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If You Could Start All Over Again.....
Old 11-07-2005   #1
eIII
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If You Could Start All Over Again.....

...in this wonderful world of photography what would you do different?

this has been a whirlwind week for me. last week, i got my first RF, a hand-me-down voigtlander prominent which i've discussed in ather threads. a little research on the camera and i found you guys and the world of RF photography. i am hooked.

lets say you were in my position, a true rookie. what do you wish you would have done from the start? what choices would you have made that would have saved you TIME and MONEY?

i know there is no 'one way' to learn the art photography, and i will make my own share of mistakes and insights as i learn. and that is exciting. after many hours in this place i know there are many, many years of wisdom and years of experience here that i and others in my position would love to take advantage of!

thanks! bill
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Old 11-07-2005   #2
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The best starting point is 1 camera, standard lens (35 or 50) and one type of film (tri x or HP5 or any other 400 b&w). This how I was taught at university and after much trading of camera equipment is how I work most of the time now. For me the most important thing for a rookie is to resist the urge to buy loads of equipment before you have really learnt the craft of photography.
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Old 11-07-2005   #3
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If I had the chance to start over again. I would do it the same way how else would you learn?

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Old 11-07-2005   #4
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The biggest piece of advice I would give is to not do things like I did.....

Which is to say, I spent a bundle on an excellent flash and telephoto zoom for my Canon, because I thought I needed it at the time.

I did use those things for the things I needed them for, but now they largely sit on the shelf, and have much less resale value....so I'm stuck with them.

I made some other foolish mistakes based on what I thought I might need, and instead of getting a Leica, I bought very expensive other things that now sit largely unused.


It may disappoint you (many people like the best things, it's understandable) but the advice to stick with one camera and one or two lenses is very very good advice.

Buy yourself quite a bit of film, and shoot the hell out of it. Only much later should you buy other things. IF you need to use something that you don't have for a special occasion (like me) then try to borrow or rent it, until you figure out that you really, really need it. Otherwise, you will be like some of us idiots that are either sitting on a mountain of unused gear, or constantly buying and selling.

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Old 11-07-2005   #5
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If I could start all over again I'd have one camera, and it would be a rangefinder with a fixed lens or a screw-mount with two.
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Old 11-07-2005   #6
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Never mind the filters, when you own a bunch of cameras, you always end up with more.
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Old 11-07-2005   #7
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I regret not using a darkroom more whilst I had access to it. I got into photography during my second year at university. I discovered the college darkroom at the start of the third year, but only used it probably a dozen times max. I find it unlikely I will get the opportunity to use a darkroom for a long time to come, if ever again, and I know I could have learnt a lot more about the production of prints if I'd got my hands wet more often.

I wish I had shot more film (but less cheap colour print film), and discovered Tri-X earlier on.

I lament my weakness for amount of 'gear' rather than gear particulars. Although I have build a toolbox of cameras I am very happy with, most of them have come to me through desires rather than needs. As a result, the toolbox is too full, and many great lenses don't get used as often as they should be. The only camera I have ever bought and disliked is the 300D. Lesson learnt.

I also dream what it would have been like to have been born earlier. To have lived in a time when photography was new, exciting, relevant, rewarding and glamourous must have been something special. But I guess that's not exactly something I could change!
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Old 11-07-2005   #8
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If i could start all over again i would not buy the DLSR nor the all SLR's i own now....
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Old 11-07-2005   #9
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I can't say that I have anything that will improve on the sentiments of those above, but I bet we have all learned from the experience of our journeys. I've owned three different slr and lens mounts, pentax, pentax k, minolta, and just ltm r/fs. Each has taught me more about equipment that not having them. The reason for some of the changes was the equipment was stolen, thus having to replace with something else. My suggestion learn to use what you have and when it won't do what you want, then add the appropriate lens, flash or the latest whizbang.
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Old 11-07-2005   #10
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Saving time and money.... don't even _look_ at Ebay for the next year. There's a place for it later, but not now.
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Old 11-07-2005   #11
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Stick with using one camera and one standard (35/50) and only buy equipment after a full year of using that rig ;-)
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Old 11-07-2005   #12
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Things I would have done different starting with rangefinders:
1. Have it properly serviced so you know it will work correctly everytime and make sure the meter works or learn to use a handheld meter. get the correct lens shade and any filters you may need and a cable release.
2. Get a tripod for static shots. Very important for static shots, will help you compose better.
3. Do not use cheap film and processing. When I made the switch from print film to slides it really showed how bad cheap film and lousy processing could be. Never looked back.
4. Join a photography club if you can to learn more.
5. Keep a list of photo ops and update it with ideas frequently.
6. Maybe do more black and white. A small darkroom setup can be had cheap or a film scanner is the alternative way.
7. Most importantly is to learn to think creatively about what your photographing. Try different things. I like to go to places that most folks would not be very photographic and I search high and low and make myself find interesting things to photograph. If you tell yourself that you cant move out of this area for one hour or until you come up with a good shot, chances are you will get a good shot. Once in a while you will get a great shot this way that no one may have ever thought of.
8. B&H photo great place to order film from. Try to standardize on a few brands/types so that you know what the result will be.
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Old 11-07-2005   #13
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Nut'in, no regrets. I am one who can only learn by making mistakes. What I am and the kind of photography I do is the sum total of all of my F***ups.
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Old 11-07-2005   #14
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What I would have done differently?Would have gone digital! just kidding.

Gear-wise: I could write a long list what i wouyld NOT have bought, but hey, makes no sense since i needed all the gear to realize what I like most to use (although still ain't sure of it). And it's not the same what you like. I have to point out however, that I should have built a BW darkroom (or at least a BW film dev kit) and a good film scanner -this would have saved me alot of $. AND i would not have left part of my best gear out in the livingroom while on holiday, to get it stolen by those freaks.

Film-wise: For colour, slides combined with viewer and the film scanner would have been a cheaper and more instructive option than shooting lotsa negatives and making proof prints of the whole roll, every time. For BW: home development, absolutely the best solution.

The most important, image-wise:More $ and time for travel and shooting. (By less time and $ for gear.) More people-photography in all the nice places i've been. And shoot always what I think might be interesting, without hesitation; to quote Francisco, member of this forum (i think he used it as his motto): When in doubt, shoot.
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Old 11-07-2005   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Uncle Bill
If I had the chance to start over again. I would do it the same way how else would you learn?
Gotta agree with that one, Bill. In some ways this may not even be about photography but about ourselves and who we become. Of course a few nice images along the way help justify the gear

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Old 11-07-2005   #16
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The only thing I wish I had done that I didn't, was to take pictures of my all my girlfriends over the years, so that later when I am old, I could remember them better.
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Old 11-07-2005   #17
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Frank - LOL, i think i agree with that, although i ain't that old yet! Good thing to remember anyway, for the future
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Old 11-07-2005   #18
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I think the advice of one camera/lens is well taken. I remember reading one photog's story of how his dad gave him a Pentax K1000, a 50mm lens and lots of Tri-X. He took the camera's battery out-- then told his son that when he could take good pix with the rig---he'd give him the battery back! Don't know if this is true or not but it's a great way to start out..

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Old 11-07-2005   #19
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Apprentice oneself to a professional: my advice.

I did get advice from professionals early on, and I was mentored for years by a student of Minor White, but I never did apprentice myself. It was easy to get paying work when I decided to do it, but that was primarily due to experience in graphic design and my salesmanship. I learned more professionally about photography than I did as an artistic amateur. Because I had no apprenticeship I was not as skilled as I would have liked when I started getting high paying jobs. I was good at graphic photography but unsophisticated about people photography.

Amateur learning is far slower and far less deep than apprenticeship. A crucial standard is set much lower by amateurs: preoccupied with effects and gear, they rarely see their images from an impartial viewer's perspective. The impartial viewer's perspective is the professional perspective. For impartial perspectives there is potential in salons and print exchanges.

If I could have made one big change in my photo experience, I might have started getting serious earlier than 28 or so, and persisted when I started getting serious $$ work in phase two, early-mid thirties, rather than quitting because I disliked key clients and had become dependent upon them.
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Old 11-07-2005   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kmack
Nut'in, no regrets. I am one who can only learn by making mistakes. What I am and the kind of photography I do is the sum total of all of my F***ups.
Me to, and I have learned a lot!

Well, at least by getting out and trying things. Some were mistakes and some not.

The first "serious" camera I bought was an SLR, which I didn't use much for two or three years. When I really got serious about photography I lusted for all those long telephoto lenses I saw in the magazines. Wow, the shots I knew I could get if only I had some of those. Saw a kit in the PX one day that had a 28mm and a 135mm lens sold together. I bought it.

Turned out to be a good purchase even thought the lenses weren't that good. At least I learned what moderate wide angle and telephoto would do for me. It also helped teach me that I like wide angle a little more that telephoto. I still think those are the first two extra lenses anyone should start out with. At least they sure worked for me. Later I purchased much better replacements for those two focal lengths. I still think more people use wider than longer more often.

So, my advice, along with the really good advice already posted here. One camera, three lenses; 28mm, 50mm, 135mm. Later, if you find you like longer or wider, you can acquire those. If you want more/different camera bodies, again, you have a starting point with lots of experience. You might even decide to branch out into SLR or digitals (quickly ducks behind steel barrier).

Other than that, just take lots of photos and try to learn from each. Don't be afraid to experiment, and try to find what type of photos and style you like best. Above all, enjoy!
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Old 11-07-2005   #21
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...even considering digital technology, I'd also suggest avoiding small cameras and photolabs, working as much as possible with sheet film, tripods, lights, one's own scanner and printer etc.
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Old 11-07-2005   #22
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About the only thing I would do differently is I wouldn't have sold my original rangefinder about 30 years ago!
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Old 11-07-2005   #23
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If I could start over, I wouldn't have handed my Rollei 35T to my wife and not know that the camera dropped out of the car at some point.

I would have bought that Leica M4 + three lenses for $400 back in 1982, and I would have bought that Rolleiflex 2.8F for $300 (1983).

And when I was stationed in Germany, I would have bought some old Zeiss Ikons instead of lusting after the Japanese cameras. And I probably would have bought the Rolleiflex SLX that they had at the base exchange.

As far as skills, I'm pretty happy with how things turned out. I might have skipped going to J school (journalism school) and instead gone to the art institute for photography. Of course, that would have really altered my life's path, which has for the most part been pretty darn good. So no complaints overall.
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Old 11-07-2005   #24
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Nothing to do with cameras but I had a friend who always said if he could start life over again, or be reincarnated, he would rather be a bull in Montana. The older I get the more that idea appeals to me
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Old 11-07-2005   #25
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The only thing I wish I had done that I didn't, was to take pictures of my all my girlfriends over the years, so that later when I am old, I could remember them better.
Well, Frank, this is one thing I did do! I have plenty of slides, B&Ws and colour prints of all of them, including nudies---boxes and boxes full. However, I wished I would have taken more.
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Old 11-07-2005   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eIII
...in this wonderful world of photography what would you do different?
I would put the camera down, and take a lot of art classes. I would do some of the disciplines like painting, drawing, learn theory, learn compositional elements. Cause photography is just an extension of that. Look at HCB's work. Very very nice in terms of composition, use of negative space, use of tension. That's really good. I know someone who does a lot of street shooting. Knew him for over 15 years now. PIctures are okay, but no background in any kind of art. His composition is terrible but he insists "that's how I feel when I took the photo". But really, when you look at at photo, there has to be something for your eye to look at or else its just all dissonance.
HTH!
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Old 11-07-2005   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank Granovski
Well, Frank, this is one thing I did do! I have plenty of slides, B&Ws and colour prints of all of them, including nudies---boxes and boxes full. However, I wished I would have taken more.
Uh, LOL, and then make a slideshow like Jack Nicholson (or was it Art Garfunkel, can't remember for sure) made?
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Old 11-07-2005   #28
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Once in a while, like every 2 years, I have a look at some of my old slides and pics. The one thing that I always realize is that I had damn good taste when I was young. Nowadays---pushing 52---I'm not fussy at all. I look at everything female and dream on.
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Old 11-07-2005   #29
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If I could start all over?

Start with BW instead of color. Roll, process and print my own stuff. I spent thousands on color film/processing trying to figure out what I was doing wrong.

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Old 11-07-2005   #30
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If I could start over I would stick to one camera with one lens (a TLR), a handheld meter, a tripod, and then spend the rest of the money on film instead of all the gear I have which rarely gets used. No other combination of gear I own has taught me as much about exposure, composition, and the value of getting it right in the camera as that silly Seagull. I'd also have started using black and white film a lot earlier and learned how to develop and print it myself.
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Old 11-07-2005   #31
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I would not have sold some of the cameras I have owned over the years, AND I really would not have sold my enlarger
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Old 11-07-2005   #32
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I'd be driving the 1970 GTO Judge convertible I passed on for $1500, living in Winnipeg Manitoba, be a mechanic, and I'd still have my Exakta VXIIa, the drawer full of "cheap imitation Contax" I passed on from an antiques dealer plus HUUUGE hordes of Pentax instead of lots of everything. Way too much of everything.
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Old 11-07-2005   #33
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Buy a cheap (relatively) RF like a Canonet Q17 etc or a Yashica Electro GSN. Maybe buy a second if you have some change. These cameras should be accessible for < 75$ . Buy good film BW or colour and start shooting. Read a couple of library books on cameras and then practice what you have learned.

One year later you can lust after some of the equipment bandied about here. Check Todd Hanz or 'DMR436' galleries to see potential for these types of cameras; a lot of this work is attributable to affordable cameras like a GSN or a Canonet 17.
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Old 11-07-2005   #34
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Depends on when I get to go back to... If I could I'd buy a Super Speed Graphic and a hella lot of Grafmatics with several lenses brand new while they were still being made. Of course I was about 9 or 10 at the time...

More seriously, I would get my Speed Graphic sooner and would go with Canon LTM RF's as my miniture cameras sooner.

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Old 11-07-2005   #35
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To start over is an idea I had for many times.
But now, I´m 52, and things I´ve done can´t be undone. So what remains is experience, nothing else.
First of all, I´ll kept the RF I had (my dad´s one, a Voigtländer Vitomatic IIb) for a longer time after moving to an SLR (after the first one, came many others and I still have all of them). Once I got used to squeeze the maximum of the Vitomatic, then I should made the shift to an M3 or M4 and some lenses, a 28, a 35, a 90 and a 135, instead of buying an SLR plus many lenses, of which I still have all of them sleeping in the drawer most of the time.
Together with the Leica Mx, I should be buying a simple SLR plus some lenses (maybe a Zenit with the Fotosniper (a Tair 300/4.5, a 2x, and a macro bellows)). It is: one RF camera with a few lenses, and one SLR with a macro bellows and a tele. This way the extra money I´ve spent in stuff would be employed in film, thus making me (through practice) a better photograpgher.

Other thing I regret is selling the Yashica 635...

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Old 11-07-2005   #36
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Djon -- very interesting stuff about the apprenticing. To what type of photographers do you recommend apprenticing, and how do you find them? I have thought about it a bit, but most of the photography I seem to be interested in is travel and documentary photography, and most of that seems more geared towards the lone wolf photog, though I could be wrong. I would not mind trying it for a portrait photographer if i could find a good one. I would love to do it for David Oliver, but he is in Australia....

As for my regrets -- I wish i had gotten more serious earlier. I took one darkroom class in high school, which was fun, but the camera I used was a point and shoot, so it did not really get that interesting. I think if someone had put a mechanical SLR in my hands then, I would have started ten years earlier than I did. As it was, I only got interested as I started graduate school, using my dad's Canon FD setup. A year later, my first Leica, two years after that, done with grad school and desperately trying to figure out how to make photography a part of my working life. Work as a photographer? Write about it? Try to get a good job in the industry? Start a gallery/high end boutique somewhere? All have their appeal to me, but I don't have any background in any of them. That may be my biggest regret. I am overeducated -- double major in history and russian minor in chemistry, masters in history, competency in Japanese etc. But I did not take a single photo class in college, nor anything beyond basic art history. I am not a rube when it comes to art, but all i know comes from casual reading, conversation with people who do know, and frequent visits to museums and galleries. I wish that I had minored in art or art history instead of chemistry. I am sure my lab partner would have been better looking as well!

In terms of equipment...I regret buying the 80-200 f/4L zoom, not because it is bad, but because it was a zoom. And I wish I had not bought the Fuji G690...it a lemon from ebay, but beyond that, it is just too big, bulky and meterless. A view camera does a better job and if you are going to carry that much you might as well just go all the way to a monorail camera...
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Old 11-07-2005   #37
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dmr436
Uh, LOL, and then make a slideshow like Jack Nicholson (or was it Art Garfunkel, can't remember for sure) made?
that would be Jack's slide show which included Art's wife
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Old 11-07-2005   #38
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For me (as for most of us, I'm sure) photography is an ongoing learning process. I have owned, used and sold many cameras - each helping further define my shooting style and ideal equipment. I began with Pentax MG and ME Supers then "upgrading" to more mechanical and automated cameras (EOS 1-N, 3, 10D). I reached a point where I felt somewhat detached from the photographic experience (even though I almost always shot in manual mode). I then bought a Nikon F3 and shot for 6 months with only a 50mm - it helped refine my seeing and composing of pictures and brought back the joy of photography I experienced when I developed b+w film in my Dad's darkroom for the first time.

I am now shooting with an M4-P - it suits me well (although I do have my eyes on an M6 when I see one I can afford). I do a lot of backpacking so the large SLR gear clearly wasn't ideal (though I'm hanging on to my Nikon F3 and EOS 10D for other situations). Traveling light I use my M4-P almost exclusively.

I do not regret any of my camera purchases. My only regret would be selling my G1 with 28mm, 45mm and 90mm lenses. I didn't like the camera much - beautiful, but not a fan of the autofocus - however, the lenses are unsurpassed. I have just acquired a CZ 50mm Planar though so I might be about to forgive myself for letting go of the Contax G system!

Sorry for the long post - it feels like therapy - plus it keeps me away from the auction site
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Old 11-07-2005   #39
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eric's comments are very similar to what I was thinking as I read through this..

there's no substitute for shooting a lot of film, but that helps more in the technical matter.. studying art and composition will help you 'see' things in a more pleasing manner.. learning compositional rules like the Thirds Rule.. also looking at things from a new perspective.. considering all angles.. front, back, sides, etc.. instead of just walking up and taking the standard head-on angle.. many people have a natural sense of this.. but everyone can learn a little more

so, if I could go back (which would be to my college days).. I'd study art.. there's a bit of irony to this.. when I was in college, my girlfriend was an art student who really had no interest in even being in college.. she was there merely to please her parents.. I was a struggling business major.. because she had little interest in completing her assignments, I started doing them as a favor to her.. I've always had a talent in art, and she consistently got A's in her classes while I struggled to maintain B's in classes I hated.. but I figured a business degree was more valuable after graduation

to make a long story not so long, I'm now a graphic artist and really wish I had the formal training that I never received when I had the chance.. I'm at the verge of quitting my job and going back to school full-time while living like a poor college student again just so I can do what I should have done over 10 years ago

the lesson here applies not only to photography, but to life itself.. figure out what you enjoy.. then figure out what you're good at.. if it happens to be the same thing, you're very lucky.. go after it no matter what anybody else tells you.. it might not make you rich, but it'll make you happy.. and it's pretty hard to tell a happy person that his life has been a waste of time


Quote:
Originally Posted by eric
I would put the camera down, and take a lot of art classes. I would do some of the disciplines like painting, drawing, learn theory, learn compositional elements. Cause photography is just an extension of that. Look at HCB's work. Very very nice in terms of composition, use of negative space, use of tension. That's really good. I know someone who does a lot of street shooting. Knew him for over 15 years now. PIctures are okay, but no background in any kind of art. His composition is terrible but he insists "that's how I feel when I took the photo". But really, when you look at at photo, there has to be something for your eye to look at or else its just all dissonance.
HTH!
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Old 11-07-2005   #40
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i'd have studied more and shot more without the several year lapse...i would have bought a Leica instead of my sexy slr, and i wouldn't have dropped out of art history in first year.
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