Digging into the thought process of a photographer

I bought the book “Magnum Contact Sheet” quite a while back but was not able to really to have time to sit down and read it through. Well, finally I did now. For those who enjoyed shooting streets or documentary style photography, this book can easily be the “bible” for one to own and keep. Of course there’re a lot more to offer in terms of content inside the book, which I believe is useful to all photographers out there.

The book shows contact sheets, which are series or sequence of photographs taken by the photographer for a particular event or moment. Looking through the contact sheets, you will be able to understand how the iconic pictures were made back then. The first thing that struck me was that there’s almost always more than one frame being captured in order to arrive at that one iconic shot. By looking through the contact sheets, you will get a sense of the photographers’ thought process in arriving at the final image.

Is it a decisive moment? Is it spray and pray? Is it staged? Is it cropped or post processed? I’ll leave it for you to explore and find out the answer on some of the iconic shots. You’ll be amazed. My key takeaway from this book is this: it doesn’t matter if you take multiple shots in order to get that one shot you want, it doesn’t really matter if you crop or post processed your picture, all that matter is the mind behind the camera. The thought process when moving from frame to frame, changing of composition, waiting for different subject, playing with the light and shadow… if there’s a thought being put in for each frame, you will eventually find the “one frame” that defines your thought.

This is indeed a good photography book for me to kickstart the year. Although there isn’t much plan for me on photography this year, reading books like this does keep my spirit and interest going. Highly recommended.

On “Spraying” and “Backup”

Had a good chat the other day with this old man who bought over one of my lens. He has a shooting style that’s similar to me. We shoot mainly landscape and streets, and we chatted about the lenses, the locations, the setups and so on.

We talked about the habit of spray and pray. “Come to think of it, it’s crazy when I saw my friends just shoot 10 frames on the same subject, same composition, and then go home and pick the one “decisive moment” picture… for which they looked the same to me anyway.” There will always be those who just spray, well, technically speaking if you are shooting sports or actions, is kinda unavoidable to shoot in burst just to make sure you get both focus and composition right for one of the frame, even more so if it’s a paid shoot. But for hobbyists like you and me… it’s indeed a little too much.

The other thing we chatted about is on backup. “Do you backup everything from your memory card and keep storing them like forever, and then giving reasons saying that one day you might come back and re-edit some of those?” I must admit I’m sort of guilty on this. When I get pictures imported into lightroom, I’ll edit whatever pictures that I wanted and just leave the rest as it is and dumped them into my backup drive. Perhaps I should really start looking into improving my workflow, rate pictures accordingly and delete those that are not rated. There’s really no point for keeping pictures that you know is not good to begin with.

It’s nice to talk to others once awhile to learn about how they manage their workflow and how they view photography. Now I’ll need to take some of those best practices and incorporate them into my habit. Till then.

Auf Wiedersehen, Leica

Honestly, I had never imagined that this day will come, and yet it came to me all of a sudden. The day when I decided to pack it back into its box and say “Auf Wiedersehen” (or goodbye) to it… the day my Leica M-P Typ 240 leaves me and move on to its new owner.

This is the camera that was most hated by the Leica fans. Bulky, heavy, it shoot video, it uses EVF… everything that’s “not Leica” present here, in the iconic body of a Leica M rangefinder. Despite that, I believe this camera is a very important milestone in Leica M history. It marked the transition of a tradition rangefinder camera to a modern one, it served Leica well as a platform to test out a few ideas (like the cost down version of Typ 262, the screen-less M-D and so on) and not to mentioned all the cash cow limited edition Leica managed to release along the years. Without all these, I would argue that the M10 will not be as great of a camera as it is today.

funny bunny photography

“But why?” That’s the question I got from everyone. Nothing major, really. It’s just that I’m currently undergoing some self reflection phase (which I often do once in a while) and decided to make some tweaks and changes to things in my life. Just like with my film photography, I was thinking about having a short break from the M-P as well, at least for now. I had shot some pictures with this camera that I really loved, and despite all the complaints I have on the M-P and Leica Singapore’s customer service, I still enjoyed every moments and frustrations I endured with it. It’s something that I’ll cherish as a part of my journey in photography for the days to come.

So after selling my M-P off, what’s next? M-10P? Well, I don’t know. At least for the short term, it’s unlikely. I still enjoy shooting with rangefinder camera, that’s for sure. Will I ever get back to owning a Leica M? Probably, but no one knows what the future lies. So we’ll just have to wait and see. But for now, I’m only left with a Fujifilm X100F camera with the two conversion lenses. Maybe this will be my pure setup for next year? Or maybe I will buy something else since the market is so on fire with full frame mirrorless camera nowadays? Well, we’ll just have to wait and see. Till then.

We… who take pictures

Leave nothing but footprints. Take nothing but pictures. Kill nothing but time.

I really like this line from the post shared via one of PetaPixel’s article. It’s about a landscape photographer’s decision to stop sharing the location of where his photographs were taken, in the aim to avoid the influx of mankind rampaging to these places and ultimately… destroying them.

Through the years, we have seen how the world of photography changed, and as more and more pictures were shared on minute basis, people started to ask for more pictures and perhaps different pictures. People started to explore more and more places, and when a new location was discovered, everyone flocked to it and started snapping away. The same goes for the Instagram-generation and also the traditional photography community. I shared my sentiment on this phenomena in one of my previous post. But has things changed since then?

Well, yes. It get worse, sadly. The invasion of smartphone camera, not to mention drones as well, has created a huge impact… both good and bad. The good thing is that someone got rich… the bad thing is the social aspect and the Mother Nature got suffered. I used to believe that social medias like Instagram and Facebook was at fault for such a chaos… perhaps they are. But when I think deeper after reading the article, perhaps there are something more.

These social medias provided a platform for people to share their stuffs. They probably knew that it’s what we wanted, hence everyone got hooked on easily. When people started sharing, some started to crave for more likes, while some started to think of a way to monetise what they shared. These thoughts caused people to share more, to go beyond others, to outdo everyone, to be the first to discover a new location, to be the first to gather all the fame. Maybe… the real problem was all along… the people.

There are two sides of people, the creator and the audience, and both are equally liable for all the problems we are facing now. For example, Creator A travels to unknown places, trespassing along the way so that his post will be “different”. And by doing that, the audiences reacted by giving Creator A a lot of likes and shares. What happens next? Creator A will continue to do more of those trespassing so that he can continue to get more likes, of course. And when Creator A run out of places, he will probably start exploring places that are higher in risk, more remote, more dangerous etc., which is a never ending cycle. Best case scenario is he gets away with it and lives on to tell the tale. The worst? Well, probably caught by authorities, or perhaps damaging the nature along the way, and maybe got the attention of the mass and people starts rushing to the same spot, which ultimately destroyed the place altogether.

It’s time for a change, really. And it all needs to begin with us, the people, the photographer. Yes, we are all “photographer” today because we all have a camera with us all the time, be it DSLR, mirrorless or our smartphone. We need to be responsible on what we do, about to do, and the consequences of our action in the future. For the name of photographers, for the sake of Mother Nature, we really need to stop doing things that will harm us all. Stop applauding acts, videos or pictures that causes more harm than contribution to the photography community. Small action like this may not mean everything, but hopefully with a small steps like this, we can at least get something out of it.

Let’s Talk About Social Media Influencers

There’s no denying that this new “occupation” is growing strong, and everyday we see more and more “influencer” hit the internet and social medias. Almost all of the portray the same image to the general public: they are very famous, got a lot of followers, living a great life, travel places, getting their hands on every single new gadget/product released, their words are assurance of quality that you can trust and so on. It’s hard to avoid, as people become more and more addicted to social media, spending most of their times surfing Facebook, Instagram, YouTube etc., they start to follow (or even worship?) these influencers. People starts to think that these influencers just get free stuffs from people, review them and earn money, and get all the fames and likes without much of the hard work required. In the end, a lot of people (especially youngsters) are pursuing to become an influencer too.

I had never really followed a lot of influencers myself as I don’t really have good impression on most of them. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not dismissing them all together. I must say there are really people who genuinely purchase their stuff and gave honest and unbias review through social media platform. Some may receive review sample from companies, but they will still test the product thoroughly and share his/her experience of using it with the rest of the world. There’s a lot of hardwork putting all together, it’s not as easy and as simple as what most of us thought it would be. Behind the scene, you’ll need equipment to record the picture/video, you’ll need content (script or write-up), you’ll need to think through from various angles and aspects before presenting your view, you need to understand your audience and cater for their interest, you’ll need to stay in touch with your audience, you’ll need to build up connections with companies and even other influencers, you need to spend time in doing marketing and branding and so on.

Of course, there will always be the rotten ones among them all. Those that just praise whatever products that are being sponsored to them, those that plagiarise on others’ work, those who gave false information and mislead people and so on. Not to mentioned there are those who simply “use their fame” to ask for free stuff from companies (like free hotel stay, free food, free products), post a bad review if they don’t get free stuff that they asked for, get sponsorship and commission work based upon plagiarised work that’s stolen from others, spread negativities, earn a share from every product sold through their fake reviews and so on. We ourselves need to be vigilant and don’t simply accept everything that’s being thrown on us. Think, digest and perhaps make some comparison of the same topic against others before making a judgement. This way, we should be able to fend off those low quality “influencers” and only keeping those that really bring values to the community.

Here I would like to just share a few of the people I followed to get information and perhaps inspiration at times. I get to know them via YouTube, as it is probably the only place I’m spending my time more often. I don’t really use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or other social media platform that often, as I find that usually there are more “fake” content in these other platforms. They are a little niche, but hope you’ll find any of them useful to you, in any case. Till then.

Thomas Heaton – Landscape Photography

Dave 2D – Tech and Gadget

Bo Ismono – Bags and Travel Gears