None At All

While out on a walk at my favorite nearby lake I decided to pack light and set off with a thermos of coffee, an old film camera (in this case my Canonet), and my iPhone. I came out to have a little peace after a month and a half abroad in a mild attempt to reset my mind and get some fresh air. Thankfully, it just so happened to be an absolutely perfect day, a cool, slightly cloudy spring day with a touch of wind to give the lake gentle waves and the trees a beautiful white noise as it blew among the leaves.

As I walked along stopping by a few of my favorite spots along the way I could not help but take a number of photos with my trusty Canonet. I eventually arrived at one of my favorite places on the trail, a small boardwalk. I pulled the camera to my face and slowly started to swing back the film advance and to my horror found I could only wind it half way back meaning I had run out of film.

After a moment of disappointment I simply wound the film back into the canister, slipped the camera into my jacket pocket and pulled out my iPhone to take a few so-so photos of the scene to mess around with later. Disappointed with the results, I had a moment where I felt stupid for not bringing along more film. It was a weight that made me feel like I had wasted the walk out there. A few seconds later I realized it was not at all worth the worry. Why burden myself with such thoughts? This in mind I simply lifted the weight of the loss off of my shoulders, took a deep breath, and continued to enjoy my time in the forest without the need to photograph it.

I decided to take my time walking back and wandered off the trail, forging my own path. A few minutes later I discovered two trees that had fallen across the shore of the lake and rested at peace over the water. Vines with green leaves had started to grow outward from the forest and onto the sunny trunk of the fallen tree. I picked up a weathered old 2×6 piece of wood found nearby then slowly walked out onto one of the trees.  After placing the wood across the two trunks I had a nice makeshift bench to sit on. I let my phone sit in my pocket, took a few sips of coffee and enjoyed my time without feeling the need to photograph the beautiful lake aorund me. It was perfect, legs dangling down above the surface of the lake, wind was creating deeper waves at this point and I was lost in the beauty of it all.

Many people talk about the iPhone being a great camera or go on and on about the benefits of digital cameras and their seemingly unlimited capacities, but this day decided to evolve a bit differently than others and left me with a fresh, welcome perspective. This day left my mind at rest among the trees, water, and sounds of a perfect afternoon. Then I got to thinking and the now common phrase, “the best camera is the one you have with you” came to mind and I thought to myself, sometimes the best one is an ellaborate DSLR, sometimes it is a simple old film camera, and sometimes it is the one built into your phone, but today, on this perfect afternoon with a cool breeze on my face, the best camera was none at all.


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.


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.


Hiding In Plain Sight

My favorite kind of light to shoot is fleeting. It consistently appears like a ghost passing through my awareness. Soft, delicate reflections that drift slower than our patience will usually allow us to notice moving until its gone. There are countless memories stowed away in my mind where these ghosts have shown themselves to me only to have me scramble to dig out my camera wherever it may be only to find by the time I was ready to shoot it had already passed. Light is a force of life that reminds us that we must absorb these fleeting moments before they slip by, camera in hand or not.

That said, if you fancy yourself a photographer here is a challenge for you. Capture one of these moments. Surely you know the type. That tiny window of time wherein light graces a surface in a way so perfect it could only exist this way on rare occasions. It’s not always just a beam of light creeping across a wall. Sometimes it sneaks in through the window of a bus like in the photo above, perfectly lighting everything inside until it turns to another street or ducks behind a building. Other times it may be that perfect combination of the angle of the setting sun and the spot you are standing in that causes the world to illuminate in front of you.

Here is the tricky part. Once you find it, take only one photograph. Even if it’s against better judgement to do so. Just go with your instinct, don’t over think it, use what you know about good exposure and composition and trip the shutter. In limiting yourself you are playing along with the transitory nature of the moment. I think it’s an important lesson to learn and one I hint at often around here. Don’t let the camera get in the way of the wonderful things you seek out to shoot. Let these moments find you and simply live your life.

For me, photography is an experience in which you hold close the romantic nature of life and do your best to keep it from being forgotten. So keep your camera nearby and look for those softly lit moments hiding in plain sight. If you capture something feel free to share it with me through email. Maybe I could share it here in the future.


Old Is New

Some of you may remember that I recently started shooting with an Olympus OM2 film SLR. Over the past few weeks I have grown to really enjoy having it around and I hope to write more about the experience eventually here on 50ft. I think it could make for a nice series of posts to cover the old film cameras that I love shooting with so much. Hopefully some of the joy that I find when shooting film will rub off on some of you. Today, however, I wanted to write about something related to, but not exactly about, this great old camera.

When I bought the OM2 I bought it not as much because of the camera itself but because of the lens system that exists around the body. Specifically, an older lens, the 55mm f/1.2. After a lot of research I knew I would be taking a bit of a risk because of its reputation for not being very sharp. I decided that I could have fun with the soft, dreamlike quality of the lens and hopefully take advantage of this characteristic while using it.

Once I decided on the lens I popped over to eBay to have a look and see what was available and ended up getting quite lucky with the price and condition of both the lens and the OM2 body (which also arrived with a 50mmf/1.8). While looking through what was available in the used market within the OM system I was amazed at the price and availability of some really great lenses and cameras.

Among my first thoughts when deciding to try a new camera system was wondering how easy it would be to convert the old manual lenses to mount on my 5D for the added bonus of having some new glass to shoot with on the digital side of things. You can just about stick any lens on any camera within reason. Of course there are limits to converting lenses to different bodies because they are designed with a specific body in mind when they are created but when it came to OM lenses on the Canon EOS mount I seemed to be in luck. As soon as I won the lens and camera on eBay I found a simple, cheap adaptor on amazon that seemed to get fairly consistent reviews and jumped in.


The simple option of being able to swap lenses between the old film SLR in my bag with my digital camera turned out to be even more satisfying and worthwhile than I had imagined. Both the 55mm and the simple, cheap 50mm are highly satisfying to shoot with and I have been getting some great results with both. When placing an old manual lens on your fancy modern digital camera there are a couple of things that will take some adjusting to if you are used to an automated shooting style.

First, you will be forced to forget your camera has automatic exposure settings. This is an exciting prospect, especially for photographers just starting out or novice ones wanting to step up their game. Because these old lenses have nothing automatic about them, there is no way for them to communicate with the camera leaving you to set the aperture physically on the lens and the shutter speed within your camera. While its common advice to shoot only in manual mode if you are studying photography I feel using an old manual lens takes things one step further and leaves you with a connection to your exposures that is often casually ignored otherwise.

Second, and perhaps more obviously, autofocus will be lost. Manual focusing can take a little getting used to but once the process clicks with you it’s hard to deny how helpful it can be to be able to quickly focus in on the exact space you are aiming for without having to rely on what the camera is guessing you would like to be in focus. These old manual lenses were designed for it so focusing is nice and smooth. One suggestion for any serious user of any prime lens with a fast aperture would be to invest in a focusing screen that better suits fast lenses. Unfortunately many modern cameras don’t allow you to change them out, especially Nikon which, unless they have changed in recent years don’t even pretend to have the option outside of a few third party manufacturers and hacks. The benefit of this is that most focusing screens are designed for slower lenses like the kit lens paired with autofocus and therefore is not as accurate when focusing at wider apertures. Just something to keep in mind but its beside my point.

The main reason for writing about using an old manual lens on a digital SLR is because I wanted to share the great experience I have had with it and encourage others to consicer this as an option when thinking of getting a new lens. There are hundreds of amazing old lenses out there and while there are only a handful of those cult classics such as the 55mm I bought there are plenty of others to be explored as well. Don’t forget the added bonus that you could easily buy the original SLR film body that these old lenses were designed for and have a nice film camera as well!

The images I have taken using the old OM lenses have a wonderful warmth to them that I really love and with a watchful eye on my white balance setting I don’t often feel the need to adjust much of anything in post work. As a point of reference, the image below was taken with the 50mmf/1.8 and has no post work at all applied, it’s straight from the cameras sensor.


Another thing to consider is that in many cases these old lenses were made with a higher build quality than many made today and can be found for great prices both locally and online. As of this writing I see a number of great 50mm OM lenses on eBay ranging from $30-100 depending on the model and condition. Heck, some of them you can buy WITH a camera for under $100. I wuoldnt be surprised if you found one at a local thrift store or yard sale for even less. A simple mount adaptor for Nikon or Canon will only run about $20 on Amazon and you are on your way to enjoying a new lens and new possibilities.

This of course is not limited to the Olympus OM series, old Canon, Nikon, or Pentax lenses can be easily converted to other digital SLR’s as well. Then again, if your shooting a Nikon with an F-mount design you can buy most of their old SLR lenses all you want as they never changed their mount when newer technology started to become prevalent in cameras.

5d Om2

To boil this all down, you don’t need to constantly thirst for the latest and greatest in camera/lens technology. There is an enormous amount of gear out there from the past 40+ years that is still alive and well just waiting for you to pick up and experiment with so before you drop a lot of money on a new lens take a couple hours and dig into the past to see what is out there, you might be surprised of what it is capable of.


Close Your Eyes

Before we get into what I wanted to talk about here today I’d like you to take a moment, close your eyes, and imagine a photograph. What came to mind? Was it a snapshot of your significant other? A beautiful landscape? A classic work of art? Maybe you invented one in your mind, an image never seen outside of your imagination. Now, consider being the photographer behind the camera as the photo was taken, even if you were the one who took the photo. Can you imagine the smell of the air? The sound of the environment around you? The emotion felt as what lay in front of the lens transpired?

This is something that makes photography unique among other forms of art. These are not just arbitrary collections of light or pixels, photographs are alive. They are living breathing creations. Every snap of a shutter is another wormhole opening that bridges the past and the present. They collect memories, preseve them and hold the potential energy to thrust them back into your awareness. Even when they are not your own. A great photograph can take you anywhere, it can transform you. Of course, that is, if you let it.

Trouble is that we are currently drowning in imagery. The potential of any one image is being diluted with over exposure. I bet that when you closed your eyes, your mind didn’t jump to one, single photograph but leapt among a dozen different images, bits of each colliding into the next. Our minds move so quickly through an endless mental back catalogue of imagery that it can be hard to focus on any one thing for more than a split second.

It’s why you don’t see me posting a ton of images here or on Flickr. Being more mindful of what I choose to share allows them to have more of an opportunity to be seen, absorbed, and with any luck, remembered. Mental space is a precious thing these days and we can use all the breathing room we can get.

In light of this perspective on the value of any given image I have, in the past year or two, found myself shooting less than I once had. While out taking photos of something I won’t fire off a few dozen shots of the same scene. I find myself being more selective of when I trip the shutter. It has lead me to to a place where I feel more focused and confident in the process of shooting. At one point in the past year I lost my one lager capacity compact flash card and rather than go out and replace it with another I decided to stick with the few 2Gb cards that I have around. These give me around 120 shots per card and I rarely switch out cards unless I am traveling and shooting more often.

I find that in limiting the potential amount of images I allow myself to capture I am able to drive myself into a mental space that puts a greater importance on the things I do choose to capture. It puts me more in the moment rather than constantly glued to the LCD display of my 5D. While this comes after years of constant shooting and learning, I think both beginners and pros alike can benefit from a few creative restrictions.

Photography is a lifestyle as much as it is a profession. The images you create are only as good as the places you allow yourself to explore or the situations you place yourself in, so rather than let photography control your desires, let your desires and passion drive your photography.

Point being is that I firmly believe that to get great photos that will leave a lasting impact you must live your life to its fullest. Don’t question yourself too much, just stay active, follow your instincts and passion, and surround yourself with things that inspire you. Take chances! Nothing ever happens just by sitting around. Sometimes to discover these things you have to go out into the world and find them.

This is something I realized a few years back when I started to shoot film again. I discovered that my favorite personal work was that which I left a little piece of myself in. Sometimes it may be an intimate moment, other times it could be a place or situation not typically thought of as deserving of a photograph. Years of tailoring my shooting and subject choices for what I thought others would like grew tiresome. Letting myself venture beyond my comfort zone helped me discover that I did in fact have a voice while behind the lens and it’s been a joy to explore the implications of this. Even while out shooting at my favorite lake or while on a job site, I look for things that speak to me. I compose the shots I take first in an obvious way, then I shift my perspective to look for that one magic spot where I feel the subject resonate with my point of view. A good example of this would be the seemingly out of focus image posted a few weeks ago.

Life as a photographer should be an open book. There should be no dividing line between where your day to day life begins and your photography ends. Share with the rest of us what makes you you. When I see an image I always search for its reason for existing as much as its technical achievements. No matter how great an image may be technically, it won’t leave a mark if it lacks a soul.

This is one of the most important lessons learned while developing my skills as a photographer which, of course, is never ending. As with every great photogrpher in the medium’s short history you never really stop learning, it’s beautiful evolution and it should be embraced. So, that said, get out there, camera in hand, and live.


One Shot (Redscale)

Suwon Hwaseong Fortress. HolgaGN. Crazy lomo redscale film. (I posted this over on flickr but I thought I would share it here as well.)

While in Seoul I found a decent price for a 3 pack of the Lomography redscale film and figured why not give it a go. Tossed it into the Holga and shot through the roll only later to discover it’s helpful to over expose the film a good amount in order to see better results. Guess I just wasn’t really thinking, pretty unlike me to jump into something without a fair amount of research beforehand.

From what I understand, redscale film is nothing too fancy, just normal color film only it has been spooled into the canister upside down so you are shooting through the base to the emulsion which results in strange color reactions. This shot was pretty much the only usable one from the roll due to everything being greatly underexposed. I suppose I will give it another go, maybe shooting through the hasselblad for more exposure control. While it was fun to try I am pretty sure I wont be using it again once I run out, a touch too gimmicky for my taste.

…to elaborate on my comment about it being gimmicky. I was thinking about it and realized its not particularly the gimmick that I find fault with, it’s more my personal approach to photography not having a place for this kind of image. I’m just not sure where it fits in with my other work. Like the X-Pro and double exposure ideas I have toyed with in the past the results can be fun but I never know quite what to do with them.

I have worked internally for quite some time looking for common themes and ideas within what I shoot and alternative processing never really seems to fit in with my end goals. Point being, I love this shot and have fun experimenting but its satisfaction feels very singular, like an island in that it feels isolated and disconnected from the rest of my work. Or then again, as YoungDoo mentioned to me, maybe its not simply a singular statement but the beginning of a new process I have yet to fully consider. We shall see.


seoul photo

Seoul Photo 2011

I’m not sure how many readers reside in Korea but I once again have photos on display in Seoul and this time I thought I would point it out as I think its a great exhibition to check out. I only wish I were there to participate. The images on display/ for sale are a selection from the collaborative effort between myself and YoungDoo over at While it has been some time since we have posted to the series we hope to pick it back up again in the future to add to the collection. The photo art fair seems like a wonderful display of fine art photography and I am excited to be part of it, even from a distance. Here is a link to the flyer over on YoungDoo’s Flickr photo stream.


The Print Aid Project

It’s no secret that I have a soft spot for Japan. For years my one traveling goal was to spend time in that wonderful country, however with time and the unpredictable nature of life my travel time was split between Europe, India, and South Korea. I still have intentions to visit Japan one day in the future but for now I simply continue to admire its beauty from afar. Due to this love for the land of the rising sun I found myself pretty shaken by the events that took place recently. Digging through endless conflicting news stories and photographs I could not believe some of what I was seeing and reading. Its incredible the magnitude of problems that seem to have risen from the disaster and the continuing struggles so many people of Japan face today and for a long time to come.

Among all of the news reports and ongoing coverage of what is happening you can’t help but notice the huge amount of creative support people have been giving to aid the people of Japan in whatever way they can manage. At one of my favorite local coffee shops I noticed a bowl full of folded paper cranes along with a note reading, 1000 cranes to raise $1000 for Japan, or something to that degree and a glass next to the basket where you could donate a dollar and have a paper crane as a token of appreciation for the support given. On a larger scale, all across the web I see a number of amazing efforts to raise money for those in need including beautifully designed shirts, compilation albums featuring original music, amazing posters and now, photographic and illustrated prints for sale.

A few weeks ago I was asked if I would participate in a project that was being started up by a few great photographers called The Print Aid Project. I thought this would be a fantastic way to do my part to help out and so I went searching for a great photo to share. I settled on a favorite of many of my followers, one of the images from White Sands, NM. Perhaps not as bold as some of my other photographs but I love the subtlety of the image and thought it would make a great print for anyone to enjoy around their home or office.

So while I continue to work on getting a store page up here on 50ft this is a great opportunity to grab a printed version of one of my photographs at a great price and at the same time show your support for the people of Japan as they go through these rough times. You can head straight to my image on the Print Aid website here.

To whom it may concern,



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


• Post desktops elsewhere online.
• Share links directly to images.
• Pass them around in mass.
• Make prints.
• Use images for web banners or graphics. (send a quick email to ask, I’m pretty easy going about this with permission.)
• 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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Use your best judgement and we will get along just fine.

Thank you for your understanding and support!

John Carey (curator, owner)