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02/09/2015 03:44:46 AM · #1
Some time ago I offered some thinking out loud about my kit and how I might change it. I went some way but not the whole hog. Although this posting isn't about kit, it is central to what I'm going to talk about.

I haven't been shooting that much recently, the SC thing seems to fill quite a bit of the time I allocate to DPC and some things have been pegged back - my shooting and to some extent my commenting; I've had a new job over the last 18 months and that has been challenging too. This, all in, has introduced a bit of a hiatus in relation to my photography and given me time to reflect on how I choose to shoot and what I value in a photograph.

I think it is quite easy to see two distinct communities on DPC - there is overlap, like a Venn diagram, but nonetheless two. I believe the first values precision - they want to see sharpness and fidelity, they want to represent the world they see around them, capture (not interpret) the world around them and offer it up in all of its precise unambiguous 'glory'. The second community does not want to 'simply' offer up a perfectly captured framing of reality, for them the photographic process from framing to presentation is about creating something other than a straight representation of reality. It's easy to see the potential for a very different set of values to play out in the voting.

If you are a 'learner' using DPC to learn how to take photographs, it's tempting and understandable to be wooed by the first community - I would contend that they'll help you use your camera 'properly' - images are 'meant' to be perfectly exposed, in focus, framed by the 'rules of aesthetics'. It's a useful process to go through for any novice. I've done it myself.

These values of precision lead you down the road of DSLRs and all of the control it gives you and to lenses that are precise and neutral in their capture. Because the images produced within this paradigm set out to be 'perfect', unsullied by interpretation, the end results please many - they look 'right', the photographer has succeeded in conveying the world accurately - proof of kit mastery! Throw in a pleasant enough scene and we have a winner.

The second community don't work that way, either in how they shoot or in how they vote here at DPC. They don't want reality - they want fiction. That fiction is about story, character, imagination and artistic license - it's a creative, not a representative act. So, precision isn't what they want in their kit, they don't want to present the world authentically, they demand more (or less) than that.

I think some people's frustrations with DPC (where they have them) arise out of the tensions between the two positions - they expect what they value to be what is valued. It won't be. One has to accept that tension to be happy here I believe.

So, to kit. I had a 5D3 and lots of L lenses; other than my 85mm f/1.2 L II, they were all perfectly vanilla in their precision. I also had a tricky Leica M - but, and here's what I beginning to learn, those really expensive new Leica lenses are made to be perfect too - precision tools. The Sony A7 has changed everything for me, I don't have one yet (I will) but once you realise you can mount pretty much any lens (from any system) you like on it, it opens your eyes. Try using Flickriver, putting different lenses in and seeing what comes up - it's a great tool for discovering what you like and what lenses might suit your style.

So, I'm selling/have sold all my Canon kit and although I started with the intention of buying new Leica lenses for my M240, I'm no longer interested, I want lenses with character, those that disrupt, misbehave and create magic. Oddballs like the Canon f/0.95 50mm 'dream lens' and (rather delightfully), cheaper M mount lenses made by Voigtlander (though still pricey compared to SLR lenses). I've read in many places how the Voigtlander lenses are not a match for Leica lenses - in terms of precision, I may agree, but if you want characters to go with your fiction, then these lens (and things like the Russian Jupiters) are the stars to cast in your screenplay.

So, I'm abandoning precision and straight-up captures of reality and journeying to dream land. I'm going to keep my Leica M for now (the process of shooting with it is an engaging delight - a world away from my fly-by-wire 5D3) and supplement with a Sony A7 II - I can share lenses, both are full frame (essential for the low DOF I prefer) and buy up a bunch of character lenses and for the first time, I'll have the opportunity to go 'out-of-system' if something quirky catches my eye.

I've been thinking about it for a while, but I've never been confident enough to lose my precision tool - useful as it was in the honing of the photographic artefacts that got me a bunch of ribbons. You see I believe, at least at the moment, that DPC is dominated by Community 1 - not surprising given its value to the novice photographer, its a great place to learn and what many think they need to learn is precision and perfection. But I'm not sure I'll be rewarded with the same high scores I've had with my 5D3. Of course, I've had a few with the Leica too, so who knows!

I may be shunning my main ribbon-winning tools, but I think my new kit will help me clarify my photographic identity. I am forcing myself off the fence and into dream land.

I may post again here, as the parts to my new kit are put in place to reflect on the new choices I have made.

Thanks for listening

Paul

[Edited for typos and clarity]

Message edited by author 2015-02-09 05:19:20.
02/09/2015 04:33:17 AM · #2
I really enjoyed your post Paul.

I think I may prefer dream land over the other, but tend to mess about all over the place.

Thanks it was very interesting.
02/09/2015 05:15:48 AM · #3
Very interesting post Paul. I am definitely mostly in community 1 as a learner as my aim is primarily to learn the technical skills of photography. I have always wondered if photography loses its charm once you become a technical master as you gain the skill to take perfect photos every time. I still get a lot of satisfaction just finding one "good" photo from a days shooting. If I was to find 100 good photos from a single days shooting I would be overwhelmed. Despite this fear, my aim is still to gain sufficient technical skills to be able to capture a perfect photo every time or at least have a lot less out of focus, blurred, blown out etc photos.
02/09/2015 08:27:22 AM · #4
This is a great post Paul this is interesting on how you described things, and I so apprecaite your outlook on this and DPC, I think you are correct in having named the two different communities.

DPC has been a great place to learn and learn technicals and I have yet to have not have help if I ever needed it. Someone is always around to ask and not one person has turned me away saying no, I can not help you. A lot have offered the help, I have asked for it, and it is a great communication tool we have here if poeple take advantage of it.

The people here is what makes me stay and enjoy things. I would have never learned lighting or metering if it wasn't for DPC and I wouldn't have been able to do a lot of things with my camera like get out of auto mode if it wasn't for DPC.

I think I am in between the two communities and kinda on my own, I want best of both worlds.
My favorite thing is that I love the natural look out from the camera especially on landscapes. However, over the last few weeks, learning and playing with the processing has been way more fun, not making it the same natural photos I am used to, I have even enjoyed quite more enjoying the new processing and creation of photos and coming up with your not so normal things have been way more fun. When I have done such things and submitted them in challenges, the scores even take a huge hit and it shows. I think its cool and I like it :-) Having your own style to come up with instead of following someone else has not been easy and I am still learning that gap. I wish there was a black and white text that says " this is your style" but I doubt that will ever happen.

Hope your new lenses will bring more fun for you and it will be fun to see. Seeing those take the leap out of what they normally do is great to see. I think it brings a new excitment and fresh outlook when people do things they normally are not used to.
Can't wait to see your new skills

Message edited by author 2015-02-09 08:33:12.
02/09/2015 08:34:42 AM · #5
Welcome to the Dark Side, Paul.
02/09/2015 09:43:28 AM · #6
An interesting read, thanks for sharing.

Originally posted by Paul:

I believe the first values precision - they want to see sharpness and fidelity, they want to represent the world they see around them, capture (not interpret) the world around them and offer it up in all of its precise unambiguous 'glory'. The second community does not want to 'simply' offer up a perfectly captured framing of reality, for them the photographic process from framing to presentation is about creating something other than a straight representation of reality. It's easy to see the potential for a very different set of values to play out in the voting.


I think there is often a natural transition. I was in the first group for a long time and though I still do much of that, I am moving towards the second group with more and more of my entries. I also know the overall popularity of those "type 2" images will be lower.

Message edited by author 2015-02-09 09:43:52.
02/09/2015 10:00:46 AM · #7
Very interesting stuff Paul, worth a couple or more readings.

What I'm wondering (and is what I'm asking you) if there is something in the middle. Even though most of what we have here is what you have so week portrayed, I think we have a lot of photographers who live in the middle.
02/09/2015 10:01:45 AM · #8
Absorbing post, Paul. I know what camp I'm in, though I feel I had no choice in the matter. For me there never was a time when control, precision and polish had any positive meaning.

I have seen it expressed here and elsewhere that first you must understand and respect the rules before you can start breaking them, but I say that's nonsense. The less you know the more you'll discover, I'm convinced of it. And the reverse, too.

Your stuff has often attracted me, as my comments on it will attest. But it was never the polish (though in your case that did no harm). Rather it was always the unforced elegance of the occasional dropped 'aitches, uncrossed t's and undotted i's. Knowing when to do that stuff within the context of a polished and professional work was what kept me hungry for more of yours. That's where the elusive character/identity comes from ... not from what you do that's right, but from what you choose to do that's wrong.

I think you were sneaky loose all along. You just disguised it quite well. And now you can lower your disguise and, um ... expose yourself. Bravo!

The great thing about a more loose approach to taking photographs is that it is driven by curiosity ... by investigating what you don't know rather than forever stepping in your own footprints. You get lost a lot; most of the time in my own case. But you also arrive at places that you never suspected existed.

02/09/2015 10:09:34 AM · #9
Very thoughtful stuff. Awhile back, I passed through the point where I could do the technically excellent representation of reality, and since then I've been searching for the next stop along the way. I spent most of 2014 experimenting with different approaches and techniques, mostly not DPC friendly, and mostly not leading anywhere. I seem to be in this middle place where I haven't developed my vision to the point of confidence, so what I show people tends to be more of what I've always done.

Like you, I have found that I prefer gear that has a quirkier rendition of reality.

I just finished reading Bruce Barnbaum's "The Art of Photography." In the first chapter he asks two questions :

1) What are you interested in?
2) What do you want to say about it?

Since I read that, I have been trying to answer that question for myself. I think the answer to that is the key to the next step for me.
02/09/2015 11:29:19 AM · #10
Wonderful observations, Paul. Yet, while that binary assessment certainly applies to DPC, I, like Alessandro, feel there's more of a continuum in RL. As someone who is earning money from photography, at this point I'm getting paid for the faithful rendition style. But my personal projects are more interpretive. And where would conceptual (vs. technical) exploration fall on that scale?

Where DPC lacks, IMO, is in failing to instill a greater respect from either camp towards the other. Which may not be possible to achieve in a "competition" environment.
02/09/2015 11:36:09 AM · #11
Excellent post, Paul. I think you have described the two groups pretty accurately. I have always enjoyed and admired your work, and I look forward to seeing what new directions it takes from here.

I am still trying to sort out my photographic identity. I can occasionally find some success with each group, but I have not committed to either. Once and a while I'm lucky enough to find an image that hits a sweet spot between the two groups. More often I go back and forth -- I will enter an image that targets one group knowing that the other group will find little or no redeeming value in it. While I am happy when I have an entry doing relatively well with the "reality" crowd, I may currently tend to get more personal satisfaction out of an image that connects well with the "fiction" crowd.
02/09/2015 11:48:04 AM · #12
Thank you Paul for your interesting post. Interesting for a few reasons. First, because I ordered a Sony A7 II yesterday and was just starting to wonder what odd lenses I might want to try. I will be watching your new kit bag.
Second, I have always thought that if you consciously moved to the " dark side" we would all be in for a huge treat. As it is, I think your blurred nudes are some of the best "alternative type" shots on DPC. I recently read all 35 pages of the Street thread and your 2 street shots were my favorite.

I learned photography on DPC ( first picture I ever took with a camera was for a DPC entry). It was a great place to learn technical skills. ( I didn't have the patience to acquire the skill level you have achieved). Transitioning to the "type 2 community" meant I had to embrace the brown ribbon and it was made much easier by some of the wonderful people in the community. For me Don 21.gif posthumous and his posthumous awards, my brother Steve 21.gif pointandshoot and John 21_N.gif jmritz were there when I needed a reason to ignore my sub 4 scores and continue wandering around on the " dark side ". Once I was able to disconnected from the scores on DPC the site turned into a playground with no boundaries. There is very strong support on DCP for those that want to experiment with photography. When I see the threads predicting the downfall of DCP I know the author of the thread has not discovered the depths of the site. It is an outstanding place to search for ones identity.

I am looking forward to your work.

Message edited by author 2015-02-09 12:21:28.
02/09/2015 12:00:50 PM · #13
> Once I was able to disconnected from the scores on DPC the site turned into playground with no boundaries.

I had a similar epiphany about five years ago. And there's a lot of support here for the non-competitive among us...
02/09/2015 12:31:46 PM · #14
Originally posted by 2mccs:

When I see the threads predicting the downfall of DCP I know the author of the thread has not discovered the depths of the site. It is an outstanding place to search for ones identity.


+ a bazillion!
02/09/2015 12:59:19 PM · #15
Originally posted by bvy:

> Once I was able to disconnected from the scores on DPC the site turned into playground with no boundaries.

I had a similar epiphany about five years ago. And there's a lot of support here for the non-competitive among us...

+1
Great post, Paul.
02/09/2015 01:31:54 PM · #16
Hi Paul, delighted to see this post. I think about this often.

It is tempting to find a dichotomy when tiihinking about anything. I hear it often enough--"there are two kinds of photographers, those who xyz and those who don't." You have found your dichotomy like this:

"These values of precision lead you down the road of DSLRs and all of the control it gives you and to lenses that are precise and neutral in their capture. Because the images produced within this paradigm set out to be 'perfect', unsullied by interpretation, the end results please many - they look 'right', the photographer has succeeded in conveying the world accurately - proof of kit mastery! Throw in a pleasant enough scene and we have a winner.

The second community don't work that way, either in how they shoot or in how they vote here at DPC. They don't want reality - they want fiction."


Right there, with that word "fiction," is where you totally lost me. You gave me a choice between perfection unsullied by interpretation and "fiction" that I have no interest in making. I think perhaps it is your observation that anything other than perfection unsullied by interpretation must therefore be fiction, if so then it puts a big smile of encouragement on my face to see you making your first foray into the world of fiction! You are going to have an interesting adventure!

The alternative to perfection unsullied by interpretation is not fiction.

I want this thread to go on for days, weeks.

To my way of thinking, there is more to photography than just the equipment. There is more to photography that the photographer using the equipment in a traditionally accepted manner. The most expensive, most unique, most fragile, most powerful piece of equipment is right between the photographer's ears. Each individual mind is utterly unique. Why not make the most of it?

If the sum total of a photographer's ambition is to learn to use the camera in a photojournalistic manner, then go for it without restraint or apology. Once that hunger has been satisfied, perhaps new desires will be felt. Who knows?

As for me, I don't see the world of objects to be quantified, qualified, categorized, & accurately photographed. I must leave that important work to others. I see the world of color, light, form, line, & shadow. I sally forth with my camera to get some of this magic. I take it home to find out what happens next. For me, I'm trying to explore the relationship of photography to time. You need time to take a photograph. How can you remove the presence of time from the finished composition?

I could go on. I will go on. Can't right now, getting ready for work. Thanks for giving me something to think about today.

02/09/2015 02:36:11 PM · #17
Wonderful post Paul, I think I've always been sneaky loose and it's certainly not getting any tighter.

The two groups are identified but is their distinction only in photography or does it go much deeper than that?
When one group becomes much more predominant than the other like now it's harder for the minority stay the course.
02/09/2015 02:41:00 PM · #18
The kind of "fiction" Paul's talking about here isn't the fiction of the fact/fiction dichotomy; it's important to remember that. It's "fiction" in the artistic sense, which generally is constructed from a base of reality but is embellished by imagination's ability to create alternative or enhanced realities.

Wallace Stevens said "Poetry is the supreme fiction", BTW. Chew on that one a bit... :-)
02/09/2015 02:59:28 PM · #19
Originally posted by Bear_Music:

The kind of "fiction" Paul's talking about here isn't the fiction of the fact/fiction dichotomy; it's important to remember that. It's "fiction" in the artistic sense, which generally is constructed from a base of reality but is embellished by imagination's ability to create alternative or enhanced realities.

Wallace Stevens said "Poetry is the supreme fiction", BTW. Chew on that one a bit... :-)


^What he said^!

Thanks for all the great responses so far, I've enjoyed reading them.
02/09/2015 03:10:10 PM · #20
The opposite of fiction is fact.

Re the phrase "fact or fiction " implies they are mutually exclusive.

There has to be a better choice of words than "fiction. " fantasy. Cartoon.

Fiction is also synonymous with "lie. "

There has to be a better choice of words.
02/09/2015 03:23:59 PM · #21
What a thread.

There are "naturals" in any sphere of life, be it sport, science, or art.

Paul, I have always regarded you to be a natural. The images were sharp and polished quite often, but that was just the medium you chose to work with in creating your art.

Can't wait to see where the new equipment will lead you.

Message edited by author 2015-02-09 15:31:05.
02/09/2015 03:25:19 PM · #22
Originally posted by pixelpig:

The opposite of fiction is fact.

Re the phrase "fact or fiction " implies they are mutually exclusive.

There has to be a better choice of words than "fiction. " fantasy. Cartoon.

Fiction is also synonymous with "lie. "

There has to be a better choice of words.


How about 'story' - that works for me too. Or if the context doesn't work 'creation'.

I loved your post by the way.
02/09/2015 04:00:08 PM · #23
If we stay with the photojournalist motif then maybe the word is "editorialize." Or "opinion."
02/09/2015 04:13:04 PM · #24
Originally posted by pixelpig:

If we stay with the photojournalist motif then maybe the word is "editorialize." Or "opinion."


I think what I mean is more imaginary than that, not a version of reality but something made different - new even.
02/09/2015 04:24:28 PM · #25
Originally posted by Paul:

Originally posted by pixelpig:

If we stay with the photojournalist motif then maybe the word is "editorialize." Or "opinion."


I think what I mean is more imaginary than that, not a version of reality but something made different - new even.


Interpretation?
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