " OMG lack of 4K" current discussion. We don't want or need more MP on forums but if a FF camera comes today with let's say 20MP the company would be put against the wall. Sidenote to this: today's modern telephones are a marvel of miniaturization and features. I can bet the world that 95% of people use a maximum of 10% of those features and it goes for everything "tech" not just telephones. Would these people that buy a last generation smartphone buy a simpler model because they only use the phone to make/receive calls? Most of them probably would not. Thus most of them are deciding the trend.

The magic of photography seems lost. There used to be a process, a care, from the limited number of positions on a film to, for some, developing it in the dark room, drying the photos, experimenting like an initiate in the alchemists' laboratory. Now you're almost unconsciously press the shutter, you just snap. And of course the magic is gone. We're in too much of a hurry to slow down and enjoy the moment. The moment, non necesarily photography related. The moment next to a friend, a loved one, a niece.. We're de-sensitized. Of course we are and can we expect our children to be impressed by the little bug strolling on the dew-filled leaf in the morning sun when they are bombarded by a cocktail of very strong images and emotions in front of the PC screen. At 37 and having caught glimpses of both worlds, much as i could see and comprehend and maybe aided by one of the few indirect "benefits" of communism - harsh limitations, confinement to a very limited universe opened up the possibility for study, away from other distractions, improving one self, i dare to say being more in the realm of thinking and relating to people around and less in that of having, consuming and wanting all sort of crap that we want now and don't really need at all. Thusly, and at the end of the day i can't blame the younger generation, you can't blame them as we don't take the time to teach our little ones to see and experience these simple but beautiful things since it is more convenient to lie on the couch at the end of a day that squeezed the will to live from you.

Will end the rant here, going to feed not the cat but my dear tropical fish

Best wishes
02-24-2016, 08:59 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by wildman Quote
What I don't like about digital - the bodies are too big and/or too complex. Too much stuff that I neither want nor need and only impedes the creative process by getting in the way. They are a triumph of marketing over function.
Agreed, cub reporter.

I am finding it best to wade through the menus and custom settings early on, figure out my preferences, then seldom touch much after that to be freed up to see photo possibilities without the complexity of the DSLR getting in the way.
...and to continue the musing,

QuoteOriginally posted by derekkite Quote
There is still mystique, it simply has moved up the ladder
as mentioned above by "derekkite", those with a truly artistic bent who want to learn the modern craft of digital photography do research and much learning even on forums like PF to master and control more than the smartphonist can hope to accomplish with an expensive snapshot.
02-24-2016, 12:40 PM   #8
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Well, now, this topic does appeal to the philosophical side, so I'll add my thoughts, for what it's worth.

Yes, cameras have gotten crazily complex but, like another here, I find the features I like and ignore the rest. Occasionally, someone will provoke my interest in a feature I haven't tried and -- what do you know -- sometimes it turns out to be interesting and fun.

Having been one of those initiates holding up prints in a darkroom, laboring to coax the best out of my (costly) print, I can attest to the feeling of mystery some have mentioned. It was grand, and those who did it were pretty persistent folks, not your usual type, who were willing to spend entire days or nights in a small room, alone with your thoughts (and chemicals!). We were probably nerds before there was such a word.

So, where are those types now? I see them everywhere. On this forum and on Facebook and Flickr. The photographers who really work to get a certain image and then massage it in their favorite processing program. They spend hours in Lightroom, Photoshop, or elsewhere, pouring over dozens, maybe hundreds, of shots to find that one worth working on in the dark hours. And, out of all the work comes a truly brilliant image.

Sure, there's a lot of mundane junk out there, just as there was back in the day when the corner store sent your film roll out for developing and everybody had snaps everywhere. But, under the layers, you find the same types, working all the new technologies -- and some of the old ones -- and producing awe-inspiring images. And let us not be fooled into believing that any of the really good stuff comes from just pushing a button. It wasn't true before and it's not true now.

I love the digital world of photography. It's expanded my horizons and, at the same time, gives me access to experience the evolving horizons of others. Many others. I enjoy that, a lot.

02-24-2016, 01:04 PM   #9
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@wildman - you inspired me to dig into the archives. This is a photo of me covering a motocross race in the 70's. Back in the days when you were skinny enough to need a belt to keep your jeans up. BTW, that's a an old Minolta SRT 101. Still have it.
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02-25-2016, 01:56 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by wissink Quote
Thanks from me as well. Informative--enjoyable.
What do you think you'll replace your S95 with? Or will you?
I too wish DSLR's were more focused. Less frills, no video, fewer options. I can handle tech, I've been using it all my life. I just love simplicity. For instance, I wish my K3 only had Av, Tv, TAv, M, B, X. X can go too really.
I'm not sure if there is a camera that really zeroes in on photography anymore. Maybe the Nikon Df?
Wildman's hypothetical custom still street shooters camera:

16mp 1 inch sensor optimized for low light
Mirrorless with the best Evf money can buy
Built in sealed lens with a FF range of about 30-250mm. Lens retracts more or less flat with a built in lens cap rather like my S95.
Accurate hgram display with accurate true ETTR metering.
TAv mode only.
Properly placed buttons and/or wheels for direct control of meter mode, AE lock, Ev and display of full sized hgram on fixed rear LCD when needed.
Must all fit into a moderate sized pocket.

That's enough for starters.

Last edited by wildman; 02-25-2016 at 02:12 AM.
02-25-2016, 03:40 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by derekkite Quote
Another thing happens that is interesting to watch. Instead of taking an art and photography class to make best use of an expensive and difficult resource, people can learn the same skills from the other direction, by taking lots of shots and learning from others.
When I suggested Art class I wasn't thinking technique but rather ordinary seeing. For nine years I lived in NW Europe primarily in Belgium and Germany. Within an easy one or two day drive was most all of the greatest collections of Art in the world. I remember one weekend trip seeing a a painting by Vermeer (Netherlands 17th cent) and a silk scroll from the Sung Dynasty (China 11th century). There was something similar to both of them and I liked both but couldn't put my finger on what is was. It was only later that I figured out what it was - both artists had a similar aesthetic in their use of light. Different centuries different cultures but a similar vision. That little lesson has never left me. There can be no visual art without light. Master light either with paint, ink or a phone camera and you have mastered the medium all else is commentary.

Last edited by wildman; 02-28-2016 at 02:32 AM.
02-25-2016, 04:22 AM - 1 Like   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Penumbra Quote
We're in too much of a hurry to slow down and enjoy the moment. The moment, non necesarily photography related. The moment next to a friend, a loved one, a niece.. We're de-sensitized. Of course we are and can we expect our children to be impressed by the little bug strolling on the dew-filled leaf in the morning sun when they are bombarded by a cocktail of very strong images and emotions in front of the PC screen.
All I can say is I hear you. And as an American no where has this simple-minded materialism been elevated to such a level of obcenity as here in the States.

As a counterpoint to all this - a shot of a little farm girl watching her pet calf going off to slaughter.

Last edited by wildman; 02-28-2016 at 02:32 AM.
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