Photography Frustrations? Pare Back, Lean In

My photography output – and the number of photowalks I’ve been on – has definitely slowed since June and July, despite autumn being my favourite season.

Being the thinky type, I’ve been trying to figure this out.

But really, I don’t think this (over) analysis is particularly useful, so instead I’m going back to basics.

Already I’ve embarked on another chapter of my One Month One Camera project this month, with the rather un-enticingly named Lumix FZ38 bridge camera.

I’m also planning to use to use it exclusively in its “film grain” mode for the foreseeable future, as I really like the grainy, high contrast output.

The overriding philosophy is definitely to pare back and lean in, rather than try half a dozen different approaches with as many different cameras and get frustrated and disappointed with all of them.

We’ll see how the rest of this month unfolds.

How about you? What do you do when you realise you’re not photographing so much? Force a change? Sit back and let it happen when it happens? Or something else?

As always, 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.

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14 thoughts on “Photography Frustrations? Pare Back, Lean In”

  1. I can go a few days without taking photos and then get a sudden urge to grab the camera. Sometimes I gotta push myself to get out and sometimes I just can’t be bothered, depends on the mood also and you never know when an idea springs in your head…

  2. I have 80+ years of negatives shot by my father, and then by me, and most recently by my wife. When the urge to take pictures wanes I set myself the task of making at least one really good print of a negative I haven’t done before. The two activities complement each other. My latest “serious” print is of an abandoned shack in the Lower Tier of New York State. I took the picture in 1978 or 1979. I don’t remember how much attention I paid to the angle of the light at the time but it really emphasizes the texture of the weathered boards. While I was working on the print I found myself wondering when, if ever, the sun would similarly light the most photogenic side of an abandoned boathouse on an inlet an easy walk from our new home.

    1. Fascinating Doug. How do you choose which negative to work on? And I mean this on two levels, first how do you choose a batch/period of negatives to choose from, then how do you select one from that batch?

      I have only been making images about 15 years and find my archives overwhelming so I’d be interested to hear how navigate and choose from yours.

      1. Hi Dan, It’s usually something that I see, read about, or talk about that triggers thoughts about particular images from the past. My wife and I recently moved after 47 years in the same house. I’d come to know all of the old cars, and people interested in old cars, in our old neighborhood. Now I am starting over. On a recent trip to the recycling center in our new neighborhood I spoke with the driver of a nice unrestored 1953 Ford sedan. I asked permission to photograph it, explaining that I like to photograph old cars “in the wild.” I find photographing old cars in shows or parades as unsporting as photographing animals in zoos. He asked what I thought was my best “capture.” I told him about the pre-WWII Lagonda limousine I photographed in front of the Baraccini candy store in Manhattan in the early 1960’s. I offered to give him a print of the Lagonda, along with a print of him with his Ford.

        Now to find the negatives of the Lagonda and select one for a print. I have contact sheets of all of the family’s negatives. They are in 6 binders, each holding approximately 140 sheets of between 20 and 36 images – close to 25,000 images. The binders and the sheets in them are in chronological order. I know that I took the pictures of the Lagonda after I moved to Manhattan and before I met my wife to be. That meant I only had to look at the binder that covered 1961 and 1962. I am also blessed/cursed with a photographic memory and I knew that there was a head-on shot of the Lagonda in the upper right hand corner of the contact sheet. Five minutes later I was looking at the six negatives.

        It’s not always that fast. I recently spent a week of evenings looking for the shot I took of a fire truck pulling out into traffic on the main street of our little town – lights flashing, fireman hanging on for dear life. The truck was in service when we moved there in 1973 and was not replaced until the late 1990’s. That’s 25 years of negatives to look through and I didn’t remember what else was on the roll. What really threw me off was that my print of that negative hanging in the firehouse now is black and white and I’d forgotten that it was a color negative.

        I keep saying I should catalog the negatives in some way but I haven’t done anything about it.

      2. Wow, I can’t imagine how I’d organise physical negatives like that. The perhaps couple of hundred rolls of film I’ve shot are just in the original envelope they came back in, in shoeboxes. I haven’t looked at them since I shot them and often debate throwing them out as I have scans of what I need. They’re in date order, but I would not be able to locate a specific image. This is why I rely heavily on Flickr with tags and albums to do this.

        I do have a partly photographic memory too, which yes is a blessing sometimes, but a curse (for me) when you see something disturbing you wish you hadn’t, then can’t un-see it, even years later.

      3. I have darkroom contact sheets of my older negatives, and inkjet proof pages of my father’s negatives and my newer negatives. The images are small, with up to 36 frames on an 8×10 or 8.5×11 sheet, but I find them big enough to evaluate to the first order. I use an 8x loupe for more detail. The individual sheets are dated YYMMDDS to indicate the day the film was developed and the sequence number of the rolls done that day. All of them are in Print File binders.

        The negatives are stored in sleeves in an assortment of Nega File and Archival Methods boxes and in Print File sheets and Binders. And all of the sleeves, sheets, boxes and binders are labeled with the same YYMMDDS dates as the negatives.

        The physical negatives are stored in archival conditions. If they survive fire, flood and loss they will be viable 100 years from now. Not so the files on my computer.

      4. Love the sound of how organised your system is!

        And yes I think you’re right about physical negs and prints outlasting digital. I often think of this and don’t really know how to future proof (digital) images, especially family pictures, other than the old fashioned way – make prints, hang them up, and keep others in shoeboxes!

  3. I’m in a somewhat strange state of taking just a few pictures every day, it seems like. It’s a steady, drippy dribble that’s not entirely satisfying but it’s rewarding to stay fairly c0onsistent. I added you on Flickr, by the way.! Is it okay for me to leave remarks on there from time to time? I’m very slowly patching old pictures on there with a mix of new, for fun is all. Hope you’re having a good weekend.

    1. Jason, in some ways this year has been a kind of steady day to day trickle. I don’t know, it’s not been the horrendous year it’s been for some, but we just seem to be plodding away, adapting to new changes as we go, with no real end to this approach in sight. I don’t think the approach is bad, it’s just not anything spectacular. I don’t really know what I’m expecting.

      Yes of course re Flickr, I started to check out your stream and have left one or two comments.

  4. I’ve had a continual love of photography since I first began traveling to Asia in the mid ’90s. However, like most interests, my enthusiasm and ambition vary periodically. I don’t worry about this, it’s just a natural pattern that all my interests seem to follow. And in fact, when any one specific interest fades away temporarily, another of my “legacy” pursuits usually takes its place. My other interests include high-end vacuum tube audio design, boating/fishing, hot rods and until recently, ham radio. Of course, with a daughter in high school and me working full time (until the pandemic hit), it would be an gross understatement to say that all my “non-essential” interests get short shrift. Specific to photography, whenever I feel my skills might be getting rusty, I spend a few hours reviewing older work. That never fails to create a new bout of enthusiasm and a rejuvenated desire for photographic exploration.

  5. Not really the subject of your question Dan, but I always wonder why people like taking B&W fall pictures… to me the best B&W seasons are summer and winter, and fall and spring are color seasons.
    Like others, I also have a backlog of things to print and the problem is that taking more pictures is always more exciting than working on the ones I already have…

    1. Yes you’re right Chris, I also love the abundance of colour in autumn. Especially through the “eyes” of CCD sensors.

      I don’t know, I just generally prefer the dramatic look of b/w, even in autumn.

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