Sharing thoughts

2013, Photography

photograph, photography, shadow, light, shadow and light, black and white, wouter brandsma, wouter, ricoh gr, gr ricoh, ricoh gr digital, pentax, pentax ricoh, 28mm, wouter 28mm, stroll photography, street photography

Central position

I know that my friend Don will say that the camera is more than just a tool and that the tool matters. I certainly will not disagree that a tool matters, but I believe a tool should not hinder you either. I have been photographing the new Ricoh GR for some days and slowly becoming familiar with the pros and cons of this camera.

There is so much to like about this camera, but I sure have to acknowledge that it has some flaws too. In an attempt to preserve enough highlight detail I think the metering is quite conservative, possibly a tad too much. Many Ricoh photographers used to underexpose often at -1/3 EV, but this might not always be necessary. As a result the images straight out of camera seem what undertoned while the highlights and shadows seem to cope rather well. Also the greens are quite green, but I try to tweak the white balance to add a bit more yellow. On my camera, the CMOS sensor also exhibits some hot pixels at high ISO’s, especially beyond ISO 1600. And since the GR sensor lacks an AA-filter it can be pron to moiré. So be warned with very fine structures like stone brick walls.

It surprises me though how thoughtful the camera is. Once you’ve set it up, it just works. I can still operate the camera comfortably with one hand. I don´t have to think about the camera when I am out there. One of the critics I had when Ricoh launched the GRD3 with the larger LCD screen was that some of the buttons got too close to the location where your thumb rests. With the increased size of the camera they fixed that completely. One thing that took me some time to figure out was why I couldn’t assign the white balance shortcut menu to the adjustment lever, until two days later I discovered that there is now a dedicated white balance button available (I should as well have read the manual).

In my next post I will come with some color work for sure. We kind of forgot that is was spring here, but now we finally get rid of the autumness weather.

All photographs by Wouter Brandsma

week 19 | 2012…. NOT

2012, Photography


This week Leica took the bold move to announce a Leica M9 with a monochrom(e) sensor, the Leica M Monochrom. So much can be said about this camera and it’s sensor and so much doesn’t need to be said either. I personally like the idea of a monochrome sensor. It will exceed the dynamic range of most other sensors and get close to the dynamic ranges of several B&W film stocks. And yes, the fact that pretty much every pixel is relevant for the resolution and that the image doesn’t need any interpolation makes up for enormous resolving details and large printing. But when a print photographically sucks at A4 size, it will suck too at A2 or larger despite all the technical superiority. And most will add grain to their B&W photographs (remember that the Leica M9-M comes boxed with Lightroom 4.1 and Nik Silver Efex Pro) that will actually harm the technical resolving details at 100%, but makes up for the pleasurable perception that a photograph looks pleasing and sharp from a larger distance due to the added texture.

Left and Right

The most important reason however why I like the idea of a monochrome sensor is the thought of making a conscious photographic decision beforehand. And I wrote quite often about that so that doesn’t need any further explanation in my opinion. Yet, clean images at high ISO’s has in my opinion nothing to do with black and white photography. When you make the decision beforehand to shoot black and white, I would also expect the degradation of the images at higher ISO’s.


And what about the Leica M9 Monochrom? $8,000! Huff Nuff said! I don’t care for what price they sell it. I really like rangefinder cameras, but those producing them turned them into desirable niche products. Thankfully I know some photographers who do very exquisite photography with these cameras. Like many others are doing good with lesser, or at least cheaper, equipment. “It isn’t the camera, it’s the photographer….


And on a different note, I haven’t taken any photograph this entire week. And it felt ought, but I didn’t miss it. It did however give me a chance to work on some concepts for a few projects I have in mind. Having this time available feels quite liberating, even though I never thought my PAD project felt constraining.

All photographs by Wouter Brandsma

week 17 | 2012

2012, Photography, Project

A week before a friend wondered if he could continue with his PAW-project (photograph a week). He felt it was fading and was full of doubts. I insisted he wouldn’t give up. And that remaiming persistent would eventuelly be rewarding. Half way week 17 he mentioned on twitter being in a flow and that excited me. And his post and photographs are worth seeing.

There is something about sharing thoughts, ideas, desires, doubts, and expectations with other photographers. Learning what they care about. Realizing that each and everyone has a desire, there own truth. And that many try to question themself without knowing what questions to ask. They like to challenge themself without knowing what they want to do.

There is so much we do subconsciously, and like editing our photographs or arranging a portfolio, it makes a lot of sense in my opinion to not rush this process. To create some distance with your work. It was certainly the best advice I got in 2008.

There is a lot we can learn from each other. By observing them while photographing, asking them what they love and fear. By realizing that the best subjects are there between the light and darkness, nearby and abroad, and that traveling doesn’t always have to be fysically.

Reason to, why I believe it makes perfect sense to share your thoughts and discuss photographic and general issues with a small group of people. Together we can strengthen and provoke each other.

And we don’t need a lot. The best subjects are often nearby, your family and friends. The places you live and work. Yesterday was such a day in the Dutch city Haarlem (the New York neighborhood Harlem was named after this city). We strolled through the city, covered for rain, drank lots of coffee, visited the Frans Hals Museum (was a Dutch painter from the 17th century Golden Age), had more coffee, and discussed a lot. Amazing inspirational days.

All photographs by Wouter Brandsma

week 32 | 2011

2011, Photography, Project, weekly project

Thinking of photography it is a just another form of communication. And one that is also restricted by our own vocabulary. I mean, I don’t consider myself anything of a writer although I still try to do so on my blog. But I do also notice that I very much often stick to the same words, the same kind of sentences. It is what I am familiar with, even more so with a foreign language. And that same thing also applies to my (and likely anyone elses) photography. We have our own vocabulary to in photography. Formed by what we know, what we like and dislike, what we have, and who we are. So often I see photographs I wish I would have taken them, but no matter how hard I try I still see and feel differently.

I still try to extend my vocabulary, but the routine of doing so is often restricted by what I already know. And from there on I try to grow gradually. Does that sound logically? Take formats for instance. Most of my photographic years I have always photographed in the 3:2 format. And while some think 4:3 works better vertically and is therefore better I can’t really be bothered with that. And to be honest, I hardly shoot in portrait mode anyway. So do I want to stick to 3:2? Nope. More than ever before I have some interest to shoot in square format.

I have this option to shoot in square with my Ricoh cameras, but I almost never used it. It is now with my Panasonic GF1 and the small electronic viewfinder that I think it is something I really want to use. You can twist the viewfinder and use the camera like a medium format camera. Pretty amazing. And even though this viewfinder is pretty low on the pixel count I am still surprised how well it actually works. Still hope that Panasonic updates this viewfinder with a new one that is comparable with the Olympus electronic viewfinders.

Well anyway, at square format I was (I started using it this week). And the vocabulary. There is nothing wrong to excel in what you are good at (very good in fact), but it also makes perfect sense to learn new words or visual means to express yourself. It enables us to extend our horizon with new verbal and visual languages.

The photographs of this ongoing project will also be updated here.

All photographs by Wouter Brandsma


2011, Photography

Those who knows Steve Huff’s blog do also know that he has several contributors that supply a wide range of articles from inspirational posts to technical stuff. Not too long ago someone (Randall Kelley) posted an article titled “A Better Camera“.

Olympus C4000z

He tries to get in length why he disagrees with the statement that a better camera doesn’t make you a better photographer. And he tries to mention two points why he thinks a better camera makes you a better photographer. The first reason for him is that a camera and lens that produces radically improved images will show your errors much more distinctly. And with the second reason he basically implies that the statement “A better camera won’t make you a better photographer” is either meant to talk only about your talent and perhaps to make you feel a bit better about not being able to swing to “high end” equipment. He says that good equipment, and especially equipment that pushes you to make more of your own decisions, will improve your results if you are willing to learn and if you persist.

To me he connects the abstractions better camera and personal improvement in a very linear fashion. Like those who are skillful will become more skillful with better equipment. But to me this remark leaves no room for creativity. I think an artist knows very well what to use how to create that what he or she envisioned. Will a photograph contain more details than a sketch? Of course it will, but then it won’t be a sketch anymore. Execution is not only the tools being used, but also the intention of the artist. The Victory Boogie Woogie painting by Mondriaan could well be done with very expensive tools, but that wouldn’t be so obvious since his intentions where different, while it would be very obvious that Rembrandt used excellent tools for the “Nachtwacht“.

Olympus C4000z

Yes, a camera that performs better at high ISO’s and fast lenses will likely decrease the chance of motion blur and camera shake, but what if you intentionally want motion blur in your images? Then you as a photographer should know how to get it.Even with a cheap camera you know when you caused the problem or your camera. A high quality lens will for sure resolve more details and lead to sharper images, but that all doesn’t make a lot sense when you intent to make sketchy images. Moriyamo Daido as an example purposely uses small compact cameras to shoot free and unrestricted to realize his vision and says that a larger camera will makes his photography more deliberate.

If you know how to push your self and how to make your own decisions your equipment will only form a small fraction of your decision making, I strongly believe so. In his article he says: “It’s like getting a new prescription for eyeglasses after years with a bad one. You can really notice things you missed. And IF you choose to take that to heart and start looking, you will observe better. Photography is a lot like acting, in that a good observer picks up detail to add to their work that is missing in someone who is not as observant.” To become a better observer I believe it is better to understand more about your subject. Studying helps you understand what detail(s) to depict or to ignore. No better lenses or camera will help you with that.

Canon Powerhot A70

As he mentions that the statement “A better camera won’t make you a better photographer” is partly there to probably justify the fact that you can’t buy a more high end camera, I think his reaction and article is just there to justify such expensive purchases. Lets honestly face it. Are there for an amateur photographer proper rational reasons why you want to buy a high end (read professional) camera? I can’t come up with no other reason than desire. Do we need the reliability a professional needs from his equipment? Do we need the sturdiness of our gear? Do we need all the bells and whistles? Likely not. We don’t shoot in war zones or at marriages everyday. We don’t have customers expecting the best from us whenever needed. If you are a competent photographer you are also aware of the shortcomings of your equipment and know how to deal with it. That is part of the craft.

Sometimes our choices have more to do with our desire to be an accomplished, respected, and preferably, professional photographer. We think we are taken more serious when we have a Canon 1D or Nikon D3s around our necks. Other photographers might think you are exceptionally good when you have a Leica M9 in your hand. It feels different and great to have great tools. We want great tools even though we know we can do it too with less. I used to windsurf when I was younger and thought it was fascinating to have a board and rig that was also used professionally. Did it make me a better windsurfer. Honestly not, but it sure was fun to feel like a better windsurfer. It looked good and people knew my stuff was good. And that is it to me. Pure emotion. If you think you need all the quality to make crops of your photographs (like he shows in his article) you might instead have better bought a longer tele lens instead. Or from an even more photographic standpoint of view: “You were not close enough.” I think there are hardly any rational aspects to choose a specific camera or lens, only emotions. So maybe I belong to the group that disagrees with his assessment, because I can’t afford a high end camera. And yes, I would love to have a Leica M9 or even a M8 would be fine. But I know I can work on my photography too with a micro fourthird camera or my GRD3.

Olympus C4000z

But if you really want to become a good photographer I stick to my words: “Practice, practice, practice!” And the good thing is that you can practice too with a cheap camera. Do you want to have the desire to have a better camera or to become real better photographer?

All photographs by Wouter Brandsma