How has your photography changed over the years since you began?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by sjmurray, Jul 30, 2016.

  1. I began my “serious” photography as an 18 year old around the time I started college. I was fascinated by the black and white documentary photos of people in magazines such as Life and Look. I started shooting 35mm and developing my own film and making prints in the darkroom at school. I just took my camera everywhere with me and documented the people I was with, creating what I call “documentary” portraits. That was 1968-69. Surprisingly, I have kept pretty much the same way of doing portraits since the very beginning. In fact, I think some of my strongest portraits were some of my first ones. In 1972 I got a 4x5 camera and also began doing landscape work, inspired by Weston and Adams, of course. My current landscapes I think have become more my own in terms of looking at the natural world. Its hard to pin down. My current work is mostly in color, thanks to digital. I still am drawn strongly to geometry and textures in my landscapes, so maybe I haven’t changed that much either. So, overall I can’t say I changed a whole lot since the beginning. What’s your story? Any big changes over the years?
     
  2. Got into serious photography back in the late '80's shooting on 35mm negative print film with a Yashica 35mm SLR and 50mm prime lens hoping that it would deliver WYSIWYG shooting whatever I pointed the camera using proper exposure and manual focusing.
    I was particularly drawn to capturing mundane subjects lit with plenty of beautiful light that made the scene seem to sparkle with clarity and intensity. The prints always disappointed so I stopped shooting those types of scenes and stuck to more practical and obvious subjects that didn't challenge the processing labs print dynamic range. I soon found photography very restrictive even with an SLR which squelched my motivation to the point I didn't amass a large collection of prints.
    Then I got my DSLR in 2006 and several years of becoming familiar with its jpeg rendering and onto shooting Raw my motivation to shoot increased immensely. The 26 year old negative print of the ashtrays vs the Pyrex measuring cup shows where my motivation led me with my choices of what to shoot and how to render it to my liking.
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  3. Change is all there is, for me.
    Because of that, digital was just huge for me. I doubt I'd still be doing any photography at this point if digital hadn't happened. 36 exposures is just too much of a limitation for someone who wants to rummage and thrash and get lost. Not to mention that when using the 8x10 (I did 35mm, 4x5, and 8x10), I could never forget that each sheet of film cost $3. Not to mention the hours in the darkroom, all for a maximum of ten to twenty exploratory exposures per shoot (and that's fast for me, with 8x10).
    Now, with my lovely little Rebel SL1, loaded with a 64GB card, shooting large jpg, I have a capacity of 8,000 shots. This is just incredibly liberating for someone who needs to scout, explore, probe, delve ... Once I've found a 'project' I switch to a Pentax 645Z and RAW, but even with its huge files, using a 256 GB card, I have 2272 exposure capacity and zero time to reflexively check/rework the development of my idea for that project.
    With film, I simply could not get to escape velocity. It was too slow, too expensive, too stop-and-start for my temperament and my interest in change. I do stay with a 'project' for as long as there is meat left on the bones, but once I'm done, I'm done. I'm reminded of a interview with the painter Rackstraw Downes where he says one day he was painting a landscape in Maine, as he had been doing for a few years, when his hand [in a weary, Eeyore voice] said to him, "Don't do this any more. You've been doing this same line for so long ... " Downes says he stopped, went home and put his house on the market that very day. That's pretty much the way I feel when a project finishes itself. One minute it's rich, the next, it's just done, and I have to move on. Digital lets me move.
     
  4. Initially, I shot anything that aroused my curiosity, and much of that can be seen in my PN portfolio.
    Now, and excepting record photos of events, places or friends, I have thought more about what sort of aesthetic or artistic approach I want to follow. I attempt to research the themes I want to develop and I work at achieving some sort of goal in that respect. I am still curious, but the curiosity is channelled more into exploration and in creating images that evolve from and are different from my former photographs. Not easy to do, as it is easy to stay in a rut of continuity where the continuity (as opposed to the continuity of artistic approach) can lead to images without any passion, or photos that tend to be copies of work before.
    Technology change is useful. Digital is a great tool. Given enough quality of reproduction, as I think presently exists for most applications, I don't care what equipment I use, although the simpler ands less bulky the equipment, the easier it is to handle over an extended period. I have some 50 plus images in my summer exhibition and as much as I like the quality of the 3rd party digital prints (which nonetheless required well balanced digital files to achieve some impact), my 5 darkroom crafted B&W prints from film stand up very well in comparison with the B&W digital prints, as they have a tonality and paper texture that is close to magic for me and I will still use my darkroom for certain images. This occurs mostly when I am not rushed and I can spend an evening or two just printing, often while listening to music except when I want to concentrate more on the printing strategy or manipulations, as opposed to more automatic fabrication of a number of copies.
    So, the major change for this photographer has been that of what, why and how I photograph, with research of themes, and to a somewhat lesser extent by the flexible opportunity that is offered by digital imaging.
    Camera technology improvement is important but most systems today are adequate for my needs, eliminating any neurotic "which camera should I use?" reflections. A lady visited the exhibition of another female friend, was suitably impressed by what she saw and asked the artist what camera equipment did she use. A month later, the photographer was invited by her female friend to a gourmet style supper with friends. Following a very good meal the photographer asked "Your main dish was excellent - you must have a very expensive oven!"
     
  5. So far, I'm not surprised each of us has a different "story." It does not surprise me at all that digital has changed the landscape for all of us. I've been scanning some of my negs from the late 60's-and 1970's and I am impressed at how rich and textured the resulting images are and I can't wait to make some new prints from them. They are different from digital. But, I will never go back to shooting and processing film though. As Julie duly notes; too slow and arduous a process, and, I can shoot color and "process" it myself now.
     
  6. Does the imagination dwell the most
    Upon a woman won or a woman lost?
    If on the lost, admit you turned aside
    From a great labyrinth out of pride,
    Cowardice, some silly over-subtle thought
    Or anything called conscience once;
    And that if memory recur, the sun's
    Under eclipse and the day blotted out.​
    I ran across that W.B. Yeats poem this morning and it made me laugh and think of this thread. Back in the day, it was rare that I wasn't thinking about the ones that got away -- the 'woman lost' in my photography. Rarely did what I thought I was getting match up with what was in the resulting photograph. My permanent condition was one of disappointment.
    That doesn't happen any more. And I do mean 'doesn't'. Ever. I can't think of any instance -- so far back that I'd forgotten even of the possibility -- where I've felt regret. I surely have shots (many, many, many ... ) that aren't very good, but no more is there the delusion that I was going to get something other than what I got.
    You are all saying, well, DUH!!! you're more experienced.
    How so? Where? I pushed the button then. I push the button now. If I were a painter, I would be talking about having learned better how to apply which colors where; if a writer, how to construct which words where; if a sculpture, how to strike or form which materials where. What is it that is 'learning' in pushing a button how or where? My mind was wrong back then; why isn't it wrong now? I'm not talking about theory -- I'm talking about the opposite; what act have I learned to do that is different? Do I say that my neck muscles or my biceps or my knee joints have learned photography?
    You'll say I've 'learned how to see.' Every sighted person knows how to see. I think that what has happened is that my body has learned how to conform itself to what I see; like the painter learning to paint, I learn to connect bodily act to idea. I see something in the distance that I want to shoot; my body knows how to get it for me. Before, it didn't. I think I always saw, I always had ideas, I always had theories; what has 'learned' or what has "changed over the years since began" is that my acting-body has learned the craft of photography.
     
  7. Interesting, deep thoughts, Julie! I find that now, after over 40 years after beginning the journey of being a photographer and looking at the photos I did in the beginning, I have a greater appreciation for what I accomplished than I did then. I think I now have a more subtle understanding of what I am looking at. Back then it was just instinct. Because I photographed people a lot, unlike you I didn't have a sense of "missing" a shot. I was just happy to get any shot! I still basically feel that way. Am I a better or worse photographer? Neither, just more sophisticated in my appreciation.
     
  8. I'm old enough to be an old film user but got hooked on photography using digital 15 years ago. But! I love B&W film now. Also I've morphed from nature to urban then shooting some nature again. Luv my 4x5 Pinhole too!
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  9. I suppose I have changed in some ways, and not in others.
    I really started when I was nine years old, including doing my own darkroom work. From the beginning, and likely still, I like the science more than the art. I suspect that my art sense has improved, but I don't really worry about that.
    I did yearbook photography in 7th and 8th grade, still have the negatives 42 years later, and have surprised some from years ago, putting them on FB.
    For many years, I was better at taking pictures than getting around to printing them, so some that I now scan and post, I never printed years ago.
     
  10. Glen, I am scanning my negs from the 60's and 70's and finding with good scanning software (Vuescan) I can get amazing results, better than I could in the darkroom because of the flexibility of the software plus post processing in pscc. Give those 40 year old negs new life!
     
  11. <p>This same thread subject has been discussed before at length. And probably on all photography boards.<br /><br />Much has to do with camera technology changes and much has to do with each person's technical skill and subject interest journey. Note photography is broader than just camera technologies as one must also include printing, display, and computer software technologies. There is of course a long list of photography types and each genre has its own specifics that won't necessarily apply to other types. For instance black and white nature and landscapes has had a very different technical journey over the decades than its sister, color landscapes. And likelwise the evolution of various studio oriented types of photography including portraiture over the decades has been closely linked to specific technology changes.<br /><br />In my case I have never been interested in any photography other than color outdoor landscapes and nature that of course has always been very popular so can only speak to that realm. I've made a living in hi tech while photography has just been a serious hobby on the side so am not a photography career person. I'm an old guy now so have experienced several decades of change as my first serious camera was before the 35mm SLR era in the early 1970s. Then in the 80s was the 35mm SLR revolution with interchangeable lenses that lasted a good 2 decades and was closely evolving with types of film, scanning, and printing. And since the new century digital overturned all that used to be. In some limited ways each of our own styles and skills as to how we approach taking actual images may not have changed much due to influences of technology, but overall technological changes have been dominant.<br /><br />One area that we can separate from these technology changes is the improvement in one's aesthetic sense. For this person, the most valuable thing I've gained over decades of photographing is where it has brought my aesthetic sense. In my own case I can strongly say that my ability to sense and capture the beautiful and the aesthetic has evolved gradually over the years and is much better now than decades ago as a young man when I thought I had it figured out. Walking about in the visual natural world I can usually find beauty much more rapidly than I ever could when younger. <be>
     
  12. Hi all, first time on the forum.
    I suppose my path is a bit different. I shot professionally with film, newspaper and corporate events, and had a B&W studio for my personal work. I had to quit that when I grew very sensitive to developing chemicals. Digital let me back into the game. That was 15 years ago. I shot landscapes and cityscapes for a time but have gone back to my roots of more documentary and portrait type work.
     
  13. Hi everyone, I'm a little reluctant to speak up, as I've only been photographing in earnest for under 4 years, which, compared to most of you, is but a blip in time. But even during this brief period, I have noticed several phases in my photography:
    1. I started with a basic DSLR, photographing anything that took my fancy, often more focused on the equipment and technique than on content. This was partly out of instinct, given my scientific/analytical background which emphasized the process, and partly out of necessity, as I was not very sure of what I was doing.
    2. As I shot more and studied the work of past (and present) masters, and as my familiarity with the equipment grew, I started to think more in terms of content. But I was still straitjacketed by the influence of the subjects of my study, and by an inclination to ape them.
    3. I discovered film about 2 years ago, and gradually, I started to appreciate the film shooting process. I started to previsualize my images and often chose not to depress the shutter (which previously was never a concern with a digital camera at hand). And somewhere along the road, I realized that I no longer thought consciously about technique - I saw the image I wanted in my mind, put the camera to my eye, and when the time was right, released the shutter. I still remember the first day this occurred - a most zen-like moment of clarity and beauty.
    4. Now I shoot more than 50-60% of the time with film cameras, usually those made between the 1930s and 1970s; many of these cameras are unmetered and all manual, and I thoroughly enjoy the process of addressing just the fundamentals to produce the images I want, without a whole bunch of extraneous controls. Now when I shoot digital, my process is very similar to that I use when shooting film.
    5. In terms of results, I have come to appreciate and indeed prefer more gradual tonal transitions (and lesser degrees of apparent sharpness), gentler color rendition and lower contrast - in fact, the antithesis of the modern clinical rendering of digital cameras and modern lenses. So much so that most of my lenses that I choose to use on my digital bodies are manual focus items from a bygone era.
    In many ways, I suppose that I've gone backwards in time, but I enjoy my photographic process more than ever. And in the end, that is the most satisfying outcome.
     
  14. I guess my overall style hasn't changed much over the years, I have always been interested in details and abstract things. I changed to digital gear in 2007 and it has taken almost 10 years for me to make a transition from a film shooter to a digital shooter; in the film era I carefully thought if something is worthy of a photograph and then snapped a frame or maybe two or three if it was something important or I just wanted to have a couple of shots if I had missed the focussing or exposure for the first shot. Nowadays, I sometimes find myself shooting a whole bunch of photos, to make it sure I really got at least one good frame.
     
  15. Well, after a month I guess the thread is still going! Thanks for responding everyone. Timo, I know what you mean about the difference between shooting film and digital. I just posted in facebook a series of photos I took on a weekend with my friends on July 4, 1971. I only shot 1 roll of film the whole weekend, 33 images to be exact. Nevertheless, it resulted in about half the shots being really good. Film forced you to think before you shot, because of the amount of work it took to process and print. Even with digital, I know I don't shoot hundreds of images in a day like some people. My "film" mentality is still present to some degree.
     
  16. Technically my photography got much better, image wise it got worse. In the Beginning (the Dark Ages), I was using simple, inexpensive AF SLR's and sending the film out for developing and printing, and that seemed to free me up for simply looking for the shot in the viewfinder. When I switched to using cameras like Leicas and Rolleiflex and started doing everything myself from developing the film to printing it in a darkroom, the quality of the images went way up!, but the actual image didn't. I like the old stuff better because it's solely about the image, not about film choice, sharpness, grain, exposure, tones, etc.
    It's simply an example of what Shunryu Suzuki talks about in Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. He stresses that it's better to have a beginner's mind (this in relation to Zen, but Zen is in relation to everything) because "in a beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the experts there are few". It's much better to be a beginner than to be an expert, in this and all things.
    I much prefer your film shot to the digital one Tim. While the digital is more artsy, the film shot is more "real". Film is magical because of that realness, it actually exists in real life, there is an actual image formed with light and non light on the film, it's not data.
     
  17. I started as a child (I am 51 now) using an old Kodak 35 (no meter, zone focus, don't forget to wind) - my father enjoyed photography and subscribed to Popular Photography and Modern Photography. I read them and learned the technical aspect of film photography. I collected vintage cameras when I was younger (once having over 800) and took very good "snapshots". They were good technically (a co-worker once looked at them, turned them around thinking it was a postcard), but not really artistic.
    I got out of it when the cost of film and developing got too much for me. I got married years later and my wife got me back into it after about a 10-15 year hiatus. I got a DSLR and started again. I was still in the rut of good technical quality photos of what I saw, but they were still "snapshots". I started reading about composition, studied photos from true artists and looked to see what it was about them that caught my eye. I started seeing differently (visualizing photographs almost at all times even when I am not with camera) - I started really checking the whole frame, lighting, composition, angles/perspectives, utilizing different techniques etc. and it really transformed my photography. I became bored with the "snapshots", visualizing things differently, trying to produce my own style and seeing images in my mind (been asked many times "what are you taking a picture of" with the observer looking around trying to figure it out") . I, like David, have a career in high-tech and photography is my hobby/passion. I, like Rajmohan utilize a collection old manual focus lenses (even repurposing vintage lenses from 20's to 50's folding cameras, using bellows, etc.) adapted for their character and less clinical aspect. I utilize my techniques from the film days and try to produce in camera like with film. I do very minimal edits/post processing due to lack of free time to do it (and since I try to produce what I want in camera). I am still working on improving and transforming my photography with whatever free time I get. I think if this wasn't the case, it would get boring to me. I do it for me and my enjoyment.I don't have the free time to really plan a photograph (scoping out a location, waiting for the right lighting or producing the lighting) so my photographs could improve even more if I did. My high-tech job is a traveling IT specialist which can entail long hours.
     
  18. I started with film and have stayed there. Digital capture hasn't influenced my personal style much. I am the "picture guy" in the family, so out of convenience I capture and store family photos digitally now.

    My personal and commercial work is all film capture and digital delivery; hybrid workflow. I have progressed through the formats, starting with 126, 135, 120 and now 4x5. In the past month I have used 135, 120 and 4x5 in both color and black and white.

    My work now is, hopefully, better thought out in terms of lighting and design. And I think I am incrementally better in the technical details like exposure and processing. Always room for improvement.
     
  19. mjferron...like your photo. It has a mystic feel to it.

    My photography has improved a lot over the years.

    I look listen and learn from those photographers who are kind enough to share their work and offer some insights.
     

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