The Occasional Photographer

Over the last 18-24 months I’ve photographed far less often.

Both the number of times per month I go on a photowalk, and the number of shots made on each walk, have decreased to perhaps half, even a third of my prime shooting rate of a few years previous.

I’m now more what I call an occasional photographer than a regular one, although I would argue I’m still fairly consistent.

I make roughly the same number of pictures over any four week period, I’m not clicking like crazy one week then shooting nothing for two months.

This got me thinking about how the frequency of our photography may (or may not) be related to a couple of aspects.

First, how much we value photography excursions, and how special or important they are to us.

By doing something less often, generally it makes it increase in value. We look forward to it more, and try to enjoy each moment, in comparison with something we do so often we become blasé and take it for granted.

Personally, I’ve never not valued photography, but certainly large swathes of my photography output in the past could be categorised as “gear testing”.

In other words, I had a new camera, lens, film (or sometimes all three at once) and was making images to see first if the equipment worked at all, and second, what I could do with it, compared with other gear I’d previously used.

Nowadays, the proportion of my photography time that comes in the gear testing category is next to non-existent.

I nearly always shoot with a camera I’ve taken at least a few hundred photos with before, if not thousands, so I have a good idea of what it (and I) can do, and just get on with it.

This doesn’t mean I keep and love every image I make.

But it does mean I’m trying to capture the best images I can, not just trying to capture something to prove the kit works.

So yes, I think shot by shot, photography has become more precious, more valuable.

The second aspect I’ve been thinking about is whether shooting less makes us less fluid, less able to get into a flow.

I think this one depends on two factors, the variety of gear you use, and how often it is between each time you use it.

As I said, because I’m not testing dozens of different set ups (in the last year I think I’ve used three different cameras plus my phone, in past years I’d do this every week, then three different cameras the next week) I slip back into the quirks and foibles of any particular camera very quickly.

Because it’s not been long since I last used it, and it’s a camera I’ve used enough that it’s familiar and I know how to set it up and use it to get what I’m looking for, it doesn’t take long to connect and feel like it’s an extension of me, rather than an awkward device in my hands..

I can see that if I still used a different camera every time, and the space between each trip was weeks or months, I would spend a significant proportion (re)familiarising myself with the gear, before I hit a more natural state of flow.

What are your thoughts on these two aspects? Does shooting less often make it more or less special to you? Do you get rusty and find it hard to get back into the flow, or pick right back up where you last left off?

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).

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10 thoughts on “The Occasional Photographer”

  1. Love the image! If you forget a bit what it really is you may see a desert landscape, with sand dunes.
    I have always been an occasional photographer, with always the same camera (or my phone). The only thing that probably has an influence seems to be my mindset at the moment. Depending on that I tend to focus on landscape or look closely to details for example.

    1. Thanks Joel. Yes I love close up photos where it becomes so abstract it could be something vast, I was saying this to Jason in another reply. Whilst I love looking at a stunning landscape, I rarely photograph them, just because I know it’s going to be a massive disappointment compared with being there and being able to pan and see the scale of it with your own eyes. Unless landscape pictures are printed at a large scale, ie filling a wall, they always seem to fall short, for me.

      Whereas with close ups, I see it as the opposite. A photograph up close of something most people would walk by without seeing, can be very dramatic in a photograph, and you can really lose yourself in the image, like the sand dunes mentioned in this image.

  2. For me life has seasons that bring opportunities….I like to photograph landscapes, which around here can be pretty majestic! So from time to time I head out looking for good light, with photography as the main purpose of my trip.
    But also, I am in the habit of taking a camera with me whenever I go further than the local shops, because I can’t capture a great image with a camera that is in the cupboard.
    Some months I take a lot of pictures, others very few.
    Now that I have an adequate set of lenses for both my Contax 35mm kit and Mamiya RZ67 medium format kit, there is very little gear testing now. I have used the Contax since 1984, and the Mamiya for a couple of years now, so I can just focus on the image!

    1. Steve, you’ve talked about seasons in life before, it’s an idea I find really interesting. Whilst a part of me might still see myself as a single young bachelor, the reality is I’m deeply in the parenting season of my life, and will be for the next decade and a half, and beyond.

      Gear testing is great fun to a point, then it just gets distracting and keeps you from bedding down and finding new depths with what you have. A bit like relationships, ha!

  3. It doesn’t usually take too long to shake the rust off. I pretty much only use one camera, there’s not a lot of muscle memory involved. And even when I’m not toting my camera around, it’s quite common for me to be taking reconnaissance pictures with my telephone, I’m always curious about opportunties that I can come back to, the hopeless indefatigable seeing eye syndrome. If only I followed through on all the amazing things I see on a day to day basis, haha!

    Probably my biggest problem is far less about the camera and more about forgetting how to open up Photoshop, being relatively rusty in my workflow on there. I only use a tiny percentage of the features in it and often get lost when I wade back in.

    Hope you’re having a good week, Dan. Btw, when I first saw this frame it made me think of a big, cozy down or corduroy comforter to get all snuggly in. Then I thought no, this is a leaf. I like the ambiguity 🙂

    1. Thanks J. Do you ever find the seeing eye frustrating, and just wish you could go somewhere without constantly looking for compositions and making mental photographs? I do sometimes, as grateful as I am for the photographer’s eyes!

      Ugh, Photoshop! Post processing is something I almost entirely avoid. Have you tried something like Snapseed? I was very resistant before I actually tried it, thinking how could I possibly process a photograph on a phone, with an app that just had basic sliders. But it’s brilliant, and I use it often for my phone images, especially to convert to b/w and add contrast.

      I love ambiguity in photography, indeed in all art!

  4. HI Dan, Like you I seem to be doing less and less what I would call “proper photography” these days its more of a taking quick pics with the camera phone, mainly just documenting where we have been and what we have seen… sadly in many ways… I reckon many a photographer has been led down this path due to the covid pandemic… as its really taken the wind out of a lot of sails…and has also given many people the idea of spending their time on something more important that others see as “taking snaps”… if that makes sense Dan…. BR, Lynd

    1. Thanks Lynd. Yes I think the pandemic has made many re-evaluate their lives and priorities. Whilst I photograph less, it remains an important part of life, and as important as ever to remind ourselves of the beauty in the world.

  5. The definition of a hobby is that you do something occasionally and for fun, right?…
    I have had some periods of inactivity, for up to several months. But since that funk, I have been able to regularly take pictures, only because we have been getting quite a bit more out of the house,
    But honestly I can say, the more I get to shoot, the more special it gets. If I don’t shoot for a while it takes me a little while to even enjoy it again.
    But I have to say the equipment does have a lot to do with it. When I’m out shooting with the K200D I like working with the files a lot more than with the newer cameras, especially the K-3, which I only keep because the AF is better for sports.

    1. Yeh, I agree with that definition. I think there have been various activities in the past I’ve immersed myself in more than occasionally (photography was one). When I really love something, I want to do it loads.

      Photography has slowed but since getting into around a decade ago I doubt there’s been a week where I haven’t photographed, even a couple of spontaneous shots with my phone on a walk.

      I like working with the files with my K100D and K-m and Samsung GX-1S… Because I don’t have to do any work except import them, ha ha!

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