Not much to come

2009, Photography

Horn the trompets by Wouter Brandsma
Most amateur photographers want to become better photographers, right? I saw a thread at that actually might interest those who think that better photography is related to a new camera or that some magic wonder might eventually happen. The OP in his thread mentions he wants to become a better photographer, but is also too lazy to drag a SLR. That digital point & shoot cameras don’t offer him the tools and results he wants. That analogue is a lot of work(?), but he also would like to have a Leica to find out what all the fuzz is about. Seriously? He or she really doesn’t know it in my opinion.
In the light by Wouter Brandsma
Come on. Photography is not about buying the latest cameras. Is not about having a Leica or a compact camera to keep it in your pocket. Or a ridiculously priced Leica point & shoot camera. Photography is about getting out there and take as many photographs you want. When you want to become a better photographer or become better in a particular discipline of photography, you get out there and practice. Practice a lot. And the good thing about practicing is that you actually don’t need the latest camera, you can do it with any camera.
On the fence by Wouter Brandsma
Rather learn how to see compositions. Make your photographs more interesting. Try to envision virtual shapes in your photographs like triangles or spirals (or whatever) that will help the viewer unconsciously to guide their eyes through your photographs. See the effects of using open spaces. Some try to teach you things like rule of thirds and so, but I think it is still better to get out and practice. Make the pictures you want and try to understand after that why some work and some don’t. Happy practicing!

All photographs by Wouter Brandsma

37 thoughts on “Not much to come

  1. You are absolutely right Wouter, it’s all about learning to “see”. Not only practicing is a good way to learn this but also looking at photographs of famous photographers. Reading about the way this photographers work and approach a subject can improve your own skills.

    1. Studying the work of well known photographers and remarkable photographs certainly helps, Piet. But studying paintings might be even better in my opinion. And thankfully our country had it share of exceptional painters in the past.

  2. I wholeheartedly agree with your credo, Wouter.

    Even though I am interested in the technical aspect of kit I do know that its NOT about the camera but the end result. There is an awful lot of talent out there producing unique and outstanding pictures with a wide range of kit almost from pinhole cameras to the fable Haselblads.

    It is all about the light, the composition and most of all the seeing.

    BTW – I have to admit that I’ve been lately neglecting your blog and now – that Cam has reminded me of it – I realize that I missed your wisdom and most of all the accompanying shots that you have not posted on Flickr.

  3. I think it’s all good: doing more with less, doing less with more, gear fetishes and minimal gear fetishes.

    Watching people go through things we learned long ago and then watching our own frustration with their seeming lack of learning (buying a new camera thinking it will improve one’s photography, for instance) is missing a point: they haven’t learned what we already learned and they need the space to go through it. We can’t learn it for them as many fathers learn quickly when their sons do something stupid.

    All of us have had this experience in one domain or another and each of us learns something slightly different from the experience. It’s my opinion that one person’s learning rarely generalizes to all or even most people’s learning so maybe we should be content to have learned for ourselves and leave it at that.

    The seeming exception to this is people who continue to buy new gear, even after doing it once and having their photography stay the same. These people may enjoy the process of learning about and buying gear. So be it. We can be frustrated for them on the sidelines but it really doesn’t have to affect us at all, it’s their problem (or lifestyle or whatever).

    This is also part of learning to see except the patterns are behavioral, not visual.

  4. Well, in a way a new camera can make you a better photographer: if it is light enough for you to be willing to have it with you almost always and if it’s IQ is good enough for the kind of presentation you like to do of your photographs. Because then you might actually _do_ some photographing instead of mulling new cameras and feature lists 😉

    (of course, the “becoming a better photographer” is a result of actually taking photos here)

    1. Honestly, I think size doesn’t matter. Choose want you think seems right to you, but still I believe it is best to actually go out and practice. I much rather prefer to make mistakes with my photography than constantly make mistakes with buying new gear.

  5. Hello Wouter,

    Yep, I totally agree with you. At this very moment I am scanning a roll of film from my ‘new’ Zeiss Ikon Nettar circa 1950’s. I received the camera on Friday and went out to shoot with it yesterday. I used the Sunny 16 rule or as I call it in the UK the Overcast 5.6 rule to expose. I really enjoyed the experience. Guess the exposure and guess the range. The negs came out fine (what does that say about modern exposure and focus systems).

    The camera cost me £8.50 (about 9 Euros)

    I used Fuji Neopan developed in HC-110. Lovely feel and tones that digital just can’t do.

    So the new Nikon D-Whatever doesn’t really appeal to me. The camera makers just ain’t gonna make money from me. Hehe.

    Retro is brilliant, cheap and tests your skills (or lack of them).

    Why so many are caught up in the latest camera upgrade cycle I just don’t know.



    1. Actually Chris, I would love to go back to film. Get a Hexar AF and be there. But I do feel fine with what I use now. I do love simplicity, but mostly importantly I think is to get out there and have fun.

  6. Many people think that having a small “pocket” camera is important because you can always have it with you. Although I have used the Ricoh GRD series of cameras, and now use the GRD3, I am more attracted to these cameras more for the way they “draw” — huge DOF and somewhat along the lines of the “35mm aesthetic” in terms of graininess and gradation — than for their pocketability. For me, having the GRD3 hanging on my belt is not enough in terms of encouraging me to photograph: to take a picture I have to be in “shooting mode”, which means having the camera in my right hand ready to shoot. Indeed, I don’t get into shooting mode without first having taken the camera off my belt and in my hand. Actually, I could use a larger camera, say the size of a Leica-M, just as easily as long as I carried it is small bag. And a small case of this type I can carry as easily as having the camera on my belt. So, basically, I don’t think that a pocketable makes me photograph more.


    1. Yes, I like small sensor cameras as instant sketch books. But I personally don’t understand the need of having a pocketable camera. Like you I keep my camera always in my right hand ready to take photographs. And when you work that way size doesn’t really matter either in my opinion.

      1. i completely understand the need for a pocket camera!

        i do not like to go anywhere without a camera — period. if it is raining cats and dogs or i will need to hide it in my purse whilst grocery shopping (they don’t allow cameras), i feel much better about throwing in a compact than the M. my purse is a very scary place.

        for the past six months, i just went out sans camera in these instances, but i’ve regretted it — there are many shots i did not get… maybe it’s a lifestyle thing? also, shooting with a GRD when your arms are full of groceries, wine, and toilet paper is much easier than with a rangefinder.

        size does matter.

        it is the difference between always having a camera you or not. at least for me.

  7. Wouter, as you said, you don’t need the latest camera to practice. Maybe it’s even better to practice with a very basic camera.

    I started [or actually restarted] a personal cameraphone project []. Just recording visual impulses I get in daily life. Shooting with a phone, you don’t have to care about settings [as there are hardly any settings to adjust], so you just focus on colors, light, shapes, details etc.

    Although I’m getting some negative response to this [“serious” photographers don’t use cameraphones, people say], I think it’s a great way to develop as a photographer. And it’s a lot of fun, which should be priority number one, I guess.

        1. And Chase Jarvis. And Robert Clark, who did the great Image America project with a 1.3 megapixel phone camera.

          These guys most probably don’t care about being a “serious” photographer. Yes, photography has to pay their bills, but the important fun factor is still there.

    1. I’m surprised your getting negative responses to your blog (nice photos by the way). I started something similiar and have been getting positive responses? Although I don’t know any ‘serious’ photographers, just average people I guess. One thing going for mobile shots is that I really try to make the best shot I can. I put in more effort than I do with my ‘proper’ cameras to compensate for the poor equipment and I feel it pays off with good shots. Maybe that’s all people really need to improve their art? Limitations, patience and a drive to show what can be achieved?

      1. Thanks. Well, I do get some positive feedback as well – mostly from pro photographers and photo editors though. I guess they are more into trying new stuff and – as you mentioned – the challenge of working with technical limitations.

        However, people on a photo forum I posted some shots on don’t “get” it. I’m afraid a lot of people still think a picture has to be pin sharp, with no noise and no lens flare. And preferably shot with an expensive camera.

        1. One shouldn’t worry about what people think of one’s pictures, particularly whether they have to be “pin sharp” or not. I find it interesting that the most viewed and commented pictures on my flickr “photo stream” are often not the ones that are my own favorites.

          I’ve been posting on flickr photographs from my new GRD3, on which I also a review on the Point and Shoot section of the Rangefinder forum. Last night I “developed” some GRD3 pictures in which the main subject is somewhat fuzzy and found myself thinking whether not I would post them. Wrong approach! One should post whataver pictures one likes or in interested in. Let people think what they will.


          1. Mitch, I’m with you on letting people think what they will.

            People are missing out on a lot of fun when they are narrow-minded. But it’s their loss, not mine.

  8. A camera to me is like a girlfriend.

    Some last longer than others. When you find the right one, you keep it as long as you can. The wrong one should be let go of as soon as possible.

    Sometimes the relationship can inspire great works. Sometimes people may look down on the quality of your choice, but it doesn’t matter. It’s a personal decision.

    But it’s different from a girlfriend in at least this respect:

    No matter how great your camera is, when a better one comes along, grab it guilt free. It’s just a camera. Why not get a better one?

      1. I’m married too. My wife just tolerates my camera mistresses.

        This whole argument is silly to me. To make a camera a spouse analogue makes it clear. Some partnerships are better than others. To say the choice is unimportant, and any spouse will do is a silly argument.

        I suspect most people cling to the idea that “better” cameras are pointless because they don’t want to spend the cash. If cameras were free, who would shoot with consumer grade cameras?

        1. I suspect most people cling to the idea that “better” cameras are pointless because they don’t want to spend the cash. If cameras were free, who would shoot with consumer grade cameras? I am really not sure about that. Maybe not every one has the cash or have/need to set different priorities. I certainly don’t write about it, because I actually want them, but can’t afford them. And how do we actually determine what is a “better” camera?

          1. I think the concept of a “better” camera is very simple. It is grounded in personal preference, but between any 2 cameras there are ergonomic, visual, structural, optical, and recording medium differences that either do or do not represent an improvement to the photographer.

            If you prefer a rangefinder, a rangefinder is better than an SLR. If you prefer extreme closeups, a macro lens is better than a wide angle lens that minimally focuses to 3 meters.

            If you want insane sharpness, a 5D2 is better than a cell phone.

            Perhaps this concept is not very apparent for some on the “camera doesn’t matter” side of the argument.

            For me, my camera choice is very important to the end result, and there is almost always a better camera choice for any given application.

            As a photographer, my skill level has nothing to do with a particular camera, but the camera does the actual painting; not me.

            1. I personally don’t take such a strong opinion for when it comes to a particular camera, but I see your point. As a matter of fact I believe skill level has partly to with a particular camera in my opinion too. But than I also want to make some distinction between technical and creative skills. Where for technical skills more distinctions can of course be made. Being comfortable with gear and adapting quickly to different cameras, but also technical competence in proper exposing, compositions and what ever.

              And I feel I do the painting, but cameras do certainly have something special to add. Just like every brush has something special to add for painters. It is the competence and knowledge of the artist to use the proper tools, or use tools properly for the job.

              1. Wise crack of the day:

                “…I feel I do the painting…”

                When I use a photocopier, I feel I do the writing.

                I take a camera much more literally than that. I would say that I do the framing, and the camera does the painting. If I create all of the light, then I might feel that I was painting the scene, but the camera only records the scene.

                I’m a big Winogrand fan. That’s probably where my philosophy came from. All we do is decide where and when to put the frame. It’s a lot easier than painting. 🙂

                1. Ed, seeing your work on your website, your statement don’t do justice to the photographs to me. My impression is that you do more than just framing and letting the camera do the painting.

                  I didn’t know that your camera had a part too in the post processing.

                  “When I use a photocopier, I feel I do the writing.” I guess that depends on what you are copying then.

                  But this is silly. I like your work, uh, cameras painting, and you did some fine framing. 😀

                  1. Thanks very much. Your work is quite impressive to me, which is why I’m here.

                    But really, I think painting must involve more than what I do. I turn a couple of knobs and press a button. I don’t make sharpness, blur, dynamic range, color, resolution, a flat field, or the things I point the camera at.

                    Exposure is simple. I meter, focus, frame, and push a button.

                    I compose. The camera paints.

  9. That is really interesting and eyeopening and I agree with you. I went from manual slr to digital because I liked having the veiw finder and it was getting expensive and time consuming to get the film developed. Furthermore I found it a little weird at first when working with a new camera because I need to refamliarize myself with where the buttons are and how to work each one. Great pictures also. I really like the top one.

    1. Thank you Maggie. I like a camera I can crap without thinking about it. For me it works best when I don’t replace my gear constantly. Furthermore it helps for me to feel comfortable with my equipment, because I can fully concentrate on my photography.

  10. Just read Ricoh global site today and seems like Ricoh does not have idea to separate image sensor and lens.

    “In interchangeable lens camera systems up to now, the distance from the mount and the back of the lens to the sensor image plane was subject to requirements for flange back distance and back focal length. This made it difficult to achieve both compactness and high optical performance. Eliminating the lens mount, however, means that the back focal length can be freely defined for the GXR, enabling the new system to use the most optically efficient lens designs and giving it excellent potential for future expansion.”


    “In order to make the best use of the inherent power of the lens and the image sensor, the ideal solution is to combine both in a single unit. Consider, for example, the low-pass filter covering the surface of the image sensor. The dilemma faced is that while the filter helps prevent color noise and color moiré, increasing this benefit results in an ever greater sacrifice in lens resolution. Traditional interchangeable lens systems use a single low-pass filter for all lenses so they are unable to avoid situations where the filter effect is excessive or inadequate. With the GXR, on the other hand, we can design a filter optimized for the resolution of the specific lens. In this way, Ricoh has succeeded in effectively preventing color noise while suppressing filter influence on lens resolution.”

    1. Below text if from an interview with Ricoh and about their new system:

      “The camera system is in itself interesting enough, but the potential for add-on elements and more developments make GXR very exciting. There is no lens mount obviously, but on questioning Mr Kazunobu Saiki, general manager for Ricoh’s global camera division, seemed to acknowledge that a sensor unit fitted with a mount receptive to M and L rangefinder lenses would be a positive addition to the system. Those with good memories will recall that Ricoh had the 28mm f/2.8 and 21mm f/3.5 lenses from its film GR series of compact cameras launched as limited-edition screw-thread L models many years ago. I don’t suppose the possibility of making its new system directly attractive to Leica and Voigtländer users has passed the company by. Neither Saiki nor Katagiri would be drawn on when this type of unit might become available, but in previous talks Saiki has agreed that an important element in the success of the Micro Four Thirds system is its ability to tap into existing lens systems via adapters. This type of strategy ensures a new system does not require a complete reinvestment for photographer to take it up.”

      Even though they made closed system with sensor and lens now, they probably also now what is possible without a lens, but with a lens mount.

  11. It occurs to me that the folks at Canon, Nikon, Tamron, Zeiss, Olympus, Sony, Pentax, Sigma, etc. might disagree with you.

    And they might have the money to find out where you live!

    (Be careful out there)

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