My most recent gear purchase began back in December 2016, when my wife fell down the stairs, breaking her foot. Fast forward 10 months and we had to take her to Singapore for some surgery. Because I was taking care of our three kids, and my wife I decided to keep it simple and only took my Olympus OM-1 camera with one lens.
I took two rolls of film around the temporary apartment that we rented and in the hospital. I will try to develop them over the weekend and see how they came out. But aside from these moments of respite, most of my time was spent caring for the kids and my wife.
I did spend a bit of time on YouTube learning a bit about the history of photography. Below is a snapshot of my work area which I used while my wife was deep in a drug induced sleep.
During the quiet times, when the whole apartment was asleep, I spent a little time surfing Ebay. And yes, I did buy some more cameras. This is something I had promised I would stop doing, but I have since decided that it is time to convert my cameras into a collection. This was sufficient reason to pick up two more cameras!
Oh yeah, and the wife needed surgery...that may be an important part of the story. Long story short, she fell, broke her foot and it never healed properly. A 1.5 hour surgery, a few IKEA parts and she is in recovery. It will be about three months but she should heal up completely. The drugs she is on, helped me to convince her that I needed a camera "collection".
We have discussed Gestures in photography before on this blog. If you want to look into it, have a look HERE. Another concept that goes hand in hand with gestures, I call "complications". Just as a mechanical watch has complications, defined as any function a watch can do aside from telling time, so to do gestures.
The photo above was what Jay Maisel would call a gift. A gift my son gave me in that he gave me a wonderful gesture which made the picture. We were walking around the woods near Windsor, following a trail when I saw my son trailing behind us being funny. I turned, and snapped a few pictures and picked this one due to the gesture. He is off in his imaginary world as he stomps down the dirt path. The path is a great compositional element and the full frame, no sky or empty space, is what I really like about this image. But his gesture makes the image a keeper.
So we have a great gesture but no complications. It is the gesture of one person without any other human interaction. No complications but wonderful gesture. Compare it to the image below.
In the image above, you have a gesture with many people in the frame but it is a single gesture. It is the woman on the right looking up and reacting to the coming train. It is her gesture, lost in the sea of the silhouette of other travelers but there is no interaction. So we have a simple gesture without any complications although there are several people in the frame. So to add complications, you need the gesture to be between them.
I have dozens of images with wonderful gesture, but only a handful with a single complication. I have not been able to capture any images with a second complication. Have you been able to capture an image with two or more complications?
I have traveled all around the world, through big cities and small towns, and through all these places I have learned that each place has its own character. You may love it, hate it or anything in-between, because a city is just like a person with complex personality traits. Few places have such obvious character as Paris. Its very name conjures up complex emotions that is hard to put into words.
Hemingway put it best when he said
"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast."
In the book titled "A Moveable Feast" published after his death of his memoirs in Paris, he does a marvelous job explaining why Paris is such a unique city. If we look at Paris through the lens of a camera, we find the same Paris that Hemingway found. One of allure, passion, simplicity and a joy of living rarely matched in the world.
The Paris I love, is the Paris captured by Eugene Atet, Andre Kertesz, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Richard Avedon and Robert Doisneau. This is the Paris that is etched into my mind, and the one I am constantly looking for, even when not in Paris.
So to recap...I had a great system to ensure all my images were safe. I had plenty of computing power to run Lightroom and Photoshop. Had plenty of memory storage, and then Apple goes ahead and innovates! Bastards!
So with no Firewire 800 hard drives available I knew I was living on borrowed time. I bought my last hard drives upgrades to 3Tb and photographed along....but I always had to keep one eye on my storage capacity. So now I have filled up 2.2Tb of images and I am beginning to look for a solution.
With the number of images I take, I could postpone this decision for another six or eight months without a concern in the world. But with our move from London to Jakarta, I was looking at how to set up the office, and I decided it might be time to upgrade my computer system and solve my hard drive challenge.
Apple has come out with the 2017 iMac computers with a significant performance and display upgrade. I mean a 5K display! Holy moly! A 27 inch display would be wonderful and the price point, while high, is reasonable for Apple computers.
So why not consider the better, cheaper PC alternatives? My kids love PC after all. They are all about the Alien Ware for their gaming and such. The answer is a simple one. I use a PC at work so when I see Windows I am in a work mentality. When I come home and see my Apple OS, I know I am on my time, doing my thing and I relax and enjoy.
The current plan is to purchase the iMac 27inch and continue to use my hard drives and back up system. In a few months, as memory reaches 2.8Tb I will look to purchase some 6Tb hard drives. This will buy me a few years of use without having to worry about drive space, speed or utility.
One of my largest expenditures on photography this year will be done in order to solve a media storage dilemma. It is not a sexy or fun purchase, and does nothing to help me take the images I want to take, but it is something that must be reviewed and updated every few years. Before going into what I must purchase and why let me explain why and how I store my images.
I spend a great deal of time and money capturing images around the world and while I may not be a Robert Capa, my images have value to me and my family. So the safe storage of those images is critically important. I shoot both film and digital so my workflow must suit both.
After reading a great deal of the failure rate of hard drives, I developed my own back up system. I should warn that this works for my workflow and may not work for every photographer. I use a three storage back up system kept in two physically different locations with only one plugged in at a time.
I do not keep images on my computer hard drive, I keep and work on them when they are in an external drive. This is my main drive which is currently a Lacie D2 Quadra drive. I then have a second external BU drive which I keep with me at home. Finally, my third drive stays at my office. Once I have 3-4 Gb of images on my computer hard drive and on my two back up drives at home, I just take the BU drive and swap it for the one at the office. I back up that one and keep it as my second drive at home.
This process works to avoid both my drives burning up in a fire, or being lost in a break in.The recent catastrophe in Houston with hurricane Harvey highlights an additional risk in keeping all your BU in a single address.
When I move internationally (something that happens every few years) I send one drive with the furniture, sealed in a ziplock bag, one I take with me on the plane and the third I send via UPS.
What made this BU system work is not the drives or the computers but the Firewire 800 port that came with my MacBook Pro. Let me explain.
Digital photography storage is about space, speed and utility. Depending on the camera you use, digital images can be massive or amazingly small. Fortunately price per Gb of memory has been falling fast.
The problem then becomes one of time. How long does it take your hard drive to move those images in and out? If it takes you 30 seconds to move a single image, you will become frustrated and won't back up. My BU on USB 2.0 would take 8 hours so I would only back up every few months. That exposed me to a massive data loss.
Finally, what is your lifestyle, do you travel a great deal, use a laptop or are you a desktop user? Drive portability is also an important decision to make.
I buy the largest memory I can afford. This has changed over time as the price per Gb has fallen. So I now use 3Tb drives. I use Firewire 800 to make BU quick which translates to 1Gb moved from my computer to my hard drive taking 19.5 seconds. While not blazingly fast, it is fast enough for me to keep up with my backups.
So the system is fool proof! No, not at all. The challenge became when Apple abandoned the Firewire system for Thunderbolt. Hard drive manufacturers stopped making Firewire compatible drives which meant that once my memory was full, I would need an entire new system!
And that takes me to Part 2...
Digital photography had given us the ability to shoot a sharp image easily and this has become part of our definition of a good photograph. You cannot read a lens review without referring to its sharpness. But is a sharp image necessary? If you look at the work of Saul Leiter, HCB or Sally Mann you will see that sharpness is not really necessary to create a wonderful picture.
When going through some pictures I took in January 1st of this year in Kew Gardens, I was amazed at the number of photographs that I find marvelous that I had thought were missed images. The one above is an example of this. You can see that the image has a ton of noise, no face is clearly visible and the image is not particularly sharp. But if you ask me my memory of that night, this matches what I remember perfectly.
Above is another image that I did not think was worth its megabytes. Here we have a wonderful stripped umbrella, a fence and a young kid in a raincoat with nice bright lights in the background. Again this will not win any sharpness awards, the noise of the OM-D is fairly high but after shooting with film, I like it.
Here I thought I had a hodgepodge of shadows, slight movement and some very unsharp details. Taking a closer look however, I see a cold, wet January 1st day spent in Kew Gardens.
Our memories are not sharp, our eyes are used to seeing shadows and our minds are happy to fill in for loss of detail. So why do we demand such perfection from our images? Ok I love sharp lenses, but this just gives me the ability to shoot sharp if this is what I am going for. In the majority of my shooting, I prefer the softer images which are less exacting.
I normally post about film related items, as I love my collection of film cameras. I have to admit however, that my love for photography began in the digital realm and never completely left. I shoot both digital and film and my favorite images can be found in both mediums.
When I purchased my Nikon D800 it was to replace my D300 way back in 2009. From a 12Mp camera to a 36Mp was a massive jump and, for the time, it was an unheard of resolution (in reality potential resolution but that is another blog topic). I love travel photography and this camera would allow me to capture some breathtaking images.
When the Nikon D810 camera out, I yawned and kept happily shooting my Nikon D800. Resolution was spectacular and while the low light performance left a bit to be desired, it functioned perfectly. The only drawback to the camera was the file sizes which made storage and editing a bit of a challenge. An upgrade of back up drives and a new solid state hard drive for my computer and I was back in action.
I began hearing about the Nikon D850 a few months ago and largely ignored it. Then the camera came out and I must admit I am amazed. The resolution took another step forward at 45.7Mp, low light improvement (especially over the D800) is there and the frame rate is astonishing (7fps stand alone) for these size of files. Nikon refers to it as an 'evolution of a revolution' which is the perfect definition for it. Everyone seems to call it the perfect cross over camera, in that it can cross over from landscape to sports very easily.
There is a big part of me that wants to run out and purchase this camera for all those improvements it has made especially the buttons that light up and tilt screen. I know it seems like a small thing but how many nights I had to balance the camera, tripod, bag and flashlight in order to set up the camera correctly? How often have I struggled to get a low angle shot?
There is another part of me that is stopping me. I have two reasons I am postponing this purchase...I am unwilling to say that I won't buy it just yet...
1. The file size is an issue again. Out of 100 digital images I take, 10 will be shared online and of those 10 maybe 1 will be printed in some form. The resolution of the image is wonderful when it comes to cropping an image or to pixel peak but in terms of real-life benefit I see little.
Nikon has answered this by offering an amazing approach to reducing the camera down to 20Mp making the filed more manageable. The argument is that you can shoot at this resolution and then swap when you really find an image worth captured at the full 45.7Mp brilliance.
2. My Nikon D800 continues to be a brilliant camera with more resolution than I can possibly use. It makes absolutely sick files and is more of a camera than I am a photographer. While I would love the lighted buttons, the tilt screen and the focus peaking, is it worth the upgrade?
This is something that film photography has taught me. Even a camera found in the bargain bin at a store is still am amazing machine. It can still shoot pictures just as perfect as the day the camera was made. So if the camera was enough for you when you first purchased it why change?
Let me look back at my Nikon D300, which I still have an love. Right now my son is using it for a photography class he is taking. The D300 was perfectly capable of outshooting my ability level however the big change was a DX to an FX. For non-Nikon people this means going from a cropped sensor to a full frame sensor. I am happy with that change especially on my wide angle shots. But the D800 to D850 I do not get that game changing upgrade.
I have seen many sites comparing the Nikon D850 with the Sony camera and wondering what will Sony respond to. This is a pointless discussion for me as I am invested into the Nikon brand. I have a great deal invested in wonderful lenses so even if Sony comes out with the DSLR killer, I will still continue with Nikon. The cost to convert is just not worth it.
As the Nikon representative put it, the Nikon D850 is a "evolution of a revolution" and I agree. I may very well pick this camera up but I will wait for now. I have a few film cameras to play with that will help my hunger for gear for a little while. But when I do decide to pick up another digital camera the D850 will be on a very short list!
A tough wake up call of buying an old film camera is that you are shooting the same camera as the masters used to shoot. A Leica M3 and you are using a Henri Cartier-Bresson favorite, shoot a Olympus OM-1 and you are using a Jane Bown's camera of choice, shoot a Nikon F2 and you are using the camera Steve McCurry used to shoot 'The Afghan Girl".
Gone are the megapixels, focus stacking and the electronic wizardry we have learned to love. All they used was a box with a lens and some film. The result...images that will stand the test of time.
This is one aspect I love of film photography, all you have is a mechanical devise and a bit of film. Everything else you bring as the photographer. This is also why I am so impressed of the masters of film photography. While digital photography is wonderful, I never know if I am looking at what was shot, or what was made in post processing.
In the traditional darkroom, all you can do is darken, brighten or crop. Nothing else can really be done without bringing the image into a computer. So what you see is what was there when the image was taken.
If you are on the fence about trying film photography, check out a photography book from one of the masters shoot between 1920's through 1970's and you will be floored at what was possible with the most basic equipment. Then, when you realize that you can buy the SAME equipment you will begin to understand the thrill of shooting a film camera!
In the middle of packing our house in London for our move to Jakarta, I had to make a week long trip to Paris for work. While any reason for going to Paris is a good one, work does not give me much time to really enjoy what that wonderful city has to offer. So I took a handful of pictures and moved on.
A few days later I was back in London finishing the packing of the house. I had one last weekend to be in London on my own and I had planed to go into town and walk in the footsteps of Dickens. And so I did, taking the same camera (Leica ME) which I had taken to Paris with me.
Fast forward a few weeks, and I find myself in Jakarta on the first free weekend since arriving. I am a bit under the weather, so I opt to stay in and try to unpack my camera equipment. Remembering that I had a memory card to dump, I set up my computer and went to work.
While in London I went to one of Dickens's homes which is now a museum. It was wonderful to see a victorian home but photographically there was little to shoot. The best shots were in the basement where I captured a few worth keeping.
I have been unable to take any pictures of Jakarta yet however it seems a great opportunity for some street photography. This is a genre that I have not really learned but I believe I will get a change to do just that.
Every move seems to get more complicated. I know, I am an expert. In the last 13 years we have lived in 8 different countries and are about to go to number 9. Furniture will take a beating, pictures usually arrive fine. Some glassware will break and some cloth will develop a smell. So how does one pack things that have a bit more sentimental value?
With regards to my camera equipment, I was able to carry a bunch over during a house hunting trip. I will now carry the rest with me on my actual leaving date. This only leaves some box cameras for packing. Each camera was packed in a ziplock bag with a silica gel drying package. Everything was put into a large bag and padlocked shut, kept at a friends house. This will keep them dry until I can pull them out.
With regards to my photography books, I have treated the same way. Each one is put into a large zip lock bag with a silica pack. They will each be wrapped in paper and then sealed in a new cardboard box. I will toss in a couple of silica packets in each box for good measure. Books can handle some temperature deviations however they do not handle moisture well. I am paranoid about keeping them dry as the smell of a fresh book is intoxicating to me.
I have other books, books which I read and give away which do not receive the attention my photography books get. While literature is interesting to me it does not fascinate me like photography books. I will miss these a great deal while the take the slow trek from England to Indonesia.