Through My Lens: Part One

hideandseeksliver.LhOWuYKX5Ych.jpg

I have had a number of requests to write more about my approach to taking photos with film cameras and I have been meaning to write something on the subject for a while now. I am by no means an expert but I figure it will be fun to ramble for a while and see where I end up. I split the article in two parts, the emotional side of taking photos and the technical side. In this first article of sorts I will explore my thoughts on why I started shooting film again as well as exploring a little of the emotional side of shooting for me. In Part Two I will be discussing more the technical side of it and my approach and why I use the cameras I do and how I choose them. That should be up sometime next week so check back to read the second half of the article next week and please feel free to leave your thoughts on anything I bring up here in the comments.

The Emotional side:

I see film in the same way that I see vinyl records. Like vinyl, film has seen a recent leap in popularity and I believe the digital revolution has everything to do with it. In buying digital music you have nothing real to show for it and when buying a CD you now feel like you might as well be simply buying digital because you just rip it onto the computer and toss the disc in a pile with the rest of them. Vinyl gives you something trendy and real to hold in your hands and admire. A tangible means to justify your money spent and a way to feel more connected to the music you are listening to because to hear it you have to pull out this large piece of plastic and put effort into its use leaving you feel more connected to the act of listening. This and the lack of elaborate technology to make it function. What could be more simple than a needle running against holes in a piece of vinyl? Film, like vinyl gives us something to connect with. It is something unique and one of a kind to hold in our hands and feel connected to.

In a world where everything is becoming virtual people seem to become more and more disconnected from physical media and while that has its upsides there are also the faults of such a way of life. This leads consumers to long for something physical to connect to when enjoying things they take interest in.

Photography has always been at least moderately popular among younger people and artists. On its surface, photography offers a simple way to create art from your every day life. The thing that distanced people in the past from taking it further than a curiosity was the cost of investing in the photo gear and developing of film. Cue the low end digital SLR and suddenly everyone has an unlimited amount of tries to get a photo just right and therefore are able to learn the medium much faster if they choose to do so. In the process of shooting hundreds of photos, however, they become more and more separated from the process of shooting them.

jamessliver.3UKFrQ0uSxmp.jpg
Another side effect of the digital uprising within photography is the great technology rat race going on. The fight to manufacture the camera with the highest resolution, the cleanest looking images, or the greatest number of bells and whistles to add to the list of unique capabilities of the camera. While this is not a new idea it is having a greater effect on the world of photography than it once did. There is a natural tendency for every aspiring photographer to want to take the most beautiful, sharp looking photos possible and these new cameras make it so easy to achieve such results that a lot of photographers seem to be starting to want to distance themselves from the masses. Myself included.

I have found that I am easily able to capture the photos I always wanted to take with my 5D. Impressive shots of things that I see around me. The beauty of every day life captured in perfect detail. It has become so routine for me that I grow more and more weary of shooting this way. Part of the reason for this is simply because I am not at all unique when I go out and shoot a gorgeous photo of a coffee cup surrounded by big balls of out of focus light (that precious bokeh that amateur photographers have become so enthralled by).

Heres a little secret. Shallow depth of field does not always make for an interesting photo. Nor is the perfect exposure or the perfect focus. It all comes down to understanding the rules and basic concepts within photography enough to capture an image that tells the viewer the story that you are capturing. If you are just snapping a photo to remember a moment you lived to share with others then just aim and shoot but if you want to take it a step further then try to imagine why you are shooting what you are shooting. Think about how best to approach the subject and use what you know about your camera and how to use it to capture what you are feeling so the people you want to see it will feel what you felt when you saw it. It’s certainly not the key to taking nothing but amazing photos but its something to consider.

Photography is not just about being the best technical photographer in the world. The fact of the matter is that just about anyone can learn to take theoretically perfect looking, wonderfully exposed photos. Flickr is a great place to see this. Many of the photos you see cross the explore pages are a photographers one great photo among a hundred but there are also many many photographers out there that know how to take technically great looking photos all the time. Especially with the digital post-processing tools available today.

keepsakesssliver.jctEyS82rcqf.jpg
Like any art form, to find your way to a place where you are creating art that is more meaningful than your average photo of a beautiful sunset you have to discover something beyond simply searching for the defined perception of beauty. Painters, sculptors, and other such artists distort reality and time to create from their imagination or using fragments of reality and using their medium to bend reality into an alternate meaning or feeling but photographers are tied down by reality and being in a form of art so grounded in reality it can be hard to find your way to something unique that is able to pull at others emotions.

Knowing this I think that as you come across a moment or object that you see as beautiful, before you shoot, think about what your looking at. If not for just one extra second to question your motive in shooting it and how you will shoot it. Do you really feel something for this subject or are you shooting it because you thought the rest of the world would relate to it and pat you on the back for taking the photo?

I guess what I’m trying to say is shoot from the heart. Don’t let others define you as a photographer.

Now all this is fine and good but sometimes a technically great photo is a wonderful thing to hold. It marks a photographers ability to find and perfect moments in our lives through this way of recording life. There is something to be said for a really great, impressive looking photo that shows us what is possible within photography. These sorts of shots give many of us something to aspire to and I suggest that anyone looking to step up their photography skills to not only shoot from the heart but to take the time to learn the fundamentals of photography and how it works. Even with digital post processing available getting the correct exposure for your subject when you shoot is important. While this may be obvious its quite true. As I mentioned I will get more into the technical things in my next write up.

Making my way back to discussing shooting with film. I have found that being able to connect with the photos that I take in this way has allowed me to feel much more connected to the photos overall. I’ve spoken of this here on the site from time to time and its just so true. The idea of capturing the reflection of light in a moment of time in such a specific, singular way is so unique and it allows me to feel much more of a link between myself and the moment captured. That light, captured there on the film like a ghost of the fraction of a second that that light graced the earth surface. Such a wonderful feeling but it rarely happens it seems. I go through a roll of 36 exposures maybe once every month or more because with these images I am so much more specific and focused about what it is that I’m shooting.

didiwakeyou?sliver.7QA1kPl24r5J.jpg
That said, there is this other aesthetic to shooting film that is the primary reason it has become so popular again in the midst of such a transition as the one we are in now with digital photography and that is the idea that film is the anti digital, it is not perfect and therefore it’s beauty is found in its imperfections. While I agree with this idea I also have trouble with it in some ways because of the way it has been marketed and sold to young photographers. Mainly by the now infamous Lomographic Society that sells any and all cheep “toy” cameras they can get their hands on and through brilliant marketing they sell shit cameras for huge profit to photographers because they have done such a great job of selling the idea that this sort of imagery is so unique and different.

I have a sort of push, pull sort of a viewpoint on these toy cameras because while they are able to take some truly unique, beautiful images they have also turned the use of film into nothing more than a gimmick and in many ways the results people get from these cameras are no more unique than the other thousands of kids out there doing the exact same thing or the people out shooting digital for that matter. They glorify that the images are unique that are captured with these cameras and because anything you shoot turns out in some sort of potentially unknown, always unique way you should shoot without thinking about it to add to the feeling of the photos taken. Its a good idea really and I don’t disagree with it but after doing this sort of thing myself with my digital camera I find it gets old quick. With no real focus at all on what you are shooting you end up with a roll full of photos that have all been seen a hundred times before.

I don’t know. Here is where you can see me start to struggle with some of the ideas I’m mentioning here. I argue one point while contradicting it moments later in another thought process. It’s clear I am not trying to present any sort of solution or any sort of answer to how you should shoot or what you should shoot. I’m just trying to spark some thoughts about it.

Beefaronisliver.HQT0fHtWKjJY.jpg
I started out writing this part of the article in hopes to discuss my approach to photography overall but quickly realized that they are just as confusing as they are useful in a way. I think the biggest point I wanted to make was that if i see your soul in an image I tend to enjoy it more. Not in an obvious overconcieved poetic way but in a realistic way. A subtle way that shows me that you were shooting not simply to create some grand poetic statement but shooting because you feel something for what you have captured. I suppose I am a fan of subtle photography and this may not be for everyone but still, many of these ideas remain true for anyone taking photos.

Just remember that every aspect of a photo is a means to convey a feeling or the emotion in the moment you captured it and in this vein of thought you should consider why you are composing it the way you are, why you are shooting it with the camera you are using, how you will present it to the world (printed, online, etc.), and these sorts of ideas because a photo of a peaceful moment where you are capturing the beautiful light of the sun coming through a window is just that, yet another photo of a beautifully lit moment, but try looking closer at what you are shooting, try look through it. Is there something else that means anything to you outside of the fact that its just another pretty photo that will grab a few more views of your photo stream on flickr? I can admit I don’t always adhere to these ideas and often I will shoot something beautiful just for the sake of it. May as well admit to it, I’m certainly not perfect.

If you take nothing away from reading this please at least recognize the photos you take are very much capable of being something special and you should have confidence at least in the fact that you are capturing something that no one else has or ever will capture when you press that shutter release and when that moment does happen, realize its something unique and let that click of the shutter be a satisfying one. I know, for me at least, that click.. there’s nothing else like it.

Comments

  1. john - December 12, 2008 at 11:51 am

    Ha, just noticed all those I’s lining up on the first paragraph.. at least in my browser…

    Is that “read more” link annoying to anyone? Usually I don’t like those but I thought I would try it because the post is so long.. I may remove it..

    Also, seriously, if you have any thoughts about what I’ve written here don’t be afraid to speak up and have a little conversation here.

  2. john - December 12, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    Hmm, took off the read more link.. don’t know why but it was bugging me..

  3. DOF XA : fiftyfootshadows.net - December 12, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    […] site but opted to use other photos for that because I ended up splitting it in two separate parts. (Just published the first half of it here) Still, though, I wanted to distribute it as a desktop simply because I know there are a handful of […]

  4. Luke Andrews - December 12, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    I like reading what you have to say just as much as looking at what you like to see. Please keep writing and shooting.

    Luke

  5. Ben - December 13, 2008 at 9:45 pm

    I agree very much with what you’ve said here. A photo, a split second in the fabric of time, will never happen again. Knowing that such a thing captured and the seemingly effortless power accompanying it is quite humbling when you think about it. For that second, each of us with a camera can play a god of sorts in allowing the capture of time, an image to which we can always look back to. Please do keep shooting, you’ve done a wonderful job between both sites. I’ve never commented, but the shot of the books on the chair near the window hit close to home as a med student. Despite the sunlights, there are some days where I’m sure even the books themselves wish they would sleep in ’til noon. Thank you so very much for your talent, I’ll always be in awe.

  6. sunhead* - December 17, 2008 at 8:02 pm

    hey, i see a shot snuck here i haven’t seen before… albums!! i will be transporting those soon on the journey northbound. way to go writer/shooter man.

  7. Dave Lawrence Photography | Everything Is Becoming Virtual - August 2, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    […] Through My Lens: Part One […]

Leave A Reply

To whom it may concern,

IMAGES FOUND WITHIN FIFTYFOOTSHADOWS.NET 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 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

——

By downloading any content from fiftyfootshadows.net you agree to the following terms:

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.

I ask that you refrain from using any images found on fiftyfootshadows.net to create physically printed material of any kind. This includes posters, photographic prints, fliers, etc. Under no circumstances may you make a physical reproduction without written permission.

These rules also apply for any artwork or imagery submitted and shown within this site which was created by an artist aside from myself. Any images submitted and shared as wallpapers are the property of the artist who created them and in the same manner as my images, you are asked to receive permission before using them in any way aside from their intended use. Any use of these images outside of for your own personal use as a desktop wallpaper image is prohibited without permission from the author of the image. Commercial licensing is available upon request. Please write with any inquiries.

When sharing images via your personal blogs I kindly ask that you link back directly to either the post the image was taken from or the base of the website at www.fiftyfootshadows.net and give a credit to www.fiftyfootshadows.net. Do not re-post full resolution desktop images anywhere without permission. If you would like to use an image for your blog background or something of the sort simply write to ask first. Support the artwork you admire! Also, it is greatly appreciated if you do NOT link directly to the zip files. This is more or less the same as re-posting them as it circumvents the tiny bit of support I ask of you which is to simply link back to the original post for others to enjoy the site.

It’s not fair to artists if you do not credit their work and link back to the original content creator. It is theft plain and simple and blogs that attempt to somehow be mysterious by not giving credit to the creators are simply hurting the artistic community as a whole. If you love it so much then please, support it! The artistic community on the Internet is based on trust. Without trust then what do we have? are you going to be one of the responsible users out there or will you be among the bottom feeders, stealing content and passing it off as your own to make a quick buck in ad sales.

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