Perhaps I should start with Exhibit A. This was a grab shot from my car, parked in a precarious spot. The file was clean and comes from a nice Fuji rig, but it was dark gray out and spitting rain. I spent around 5-10 minutes tweaking it to a '70s magazine look that I liked and posted it to Google+. Three days later, it has over 1,800 views, 49 Plus Ones and 3 reshares. Perfect? I think not.
|I did this for fun and to my tastes with synthetic light leaks substituting for actual light. Who am I to argue with my G+ followers? It was posted to my stream instead of a Community.|
|Spawn the Second. I recognize that smirk. It's like looking in a mirror.|
|Seen in a high school parking lot. Mutated in chrome.|
Are you as confused about what other people like as I am? Don't worry, I refuse to be one of those people that posts recycled cat memes. I am a content creator, not an SEO specialist. Now on to the perfection theme...
Once upon a time, my vision of photographic perfection looked a lot like this:
|January 20, 2014: The spectacular sunset prior to an approaching snowstorm as seen from the back of the Lincoln Memorial. Shot with a Panasonic LX-7 compact camera.|
|Florida pier by moonlight. Canon DSLR and EF-S wide with tripod, etc.|
Thinking back, my drivers for personal perfectionism includes the legacy of working with film and early digital. Do you remember film? ISO 400 was pretty fast and really grainy. The conditions had to be just right to capture images like this.
|Seven Mile Plaza, Colorado. The house my mother grew up in. Canon SLR - Probably Elan 7e; badly scanned from negative.|
Not that striving for photographic perfection is wrong. For some people it is amazing! I admire awesome landscapes and studio portraits and the technical skills they require. However, I have the luxury of enjoying photography for its own sake without need to make money on it or even have the equipment pay for itself. In theory, I could create lots of photos and never show them to anyone.
Part of my change of heart comes from a love a street and candid photography. The image below received the most views and +1s of those I posted to various Google+ communities in the last year. It is in no way perfect. Taken handheld, after dusk with a Panasonic LX-3, it is grainy, relatively low resolution and messy in ways difficult to count. But viewers loved it. Who am I to argue with viewers?
Or this over processed iPhone image with crushed blacks. That it even worked at all at 10 degrees Fahrenheit was enough. My fingers stopped working around the temperature the phone did.
|Way less than perfect, but I was able to capture the image before the snow was churned and post it to social media once the phone thawed out. My brain was still frozen when I processed this on the phone.|
|Yep, taken with an iPhone. The camera you have with you really is the best one. Blotchy blacks and poor overall contrast, but it is good enough.|
Could it be that I might enjoy photography for the sake of photography? Honestly, I did enjoy the near Zen experience of stalking the perfect sunset or sunrise with a camera on a tripod. However, somewhere buried under the layers of gear and obsessive search for perfect light is a balance point of being Zen and going with the flow.
These buskers were encountered on one of those amazing evenings when interesting things were happening around every corner on the streets. Certainly, the images would have been difficult without fast glass an modern APS-C sensors, but it was an evening of mobility and discovery.
|Sony NEX-6 with Lens Turbo and old school Pentax SMC Takumar 50mm f1.4|
Had I been focused on perfection, this encounter with a late night skate crew would not have occurred and would not have been nearly as much fun. Me, ten years ago, might have passed because the light sucked and I was tired and shaky hungry after wandering for hours. But not only was the shoot fun, these kids were super excited to see images on the back screen!
|We could not have dreamed of this kind of capture in the early 1990s. Moore's Law is our friend.|
|This shoot was made possible by lightweight, mirroless equipment. I was tired enough that using a DSLR would have been too much.|
And it is here that you learn what a hopeless, gear addicted hypocrite I am. My current shooting rigs include an iPhone 5s (employer leash edition), Panasonic LX-7, Fuji X-E1(super cheap) with vintage glass and a newly acquired crazy-sexy-black first generation used Fuji X100. I have now gone full Fuji Boy with an X-T1 in the stable and sale of all the Canon DSLR gear coming soon. So how does this motley crew of lust-worthy high technology supposed to magically help me let go of photographic perfectionism?
|Sony NEX-6 + Lens Turbo + Pentax 50mm f1.4 Imperfection can be beautiful.|
The honest answer is that it might not. On the other hand, I expect the iPhone that is always with me will capture the most images on its totally inadequate sensor. The LX-7 is cheap and semi-disposable and will be close behind. I find the fixed lens simplicity of the Fuji X100 is really a joy as an all around travel camera and it introduced me to the world of Fuji. It is a timeless instrument good for years of service.
As for the Sony A7, now that I have tasted full-frame goodness for the first time since film it has been very hard to turn back. I had intended to use it hard and heavily in the desert, the rain, snow, at car shows and county fairs and anywhere else the loud shutter snap would not be a distraction. There were, however, several reasons I chose to back off from Sony for now:
1. After advertising the A7 as weather sealed, Sony later backed off of water resistance claims. Online tear downs revealed admirably tight tolerances, but no actual gaskets. That is a deal killer for me after having a semi-drowned NEX-6.
2. Innovation is wonderful and moving at full speed, but that just means Sony holds back usability improvements for future models. The horrid NEX menu system could have been fixed with a firmware update. Fuji chooses to do firmware updates for discontinued products. I work for a small company and appreciate this kind of dedication to consumers.
3. I see no indication of how dedicated Sony is to the new full-frame, E-mount platform.
4. I gave up on the time and effort necessary to catalog, store, sort and process RAW files with the Canon 40D. I like my JPEGs clean and ready to tweak. In my opinion, Fuji pumps out better JPEGs with cleaner high ISO files than the Sony NEX-6. Granted, the newly announced A7s may kick butt - for now it is a product announcement.
|Wintry test shot in all of its full-frame and Carl Zeiss Contax-G glory. Addictive, it is, but I am looking forward to seeing what the X-T1 and Fuji 35mm f1.4 is capable of.|
|Love the silent shutter. Love the Kitty and walk like her, or else.|
|Look Ma, no dedicated macro lens, and the photo is blurry but good enough with no post-processing whatsoever.|
|Once upon a time, this would have been on a tripod with custom white balance. Not today. It was handheld and good enough.|
And the X100 lead me to the next generation of Fuji sensor technology. Their equipage is the absolute boss in crappy lighting. I love night photography and Canon excelled at making everything muddy orange.
|Alpaca Fest with the Fuji X-E1 and the extremely nice 18-55mm kit lens.|
|Perennial winners of the Kansas City regional FIRST robotics competition|
|Reserved for Sugar Pants|
|Modified for fun because it sums up street life and style for me.|
|Some people surprise me with their observational skills.|
It has been a great ride and I am looking forward to what comes next. I've been shooting for over 25 years and still love it. Perfection be damned. I am still having fun.
As for my old Canon 60D DSLR tankosaurus, it sits in the back of my car gently weeping while the little cameras have all the fun. It was a good companion and racked up tens of thousands of exposures. It was a fun twenty plus year run with Canon. Life moves on.
Thanks all for the long read. You can also find me on Google Plus
I'd love to read your thoughts on this topic either here or at G+. Comments on this blog are moderated. Type, submit and I will post after reviewing because typing Captchas really sucks on mobile devices. I refuse to subject people to them.
Yet another tedious, long-winded and vaguely original copyright notice: All images and words on this blog, unless stated otherwise, are copyrighted, intellectual property of Dwayne Fuhlhage. Please feel free to link, share, comment and otherwise use social channels for their intended purpose, but with attribution. Sure, the Internet is just full of free images for the taking. Mine are not special; except they must be pretty special if you are thinking about stealing them. Godzilla 2014 is coming, and I intend to have him as an enforcer because Kaiju are just amazing.