Friday, June 23, 2017

Photography's Not Dead (It Just Smells A Bit Funny)

Morning folks - well, more time away from the keyboard just doing stuff has meant there's been little time for posting, however, some stuff will be posted the noo. 
So hold onto your hard-hats and be intrigued by the title of this.

You see, I really believed in my heart that photography was pretty much dead - I did and I bet you did too!
For all intents and purposes, our style of photography, pretty much is. 
Where are the massed ranks of analogue photographers rushing home to their darkrooms with oodles of film? 
I figure they are out there (the confidence shown by film manufacturers recently certainly says that something is going on) it's just that, be honest, apart from yourself and your mad friends, how many others have you actually seen?

Yer Sheephouse was recently extremely lucky to be invited on holiday by his parents-in-law (along with Mrs Sheephouse of course) to Dubrovnik, in Croatia.
If you've never been, go.
If you have been, you'll maybe know what I am talking about.
It's a stunningly beautiful place, full of some of the most happy and welcoming 'natives' we've ever encountered, but man is it rammed with tourists.
It's as busy as busy can be, and you know what? to a man (and woman) they're all taking photographs.
Billions and billions of them.
All the time.
If I thought that Amsterdam was indeed the city of a plague of bicycles (which it is - they come at you from all directions) then Dubrovnik, is the city of the selfie-stick toting tourist.
Well, you'll be saying, that's just the modern age innit.
Yes it most certainly is, but amongst all the phone photography (and seriously, the selfie is an extraordinary phenomenon in its own right) I have never seen as many massive-lensed SLRs being carried, anywhere.
They were predominantly Canon, and toted by everyone from bearded/concerned young men, to grannies.
To my eyes, the digital compact is all but dead, having been supplanted by the phone, but for 'serious' stuff . . . well, SLR it is.
There was also a smattering of Sony NEX-style cameras, but these were outnumbered vastly.
So, photography isn't dead.
Indeed, were I to be stuck in a chair and tickled by Ken Dodd (overseas readers, look him up) then I would say, missus, that our lovely hobby is alive and kicking, in spades 
But (and here's the question) how many of these masterpieces ever make it out of their little envelopes of plastic, metal and silicone?.

So, it's alive, but worrabout Film?
Did someone say film?
Well, I've mentioned this before, but there is a curious phenomenon in the world, whereby the only people carrying film cameras in daylight hours are . . . young Asian women.
I believe they're mostly Japanese too (God bless 'em) and my spotting haul was good this time - 5 film cameras!
From memory they were: an Olympus OM1, another later OM (not sure what), a Minolta, a Praktika (!) and a gorgeous Pentax Spotmatic . . .

So what was I doing to hold our side up, film fans?  
What was Mr Sheephouse, proponent of film, film and more film doing?

No Film camera, cough.

What was that?

Err, sorry, no film camera . . . 

OK, I chickened out again about carrying film through security scanners and ended up with the Sony A6000 and 35mm f2 Nikkor-O.
Now the Nikkor is a fine lens and I've taken a lot of photos with it that I actually like, but I dunno, on the Sony, that character it normally oozes is lost in a world of digital flatness. The Sony relates any detail captured in life-like colours and great quality, but the photos below look, to me, as dead as dodos.
Let me know what you think.
I can't begin to tell you how many times I hungered for a film camera!
Honest, I even dreamed about a Leicaflex SL. 
It was total pain (and shame) I was feeling, and I am now more determined than ever to travel with film. I've been thinking that something really really small and discreet like an OLD screw-mount Leica with the Canon 28mm f3.5 lens I have and using Sunny 16, would yield me the sort of photos I'd like to print.
Of course, I have the M2 too, but that is rather a target I believe, sadly. 

The other thing that came to a head with the Sony was it's reaction time.
Excuse me, as I am going to swear:

It was fucking fucking fucking fucking slow.

Nearly 3 seconds to wake up and react to my presence and that stupid fucking electronic viewfinder . . ah jeez. Well, you can tell, I was frustrated as fuck. In fact I would rank the electronic VF (apart from the nice red focus confirmation bits) on the Sony as being WORSE than the faff that is focusing and composing on a screw-mount Leica.
So, is the Sony going to get the boot?
I dunno - potentially.
I think I should replace our 7 year old Panasonic which is getting a bit long in the tooth (and whose screen has started to go) but still takes a decent pic, with something that'll do the job with an optical VF, but that is compact, and for the rest, well, hyperfocal with the Canon on a screw mount Leica - how does that sound?
Or accept the cudgel, get a Sony short focal length zoom for the Sony, use that as the 'general' camera and forget about using Nikkors on it.
Oh and I think solid B&W from now on - none of this colour stuff for me (even though I like it) - so that I can come home with 36 or 64 real negatives that I can easily deal with, and not nearly 500 digital ones, that are so-so and consume hours of time to sort.

So why is photography a bit smelly then Sheepy?

Well, the thing this has all highlighted for me, is that in the total move to digital, we, as photographers, have lost SO much. 
Yes, you get an optical VF with an SLR, but you also get a camera that is huge and has just way too many options that make me personally just say:

"Oh fuck OFF!"

I want something that reacts in the way an M2 or a Nikon F reacts. Quickly and intuitively. That lets the photographer be a photographer and not just a button pushing curator of menus. Yes, I know, there are the likes of the digi-Leicas and Fujis, but they're really expensive. there has to be a cheaper common ground.
I doubt this very much, but

If there is a camera manufacturer out there, who would like me to design a camera that old-time photographers WOULD ACTUALLY LIKE TO USE, then please, send me a message!

I reckon I could design one for you.
There's a huge gap in the market for something as simple and wonderful to use as the old Olympus Trip.

Anyway, without further ado, Dubrovnik . . oh and the wonderful Kotor (in Montenegro). 

I make no pretensions about these photos - I just enjoyed taking them, but the results are so-so to my eyes, they're not 'art' they are '(ph)art' and they're sifted from, as I said, around 500 in total - what a fecking nightmare!

And that's it folks - normal service will be resumed shortly - got a massive backlog of negatives to be printed - I just need some time.
Be good, keep taking the pills and remember that a bird in the hand will more than likely crap in it too.


  1. You did well, considering that you seem to have hated it. And who doesn't like pictures of cats?
    How about shedding the Leica prejudice and looking at what you need?
    Minox made some very elegant 35mm cameras, very tiny, shirt-pocket size, with sharp lenses. And as you'll certainly know, there are all sorts of folding 6x6 rangefinders on eBay, or even at Bruce's favourite auction room. You could slip one of these into the appropriate pocket and have it with you for when film-lust strikes.
    Everyone who has tested it seems to say that modern X-ray machines at airports don't damage film, even with multiple exposures.
    But well done anyway. Not the usual tourist snaps.

    1. Chers David - it was frustration speaking at the wakey wakey time. It's a weird camera - do I like it? Sort of. It's nicer to handle than the Canon was, but as a camera that appeals to my filmic sensibilities . . no.

      I hadn't thought of folders . . .hmmmmm!

  2. Oh ho ho, 500 photos to edit. I hope you enjoyed that. People say that digital is great for learning photography because you can see your results immediately and then erase mistakes. That's true, but what digital taught me was to slow down and think more before making a photo because I hate looking through hundreds of photos later on a computer screen. Sometimes a day's photos will sit neglected for weeks on my hard drive because I can't bring myself to look through them all. I sometimes think of switching to large format just to keep the number of photos to a manageable leve.
    I like the photos of Croatia. The Sony makes nice pictures. I suspect it's because you let the camera do its magic and you didn't con/saturate them to death in your computer. I set my D810 to Neutral with a bit of added contrast and then stop worrying about anything except shutter speed, ISO, and aperture.


  3. Editing a lot down is one of life's massive chores - I dislike it actually!

    As for the camera, pretty much WYSIWYG, I've set it to the most basic settings I can and used aperture priority. There was a tad exposure compensation done in Photos on the Mc (that's a Scottish Macintosh) and that was it.

    Thanks got the comments as usual!

  4. Dear Sheepy,

    Baaaa. Baa, baaa ba!

    In English: I know what you mean about colour. My old man felt the same about it too. I found a letter where he likened the colour photos he took to snapshots, feeling that only black and white gave gravitas to the subject. Maybe a generalisation too far, but the overall thrust, I think is fair. Certainly, for me, monochrome is more satisfying. If I want colour, I'll use my phone.

    My motto for this month is to play it straight.

  5. Hi Julian - and bbbbaaaaaa to yerself too.

    I'll not recount an episode of me and Steve's Radio Gnome radio show from the '70's whereby an episode of Larry The Lamb, resulted in all the sheep-talk ending in "-stard"

    Your Dad sounds like quite a bloke - was he well known as a photographer, and did he leave a lot of negatives?

    I've tried to play it straight, but unfortunately, it has never been possible.
    Which version are you?

    Act or perform seriously, without excessive embellishment or affectation.
    ‘she played it straight with the intent of presenting a believable character’

    Act in an honest and open manner, without deception or trickery.
    ‘corporate executives don't always play it straight’

  6. Full disclosure: my father is the late Dr Philip Stokes, lecturer at Nottingham Trent. Yes, there are some negatives. Mostly literal, a few metaphorical.

    By playing it straight, I meant photographically. I've yet to decide exactly how that might be translated.

  7. Gosh Julian - I must confess I never heard of your father, but just by scratching the 'net, he seems like a very interesting character. I can imagine the archive of negatives is fairly extensive, and a massive responsibility too. Are they your responsibility?

    Straight photography as in full frame, no trickery and a little bit of toning???



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