A couple of recent photowalks with different lenses on the same camera posed varying degrees of challenge.
In short, one was a seamless, fluid and instinctive experience, while the other was awkward and stuttering.
Which meant the amount I enjoyed the two walks varied considerably too.
This got me thinking about how difficult the photography experience needs to be for our optimum enjoyment.
If it’s too simple – for example pointing and shooting with a phone camera – then I don’t tend to feel engaged and immersed enough. Especially once I’ve set the camera up so I can shoot without thinking.
It’s like I’m not making enough decisions with each photograph to be able to call them a result of my own creative choices, or to really call them my own at all.
This is fine – and indeed desirable – when it’s a family snapshot and you just want the image and the moment captured with as little faffing about as possible.
But for more personal and artistic photography, this end of the spectrum can feel too detached for me.
At the opposite end, there are set ups where you need to change multiple settings with every shot.
Manual focus, manual aperture, manual exposure compensation, and then having to review the image, adjust and try again, until you get what you want, perhaps two or three times, or perhaps two or three dozen times.
Now I’m certainly not against manual adjustment, and love using a number M42 lenses on my Pentax CCD DSLRs.
Take a lens though that’s difficult to focus (perhaps due to a relatively small maximum aperture, and/or a stiff or short throw in the focus ring), on a camera that’s flaky with exposure accuracy (my Pentax K-30 still frustrates in this area, despite being pretty wonderful in others), and it becomes too manual, too much adjustment to achieve a decent photograph.
Crucially, the amount of involvement on my part interrupts the fluidity of the process, and breaks the almost meditative flow that photography can bring.
In these instances I’d rather just grab an AF lens and shoot Program mode, and know the camera is going to get most things right.
In between these two ends of the spectrum is the happy medium.
My CCD DLSRs like the Samsung GX-1S (Pentax K mount) have just enough adjustment that I feel in control.
Not overwhelmed by too many options but not blindly trusting the camera to make every last decision except where to point it.
Somewhere comfortable and satisfying in between.
I’m in control, but there’s still that instinctive fluidity that allows me to get lost in the experience.
How about you? How hard does photography have to be for you to enjoy it to the fullest?
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