A while back I found an interesting experiment in the comments of one of Wouter Brandsma‘s posts. The idea stuck with me, waiting for the right time to resurface.
This came a couple of days ago, after a bizarre knee injury meant I was far less mobile than I like, I found myself alone in the house for an hour.
And with the morning sunlight streaming in, conditions seemed ideal for the experiment.
The challenge was simple – lock yourself in a single room and don’t leave until you’ve made 50 photographs.
I chose my current favourite camera, the Pentax Q with its 01 Prime Lens, noted the file number of the last shot so I knew when I’d made 50 more, and began.
Our south facing living room enjoys interesting shadows and contrasts on sunny days. This light became the main driving subject of my next 50 (ish – I miscounted somehow and took nearer 60) photographs.
My main lessons from the experiment are (re)affirmations of what I already know –
Lesson 1. Interesting light is fundamental to all photographs.
Sounds obvious, but many a time I still photograph in dull, flat light and wonder why the images are pretty lifeless. This is especially true with film.
Lesson 2. The beauty is in the detail.
Since first playing with Sony Cybershot camera phones some 12 years ago, I’ve loved exploring and capturing the world up close and personal.
Obviously when you’re confined to one room, the closer you get, the more there is to photograph. But even out in a vast woodland, it’s still more often than not the tiny details that attract me.
Lesson 3. I thrive on limitations.
My recent evolution towards far fewer cameras and simpler approaches has made me much happier as a photographer.
From being able to more easily grab one camera of three to go out with (rather than struggle to choose one from 13 or 53), to setting up the camera so the images captured are virtually irreversible, and require zero processing, these restrictions have all enhanced my photography experience.
Being confined to one room just further extends the idea of limitations, and I found myself on my back, poking in corners and even occasionally pointing the camera at myself to explore new angles and creative options.
Lesson 4. I just love the little Pentax Q.
I stuck to my usual saved Quick Dial set up for b/w pictures and all I needed to adjust, occasionally, was as follows –
Aperture – when f/1.9 maxed out the shutter speed in very bright light.
ISO – left mostly at ISO400 but again in bright light switching to Auto ISO (which I have set to 125-800), gave the Q a chance to use a lower ISO in before I relented to closing down the aperture.
Focus – from AF to MF, when I wanted to deliberately shoot out of focus and there was nothing in the scene at the required distance so I could trick the AF.
AE lock – when in harshly contrasting light I wanted to control the metering more, mostly so the highlights didn’t blow out.
All of the above adjustments were very instinctive with the Q and took just a button press or two and sometimes rotating the thumb dial a notch or two.
Nothing that overly intruded on the experience and reassured me how invisible the Q has become in my hands, in such a short space of time.
Partly this is down to my previously familiarity with a Pentax digital – my K10D, partly due to my experience with the Ricoh RX100 and GRD III, really quite similar small sensor compacts to the Q, and partly because the Q is just very intuitively and cleverly designed, in my view.
I would definitely try this experiment again.
It helped remind me to be curious and hunt for tiny beautiful details, to focus more on light, shadow and composition than particular objects, plus the concentrated time with just one camera enabled me to bond with it even more.
Have you ever tried a one room, fifty photographs experiment? Would you like to?
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