Episode 034: Photo Friday – Love and Hate Photography

This Podcast is published on Anchor.FM or you can subscribe via Apple PodcastsGoogle Play PodcastsPocketCastsTuneIn and Stitcher.

Over the past year or so, I have been reflecting on my photographic journey and come to the realisation, that I am the camera slinging equivalent of the retired old men on the golf course, at the beginning, and end of the movie, ‘The Legend of Bagger Vance’.

The truth is, I am not an exceptional photographer. I have suffered from GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) from the very earliest days when I cut my teeth on a used, average condition, Canon A1. From 35mm to medium format, SLR to the rangefinder, manual focus to autofocus, film to digital, it is like playing with every possible club, looking for a hole in one when you cannot even drive straight.

In time, I have come to realise that while I get a lucky shot every so often, I cannot improve if I do not shoot more and shoot with a purpose.

At my lowest lows, I have sold all my gear and tried to move on in search of another hobby, but the strange thing is, nothing fills the void until I get a camera again. It feels like a lost cause.

Presently, I am camera free, except for the rather capable camera in my smartphone. I went on a walk with the specific purpose to take some pictures with my phone. Once again, I find my palms itching to do more. Looking over some pictures of my kids recently, I couldn’t help but notice that some of them are rather pleasing.

The camera allows me a form of creativity that I could never dream of attaining with my hands in another medium, and maybe this is the appeal that keeps me coming back.

All this has me wondering, am I alone? Are there others out there who find themselves spinning up and down as a yo-yo between loving and loathing photography?

Episode 021: Photo Friday – Smartphones, Prints

This Podcast is published on Anchor.FM or you can subscribe via Apple PodcastsGoogle Play PodcastsPocketCastsTuneIn and Stitcher.

There are two things that I want to discuss today for Photo Friday, smartphones and prints. Smartphones are of interest because they tend to be our primary camera, even for serious photographers. They also tend to be where all out photos live. And prints, because there is a power in a printed image.

Smartphones

Should you spend more money on a smartphone to get the best camera you can at the time? What are the critical features you are looking for in a smartphone camera?

After the fingerprint scanner, the camera is the most important feature on the smartphone for me. While some phones manage great images in low light without Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) these are the exception to the rule.

The other features I am looking for in a smartphone camera are the size of the sensor. Bigger sensors have a larger surface area and can gather in more light. Also, I don’t need the highest megapixel count. Large, lower resolution sensors, the like 12MP one in say the Galaxy S8, capture much more light than a 20MP smartphone camera sensor would.

The size of the aperture (or f/number) indicates if the lens allows more light in it as well. So a phone with a f/1.7 aperture will let more light in than a f/2.0 lens would. Yes, this may seem backwards for some people, but the smaller the number the bigger the opening for gather light which is what we want.

Power of Prints

There is a great deal of benefit in a printed photograph particularly for children, who like my boys with my wife’s mothers day gift, cannot seem to put the most recent photo book of her Instagram feed down.

Photo books are less likely to be stolen, the same cannot be said for your smartphone, laptop or hard drive.

Sorting through images also helps for what to bring also helps you dive into your past memories and relive some of the moments in a year or two that you have forgotten about.

(Listen to last week’s Photo Friday episode here.)

Episode 010: Photo Friday – Film Fad?

This Podcast is published on Anchor.FM or you can subscribe on iTunesPocketCastsTuneIn, and Stitcher.

Let me start with a disclaimer, I can often argue for the sake of arguing, mostly because I like a good debate but often also because I find the engagement sparks new ideas.

Is Film really a Growth Market?

With that said, I want to talk about what many are hailing as a mighty film revival in photography. It is an interesting argument, and I cannot deny that something is up. I also cannot comment on global trends with great personal experience as my time is largely spent in Nigeria and South Africa, with my first trip to the USA only completed in April. (It was just a week though).

The facts from where I am standing though is that unlike markets such as the US and UK, (where a niche can still be a sizeable addressable market for a brand) there are no film processing labs re-opening or many more camera stores stocking film than there are camera stores seemingly closing down.

Now you can point to articles like the one from Time which quoted industry players as saying that film is seeing 5% year on year growth, but they also said that the market bottomed out at less than 2% of it highest high of 2003. (Find the Time Article here).

From such a low base, a little resurgence or market forces correcting a demand that maybe knee jerked a little can present what looks like a healthy growth. The real question should be, is it sustainable.

Retro for the Sake of Retro

One could argue that what we are seeing in the film industry is similar to what music is seeing with Vinyl. Part of this comeback is born out of the groups of (insert whatever categorization you wish, Millennials, counterculture etc) that scavenge charity stores and discover retired technology that amazes them and costs nothing.

As with economics, a growing demand with limited supply pushes up prices. Old industries see a “revival” that promises margins well beyond what they would have enjoyed while charity stores were littered with their old products and they relaunch products that drive prices up further. At some point, demand will level out as prices become out of reach for many and the market should find an equilibrium so long as the industry does not push supply beyond the point of demand plateau.

Today a Vinyl record costs a fortune next to a CD which struggles to sell. Shops have record players or turn tables of all kinds and despite all the talk of raw sound quality and uncompressed audio, we are not putting turn tables in cars or trying to take them on our morning run. Practical products meet the needs of the masses and that is most often where businesses seek their ROI.

There is the argument that each photo is a piece of art and it is kind of a counter culture to Instagram. There are other factors that could be pushing an increased interest in film, though I fear without full industry investment – which is highly unlikely – film will plateau and in a few years questions will be asked in C-level executive boardrooms about long term business growth.

Benefits of Film

There are some benefits to film from a workflow perspective that is good to consider. Some of these benefits to my mind are:

  • No image processing in Lightroom for hours
  • Unique quality to different films that digital still struggles to replicate
  • People are less likely to steal your negatives and sometimes even your film camera
  • More disciplined shooting style given the limited number of photos per roll and the cost of each fire of the shutter.

The truth is that while there is growing interest in film and film camera prices on the used market are reaching old highs, this could be short lived without a full industry investment for long term profitability and sustainable growth.

What are your thoughts?

 

Episode 005: Photo Friday – Crashing Passion

This Podcast is published on Anchor.FM or you can subscribe on iTunesPocketCastsTuneIn, and Stitcher.

At this early stage of my podcasting experiment, I am sure that many of the people that are listening to this episode know me and have some ideas of my photography background. For those who are not aware, about three years ago I closed the 8-10 year chapter of my life that was PhotoComment. It was a photography blog that became a digital and eventually print magazine. It was a spark that helped drive a passion for photography which started at the end of my primary school years.

How the Photo Bug Bit

I am not sure how I got interested in birding, but somehow I did. It may have been the acquisition of a pair of binoculars and the need of a reason to use them, but is was a CNA Red Band Book Sale book on birds that pushed me from birdwatching to wanting to do photography.

The book in question had pictures of birds opposed to the illustrations found in other in-depth reference books and this got me hooked. It was the closing image though of the wrong colours on a regular bird to our garden which got me thinking I could do a better job. What a mistake to think that.

My parents were supportive of my passion. My dad arranged for a visit to his older brother to try my hand at using a camera he had first before I made any rash decisions to buy something I could in no way afford.

Out of a role of film, most pics were forgettable photographically speaking, but there were two images of regular garden sparrows that stood out. These images were sharp, well lit and got me hooked.

Turbulence

From that day forward I was in for a bumpy ride. Gear cost a fortune, film and processing were not cheap for a school boy either. I was told to shoot what I could with the gear I could afford but somehow I got the idea that better gear would make me a better photographer.

I have had more cameras and lenses than possibly I have owned underwear in all my life. (I will share some of this with you in Throw Back Thursday episodes in the future).

The thing about my experiences is that I became a generalist in some areas. Also, because of my limited finances, I spent hours reading and rereading books and magazines, even camera manuals. I was a sponge (wish I still had that same intensity of learning today).

In some ways, I view my photography experience as an alternate reality version of the movie The Legend of Bagger Vance (which is of course about golf, another dangerous hobby).

There were highs and lows. Great camera and bad cameras. The right lenses and the wrong lenses. Too few camera bags and too many camera bags… actually you can never have too many camera bags.

Over time, however, I have found it tough to pick up a camera with the same pleasure and passion I had in the past, particularly after PhotoComment closed.

Getting Back the Passion

This evening as I was browsing through some photographs for a competition I started looking over hundreds of images I had forgotten I had taken. As I did so I got a familiar itch in my finger and twitch in my eye.

Two things occurred to me as I looked at the photos of my past.

Firstly, I have been blessed with many memories and moments through my cameras and photography. Running PhotoComment forces me to go out and shoot regularly as I reviewed camera gear, yes, but because I always had some camera with me, I have photos of pets past and boys as babes. My life has been blessed that I had time then to spend with my loved ones and could document so much of it.

Secondly, I realised that digital photography has possibly given many of us a great curse.

Every time I felt a little low, as a youth photographer, I picked up my album of images and would look at that first photo of two sparrows in my uncle’s backyard and feel the itch I felt that day, and the glorious relief of getting the images back from the lab a few days later and being surprised.

Many of these things we do not enjoy in the digital world. The suspense of waiting for prints from a lab. The reviewing of a printed work. To me at least, the easier nature or managing a library of images on film because we shot less and could more easily review our progress.

But here is my question to you. How do you keep your passion alive? What lows have you gone through creatively and how did you get back on top again?