From Gear to Images

There is something special about looking through a viewfinder, framing a scene, pausing to be sure all is as desired, then slowly pressing the shutter button. Anticipation–that itch to see the scene on a negative–starts right then. The unknowns account for some of the allure of using film—failure is always possible, so success is sweeter still. I’ve spent two years chasing gear, and the thrill of the chase, inherent in collecting vintage camera gear, has its allure as well. There are no more lenses on my shopping list, and I have tested the final cameras needed for the VMLP. Having experienced and thoroughly enjoyed the chase, I’m yearning to make images.  

Increasingly, I find myself daydreaming about lighting, themes, and composition—my aspirations lie in mastering photography and images much more so than in collecting gear. One advantage of buying and using so many cameras and lenses is learning what fits my workflow and what doesn’t. For example, spot and incident metering are essential for many images I want to make, and spot metering in my Maxxums is very accurate. Experimenting with low-key black and white shots has forced a greater appreciation for the nuances of lighting and incident metering. Creating “simple” images is proving to be more challenging than I expected—and that is a wonderful thing!  

 I’m returning to my original path. My photography journey began as a desire for better images of my flowers and morphed from there to making more acute observations of the world around me. Having had my fill of testing gear, I now spend much more time reading about photography techniques and practices. In fact, I’ve noticed I skip gear reviews these days. Meanwhile, my collection of wooden panels destined to be backgrounds is growing. Likewise, studying gradations of light/shadows in low-key images has been helpful in understanding shading patterns while drawing. The interplay between photography and drawing is becoming more intimate and more instructive. Sweet!

As part of the switch to a focus on images, I have been mapping out the view field for various lenses to create a reference list of the background areas required for my favorite lenses. Experience indicates the lenses I will be using most are: AF (28-105mm, 70-210mm, and 50mm and 100mm macros) and manual (Tele-Rokkor 135mm 2.8, MD Zoom 28-85mm, and MD Zoom 75-150mm). Added to these are the Pentax 645 with 120mm f4 Macro and Yashica Mat 124 with close-up filters. With all of these, I have enough potential lighting and composition experiments to last years. Also, I was fortunate to snag a few top-level Maxxum flashes that support off-camera activation, so flash shots are also on my experimenting to-do list.  

Tripods add another new dimension to my workflow. My first tripods came with cameras, and none were very good, so nearly 100 percent of my shots were handheld. Shooting 100 ISO film handheld outside late in the afternoon is not conducive to sharp images, so I bought two tripods. The first is a consumer-level one from Goodwill that works for most shots. However, the Pentax 645 with macro lens and batteries requires a sturdier setup, so I bought a second, more professional tripod. It has features that, two years ago, seemed unnecessary; now, they are minimum requirements. Funny how experience changes one’s perception.  

Studio-wise, I have a basic setup with a softbox, two additional inexpensive light sets, and various homemade snoots and other gadgets. Together, they are a good match for my current imaginings and skill level. Playing with snoots and gobos is proving to be as much fun as using different cameras (maybe more).  

Two years ago, I started keeping a list of potential shots. Those early entries were mostly garden shots and tests for gear. Today, the list is more detailed, with far more entries. There are now subgroups of composition types (food, low-key, blog shots, travel, landscapes), and many have notes stating what I want the image to convey, background requirements, colors, and other properties. North Georgia has striking natural beauty and plenty of waterfalls—in particular, I want to capture Amicalola Falls in the early evening. There are bird sanctuaries to the south of Atlanta and on the coast, Savannah and beaches—all waiting for me to see them anew through my viewfinder. 

The shock of Minolta’s demise gave rise to the VMLP, and by writing gear reports, I’m working through that disquiet. Why I care so much about Minolta is not something I can fully articulate. But, so be it. Searching out cameras and lenses has been rewarding and a perfect antidote to everyday doldrums and a pandemic. But, it is time to focus on why I bought the Maxxum 7000i. In moving from collecting to creating images, I am not torn to the degree Hamlet was, but for me, the image’s the thing!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *