Life, photography and commitment

William Hutchison Murray: “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe's couplets: ‘
Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!’”

Anyone who seriously intends to have a life that rises above mediocrity has got to commit to excellence; there is no other way. Focus, discipline and relentless, sustained effort are the lifeblood of a life well lived, intentions made manifest and the sense of accomplishment and contentment that comes with goals and dreams brought to life.

Photography is like that, too.

Achieving excellence in any endeavor, in any facet of life is never easy; it is not something that everyone is willing to commit to and stick to. Researchers at Scranton University found that 98% of people live and ultimately die without realizing their dreams. Living a life of unfulfilled dreams, the vast majority of people are steeped in varying degrees of discord, lack, frustration and sadness. If that is not tragic, what is?

Don’t settle for less, whether it’s in life or in your photography.

Don’t be a member of the 98% club. Hellen Keller once famously said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” We owe it to ourselves, our loved ones and to the world to be a two percenter.

Just do it

“One should really use the camera as though tomorrow you'd be stricken blind.”

Those few powerful words from Dorothea Lange should strike all photographers like an unexpected electric shock - that is how they affected me the first time I read them.

We never know what the future holds in store for us, or whether it will be something wonderful or something dreadful. All we can do is do what we do in the present moment, right now, today. All we can do is live and photograph in the now, which when you really think about it is not a bad thing - it is a gift.

Get your camera and go. Make that image that you have been thinking about making, or the image that you want to try to make. Get your camera and just go. Go out on the street. Walk around to see what you can see. Make the unplanned, unexpected images that pop up when you aren’t looking for them. Life happens. Photographs happen, whether you are there with your camera or not. Don’t miss out.

For photographers, it is so unbelievably simple - it just comes down to this:

Photograph.

Every.

Day.

Don’t put it off. Do it now - today. Do it every day. Even if you make just five or ten images. Even if it’s just one subject. Even if you have to do it on your lunch break or on the way to your car after work. That is how you get better as a photographer.

Just do it.

We have to stop comparing

As photographers, we are always looking at the work that other photographers produce. This is how we learn and grow as image makers; it is one method of cultivating our photographic eye and honing our perception and our observational skills. We advance our craft by learning from the work of iconic photographers as well as our peers.

Where we can easily get off in the ditch is in comparing our work to the work of the titans of the photographic realm, both past and present. We do not want to go down that path, for that way madness lies.

Anyone who has consistently produced arresting images did not get to that point overnight. Some got there more quickly than others, some got there more slowly - but every last photographer who has risen to the top (or to the middle, even) worked long and hard to get there - we’re talking years, not weeks or months.

Honing your eye - your perception as an image maker - is an evolutionary process. It takes time - a long time. It takes thousands of hours of having your eye welded to the viewfinder of your camera, hundreds of thousands of exposures made and thousands of hours of processing and editing. If you seriously want to become a world class photographer, there is no other way.

That may discourage or depress some people who have high hopes for their photography - but the good news is this: There is a way to get there. No, it’s not a quick way or an easy way, but there is a way.

A photographic mentor of mine once said to a workshop that I was attending, “I have no natural talent. I knew that this is what I wanted to do and I worked terribly hard at it.” He started at the same place we all started - at zero. Where did he end up? As a full member of Magnum Photos, the photographic cooperative founded by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa and others. Constantine Manos - my mentor and workshop leader - started at zero like the rest of us. It was not natural talent or connections that elevated him to the pinnacle of his profession - it was relentless, obsessive work for years on end.

I do not compare my photographs to the images of Constantine Manos, Steve McCurry, Oliver Klink, Jim Brandenburg or others who have developed similar reserves of enormous talent and photographic insight. I look at their images and draw inspiration and motivation from them. I look at these giants of the photographic world as models of what is possible for any of us - if we want it as badly as did they and work as long and hard at it as they did.

Zack Arias: “Jarvis sucked. Carsch sucked. Avedon sucked. Adams sucked. Mary Ellen Mark sucked. Every photographer in history was a horrible photographer for some period of time. They learned. They grew. They persevered.

That is the way of the artist. Just be patient. Keep on going. Transformation takes time.

From what I have seen in my life, it really is worth [the work and] the wait.”

The Tao of Photography

Henri Cartier-Bresson: "To take a photograph is to align the head, the eye and the heart. It's a way of life."

Cartier-Bresson’s observations regarding photography ring true; they always have. Like his timeless images that live on long after his passing on August 3, 2004 HCB’s thoughts on the photographic process remain relevant and powerful in our modern world. One look at his work will reveal that photography was to him not merely a pastime but was a way of life.

For those who take it seriously, photography is a lifelong journey on a road that is at times challenging, rewarding, exasperating, exhilarating, depressing, joyous, maddening and fulfilling. It is one of the first things we think about when we awaken in the morning and one of the last things we think about as we drift off to sleep. We read books and magazines about photography every day; we study other photographer’s images, we study our own images; we work to learn, we work to improve our art and craft and to advance in the direction of our goals, dreams and intentions.

In 1997, singer/songwriter Meredith Brooks wrote of the agony and the ecstasy that relationships can bring. She could easily have been writing of the exhilaration and sometimes the frustration that this labor of love we call photography can bring into our lives:

“I’m a bitch, I'm a lover
I'm a child, I'm a mother
I'm a sinner, I'm a saint
I do not feel ashamed
I'm your hell, I'm your dream
I'm nothing in between
You know you wouldn't want it any other way…”

Like the object of Brooks’ affection, we image makers wouldn’t want it any other way.

Photography is our Tao - our way of life.

Buddhism in Mongolia exhibit at Pictura Gallery/FAR (Bloomington, IN)

I am pleased to announce that I will be exhibiting my images from Mongolia at Pictura Gallery/FAR in Bloomington, IN on Friday, May 3rd 2019. The exhibit is a “pop-up” style exhibit and will be shown for one night only from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Resident monks from Kumbum Chamtse Ling monastery will be present to answer questions about the monastic life led by monks in Mongolia and to provide their insights into Buddhism for those in attendance. Kumbum Chamtse Ling monastery is located on the grounds of the Tibetan Buddhist Mongolian Cultural Center in Bloomington, IN. The monks will also provide milk tea and momos (meat and vegetarian style will be available).

In a world that is preoccupied with the future, the Buddhist monks of Mongolia focus on living in the present moment; they work not for recognition or affluence but for the benefit of all humanity.  Their efforts are focused on helping to bring about the intention that is addressed in Buddhist sutras:  “May all sentient beings be free from suffering and its causes.”

It is their dedication to peace – both inner peace and peace in our volatile world – that drew me to these holy men and inspired me to undertake an ongoing documentary project that chronicles their lives and work.

One of the greatest challenges in photographing Buddhist monks can be access.  Photographic access is not impossible, though; with the assistance of my Mongolian guide and interpreter, access to photograph was almost always granted once my intentions and my project had been explained.

In photographing the monks of Mongolia my intent was to illustrate the religious beliefs, cultural tenets and monastic lifestyle of these holy men who dedicate every waking hour to the pursuit of inner peace and to perpetuating peace in our world.

If my photographic endeavors in some small way aid the monks in their purpose, I will have succeeded in my efforts and hopefully will have honored their work.

Pictura Gallery/FAR is located at 202 S. Rogers Street in Bloomington, IN. For more information, you may call the gallery at 812-336-0000 or visit their website at http://www.thefar.org/calendar/allen-yates-brick-gallery-opening/

A photographic fork in the road

“When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in black and white, you photograph their souls!”

That’s a pretty strong endorsement of black and white photography; it comes from Ted Grant, one of the giants of photojournalism whose career spans over 60 years.

Color photography is more realistic; the world we live in is made up of many colors, not just black, white and shades of gray. Black and white images seem to be more focused, more intense thanks to the absence of color. They seem to go deeper into the subject , cutting to the heart of the matter, to the essence of the subject.

So what do we as photographers do? Do we opt for more reality by choosing to work in color? Or do we commit to the more austere yet intense world of black and white imagery? Do we burrow deeper into our subjects with black and white in pursuit of a more insightful and thoughtful body of work? Or do we embrace the it is what it is approach of color photography?

I am still deliberating on that one.

Black and White or Color? Or both?

I have to admit that I gravitate toward photographing in color - yet at the same time, I love black and white images. Both have their place in the scheme of things, just as both film photography and digital photography have their place. One is not “better” than the other; they are different, that’s all.

Color images cause the viewer to look at the image with different eyes compared to black and white. Color elicits a different reaction in the viewer’s mind. The viewer sees the image through a different mental filter. Black and white does the same thing.

I realized this when looking at the magnificent black and white Piezography fine art prints of Oliver Klink recently. His images are meticulously composed, executed and printed using the Piezography printing process. Due to the strength of the content of his images, they could be executed in either black and white or color and would still have enormous visual impact - but the impact of a given image in color would be different from the impact of that same image when rendered in black and white.

Color prints are more realistic or objective; the world we live in is a world awash in color with thousands of different colors, tones, hues and variations. Black and white prints are more interpretative, more abstract and perhaps more artistic by nature. The distraction of brilliant, saturated colors is notably absent, giving way to perhaps a deeper, more reflective evaluation of the print by the viewer.

It all depends on the viewer and his/her way of looking at and perceiving an image, though. Whenever I look at Claude Monet’s water lilies, I am staggered by the delicate beauty of his work. I have never felt short changed by Monet’s choice to work in color rather than in black and white. By the same token, I have never longed for Ansel Adams’ powerful images of Yosemite to have been rendered in color. Each kind of subject matter seems to call out to be rendered in either black and white or color in order to optimize the impact of the images in a given body of work.

Digital photography allows us via Lightroom, Photoshop and other software to render a given image in both black and white and color, if we so choose. This is where things get sketchy.

My approach is to choose one or the other, but don’t jump back and forth between color and black and white in a given body of work or project. This will give the project or body of work a visual cohesiveness that would otherwise be missing.

Many photographers and gallerists will agree with this approach; others will call it nonsense. At the end of the day, it is the photographer who must choose.

As artists, we always have the freedom to choose - but we also must choose wisely.

Of Boxing, Basketball and Photography

“The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses - behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.”

That quotation from Muhammad Ali hangs on my vision board because its underlying concept is also applicable to photography.

Anyone who has ever achieved anything of significance in the world of photography - regardless of their chosen genre - has worked and fought long and hard in the shadows of obscurity for many years to earn that achievement.

When we we first start out in photography, we all suck - plain and simple. Those who persevere for years on end will eventually realize this. They will look back at their early work and come to the realization that ninety to ninety to ninety five percent of it was crap. I told a photographer friend of mine this once and he laughed - because he recognized the truth of that statement.

Learning how to “work” a camera - any camera - is relatively easy. You can learn the basics in a weekend, or even in just a day. Learning to produce arresting images that have proper exposure, sharp focus, refined composition, coherent depth of field, insight and visual impact - images that tell a story or convey underlying concept - takes years (if not decades) of work and commitment to the craft. There are no shortcuts.

As Michael Jordan said of the game he so loved, “Be true to the game, because the game will be true to you. If you try to shortcut the game, then the game will shortcut you. If you put forth the effort, good things will be bestowed upon you. That's true about the game, and in some ways that's about life too.”

Dharma in the Heartland at Art Bank Gallery, Indianapolis (#2)

The exhibit was installed on Thursday, February 1st and was followed by the opening reception on Friday the 2nd.  The turnout was light as I had expected due to the cold that evening.  Regardless, it was a chance to meet other artists and others who appreciate art.  The exhibit will be up from now until February 28th. 

Art Bank is located at 811 Massachusetts Avenue in Indianapolis.  Their business hours are as follows -

Monday & Tuesday:  CLOSED

Wednesday thru Saturday:  11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Sunday:  12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

For more information, visit Art Bank's website at www.artbankgallery.com

Dharma in the Heartland at Art Bank Gallery, Indianapolis (#1)

Today I installed my exhibit at Art Bank Gallery in Indianapolis - it will be the feature exhibit for the month of February.  The exhibit consists of seventeen large format (17x22 inches) fine art prints of my photographs from the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center, located in Bloomington, IN. 

The exhibit will run from now to February 28th.  Art Bank Gallery is located at 811 Massachusetts Avenue in Indianapolis.  Below is a link to the announcement on DO317 with information regarding the opening reception. 

Thanks in advance to all who will be coming to the reception tomorrow and to those who will stop in to see the exhibit during the month of February.  Your support of my work is greatly appreciated!

http://do317.com/events/2018/2/2/dharma-in-the-heartland-allan-yates

Interview with Jason Horejs of Xanadu Gallery

A few weeks back, I had the privilege of being interviewed by Jason Horejs, owner of Xanadu Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona.  Jason's gallery offers artists a beautiful and refined space in which to display their work and offers clients a relaxing and enjoyable experience in viewing a wide range of high end, beautifully executed fine art pieces in many different styles and genres. 

I am grateful to Jason for his time spent interviewing me and for his interest in my work.  The interview can be accessed on YouTube at the following link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=53&v=ehCkhNhcctA

Art Bank Gallery - Indianapolis

Effective today, my photographic prints are on display and available for purchase at Art Bank Gallery in Indianapolis.  Located in downtown Indianapolis at 811 Massachusetts Ave. on the Cultural Trail, Art Bank displays the work of 34 regional artists who create their artwork in numerous mediums.

Art Bank is in a historic bank building with period features such as the teller room and the vault - home of the Book Nook, which offers locally published books. On the second floor, you'll find Strumento, one of downtown's only art supply stores.  Each first Friday of the month is "First Fridays" at Art Bank when the gallery has receptions and extended hours for the featured artist or group show of the month. 

Art Bank has been in business for the past ten years, all of which have been in its present location.  Readers and voters of the Indy A List have nominated Art Bank as Indy's best art gallery in 2010, 2013, 2014 and 2016.  Art Bank was ranked at #4 of 59 Indianapolis area galleries in 2016; this is a testament to the commitment and professionalism of both the artists represented by Art Bank as well as the owners and staff.

Art Bank is open Wednesday through Saturday, 11:00 a.m. till 7:00 p.m. and on Sunday 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.  For more information, visit Art Bank on the web at www.artbankgallery.com or on their page at Facebook.

 

Photography - would you do it if you never got paid?

Ernst Haas:  "Every work of art has its necessity; find out your very own. Ask yourself if you would do it if nobody would ever see it, if you would never be compensated for it, if nobody ever wanted it. If you come to a clear 'yes' in spite of it, then go ahead and don't doubt it anymore."

The redoubtable Ernst Haas has written and uttered many axioms of wisdom with regard to the photographic process that we would all do well to give a fair amount of consideration to.  He lived, operated and photographed in a different era - before digital, before selfies, before phones with cameras.  He was old school yet he was also one of the early pioneers of color photography in a time when black and white was king.  The Austrian born photojournalist was inducted into Magnum in 1949, serving as president of the agency during 1959-1960 and remaining active with Magnum until 1986.

The commitment to photography that burned inside Haas is evident in his question, "Ask yourself if you would do it if nobody would ever see it, if you would never be compensated for it, if nobody ever wanted it."  I am reminded of the obsession of Vincent van Gogh, who lived a life of anonymous poverty in the relentless pursuit of his art; many times he had no money for food because he spent his meager resources on paint and brushes.  Haas had that same commitment, although he was fortunate to be more prosperous that van Gogh.  

The reflections that Haas shared with us are timeless; his observations are a refuge for photographers who endeavor to hone their craft and to create images that are evolved anddiscerning.  This takes time - to be honest, it takes years of consistent effort.  There are no short cuts to producing photographs with relevant content and visual impact, yet the possibility is there.  It is open to everyone for as Haas rightly observed, “There is only you and your camera. The limitations in your photography are in yourself, for what we see is what we are.”

Photography: A two-way act of respect

Henri Cartier-Bresson once famously said, "A velvet hand, a hawk's eye - these we should all have." 

When we photograph, we must become invisible.  We must not interfere with our subjects or influence their actions, reactions or interactions; we must be a latent observer and a surreptitious chronicler of events.  We must watch, see, anticipate and document while exerting no influence. 

The only way to accomplish that is to become the invisible man (or woman).  Otherwise we will not capture the unguarded moment; Cartier-Bresson's elusive and much sought after decisive moment appears for an instant and vaporizes before our eyes just as quickly, never again to return.  In documentary photography, there are no second chances; there are no do-overs.  To capture the decisive moment precludes asking permission to photograph before doing so. 

Magnum photographer Thomas Hoepker addressed this point when he was questioned about photographing without asking first:  "If I had asked you, I wouldn't have the picture - or else the picture would be a lie." 

Documentary photographers seek to record truth; take away the option of being able to exercise photographic spontaneity and the truths we seek to record are forever gone - and they won't be coming back to give you another bite at the apple.

Henri Cartier-Bresson understood this:  “Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again.”

Many people in today's world do not understand why a total stranger (like me) would photograph a person they don't know and have never even met (like them).  It is my intent and my hope that by sharing these observations on the subject of candid documentary photography as well as the thoughts of some of the most gifted and prolific image makers to ever live that we can all arrive at a better understanding of each other and the process. 

Any photographer who a person of integrity and principle seeks not to exploit the subject of their photographic endeavors but rather seeks to portray them with a sense of honor and respect.  As Garry Winogrand observed, "I like to think of photographing as a two-way act of respect.  Respect for the medium, by letting it do what it does best, describe.  And respect for the subject, by describing it as it is.  A photograph must be responsible to both." 

That is what we as photographers strive for:  To be responsible to both the medium and our subject - the latter even more so than the former.

 

Training wheels for your camera

Magnum photographer Robert Capa is well known for having once said, "If your pictures are not good enough, you're not close enough."  In other words, fill the frame with your subject. 

This is a good thing to keep in mind when engaging in documentary photography, street photography and when photographing people in general, particularly when using a side angle lens.

Fill the frame with your subject.  But don't fill the frame too much.

Huh??  

Like other so-called "rules" of photography, Capa's axiom is not carved in stone tablets and delivered by Moses.  There are times when you can get too close to your subject matter. 

Your subject needs room to breathe around the edges.  If you get so close to your subject that it is pressing against your frame lines, you are too close; that goes double if parts of your subject are cut off by the edges of your viewfinder or rangefinder frame. 

How much breathing room does your subject need?  That's not easy to quantify; it's something that you learn to recognize.  If your subject crowds the frame lines, you'll come to recognize that with time; if you compose with too much breathing room around the frame lines, you'll recognize that, too.  I tend to think in terms of 5% of the frame width or height as being a little too close and 10% being a little too much breathing room; somewhere between 5-10% looks about right.  To me. 

As with all the "rules" of photography, your personal vision, your personal composition aesthetic and your personal outlook should transcend the rules.  If you cling to the rules, you will create safe images; with time, safe will begin to look static.  The world is all stocked up on unimaginative, pedestrian, generic photographs that anyone with a camera can make.  There are billions of such images uploaded to social media platforms and other websites every day. 

Your viewers, your friends, your family and your clients deserve better - and you can produce better - if you commit to producing better.  If you are willing to do whatever it takes.   It will take time.  There will be disappointments and frustrations.  But in the long haul, your images will improve; your eye will become more discerning.  Your composition skills will mature.  You will begin to produce some nice images.  Nice comes before great; great comes before excellent; excellent comes before outstanding - and for a very rare few photographers, outstanding will give way to transcendent.  If you truly love this art form, transcendent is your ultimate goal.  Good enough is just not good enough.

"The Rules" are like a set of training wheels; you have to know when to use them and you have to know when it's time to cast them aside.  You will see training wheels on the bikes at the local playground.  There are none to be found in the Race Across America or the Tour de France.

Digital Camera Sensor Cleaning

Digital cameras have sensors; unless your camera has a built in dust reduction system, sooner or later your sensor will need to be cleaned - it's inevitable.  Then what?? 

It's a lot quicker, easier and less costly to do it yourself - if you follow your camera manual instructions exactly and are careful, you can successfully clean your camera's sensor yourself.  A lot of photographers fear damaging their sensor and will do about anything to avoid cleaning it themselves.  However, there is no reason to be afraid to do this procedure yourself, provided you do it properly.

You will need the right sensor cleaning supplies - I use Eclipse Optic Cleaning Fluid and Photosol Sensorswab Ultra sensor cleaning swabs.  If your camera has a full frame (24x36mm ) sensor, you will need the Type 3 swabs; they are 24 mm wide, as is your sensor.  APS-C and smaller sensors will need smaller swabs.  Photosol's website has information that will help you determine which swab is right for your camera.

One of the most important factors in successful sensor cleaning is to perform this procedure in a clean, dust free environment.  Not many of us have access to a clean room such as computer manufacturers build computers in.  If your home has airborne dust issues you will need to clean your sensor in an environment where dust is less of a problem (you can check for airborne dust by looking through the beam of a bright flashlight at night; if you see a lot of dust particles dancing in the air, you should probably go elsewhere to clean your sensor).  Where would that be?  Try a museum or a library; find a spot away from frequent foot traffic, entries and exits and away from heating and cooling ducts that will cause airflow that will stir up any dust that may be present.. 

Another important point is this - do not use compressed air ("canned air") to blow dust from your sensor before cleaning.  Canned air can spray liquid propellant onto your sensor cover glass, something you do not want to happen.  That liquid can also get behind the sensor and into the electronic components of your camera.  If that happens, you are in for a serious repair bill.  Instead of canned air, use a blower bulb like the Giottos Rocket Blaster, which will safely remove loose dust particles from your sensor.

The sensor swabs I use are dry, which means I need to apply the proper cleaning fluid to them before use.  Too much cleaning fluid can damage the electronics inside your camera, so proceed with caution.  I have found that three drops on the 24mmwide swabs my camera requires is sufficient (two drops on one side, one on the opposite side); I would be comfortable using two drops per side, but no more than that for a 24 mm wide swab.  Again, follow the directions that come with your swabs and cleaning fluid to the letter.

Each camera has a specific procedure for sensor cleaning; if you precisely adhere to the instructions in your camera manual, you should have a successful sensor cleaning result.  If there are still spots on your sensor after cleaning, you can re-clean the sensor provided your camera manual does not advise against doing so (I once ended up with an eyelash on my sensor that required two cleanings to remove; the first try simply moved it closer to the center of the sensor; this happens sometimes).

If you follow the directions in your camera manual and in your swab and cleaning fluid to the letter, you should have no problems cleaning your sensor at home (or at your local museum or library, if need be).

 

DISCLAIMER                                                                                                      

The above description of sensor cleaning is simply a description of how I clean my sensor; it is not intended as training or professional advice in sensor cleaning.  Always follow the directions in your camera manual and in your sensor cleaning materials to the letter.  When in doubt, contact your camera manufacturer for advice on sensor cleaning, or return your camera to the manufacturer's repair department for sensor cleaning.  The author accepts no responsibility for any damage resulting from do it yourself sensor cleaning.  When in doubt, contact your camera manufacturer to return your camera to the manufacturer's repair department for professional sensor cleaning.

 

Why shoot film?

I remember the first time someone told me "film is dead - it's just a matter of time till you won't be able to buy it anywhere."  That was back in 1998. 

Today, B&H Photo of New York still offers 205 different options in color and black and white emulsions for the roll film shooter; they offer 84 different options for sheet film photographers; they offer 27 different movie camera film choices and 48 different instant film options.  Apparently it is taking film an awfully long time to die...

But why would anyone want to use film today, especially since there are many full frame 35mm format digital cameras that equal or exceed even medium format film in terms of printed image quality at a given size?  Why would anyone want to bear the burdens that come with film - the cost of buying film and paying for processing, or the cost (although minimal) of developing it yourself, the cost of having prints made and the issues of space and proper storage of an archive of film negatives and/or chromes (transparencies or slides)? 

There are many reasons.  The fingerprint of each film emulsion is unique and different.  Digital processing of DNG files can approximate the fingerprint of some emulsions - they are fairly close but not exactly the same.  There is a world of different options with film cameras - rangefinders, 35mm, medium format, large format, panoramic, instant - and most of these cameras are available on the used market for a song compared to what they sold for before the advent of digital photography.  Some photographers just can't get over mechanical film cameras (and I'm one of them).  These miniature little precision machines are nothing short of wondrous. 

Film based photography gives a photographer many more choices - cameras, lenses, emulsions, developers.  The array of options that film photography presents is dizzying.  Another reason to use film and film cameras is simply that it's enjoyable.  It's fun.  And fun is one of the main things that photography is supposed to be about; if it's not fun, you are not doing it right.

I have already seen my digital photos from our recent trip to Ireland.  My panoramic shots that were made on Kodak Tri-X with my Hasselblad XPAN II and 45mm lens are still hibernating in their yellow film canisters, waiting to be developed.  I'm starting to get the itch to see them. 

That's another thing about film - there's no chimping like there is with a digital camera.  The latent images simply sit there in their canisters, patiently waiting immersion in developer - silently mocking you... 

Fat Books

Fat books are a natural result of engaging in the photographic process and living the photographic life.  Regarding photographers, a fortunate few of us make these fat books; the rest of us buy, read, highlight and obsess over the words and images contained in these fat books.  Many of us who inhabit the latter category hope to one day make the jump to the former category.  Many are called (by themselves), but few are chosen (by the publishers).

I am currently reading a fat book written by photographer Dan Winters; it is titled Road To Seeing.  It is a not a huge coffee tale size book but is formidable nonetheless.  It is mercifully illustrated with an abundance of photographs, making it much less of grueling read than its 665 pages would seem to indicate.  Awhile back, I read a quotation from Dan Winters somewhere on the internet; it was a quote from this book:  "The world owes a great debt to all who have, from a state of exceptional awareness, preserved stillness for us to hold."  These words struck me from the first moment I read them; they stuck with me.  I filed them away for future reference.  I made a note to myself to keep an eye out for more of Dan Winters' insights and images. 

I am not very deep into Road To Seeing yet, but it is yielding significant insights into the photographic life which in my experience ring true:  "As every photographer knows, the great images are elusive.  They do, however, become more apparent when one is actively looking.  This process speaks to the development of an internal dialogue.  It is basically noticing that which you are noticing.  This is a lifelong practice.  One must become conscious of the patterns in his or her own work and of the sensibility that forms as a result.  These are the building blocks, which allow us to consciously develop a unique photographic voice.  This practice transcends technique.  Technique is a part of our craft, and it plays an integral role.  However, it should not be at the core of our work.  Ours should be a pursuit of the soul."  There is a measure of truth in this passage, the relevance of which cannot be overstated.

The formula for success in photography

"We each have to find our own way. It’s a process that involves indecision, loneliness and uncertainty. There is no path and no road signs, encouraging words may be few, if any. If you choose this path, your rewards will be fleeting moments of intense joy and exquisite awareness. Those working in safer more predictably structured endeavors will have no idea what they miss or what we are talking about." – Jay Maisel

The formula for success in photography is something that some photographers are always in search of.  They seek a road map, a template that promises them success if they do steps A, B, C and D.  They want to succeed but even more they want that guarantee. 

So, bad news:  There is no formula.  There is no road map.  There is no template that will guarantee success.  You can't copy another successful photographer and expect to succeed by following in his/her footsteps.  You have to figure it out on your own.  This is one of the many things that makes photography - and any other creative endeavor - so difficult, so disheartening, so exasperating and so enigmatic.  It is also one of the many things that makes photography so rewarding, so uplifting, so enjoyable and so inspiring. 

There is good news, though:  It is possible to set goals in photography and realize them.  One of the key factors in achievement of your goals in photography is perseverance.  Nothing of value is easily achieved; it is the work, the struggle the sacrifice and the difficulty that gives a goal or an achievement its value. 

Some will ask, "Where do I start?"  You start where you are.  Some will ask, "What do I do?"  You figure it out.  Some will ask, "when will I be successful?"  The answer to that question lies in the following video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lsSC2vx7zFQ

New glass from Wetzlar

Be still, my racing heart:  Today, Leica Camera AG announced the release of the Summilux M 28mm f/1.4 ASPH lens. 

This highly coveted lens will begin appearing in the display cases of Leica dealers in June. Click on the following link for specs and photos of the 28 'lux to drool over - http://en.leica-camera.com/Photography/Leica-M/M-Lenses/Summilux-M-28mm-f-1,4-ASPH 

Three weeks ago, Leica released the Monochrom typ 246 camera - and now this.  The Teutonic taskmasters in Wetzlar just won't stop torturing we who are afflicted with the Leica M penchant.

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