The photographer as a kind of musician

It doesn’t matter how good your instrument is if you don’t know how to play it.

It doesn’t matter how good your camera is if you don’t know how to use it.

High-priced, complex equipment with lots of ‘features’ will not overcome a lack of photographic knowledge just the same as a tin-eared rock star wannabe can’t get a song out of a Gibson Les Paul. If the player has the talent though, a Silvertone will sing for him.

Here’s me playing my ol’ Sears Silvertone, as it were. I make no apologies about the boast.

Eyes in the dark.




Black-capped chickadee-dee-dee.


Last drops.


Another galaxy.


The reason I love this camera.

Pictures taken with the Nikon P610; the camera I keep coming back to despite its ailments. I think manufacturers should be really embarrassed that their much-more-expensive ‘professional’ DSLRs can’t do any better than this low-dollar, ten-year-old ‘bridge’ camera.

Random monochrome

Well I’m back at work on the cabin. So far the progress of one day has been a list of things I need to get. That’s how it goes.

And now, for no particular reason whatsoever, some photos of various things.

A “set up” shot I did to explain to someone else a few points about taking pictures of this kind.
Spider sticks.
“Swirled galaxy”. You wouldn’t believe what this really is. It’s all about controlling the light, people.
Not quite monochrome. This shows the damage to my utility trailer’s suspension. One big repair bill.

And now … back to work. Hardly something different.


Some shots from the Panasonic Lumix ZS60.

Dime Moon
From Under Snow
Snow’s off the high ground
Random Patterns

That last one is, I think, one of the best photos I’ve taken in a long time. It may be hard for some people to make out, as it is quite complex, but that’s actually light coming through a cylinder of ice (icicle segment). This despite the fact the Lumix has the worst lens of any of my cameras. This is the best image I’ve ever taken with it.


It’s trite, I know

I had been thinking about doing this post to the point where I’d selected almost all the photos for it. There was some hesitancy because it’s such a “year end” thing to do and I find those rather annoying for the most part. Further to that I started seeing other people doing the same thing. Oh boy, it’s the legendary “Obligatory Marble Shot” situation all over again. Nevertheless and despite my own reservations I went ahead and constructed the post on December 17. Will it get published? Only time will tell. (If you’re reading this either it did or you have magical powers.)

Selections were made on three criteria; the technical quality, the artistic value, and the wholly subjective “because I like it” factor.

First up, two from the Kodak V1003, the cheapest camera in my arsenal:


“Yellow” and “Vice” show how artistic you can be with a very simple camera. Something I like to demonstrate for the benefit of new photographers or those just looking to find their way.

Now two from the Kodak P850, as we move up in camera value:

Candlestick Colour
Walkin’ Blues

Here we have the original colour version of the candlestick photo series and the P850’s rendition from the “Walkin’ Blues” series. The richness of this camera’s captures with its CCD sensor never ceases to amaze me.

Shifting up in price again to the Nikon P610. Oddly enough even though this is still my “main” camera I had a hard time choosing from its photos, because a lot of what I take with it is not done for artistic reasons.

Lonely Stranger

These two show the P610 at its artistic best, I think. “Hannibal” radiates warmth and fuzziness, just like the actual cat. “Lonely Stranger” is not only poignant but also personal, as it is a self-portrait. Usually the Nikon is shooting pictures of the moon or wildlife, because one of its main attributes is the fantastic zoom lens. I just didn’t think those pictures were top-of-the-class for technical or artistic merit.

Now for the most expensive camera, the Canon T100, we have a couple of shots that show for a camera that spends most of its time doing weird photographic experiments it can do some great art if given a chance.


“Broken” is pure art gallery level snobbery, whereas the “Chimney” is serendipitous colour and form. Besides these I found quite a few taken with the T100 which were suitable, and narrowing it down was difficult. I had to somewhat suppress the “third criterion” to make the choices.

And while we’re on about the Canon’s experimental usage and my “because I like it” qualification, here’s two from the unlikely yet strangely successful Canon + Brownie experiment:


This is actually a bad picture, speaking technically. Most of it is out of focus and where it is focused it isn’t sharp. The composition is random and purposeless. Yet I like it. Not just for the odd method used to make it, but because the whole is greater than the parts and it becomes an abstract of slightly blurred shape and colour which could probably hang in MOMA and sell for a million dollars in print form.


From the same experiment series, the Isetta image fails on technical merit and arguably is about as artistic as a mistaken shutter trip. Yet again, I like it. My whimsical nature gave it composition that would ordinarily be found only in a Madison Avenue advertising campaign, although I doubt they’d be accepting of the quality otherwise.

The main reason for all of these pictures remains the same: I’m having fun with my cameras. You should too.


Camera chatter

Lately the weather has been bad, which keeps me inside. That makes me anxious about doing things as I’m a “doing things” kind of person. If only because it distracts from the “feeling pain” kind of person I’ve become. Naturally I start poking around looking at camera equipment, mainly because the photography is something I find easy to do when I’m able to do it.

So I started looking for cameras that could be used at “waist level”, like old TLRs. The original impetus of this was a complaint from someone who feels very self-conscious when trying to shoot in urban areas because people “look at him funny”. Several of my young photo friends have reported similar feelings, and tales of harassment including from police. Hey world learn this: there is no privacy in a public place. If you can see it, you can shoot it. Anyway waste-level finders solve this because you haven’t got a box (camera) held up to your face and you’re just walking around slowly occasionally looking at the *cough* ground.

My Nikon P610, virtuoso machine that it is, can do this. Sort of. You can flip the screen out and around and look down on it. At which point the lack of light hitting the eyepiece sensor because it’s too near your body causes it to switch finders because it thinks you’re looking through the eye-level. Okay, what could do the job better? A camera with only an LCD screen; one that flips up. There are several quite good ones, all expensive by my standards. Really we are into mirrorless interchangeable lens models here, with $400+ price tags. Would I spend that much to do this one thing? No, would you?

Now here’s where it gets funny. I was just reading another blog where the fellow is looking for a new camera because his Canon 6D is “too heavy” and he gets tired “lugging it around”. I had to look it up: weighs a couple of pounds at worst with a lens. Hey buddy, you should try hauling a Graflex around all day. Or even a Speed Graphic. Build up some photo muscles, ya wimp! Reading further it sounded like he wants a mirrorless camera and is desperately looking for a way to justify it. Let’s see, one of his prospective replacements is a Sony Alpha 7 RIII. Oh yeah I guess you’d need a helluva justification for spending that much money! It’s ten times the price of what I was balking at! Good luck to him, and I hope he’s not married.

Anyway I’ve got more experiments in mind and the forecast says it’s going to be sunny but cold for the next week so it looks like I’ll be able to put my three cheap, junky cameras to use again and have some more fun. Here’s an artsy documentation shot of the work I did yesterday. Don’t try to figure it out; it’s a real-life abstract.


And an old Michigan crane truck I’ve been passing by for years without having enough time available to stop and shoot.


Both of these taken with the Kodak V1003 which is what I had in my pocket at the time.