Letting Go / When The Fun Stops

Over my photography adventures in the last five years, there have been significant landmarks, where something that had worked well for a period of time just stopped working.

Or, put another way, the fun disappeared. 

Rather than carry on slogging through and becoming increasingly frustrated and disillusioned, I’ve tried to recognise what’s happening, and make the necessary shift. In short I’ve tried to let go of whatever was sucking away the enjoyment.

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In gambling shops and ads over here, one slogan appears frequently – “When the fun stops, stop.”

It’s a good philosophy for any hobby and pursuit we originally begin because we enjoy it. 

Here are a few photography activities I once loved, but chose to let go of when the fun stopped.

Scanning film

I got into scanning film for a couple of reasons.

First, I thought it would be cheaper than having it scanned by a lab. Even the initial outlay for the scanner would be saved once I’d scanned maybe a couple of dozen films – which was only three or four months’ worth at the rate I was shooting film back then.

Second, I could scan film it was either not possible to have scanned locally, or that was prohibitively expensive (for my budget).

Like 35mm film shot in my Holga 120N that exposed the film right to the edge and across the sprocket holes, and overlaid multiple exposure collages (again usually with the Holga and my DIY 35mm conversion) where a conventional automated lab scanner would cut it into regular 35mm frames.

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It was useful for a while, and what I should have probably done was only use the scanner for occasional experiments, and send the conventional stuff to the processing lab for scanning too.

But scanning every film became laborious and fiddly, and a roll might take me two or three hours or more.

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One reason I love photography is that it gets me away from computers and out in nature. Scanning for hours a week completely defeated this aim.

I came to loathe scanning.

Plus my time and energy in the evenings was worth more to me than the extra couple of pounds a roll it would cost me to have regular 35mm film scanned to CD at the lab.

Further to this, I was actually holding back from shooting film because I was dreading the whole scanning experience I’d have to endure if I wanted to see the photographs in digital form.

The fun had emphatically stopped.

So I let go of scanning, packed my Canoscan away and trusted the lab. I haven’t looked back. I should probably list it on eBay soon.

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Testing cameras

This one took me a while. For about four and a half of the five years or so I’ve shot film I’ve felt more like a camera tester than a photographer. The first few months were very exciting and experimental, with the Holga and my first few 35mm cameras.

But then the buying of new (to me) cameras accelerated beyond the speed at which I was able to find time to shoot them.

Again the actual experience of shooting the cameras was being tarnished by the fact I knew I had another dozen at home also waiting to be tested.

Also, I just don’t like having too much stuff or clutter in any area of life. My inner minimalist reels in horror at seeing cameras and lenses spilling from shelves.

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Because I was selling most of those I’d tested, I also had a rising stack of boxes, bubble wrap and other packaging materials in our bedroom.

Again, every time I went in the room I was reminded of all the stuff I needed to photograph, list and sell online, and all the packaging that needed using up. Which chipped away at my enjoyment of the hobby overall.

As with the scanning, the fun had stopped. So I had to let go.

This took far too long to realise, and it was probably only a few months back I felt I’d really got on top of this. Choosing mostly just a couple of lens mounts (M42 and Pentax K) and one brand of camera was a huge step.

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And on the digital front in fact switching to Pentax DLSRs which only use those two aforementioned mounts, rather than my Sony NEX for which I’ve had at least half a dozen adapters and over a hundred lenses, was also fundamental in this letting go and regaining control. And rediscovering the fun.

Buying and shooting 50mm lenses

This one is like a sub-genre of the testing cameras experience above, but different enough to mention separately.

My first SLR was a Praktica BMS Electronic with, inevitably, a Prakticar 50mm f/1.8 lens. The next was a Konica, again with a 50mm lens.

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Then I think a Canon AE-1. With a 50mm lens. And so it continued.

Of maybe 100 or 120 SLR lenses I’ve had, I would guess that 85% of them have been 50 or 55mm.

What you find after a while is that there is not a drastic difference between them.

All of the major manufactures came up with a very good 50mm lens, one that you could use as your only lens for the rest of your life and still get consistently pleasing images.

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Plus as mentioned before, the incredibly adaptable Sony NEX meant I could switch between different 50s in completely different mounts very easily. The choice was amazing, yet overwhelming.

What really helped narrow this down and let go of so many near duplicate 50s was deciding on the camera bodies I most enjoyed and wanted to use.

For a while it was the Contax C/Y bodies, but as good as the Yashica C/Y lenses are, I found I was using the Contax with M42 lenses and an adapter the majority of the time. So having a 50mm C/Y lens was all but redundant.

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As I explored digital SLRs maybe nine months ago, first Sony, then Pentax, (both with M42 adapters mostly) I found the C/Y lenses completely superfluous and off they went.

The Sony DSLRs were fine, and created excellent results. But it wasn’t until I stumbled across a Pentax K10D in my research that the pieces really started to tumble into place.

This gave me a very capable camera, with excellent handling (probably the best of any camera I’ve used, film or digital), with a great viewfinder and the ability to easily use M42 lenses, or any Pentax K mount lens since 1975. It’s probably the camera I wish I’d discovered about four years ago.

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The range of available 50s in M42 mount alone is still vast, but steadily the mighty Asahi Takumars rose to the top.

I now have just two different 55mm Takumars (a Super 55/1.8 plus a much older Auto 55/2), plus a 50/1.4 Pentax-A for when I want (slightly) more automated shooting, and slightly brighter, poppier colours.

The relief of having only three 50mm lenses to choose from rather than 13 or 33 is immense, and means not only do I choose more quickly and just get out photographing, I’m getting to know the particular strengths and personality of each of these lenses better too.

When you’re choosing a different lens every time you pick up a camera, reaching this familiarity takes forever – if it happens at all. Constantly fiddling around with your kit is frustrating and time consuming.

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As with the other examples above, when the fun stopped, I needed to find ways to let go of the habit so I could preserve my enjoyment of photography overall.

What has caused photography to stop being fun for you in the past? What did you do to help you let go and rediscover the enjoyment? Please let us know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too.

12 thoughts on “Letting Go / When The Fun Stops”

  1. I’m trying to convince myself that I am not in a similar place that you were in and you are making it very difficult 😛

    1. Ah, Denial is not just a river in Egypt! : )

      Seriously it took me a while with each of the above to realise why my main hobby and love (outside of my family) was causing me more stress and irritation than the pleasure it was bringing me.

      Even today I knew I had a couple of hours free to go out and took too long choosing which lens to take, swapping three in and out of my bag a couple of times each. I really should commit to the one lens one camera thing for a month to see the difference it makes.

      1. At the moment I am enjoying playing with the different cameras but I am aware that I need to make progress (and stop buying new ones to try 😉 )

  2. Yes, scanning is a chore, but for me a necessary evil. Good professional scans of the kind I’d have done are too expensive for me so I have to waste some time at the computer. Always better than fiddling to get digital photos looking right (i.e. like film).

    As for the cameras, I never had more than about 10 at a time snd even that made chosing a terrible thing. Totally taking out he fun factor.

    Now I have the XA2, the Leica IIIa and that’s all. Well, I have a Praktica SLR on the way, of all things…

    Never really collected cameras. I always told myself I was searching for the right one and that the next one would certainly be it. 😉

    1. Frank, you’ve reminded me of another example I could’ve added in the post – time spent trying to make images taken with my Sony NEX and vintage lenses look like the same images those lenses made with 35mm film. The time I wasted on THAT!

      I went through dozens of LightRoom Presets and whilst I did find some I quite liked the look of, it just didn’t sit right that I was trying to make film images with a digital camera plus some post processing trickery. I like things simple and pure, so this didn’t fit.

      This is why discovering the Pentax K10D early this year was such a revelation – a camera that produced colours and a look I liked virtually straight out of camera, and just LightRoom’s default export from RAW to JPEG.

      No, it doesn’t look exactly like film, but the combination of the CCD sensor (made by Sony it seems, ironically!) plus the vintage lenses gives me a look I really like, and one I don’t feel I need to tamper with. It led to me finally embracing digital as a viable alternative to film, for me, and provides a very similar, immersive experience plus pleasing photographs at the end of it.

      Even 10 cameras is too much isn’t it? Every time you choose one, you’re then out shooting with it wondering if one (or any!) of the others would’ve been a better choice, rather than fully enjoying the one you’re with.

      How come the Praktica SLR? Is it one of the old bulletproof M42 ones or a later bayonet mount one?

      1. How come the Practica (it’s a later MTL5b by the way)…. easy question. Money! I had to sell my AE-1, my T90 and the Fuji X-E1 those last days and just wanted to reward myself with another SLR. The Praktika was clearly the cheapest solution.

        And what’s more, it’s the one camera I always laughed off when I was young and I was salivating over OM1, A-1 and other Nikon F3 brochures.

        The Praktika was the least common denominator. A basic, crude, loud and angular bloc that took photos. So why not? I got rid of every SLR I had, every interchangeable lens camera and I really wanted another one. This is definitely the cheapest solution, with the most and cheapest lenses available.

        I still long for a Nikon F…..

        1. I’ve had a few of the Praktica L and M series – always bought for the lenses they had to be honest.

          The cameras are perfectly usable but as you say, somewhat crude and functional. The film loading is brutally efficient I recall!

          For £20ish, sometimes less, you can get a Pentax S1a or Spotmatic which are in my opinion a whole different class of smoothness and quality and pleasure to use. And of course have the same (massive!) range of M42 lenses available.

          I wonder sometimes about the money I spent and lost looking for a perfect camera that didn’t exist when in the end the two film SLRs I’ve come back to – Spotmatic F and Pentax Program A – cost me less than £50 between them.

          A Nikon F would of course cost more, but it still might be a fraction of what most of us have cumulatively spent chasing the perfect camera for years…

          But you have to go through this to realise it – having a Nikon F or Spotmatic or whatever as your first film camera you might not appreciate its qualities until you’d tried a few dozen others…

          1. Yes, lots of cameras bought and sold, lots of money lost in the transactions but it was inevitable to find what is essential: a good, usable basic camera. Good lenses that go with it!

            The Nikon F was a beauty! Still tempted! A Spotmatic…. never used one but I imagine it’s great.

            A choice must be made! Soon!

      2. Frank did you already have a Nikon F in the past?

        I haven’t tried many different M42 SLRs, but a couple of photography friends online whose opinions I generally listen to both said to me don’t look further than a Spotmatic.

        I did of course, and as well as the Prakticas have tried at least as many Zenits (probably more crude than the Prakticas but somehow more charming, maybe because they’re usually equipped with a Helios 44) and a few others. The Fujica ST701 came very close – small, neat, lovely design and easy to use, but in the end Asahi Pentax won out for smoothness, class, and for being the natural stablemate to the gorgeous Takumar lenses of course.

  3. Scanning is simply a chore. I have been doing it myself a lot in the last year or so to trim costs, as my sons’ college tuition bills keep draining my bank account. But I don’t enjoy it at all.

    I like post-processing considerably more than scanning, but not so much that I’d say I enjoy it. But I seem to tweak at least a little bit every image I get back from my scanner or from the processor when I pay them to scan the negs. My main computer, the one with Photoshop on it, isn’t set up yet after my recent move and I have a roll ready to be processed. I’d just say screw it and upload them to Flickr as the processor scanned them, but I *know* I can make them all materially better with 30 seconds or a minute of my usual Photoshop tweaks.

    The other thing I’ve come to seriously not enjoy is selling cameras on eBay. I like the money I get when they do sell, because I leave it in my PayPal account and pay for processing/scanning with it. But it is an enormous hassle to list a camera. And I’ve had a couple buyers lately who found some nit to pick with the camera they received, and demanded a return for refund. Argh. But now that I have established a rule that every camera that comes into my house must be followed with a camera going out, I see more eBay in my future. Or maybe I will just start giving them away to people who will like them. That’s much easier.

    1. Yes, chore is probably the right word for it Jim. And chore and pleasure don’t go together.

      I hear you with eBay. I feel for the people that are trying to make a living selling camera kit and having dozens, even hundreds of listings. The time they must spend photographing, listing packaging and sending, and often for kit that’s only £10 or £20 and they must only be making a few pounds on each time.

      Regarding giving away, yes I’ve done that a few times when I’ve amassed too much stuff and just couldn’t find the motivation to list it on eBay. I’ve bagged it up and taking it to a charity shop.

      I have a final box with maybe 10 items in that I need to shift at some point, plus a bunch of random things like filters and lens caps. I haven’t bought or sold on eBay in about six weeks and I’ve loved the freedom. So with that remaining stuff I might just give it away and let go of the financial loss.

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