week 52 | 2011

2011, Photography, Project, weekly project

It is the end of the year and much could be said. A lot has happened to me, my family, and you readers. My thoughts are with those who last their loved ones. And I think of those who deal with sick relatives or friends. We endured the economic turmoil and witnessed political changes all around us. Many dealt with severe tragedies like the people of Japan and the young people in Norway. In the end I still hope you’ve enjoyed your time with family and friends. And of course that kept the passion of photography alive.

It was a meaningful year though. Even though I had my physical problems this year I was still able to photograph regularly with some friends, mostly in Amsterdam. Met some great people in 2011, both in the real and virtual world. Crossed paths with wonderful and inspiring photographers. I totally lived my photography project this year and dealt with all ups and downs. I had no idea how to start, but just did it. February felt awful, March was a turning point, and from April up it turned out better for me. I posted 61 articles on my blog (including this one) and 52 of these where focused on photography a day project. The blog passed the 500,000 views and survived another year. And it makes me humble that other photographers pick up the same idea and do their own photography a day project. I thank you all for that. I feel fortunate to keep this blog going and that my photography gets seen and my voice gets heard.

This last week I wanted to make a small return to the kind of photography I used to do in the previous decade, landscape photography. While I absolutely love to do stroll and street photography, I really appreciate landscape photography. I consider it a great way to learn a lot about composition and light.  Again in 2011 I think there has been too much emphasize on gear, techniques (most noticeably post processing), and the typical compositional rules. It is either photography from the technological point of view, the professionals who make the money, or the curators with their intellectually lectured tone. In the blogosphere there are unfortunately few exceptions, like “A Lesser Photographer” (a good read although mostly in terms of motivation). And unless you are a high profile photographer, most photography blogs tend to be forgotten at some point.

I tried to stay away from much of the typical forum gear talk, but did write an article about the Pentax Q and purchased the Panasonic GF1 with the classic 20mm f/1.7 lens. The ever ongoing raw versus jpeg saga still continues and really pisses me off. Yeah, great that a much mentioned blogger Steve Huff can fix a photograph in a minute (I absolutely respect Steve for all the efforts he makes, but turning your blog in a money maker can be a trap too). And that raw images are best for that, but I can fix a bad exposed raw or jpeg image in a second. “Trashcan!” Seriously, the craft of photography is about exposing correctly based on your intentions and composing thoughtfully. So this one is for the newbies: “Learn the basics of photography right and learn all the post processing much later when you are comfortable with the basics“. A badly exposed photograph is there to remind you that you exposed incorrectly. Learn from the mistake and do it over. Rant over.

But who really gives a sh#$t, when so many people lost their lives, their loved ones, their houses this year. And while we bothered about camera, lens, and sensor availability from Japan, (earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster) and Thailand (floods), they were the ones who suffered. Seriously a bizarre world we live in. So lets make the most of everyday, photograph the ones you love, stick to the gear you have, define a project, or simply enjoy the freedom and exploratory feeling of stroll photography. Really appreciate each and every day, look back without moaning, and look forward with excitement. All good light for 2012!

For 2012 I will continue with my photography a day project. I am considering exhibiting all 365 photographs of the first year, although I am still not quite sure how. I like to finish with a quote by Jay Maisel I read in one of Eric Kim’s tweets: “The more equipment you take, the less pictures you’ll take.

All photographs 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