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Business / Philosophy of Photography Taking pics is one thing, but understanding why we take them, what they mean, what they are best used for, how they effect our reality -- all of these and more are important issues of the Philosophy of Photography. One of the best authors on the subject is Susan Sontag in her book "On Photography."

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photography's main pitfall
Old 11-28-2013   #1
Margu
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photography's main pitfall

once photography becomes like second nature after a lot of practice and photos, the world becomes only interesting if its visually interesting, otherwise if there are no photos to be taken there is no interest.

in my case even if i'm in a really beautiful natural location, i only think about photos and don't really get to enjoy the location. this is slowly bothering me because now i won't just go to simply enjoy nature, if i go anywhere its to take photos.

this is almost close to one might call greed.
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Old 11-28-2013   #2
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that sounds like an addiction. as if you were not able any more to perceive the world without the filter of photography. i´m glad i´ve never reached that grade of obsession, always could see life apart of the images of life.
how about leaving the camera at home deliberately from time to time, switching from photo mode to live mode?
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Old 11-28-2013   #3
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I'm halfway there myself, if I'm traveling with friends almost anywhere is fine when I have company, sometimes I like to travel alone and there I only choose visually stimulating places. I kind of like my obsession though, I'm aware of it and it doesn't get in the way of other things.
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Old 11-28-2013   #4
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You can take interesting photos of your own shoes, if you want. A nice location is always a nice location, even if you do not take landscape photographs. Widen the scope of your photography.


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Old 11-28-2013   #5
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To me Photography is a means of communication. I don`t go after "good photos". I like to see things and events, and like to see how they turn up in photographs. To me the "best photos" are for example musicans on stage, with all light, motion exitement etc and then see how I could capture it, transfer it to a two dimensional image on a paper...
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Old 11-28-2013   #6
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Too many photographers are looking at the thing in front of them, seeing the world superficially in terms of shape, colour and line, as surface juxtapositions. Instead, engage with life – interact with the world! Think about what you are seeing means to you or how you feel about it - then, picturing that, photograph these thoughts!

Photographers shouldn’t be aloof from their surroundings but intimately bound up with them...
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Old 11-28-2013   #7
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I just caught the tale end of Stephen Shore being interviewed on BBC radio four, asked if he always sees photographs when out and about, he replied no, and he'll often avoid taking a camera so as not to detract from the experience of what he's visiting.

I liked that.
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Old 11-28-2013   #8
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My method is I separate my life from my photography, sure sometimes I take a camera for some snaps of the kids etc.
When i 'do' photography its often prepared, something I've seen noted and go back to take later. It can lack spontaneity, I have the odd snaps with 35mm for those.

Often I just don't take a camera at all.
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Old 11-28-2013   #9
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I have on occasion had tremendous anxiety about traveling. Back in years, I hoped that I would get put on the 'no fly' list so that I would have an excuse not to go anywhere.

Now if I do have to travel I concentrate on photography. If I have something to focus on I am not so nervous.

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Old 11-28-2013   #10
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Feel fortunate you are always looking and curious. Many people spend their lives looking at their feet! (or worse their smartphone)

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Old 11-28-2013   #11
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I mostly am absorbed by photographing things near home or work. I do like going you without a camera and should do it more.
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Old 11-28-2013   #12
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I take my camera a lot of places. As much as I enjoy working with my Leicas, I don't obsess about it on the street. I try to live the moment. I take snaps of places and people to remember the unique experience, instead of writing in a journal.

I don't take other gadgets. When I'm talking with someone I prefer to look at them in the eye, not looking down at my latest electronic wizardry. Life is too short. The human experience is what matters most to me.

I'm on my way to the rainforest in a few days. I'll take a few snaps here and there; however I won't live out of the camera.
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Old 11-28-2013   #13
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Interesting point of view, for me, it's very far from the case though.

I was out a couple of nights ago near my house, and it so happened there was a beautiful sunset out over Port Philip Bay. I didn't have my camera with me, but no big deal, I'm sure there will be more beautiful sunsets.

Another point is that the world can be interesting without visuals at all, sound (or lack of), smell, taste, feeling etc. Photography, for all it's strengths, I don't think can at all adequately represent all those other senses. Even visually, does not matter how good a photo you take of a beautiful location, does not beat actually being there.

Easy fix is to simply go somewhere you love without a camera, or at least bring a camera which will not impede you (i.e. something small).
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Old 11-28-2013   #14
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back when i was still shooting dslr and specifically digital, i felt like the need of shooting continously. i was basically travelling to take pictures.

ever since i moved to RF and film, I believe that I travel more to learn, discover and be with the wife than taking pictures.
being able to take pictures is just a bonus.
but of course there are some exceptions where I will still wake up very early to catch the sunrise and take some landscape pictures
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Old 11-28-2013   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Margu View Post
once photography becomes like second nature after a lot of practice and photos, the world becomes only interesting if its visually interesting, otherwise if there are no photos to be taken there is no interest.

in my case even if i'm in a really beautiful natural location, i only think about photos and don't really get to enjoy the location. this is slowly bothering me because now i won't just go to simply enjoy nature, if i go anywhere its to take photos.

this is almost close to one might call greed.
Lucky me , I'm not a nature landscape photographer lol , but still my girlfriend complaints about me not listening to what she is saying because I'm focused more on the scene and framing the picture is too often priority.
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Old 11-28-2013   #16
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I have always found that the craft of photography has taken me deeper in environments i would normally be prone to pass over, unconnected. The camera provokes me to look deeper, to connect with the people and place i am in. Perhaps this is because of the overload of imagery we are now faced with motivating me to find new ways of using a camera? new ways of seeing things?

Without a camera I travel straight lines. To and from. With the camera? Don't wait up.
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Old 11-28-2013   #17
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I was kid, yeas before I get into photography. We were waiting for train to get us back to home up north from vacation at the Black Sea.
We were long waiting at the station platform and my cousin after looking at me for sometime told me - you look around like you are taking pictures.
Now, decades later, I'm who I'm, I take camera with me every time I leave the house. And I'm using it to help my eyes to look around better.
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Old 11-28-2013   #18
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I love taking photographs of landscapes through which I'm walking (backpacking). The camera is just an excuse to slow down and take in more in certain spot.
When it comes to people, I refuse to take a lot of photographs simply because my emphasis is on the relation, not the photograph. My best photos of people are always about a relation. Maybe what some people are calling communication.
For that reason, there are a lot of "street" images that I don't appreciate. Sometimes they look like the photographer was riding a train through the street, sometimes they look the photographer was capturing somebody else's personal moment. Really good street photographers are able to bring out that part of the public space in which we are all related. In fact, that is originally the definition of "civil society" in the modern era. Unlike in an agrarian society, I have relations with all kinds of people I don't really know. Just turning on the light switch brings me into relation with a whole slew of people I don't know, from the places where the energy is first produced to the place where it is transported and consumed. Unfortunately I don't know how to capture this in my photographs, and i think only a few gifted people can achieve that.
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Old 11-28-2013   #19
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Old 11-28-2013   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Margu View Post
once photography becomes like second nature after a lot of practice and photos, the world becomes only interesting if its visually interesting, otherwise if there are no photos to be taken there is no interest.

in my case even if i'm in a really beautiful natural location, i only think about photos and don't really get to enjoy the location. this is slowly bothering me because now i won't just go to simply enjoy nature, if i go anywhere its to take photos.

this is almost close to one might call greed.
I rarely carry more than a pocket or very simple camera on vacation for this exact reason.
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Old 11-28-2013   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by taemo View Post
back when i was still shooting dslr and specifically digital, i felt like the need of shooting continously. i was basically travelling to take pictures.

ever since i moved to RF and film, I believe that I travel more to learn, discover and be with the wife than taking pictures.
being able to take pictures is just a bonus.
but of course there are some exceptions where I will still wake up very early to catch the sunrise and take some landscape pictures
This echos my path, but I often wonder which came first?

In my case, I had a definite shift in attitude, and as a result of that, my DSLR got replaced by an M6. It just "fits" better.

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Old 11-28-2013   #22
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During my "Professional days" as a commercial advertising Photographer, I was traveling to places where people loved to go...(Ibiza, Paris, Florida, whatever...) During the day, with assistant, editor, stylist, models, people hired to be in a picture just in a specific way, it was A RELIEF, after all that planning and shooting to pack the big cameras, strobes, reflectors etc... etc.. and grab the LEICA, slip a couple rolls TRI-X in pocket and just go on the street, enjoy the diminishing light, just FEEL how the Tri-X WOULD LIKE TO BE EXPOSED... This is and was always the best part of photography, no money from those B&W 35mm images, but those were the ones I cherished, saved, when all those slick commercial images were dumped almost right away when the invoice was paid... www.jukkavatanen.fi
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Old 11-28-2013   #23
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I think this quote is appropriate:

"The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera."
-- Dorothea Lange

Can't say that I know what she really mean, but to me, photography opened my eyes to see the beauty in the world around me. Sometimes, having a camera with me is just bonus.
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Old 11-28-2013   #24
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I was so invested in underwater photography that I just dove for pictures. I didn't m

Quote:
Originally Posted by Margu View Post
once photography becomes like second nature after a lot of practice and photos, the world becomes only interesting if its visually interesting, otherwise if there are no photos to be taken there is no interest. in my case even if i'm in a really beautiful natural location, i only think about photos and don't really nget to enjoy the location. this is slowly bothering me because now i won't just go to simply enjoy nature, if i go anywhere its to take photos. this is almost close to one might call greed.
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Old 11-29-2013   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RichC View Post
Too many photographers are looking at the thing in front of them, seeing the world superficially in terms of shape, colour and line, as surface juxtapositions. Instead, engage with life – interact with the world! Think about what you are seeing means to you or how you feel about it - then, picturing that, photograph these thoughts!

Photographers shouldn’t be aloof from their surroundings but intimately bound up with them...
I feel that by actually seeing through photography we notice what others do not. I'm not sure why being aware of your surroundings and enjoying what is around you is somehow not enjoying life.
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Old 11-29-2013   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Margu View Post
once photography becomes like second nature after a lot of practice and photos, the world becomes only interesting if its visually interesting, otherwise if there are no photos to be taken there is no interest.

in my case even if i'm in a really beautiful natural location, i only think about photos and don't really get to enjoy the location. this is slowly bothering me because now i won't just go to simply enjoy nature, if i go anywhere its to take photos.

this is almost close to one might call greed.

I went through that phase for a while.
It will pass, your spirit about it will change.
Don't worry too too much.
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Old 11-29-2013   #27
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if it wasn't for photography i wouldn't be searching for beauty in the nature and actively looking for visually pleasing situations so in one respect photography has made me appreciate the world even more.

i guess its not really a pitfall after all, but at the same time i'm aware that without a camera i won't just go for walk in the nature or on the city streets, i could if i have to but it won't be as much fun as it is when photographing.
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Old 11-29-2013   #28
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i guess its not really a pitfall after all, but at the same time i'm aware that without a camera i won't just go for walk in the nature or on the city streets, i could if i have to but it won't be as much fun as it is when photographing.
And there is nothing wrong with not enjoying a walk without your camera as much as one with. You are into photography... it makes sense to bring your camera. Stop feeling guilty.
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Old 11-29-2013   #29
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Quote:
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And there is nothing wrong with not enjoying a walk without your camera as much as one with. You are into photography... it makes sense to bring your camera. Stop feeling guilty.
thanks to this thread my thoughts are cleared up. there is no reason to feel guilty if one is enjoying the nature/life with the act of photographing.
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Old 11-29-2013   #30
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Yeah use your feet as a leading line to the subject....

Quote:
Originally Posted by mfogiel View Post
You can take interesting photos of your own shoes, if you want. A nice location is always a nice location, even if you do not take landscape photographs. Widen the scope of your photography.


20113110 by mfogiel, on Flickr
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Old 11-29-2013   #31
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Thus spake Pythagoras -
Quote:
Learn to be silent. Let your quiet mind listen and absorb.
I think that sentiment could also apply to photography.

"Learn to see. Let your quiet mind observe and absorb," perhaps?

See before you photograph - don't just look. there is a difference.
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Old 11-30-2013   #32
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Margu View Post
once photography becomes like second nature after a lot of practice and photos, the world becomes only interesting if its visually interesting, otherwise if there are no photos to be taken there is no interest.

in my case even if i'm in a really beautiful natural location, i only think about photos and don't really get to enjoy the location. this is slowly bothering me because now i won't just go to simply enjoy nature, if i go anywhere its to take photos.

this is almost close to one might call greed.
Most people who are serious about photography must surely have experienced something similar at some point. In fact, it's almost a definition of being serious about photography.

BUT... For me, release from this syndrome came with the simple realization that I can't photograph everything. Now, I find it perfectly easy to say, "Beautiful to look at. lovely to be here, but there's no photograph in it" (or at least, not one I can take). I've just come back from Spain with a loaner M Typ 240. I got some nice pictures. I got some failures. And there were quite a lot of things I didn't photograph, but just enjoyed.

Remember, too, the famous George Bernard Shaw quote, “A photographer is like a cod, which produces a million eggs in order that one may reach maturity.”

Cheers,

R.
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Old 11-30-2013   #33
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A lot of insightful posts which is great to read, especially personal examples.

someone said earlier that this could be addiction, i have to disagree with that. addiction is irrational dependence to something for pleasure at all costs. photography is not really a pleasure (for me), its more like work, even when its not for work. the physical effort itself is no pleasure at all, let alone the editing and processing. perhaps the only pleasure is getting that one shot that makes one feel that all the effort was worth it and since those shots are so rare, one simply has to shoot and shoot.
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Old 11-30-2013   #34
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Margu View Post
A lot of insightful posts which is great to read, especially personal examples.

someone said earlier that this could be addiction, i have to disagree with that. addiction is irrational dependence to something for pleasure at all costs. photography is not really a pleasure (for me), its more like work, even when its not for work. the physical effort itself is no pleasure at all, let alone the editing and processing. perhaps the only pleasure is getting that one shot that makes one feel that all the effort was worth it and since those shots are so rare, one simply has to shoot and shoot.
Cod!

Cheers,

R.
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Old 11-30-2013   #35
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ko.Fe. View Post
I was kid, yeas before I get into photography. We were waiting for train to get us back to home up north from vacation at the Black Sea.
We were long waiting at the station platform and my cousin after looking at me for sometime told me - you look around like you are taking pictures.
Now, decades later, I'm who I'm, I take camera with me every time I leave the house. And I'm using it to help my eyes to look around better.
Very well stated Ko.Fe. Before photography I missed a lot, but now I see the fine details of life around me. I see with more intensity, I listen more closely to what people are saying, I've come to better understand the rest of the world (even if it's just a little bit) through others photos. I carry a camera with me always and I don't see it as an addiction. It's more of an improvement of who I'm supposed to be.
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Old 11-30-2013   #36
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that's what i call an excessive work ethic.
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Old 12-01-2013   #37
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Margu View Post
A lot of insightful posts which is great to read, especially personal examples.

someone said earlier that this could be addiction, i have to disagree with that. addiction is irrational dependence to something for pleasure at all costs. photography is not really a pleasure (for me), its more like work, even when its not for work. the physical effort itself is no pleasure at all, let alone the editing and processing. perhaps the only pleasure is getting that one shot that makes one feel that all the effort was worth it and since those shots are so rare, one simply has to shoot and shoot.
As long as you are experiencing the world through your camera that experience is mediated. You must 'step out' a bit and look back in via the camera. You should go out without the camera and look without it. The images you see will be seen by you alone and not also by others via a photograph. This is not greed. At best it might be selfish, but it is much better to see selfishly than not to see at all, like the majority of people as they wander through their world.* At other times bring your camera so that others might see what you saw and enjoy it in the future. You will then be one of them only luckier, because you also saw it in the now, even though it was mediated by the camera.

Everybody gets their own world; never apologize for wanting as much of yours as Life allows. (While addiction is wanting a great deal of a small part to the exclusion of everything else, wanting to experience it all in balance is a life well lived.)

*I believe the philosopher Spinoza has something to say about "the sleepwalkers". But it might be another whose name escapes me now.
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Old 12-02-2013   #38
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To the OP: That happened to me for awhile. It was right around the time I decided I was going to stop being an amateur and go back to school to learn to shoot digital and do photography full-time (Digital was just evolving and I knew it was going to change things. We still shot mostly film and processed wet in the dark, but they were teaching Photoshop and scanning as well).

Anyway, I got kind of obsessed for awhile. Everything I looked at I would take it apart and analyze the color and form, think about what aperture I'd like to use, composition techniques. I was a mad man. I had to have a camera with me, I had to have all focal lengths covered. If I didn't I'd find something I couldn't shoot and I'd dwell upon it for days.

At some point I realized I wasn't even seeing what was in front of me. I couldn't see the forest for the trees. Everything was shutter speed/aperture/line/form/texture... I'd get back to the hotel or home and realize that I capture these terrific images, but I couldn't remember actually SEEING the world. I was only seeing parts of it. I started leaving my DSLR at home. I'd get a little nervous about missing shots, but I also stopped to look more, to breathe in and smell (well not all the time), to remember the way the breeze felt, all of those things that I missed out on by obsession.

Then the obsession was gone. I started carrying around a camera again, but usually a smaller DSLR with a small prime. Not my pro rig. I started snapping more instead of over-analyzing. Now when I'm out and about I generally bring a Leica and one lens. Sometimes a small DSLR like my D5300 and a small kit zoom. Hell, I leave it in P mode when I riding my motorcycle and snap off shots at stop lights. I don't even care about the settings.

I don't really know what made me change, but it happened. Sometimes you have to force yourself to see outside of the viewfinder and only then can you realize what you should be putting into the viewfinder.


That probably makes no damn sense, but that's my experience.
This is the difference between being absorbed by the process, and having mastered the tool(s) to make images. We all have to learn the tool(s,) be comfortable with them, make them work for us. That is a process in and of itself. At some point, though, you master the tool. Once you master the process and your chosen tools, it's then that there are other discoveries to make.

Then you have to decide if you are a photographer who learned the tool(s) to make images, or you're something else... perhaps a collector, a darkroom technician/photo retoucher, or what ever else it is you enjoy about the process.

One of the sad commentaries on the pace of digital equipment development is that some folks are so absorbed with the latest and greatest that they never master the process. And the latest and greatest equipment really has little to do with becoming a photographer.
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Old 12-03-2013   #39
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Originally Posted by rivercityrocker View Post
I find that most people that claim to "pro" photographers (at least in my particular field) don't bother to learn the process or master the tool. . . .
Not my experience, but hey, different places, different times...

Cheers,

R.
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Old 12-03-2013   #40
Bill Clark
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Location: Minnetonka, Minnesota
Age: 71
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Quote:
I find that most people that claim to "pro" photographers (at least in my particular field) don't bother to learn the process or master the tool.

I can't talk photography to about 90% of the photographers I find in the photo pit with me because they don't even learn the terminology. Someone tried to correct me the other day when I said to someone "you might want to try opening up and using a wider f/stop". She snickered at me and said, "I think you mean aperture".

There are a lot of cameras out there, but there aren't a lot of photographers. The number of button pushers is staggering.
I thought that when I set the camera to "P" that meant I'm now in professional mode!

Just kidding.

Do you think the digital cameras have allowed that to happen?

I still use my digital stuff in manual mode. Heavens to Betsy! How'd he do 'dat?
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