A Never Ending Body Of Work (Also, Rangefinders)
This photo blog for me has a become a lifeline, a cathartic process, a place where I can finish a day of shooting then move forward to the next day out. I've written about this in the past, but I wanted to revisit the topic.
I recently "put the foot down" and declared to my inner dialogue that I am 100% not going to accept commissions anymore, given that the last photo shoot I did was last year. In the past it was always something I fought against—the notion that I should, for some reason, not close the door on photography work, considering my older collections of portraits of bands, party shooting and other commissioned jobs.
But now that I've been shooting for myself so completely over the last year or two, I finally said "No". This is it. I only want to make photographs for myself. In the end I still make portraits all the time, make plenty of landscapes, take photos of a band on the odd occasion, but it's entirely opportunistic with no pressures to "deliver". It's me with my one little camera and 35mm perspective, all the time.
And as I keep discovering every few months, my bodies of work such as street photography, landscapes and portraits are building themselves. It feels great to have spent the last couple of years and see a cohesive bundle of good and great photographs that I can draw on in the future for projects such as photo books. Just recently I created a 20 page photo book of landscapes and nature related photographs for my father's birthday, drawing on the last few years of sunrise hikes and mountain climbs.
That's where I really love the process of just making photos, publishing the ones I like, and not worrying about how much of the greatness factor is in them as long as they are competent and mean something to me.
The photo blog in particular is not meant to only be about "great" photos that are few and far between. It's about releasing the pictures I enjoyed making from my grasp at the end of the day and letting it them into the wild to take on their own meaning. I've only really been shooting this way for three years. I can't wait to have been making photos consistently, in the same way with the same eye for ten or twenty years. My own future of photography makes me excited.
And that's where I'd like to touch on the most underrated camera design, rangefinders. There's an amazing thing that happens when you use a camera that does not also incorporate the depth of field into the viewfinder. With rangefinders, you don't get to see the soft, out of focus components as they will be. Instead, you are shown only the detailed compositional elements. It means that you actually still consider those elements even if they aren't in focus.
To me, it has become really important to not rely on composing with a shallow depth of field. It can become a crutch in ways, especially as you are learning how to deal with it, and the rangefinder gives you to facility to see all of the elements in focus as they will be placed in your frame, regardless of whether you have elected to include or exclude them from the focal plane. That is calculated as an extra measure of composition in your head, but it doesn't tend to distract like it can with a through-the-lens viewfinder such as in SLRs.
One of the other benefits of having a viewfinder on the side of the camera is that by design, your face is still showing (unless you shoot with your left eye, of course). With a rangefinder, I don't feel like I'm hiding my face behind the camera body. It's a fluffy issue, but one that I do I prefer now that I've used those types of cameras for so long now. It's probably why the new Mamiya 7 medium format film camera I bought feels so natural to use.
And finally, the lens are so tiny. Gone are the days of wielding enormous SLR lenses. Even the Sony mirrorless FE lenses are as big as a DSLR. It didn't take long for me to get used to a 35mm lens that was the size of golf ball.