2010, 2012


Maybe I am strongly opinionated in photography, and maybe I have completely different expectations in photography too. I am an amateur in the true sense of “lover of”. I think I suck at photography most of the times and just sometimes everything I learned and tried before comes together. But maybe I am not learning as quickly anymore, or don’t feel the desire to learn about photography like I did before.

I learned photography through reading about photography, learning and exploring techniques and searched the crap out of me for good tools, preferably the best. As such it made me partly the photographer who I am now. But my interests changed, and so did my perceptions and priorities. These changed in my daily life, my relation, work, and friendships, but I also think these changes strongly influenced my photography. As a result I really don’t care about gear anymore. Sure I like to keep my current gear working and like to use it to it’s maximum potential.

But I like to be realistic too. Why dream about a Leica M9 and doing all these efforts to keep up with reviews and sharing my thoughts about these on forums and my blog, when I know I just simply can’t afford it. What? I can’t even afford a new lens for my GF1 and when my GRDIII falls a part I won’t be able to buy another one. Yet, I am fine with that. When I picked up this gear it was fine for me, and it still is. I strongly believe it makes sense to focus on things that are likely achievable.

Remember I do photography for the love, not to get the best image quality. I try to share something from my inside, not to make it look perfect on the outside. Sure a Gibson Les Paul or a Stradivarius will give the musician the best, richest or finest sound, but may as well sound as crap when played without passion. I don’t think there is right or wrong in photography, it comes down to the intentions.

I don’t mind that others are interested in gear and technique. Please keep on doing that, because we all like to do things we love. Sharing these thoughts seems pretty much a 1:1 experience. We all get that and understand that. Sharing about our insides, motivations, and why we do the things we do. Well, that is a completely different thing. To get that message across is harder and to understand it too. These kind of conversations lack the immediacy and convenience that gear and technique have. If I can share these thoughts with just some and some are willing to share that with me, to me that makes all the differences.

I really don’t mind that many others are more interested in different photography related stuff. You see, I am aware that most of you who come to my blog search on gear or technique. And it is my fault too. I wrote some impressions of cameras I used and shared those on my blog. I shared some post processing techniques too. You know, I still explore post processing techniques, but more in an effort to simplify it. I still explore camera techniques, but in an effort to closer got to my imagined intentions. I often wrote before that I like it when I made final decisions before pressing the shutter. What I however did learn and experience that I got at times extremely distracted by it. I am still exploring what I really want to with my photography and I know that I torture myself a lot with my doubt and insecurity.

I like it to slow down and think. Don´t just press the shutter, don´t just check every website and sharing platforms, don´t immediately ingest photographs, edit, and process these. I like to listen to music, read books, and help to get my mind focused. There is more in life. I also like to think more deliberate about projects I have in mind and finally be able to execute it. But I also like to pick up my camera again and take at least one photograph each day. I will however be sharing less too as a consequence.

Photograph by Wouter Brandsma

End of the year…. finally

2010, Photography

The year 2010 has almost ended. I usually try to avoid resolutions for new years, but I had hoped to intensify my photography this year. More street, more portraits, starting new projects and keep continuing my long-term project of my son. The first half year I wasn’t really that productive, although I had a second chance to try the Ricoh GXR. I wrote an article about my photography for a Dutch photography magazine and I was interviewed by Mookio for her Ricoh GRD book. I am still honored and grateful that I could collaborate with them both. I became a member of local photography club which gave me a good opportunity to meet other photographers. We photographed in the Dutch city Deventer with a couple of good company photographers (see the three images below).

Camera used: Ricoh GR Digital III

Last summer I broke my back which kept me from shooting a couple of months. I lost many of my photographs when my hard drive felt on the floor, but it also gave me a chance to change my back up scheme. I sort of lost my inspiration, but gave it all a rest. In the meantime I have done the typical “dpreview” thing thinking about a new camera and elaborating what I really need for my photography.

I want to continue with street photography, since that is what I have always wanted to do since the mid Nineties. I also want to focus on more portraits, probably mostly environmental portraits. Therefore I figured out that I still want a camera with a smaller form factor and either a 35 or 40mm lens. Although I really love the perspective of the 50mm I still prefer a 35 or 40mm for practicality.

Currently I am testing the Ricoh GXR again with both the A12 50mm macro lens and the new A12 28mm lens. Not too long ago Steve Huff gave a raving “real world” review of this combo, which you can read here. And I will posting another article about this camera early next year. Partly ´cause Ricoh introduced the new A12 28mm lens, but also since they introduced a new firmware which reportedly improved the AF of the A12 50mm lens. I won´t spoil the outcome yet, but I do want to share some first images from the new A12 28mm lens.

And this all brings me to my last 2010 rambling. Gear, you love it or you hate it. But I guess everyone does have an opinion about it. Even those who never talk about it know very well what serves them best. We all know too well if we have gear that we master or that we are slaves of the master. I always smile when I read a pro doing it with less, although they are usually comfortable with some of the best stuff around. And they should have the best. They need reliability and want happy customers anytime. They have bills to pay. But we? Do we really need that Canon EOS 1D-Mark IV or Nikon D3S?

You know, with digital photography we have all witnessed an incredible increase in above average photographers. Nowadays it becomes very common that uncle Joe takes his 5D-Mark II with L-glass to his sister´s wedding and is just as well equipped as the official photographer. I know of some forums where amateur photographers have truly expensive medium format cameras and all they care is the resolution and huge size of their images (be warned, large images!). Yeah sure, if you can afford it, spent it, be happy you know, whatever. But come on, be realistic sometimes too. If they can spent all that money on gear, why don´t they take some proper lessons first, a workshop, some books. The thing is, that it can become a norm too. Take a look at some of those fun image threads. Those who share their images have often good gear. You won´t see any images taken with a Nikon D60 or Canon EOS 550D, but look on Flickr for instance and you will see a lot of competent photographers with these less expensive cameras.

Most photography related websites and forums rely on gear talk and nothing else. Photography seems irrelevant and that worries me. People are worried that you are only taken serious when you have the right and best gear. Even at the photography club we make jokes that when someone took a good photograph it must have been taken with a Canon. Some photographers just drive more traffic to their websites because they use a particular top notch camera. We are concerned about something the rest of the world just don´t care. They don´t buy a Frans Lanting book, because he uses Nikon cameras. They don´t visit a Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibition, because he used Leica most of his career.  They want to see the photographs, they want to experience their view of our world. And that is what matters with photography. The power of photography is the expression of our emotions, our visions, of beauty, and horror.

I wish you all a Happy New Year and a great photographic 2011.

All photographs by Wouter Brandsma

Nearly there

2010, Photography

I started this new post, but didn’t really got a clue what to write until I thought about a training I followed last autumn.

In theory the training and provided knowledge is interesting and with a diverse audience it can help to provide enough food for thought. And even when you never want to discuss someone’s photographs it can still provide guidance for your own photography. Essentially it comes down to the following elements:

1. What do you see?
This should be the most objective part of discussing a photograph. You basically try to describe as thorough as possible what you see in a photograph like the main subject, other objects.

2. What compositional elements are used?
This becomes a more theoretical and technical part of the discussion. At this stage you try to describe how the photograph was photographed and what compositional techniques the photographer used. Close or open composition, high contrast or not.

3. How do you interpret the photograph?
Truth be told, this will always be a subjective element. It might be influenced by your own photography or whether you think the photograph is good or not. And with interpretation you try to give a meaning to the photograph, but this is however very restricted to the photographer’s purpose. When someone just took a photograph of, lets say, a sunset it is likely that the photographer just did it, because it was a beautiful scene. And that is where the interpretation ends. This is very often the case with amateur photography.

But when a photographer added a deeper meaning to his or her work you have at least try to interpret it. In other words trying to understand the purpose of the photograph.
4. How to judge it?
This training is directed towards amateur photography. A very important part of photography should be fun and pleasure and since the differences in competences are so big it should always be in essence a positive review, even when the photograph isn’t really good. Also a judgment is in my opinion subjective. I think it is important to know what a photographer wants. If the photographer wants to learn and become better there is nothing wrong to be more critical.

While I thought the training was interesting and meaningful I do however differ at some point. I personally have the feeling that these feedback elements say more about those describing the photograph then the photographer. Like I believe the so-called photography rules where invented not to take better pictures, but to better understand taken pictures. There is the potential risk that the better educated and knowledgeable speakers will become elitists. And it leaves little room for the explanation from the photographer. It actually completely ignores the why question since it only consists of the more analytical what, where, when, and how questions. Secondly, I believe that many photographers are very aware of critiques and start photographing what is respected, demanded, and loved. It can kill creativity.

All photographs by Wouter Brandsma

The passion is at risk

2010, Photography

I strongly apologize for keeping my posts at such a low rate. I currently find photography really hard. Last night a friend of my sent me a mail directing to an article on The Visual Science Lab by Kirk Tuck, “The passion is in the risk“. While he might be so right with his article I believe there is an even greater risk on the lure. And that is the risk of loosing your passion. Even when challenges might still be available, when you can’t free up your mind, or when your mood and expression possibilities are not in sync, your passion can be at risk.

This year just too much happened which kept me from photographing and admittedly I didn’t really miss it. I thought about starting drawing again, reading books, listening to music, and at least not picking up a camera. I haven’t been able to draw again and reading books didn’t happen either. I however stopped photography for a while and I slowly start to notice that I kind of miss it again.

I even started to think about new ideas too. A 365 project, shooting everyday the upcoming year. Portraits of – unknown – people. Even though I haven’t made up my mind yet it starts to give some new energy again (or at least I hope so).

This post is not really a warning, like the previous one, but more a reminder to make sure you take time to keep the passion alive.

All photographs by Wouter Brandsma


2010, Photography

I never wanted to write this down, but today I learned that my hard drive with a large selection of my photographs can not be recovered. The surfaces of the disks were too much damaged. It feels as a real disappointment to me. First of course how silly I was to not keep track of my backups (hectic family life and my broken back). Secondly I regret it that I took my hard drive with my images to a club presentation. The loss is significant and I lost some of my best moments.

It is however also a moment to make changes. I completely changed my backup strategy which is now integrated in my digital workflow. I know use two external G-Technology G-DRIVE mini 500GB. When I ingest photographs from a card in Lightroom I move them to one of these drives. I also move all unedited images to a DVD. On my hard drive I keep the following folder structure: there is an Edit, Export, and RAW folder. Within each folder I keep the structure of year and then months. Within Lightroom I decide which images to pick or reject. The rejected images will be removed from my drive (I still have the originals on the DVD). The picked images are moved to the edit folder. That way I can keep my catalog in Lightroom slim. Additionally I use a smaller external drive where I keep all my export images. I take this drive with me once a week and save it somewhere else.

The second G-Tech Drive will be synchronized once or twice a week depending on the amount of changes. All images I print or post on the web are saved in the Export folder. In Lightroom I also keep track of these exports. Besides that my exports are on both my external drives I also write them to a DVD and upload them to the free Microsoft 25 GB cloud storage, Skydrive. I use SDExplorer to access my Skydrive location from within Explorer instead of the web interface. My friend gave my a great suggestion to upload all exports as full size jpegs to flickr too.

So please people, make sure you backup your precious photographs as good as possible. Use more then one external drives and at least keep one outside your own location.

All photographs by Wouter Brandsma

Just for the clarification. My hard drive was sent to a specialized data recovery company. They investigated the drive in order to know whether data can be recovered. In fact, they had to take it a part. When the drive felt on the floor it was powered with spinning disks. Usually that is the worst case scenario for physical hard drive failure. As a result the disks of the drive where too much damaged and data recovery was not possible.