Does it matter?

2010, Photography

Does it matter why you or I photograph? Does it matter why you or I developed (or are developing) a personal style, a vision? Does it matter how you or I compose and see? Does it matter what gear you or I use? Likely not.

For many it seems so, but even if they knew I wonder how much it really matters. It matters to me what I do and I maybe only like to know what matters you when I try to understand what you do.

It matters to me what techniques I use, how I compose and expose. And yes, it even matters to me what gear I use. Not because I get the best image quality and the perfect photograph, but because I know how it enables me to make the photographs I envision. You know, possibilities and limitations.

I think it all matters to the execution and not to the eventual photograph. Everything else is probably only a justification.

But I have to apologize for not posting so regularly. Today I was finally able to ingest, select, and edit some of my photographs from the last three weeks. And then some say all the fun about digital photography is all about immediacy.

All photographs by Wouter Brandsma

Thinking black and white?

2010, Photography

Last night was very interesting at the photography club. We were introduced with “problematic” photographs or series from some of the members who had been dealing with it for some time and needed or wanted help. Our group also got the question from a new member. He is a longtime photographer, used mostly B&W film in the past, but went digital in recent years and started to get doubts about staying at B&W or giving color a chance. Since he had been shooting B&W for so long and he likely trained his eye to see visually strong impact forms, structures, textures, and contrast that work so well for B&W, we thought he sought confirmation to keep on doing B&W. Of course it is best to do what you want, but we were generally convinced that he wanted to remain a true B&W photographer.

And just that had me thinking last night after the club meeting. If you’re not shooting B&W film anymore, go for digital and get color photographs which you intend to convert to B&W in post processing, how much do you remain a B&W photographer? With film you had B&W film and there was never any color introduced in the process of developing and printing the film. Of course your eye is trained and you feel how your composition will look like in B&W, but with digital, somewhere in the stage of ingesting the photographs, selecting, and processing color is (likely) introduced. I try to ignore it, import the photographs with a B&W preset into Lightroom, but I still know that I have the RAW photograph besides the B&W jpeg.

Now I am for most of the times really pleased with my B&W jpegs, but do know that the RAW photographs could help in more difficult and challenging situations. But I personally don’t like it that the RAW doesn’t have a monochrome white balance by default. That is also why I don’t understand Sigma. The Sigma RAW software has a monochrome white balance setting that gives really good B&W photographs, but there is no chance to apply that white balance in-camera. If camera manufacturers are not willing to invest in a true B&W sensor than this could be the best other option for me.

I just like it that a decision is permanent. Using a B&W film meant you couldn’t get color (or you had to use a second camera with color film or slide). Nowadays we all seem so convinced that B&W conversion is best in post-processing and there are so many techniques for Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture, Nik Silver Efex, or whatever. In the last few months (in particular since I got the Ricoh GR Digital I at the end of last year) I have gone for a total B&W workflow from in-camera B&W jpegs to my final processing for overall and local contrast enhancements (including the photographs in this post). But what about you? Keeping it true B&W, color to B&W conversion, or did you depart from B&W when you went digital? I really like to know.

And speaking of digital. One of my regular readers has a mint Panasonic GF1 with the 20mm f/1.7 lens for sale which he bought on 28 November last year. And the warranty covers until the end of November 2011. He thinks of selling it for 600€ and will pay for the shipping from Spain. In case you’re interested, you can contact him here and request more information.

All photographs by Wouter Brandsma

Brief update

2010, Photography

Many photographers would love to have smaller camera, but with the image quality of a dSLR. Some efforts have already been made like the cameras with fixed lenses, the Sigma DP1/DP2, and Leica X1. And of course the m4/3’s with interchangeable lenses from Olympus and Panasonic. And today Sony introduced there NEX3 and NEX5 with APS-C sensor and a zoom and prime lens.

But I wonder: “Did they go to far?” These cameras seem all to be about lens mount and huge lenses. In particular the NEX5 is so small that when you use the zoom lens you wonder whether you attached the body to the lens. And there is no electronic viewfinder or hotshoe available, although they have an optical viewfinder for 16mm prime lens.

I guess I am too old-fashioned. I like simplicity, reliability, and prefer dials for shutter speed and ISO, a viewfinder, and an aperture ring on the lens. Some might say, deal with it, you don’t have to use every function on the camera. A good photographer can use anything to make good photographs, but there are also emotions involved. That is why some prefer Nikon, others Canon, or Leica. The camera that doesn’t hinder you and becomes an extention of your hand and eye is often your best camera. If you have that camera I suggest you stop looking at dpreview or other gear head related websites and forums. Take, or better make photographs. Try to understand photographs, the strenght of compositions, be aware of your surroundings and what you intend to say.

And me, I am personally very happen with the Ricoh GR Digital III. I love the handling of the camera and don’t know, but I seem to be the only person in the world who actually prefers the adjustment lever Ricoh implemented since the Ricoh GX100 instead of the GR Digital I adjustment wheel. Having less time for late night editing, I have a family and a busy job, I love the GRD3 B&W jpeg’s. I use a preset in Lightroom for additional contrast, bring the photographs into Photoshop for resizing and little sharpening and I am ready. I don’t have to think when using this camera.

Enjoy your photography, find good light and have fun.

All photographs by Wouter Brandsma