Letting Go / When The Fun Stops

Over my photography adventures in the last five years, there have been significant landmarks, where something that had worked well for a period of time just stopped working.

Or, put another way, the fun disappeared. 

Rather than carry on slogging through and becoming increasingly frustrated and disillusioned, I’ve tried to recognise what’s happening, and make the necessary shift. In short I’ve tried to let go of whatever was sucking away the enjoyment.

36408018094_c9d1acf15f_b

In gambling shops and ads over here, one slogan appears frequently – “When the fun stops, stop.”

It’s a good philosophy for any hobby and pursuit we originally begin because we enjoy it. 

Here are a few photography activities I once loved, but chose to let go of when the fun stopped.

Scanning film

I got into scanning film for a couple of reasons.

First, I thought it would be cheaper than having it scanned by a lab. Even the initial outlay for the scanner would be saved once I’d scanned maybe a couple of dozen films – which was only three or four months’ worth at the rate I was shooting film back then.

Second, I could scan film it was either not possible to have scanned locally, or that was prohibitively expensive (for my budget).

Like 35mm film shot in my Holga 120N that exposed the film right to the edge and across the sprocket holes, and overlaid multiple exposure collages (again usually with the Holga and my DIY 35mm conversion) where a conventional automated lab scanner would cut it into regular 35mm frames.

8038670730_4741672f99_c

It was useful for a while, and what I should have probably done was only use the scanner for occasional experiments, and send the conventional stuff to the processing lab for scanning too.

But scanning every film became laborious and fiddly, and a roll might take me two or three hours or more.

15416879287_f88f4477fc_b

One reason I love photography is that it gets me away from computers and out in nature. Scanning for hours a week completely defeated this aim.

I came to loathe scanning.

Plus my time and energy in the evenings was worth more to me than the extra couple of pounds a roll it would cost me to have regular 35mm film scanned to CD at the lab.

Further to this, I was actually holding back from shooting film because I was dreading the whole scanning experience I’d have to endure if I wanted to see the photographs in digital form.

The fun had emphatically stopped.

So I let go of scanning, packed my Canoscan away and trusted the lab. I haven’t looked back. I should probably list it on eBay soon.

14759199582_8597ea0885_b

Testing cameras

This one took me a while. For about four and a half of the five years or so I’ve shot film I’ve felt more like a camera tester than a photographer. The first few months were very exciting and experimental, with the Holga and my first few 35mm cameras.

But then the buying of new (to me) cameras accelerated beyond the speed at which I was able to find time to shoot them.

Again the actual experience of shooting the cameras was being tarnished by the fact I knew I had another dozen at home also waiting to be tested.

Also, I just don’t like having too much stuff or clutter in any area of life. My inner minimalist reels in horror at seeing cameras and lenses spilling from shelves.

23933205419_6d6fddb28c_b

Because I was selling most of those I’d tested, I also had a rising stack of boxes, bubble wrap and other packaging materials in our bedroom.

Again, every time I went in the room I was reminded of all the stuff I needed to photograph, list and sell online, and all the packaging that needed using up. Which chipped away at my enjoyment of the hobby overall.

As with the scanning, the fun had stopped. So I had to let go.

This took far too long to realise, and it was probably only a few months back I felt I’d really got on top of this. Choosing mostly just a couple of lens mounts (M42 and Pentax K) and one brand of camera was a huge step.

35274064684_3c9c54f025_b

And on the digital front in fact switching to Pentax DLSRs which only use those two aforementioned mounts, rather than my Sony NEX for which I’ve had at least half a dozen adapters and over a hundred lenses, was also fundamental in this letting go and regaining control. And rediscovering the fun.

Buying and shooting 50mm lenses

This one is like a sub-genre of the testing cameras experience above, but different enough to mention separately.

My first SLR was a Praktica BMS Electronic with, inevitably, a Prakticar 50mm f/1.8 lens. The next was a Konica, again with a 50mm lens.

9043106613_1062fdb23c_b

Then I think a Canon AE-1. With a 50mm lens. And so it continued.

Of maybe 100 or 120 SLR lenses I’ve had, I would guess that 85% of them have been 50 or 55mm.

What you find after a while is that there is not a drastic difference between them.

All of the major manufactures came up with a very good 50mm lens, one that you could use as your only lens for the rest of your life and still get consistently pleasing images.

14558278266_77615826ab_b

Plus as mentioned before, the incredibly adaptable Sony NEX meant I could switch between different 50s in completely different mounts very easily. The choice was amazing, yet overwhelming.

What really helped narrow this down and let go of so many near duplicate 50s was deciding on the camera bodies I most enjoyed and wanted to use.

For a while it was the Contax C/Y bodies, but as good as the Yashica C/Y lenses are, I found I was using the Contax with M42 lenses and an adapter the majority of the time. So having a 50mm C/Y lens was all but redundant.

27999065313_1dd8b6a847_b

As I explored digital SLRs maybe nine months ago, first Sony, then Pentax, (both with M42 adapters mostly) I found the C/Y lenses completely superfluous and off they went.

The Sony DSLRs were fine, and created excellent results. But it wasn’t until I stumbled across a Pentax K10D in my research that the pieces really started to tumble into place.

This gave me a very capable camera, with excellent handling (probably the best of any camera I’ve used, film or digital), with a great viewfinder and the ability to easily use M42 lenses, or any Pentax K mount lens since 1975. It’s probably the camera I wish I’d discovered about four years ago.

35322761212_3103918fbc_b

The range of available 50s in M42 mount alone is still vast, but steadily the mighty Asahi Takumars rose to the top.

I now have just two different 55mm Takumars (a Super 55/1.8 plus a much older Auto 55/2), plus a 50/1.4 Pentax-A for when I want (slightly) more automated shooting, and slightly brighter, poppier colours.

The relief of having only three 50mm lenses to choose from rather than 13 or 33 is immense, and means not only do I choose more quickly and just get out photographing, I’m getting to know the particular strengths and personality of each of these lenses better too.

When you’re choosing a different lens every time you pick up a camera, reaching this familiarity takes forever – if it happens at all. Constantly fiddling around with your kit is frustrating and time consuming.

36292182905_c80081187b_b

As with the other examples above, when the fun stopped, I needed to find ways to let go of the habit so I could preserve my enjoyment of photography overall.

What has caused photography to stop being fun for you in the past? What did you do to help you let go and rediscover the enjoyment? Please let us know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too.

Advertisements

The Lomo Itch (And How I Scratch It)

Lomo photography is an itch I periodically get and have to scratch. Here’s how I came to it, the allure it has, and how I scratch that itch these days…

Though I was using camera phones to intentionally make photographs from the mid 2000s, my first film camera, in 2012, was about as Lomo as it gets, a Holga 120N.

7795779128_ac0d0a5eff_z

My initial disbelief that this simplistic toy hunk of plastic could make any kind of image turned to wonder and delight I had the first roll processed. Then another, and another.

7699169654_be6816483a_z

Finding that shooting medium format 120 film was pretty expensive, I followed this by adapting the Holga to take 35mm film – considerably more affordable to buy and have developed.

8038664609_2dcc1e41a3_c

Realising that the Holga exposed 35mm film across its whole width – and that the cost to have this scanned was ridiculous – I invested in my own scanner and modified one of the scanning masks/frames.

I also experimented with some close up filters, and again got some surprisingly pleasing results.

8038676054_75fe13ce9b_c

This in turn was soon followed by the first genuine 35mm film camera I bought, a possibly even more Lomo, er, Lomo Smena 8M.

7655777756_1bae09b1a8_c

8132532906_cfa7d3a7ed_c

7655775260_933afc474f_c

Most of my cameras since (and there have been many!) have been less lo-fi, and I eventually expanded into the sedate control of SLRs, and some five years later, DSLRs.

Other notable plastic fantastic cameras I’ve had are the Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim (UWS) clones – I’ve had a Black Slim Devil and an Olive San, both made by Superheadz – the Konica Pop, a Pentax PC-330, and a couple of Miranda and Halina panoramas.

8169737177_05b7cb52e4_c

8169764508_eed6cb5615_c

29987950810_100d6b3f28_c

Though these days I shoot mostly digital with vintage manual lenses, that Lomo urge still periodically reappears.

Why?

Because not having to think about anything but pointing and shooting, and knowing that the final photograph will be high contrast, overly saturated, soft at the edges (if not all over), and have significant vignetting (if it comes out at all), and be a little bit unpredictable, is somehow very attractive and addictive.

But, ironically, the most Lomo images I make these days aren’t on film at all, but with my iPhone, plus the Hipstamatic app.

35507916022_f0a3ab5062_c

After taking a few hundred shots with the iPhone and finding them good enough for snapshots but overall a bit dull, I tried the in built filters, like Noir, Chrome, Instant and, my favourite, Transfer. The latter makes for especially appealing spontaneous portrait shots, in my opinion, and it’s my default setting for family outings.

Keen to explore further (and after stumbling across it via another app I already had to use my iPhone as a lightmeter for my oldest 35mm cameras), I downloaded Hipstamatic.

33074271062_fa47178988_c

The range of options available via changing the “film”, “lens” and “flash” in any combination is quite dizzying. I’ve managed to find a handful of combos I really like, and recently settled on just one.

36428885510_495111ea12_z

Hipstamatic offers seven different aspect ratios, but the one that I use most is the pure 1:1 square. I sometimes use 3:2 as I’m so familiar with it from shooting 35mm film and with my Pentax DSLRs.

And occasionally too I’ve been dabbling the widescreen cinema apsect of 16:9, which can work well for landscapes and adds drama.

36764224990_a9b2db2231_c1

The iPhone plus Hipstamatic pairing gives me results very similar to my favourites I was getting with probably my favourite 35mm plastic fantastic, the Superheadz UWS clone.

As I can do this with no expenditure on film, a way higher hit rate, and the convenience that my iPhone is always with me, it’s pretty much resigned my Holga and Superheadz to a dusty shelf.

36990432872_b4e80ccd1f_z

Plus the whole process of scanning was unbelievably time consuming, and for me at least, just not worth the time and frustration. I fairly quickly reverted to having my film developed and scanned to CD again, and let the lab do their best.

The time saving and the relief was a major revelation, not unlike my recent giving up of eBay to gain more time for other aspects of photography.

More often than not I love the control and image quality that SLRs/DSLRs with vintage manual lenses give, not to mention the tactile experience and the immersion of a good viewfinder.

It’s these that get me closer to the majesty and wonder of the world that’s too easily overlooked.

But for when I feel that Lomo itch, and want a quick and dirty image that’s a delicious hyperreal dream take on reality, all I need do now is reach in my pocket, swipe right, open Hipstamatic, point and shoot. And that has a great appeal.

What are your experiences with lomo/lo-fi photography? Let us know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too.

Why Photograph? (The Hunt And The Wonder)

The subheading of this blog sums up why I photograph, but a recent post by Jennifer has inspired me to revisit the subject a little more deeply.

37149378495_16194d84b9_c

The name 35hunter covers two aspects of hunting in my photography.

First, hunting for the core arsenal of cameras and lenses that I’ll feel I can settle on and use enough so I know them like an extension of my hands and eyes.

Why do I want this, and how does it tie in with Jennifer’s “awe and wonder?”

Because, put simply, if you’re out with camera, and constantly fiddling, adjusting and generally fumbling around in trying to figure out how to use the equipment to the best of your (and its) ability, you’re not focused on what your trying to capture.

You’re lost in completely the wrong kind of detail.

When you don’t know your kit, the very activity of trying to effectively document what you’re seeing (and feeling) in front of you – capturing the full force and wonder it possesses – becomes a stumbling block at best.

At worst it becomes an impenetrable wall – solid bricks of incompetence and unfamiliarity held firm by a mortar mix of frustration and irritation.

36960139996_a81bc61856_c

So being able to just raise the camera to the eye, focus, compose, meter and shoot, in one fluid motion becomes highly desirable in this pursuit.

It’s harder to do this if you have, say, ten cameras and 20 lenses (assuming they’re all compatible this gives 200 different combos, yikes!) than if you have say two cameras and three lenses, giving six arrangements.

At its peak my “collection” had maybe 30 compacts and 15 SLRs, with probably 30 lenses for those SLRs. With considerably more than 200 combinations, no wonder I was getting so frustrated. Just picking one to go out use was sometimes painful enough!

30567354776_1fd32eccdc_c

No-one’s going to master and remember 200 different combinations of anything, but two or four or six, well that seems achievable to most of us.

The appeal grows further still when it means a higher percentage of the shots we take come closer to what we saw, which again is far less when we’re floundering with cameras we don’t fully know how to use (or even know that they fully work, in the case of many film cameras I’ve used in the past five years).

This fluid motion of capturing the scene doesn’t (necessarily) mean using a camera with full program modes and autofocus so you resort to a purely point and experience, although that is one option, and sometimes exactly what we need.

I confess in recent times some of the photographs of mine I’ve been most pleased with and excited about are the ones I’ve taken fairly spontaneously with my iPhone and Hipstmatic.

One camera, one lens, and, lately at least, just one “filter” combination in Hipstamatic.

36764224990_a9b2db2231_c

Most of the time though I favour my Pentax DSLRs with manual focus lenses, and manual exposure, so the process with them takes a few seconds longer. But when I know how to do it without thinking about where my fingers are, what buttons I’m pressing and dials I’m turning and why, it adds to the experience rather than hinders it.

My recent plan to use one camera and one lens for a month has inevitably gone awry, but with the DSLRs I have stuck to just one, even if I’ve used two or three lenses.

The familiarity of one camera quickly starts to make a difference and how invisible the camera’s controls become in the process of taking the photographs.

The thinking of the brain and the actions of the fingers starts to disappear, and this single fluid motion of taking the picture starts to become a reality, and consistently so.

36325562164_3a7cb27796_z

Which brings us to the second aspect of my hunting – for the compositions worth capturing, the photographs themselves.

For these the wonder is not so straightforward as travelling to places in the country and world where natural, er, wonders, present themselves almost on a plate, then just snapping away.

Rather, I prefer seeking out the tiny wonders of the (/my/our) world on a much more local scale, whether that’s in my back garden or a nearby woodland or churchyard or coastline.

This, I realise, is why the majority of my pictures revert to pretty close focus and shallow depth of field.

35693342222_9ae6998f9e_c

Hunting up close you see things you would never be able to see if stood far back and assessing and capturing whole scenes.

And using a more shallow depth of field allows me to isolate objects more and hopefully better enhance and relay the beauty I saw in them in the first place.

If I think generally about moments of wonder and try to describe my state of being, I’d say I stop actively breathing (maybe my heart momentarily slows or stops) and the awareness of every thought, memory and experience outside of what’s right in front me disappears.

A short circuit from the essence of the moment to the inner essence of me occurs, a momentary direct bolt of lightning to something deep and primitive and ancient and frequently inaccessible.

All of my consciousness is open to and filled with that experience in front of or around me, and nothing else matters, nothing else even exists. 

35281713771_3e338b1caf_c

This, I realise, albeit on a more subtle scale, is the same kind of feeling I try to seek (and am fortunate to be able to find with enough frequency to make the hunting worthwhile) within the four edges of the viewfinder of my camera(s).

The holding of breath, the focus on the contents of that rectangle, the disappearance of all else…

It’s also, I think, a major reason I often visit old rural churches.

I don’t attend church on a religious basis (I prefer them empty), but entering them as a curious photographer, their age, history, and atmosphere do instil a sense of awe in me that no other places really do.

I would describe it as a hushed and dignified wonder rather than anything explosive or dramatic. But a wonder nonetheless, and precious.

36269635795_bd2c34ee98_c

Starting out with 35hunter I didn’t plan to talk about equipment specifics as much as I have done over the last 22 months.

There are plenty of other photography blogs that do that more detail and expertise than I ever could.

So when I get back to the reasons underlying my desire and need to explore and photograph, it reminds me what I’ve been searching for with all these cameras and lenses over the past five years.

And reassures me that, finally, I’m getting down to the essence and the bare essentials of this “wonder hunting” – both in subject matter, and in the equipment I use.

27699434696_36213e7c3e_c

Why do you photograph? And (how) does wonder play a role in your hunting? Let us know in the comments below. 

Thanks for reading. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too.

How To Find Time For Photography

When speaking with other non-pro photographers, one of the biggest and most common struggles is simply how to find time in our busy lives to get out and make photographs.

17145555199_9a00d27cf3_c

A decade ago I was living alone with no dependents and, even with full time employment, I had plenty of time to commit to photography. And be a salsa addict and teacher. But that’s another story.

These days, married with a nine year old daughter and nearly five year old son, my days are somewhat more filled. But I still find time for photography. Here’s how.

36400843332_7345b53fa7_c

First, let’s get more specific about what I mean about “photography time”. As I see it there are four main areas. I want to talk a bit about each of them, and how I find time to commit to them.

Research and Inspiration

This covers looking at other people’s photography via books, online and in person, and finding what inspires and excites us. It also includes researching particular cameras and/or lenses, not so much for me about the dry technical spec, but more about how others feel about using them, and what they’ve been able to create with them.

I find time for this fairly easily because it’s something you can do in very small chunks. In a tea break at work, in the evening when the children are in bed, when waiting to collect the kids from somewhere and more.

14352873176_5f2edca045_c

Social and Sharing

I consider this to be how and where I share not only my photographs but my thoughts about particular cameras and lenses, and photography in general. So my own blog here at 35hunter and my Flickr, as well as my favourite blogs and Flickr streams of other photographers I like and talk with.

This can also be very bite size and done in a few minutes. To write a blog post or share a batch of photos with tags and description takes longer. I nearly always do this in the evening when the kids are in bed and when I haven’t got a particular activity committed with my wife. I prefer to write a blog post in one go, so I’d rather spend a couple of hours in one evening then none for a few evenings than say 30 mins over four or five consecutive nights.

22656475106_7ce2dd6ddf_c

Editing and Processing

Even with the most minimal of processing (which I strive for with both film and digital!) you still have to edit your photos in some way. This for me means importing into LightRoom, exporting those I like to JPEG from RAW, then deleting all the others, then a second or third sort through the JPEGs to find my absolute favourites. The digital processing part for me is virtually non-existent, the RAW files from my Pentax K DSLRs seem to work well with LightRoom’s simple JPEG export and give me results I love.

I try to make time for editing and processing as soon as I can after taking the photographs. Mostly it’s that evening, again when the house contains at least two sleeping bodies, if not three. It doesn’t take long – a batch of say 100 photos from a a few hours shooting might take 15 mins to scan through, keep the best and ditch the rest.

20528351021_8ae8049fd4_c

Making Photographs

Ah, the big one, without which we can’t claim to be a photographer at all – the time we’re actually making pictures with camera in hand. I have two main approaches – one is a short walk for maybe a handful of snapshots and little expectation. These usually occur during lunch breaks at work, sometimes on the way to or from work. Sometimes a local short walk in the evening if the weather and light is conducive.

The second approach is a more deliberate and lengthy photowalk, usually at the weekend. My partner has a few leisure and additional work commitments throughout the week and weekends where I look after the kids, so when we swap roles I virtually always use the time (typically a couple of hours) to drive to one of my favourite haunts and photograph. A 15-30 min drive plus 60-90 mins photograph is usually enough for me – beyond that my eyes get tired, the magic starts to fade, and I start to feel I’m photographing just for the sake of it.

36318381495_b33999a237_c

So this is how I find time for photography.

I certainly don’t spend endless hours or all day sojourns on photography. But by having maybe one committed lengthier photowalk each week plus a couple of evenings for the editing and processing and social and sharing elements, then fitting snippets of research and inspiration in quiet moments in between, I’m able to, most of time, find enough time for my love of photography to keep me sane.

I would add that I try to keep my life pretty stripped down and simple on the whole.

The major things I do in my life are sleep, eat, work, spend time with my wife and family, photograph (all the above activities under that umbrella), write, read and listen to music. I have simple exercise routines – a daily morning yoga practice and an almost daily brisk walk I slot in too. But that’s about it.

This is by choice – I do fewer things, and I try to do them better.

And it means those things I do choose to make time for, I can give a worthwhile effort and commitment to, rather than halfheartedly dabbling in a 20 different activities and not really giving much to (or getting much from) any of them.

34858504464_f5d10f3b8d_c

A final note about a major way I freed up more time.

I’ve virtually given up eBay. A few months back I was probably spending half an hour per item I photographed and listed for sale, and another 30 minutes on packaging and taking to the Post Office. When you’re selling a dozen items a month say, that’s a lot of time.

Plus just stepping off the binge purge repeat hamster wheel in recent weeks has been so refreshing.

As well as saving time not listing and selling, I’m not spending further hours a week scouring eBay for potential bargains and/or lenses I have only known about for five minutes but now suddenly absolutely desperately need in my collection to have any chance of being a decent photographer. You probably know that feeling.

Aside from the time saved, I don’t have that unpleasant and ever present anxiety of seeing cameras and lens overflowing my shelves and in boxes waiting to be sold.

It took me a while to get there, but now making use of what I have (the still not unsubstantial two film bodies, three digital bodies and 15 odd lenses that make up my core kit) and letting go of the chase has been enlightening.

36441955476_2c27f91815_c

I hope you find this post of some interest and it encourages you to look at how you can find more time for photography.

But right now, how do you find time for photography? Which different activities do you consider combine to make up your overall passion for photography? Let us know in the comments below. 

Thanks for reading. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too.

 

Why An iPhone Can’t (Yet) Be My One And Only Camera

Ever wanting to minimise my camera kit, it’s crossed my mind more than once than a camera phone could be the only one I need.

Which would be ironic, as this is how I began photographing with intention over a decade ago, years before I discovered film, or knew what any of those intimidating and multiple numbers dials and buttons on an SLR were for – with a series of Sony Ericsson camera phones.

4329121836_e51ef98560_b

Could it be, that after shooting my way through literally hundreds of cameras and lenses, and making tens of thousands of photographs, I’d arrive right back where I started, albeit with (I hope) a better understanding of and greater competence in the dark mysteries of the art?

Well, almost, but not quite.

6311291629_d9c10ef087_b

On the plus side, here’s what I like about my iPhone (5C), the most capable phone camera I’ve used –

1. It’s compact, convenient and always with me. The best camera you have is the one you have with you. That’s always the iPhone!

2. The images are more than acceptable, especially shot via an app like Hipstamatic. I don’t make huge prints, and any “defects” of the lens/sensor/app I see as a specific character of the device.

34912108613_38867c6f5b_c

3. I have plenty of control. Again Hipstamatic allows me to manual adjust shutter speed, ISO, exposure compensation, zoom, focus and white balance.

4. The phone works very well as a point and shoot, on Auto everything. For when I want to relinquish all that manual control that Hipstamatic offers. Which is 90% of the time.

18088782522_e5852e881d_z

5. It’s not much different to using a digital compact. Especially when using 3:2 ratio with the phone on its side and the volume button(s) as the shutter button.

6. Different aspect ratios are readily available. Especially with Hipstamatic, though I confess that I only really use 1:1 (which just seems right for iPhones, the seemingly obvious modern digital successor to the classic Polaroids) or 3:2 (as I’m so used to this ratio from 35mm film, my Sony NEX, and my Pentax DSLRs).

7. I don’t feel the need for further uploading, processing, etc. Keeping processing simple is vital for me with film or digital. With the iPhone I just use the images as they come out of the phone (granted I have a Hipstamatic combo of “film”, “lens” and “flash” that I tend to use for most shots, so they’re rarely straight out of camera/phone).

30230884166_1152b88065_z

On the minus side, there is very little, but they add to the reasons why I can’t abandon all other image making devices for the iPhone yet (or maybe ever) – 

1. It might not feel much different to a digital compact, but it does feel very different to even a DSLR with a vintage lens. Let alone a 35mm film SLR. The tactile experience of holding and using a “proper” camera and those beautiful old metal and glass lenses remains a vital factor in my enjoyment of photography. The iPhone just feels like a device, a gadget, albeit a very capable one. I never pick it up and smile at the beautiful ergonomics and glove-like fit in my hands.

2. The screen is pretty good for framing and focusing, but I miss the viewfinder experience of a “proper” camera. That sense of being immersed in the confines of those four straight sides and everything else in the world evaporating can’t be replaced when holding a device with a screen at arm’s length. (This is also a major reason why my Pentax DLSRs have almost entirely replaced my previous main digital Sony NEX camera, which despite its many outstanding qualities, also lacks a VF).

31019470812_5990a58f46_z
3. Storage seems very limited. My iPhone is also my iPod, my main email and messaging device, my portable internet browser, YouTube viewer/listener and more. Although I have very few apps, music or anything else overall, it always seems to be close to full, and I can only shoot maybe 40-50 photos before it maxes out. It doesn’t help that Hipstamatic is doubly storage hungry, keeping an original copy plus the filtered/processed version of each photo. I’ve toyed with the idea of upgrading to a new phone for everything but photography, then stripping everything but Hipstamatic from my current iPhone and using it purely for photography. But then I wouldn’t want to always be carrying two phones around, I may as well be using a “proper” camera.

4. Because it’s digital and so easy and instant, the pictures always feel disposable. This perception then extends so I feel I can’t/don’t make any images worth keeping, in the way I can with other cameras, even other digital cameras. Even though I have indeed made some photographs I really like with it. This is a state of mind I know, and maybe could be overcome in time.

35507916022_f0a3ab5062_c

5. I have very little emotional connection with it. This is similar to no 1 above or maybe a combination of 1 and 2. It’s just a clever little device – and has a huge range of uses of course, aside from being a very competent picture maker. But beyond that it has very little charm or attraction, and doesn’t evoke any particular affection. I’m not one for adulation of objects, but I can say that even my Pentax DSLRs bring a smile to my face when I pick them up – they feel like a comrade or companion in the quest to capture beautiful images.

All in all then, I can’t see that my iPhone will become my sole, even my main camera any time soon, if ever. 

But it still makes an excellent back up for those spontaneous images when I don’t have another camera – or the time to get it out.

36428885510_495111ea12_z1

Addendum – I realised after publishing my last post about using just one camera and lens for a month, that I’ve also been using the iPhone, and even included images made with in that recent post!

But it hadn’t even crossed my mind that this had broken my one camera one lens run with the Samsung/Miranda combo!

More than anything else I think this shows how I don’t even count the iPhone as a “proper” camera…

Would you ever consider using a camera phone as your only camera? Let us know in the comments below. 

Thanks for reading. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too.

One Month, One Camera, One Lens, One Step Too Far?

Is it possible for someone who’s bought and used (and mostly sold) hundreds of cameras and lenses in the last five years to spend a whole month with just one of each?

That’s the question I arrived at around a week ago.

36428885510_495111ea12_z

In recent months (in fact most of 2017) I’ve started to finally settle on a core photography kit. Around 15 vintage M42 and Pentax K mount lenses, two film bodies, and three digital bodies.

My film fallout this year has meant that maybe 95% or more of the compositions I’ve seen through these old lenses have been captured on a digital sensor rather than a frame of film.

I still have a few other cameras and lenses, but not in regular circulation and worth counting.

There are still duplicates in the set up (still too many M42 135mm lenses, still too many 50/55mm options) but overall I’m pretty content with what I have.

I’ve been experimenting with zoom lenses recently, and the SMC Pentax-A 35-105mm f/3.5 and to a lesser extent its fellow A series sibling the 24-50/4 have opened my eyes to the possibility of having one zoom lens to cover two, three, even four primes, without a significant loss in quality.

36506072775_813498bd6b_c

Also, the need I seemed to have a month or two back to fill every focal length between 24 and 150mm with a quality prime lens has diminished. 

In practice, for my needs, having, say, a 120/2.8 Takumar plus four or five 135/3.5 lenses is superfluous. The difference between 120 and 135mm is small, so the 120/2.8 Tak with its slightly faster speed and wonderful performance could quite easily be the only one of these half dozen I need.

The final nudge that’s lead me to consider a month with just one lens and one camera is my very recent holiday experience.

Knowing that family holidays don’t tend to offer many photographic opportunities (aside from the family and touristy shots my little Nikon Coolpix has handled flawlessly for the last six years) I packed the smallest of my DSLRs, the Samsung GX-1s, my Pentax-DA 35/2.4 (the lightest lens I have by far) and my newest lens, and the widest I have, a Miranda 24mm f/2.8 in Pentax KA mount.

I started out with the 35mm, but because most of the shots were either interior shots in tight spaces, or wide landscapes, the 24mm Miranda (equivalent 36mm field of view with the Samsung’s APS-C crop sensor) soon took over and lived on my camera for the rest of the week.

2017_08_27 SamsungGX-1SMiranda2428

The Miranda is so humble (common consensus is it’s a Cosina made lens rebranded by UK electrical giant Dixons when they owned the Miranda name in the 80s, and more than capable) its former owner attached black tape across the Miranda name to hide his shame. Maybe his or her friends all had Leicas.

So far its close focus (< 0.2m), convenience to meter with (it’s A series), and sharp enough final images encourage me to use it further without concern.

36269635795_bd2c34ee98_c

On a deeper level I love the idea of having less (in all areas of life), and having even the 15 or so lenses I have makes me a bit uneasy.

I don’t entirely know why, other than maybe a feeling that the less you have, the less you have to lose, and in a way the more independent this makes you.

If our house was hit by a freak bolt of lightning or hurricane, there are very few possessions I would be too upset at losing, cameras included.

This part of me feels it’s not unfeasible or unreasonable to have a couple of digital bodies, a 24mm, 35mm, 55mm and 120mm lens and that be it. To stop the endless searching, if not for the perfect camera and lens (I don’t believe this exists), but the perfect collection of cameras and lenses.

36661823911_2d7465b91b_c

Also, I feel in another way the more lenses you have, the more excuses you have to not face up to improving your understanding and use of the raw essentials of photography – composition and light.

Confronting the limitations of one’s ability and experience.

For too long I’ve felt like a camera tester rather than a photographer, because the camera and/or lenses I’ve been using most recently is always new to me.

Maybe another way of expressing this is rather than proving I can rise to the challenge of making a half decent image with virtually any camera or lens, I want to prove I can make much better images with very few cameras/lenses.

Do less, and do it better. Another mantra of sorts that’s been at the forefront of my life for some years now. 

And what if I reached a point where I didn’t really care which camera/lens pairing I used to make image, as long as I liked using them, and those final images, rather than carefully noting the specific details each time I share a photo.

36016210053_6d392293a3_z

Anyway, it’s an interesting time and potentially something of a crossroads in my photography journey so far.

I’ll post an update and some more images taken with the Samsung GX-1s and Miranda 24/2.8 combo in due course.

Have you ever used just one camera and/or lens for a month, six months, a year? Please let us know about experience in the comments below. 

Thanks for reading. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too.

Tick Tick Tick Tick Zoom?

After very promising results recently with an SMC Pentax-A 35-105mm, the next step in my explorations of zoom lenses was to try something that would embrace the wider end.

It was time try the lens I got this with the 35-105mm, a 24-50mm, also Pentax-A series.

Now I’ve realised (duh!) that I can use a zoom as a set of primes, use one focal length at a time and ignore all the others, they’ve become vastly more appealing. At least a select few have.

The aforementioned SMC Pentax-A 35-105/3.5 appears to offer a wonderful range of primes – 35, 50, 80 and 105mm if you stick to the focal lengths marked on the barrel (which I do).

On paper this lens offers everything I need, bar maybe a 120 and/or 135mm prime at the tele end plus a 24 and/or 28mm at the wide. 

Turns out it’s not just promising on paper but actually a bit special in practice too.

36506074365_f01bb31a02_c

So let’s say this lens WAS the only one I needed between 35 and 105mm. What about that wider end? I have my Super-Takumar 28mm f/3.5 – pretty special in its own right too. But nothing wider.

Enter the 35-105’s little sibling, the SMC Pentax-A 24-50mm. 

Following its barrel markings, it offers 24, 28 and 35mm, as well as 40 and 50mm.

At 35 and 50mm it duplicates focal lengths of the 35-105 (and my surprisingly impressive 35-70mm f/4, also a Pentax-A zoom), and though the 24-50mm is significantly smaller and lighter, its close focus of 0.4m across all focal lengths puts it way behind the 35-105’s intimacy potential up close and personal at 35 and 50mm.

So my consideration of the 24-50 is almost exclusively as a twinset of 24 and 28mm primes.

With that in mind I took it for a spin at 24mm.

35690886224_816f786efd_c

In short, it’s pleasant enough to use, pretty compact for a zoom, but still with a wide enough focus ring to be very comfortable. The focusing is pretty smooth too.

The all metal aperture ring has a good feel, very similar to the M series lenses, and better than many A series with their reliance on plastic.

In practice I use A series lenses on their A setting, then have the camera on Manual (M) mode, adjusting both the aperture and shutter speed via the dial wheel(s), but the build of the aperture ring is reassuring nonetheless.

Overall the lens performed well enough.

35690885354_2860e5daaf_c

It’s sharp is enough for my needs, and the colours are similar to my other A series – natural yet quite vibrant (more so than my Takumars), and the combination with the CCD sensors of my Pentax DLSRs gives results I really like with minimal post processing.

But I have two main issues.

First, the close focus of 0.4m, whilst respectable at 50mm, and just about passable at 35mm, is just nowhere near close enough for me at 28mm or 24mm. A bit of a let down in all honesty, compared with the 35-105’s excellent “macro” shift focus action that works across the entire zoom range.

As I mentioned, this feature alone would make me reach for the 35-105 for a 35 or 50mm lens over the 24-50mm every time, again making it in practical use just a 24 or 28mm lens.

36357717712_19a9bac67c_c

The second issue is not really the lens’s fault but more just my unfamiliarity with 24mm. And this is a major reason I bought it – to get more familiar with 28 and especially 24mm.

I struggled not so much with finding compositions that suited 24mm, but the focusing, and the (deep) depth of field (DOF).

Even at my usual starting point of f/5.6, there’s a fairly extensive DOF (and remember the lens only goes down to 0.4m – obviously at half this distance the DOF would be significantly more shallow) so I didn’t have my usual comfort blanket/ crutch/ excuse for not intelligently making every single element in the frame work together and blurring it out with shallow DOF.

With the 24mm field of view I wanted to get really close. But the lens wouldn’t let me.

At least not unless maybe I used a tiny aperture and relied on the DOF at this aperture to bring everything in focus. Which I didn’t want to do.

36357718862_3d089be85a_c

In a way this is all good, and challenging for me as a photographer. It was just different to get used to.

In time once I am more used to 24mm I’ve no doubt it will have a positive effect on me using longer focal lengths too, and being less reliant on wide apertures to magically disappear backgrounds.

So to sum up, the lens  mostly ticked the boxes I wanted it to – providing an affordable option at a 24mm focal length, to allow me to experience and start to embrace that focal length for wider, more distant scenes at least.

The fact is, it’s unlikely to be used at 35 and 50mm (maybe I’ll dabble at 40mm a little) and maybe not even at 28mm (that Super-Tak 28/3.5 is arguably the loveliest and most balanced handling Tak I’ve ever had).

Which makes it essentially a 24mm prime in a more chunky package that only focuses down to 0.4m. Hmmm.

So whilst it does give me a taste of 24mm, the prime alternatives I might consider are the 24/3.5 Takumar which goes down to 0.25m, and a DA 21mm which focus as close as 0.2m. A whole other world of intimacy compared with 0.4m.

I’ve also got decent enough results a couple of years ago with a Sigma Super Wide II 24/2.8, which are far more affordable than either of the Pentax options mention above and also focus close.

16743182790_75ca987d76_c

I’m all for embracing the versatility of zooms, but with this one I’m still undecided. 

A zoom that offers four focal lengths, but I’ll only realistically use for one of them, 24mm, doesn’t seem such good value.

It deserves another couple of outings, but my hopes of it being as big a surprise as my other two A series zooms are somewhat dashed.

Which 24mm (or wider) lenses have you tried, whether as a prime, or within a zoom? 

Let us know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too.