On Fallow Seasons

So as I head into year seven of 35hunter, the temptation with a new year is to write some kind of review of the previous one.

It seems to be our western culture’s way to constantly strive to measure, assess and appraise.

If I was looking at my photography over 2021, it would be far easier than in any previous year since about 2006 to whittle own to my favourite few, simply because I’ve shot far less than in recent years.

In the last third of the year especially, I made fewer photographs than in some weeks in my heyday around 2012-2016, when I was churning out film photographs with dozens of different cameras and lenses, and testing many of the same lenses with digital bodies like my now departed Sony NEX 3N, and later the wonderful Pentax CCD sensor DSLRs like the K10D and K100D.

Should I be concerned that my Flickr stream – which has traditionally been an online backup/showcase for my very favourite photographs since 2009 – shows only four images from October, and none from November or December?

Probably not.

The more I go through life, the more I see it as a sequences of seasons.

In fact sequence isn’t quite the right word as the seasons don’t stack neatly on top of one another, one beginning promptly at midnight as the previous one ends at 11:59:59.

Much like new years in fact.

Whilst on a calendar the days are this organised, as humans we don’t undergo some instantaneous transformation as the clock chimes midnight.

We wake with the same skills and strengths and flaws and failings we took to bed the previous evening, whether it’s a New Year’s Day or any other.

Their – and our – evolution is gradual and fluid, as incrementally we seep forwards into our futures, not suddenly and in great leaps, showing clean heels and a cheery wave to our pasts.

I admired my fellow blogger and photographer Jim Grey’s approach this year with his word and theme for the coming year.

He usually picks just one word at the start of the year, to guide his growth and intentions for the coming 12 months.

But this year he admitted that he hadn’t evolved enough with last year’s theme, and has resolved to continue with the same one for 2022.

Once again, the seasons of our lives don’t have neat cut off points, much like those relationships where we claim to have made a clean break, but still have dreams of our ex-partners and try to figure out what went right and what went wrong a decade later.

The whole mess/mass of what we’ve seen and been and experienced before comes along with us for the next day/week/month/year of our lives.

Getting back to seasons, for me, I’ve realised that I’m deep in the midst of my season of family and parenthood.

With children of 13, 8, 2, and another imminent, my main focus is on these amazing little (and some now not so little!) human beings in my life.

I don’t go out twice a weekend for a couple of hours to photograph these days, but no longer do I feel a desperate need to.

The occasional walk with a camera seems enough.

Crucially – and this echoes what I’ve been saying on 35hunter since the beginning really – the most important part of photography for me is the experience, rather than the gear, or the end product, the photographs.

And as most of my photowalks involve rambling in the English countryside, the benefits are multiple, and most of them are the same whether I have a camera with me or not.

As I spoke about a few years ago, the photography itself is “an elegant, experience-elevating garnish on an already scrumptious and wholesome dish”, ie walking in nature.

Since the early lockdown around March 2020, when as a family we were walking miles daily, these walks have lessened, but remain a core element of our lives, and our health. Our two year old has been on more walks in his life than many adults undertake in a decade!

Now, I can imagine not making a photograph for a month. I can’t imagine not going for a walk in woods or fields for a week, let alone a month.

So whilst perhaps my photography is in a fallow season (and its length is as yet unknown), I’m not concerned, and nor do I feel I’m missing out.

I (still!) have more cameras than I know what to do with, even if it is about 10% of what I once had.

It’s very easy to grab the camera I’m into most (still the Ricoh GRD III currently, even if I have only used it a handful of times in three months) and head out for a few shots when I want to. I just don’t want to that much at the moment.

How about you? What season are you in with your photography – and your life overall?

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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18 thoughts on “On Fallow Seasons”

  1. I just want to say that when there -is- a sudden change in our lives, one that happens in a moment, rarely is it a good thing; often it’s tragic or at least quite disruptive.
    After last year I can only look ahead and wonder “what next?”
    The photography is integral, fitting in wherever it can and not a separate pursuit as some other activities must be. Perhaps that’s why my main camera is still the Nikon P610 ‘bridge’; it bridges the gap between life and art, being a part of each.

    1. Yes, unfortunately tragedy can rarely be predicted, and it can of course be tremendously disruptive, changing our lives irreparably.

      I really like that idea of the bridge camera, bridging life and art. I think those types of cameras are often maligned and thought of as falling between two stools, or just for beginners or “amateurs” (in a derogatory sense). But my experiences of the couple I’ve had (an ancient Fuji S7000 and slightly newer Panasonic Lumix FZ38) have been very enjoyable and enlightening.

  2. I understand completely, and am very happy to hear about a new baby coming up!
    Photography-wise, 2021 was pretty good. 2021 is coming off to a slow start, but I’m sure things will pick up quickly. I also don’t put myself under pressure – in 2019 and 2020 there were periods when I wouldn’t take pictures for weeks at a time. I don’t have deadlines or people waiting to see my pictures, except after a trip or a birthday party…
    Just enjoy the moment you’re living.

    1. Thanks Chris! That’s good advice. Like you I don’t have any external demands or expectations of my photography, so there’s no need to invent any pressure of my own. I’ll just enjoy it when it comes.

  3. Dan, I was missing you and just realised you would have been busy with Xmas and New Years and family and friends. You have a 13 year old so I have known you well over that. I have a new person online who is trying to create a community like you did with CCS. I am once again coming in at the ground level and loving it. Now to my photography. I haven’t had prints in a number of years as stopped using them in my art work. Since looking at old art journals with my photos in I am eager to begin again taking photos and bringing them into my other art work. I definitely want to do some sort of creation around COVID as have a number of photos that are COVID related that happened with children in the area making chalk drawings on the pavements and toy bears appearing in people’s windows to remind children all was well. Can’t wait to read about the latest baby in your life. sending you much love from SUsan

    1. Thanks Susan, good to hear from you. I started out as a coach around 2004, had a newsletter soon after and gathered some of the people who followed that together to form CoachCreativeSpace in 2007. So ye we must have know each other about 16, maybe 17 years.

      That sounds great about a new creative community. What format or platform is that on?

      We had some great creative work displayed here in people’s window and so on, especially as the first lock down bedded in and people realised this wasn’t going to go away in a few weeks. Plenty of rainbows in support of the NHS (National Health Service, I’m sure you know) and just posters kids had done saying thank you key workers and we’ll get through this together, stuff like that. Very touching.

      Baby is due late Feb so you might notice a lack of activity from me here around that time as we juggle the new one into the current clan!

  4. I enjoy the act of photography: interacting with my gear, being out in the world, composing a photograph, pressing the shutter button and experiencing the camera’s feel and sounds as it does its thing.

    I’m in a place right now where I don’t enjoy any of the rest of it: developing film, scanning negatives, downloading files off an SD card, tweaking things in Photoshop, uploading to Flickr. Yet with every roll of film, with every session with one of my digitals, I spend as much or more time in those things.

    My wife bought me a faster 35mm scanner for Christmas, and it is helping a lot to cut down the time I spend on the things I don’t like much.

    1. Thanks Jim. Totally agree with your first paragraph. And pretty much agree with the second one, which is why I withdrew from many of those aspects and set up the cameras I use to give me results I’m happy with straight out of camera. Then the only processing I need to do is downloading photo from the memory card and going through deleting what I don’t want.

      That sounds a great Christmas present for you. How are the results so far?

  5. I really appreciate the mention of seasons Dan, and I can empathize with the change of priorities that parenthood and covid has brought to my life as well. For me it has been growing children, but also a somewhat sudden and very drastic change in career. This season has seen a refocus on the camera and a dive into art history. I have returned to school and am really enjoying having an outlet of new information and resources to focus my mind on. Perhaps because of, or despite, all of the changes, it certainly feels like a fallow time where I am waiting to see what the seeds I am planting might end up becoming later on down the road. Though it is somewhat hopeful, it is always difficult to sit in the position of the unknown, without a reference for how long the season will last. That is why it is important to remember, that these are not permanent states, just phases. Thanks for the reminder that this is a good time to review values, priorities, and what we hold close and make time for. Cheers, and congratulations on the upcoming arrival!

    1. Thanks for your input Andy. I like how you’ve extended the nature metaphor with planting seeds and seeing what grows in the future. That’s another way of looking at seasons, sometimes you’re preparing the ground, sometimes sowing the seeds, sometimes nurturing, sometimes reaping the harvest and sometimes just laying fallow until the next springtime again. And yes that these are phases, “this too will pass” as the saying goes. Thanks for the congratulations too.

    1. Yeh that’s what people say. I can believe it, our oldest is 13, and taller than her mother already. I remember when she could barely talk. You’ve spoken about a seasons a few times in previous conversations, it’s certainly something I relate to and strikes a chord with me.

  6. Congratulations on your impending new arrival Dan.

    I like your analogy of seasons in terms of where we are in life or our leisure time pursuits, perhaps I could suggest that I am in autumn of my photographic journey, where as a tree sheds its leaves, I have rid myself of the need for the latest gear and am following a similar path to you in using older gear, cameras that were good a decade plus ago, are still good cameras.

    For the first part of 2022, I have embarked upon a 50mm for fifty days project, a canon 50mm 1.8 attached to my ‘adopted’ Canon 5D mkII, a combination I am really enjoying, as I am seeing familiar haunts in different ways.

    Taking a camera on my walks has become a regular routine for me over the years, I always think that the day I do not carry a camera with me, is the day I miss a once in blue moon shot, the walk is the most important part for me, as working in a warehouse environment with little or no view of the outdoors, I feel the need to stretch my legs.

    Editing the subsequent images and updating my blog have become as familiar to me as turning on a television after work has become for others, since I have not owned a TV for over ten years, that gap was soon filled with a myriad of other diversions.

    1. Thank you Andy. Yes good analogy with the gear buying, there’s a phase with most of us where we’re young and energetic and hungry for new stuff, new stimulation. Then after a while you realise what you like best, and also realise that mot cameras of a certain type perform in much the same way, the differences are pretty incremental. And sometimes an “upgrade” isn’t for the better, a cameras loses features or qualities that made the previous model special. One reason I like the old CCD sensor Pentax DSLRs, those sensors deliver colours I love straight out of the camera. Plus the set up and controls are very straightforward too, they are overladen with useless (to me) features taht I’ll never use and just complicate things.

      That’s great to hear about the TV. I lived alone for 4.5 years before I moved in with my now wife, and didn’t have a TV there. I watched a few things online (but this was before Netflix etc, so it was mostly the odd music video on YouTube). I listened to music nearly all the time, read, wrote, it was all I needed. I don’t watch a great deal of TV now still, I’m not one to just flop on the sofa and watch whatever’s on, it’s nearly always something I’ve/we’ve chosen, which is so much easier now with on demand TV.

  7. The virus restrictions and continuing health issues have limited my ability to get out and about as much as I would like. The continuing shuffling of photo gear within the extended family have left me with no digital cameras except for my iPhone and the Fuji X-T20 dedicated to scanning my negatives, and no film cameras that use batteries. But I now have the care of three all-mechanical film camera systems: Leica screw-mount, Nikon F and Hasselblad V system. And I am spending more time comparing them than I am spending on all of my other photo activities combined.

    1. Well, if you’re going to have three systems, they’re possibly the best three to have Doug! Do you mean comparing them by taking picture with each, or comparing on a more technical review kind of level?

      1. Both pictures and process. The latest comparisons involved hand holding the cameras at low shutter speeds and comparing the prints. I found that the variation of results with each individual camera was greater than the difference of average results from camera to camera. My conclusion was that if I want to be sure of getting a sharp picture I have to use a tripod, regardless of the camera system. And, by far, the nicest camera to use on a tripod is the Hasselblad.

        Unfortunately, this conclusion is totally at odds with a comparison of the 35mm vs MF developing and scanning workflows.

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