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


2010, Photography

Don’t we all have a desire to be distinguishable? A desire to be different or to distinct from others? Or to have something that makes you distinctive? Maybe the word snobbery is a bit harsh and echoes too much negative sentiments, but how bad is it to be different and/or distinctive? And how much does this apply to your photography?

Some work hard on a distinctive style, something of their own. Others try to be very knowledgeable. Some are more elitist as some kind of photo curator, while others claim to be even more distinguishable because they make a living as a photographer. Some hold on to their gear, while others on the lack of it. For some film remains the real deal, while others just don’t care.

As long as your desire remains there to improve, to learn, to be respectful, I think there is no problem to have something a of snob edge. Be yourself, enjoy what you do, and appreciate what others are doing matters too.

Photograph by Wouter Brandsma

Reality or imagination

2010, Photography

Reality or imagination, for me that is the question. I haven’t been rambling for a while, but some things kind of really struck my in the perception and execution of photography, in particular with amateur photography. So please remember that this is just merely my own thinking.

Often you hear and read how important reality is to people. Photographers say the camera (or film) should give accurate, neutral and realistic colors. Photographs must be tack sharp, because the lens should get sharp photographs. Shallow depth of field is fully overrated, hate bokeh, and who needs it anyway to make good pictures?

For instance last night I read at a forum: “Only real pros go to such dark places and like to blur their backgrounds to hide the surroundings . Us mere mortals like to see clearly what’s in the pictures. I know it’s crass…”. Well believe me, I find such remarks crass. I really do. Maybe huge depth of field, tack sharp fore- and background, and neutral colors records an accurate photograph of a moment (or basically a snapshot in my opinion). But in my opinion also only that, a record. Like a witness.

I believe the essence of good photography is to leave enough space for imagination. Photography is already so close to reality, unlike painting or drawing. With painting and drawing you can leave behind anything that forms a distraction and only paint or draw that what is necessary so the viewer will be forced to imagine the story, the setting, the reason of the art piece. And the viewer is likely affected by their own perception as well. We all have our own interpretation of reality so does the viewer recognize the subject or scene? Do the colors match the colors we remember and can relate to (stoplight is red, grass is green, etc.)?

Especially amateur photographers have so much more freedom in photography than professionals. Only we, and not the clients, set the requirements for our photography. We have more freedom to experiment, to challenge our creativity. It is however something most don’t do or hardly try. And when they actually do it, they hardly understand that they are doing it. Many don´t use the `rules` (hate that word) as freely interpretable guidances. They seem to treasure it as the law. Technical limitations like gear or knowledge set the borders for their photography and when they want to push further many will likely buy them self new gear.

Imagery is like depicting on a subject and leaving room for interpretations. Basically a form of isolating. The more we add, the harder that becomes. When the subject matters to you, photograph only the subject. When the subject and surroundings matter to you, than add some of the surroundings, but only just some what is needed. When you want the viewer to trigger their imagination, only photograph a particular detail of the subject (a photograph of a woman´s leg will likely trigger your imagination how the woman might actually look like, a photograph of a beautiful woman less).

There are several compositional and technical methods to work on that. You can play with the height of the horizon. Where to place the subject in your composition. Black and white photography, Wider angle for open spaces and layers, or longer focal lengths for compressing the scene. Getting close or keeping distance. And shallow depth of field to isolate the subject. Try to study photographs from people you admire or work that inspires you. See how much is needed to tell a story, to create an interesting photograph.

All photographs by Wouter Brandsma