Small Talk is one of my “go to” titles when I have a series of random thoughts swimming through my over active brain. This is Small Talk 4.
As somebody who has used a large variety of types of camera equipment over the years, I can testify that while it’s true that photography is not all about the equipment, it’s still best to know what you’ve got and how you can apply the machinery to the art.
One of the many film cameras I had, (film almost seems like an antique concept today), was my Mamiya Super 23 Universal medium (120 size roll film) format camera.
The camera body itself was a rectangular box with a viewfinder near the top. It had a built-in bellows at the back, which allowed you to tilt and shift the film holder, but other wise that was it. No technology of any kind. Not even a battery. There was no shutter in the camera. It’s primary design was similar to a 4×5 view camera, except for the viewfinder. The body was a rangefinder, meaning that if you attached a 90mm (only) standard lens for this format to the front of the body (box), that viewfinder synced up with the lens that was positioned well below it. The lenses themselves had the shutters built-in. They were called leaf shutters because they opened and closed as a series of over lapping leaves, when you tripped the shutter on the lens. You could trip that shutter by attaching a handle which had a cable release built into it via a trigger. The handle would screw into the right hand side of the body. You would then attach the other end of the cable release to the lens. Otherwise you could leave the handle off, mount the body on a tripod, and attach a typical cable release to the lens.
Of course, then you had to attach a roll film back to the camera in which you could manually advance the film one shot at a time on the actual back, not on the camera. You could attach and remove that back at will, except of course, the front of the back…..so to speak, would be open to the film ruining light of the daytime. There was a dark slide, just as with 4×5 cameras, that needed to be inserted when that back was removed from the body, and then taken out when you attached it and wanted to take a picture.
One day in 1976 or so, I traveled up into the mountains to shoot a roll of film, which meant a grand total of 10 exposures. I left that film back on the camera all day, as I did not want to forget, as I had once before, to put that slide back in as I disassembled the camera for carrying. Otherwise I would expose the film to outside light and ruin the whole roll. I proceeded to instead, leave the dark slide in while I was actually taking pictures. In other words, I never exposed a single frame of film all day. Because you did not view the scene you were about to photograph, through the lens but through the viewfinder, I never realized it. I could see the scene nicely via that viewfinder, but unfortunately the film could see nothing but darkness.
Photography is and always will be, part technology.
I bring this up because sometimes it seems like photographers today are split up into two categories, those who think that photography is all about the photographers, and cameras are meaningless hardware, and those who care only about the equipment. In other words we are just “camera jockeys” to that second group. Photography is now just as it always has been, dependant on both technology and the artist. It is about the blend in the end ( a poet and didn’t know it). It creates either technically proficient pictures, works of creative art, or a combination of both. Which of those three occurs, will always be up to the photographer.
One of the most satisfying things that I did when I was a photographer, was to teach. Over a period of many years I held some bad workshops, and I held my share of good ones. A certain percentage of any learning experience is the willingness of the student, but the teacher can make a big difference and it was those moments when I made a difference, that filled me up and gave me satisfaction.
Near the end of my workshop era, I taught a field workshop to a teenage girl and her mother. The girl really didn’t want to be there but she tolerated it anyway. As the day went on she began to “get it” more and more. Eventually she not only began enjoying the challenge of making good images, but frame by frame she started to insert herself (her personality) into the pictures she made. I am definitely not talking about “selfies”. From unwilling participant and novice, to a beginning artist in four hours. That’s what I call a good day.
There are abstracts and then there are abstracts. Abstracts can be a created vision of a person with a camera, or they can be created for you by nature. There are natural visual abstracts everywhere. Abstracting photos is something every photographer can do. For me personally, abstract photography was about “seeing” shape, light, shadows and contrasts, and reducing those thing naturally, with my own eyes, mind and heart ( and of course the camera). The resulting photos, were just waiting for me to notice them, every bit as much as was a wildlife subject or a grand landscape.
Whether the ingredients for abstraction, come from a steaming hot thermal area in Yellowstone N. P., or clouds at sunrise, the abstract was a gift to me (and any photographer). I simply needed to use my eyes and/or my mind and heart, to bring my personal sense of order to the scene.
Macros and abstracts are great companions. Close-up image making is often the act of isolation. One part of a big scene, or the entirety of a miniature scene. Form, texture and contrasts, come together in detailed macros of subjects like lichen or fungi.
Mike Moats remains one of my favorite macro photographers. While Mike is a little more likely to apply the effects of Photoshop to his images than I am, whether he does or not, his attraction to shapes and colors is outstanding. He is an artistic “organizer” of all things up close. I am not sure of the subject (tree bark?) below, but it caught my eye immediately.
It’s true that “straight up” wildlife photography is shunned by some landscape and/or abstract photographers. Personally I think it takes some doing to capture compelling images of animals in the wild, and I am more than happy to give any artistic applause away to my subjects.
Small animals at a distance, medium-sized animals at a medium distance, or large ones up close, wildlife photography is a gift. They are performance artists, and I am in charge of recognizing that fact, capturing it and sharing it.
Those of you who have read several posts here at Earth Images, know that I write about other things than just photography or art. I often write about the “big three” as I call them, politics, social issues and religion. If you want to know how to p*** someone off, just tackle those subjects. I have gotten hate filled emails from personal friends following the publishing of articles on those subjects. I have been digitally hacked in response to some of my writings. Still, lacking any credible wisdom, I persist on sharing my thoughts on controversial subjects. I include those facts here because you may be new to this blog, and continue to grace Earth Images with more visits in the future. Keep in mind, those opinions represent my personal thoughts based on my observations and experiences (and wisdom and intelligence ?, lol). I have my opinions, and you have yours. The world would be dull indeed if we were all cloned from the same mold.
Have a great day, Wayne