What makes a Photographer photograph?

When photographing for a paying client I strive to give them what they want, not what I want, but for everything else I photograph, I photograph it the way I want to and not the way I’m ‘expected’ to.

Nobody can take your photo for you; they can’t put their lens exactly where you put your lens; they can’t ‘see’ what you ‘see’; they can’t ‘feel’ what you ‘feel’ and they also can’t have ever had the exact experiences in life that make you who your are. These are some of the reasons I photograph the way I do but there are also other reasons.

For example, HDR. I decided I didn’t like it because 90% of the stuff out there is nauseous and badly done, but then I thought ‘so what, just because I don’t like something doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try it’…think brussel sprouts, now my favourite veg 🙂

So I gave it a go and guess what? 90% of mine where pretty much rubbish but I got a few I sort of liked a bit and kept…but then I moved on. I run photography courses in the Derbyshire Peak District, over 130 to date, and the thing I tell everyone is that just like no-one can live your life for you, no one can tell you how to feel about the thing you’re about to photograph. Yes, there’s composition, framing the shot, geometry, to tripod or not (the most boring photography object to me by far) filters (also boring), contrast, shadow, light, exposure, rule of thirds ‘rule’ (I understand it and explain it to them but frankly if I want something in the middle it gets put in the middle, if I don’t want the horizon one third up, or down, it doesn’t get put there…you get the idea) but the most important thing to me is the person with the camera and what matters to them, not the critics nor the internet experts with their mouse and a keyboard and their unlimited supply of boring test charts and worthless opinions (I’m on a bit of a rant now!) I’m mean, for goodness sake, who really wants a technically superb photograph of a boring subject…well not me for a start!

Years ago I studied Ansel Adams in some depth and even wrote an essay about him, and one of the things he said when interviewed before is death was…

“I think of Stieglitz’s definition of photography -a paraphrase of what I heard him say many times. In the earlier days, when people were very scornful of what he called “creative photography” or “photography as art,” they would ask: “Mr. Stieglitz, how do you go about making the creative photograph?” He would answer, “When I have a desire to photograph, I go out in the world with my camera. I come across something that excites me emotionally and aesthetically. I’m creatively excited. I see the picture in my mind’s eye and I make the exposure and I give you the print as the equivalent of what I saw and felt.” The word “equivalent” is very important. It’s two things-what is seen and what is felt about it”…..



Lone tree, Lawrence Field, Peak District

Lone tree

Why Cartier-Bresson’s photographs suck.

Bold statement or stupid statement?

Dead simple really;

‘No IBIS? It’s a deal breaker.’

‘Only 25,600? It’s a deal breaker.’

‘EVF? It’s a deal breaker.’

‘Only 4.5 frames per second? It’s a deal breaker.’

‘It’s too (insert one the following…big, small, light, heavy, ugly, slow) It’s a deal breaker.’

‘It doesn’t look (insert one of the following…pretty, macho, professional, discrete, understated, around my neck) It’s a deal breaker.’

‘It’s not good enough to swank around a trade show with it around my neck. It’s a deal breaker.’

HCB didn’t have any of theses features on his cameras so it follows that his photographs must suck.

And what about Lartigue, Brandt, McCullin, Bailey, Avedon, Penn, Weston, Egglestone and Adams to name but just a few? More sucking.

How on earth could they be expected to be classed as proper photographers?

We’ve been conned…or have we?

Statue of Liberty

I’ve been suggesting that DSLR’s with flippy-flappy mirrors could be slowly on their way out. How slowly I couldn’t possibly know but there’s a lot of new mirrorless cameras hitting the market now and (allegedly) in the near future (Sony full frame?).

For the moment I’ve still got my D3 and pro glass but I recently added a Sony Nex 7, with the standard zoom, to my collection.

I also bought a cheap Canon FD adaptor to attach my old Canon 200mm f4 FD lens to the Nex and a couple of spare batteries. An old battered Domke F803 completed the outfit for my first ever trip to NYC, the Nikon gear stayed at home…and I never once missed it!

I didn’t use the 200mm much (300mm with the crop factor) but when I did the focus peaking made it easy…can I have focus peaking on my Nikon DSLR and in the viewfinder too please…no? Anyway, enough of this, here’s a shot I took with the Nex/Canon combination of the Statue of Liberty…and I loved NYC!

Statue of Liberty                                                                                                                              ©Les Wilcockson 2013 All Rights Reserved

Get rid of your old flappy-mirrored cameras while you can!

I think digital cameras with mirrors are doomed.

Why? Because all you need is a good lens to place an image on the sensor, job done. You don’t need a big clanky flappy mirror bouncing up and down in-between, what’s the point of it?

Mirrorless and SLT cameras let you see the image that’s actually on the sensor, adjust the exposure on the fly, adjust white balance, check critical focus, see exactly what you’re going to get BEFORE you press the button.

NO CHIMPING after and thinking, ‘I need some exposure compensation so I’ll add some then take another shot then CHIMP again…ooops too much, better crank it down a bit then I can have another CHIMP’, now I’ve taken 3 shots instead of one…what’s the point of all that nonsense??? STOP MONKEYING ABOUT!

It’s at this point that the self-appointed experts will say something like ‘it’s not a problem if you knew what you were doing in the first place’…the point is that I know when exposure compensation is required, or not, and to be able to apply it and see the exact effect before I press the click button sounds like a good/obvious idea. (I said ‘click button’ to annoy the same people).

Shoot movie on a DSLR but you can’t do it through the viewfinder…what the f—-!!! It’s a stupid way to work.  You paid for the viewfinder but you can only use it some of the time???!!!!!

It’s ridiculous..

…can you imagine if the DSLR manufacturers told you ‘Hey, you can only use our viewfinders’ for still images, they don’t work for movies because our viewfinders are still employing old technology’

I reckon I’m right, do you?