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Something Borrowed

I shot this a couple of months ago but was weary of posing it because it felt to heavy to me somehow. Something in the contrast of it that I toyed with a little but always found myself coming back to something closer to the original shot as you see it here. The OM 50mm 1.8 is what was used here if I remember correctly and it is pretty fierce with its sharp contrast and color. The reason I liked the scene as I shot it was because of the handful of severed bamboo stumps mixed with ones still growing. Something seemed intriguing about it to me and you cant beat the late afternoon light that graced the scene.

In other news, I wanted to talk a little about the site while I’m here. Some bloggers out there post often with news and links and this and that but I like rolling in this sort of thing into my normal postings. Feels like it keeps things tidier somehow. My time lately has been divided between a lot of work and getting ready for my upcoming wedding and time in Seoul. I leave on the 12th of March so it’s coming up on me way to quickly. I will continue to post as often as possible though.  I have been thinking of the many grand ideas I have for the future of fiftyfootshadows and as with many things around here I take my sweet time getting them going. I had hoped to get a shop off the ground at the beginning of the year but life happens fast and I chose to table the project until this summer once I get back from Korea and have more time to do it right. The only reason I mention this is because a number of people have asked about it and I wanted to be up front with the reason for the delay in its launch. That’s all for now. Thanks, as always, for reading and enjoy the new desktop!

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Back To Basics

After a long hiatus, I decided to dive in and see where the digital camera market stood these days. It seems like ages since I have paid any mind to new digital cameras because I found my 5D to be more than enough camera for my needs and with the addition of a lens mount to share with my OM-2n I didn’t even really feel the need to keep up with any new lens rumors.

With the news of the latest offering from Olympus, the OM-D, I decided it was time to catch up. What I found was a strange landscape of camera manufactures wandering in the dark. Some are trying to create cameras more advanced and as feature packed as they can manage to appease the new generation of resolution junkies and the sudden market for video focused DSLR’s. More interesting though, to me at least, are those looking to the past for inspiration. I don’t feel the physical aesthetic matching older cameras is really relevant to anyone other than as a marketing gimmick. The interesting part of this new wave of cameras that started with the micro four thirds revolution, is in the way these cameras are operated.

Along with the amplified focus on the technical advancements within digital photography came those of us, like myself, who felt alienated by it to a certain extent. Photography started to feel like a sport for geeks and a new breed of digital purists looking for their cameras to reach a sort of imaginary perfection as if it really makes any difference.

When I think about photography, I am not a purist of any one camp. I love shooting digitally and I love shooting with film. The one stipulation I do have as far as purity goes is that I love to work within the basic fundamentals of the craft. Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO, these are the building blocks that we use to create. I find modern post production techniques such as HDR and other heavy digital reliance interesting but not at as relevant or essential to the act of capturing a great photograph. Are you a digital artist using data collected from the light around you or can you form a connection to your subject without such heavy reliance on technology to portray a feeling? Photography is so grounded in truth that it seems backwards to let technology distort it so heavily. This does not mean that I am afraid to evolve or lack respect for those using modern tools to create, I use them at times just like everyone else. It’s just that I find the purity of capturing light can be reduced to a few basics.

A popular viewpoint is the “best camera is the one you have with you” movement wherein the camera itself is all but irrelevant as long as you capture the moment. I love the minimalism of the idea but I often see inconsistencies among those trying to define it. One of the holes in that mindset is that while of course you can take nice photos with any camera you do heavily limit yourself without having at least the basic fundamental controls in place to give you the power to fully exploit the beauty of any given moment. The thing I do agree with in this movement is that modern cameras are often unnecessarily complex and bloated. There is no good reason for that camera that you have with you not being a capable one.

No, it doesn’t take a large $3,000 camera to create wonderful photographs, but quick and easy access to your exposure settings paired with a robust lens can greatly improve your ability to explore creatively. This is part of the reason I enjoy shooting with old film cameras as much as I do. It simplifies the experience. Currently most of the best choices you have for a small yet robust digital camera are limited and often bloated with features that stumble over each other as you try to capture what you envision in your mind.

If camera companies would like to go after the traditional shooters market or those still using film cameras for their simplicity and grace then why not go a little further? The new Fujifilm X-Pro 1 been met with open arms by photography enthusiasts for its stripped down approach and for good reason. It is not pretending to be anything it is not. There is no real focus on its video capability because its not a still camera pretending to be a video camera or vice versa. They made a focused effort to create a camera for photographers, not for gear heads and I love that. Olympus had a really interesting opportunity in bringing back the OM line but I think they missed the mark when they made yet another modern digital shooter that’s cool and all but feels a bit underwhelming.

Once I considered the way things are heading in the digital camera market it hit me that I would love to see someone take it one step further and make a camera which functions identically to traditional film shooters with fully manual exposure and focus controls paired with one bold statement, leave off the rear LCD preview screen. They could also innovate in the lens mount department and create one which could offer support for a number of different mounts. Offer a few basic settings to cater to the needs of digital shooting such as ISO, white balance, and compression type using a much more basic readout. I think something like this coupled with the further development in helping digital sensors mimic the warmth and noise handling of film and we may be on to something.

The lack of a back LCD would obviously make the biggest statement and would make big waves in the photo world. Users would come out of the woodwork to hate on the idea or pass along their praise but I feel it would be a fascinating move. It could potentially make for a cheaper entry point cost wise, free up space to keep things slim and durable, and improve battery life. With the added compatibility to perhaps support a number of lens mounts things could get even more interesting.

I could see this working with either a rangefinder style viewfinder or within a compact SLR. The original OM series was remarkably small considering it was a full featured SLR and part of my confusion with the new OM-D was its lack of a mirror. With the digital viewfinder it seems like they chose progress just for the sake of progress rather than something all that necessary to make a great body. In all fairness, however, I have not given myself enough time to consider the reasoning behind their decisions with that camera. On the other side of the fence, I think Fujifilm did a really wonderful job with the idea of combining a traditional optical viewfinder with digital capabilities on their recent rangefinder inspired cameras.

Of course I am over simplifying the idea and there are many factors to consider in building a camera like the simplified one I described above but the concept of an even more stripped down digital still camera is something I could see being a popular choice among a lot of photographers today. Funny, I could imagine the conversations now if it were to enter the market. “Thats a digital camera? Then where do I see my photos? How would I ever get my exposure right? Does it shoot video? How fast is the auto focus speed? What? You can only focus manually? Where’s the flash?”

There is actually a camera already available with nearly identical specifications as the one I mentioned above but many seem to have forgotten about within the short history of digital cameras. It has fully mechanical controls, and uses the Leica M mount with mechanical focus coupling. The sad thing is that it was discontinued in 2007. The camera is the Epson/Cosina R-D1. It always amazed me how long it managed stayed popular for many shooters during that time and has become something among a cult classic among some photographers. I think the R-D1 was a bit ahead of its time. It was released during the same period that most other camera manufacturers were scrambling to reach for higher image resolutions.

I remember reading debates in magazines over whether or not they would ever match the flexibility and resolution of film. The early days of DSLR’s were not much more than a battle for the highest megapixel claim and was a fight for the pro commercial market more than anything. A humble camera such as the R-D1 which merged ideas from the film world with new digital imaging technologies didn’t stand a chance at the time. The same thing happened with vinyl being declared dead due to the pressures of digital music progress yet today it has seen a healthy resurgence among music lovers.

Then of course there are those already dropping $7,000 on Leica M9′s to get a solid, capable yet simplified digital shooter. I was also just reminded of a concept I saw a while back for a digital Holga which had highly simplified controls and lacked a screen which drew a lot of praise for its minimalism yet, like many such design concepts, never managed to see the light of day. Surely I’m not the only one who feels it’s clear that there could be healthy market for a moderately priced minimal still camera. I think it would be amazing to see Voigtlander pick up the torch again now that there is a real demand for a camera such as the R-D1. With an updated sensor inside it would be a wonderful addition to the digital landscape. As it stands today I feel the Fujifilm X-Pro 1 is as close as we can get.

At any rate, I was already met with a heavily mixed reaction after mentioning it via twitter and I think I have vented enough of my thoughts on the matter here. I realize many of the plusses and minuses of the idea but I still feel it would offer something unique to the digital camera space and felt the idea was worth spreading. In the mean time, there are still enough film shooters and supporters out there to keep the millions of amazing film cameras still out there busy. Isn’t it telling that Kodak shut down all of their digital camera ventures while their film devision is still profitable and going strong. Pretty sure I read there was actually a 20 percent increase in sales last year. I realize the company had trouble keeping up with other camera manufacturers which kind of makes sense to me because while they do have a varied history on the hardware side of things, film was always their bread and butter. I look forward to the next few years and seeing what direction the photography world heads in. Should be interesting to say the least.

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Everything Is Subjective

The days of photo blogs that only share photos are quickly fading in light of encouragement to share not only photographs but thoughts, techniques, and stories. I love reading stories and getting ideas but I often find the balance is heavily weighted to the technical side of things. Browsing discussions about photography online often feels as though I am reading the same words, ideas, and trends being passed around like a messy game of telephone. When shooting philosophy is brought up I usually come across highly defensive articles staking claims about the purity of any one genera of photo making and why everyone else is wrong. It’s great to look at things from different points of view and I love digging deeper into ideas in efforts to discover ideas which are not so clearly laying there on the surface.

In light of this I like to humor deeper explorations of the art and how these ideas can relate to our lives and happiness. Art has such deep roots into human emotion I find it hard to ignore at times when approaching it. I do my best to approach writing about photography in a humble way because my goal is to encourage others to explore, because there is no right or wrong way to go about it. I don’t make any claims to be a scholar, I simply enjoy engaging others in conversation when ideas come to mind and observations I make are often footnotes I choose to share as I continue to explore the ever winding road of photography as art.

When considering any art work whether that be a photograph, sculpture, or painting, there is always a key moment when you pass your judgment on it’s effectiveness on you. Depending on your background you may see it in any manner of different ways. You may feel inexplicable emotion swarm up and touch your soul, or you could unconsciously turn your head ever so slightly, mouth half open and have a moment of honest confusion as you try to sort out in your mind if you enjoy what it is you are looking at. You may or may not simply glance at it in passing, make a snap decision and forget it ever existed.

There is no telling what may cross someones mind when they encounter any work of art, be it a photo of a flower or one of a dead animal, each persons reaction is as unique as their fingerprints. Most artists are aware of this and try to narrow their abilities to cater to a broad mind set while they create. I do this when shooting photos that I know will work well for a good desktop wallpaper image. Then there are those who throw any foresight to the wind and try their best to express what they feel in any means possible without any consideration for who may or may not enjoy it. While Both of these are viable approaches, there is a sweet spot between the two that explores experimental ideas while still managing to reach a wide audience.

This is what is wonderful about art, it’s impossible to truly define outside of the viewers imagination and each of us have a unique set of memories and experiences that separates our interpretation from everyone else’s. But why stop with art?

Widen our perspective a little and we quickly realize that everything is subjective. While many of our opinions align to form a broad appreciation of certain things within our various cultural divides, we all still hold the uncanny ability to see things in a light totally different from anyone else based on our own personal realities or perspectives. Our insight on life is trapped within ourselves and our willingness to combine past experiences with new ones define our current viewpoints of the world and everything within it.

Many of us seem to forget that we are in many ways, absolute, and we are all equally unique in the way we see the world. With this gift comes responsibility because we are not in fact alone. Some of us manage to coast through life forgetting that, while we may feel our point of view is the only truth in this world, there are reasons for the way other people think, what they believe, or what they find beautiful. It’s your responsibility to be understanding and tolerant of others around you. Otherwise, we would live in selfish chaos. We should embrace the idea that along with our personal subjective reality we are part of a much wider objective one that we all must share. The best we can manage to do in our lifetime is to get through it without letting the negative drag us down.

For every seemingly random act or coincidence, there is a reason for it which has its roots nestled deep into history. Some look to a trust in fate to connect the dots while others lean on chance but no matter how you look at it you can’t deny the purity of our own existence based on all that has existed up to now. In order for us to be truly happy we should be willing to accept both the good and the bad. We aught to be able to allow ourselves to embrace all of it and challenge ourselves to accept what may not immediately seem acceptable. At least enough so to be understanding and tolerant.

After considering things from a wider perspective, let’s bring this back to the point I intended to make when I set off writing this today. With photography we are able to do something pretty amazing. We are able to take our subjective point of view and turn it into something objective. At least in the sense that we are able to share our personal version of the world and transform it into something that can be shared objectively.

Theoretically light beams are already objective and absolute as they are a shared part of our collective reality but when the reflection of that light is captured on a frame of film we are able to cheat the fleeting objective nature of reality and turn it into a version of our own subjective reality.

I realize this is putting a pretty fine point on the idea of snapping photos but I enjoy letting my mind wander. By putting a theory behind the process I am able to treat photography not as a seemingly random pastime, but as something more significant. I certainly don’t go around thinking of a higher purpose every time I make a photograph but I do sometimes let this guide my mind to help look for a deeper emotional connection to what light I choose to collect.

Having this in mind try to guide your ability as a photographer to capture your life in a way that illuminates your point of view. If you live a boring life stuck at home or at work most of the time, try to capture the essence of those feelings in your compositions in ways that others can relate to. If you travel a lot and have the opportunity to see more of the world, make an attempt to look for patterns in life within different landscapes. No matter where you are or what you do, you have a perspective completely unique to anyone else’s. Knowing this, as photographers, we should do our best to exploit the recourses we have available to us.

I have been exploring this for years and I am just now starting to see connections between what I have been shooting in ways where I would feel comfortable piecing together a narrative. It’s exciting to explore and it all started with a few simple realizations. One other thing to consider is that it is possible to try too hard. I will sometimes force my hand while taking a photo in a way that ends up feeling too obvious. I discovered long ago that it’s important to maintain a casualness while shooting because it can add a subtle rawness to an image that is easy to loose if I over think something I am shooting.

These ideas are surely not applicable for every reader of the site but I have a feeling there are a number of you out there who may start to form some ideas from looking at photography this way even if they normally just sit idly within a subliminal level. There is always a moment in which every photographer starts to notice themes develop within their shooting, preferences start to form and the technical side of shooting starts fading into the distance as it becomes second nature. This is usually when they start to explore deeper meanings within their work as a whole.

Someone recently left a comment on an older post which stated that my description of a photo ‘unbelievably pretentious’. I don’t believe that I am smarter than anyone else or know more about how to be happy. I do, however, enjoy reminding those who may have forgotten that we are all capable of greatness and happiness, and exploring new ideas. I take criticism at face value and absorb any opinion shared because I know that there is always more than one way of looking at any one thing. There is not much that frustrates me more than arrogance and cynicism and if I ever come across as such I don’t mind being called on it. I will always honor the opinion of others and with that respect I hope you do the same.

Next up on my topic list, Something lighter. I am working on a write up with entry level film camera suggestions as the first in a series of public answers of frequently asked questions.

To whom it may concern,

IMAGES FOUND WITHIN THE FIFTYFOOTSHADOWS.NET PARALLAX WALLPAPER PACK ARE ©JOHN CAREY AND MAY NOT BE USED FOR ANY COMMERCIAL USE WITHOUT PERMISSION. 

DO:

• Enjoy the images! It’s a labor of love, thanks for your support!
• Share fiftyfootshadows.net with friends.
• Send me a quick mail if you are interested in using an image for commercial or personal use other than wallpaper.

DON’T:

• Post these elsewhere online.
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• Pass them around in mass.
• Make prints.
• Use images for web banners or graphics.
• Use them in commercial work.

If you help me out with these I will be able to keep doing what I love to do. Thanks again, really, for your support and understanding. -J

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All of the images contained within this website, fiftyfootshadows.net, are property of, John Carey unless otherwise posted. The images are distributed as freeware but they are available for personal use only on your personal computer, tablet, or smartphone as your wallpaper image. Any use of these images for any purpose other than this is a violation of these terms and anyone found using said images will be asked to either compensate the creator for doing so or be asked to stop using them immediately.

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Use your best judgement and we will get along just fine.

Thank you for your understanding and support!

-John Carey (curator, owner)

fiftyfootshadows.net

fiftyfootshadows@gmail.com