Some Mixed Thoughts

{Obligatory random photo from the archives, to go with my random thoughts.}

Time for one of “those” posts again, where I share a random mix of photos and ideas that have caught my attention over the past few weeks. As I’ve mentioned before, I spend a lot of time each week keeping up with other photography blogs, which I find to be a wealth of both information and inspiration. Here’s a few ideas that are worth thinking about:

From Essentials for Photographers, in a Q&A post, photographer and designer Don Giannatti tackles a submission that asks: “I’m good with the technical, but I want to know how to push my photos to the next level. I want to fall in love with my own images.”

Don’s response is awesome:

It isn’t easy – but to get to the next level try this approach.

1. Pull 10 of your favorite images. (NOTE: NOT your most popular, or the ones that made you the most money… pick the 10 images you love for whatever reason.)

2. Write down what you love about them. It is important to write this – thinking ain’t gonna cut it – we need all the senses working on this.

3. Write down what you would do, if you could do it again, to make them even better. Is it the need of a good stylist? Would you crop them differently, or frame them with more dynamics? Would you still use the same lens and light you did?

4. Pick 10 of the shots you think you should love, but don’t. Write down what works about them, and what you don’t like about them. Be brutal – you can make up to yourself with a brewski later – and put it all down.

5. Plan a shot to put what you have learned to use. What was not in your images, you add. What you didn’t like, you leave out.

This is the sort of self-analysis that we, as artists, should be doing all the time. This is how you learn to grow and begin to develop a style. Think about it. And read the other Q&A in this post. Heck, read the rest of Don’s blog – it’s packed with useful info, and Don doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to telling it like it is. Which is refreshing.

Next on our list is an article by photographer Darwin Wiggett, entitled “If You Need More Than One Lens, You’re Not a Photographer.” This is something to really think about. I know many photogs, myself included, who drag a whole bag of lenses into the field on each outing. Just in case. We’re too scared of having only a wide-angle, and missing a Pulitzer-winning telephoto shot. All those gear-related thoughts distract us from our mission: making images. So props to Darwin, for the wake-up call.

And if you’re any sort of landscape photographer and you haven’t checked out Darwin’s work, you owe it to yourself to do so. I drifted away from nature/landscape work a while back, but looking through his images has inspired me to try working with it again. I’ve also picked up some tips on what to do differently, this time around.

Sunrise over Kent Pond in Killington, VT, on the morning of 29 December 2011.

Having mentioned gear, Trey Ratcliff shared a post last week called “DSLRs are a Dying Breed – 3rd Gen Cameras are the Future.” Okay, so the title says most of it and basically Trey says that he won’t be investing any more money in DSLR bodies or lenses, as he believes that evolving tech will cause camera manufacturers to all switch to a mirror-less format. The result will be, in his opinion, smaller, lighter bodies and a new generation of smaller lenses to match.

His post generated a lot of feedback, with the responses covering the whole range from thoughtful to ridiculous. My thoughts fall (hopefully) on the thoughtful end of the spectrum: I have my doubts about this being the evolution of DSLRs. First off, I’m not convinced that smaller camera bodies are a good thing. There’s a lot to be said for the ergonomics of a bigger, solid camera. I already know that compared to my 7D, the Rebel line is enough smaller to feel cramped in my hands. Something the size of a Sony NEX seems like it would be too small to comfortably hold and stabilize.

The lens aspect is a little scarier, as none of us want to even think about having to re-purchase our entire collection, to fit a new camera. I have my doubts about this as well, however, especially in light of Canon’s recent release of several $10k+ super telephoto lenses. It seems counter productive for them to start thinking of discontinuing the EOS line in the next 5 years.

On the upside, I don’t see any reason why they couldn’t simply alter the current EOS bodies to eliminate the mirrors, while keeping the general size and EF compatibility the same. The only real change in that case would be the replacement of the optical viewfinder with an electronic version. (Which would still generate complaints from the peanut gallery, I’m sure.)

And for the record, I’m all for the elimination of the mirrors, as they are the mechanical unit most likely to fail within the camera. No more 100k actuation limits; a mirrorless camera would operate until the electronics gave out. I just hope that, should Canon decide to pursue this avenue, they don’t force us into buying an entirely new system.

{Update: this was posted to CanonRumors after I finished writing this post, and sheds a little more light on Canon’s plans: Canon Mirrorless in 2012?}


So that’s a wrap this time. I’d enjoy hearing any thoughts you might have, on any of this. Hit the comments, or use the contact form – whichever you like!

Brent Pennington is a freelance photographer and the driving force behind The Roving Photographer. When he\’s not working with portraiture or promotional clients, he’s usually in the field, hiking, or kayaking in pursuit of nature and wildlife shots.

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  1. It’s interesting to watch this all play out. Clearly the technology has moved forward to allow for mirrorless cameras. The two hurdles of viewfinder quality and autofocus limitations are being solved my Moore’s Law. The advantages of mirrorless are huge – enhanced reliability, higher fps, space efficiency and the ability to use smaller lenses for a given focal length (due to closer mounting of the lens w/o the curtain and mirror).

    The industry leaders Nikon and Canon are the laggards in this new format. It does seem they are torn between going hammer down and protecting their current SLR customer base (like us) who have much invested in SLR glass. IMHO they do so at their own peril. One needs only to look at Kodak which made a similar mistake 15 years ago and is now days or weeks from bankruptcy.

    We do have to wonder what is going on behind the scenes. From a Canon perspective, while they continue to develop pro L glass, has anyone noticed that it has been quite some time since they have introduced an EF-S lens (or any non-pro glass)? Perhaps that fortells the APS-C sensor market is going to migrate to a new format sooner than later, leaving the current EOS system full frame pro only. Time will tell.

    • brentpennington

      Very interesting observation regarding the EF lens lineup. You’re right, while there has been speculation about non-L series glass being released, we haven’t seen any in quite some time now. Canon had also been less aggressive about developing the EF-S line than I think any of us originally anticipated. So perhaps that is a good indicator that they are planning for a change in the near future.

      And you’re right about change being essential. It’s hard to look at it from the companies points of view: as a consumer, I don’t want major change that is going to force me to reinvest in a new camera system. But as a camera company, change is life, and as you said, if they don’t adapt to the new technology they’ll end up like Kodak.

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