What is photography...to me...

Discussion in 'Other Genres' started by snkenai, Dec 17, 2013.

  1. snkenai

    snkenai Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 5, 2010
    In my advancing age and declining health, I have to ask my self, ...What is photography to me, that I after more than 50 years, I still do it?

    Up front let me say, I've always been a machinery guy. If it has well designed moving parts, I like it, and want to get my hands on it!

    As a child, my mom had a Kodak Brownie "box", with the two "peep" windows, for viewfinders. One for portrait and one for landscape. The fixed "hairpin" shutter was as simple as it gets, but I loved it. ( recently acquired one at a yard sale, and it is on display in my glass fronted cabinet).

    Over the years I had the various cheap 110, 127, and 35mm cameras. gradually buying ever "better" cameras, and eventually best glass that I could afford. My photographic skills gradually improved, but never achieved "pro" status. Yes, I occasionally snagged an outstanding picture, but not consistently. During the later days of film, I threw out at least 90% of each new batch. "Not good enough" to keep. Reading all the photo-magazines kept me dissatisfied. Not until digital, when I could see instantly, whether I had gotten it, did my quality began to improve noticeably. But the element of photography that held me back from achieving "excellent" status as a photographer, was the wrong focus. I was a machinery guy, not an artist. My approach was like the catch and release fisherman. After the first look at the pictures, to see if I had gotten a good one, I put them away, rarely to ever see them again. I still do. I have thousands of analog and digital pictures, that are rarely ever seen by any one.

    The ever chasing of the "best machinery has for over 50 years kept me from ever becoming "one" with my equipment. Yet like addicts everywhere, I am hooked. And, looking back at the first statement of this "confession", I have sold off nearly every thing. Have left one E-p3 and two old MF lenses, with FL36 flash and some adapters etc. And yes, the roving eye can't help but look at the next try, to get the right one. And it will never happen. And so I keep it to minimum requirement, to take the occasional clutch of pictures. When I move on to the next world, I don't want the family to have to deal with dad's "old stuff". No, I'm not planning to "check out" this week.

    I still enjoy this forum as well as Amin's others. I just don't post much.

    If this topic strikes a cord with you, feel free to post your own observations, of, "what is photography for me".

    Happy hunting!
    • Like Like x 18
  2. Dalton

    Dalton Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 24, 2010
    Portland, Oregon USA
    Dan Ferrall
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the importance and history of this wonderful craft we call photography. I hope you have many more years of enjoyment in your life's walk.
    • Like Like x 1
  3. jsusilo

    jsusilo Mu-43 Veteran

    Aug 28, 2012
    Good read ... thank you for sharing your photography journey .. very thoughtful ... I enjoy reading your experiences ..

    To me ... photography is an indirect way to document one's life journey. When turning on TV, I often watch history / documentary / biography channel. Photography allows me freeze one specific moment like no other .. person that I met, things that I did, places that I visited, 'stuff' that I experienced may not be repeatable. In far distance cant say when ... I hope to create an album of some sort ... a documentary if you wish, something that I can enjoy and share ..
    • Like Like x 2
  4. Fmrvette

    Fmrvette This Space For Rent

    May 26, 2012
    Detroit, Michigan
    Steve, you and I are in lock step on this one, down to the first camera (a Brownie HawkEye with a flash bulb attachment).

    It's really come down to my E-M5 with a Panasonic 20mm f/1.7. Lately that has become my workhorse and my need for more gear has dropped off precipitously - my desire (lust!) for a Fuji X100 has died off and my "need" to plug a hole in my prime lens lineup with a 60mm lens has nearly evaporated. (Which doesn't mean I wouldn't try one if the price was right - but it's not an itch I need to scratch. Having a hole in the lens collection is finally O.K. with me :eek:).

    Perhaps it's a need to lighten the load as one ages; I've done away with nearly all of my hardcover and softcover books and replaced them with electronic versions. I still read voraciously and like to re-read old favorites - but my entire library can be held in one hand (Nexus 7 tablet) and no one will have to empty bookshelves and trundle cases of books to the local library as a donation. Flipping through a couple of thousand books to make sure the Old Man didn't hide anything between the pages before boxing the books up would have been a trudge for somebody.

    As a photographer I make a pretty good car mechanic; the artistry just isn't in me. I understand the technique but not the art. :confused:

    However I still enjoy the hobby of photography - the planning of the shoot, the actual shooting, the post processing and the printing. It is not a group activity for me; I belong to no clubs, I rarely post photos on line, and I never shoot with others.

    To answer your question, photography, to me, is like riding a motorcycle; it's a solitary undertaking that requires my absolute concentration if I'm going to get it right. (The difference is that if concentration lapses on the camera I miss the image capture; if concentration lapsed on the motorcycle I got to ride home in an ambulance :biggrin:).

    A few years ago I sold my last motorcycle and have promised the Princess of the Exchequer that those days are over; whatever else happens she no longer has to worry about me doing something absolutely asinine on two wheels and coming home in a litter. Or a box.

    Photography remains, although I no longer schlep a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens on a gripped D300 when leaving the house. I no longer try to get the runner sliding in from third base trying to avoid the catcher's tag and this summer (for the first time in recent memory) I did not take a long lens and tripod to the local zoo to photograph my animal friends. (My solitary trip to the zoo was to attend a fund raising event and I took two lenses (the 20mm and the 45mm as I recall) and that proved to be one lens too many).

    But I cannot claim to be enjoying the hobby any less; I am enjoying it rather more by avoiding the pressure of having to schlep the "right" gear to get the "right" shot. It has taken the last few months to solidify this posture - I still check the price of the 60mm prime on a frequent basis; but it's sort of like looking in the old "wish book" (For the youngsters: a Sears catalog that weighed perhaps 4 pounds and carried everything that one could possibly wish for. One could literally order a house from Sears.)

    I still like looking but "sometimes wanting is better than having."


    • Like Like x 5
  5. agentlossing

    agentlossing Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Jun 26, 2013
    Andrew Lossing
    Interesting thoughts, thanks for posting!

    I'm an under-thirty (I was going to say "young" but I don't really feel that way any more!) and I don't have as much photographic history behind me, just disposable 35mm cameras as a kid, an Olympus 2mp p&s for years after that, then a leap into the DSLR world with a Nikon D40. When that 6mp CCD sensor had been dated for many years (2005-2013!) I jumped into m4/3.

    Non-essential history out of the way. For me, photography scratches the itch to be creative*, which I've always had to a certain degree. As a kid it was pen and pencil drawings, as a teen I got into writing, then photography, and those two are still my major weaknesses. I'd love to make a career out of writing (no interest in doing that with photography), but I'm extraordinarily busy with life and work these days, so photography offers me a way to appease the muse (I'm actually not at all fond of neoclassical word pictures, but that one is pretty useful) that doesn't take quite as much reflection and quiet time.

    With photography, creativity flows into seeing, framing shots either in my head or with an actual camera, and is much more spontaneous than the reflective sort of work I like to do on paper. In a purely utilitarian sense, it's faster, easier to cram into a lunch break.

    * I decided not to touch on my rabid desire for cool technology because it's not as honorable-sounding as the creative aspect... but computers and mobile devices of all kinds satisfy that itch as well, so it's also less relevant ;)
    • Like Like x 1
  6. snkenai

    snkenai Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 5, 2010
    Backward movement

    And now, the E-p3 is also gone! Traded to my son for the "old" E-420 with the 25mm pancake. Retro can be fun. :smile:
  7. 0dBm

    0dBm Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 30, 2011
    Western United States
    Digital photography is what I once did with oil, tempera, & watercolor paint; charcoal and lead pencil and ink; chisel and hammer; and film. I always dreaded the clean-up with those other media which is why I adore electronics. It frees me to do other things such as spending time with family and friends. I have also "thinned-out" my inventory of just about everything and continue to do so. No, I'm not ready nor am I planning to "check-out" anytime soon. I still have much to do. I post here on occasion whenever I'm not actuation a camera shutter. Photography for me is not just a part-time paying occupation or hobby for me: it is a way of life because I do it everyday just like a few select, very important other aspects that I have long chosen and continue to practice.
    • Like Like x 1
  8. tjdean01

    tjdean01 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 20, 2013
    Thanks for your post. I'm not going anywhere soon, but I've often wondered what will happen to all my photos when I'm gone. Photography actually has a few different meanings for me that have changed over the years:

    1) Recording My Life - an old friend once told me, "If you don't take pictures, how are you going to remember?" And he's right. It's kind of like writing something down - after writing it, even if you never see the paper again, it's imprinted on your brain visually. It's easier to remember a photo or letters on paper than it is to remember a situation or an idea. I think my memory takes on the form of the photo, not the actual scene. Luckily the camera captures the scene perfectly.

    Let's say I did something cool: "Oh, I remember this photo. Me and John met these girls during our overseas vacation and had a good time that night." Those are memories you want to keep. Similarly, you went to a place and want to remember where, or what was near that place, etc. The camrea does that for you. There are some things that yes, without photos, you'd forget. With this type of photography, the megapixels don't count. The camera doesn't really matter, as long as it's small enough to be with you. It for sure needs a flash. A snap shooter that's always with you. Similarly, keeping a daily journal can help, even if you rarely look at it or the pictures you took on that day.

    I look back at my journal and it says some things that photos cannot. For example, I have journal entries where I was with my GF, went to work, hung out with a friend, did something super awesome, met a new girl, then traveled on the night train to another city. I look back and think, "I did that all in one day?" And reading about it - or looking at a photo - the memories come rushing back. Photography reminds me of where I've been and where I want to go.

    2) Scene capturing - You need a different kind of camera to capture, say, a street scene of New York City where everything is in focus. The very best camera for this type of photography would be current Canon s110. Before it was the old Fuji F30 or even older Canon s400 when the Elphs were good. The wider angle the better. You simply capture the wide angle of where you were, usually a famous landmark. Some of these shots are frameable. But, I've found I rarely look at these types of photos again, probably because they're the same as in any tour book. I don't do this type of photography too much anymore.

    3) Creative - You need a larger sensor for this and usually, you need more a telephoto lens, so, DSLR or mirrorless. I can take a photo of an old bench and make it look interesting by use of the out of focus area. These are the photos photographers take and end up taking a dozen shots of the same bench. I take a few but like to only keep one or two max. I don't want looking back at these photos to be a chore. Recently, since getting my first ICL camera, I've gotten a lot more compliments on my photography. I mean, even people with $600 Nikon D5100s don't understand that the kit lens will not make the subjects pop like a m4/3s Sigma 30 @ 2.8 with no flash. People love the shots because they rarely see them, especially with themselves as the subject.

    Jack of all Trades - With something like a Panasonic GM1, you can fit all of these. It's small enough to always be with you to Record Your Life and has the built-in flash, with a lens like the 14/2.5 at higher aperture it should be in-focus enough to Capture Scenes (although I suspect a smaller sensor would be better for this), and finally, with a lens like the 45/1.8 it will for sure give you the same creativity with bokeh as any other m4/3s camera.

    Unfortunately for me I don't go anywhere interesting anymore. I will when my business is successful. So for now it's creative photography with my PM2 and several cheap but wonderful adapted lenses.
    • Like Like x 1
  9. T N Args

    T N Args Agent Photocateur

    Dec 3, 2013
    Adelaide, Australia
    call me Arg
    This thread is quality.
  10. T N Args

    T N Args Agent Photocateur

    Dec 3, 2013
    Adelaide, Australia
    call me Arg
    Don't worry, you will one day feel that way again -- even if it takes 20 to 30 years! But the sooner the better; just work on it. :wink:
  11. tosvus

    tosvus Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 4, 2014
    Great topic! As tjdean mentions, I think my photos/videos have different purposes. Some of them, I do wish my daughter/her children when/if that time comes, will get to enjoy. I am closing in on forty so expecting to be around for some time, but realizing I have already amassed a huge amount of pictures and videos (I am a pack-rat). First of all, I need to get rid of the stuff that just isn't good, secondly, I need to tidy up so only topics that are relevant to future generations are given to them. This topic makes me think how something like that could look;
    a) Any (good) pictures/videos of my daughter/things she did/we did together, I would probably want her to have. Never know, she might want to reminisce about her own childhood, or the old man at some point. Needs to be well cataloged though....
    b) My top 100(?) pictures that I took as attempts of art/capturing beauty in this world.
    • Like Like x 1
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