Saturday, 5 September 2015

Out of step

Every time I recommend a lens to someone on a forum I get slated by the resident experts. The lens is always a dog. Soft as can be or terribly slow. It's as if being small and lightweight, or having a really useful zoom range, is irrelevant when choosing lenses. I suppose if you have the strength to carry around every lens you own in a big bag, along with a flash gun, tripod and a full set of filters, then a small useful lens isn't worth having. But if you prefer to take a camera almost everywhere without wearing yourself out light and useful trumps heavy and sharp. The funny thing is that the useful lenses I have are plenty sharp enough. Well, they are for me.

I have a sneaking suspicion that those who only use the 'best' lenses have to justify the money they've spent on them by imagining that the difference between useful (cheaper) lenses is immense. When it really isn't. There might well be a difference, but whether is is noticeable in real life I doubt very much.

Having been told that one of my favourite lenses was a real dog I thought I'd better reappraise it. I took some photos with it in order to zoom in on some fine detail. Strangely it looked perfectly fine to me - even zoomed in to 100%!

I wonder how many times I've taken photographs of that sculpture thing? There's something about it that I'm sure will make a good picture, but I've never quite managed it. That's a feature of my photography, shooting the same subject over and over.

There are some greenhouses I walk past every time I go along the canal. I've photographed them time and again too. I think I made a decent picture of them recently, at the second attempt. Some poppies had sprung up in front of them and were in flower. One dull day I tried using the camera's pop-up flash, but the sky was grey. A few days later the sun was shining, the sky blue and something seemed to click. I don't pretend it's a great picture, but as part of my ever growing collection of pictures from the village it makes a kind of sense.

Lo and behold, it was taken with a 'less than optimal' zoom lens. I'd better not mention the UV filter on the front or the Image Quality Police will have me banged up!

I find myself increasingly disinclined to bother posting on 'that' forum'. All that ever seems to matter is image quality. Be that sharpness, creaminess of bokeh, or perfect lighting. There's so little interest in making pictures. Don't get me started on the state of street photography. Any old crap passes muster there. And what's this fascination for going to events and taking tightly (but often badly) framed shots of 'characters'? Oh dear, I'm ranting!

It's 'street', man. Well, it's a man in a street!
All this is by way of saying that I'm stuck. I've got ideas that I can't seem to organise, or find the time to carry out. The Big Project I was planning did just what I thought it would do. Fizzled out. The reason was too much planning. I got as far as making some dummy pages for a book, starting to write an introduction to the project, even making a list of subjects and how to photograph them. That was where I went wrong. Doing all that used up my creative urges. I'd done all the thinking. All the interesting stuff. What I should have done was jump straight in taking photographs. There was another aspect that put me off. It was all getting a bit journalistic. A bit regimented too. I prefer restrained chaos where I'm never sure what might happen next. That element of chance that might lead to success or dismal failure. But which is always thought provoking.

This goes against the grain for some people. At the moment I'm struggling to read The Creative Life in Photography by Brooks Jensen who stresses the need to visualise the finished project in as much detail as possible because that creates a strong compulsion to complete the work so you can hold it in your hands. Visualising the finished work in all it's detail has precisely the opposite effect on me. I knew exactly what my Big Project would look like, so there was no need to actually make it. The planning, organising, layout design was interesting and challenging. Taking the pictures to slot into the gaps in the design would have been boring. I had a shooting list that would have become a case of ticking off items as they were done.

Back to wandering around aimlessly snapping away for me. The funny thing is that somewhere in my disorganised mind I'm sure there is a master plan guiding me and one day all these random images will coalesce into a Great Big Project. All I have to do is hang on long enough to find out what that is!

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