Sharp and Simple Mobility

Starting my Analogue Adventure, it completely changes my perception of what I believe.

I thought my Fuji X-Camera gear is compact and small. I learn, there is another level of „full frame“ compactness, also with lenses.

I thought my lenses were the best there could be. I learn about lens character and rendering performance beyond sharpness.

I thought my Fuji Camera is the most ergonomic and straightforward way of shooting. I learn, that there are even simpler ways – with less options, but that does not bother me, yet. The process is getting more joyful , the technicalities loose their dominance.

An Analogue Adventure

I started using digital photography around 2001. Coming from an intense analog photography period, using black and white film, developing it myself and using my own darkroom. For color work, Kodak Ektachrome Slide was my favorite choice.

Until last year.

I got infected. It started by reading a book: “The Revenge of Analog”. Telling the story of how analog technologies are coming back: vinyl, tabletop games, and… film. I got curious – reading magazines on analog photography, learning about companies that actually produce and sell film.

In September 2023, I was visiting a photography fair that had a section for analogue photography, and… I found myself buying my first film.
Not for me, yet.
But… I actually bought a film after more than twenty years.

In December 2023 I finally got a Canon AE-1 body along with a 50mm FD lens and a Kodak Tri-X film (now for the purpose to use it myself).
I replaced the light seals of the Canon (that was actually fun!) and gave the analogue adventure a go.

Guess what – that was so much fun that – besides shooting film – I entered the realm of rangefinder photography – getting a used Bessa R2M together with a 50mm Voigtlaender lens and another roll of film, a Ferrania P30. If you get into adventure, why not try something entirely new (I never shot rangefinder before, my grandfather had a rangefinder camera that I played with when I was seven years old).

I got back the first scans of these two rolls of film (the Tri-X and the Ferrania P30) last week … and I love the results. Not because they are technically better than my digital pictures (they are not), but because the process was so much fun.

Winter Wood
Winter Leaf
Winter Root
Barren
Church
Pony
Lonesome Scooter

What lies ahead – the usual process when you are infected by the analogue virus: you get the kit to develop black and white film by yourself. You buy more rolls. You get your old scanner out of the basement and study development cookbooks … there is more to come!

What Cameras are About

I have used several cameras in the past decades. My first one was a Pentax Spotmatic, which I got passed on from my father, followed by a Yashika. I then bought the EOS 100 as first camera by my own money, got into digital with the EOS 30D, followed by the 50D and then the 5DM2. All of those cameras convinced me in particular because of their ergonomic setup. They were tools that just could be used in a very intuitive way – at least for me. I never got used to the Nikon interface. There have been several compact cameras as well, but that’s another story. 

Now, it seems I have come full circle, using the Fuji X-T1, which – though it is a completely different animal – reminds me a lot of my old Spotmatic. This camera made me get away from my full frame 5D Mark II – which is a good camera, no doubt about that – but the X-T1 just feels to be the better tool for me. The results are absolutely satisfying to me. 

But what matters most is that the shooting experience is wonderful. It just feels right. And maybe that is what using cameras is about: not so much the specifications, but they way they feel. From that perspective, cameras are indeed to a certain extend custom made things. The whole discussion if Sony is better than Canon or some Nikon is obsolete.  

You have to find your camera. Like Harry Potter had to find his wand. 

It doesn’t matter that much what the specs are, but what the camera feels like for you. And maybe that is the reason why we should support local camera stores much more. How would you check the overall camera look and feel if you cannot take it into you hand and feel what it is doing? 

You could also say that the online stores are stealing something from you, that the estimated saving of money never can compensate for: The chance to choose the right tool right away.  

And this is what cameras are about: being the right tool for you. Being and extension of yourself and to some way also an expression of yourself. Like a craftsman or a painter chooses his hammer or his pencil, the photographer chooses his camera. Not for what the company promises, but for what it is to her or him. 

Sony World Photo Award 2016

I have just uploaded my images to participate in the Sony World Photo Award 2016. Easy enough, as participation is free. This is a good start in the photography year 2016 – I am already curious what is to come this year, what we will see and which pictures I will get done.
I have done two series as entries: one for landscape and one for still life.

Here are the landscape candidates:

Monochrome Sky
Monochrome Sky

Monochrome Sky
Monochrome Sky

Feather Clouds
Feather Clouds

Feather Clouds
Feather Clouds

Feather Clouds
Feather Clouds

Cloud Patterns
Cloud Patterns

 

And here are the Still Life category entries:

Forged by The Sea
Forged by The Sea

Paint
Paint

Painted by the Sea
Painted by the Sea

 

Monochrome

If there is one style or photographic direction that I have always been using, it is black and white photography.

I was hooked – like many others – when I got involved with the pictures of Ansel Adams. Even though his pictures are quite old today, they still resemble masterpieces of flawless quality. He did not have the tools at hand that we do today, but by knowing his craft he was able to produce work of exceptional technical quality and beauty. After knowing his work now for more than twenty years I am not getting tired looking at it. Still inspiring, still quality to strive for.

What inspires me is the tonality of these pictures, the reduction to structures due to the absence of color, the contrast of dark sky against white clouds, the sheer number of grey tones.

Monochrome, though it has less in it, reveals other aspects of the world, of the things and brings forward their structure. It simplifies everything and strengthens the message.

 

Old Point Reyes Shipwreck
Old Point Reyes Shipwreck

Feather Clouds
Feather Clouds

Structures
Structures

Thunderstorm
Thunderstorm

Play of Clouds
Play of Clouds

Poppies
Poppies

The Decisive Moment

Photography is about moments, captured in a specific location, showing a specific scenery in a unique light. Bringing all of these things together – when we press the shutter – the camera captures a moment time.

Sometimes that one moment is referred to as the decisive moment.

And the interpretation is that the decisive moment is something happening in the world and we are the witnesses of that moment.

That the world moves towards this moment and it is our task to catch it like a butterfly in a net. And there is some truth to that. Some moments, some light, some cloud formation, some body language, that fleeing smile on our kid’s faces – they are there and gone. They exist in moments, just visible for a second, and then they change again into something different. If we fail to catch that moment you might say: „The decisive moment is gone.‟, like a loss, something we have not achieved, something we failed to do. But there are millions of other moments ahead of us, and there is always the chance that they are even more decisive than the moment we just missed.

I prefer another interpretation of that phrase: „the decisive moment‟, because it is us to decide on how to paint this moment. We decide what to photograph. We decide where to stand. We decide what to include and what to exclude. We judge the light. We set the depth of field. We set the shutter speed. These are the tools we have and to work with. And they are far more important than what the world around presents to us.

The decisive moment ist the moment when we decide to press the shutter. It tells more about what is happening inside us than about what is happening in the world.

Everything we do in photography – if we do it consciously – tells a lot about what is going on inside us, from the choice of the subject to technical settings, post production and presentation. Everything there is more about us than about the world outside.

The decisive moment indeed is when you press the shutter. But not because you catch the fleeing moment, but because the moment resonates within you. That is decisive.

 

Blue Moon
Blue Moon

Monochrome Sky
Monochrome Sky

Thunderstorm
Thunderstorm

Thunderstorm
Thunderstorm

Evening Sky
Evening Sky

 

Monochrome Sky
Monochrome Sky

 

Play of Clouds
Play of Clouds

Feather Clouds
Feather Clouds

To the Sea

Looking back at older photographs of mine, I sometimes wonder what I was thinking when I made those shots. Not only that the technique I used was far from perfect, but sometimes I am astonished why the heck I made this shot at all. Today, I wold either not make it, or I would choose a completely different approach. This is good news for me, an indicator that my preferences have changed and my style (whatever that is) is not static, but continuously changing.

In that process, I also became aware that I am more interested in seascape photography than I am actually in landscape photography. I didn’t conciosuly recognize this until I went through my archives and tried to identify the most interesting pictures that I have made so far. It was actually quite surprised to find out that it were the seascapes that made the greatest impressions to me. Until then I assumed that I fell into the same photography category of Ansel Adams (great landscapes, preferably in monochrome) which I always counted amongst my favorite photographers.

Now I realize that my photography is so much not the style of Ansel Adams – and that I am absolutely ok with that. Quite a surprise to me. But somehow something I should have expected, as my father was always drawn to the sea and sailing boats – it seems at last I have inherited some of his desires to be with the ocean.

Obviously, photography can tell you more about yourself – when you look closer.

For me that means, I will visit the sea more often. I will try to visit coastline wherever I can – at last I have found my personal preferences and know where to look.

To the sea.

The Moon and the Sea
The Moon and the Sea

Dancing Ledge
Dancing Ledge

The Rock
The Rock

The Rock
The Rock

Soul

If there is one thing that we – as human beings – discussed for centuries and still elude to get the answer, it is the question:

What is the soul?

Everybody has some idea about it. Sometimes we know it is there. Sometimes we feel ist is missing. Interesting enough, we associate it primarily with living beings. However, once in a while, we come across things that are not alive, yet we feel these things have soul. We find soul in the way people make music (is it the sound or the person who has it?), we find soul in art made by craftsmen, we find it looking at paintings and sometimes also at photographs.

It seems like soul lacks scientific definition, it is something we can not point the finger to – yet it is visible in some things we do, some things we create. Things we do whole heartedly, with our complete skill set, seem to become imprinted with more than just the physics. They become art, because we gave something into them. They convey more than just the material. They become somehow more alive beyond the physical sphere.

But this is also true for some things we do not lay our hands on. Some things, left unattended, left alone for years, may become more interesting than they were when we left them. Old paint on a door, rotting, deteriorating, gets more character and speaks to some in it’s own language. They develop some kind of soul – or maybe it is different: we respond to them, our soul reacts and is drawn to those things. Our character, what makes us unique becomes more clear in those situations. We feel connected to those unanimated objects as if they were alive.

Sometimes what we see and what we react to, what we connect with, becomes the mirror of our soul.

We may not see the light of our soul itself, but in creating art, this light casts a shadow of what it really is.

Our photographs are more than just photographs – they are shadows, frozen in time, showing the scheme, the outline of who we really are. Learning the craft and making more photographs makes those shadows clearer, better, more engaging. Though it is not the light itself, those fleeing shadows we should value and learn from them. They tell us a lot about ourselves.

And this is why, if we want to create art, the process must be very personal. As photographers, we see something that deep within connects to us. We visualize something that is not there yet, something within us guides us to the point where we know how the picture is supposed to look like. The result of this process tells us not only something about what was there, but also about what we did see. And this seeing is fed by our inner self, our soul, by who we are. This is what makes us unique and we have to do, to call it art.

Art is the shadow, cast by the light of our soul.

 

De – Cision

The German language has a different word here: Entscheidung. The German word Scheidung means to separate something. We also have the phrase

Scheiden tut weh

– it hurts to be separated (from someone or something). So if we say Entscheidung, it actually means something good. We end an inner separation, we bring together the things, we make ourselves or a situation whole again.

To de-cide is to end a cision (if that word would exist) – a condition that cost more energy (if we are torn apart within, that condition does cost energy) and make room to move forward. If cision last too long, it drains energy from us, takes us away from the next step, hinders us to be whole.

As photographers, we make decisions all the time. We are used to decide: we exclude, we focus, we choose the aperture, we change position.

We compose the picture by making decisions.

If the pictures do not work out, the decisions might have been wrong – but we made them, nevertheless. We learn, and in future, our decisions might be better. Photographic technique is something we have to learn to know which decisions we can make, to understand what the consequences are. But this is only to help us on the way in our capability to better express ourselves. What we want to say – that is a different story we have to de-cide.

That is, what art(iculation) is about: to de-cide what to tell, and de-cide how to tell it, and finally – tell it.