Somewhat Analog Things About Photography

What Photography Is For Me

Let me ramble about taking photos, collecting gear, GAS, experimentation and all things photography. Apart from actual art of photography of course.

Photography can mean many different things to different people. It can be a conglomerate of various aspects that join together making unity that nothing can beat. Or it can be a single, very specific aspect and the rest is meaningless.

There are those that lust after the latest camera even if their current camera doesn't hold them back. There are those that take photos with a hollowed out potato pinhole camera. Some will zoom into their photos and inspect every sub-pixel. Analyze every RAW file to find all inconsistencies. Some will soak their negatives in urine and gin concoction and grind them on the ground before scanning. There are all these camps and not all these camps play well with one another. One camp will claim they are the best and cite "objective" reasons why they are correct and the others — not. Other camp will reject all those claims and will put forward their "objective facts" about why the first camp are losers. Camp wars!

In truth — there is no truth. There is no objective fact about such a loose term as "photography". You can't say Lens X is the best lens in the world because look at these charts and soak in their marvelous numbers. Best for what? You have to make a very specific definition of what would make the lens the "best lens in the world". And even then you would fail to make truly objective statements because you can't limit the infinity. You can always find that one aspect that is left open in the definition and claim victorious. Even if you're claiming victory for yourself.

I don't know where I'm going with this. I suppose it's triggered by the constant arguments that can often flame up in various online forums. For example, a few days ago I read a very heated discussion about Sigma Merrill cameras. The original discussion was about the potential differences between Merrill and Quattro. It was on topic for a few comments and then it turned into some ego driven word spitting. Instead of stating some observations and being done with it, the people involved wrote a book worth of stuff about the same thing tens of times. Even if they all thought that Merrill is a good camera. The reason why it's good had to be their reason and it couldn't be anything else. I can't say that I'm better though. I spent 30 minutes of my life reading that whole "discussion"...

I set out to write this with the goal of explaining what different things make "photography" for me. Instead I wrote myself out of topic so this paragraph is here to bring it back to my original plan.

What "Photography" Is For Me

A meaning for something can change over time. Photography has meant different things to me over the many years I've been doing it. At first it was a way to capture me an my friends doing stupid things on bicycles. Then I found out that I enjoy taking pictures of "nice things". Things that look pleasing to me when frozen in the time grain that is a "photo". Then I wanted to get other cameras as I wanted to blur backgrounds. Then I wanted to have a digital camera so that I don't have to spend resources on film and would allow me greater flexibility. Then I wanted new cameras because "hey look at this cool feature"! Then I wanted old cameras to impose limitations for me. Then I wanted old cameras for the sheer reason to use them. Now I want all these things and more. All this mixture is what "photography" is for me.

GAS: Old Film Cameras

I love old film cameras. There are so many of them and most of them look amazing. I get joy in browsing the internet in search of new, for me, cameras that I could acquire one day. I like how they look. I enjoy playing around with them. I don't care about getting duplicate cameras — I like trying new cameras. Seeing how different cameras implement the same concepts in different ways excites me. I love cocking shutters. I love pressing shutter release buttons. I love playing around with various controls. It's very tactile and that is what I love.

The actual "collecting" aspect isn't why I do it. Collecting a camera just to have it in my collection is not something that interests me. Whilst I do keep the cameras I enjoy, I'm not trying to make a "collection". Well ... in a way I'm creating a collection of cameras that I enjoy for one reason or another.

A camera must work. At least to the extent that it can make photos. I have little interest in cameras that are so broken that they can't run a film through and create usable images. Sure, I could have some tactile fun with it for 5 minutes but that's it. The biggest enjoyment is loading the camera with film and taking it out with the intent to create photos. Not test photos. Photos that I could like.

To keep a camera I must find it interesting. It should also spark some desire to shoot with it. If I haven't had a desire to take a certain camera out for a long time then it must go.

GAS: Digital Cameras

Where with film cameras it's more about the tactile experience of using a camera opposed to final results, digital is the opposite. Film cameras are light tight ( hopefully ) boxes that don't have much, if any, imprint in the final photo. Digital cameras put in a lot more in the final result. There are some tactile joys to be had in using digital cameras as well but not to the same extent as it is with the film cameras.

Many digital cameras can produce great results but I'm looking for something extra. It doesn't have to have the greatest dynamic range, the most megapixels or the ability to see in the dark. As long as it can provide something that is unique when compared to other cameras, I'm interested. Different sensor technologies and processing pipelines. They all play a part and there are quite a few digital cameras that produce unique results.

GAS: Lenses

Lenses arguably make the most impact in the final image. I love trying new lenses to see what rendering characteristics they have. Some lenses are very similar but some attach a certain sparkle to the final image. I'm a sparkle collector!

Although lenses have a large impact on the final photo, they don't bring the same usability joy. It is tough to create a truly awful lens that is dreadful to use. Even cheaper lenses have a decent feel about them. Plastic lenses I cut at the root and they are not welcome in my household. Because of that there is less excitement to be had in tactile aspects. It's definitely more about the final result.

Having several cameras available helps. Seeing how a lens behaves in both analog and digital is cool. A lens might be awesome in digital but terrible on film. Or the other way around.

Actual Art Of Photography

Finally, the most important aspect — the actual act of taking photos. What's not to love! For me that means walking around which is fun in itself. I get to observe and focus on smaller and greater details in hopes of trying to find something that catches my eye.

As surprising as it may be — actual art of photography is what brings the best joy in photography for me. I wouldn't be interested in photo gear / GAS if I wasn't interested in taking photos. But I would still be taking photos if all I had was a terrible plastic camera with an equally plastic lens that's autofocus only. I wouldn't be taking as many photos and I would enjoy it a lot less, but I would still be taking photos!

"Art of photography" in itself is a large subject that is different for each photographer. For me it's a broad subject. I just like taking photos. I'm not interested in one specific branch like landscape or portrait. I like it all. There are subjects / styles that I don't care about but there aren't too many of those.

I know that there are people that can happily collect photo gear and never take photos with it. I can't. Photo taking is the core of my photography hobby. I wrote before that my interests in photography are always changing and they will continue to change. But what I'm quite confident about is that I will always like taking photos. That is the very root where the sub-hobbies of photography stem from. Without that, there is nothing else.


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