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let's talk about photography
I love making photos. My whole life, I have never been far from a camera. I have no goal in photography other than to see the world beautifully photographed – to make an interesting photo out of the things I see. Any trends in my photos, either in technique or subject or style, are emergent. I am more than capable of adding words to my pictures, but they're always thoughts made in hindsight. Except here, on this page, where I talk about photography.
A photographer's advice is only as good as their photos, right? So, before reading anything else I've written, if you're not familiar with the photos I've taken, start here. I have laid my pictures bare for your judgement and critique. Then you'll know how seriously (or not) to take all the ramblings on the rest of this page.
I don't care much for social media; the only one I use is Flickr. Flickr is neither sleek nor sexy but it is consistent, the photos look great on the platform, and the community is active and engaged and smart. I've been putting a picture on Flickr every day (approximately) for a long while – since sometime back in 2012 – and organize them into albums.
technique and composition
What makes a photo interesting? A photo is interesting when it shows something new and unusual. New and unusual can come from being someplace unique – such as the "Blue Marble" photo, the first photo of the planet Earth as a complete disc, taken by the crew of Apollo 17. Very few people have ever seen that view with their own eyes! New and unusual can also come from being at the right place at the right time – such as Neil Liefer's 1965 photo of Muhummad Ali flexing over a knocked-out Sonny Liston. Many people watched and photographed the boxing match, but only Leifer was ringside and ready.
So what about the rest of us, the rest of the time? What if the only subjects we've got are mundane? For us, we must develop our photographic eye. What we can show that's "new" or "unusual" is our own perspective – is the way we can show common subjects in novel ways.
Painters have been studying composition since the invention of paint, and photographers should learn much from them. I try to, at least. The aesthetics of arranging pleasing shapes and lines and textures and colors on a canvas is the same between painting and photography. Yet photo-making introduces some additional, uniquely photographic challenges. Much has been written on this topic, but here are a few pages where I try to add some signal to the noise.
Lenses for all sensor sizes are marketed with their focal length and their focal length's "35mm equivalent" – the focal length necessary to achieve a similar field-of-view on a 35mm camera. But what if we're shooting square photos? Wouldn't we rather want to know a lens's "6x6cm equivalent"? 2023 Jun 20
Changes in time of day and atmospheric conditions can dramatically change the way a landscape looks, even when the landscape itself is the same. It's one thing to say this, but another to see it in practice, as in these examples. 2012 Aug 28
gears and bolts
My main camera is the digital medium format mirrorless Fujifilm GFX 50R. I have a small set of lenses which attach to it, and a grip-slash-mounting plate which I always keep attached. No, the GFX system is neither compact nor lightweight, but since adopting it in mid-2022 it has proved amazingly versatile, boasting a workflow very much in-sync with my own. That said, I do sometimes still use other cameras.
I am not shy about buying a new camera when it looks interesting nor selling one when I no longer use it. While I've been using cameras since I was old enough to hold one, my first "serious" camera was the original Canon Digital Rebel 300D – the first affordable digital SLR, released back in 2003. It's debut was well-timed, coming just as I for the first time earned a real paycheck. The selection was an easy decision, as back then the Rebel had no competitors. I still have this camera – it still works, and I still use it sometimes when I'm feeling cheeky.
Since that Rebel, an obscene menagerie of other gear has passed through my grubby mitts, including a number of 'classic' film cameras. Whether you love film photography or are baffled that anyone still shoots it, there's no denying that not being constrained by a fragile, expensive computer chip gave film camera engineers a freedom to explore novel and unusual designs. If for no other reason – pinhole photography, extreme panoramas, large format box cameras, twin-lens reflex mechanisms, hip-level viewfinders, rangefinder simplicity – film retains its relevancy.
I like cameras which are unusual. I find that that obliqueness makes me think differently about photography, makes my approach more intentional, makes my photos better. Cameras are at their best when they are designed with love of the craft, when their buttons aren't placed merely where it's convenient for the engineer, but where the button can become a natural extension of my eye.
Here are many of the cameras I've used. If you click on one, it will open a Flickr album of shots I made using that camera (or camera system). The more I've liked a camera, the more photos you'll find in its album.
some more gear talk
Want to get started with off-camera lighting, but don't want to waste money buying junk gear? This is my researched and tried shopping list to get a powerful, portable, flexible three-light off-camera studio setup for under $500. This gear will work with any brand of camera. 2020 May 7
The square-frame Kowa/SIX medium format film camera was produced from 1968 to 1974, a budget-friendly competitor to the prestigous Hasselblad V system. Being as I am familiar with both systems, allow me to compare the two. 2017 Dec 2
all about film
From 2012 until 2021 I spent a lot of time shooting photos on film, exploring the world of old film cameras, expired stock, and Lomography gear. While I've since (mostly) stopped, those eight-ish years deep in the analog side of the hobby left their mark on my digital photos, with many of my edits designed to emulate the styles and effects I was seeing from film. The collection of pages below document my journey through film, from start to finish.
A trip during which I shoot film slowly, methodically, purposefully, intentionally, and when I get home I see that all my shots suck and I entirely give up on shooting film from this point onwards. 2021 Jun 23
It began in the Earth year 2020, with the founding of the last of the Babylon films, located deep in neutral space. It was a port of call for refugees, smugglers, businessmen, diplomats... and travelers from a hundred worlds. Could be a dangerous place – but we accepted the risk, because Babylon 13 was our last, best hope for peace. 2020 Nov 10
Let's talk about Kodak Ektar. No, not that Ektar. The other Ektar. The Ektar from the 90s, that came in three speeds: Ektar 25, Ektar 125, and Ektar 1000. Let's say the word "Ektar" so many times it loses meaning. Did it ever have a meaning? 2020 May 7
The Advanced Photo System ("APS"), aka Kodak Advantix, had a brief, dumb existence. Claiming to be an upgrade to 35mm film, APS was actually the opposite, making the entire format dead on delivery. This is its dumb story, and why any of it matters. 2020 Feb 17
In summer 2019, Lomography did something unusual – they introduced a completely new film stock. I finally snagged a few rolls, managed to run them through a camera, and now I'm able to render my verdict. 2020 Jan 26
When I got the Hasselblad 500C/M, the previous owner showed me how to use the camera. One of the pieces of advice was to not be too aggressive spinning the film loading crank. Last week I decided to ignore that advice. I was playing a stupid game, and I won a stupid prize. 2019 Jun 18
Is my increasing experience making me any better at photography? Determine that for yourself in my sort-of-annual looks back at the year previous, where I share statistics about what photos I've made, marvel at my growing pile of cameras, and give poorly-researched opinions on the industry which makes our gear.