Photography At The Speed Of You

A major appeal of riding to work on my ebike compared with a car, is the freedom I have over my speed.

In a built up area, in a car you’re limited firstly by the speed limit, then any traffic control such as traffic lights and roundabouts, then finally by the volume of traffic.

In a car you have to go at the prevailing speed of the traffic, there’s no choice. And that speed is anything but regular as it splutters, stutters, stops and starts, your foot depressing the clutch a hundred times in the space of a three mile journey.

On my bike though, by reading the conditions and taking a few detours that avoid traffic, I can maintain a fairly consistent 13 mph.

It gives me a great sense of freedom, in places where travelling the roads by other means have many restrictions.

With photography, we can make the same kind of choices. 

We either take a car and join the masses on the roads, or jump on a bike and choose our speed, dictate our own journey.

This choice of our pace of photography begins with the camera we use.

We can join the superhighway of ever faster and ever more feature laden new cameras, upgrading every year – even twice a year – as a newer, supposedly better model supplants last year’s perfect camera, ie the one we currently use.

Or we can step off the populist merry-go-round, and choose a camera that’s older and less sophisticated, but free from unnecessary options, buttons and menus, doesn’t require a loan to purchase, has its own unique charm and character (in use, and in the final image) and is great fun to use.

This latter approach is the one I take, meaning I’ve chosen to ignore someone’s else parameters (and advertising messages!) and set my own.

I’m choosing photography at the speed of me.

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This choice is available in how we shoot too.

When I predominantly shot film, I rarely started a photowalk with half a roll remaining. I just liked to start afresh each time and choose the camera, lens and film combination for that venture.

This meant as I neared the end of the trip, if I hadn’t finished the roll of film (or was part way through a second or even third roll), I would want to finish it off and have it processed, so next time I was starting anew again.

So the last two, four, perhaps even 10 shots would inevitably suffer. Far from being my best work, mostly they weren’t even images worth making at all.

Add up all those wasted last frames, and over a few years I shot rolls and rolls of film of pointless photographs.

Nowadays with digital, I don’t have this issue at all.

The fruits of my photowalks aren’t measured in multiples of 24 or 36 images. Sometimes I might shoot just seven, or 21, or 74 images.

I just shoot until I know I’ve had enough, and whilst of course I still edit and delete most of the pictures taken, at least I’m not burning up physical, expensive film in the process.

Again, I’m choosing my own pace. I’m choosing photography at the speed of me.

When I’m actually out photographing, I’m not using continuous shooting modes or a scattergun approach, hoping that if I shoot 17 microscopically different versions of the same scene, one of them will be what I need, then I can delete all of the rest.

I compose each frame slowly, carefully, with patience, aiming to get the shot right the first time, without the need to crop afterwards. Which of course adds to the whole meditative and therapeutic quality of photography.

Again, I’m choosing photography at the pace of me.

Extending on from this, I’m also setting my own pace with how much I share. I admit in the past there were times when I felt the need to share new photographs just to prove I was still making photographs.

But, like the habit of needing to finish off a roll of film on each photowalk, this meant far too many photographs I made were pointless, and I wondered why I’d made them, let alone shared them.

These days, whilst I’m sure my editing could be more ruthless still, I know I don’t share just for the sake of it. I try to only upload photos to my public Flickr and share here on 35hunter that I’m really proud of.

Once more, I’m choosing photography at the speed of me.

How about you? Are there any aspects of your photography where you feel you’re driven by someone else’s pace or demands or expectations?

Put another way, how can you reclaim photography at the speed of you?

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for looking. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too. If you’re interested, this is what I’m into right now.

6 thoughts on “Photography At The Speed Of You”

  1. The camera I use most, a Leica IIIf, was made in 1957. Part of its charm for me is that it forces a slower more deliberate approach to 35mm film photography. Compared with newer film cameras loading is slower and fussier. Focusing and framing are slower because they are done in separate viewing windows. Even setting the shutter speed is slower with the faster speeds on one dial and the slower speeds on another.

    My compromise with the tyranny of “finishing the roll” is to standardize on 12-exposure home loaded rolls and take them out of the camera when I finish with the subject, location, theme, or whatever.

  2. I’m guilty of feeling pressure to finish up a roll of film. Like you, I’ve made lots of bad photographs just for this reason. I now use a Fujifilm X-T3, which can be as complicated or simple as you like. I’ve set mine up so that I don’t have to go into the menus for anything and I use it in much the same way as I use a film camera.
    I still make lots of useless photos, but at least they don’t cost anything . . . .

  3. Hello again Dan, I feel we are on somewhat parallel paths with photography. Other than the fact that I am just getting back to film I am also revisiting my old digital cameras, the Nikon Coolpix 995 as you know and also my Nikon D40. This all came about when my cats knocked my Sony RX100v off the countertop and now it no longer turns on. The cost to repair is about half the price of a new one. So I’ve decided to sell it for parts and use what I have. Film wise I am much more stingy this second time around. Also, I’m trying to work on series mainly, this way I’m not shooting everything in sight like I usually do. It has freed up some time which I have been using to explore watercolor painting and contemplative practices such as yoga and meditation. I’m enjoying a slower pace and more relaxed state of being.

    1. Lisa Marie, thanks for your input.

      Great that you’re using what you have instead of going out and spending on something new – I’m sure you’ll enjoy and appreciate your “old” cameras in a new way this time around. I’m still watching a couple of the old “990” series Coolpix cameras on eBay to see if I can pick one up, they’re very intriguing with that spilt rotating body.

      Working on series is a sound plan I think. I’ve tried to be more focused this year by experimenting with the One Month, One Camera project, rather than grabbing a random camera and taking random shots each time I go out. I like the increase in consistency.

      Funny you should mention yoga and meditation. I have a post nearly finished about my daily yoga practice and how it helps my photography…

      1. Yes I am appreciating them very much the second time around. I’m taking a trip to Florida soon and I believe I will take my 995 along for the ride. I hope you get a chance to experience one. Looking forward to your yoga post!!

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