Let's say I want to make a name for myself...

Discussion in 'Nature' started by terence_mcgovern, Apr 4, 2010.

  1. ...and money is no object. (By now you might have guessed that this is all about the hypothetical.)
    I see lots of discussions about "which camera, which lens," but I want a different discussion. If I am serious about nature photography, particularly landscape photos, what about the virtues of medium and large format, as opposed to 35mm and small format digital? Is there still a contingent of large format film photographers working the field? And what about digital backs for large and medium format? Is that practical for the landscape photographer? Are there even any large format digitals operating outside of studios?
    I have never done large format photography, but I would be interested in exploring it, if it is still a viable way to get the best picture. Is film, processing and custom printing still readily available for large format?
    I have seen the claims that 20-odd megapixel digital SLRs rival large format, but I have a hard time believing that. Is it possible that they can be that good, and if they are, then wouldn't larger formats, including field and view cameras be just that much better if digital?
    So many questions...
  2. Terrance:
    With a bit of experience, you'll find that large format film and the digital backs both produce very beautiful and very different looking images. Add to that, the many types of printing and reproduction and you have a vast range of possible outcomes.
    As for "making a name for yourself," I'll be that while you're out there worrying about digital rivaling large format, somebody with a 10d, a 50mm f/1.8, a decent tripod and really solid marketing will come out ahead.
  3. Maybe you'd better just call me Terry.
  4. In that case, I'd suggest you skip the gear testing and stick with the marketing.
  5. You want to make a name for yourself? You could try lighting a campfire at the base of one of the arches in Arches Nat. Park in Utah, and taking a shot. I really don't think what gear you use matters at all. What matters is how good you are at marketing yourself.
    Kent in SD
  6. there's a timely article on the subject in the most recent issue of OP . . . interesting article but nothing
    new . . .
  7. When you want to lose weight, it's 75% diet, 25% exercise. Same thing in photography, 75% business, 25% actual shooting.
  8. Alas, the quickest way to lasting fame is to go crazy and do some uniquely awful thing (link). I'm guessing that's not the way you want to go. Maybe the fires at the Arches NM would get you a local sort of fame with the monument staff, at least.
  9. I believe the Leica S2 is being marketed for just that use. If you can afford one, perhaps you can get there first with more pixels to sell.
  10. Well, I see I need to find another place to talk cameras. Thanks to everyone for completely missing the point.
  11. Adios.
  12. With your attitude, I'm sure you make a name for yourself wherever you go, by the way.
  13. Making a name for one's self in photography, has more to do with images , than equipment. Does anyone care what equipment Ansel Adams used? In fact his earliest, and most revered work was shot with old single coated glass. Which by today's standards is considered inferior.
  14. Terry, with all due respect I think the respondents were put off by the title of your post. Every week someone comes to photo.net and says the equivalent of "I want to be a famous photographer surrounded by beautiful women (or, in this forum, beautiful scenery) everywhere I go; I think it's really neat that one can make a lot of money at that! Now, what should my first camera be?" So even though that doesn't describe you (I assume), your title had some of that tone.
    It also is unclear whether you're being hypothetical or practical. If you do have an unlimited budget (e.g., $100K for gear, plus at least that much annually for travel), sure you can make technically excellent photographs, not that that's all it takes. But after saying "Pretend that money is no object," you start asking some bread-and-butter format-related questions. Perhaps if the thread had said, "Assume a $10,000 equipment/processing budget plus whatever I need for travel costs," we'd have more information to work with.

    That said, from a low-noise/high-resolution standpoint and considering nothing else, when shooting at a given ISO the "20-odd megapixel digital SLRs" are generally acknowledged to be better than 35mm film shot at the same ISO, more or less equal to well-scanned medium-format film, and not to the level of drum-scanned large-format film. But there are many, many variables, so many that no one can say what someone else should do. Some people like the workflow of digital so much compared to film that it's a no-brainer to go digital, especially since the higher initial costs of high-resolution digital cameras can soon offset the costs of film, processing, and high-resolution scanning. Others like working with film and with film cameras enough that any technical edge digital might have is offset by their enjoyment of film and its workflow. If you haven't shot film before, do some research before taking the plunge. Unlike as with digital, you can't just bracket away with every possible scene you encounter when shooting large-format color, not when film and processing are several dollars per exposure and drum scanning can cost $100 per image.
    The good news is that there are tremendous resources available to help make your decision. There are plenty of newbie questions in the archive of the Large-Format forum here at photo.net. and there are thousands of threads at largeformatphotography.info and apug.org and other such sites. Equipment can readily be rented, and you can always find many proponents of each format who are more than willing to explain why they shoot with the gear they do.
    In the end, as others have suggested, if you want to make a mark in landscape photography far bigger factors than which of several roughly equal formats and cameras you use are your enthusiasm over the long term (e.g., your willingness to get up before dawn and go hiking in the freezing rain), your travel budget, your marketing skills, your other commitments (job? family? home base?), and your photographic vision.
  15. Ralph:
    I was the first to have missed the point. The post that should come up every week on Photo.net, but doesn't is "how can I do a better job of marketing myself?" On the nature forum it would have to be a bit tougher; "in a world dominated by people with superb marketing skills, how can I compete?" Of course, we never see such questions and I have no idea why.
    Please forgive me Terrance, I saw "...I want to make a name for myself..." and thought that was what your question was really about. Had you marked your question as being more about gear than career, a whole different group of people would have answered.
  16. If you have an unlimited budget, hire a pr firm or marketing specialist to sell your photos... that is worth far more than any gear you might pick up. A local photographer i know just did it, he is still in the trial phase, but he posted on Craig's site and got 60 applicants, and ended up hiring someone who had interned at some big magazines in New York. He offered her a base salary plus commission. It's only been a month and a half, so it hasn't picked up momentum, but she is selling. He just went to Dubai and Thailand for 4 weeks to shoot more while she does all the grunt work back home. Sounds good to me.
  17. Ignoring the title of your thread and trying to answer the detailed kit questions I believe large format still reigns supreme with big enlargements. Below A4 size it gets difficult to tell the difference. You need good photographic technique to achieve the last word in quality - and dedication too. Have you tried lifting a camera bag with large format gear in it? Then there is the big old tripod. Digital backs are very expensive and the scanning ones are not really practcal outside the studio. Processing and printing is still available but getting more expensive as the demand goes down.
    So back to your hypothetical question. I think you will still be able to make better big enlargements of images using LF film cameras but you also need a hypothetically very good photographer to take them. But the guys above are right. If you want to make a name for yourself it probably doesn't matter so much what gear you use as long as it is distinctive - marketing does matter though.
  18. Double post again - sorry
  19. I suppose - at some point - a photographer wanting to pursue the ultimate perfection might want to consider if it woudn't be more expedient to become a painter. In a way, painting takes over where photography reaches its limits. Just saying ...
  20. I think just go duplicate the rig that Edward Weston had for nostalgia, and see what comes of it. BTW I love the little published letter that surfaces now and then asking Ansel for advise on a lens. Not too big or expensive, a slower one, and Ansel recommends a Zeiss 90mm or something. That was probably the one lens he used for the rest of his life.
  21. This post might have been better addressed in the Large Format forum, as noone else will have any experience with the issues you are talking about. I have not personally used large format cameras, but I have seen other people using them in recent years. My understanding is that they are still very much in use. I do know that my local lab can process and print 4x5", although they get much more business in medium format.

    The one thing that you would definitely benefit from in large format is the camera movements. The view camera allows you to control your plane of focus and perspective by using front and rear tilt, shift, swing, rise, and fall movements. I've never seen a digital view camera, but I have seen very expensive tilt/shift lenses. Those are not necessary on a view camera, as any lens will tilt and shift just as readily as any other.

    You could theoretically use a medium format digital back on a large format camera, but you are cropping in the extreme in such a situation, and the expense is astronomical and impractical for landscape work. I believe digital backs only pay off in highly commercial fields like fashion and celebrity portraiture.
  22. perhaps this will help:
  23. "if it is still a viable way to get the best picture" Untill you know what that is for you it won't matter what you use.

    Shooting large format is IMO a very difforent experience to others, on the hole anyway. But then I think just having black and white film in the camera is different to how you will shoot with a digital and converting. It may be less pronounced but it is different.

    None of these things are the same. They may be as good for some but as far as I know there are no 4x5 digital cameras (scanning backs not included) though I could be wrong. The point is it's not the same. If I shoot with a 6cm x 6cm negative and an 85mm at f8 I get similar depth of field to shooting at f2 with 35mm, But the field of view will be like a normal 50mm on 35mm, You just cant do the same things. Same for 4x5.

    Money? Below is a crop from a home made 4x5 on a £20 scanner. Both are much smaller than the original scan. But it is not the quality of the negative that make this a slightly boring picture. It would be similar on a £10.000 set up.
  24. A Crop.
  25. Since someone mentioned OP, check it out on the local newsstand or in your nearest bookstore - you'll see it's chock full of advertisements and articles spouting the "merits" of digital, but, when you look at the photo credits for the front cover and (in some cases) the accompanying photos, you'll notice most are shot using large format film cameras.
    That said, It's not the gear, it's the vision. Your time would be better spent researching locations, angles, and the quality of light those locations offer at different times of the year. Then researching the market for your work; likely stock (or microstock), card and calendar publishers, some book and magazine publishers, and if you're lucky, the fine art market.
  26. I vote for developing and original vision an pursuing it. The gear will sort itself out.
  27. A much nuanced question with a somewhat silly title. But, the questions are certainly worth contemplating. As someone who has dabbled extensively in all three formats, and who has finally settled on digital of late, here are my two cents:
    The biggest advantage LF has over the small format, IMO, is, oddly enough, cost. A lot of the images in my portfolio was shot with a Burke & James 5x7 I picked up on Ebay for $250, including lens. It is a wooden camera, and takes a certain effort to lug around, but there is no questioning the image quality when you load it up with Fujichrome velvia 4x5, using a reducing back. The tilt and swings on the camera allow perspective correction that even a tilt and shift lens running in the thousands of dollars can't rival. Then, there is, of course, the superior image quality. From my experience, the newer DSLRs, like my 1D Mk 2, even my 20D, all have better tonal range in black and white, with smoother tones than my Tech Pan, and better overall grain than my Tri-X or TMax. But, the Velvia still delivers better pure colors, for my taste.
    Now, I never used the Hasselblad, or the other expensive Medium Format systems, but feel their huge cost, without the tilt and swing of the large format, somewhat make them impractical for my purposes. I am quite pleased with the image quality of my 1D Mk. II, and hope to upgrade to either the 5D Mk II or the 1Ds, Mk II, or even the Sony Alpha A900, but while these cameras deliver huge megapixels, they lack the tilt and swing, and cost almost TEN TIMES! what I paid for the Burke and James. (I also have an 8x10 Burke and James I picked up for $200).Printing is not as much trouble as you think, as I picked up an Omega 4x5 enlarger for $150 and made my own prints. Now, I can go to a photo lab for $10 an hour and print to my heart's content.
    Ultimately, your need to "make a name for yourself" is less important than your need to find a passion for photography. Equipment matters, but ultimately mean little without drive. After all, Cartier-Bresson produced some of the greatest images of our time using a simple Leica Rangefinder, while Dorothea Lange used a Press Graflex. You just have to find your niche.
  28. I agree. Let's say such a product exists. There are guitars that will guarantee you superstardom, paints that will turn you into Picasso, and cameras that will instantly make your images so good that clients are beating down your door. Let's say that camera system costs $50,000, for the sake of the argument.
    Why wouldn't every professional photographer take out a loan to buy this camera? If it makes you a good photographer, then it would be stupid not to buy it if you have the credit. After all, you'd earn all your money back and then some in the first year.
    So you and everybody else with your God Cameras would blend right in after a while, and it wouldn't be insta-awesome anymore. Clients would want something different eventually. And you'd need to buy a new camera. If music or art is any indication, obsession with clean, technically pure images would eventually drive people back to Holgas.
    So let's just say it exists. If enough people already know about it that a message board can help you, then it's too late.
    So let's say it doesn't exist. And I can remind you that almost all early photographers, Rembrandt, and The Beatles all used materials that, by today's standards, would be somewhere between 'student grade' and 'low end pro grade.' Shoot, if you tried to record the way the Beatles did today, the producer would think you were an idiot.
    Your question, while newbish, is similar to the same question anyone with a hobby has ever asked anyone that's better than them. It's perfectly reasonable. Acting like a diva when somebody calls you out on it is childish and bratty. "Well, I see I need to find another place to talk cameras. Thanks to everyone for completely missing the point." We didn't miss the point. There's just no answer to give. Don't be a jerk about it.
  29. Terence: don't shoot the messenger...a lot of photographers spent a lot of time trying to help with their opinions.
    It is a good question, but I think the wrong forum. Maybe the Philosophy of Photography forum would be more appropriate.
  30. To the guy opining re the Sony A900 and no TS lenses: I use one of these with a highly functional Mirex TS adaptor, which cost around $A600. It uses Mamiya 645 manual focus lenses, some of which are superb, and most of which are light and smallish. one uses the centre only of the lens so great CA and resolution result, and these lenses are everywhere for chicken feed, even the 120mm f4 macro, in as new condition.

    How many Quickloads of say, Astia 100F can one procure and process for $600?
    I have no doubt the Mirex will be very saleable if I wish to move it on.
    Lest you ask about movements, I can get 15mm of shift and 10 degrees of tilt, well within the M645 lens coverage.
    Now the clincher - how much would/will a Carl Zeiss TS lens for the FF Sony cost?
    LF never was for many shooters - too slow, too fussy, too heavy, too big a tripod, too exposed to wind, too messy, too many ways to make mistakes.
    And how big do you need to print anyway? Very few compositions are up to giant wall hangers...a good medium format option is light and scalpel effective - the Mamiya 7. With good scanning and printing, you can easily go to 10x film real estate, so 22 x 27 prints with fabulous quality. As to being able to pick 4x5 over a Mamiya 7 at A4 size, I disagree respectfully but wholeheartedly.
  31. Galen Rowell.
  32. Since someone mentioned OP, check it out on the local newsstand or in your nearest bookstore - you'll see it's chock full of advertisements and articles spouting the "merits" of digital, but, when you look at the photo credits for the front cover and (in some cases) the accompanying photos, you'll notice most are shot using large format film cameras.​
    I'm glad that you pointed this out. OP's headlines read "Digital this!" and "Digital that!" But most of the cover PHOTOS were shot on film. They could at least add a disclaimer: "Film is useful, too, as evidenced by this month's cover shot."
    At best I find this practice to be misleading. At worst it seems to be journalistically dishonest. Perhaps the magazine's sponsors demand "digital only" headlines in order to push more product.

    That said, It's not the gear, it's the vision. Your time would be better spent researching locations, angles, and the quality of light those locations offer at different times of the year. Then researching the market for your work; likely stock (or microstock), card and calendar publishers, some book and magazine publishers, and if you're lucky, the fine art market.​
    Excellent point! Any photographer who has "made a name for themselves" (and I mean with a camera, not with a blog) has skills that transcend gear. You could hand them a point and shoot for the afternoon, put them in any situation, and they'd bring back a card full of excellent photos. Give Clapton a cheap guitar and he'll still play a mean blues! Top pros DO use cutting edge gear in order to take advantage of certain features, but the gear isn't why they get the assignments and the recognition. Their skills, taste, experience, and the quality of their marketing are all more important than the fancy cameras that they use.
  33. Terence,

    I think you understand that none of this gear will help you make a name for yourself and nobody has ever made a name
    for themselves based on resolution and sharpness, so I'll skip that lecture.

    As far as your gear questions, I might be able to offer some insight. I've shot with large format and medium format film
    and still do. I no longer really shoot 35mm film except as a novelty. I also shoot extensively with various dSLRs and I've
    used a handful of digital backs on medium and large format cameras. These include the Betterlight backs, Phaseone
    p25 and p60+, and the Hasseblad H3D.

    The high-end medium format backs paired with a modern lens optimized for this kind of capture outproduce large format
    film with a traditional large format lens in my experience—on a purely technical level. If you can afford a p60 with a good
    technical body and great lens you will be working with a potent combination that is capable of truly excellent quality.

    If money was no object I would probably own a set up like this rather than borrowing and renting. But the reality is that
    money is an object and as great as the quality is, it's more than I normally need. It just doesn't justify itself with a return
    on the investment at this point for me.

    Another thing to consider is that large format is not quick and flexible as smaller formats. And even the medium format
    bodies are slower and clunkier than a good nikon or canon. They don't autofocus as fast or blazing frame rates, you
    won't be using zoom lenses or tracking moving objects, macro photography is difficult, batteries don't last as long.
    These aren't academic considerations; they will affect the quality and quantity of images you shoot. All the resolution in
    the world doesn't help when you can't get the shot.

    In short you are really better off coming up with a business plan and making an honest assessment of your needs and
    the needs of your potential clients. You will be amazed at what kind of name you can make for yourself with 16
    megapixels if you know what you are doing.
  34. Before worrying too much about what format to shoot, I think it is important to develop a style (of shooting and of photographs) using whatever camera you choose to use. The answer to the "what is the right camera" question depend a lot on this.
  35. I'd suggest The Inner Game of Outdoor Photography by Galen Rowell. He has lots of practical tips and step by step directions, as well as a detailed explanation of his shooting philosophy, which is radically different from that of Ansel Adams.

    Instead of worrying about resolution with large format gear Rowell would travel light to reach the most remote spots where he would capture some really amazing atmospheric conditions (the light!). 35mm slide film, one body / two lenses.
  36. Just another interesting thought from one of Galen Rowell's books, Mountain Light: "The reason the 35mm image doesn't look like a 4-by-4 image is more the result of method than of equipment ... When I come across a still landscape that moves me, I pretend my Nikon is a bigger camera, I heft it onto a tripod, fool with composition for long minutes, shoot at f/16 to maximize depth of field, and get a result that resembles in every respect what I would have gotten with a bigger camera, except the size of the grain in an enlargement" (p. 108)
  37. Hi Terry,
    I'm no professional(trust me), but as an over-enthused hobbyist with dreams of champagne and stretched limousines I can agree with the answers you got regarding the marketing. I've seen professionals selling their images that weren't nearly as good as what I could have gotten using my garage sale relics, but they had the haft of business behind their photographic spearhead. Which is why they're making money while I try to find the cheapest bulk film processing in town.
    best regards and good luck and remember me when you get to the top!
  38. If I were serious about landscape photography I would shoot LF (but I am not and I never have). I find the color from Velvia to be exactly what I want without having to screw around on the computer, and the quality of LF is certainly as much as you'll ever need. Also, I think shooting film in general, and especially with the cost per shot of LF, will make you think more before you push the button, and that is a good thing.
    But I also think the camera doesn't matter. The thing is, most important is the light and the composition. Get these right and you'll get the same great picture with any camera. As mentioned above some very famous nature photographers shoot 35mm. Most people are in a quest for the perfect camera or lens (myself included) and they will never find it. They worry too much about the gear and spend time on the internet instead of being out there shooting (myself included!).
  39. I am not sure why but some of the regular posters on this site can be very snarky. If you don't like someone's question, then don't answer it, but acting in a condescending and arrogant manner is not becoming. Answering a poster's question in a dignified manner is what makes photo.net a place where everyone wants to participate.
  40. Wow, so much for really wanting to learn the art of photography. Similar to just buying a Ferrari Enzo 'cause I want to be in Nascar. It is disheartening to me when someone wants to take shortcuts to something that is truly a journey to most experienced photographers. It lacks the soul, the history and the passion of what all of this truly is....capturing moments & sharing your vision with the world.
    All of the equipment in the universe will never replace keen vision, composition, passion & tenacity. If there is no motivation other than fame or money, then when (and not if) your interest fades, we will be around in the classifieds looking for your "barely used" equipment.
  41. Choice of camera / format/film or digital is generally personal, and most often dictated by the photographic subject field which generates his/her income. A photographic education is the prerequisite. With that, you have at least laid the groundwork to be able to use and understand the creative tools within all cameras, whether they be 8X10 View cameras,medium format film and digital, or 35mm film and DSLR's.
    If you've yet to learn the interrelationship between Lens Apertures, Shutter speeds and ISO speeds, you're best off with a modestly priced film or digital 35mm type camera with FULL Manual controls. Most everything now has Auto and/or Program included anyway. Lens interchangeability is an advantage, but not necessary in early stages as most Digitals have limited Zoom capability.

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