New Year’s Day*

New Years Day 2015
Sitting in the car waiting for the rain to stop.

Sitting in the car this morning waiting for the rain stop I was thinking about it being New Year and what sort of resolution or revolution I could implement for 2015. Fittingly the radio station I was tuned into played “New Year’s Day” by U2 and then “All I Wanna Do” by Cheryl Crow**.  I have reached something of  a crossroads*** as a photographer (doing well so far first paragraph and already three song titles referenced) – the choices are do I still remain committed to printing and showing my work that way or do I just output for the web and e-books?

New Years Day 2015
The rain finally slows down enough so I can head out onto the dog exercise area on Okine’s Beach, Dodge’s Ferry.

For me as a photographer and writer I want my ideas and images to be seen by as many people as possible and along with the process of creating that really floats my boat. If I just rely on exhibitions at best all I got was maybe a couple of hundred people look at the work. That’s a lot of effort and expense for for just so few hits (to use the web parlance). Having said that I really enjoy making prints – it was after all how I started in photography disappearing into the bathroom at night to process film and print. I found the process terribly exciting and rather magical. Fast forward a bit and an assignment that took me to Russia to shoot a bag full of Tri-X and when I got back home I processed the film and printed the proofs for the client. Later I got to see photos printed really big used at the launch of a human rights campaign. It was then that I realised the power of photography and the impact of a large print. I was hooked. Some twelve years later I got my first computer and started to play about with digital photography, desktop publishing and the internet. The world had shifted on its axis and now nearly twenty years later I’m doing stuff and reaching a what to me is a large very diverse audience. WordPress sent me an email the other day that gave a breakdown of the visitors to this blog, basically where they’re from and how they got here. While the majority of the readers are from the USA, England and Australia I get a surprising number from Russia, Central Asia, and the Latin American countries. The downside is that digital has made me a very lazy photographer and I’m loosing touch with what I’d call the craft of photography and I find that rather sad. I’ll explain that. It is sad because over the thirty years I’ve been pressing the shutter button I’ve accumulated an awful amount of knowledge – reciprocity failure, the Scheimpflug principle, push processing etc etc – and that hard-won knowledge is not being used anymore.

New Years Day 2015
Washed up tree trunk. Okines Beach, Tasmania.

I’ve got no easy answers. Maybe I’ll continue with being both. Perhaps for most of the week I’ll be a modern all digital content creator, and then for a day or so get back to the craft and keep in touch with my roots. I could even shoot a roll or two of film (I found a container full of unexposed film in the freezer and an ever larger container of exposed film). The photos accompanying today’s post are really nothing to do with today’s subject and were made in an “old skool” way. Well old school circa 2005 and that is positively ancient in digital terms. They were made with my Canon EOS5d – the original 5d – and a canon 50mm f1.8 MkII (the  plastic one not the original metal mount one). I have an embarrassingly large inventory of Canon bodies and lenses that sit around unused now I’ve gone to m4/3s.  So my feelings of guilt compelled me to get a camera out of the cupboard and shoot some black and white photos just for the heck of it.

 

* New Year’s Day by U2. Another memorable concert at the Portsmouth Guildhall from the days when Bono was not considered an annoying twat.

 

U2 – NEW YEAR’S DAY – OFFICIAL VIDEO from Noisefield on Vimeo.

 

** Sheryl Crow is an artist I’ve really got into, but an old friend of mine got the album when it first came out and every time I went round to her house she have this playing full-bore while she danced and sang along so I always associate it with her and that particular summer.

 

 

*** I first became aware of Elmore James after watching The Blues Brothers, and while I prefer the album “The Sky Is Crying” this track is an all time classic and has been covered by loads of people, but the original is still the best.

 

Time For A Change

Head of Janus, Vatican museum, Rome by Loudon Dodd

 

I am holed up in the command centre of the vast global entity that is Paul Amyes Photography taking shelter from the heat of the Aussie sun and pondering what 2014 will bring while my minions work hard to bring about my plans for global domination.  Actually the end of the year and the beginning of the next are very good for such musings, so good that the Romans actually had a god of transitions, beginnings and endings, he was called Janus and January was named after him. He is depicted as having two faces, one looking to the past and the other looking to the future. This has led to the whole idea of making New Year’s resolutions whereby a person makes a promise to make an act of self-improvement commencing on the start of the New Year.

 “Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.”

Mark Twain

 

Photography is a very broad church and people do it for all sorts of reasons and one of the attractions is that equipment has a fetishistic appeal. There is something about cameras and lenses that makes us lust after them, day-dream incessantly, continuously peruse websites looking to put together the ultimate camera system. The term fetish means “an inanimate object worshipped for its supposed magical powers or because it is considered to be inhabited by a spirit” and camera equipment is certainly worshipped, which implies a religion, which explains the virulent brand wars that flare up on online forums such as dpreview.com. It is probably just as well that this is online for if the protagonists were ever to meet in actual life ethnic cleansing based upon camera brand would surely be the result. Then look at the magical powers that are imbued by certain lenses. Oh if only you had a Leica 50mm Noctilux f/0.95, a Canon 85mm f1.2 L or a Nikkor 400mm f/2.8G IF ED VR then you could truly ascend to the astounding heights of photographic greatness as you’d never ever take a bad picture again.*

 “Good resolutions are simply checks that men draw on a bank where they have no account.”

Oscar Wilde

 

Three bodies, seven lenses, two flashes, flash meter, filters, cables, flash triggers, and reflectors. It is a hernia inducing load.

From reading the forums it seems that a lot of people spend the equivalent of a small third world nations GDP in trying to get the ultimate image quality only never to see those images ever displayed larger than a low res web image or to never to take the equipment out because it is too heavy and cumbersome. I often wonder at how many millions of dollars worth of photographic equipment lies in the back of cupboards unused.** Before the mob assembles and proclaims me a sanctimonious, holier-than-thou, self-satisfied, smug, pietistic, moralizing, unctuous, mealy-mouthed, hypocritical prig and lynches me I would like to say that I am guilty of all the above (except for the bit of fantasying about a Nikkor – ugh!). Now at the grand old age of 50 and after nearly 30 of them practicing photography in one form or other I now realise that no one piece of equipment that I’ve bought has made me a better photographer.***

 

“The old year has gone. Let the dead past bury its own dead. The New Year has taken possession of the clock of time. All hail the duties and possibilities of the coming twelve months!”

E. P. Powell

 Getting back to our two faced friend Janus and looking back over 2013 I can see that going out and taking photos, working on projects and showing them has made me feel photographically satisfied. So if like me you’re sitting at home wondering what 2014 will bring might I suggest a modest proposal? Instead of buying gear and hanging out on gear forums use your photography budget to travel somewhere photographically interesting, or hire some models, or devise a project and do an exhibition or publish a book. Set goals that are realistic, I’ve been wishing National Geographic and Magnum will come knocking for years now to no avail, and write them down. Then break down those those goals into their key components and then work out a time frame in which you can complete them. Looking forward to 2014 I have an idea of where I want to go and a rough idea of how to get there. It gives me something to look forward to, something to work towards and will give me a sense of accomplishment when I achieve it.

 

“Where there is no vision, the people perish…”

Proverbs 29:18

Yours truly working happily on Frenchman Peak.

 

* I bought a Canon 70-200mm f2.8 L several years ago and I’m still taking rubbish. Can I get my money back?

** There’s no way I’m admitting to what lies in the darkest recesses of my cupboards, nor its financial cost. My wife sometimes reads this blog and there’s no way I will incriminate myself.

*** Actually one item did make me a better photographer, it was a tripod.