I had a load of bits and pieces from various experiments shooting at Park Beach scattered over my hard drive so I put them together in a short video.
After my post on familiarity and Chichester Cathedral I got a few comments about the use of Cokin Filters and after answering them I thought it would be fun to dig them out again and shoot some landscapes. There’s no HDR or tone mapping each photo is the result of a single exposure. Processed in Adobe Lightroom 5 and Alien Skin Exposure 3 to simulate Fuji Velvia 50.
A bloke I know has just got into photography and has bought an Olympus OMD EM1 with the 12-50 kit lens. By his own admission he knows very little about photography and hasn’t settled into any specific genre. He now wants some more lenses, specifically the so-called Olympus Holy Trinity of f2.8 zooms – the 7-14mm f/2.8, the 12-40mm F2.8 and the 40-150mm F2.8. Nice lenses and in Australia you expect to pay around $4000 for them, and that is the problem. He is pretty convinced that he “needs” these lenses to be a good photographer and has read countless gear oriented forums about them. The major hurdles are that he can’t afford them, and he doesn’t know what to do with them. All he knows is that he wants to post the shots on a photo sharing web site and maybe make the occasional 10×15 cm print. Pushed hard he said that if he were to only have the one it would be the 40-150, but the reality is that he can’t afford even that on its own. I suggested he look at the 40-150mm F4.0-5.6 R which can be picked up for around $200 AUD, sometimes less if a white box special. The look on his face gave the impression that he thought I was stark raving bonkers. He then went onto to site all the usual internet complaints about the lens – its cheap and nasty, slow maximum aperture, unpleasant bokeh, plastic body and lens mount, soft at the longest end. My answer was that the f2.8 model costs around 8 times more than the cheaper one and I doubted whether he would see 8 times difference in terms of optical quality.
I don’t own or have access to the 40-150 f2.8, but I do own the 40-150mm f/4.0-5.6 R and I then decided to test it against a comparable lens from another manufacturer that costs nearly $3000 AUD. The pictures were processed exactly the same way in Lightroom and because the non m4/3 camera had a different aspect ration its image was cropped and sized to same as that from my Pen EP-5. I’m not saying which is which, that’s for you to decide. All I will say is that the 40-150mm f/4.0-5.6 R comes out of the test quite well.
All this reminds me of a conversation I had many years ago with a work colleague Steve. We were chewing the fat one boring night shift and he let on that he had been a full on Hi Fi tragic and had spent an absolute fortune on buying the ultimate set up. I nearly choked when he told how much he spent on speaker cables. I thought that photographers were gear obsessives. Anyway after a while of swapping components in and out and reading lots of technical papers he had the realisation that he was forking out literally thousands of dollars to gain frequencies that only dogs and bats could hear. After that epiphany he settled on the equipment that he had and used it for what it was designed for – listening to music. It’s the same here, you could spend thousands on a lens and most people would not be able to tell the difference. Therein lies the problem for my acquaintance. He is new to the hobby and has been led to believe that to be any good he has to go out and spend a bucket load of whonga on buying the best lenses. He doesn’t have the cash and so he will probably give photography away as he will feel he can’t afford it. My advice was to buy the cheaper alternative and really use it. Push the lens as hard as you can in a variety of situations and then see is you like the focal range, and if that lens prevents you from getting any pictures. If after a year or so you feel that the lens is a must have and that you absolutely need the extra performance and can use it then buy the expensive version. Just to finish I’ll post a picture taken with a camera that internet forums love to hate – the Canon EOS 550d. Its plastic, has a slow frame rate, a poor sensor with little dynamic range, dog slow auto focus, and a minuscule buffer.
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?
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.
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.
** 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.