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Author Topic: Your Camera Does Matter  (Read 190109 times)

thompsonkirk

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« Reply #60 on: March 14, 2008, 01:31:06 am »

Rockwell's essay made me recall some old lessons about cognitive & developmental psychology - lessons about both writing & photography.  

Rockwell doesn't get very far in his writing about photography, & he irritates many of us, because he's limited by a kind of binary thinking - things are true/false, right/wrong, in paired opposites.  This sort of dichotomizing makes thinking seem quick & easy, but unfortunately it can't handle much complexity.  It's a cognitive limitation that we're supposed to grow out of, by learning to handle more complicated thinking patterns ("formal operations").    

Examples from KR:  

--"... it's entirely an artist's eye, patience and skill that makes an image and not his tools."   No, Ken, both/and?

--"Photographers make photos, not cameras."  Again, both/and?  

--"Your equipment DOES NOT affect the quality of your image."  Again, a rigid insistence on half of the story & a willful blindness to the other side.  

Some alternatives:  Not the opposites of Rockwell's statements, but acceptance of more complexity:  

--A photographer & a camera (& some more technology) form a complex system.  We're endlessly interacting with the tools we use: ideas, feelings, pictures in our heads ('symbol systems'), realized through camera, film, sensor, software, printer, paper, etc.  

--We work with our tools in a succession of feedback loops:  we think & feel what we want, we see what we got, we adjust & recalibrate our intentions or our tools. Lo & behold, we learn from experience.  Many of us, pursuing changing visual values, have moved from small film cameras to MF & view &/or digital, as we learned how some kinds of equipment articulate some of our visions better than others.  

--We develop, within our self-selected limits - both personal & technological - bodies of work, photo essays, or portfolios that show how we're reaching out, extending our vision, in different contexts - & with the tools appropriate for engaging them.  

--Eventually, if we're pretty good at what we're doing & pretty diligent, we work out a recognizable 'style' - an inner way of seeing that's realized externally as a certain kind of print, publication, or web image.  This may make us a recognized 'artist,' or a commercial photographer with a recognized specialty, or even both (though in only a few instances).  

Peter Galassi's introduction to the MOMA Friedlander book is a wonderful inquiry into how a personal style can grow through time & reinvent itself through experimentation.  You can see camera, light, focal length, the whole works, changing developmentally as Friedlander makes recognizable 'Friedlanders' in so many genres: jazz portraiture, street shooting, architecture, urban patterns, nudes, landscapes, 'snapshots.'  In every mode, he's the master of his own vision of barely-ordered chaos & his own technique - especially his strong contrasts & luminous highlights.  

If you look at Rockwell's website galleries, you see that his photographs are almost all cliches: "good photographs" in imitation of conventional expectations.  His color palette is a Velvia cliche.  He can presumably teach you, in his binary way, how to make more "good photographs" & fewer "bad photographs,"  by conventional or camera club standards.  But he has no style:  he neither writes nor photographs at an interesting level of complexity.
« Last Edit: March 14, 2008, 01:36:21 am by thompsonkirk »
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Nick Rains

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« Reply #61 on: March 14, 2008, 01:38:12 am »

Quote
Yet by making one of these cliche posts, you're implicitly accusing the other thread participants of being talentless hacks interested only in equipment.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=181337\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Indeed. I think DPReview types call this a troll.

I must confess, having a bit of time free at the end of a Friday, to having had a brief look at some of the rest of Ken Rockwell's rather large site. I make no judgements, but...

1. There are pages and pages and pages of gear comparisons.  

2. His thoughts on colour management (sRGB and AdobeRGB colourspaces in particular) are interesting.  

3. His opinions of the values on RAW shooting are probably what you'd expect.  

After a while I got bored - time to move on to more important matters.

So just just how does the new 24Mp Nikon stack up against my new 1Ds Mk3... ?  
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Nick Rains
Australian Photographer Leica

Digiteyesed

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« Reply #62 on: March 14, 2008, 01:51:21 am »

Lookie what I found...

============

[span style=\'font-size:21pt;line-height:100%\']A Parable[/span]

Once Upon a Time....

Once upon a time there was a young career photographer. He was talented, but he didn't have much money.

Nevertheless, because it was the mid-'60's and he was reacting to his depression/war era parents, he thought that money wasn't important — art always came first.

Consequently while as his peers, who were developing their careers alongside his, bought Nikon Fs, M series Leicas and Hasselblads, our hero had to satisfy himself using Pentax and Minoltas along with inexpensive third-party lenses from Tamron, Tokina and the like. He reveled in the simplicity of his ways.

And, our hero succeeded. His photographs, made with cheap cameras on even cheaper lenses were widely published in major magazines, his better work was collected by major galleries and national institutions, and he was able to make a decent living as a freelance photojournalist.

Meanwhile his colleagues and competitors continued to tease and distress him about his not using "the best".

Then the illness struck. He started to believe that they might be right. As quickly as he could he started to buy top rated cameras and lenses. Nikons, Leicas, Contax, Hasselblads — all the top brands. His family's life-style suffered as he plowed more and more money into the finest camera bodies and lenses available. Finally his career as well as his personal life were in jeopardy as his spending exceeded his financial abilities.

Years later he reviewed this period of his life. With hindsight he saw how in fact his best work from that time of his life was done when he was poor and using so-called "amateur equipment". There was a freshness and a clarity of vision that became veiled by the later obsession with lines/mm, titanium bodies, exotic lens elements and the like.

Today he can afford to buy whatever equipment he wishes — and he does, and enjoys every one of them. But, he always remembers the lesson that difficult period of his life taught him.

============

It sure sounds familiar. I wonder where I read that?

[grin]
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Rob C

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« Reply #63 on: March 14, 2008, 05:59:25 am »

I´m afraid this is turning into my guru is better than your guru; a general genuflection of the sychophancy comes to mind.

And yes, there are those who will believe that success depends on spending big bucks, which it can do, but not always or exclusively spending them just on equipment.

I suppose that there will never be honest replies to this argument; those who spend the money in hope can´t accept that they are possibly into self-delusion whilst those who have success with inexpensive equipment know their own truth just as clearly. No, there are not total, common standards in photography either - as stated somewhere here different genres have different criteria by which they are measured.

Taking the offending article at face value, there is a hell of a lot of truth to it; but obviously, it, as with anything, is open to re-interpretation and with each such reinvention of the original the plot gets more wild and the original sense distorted beyond recognition.

Such a delicate aroma of singed sensibilities...

Ciao, from a happy but currently seriously equipment-challenged former pro.

Rob C

PS Enjoyed the parable.

David Mantripp

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« Reply #64 on: March 14, 2008, 06:21:15 am »

Well in general I find KR pretty wild-eyed, I think Michael fired off at the wrong target this time. What I get from Ken's article is the theme that you should think about what your intent is, what you are seeing, what you want to see, before you think about the tools. And actually I think Michael is saying pretty much the same thing, which is a bit weird. It is hardly a rebuttal, more of a similar conclusion, albeit drawn from very different arguments.

A technically better photograph is usually only better in the absolute if it is commercial work. Illustration, not art.  Frankly, if a photo really moves me, the last thing I look for is if it is "pin-sharp" or if it has "awesome definition". Who gives a f***, really ?

Cameras can be used for all sorts of things, including personal mementos, commissioned commercial work, and art.  The intersection between art and landscape photography seems to becoming vanishingly smaller, maybe because landscape photography is the perfect refuge for the gear head.

And who says you can't shoot the Serengeti or Antarctica with a Holga ? Why not, actually ? Might be a helluva lot more engaging than a bunch of bland, boring, repetitive 48 Mpix (is that where we're at ?) pixel arrays.
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barryfitzgerald

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« Reply #65 on: March 14, 2008, 08:01:32 am »

Quote
What annoys me is when there's a technical/gear discussion and somebody just has to barge in and spout the cliche that "the camera doesn't matter, it's the photographer behind the camera". Such posts are IMHO annoying and pointless. Who are you to say that just because people are discussing the techinical merits of equipment that they have no talent or interest in the art of photography? Yet by making one of these cliche posts, you're implicitly accusing the other thread participants of being talentless hacks interested only in equipment.



IMHO people who make such posts are usually either (1) trying to feel superior, or (2) have a case of sour grapes.
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Nobody said that. I think you take it the wrong way.

I think you have that reversed. Frankly I never judge a photo on what lens or camera was used, its just the "photograph". Do you like it or not. Who gives a damn what was used. On the other hand, nobody "downgrades" a photo if top line stuff was used. And most people will say that gear def does make life easier. No question. The argument is about what really counts. And it aint the camera.

I wont argue that I cannot get tele action shots with my el cheapo micro hanimex 110 film plastic fantastic camera, well it would be very hard to. I wont suggest its going to match a Nikon D3 with pro line lenses. Obviously it dies a horrible death.

It's like this, I enjoy the challenge. Those who go out with bad equipment and take great shots, get my respect. I liked F1, what was more fun..watching Schumacher fight some dodgy car to death and tearing it apart, winning with skill and guts. Or just the usual top car guy cruising along to the finish..not even breaking into a sweat!

Some gear has limitations, its up to the photographer to challenge those, and overcome them. Gear is a part of the toolbox, and yes..right tool for the job. But if you can manage to tighten a bolt and nut with a needle and some sticky tape..people will be impressed ;-)
« Last Edit: March 14, 2008, 08:01:57 am by barryfitzgerald »
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alex1966

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« Reply #66 on: March 14, 2008, 08:48:28 am »

This  always makes me think of that old saying
"A poor workman blames his tools"
I always replied a good workman always has the right tools. This is important,I use multiple cameras, as they all do different things better than each other. It is true that a lot of great photographs can be made on simple cameras but aside from using odd low cost cameras for their special qualities a better lens will give a sharper picture (in focus of-course), a better sensor or film more information and so on. But there is a point of diminishing returns, a D80 and D200 where very similar in output but the D200's meter is a lot better, the rest is feature set that I dont realy use. The D200 is my preferred camera but thats more to do with the feel of the thing in my hand. The camera is a personal thing though and whats right for me may not be right for you. But the camera shore does matter
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barryfitzgerald

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« Reply #67 on: March 14, 2008, 09:20:02 am »

I can see the point made, but still, everyone has to accept that technology will only take them so far. It can make life easier, no question. It is not that the camera does not matter at all, it is simply that it is the least important factor. Some lenses are sharper than others, and faster etc. But they dont take photos, nor does the camera you do.

An expensive camera and lens lying on a desk has done nothing at all, so has a cheap one. The shooter is the key factor.

KR says:

"If someone can't make a good photo with a bad camera, it's because they're a bad photographer, not because it's a bad camera. Potty-mouth language doesn't change anything. I make thousands of awful shots with great gear, but even I crank out a nice one with a crappy camera now and then"

It is very hard to really argue with that.

Whilst you might find Ken's tone a tad OTT, and I wont argue with that.

MR writes:
"I was at first amused and then annoyed by the piece – quite annoyed, and so decided to write this rebuttal"
Why get annoyed? Just an article..

"One of the hoariest of the hoary cliches is that a good photographer can take a good photograph with just about any camera. Horseshit"
Corny, sure is..but its just "TRUE" !!! lol
Sorry, but LL would be well advised to pull down that article, because its just saying the wrong thing IMHO. What matters most? Photographer or Camera? Its got to be 90% photographer.

"So please folks, stop the childish nonsense. Equipment does matter, and if anyone tells you otherwise, smile, nod sagely, and simply move along. Or, send them here for a good spanking"

Ok I am ready for my spanking! But as quoted above..

"And, our hero succeeded. His photographs, made with cheap cameras on even cheaper lenses were widely published in major magazines, his better work was collected by major galleries and national institutions, and he was able to make a decent living as a freelance photojournalist."


So I guess equipment does not matter then??????
« Last Edit: March 14, 2008, 10:04:27 am by barryfitzgerald »
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NigelR70

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« Reply #68 on: March 14, 2008, 10:05:59 am »

Hi,

it seems to be that this is a non-argument. Both sides, if sides there be, are right in their contexts. I think it would be easiest to sum up the positions as follows:

MR: Ultimate potential image quality is compromised with less than ideal tools. At a more basic level, the camera has to be functional to even take a shot.

KR: Tools that can provide ultimate image quality are not going to provide it unless the user knows how to use them.

Both are truisms, both are right.

Secondly I suspect LL and KR probably have very different target audiences and readers, who by and large have different skill levels and different needs. When I began photography as a hobby, I invested more into learning than into gear. I went digital and found KR's site to be helpful, up to a point. Then I found LL and learned a lot more. For people getting started, who want to only learn enough to get a shot of their kids or and have some shots on their PCs, go KR. If you want to learn how to deal with RAW and make print, go LL.

Cheers,

N
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Cheers,

Nigel

barryfitzgerald

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« Reply #69 on: March 14, 2008, 10:18:02 am »

But which Michael do we believe?

This one:

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/parable.shtml

Or this:

http://luminous-landscape.com/essays/cameras-matter.shtml

I have great respect for MR, and whilst I do not agree on some things, this is a place that has a benefit for most who visit it. KR is more aimed sometimes, as a PR web hit stunt..but there is some truth to his no nonsense articles.

Michael always said if you have a problem/disagreement, dont moan on other sites, do it here. Here I stand..
« Last Edit: March 14, 2008, 10:18:28 am by barryfitzgerald »
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Eric Myrvaagnes

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« Reply #70 on: March 14, 2008, 10:25:47 am »

Quote
Hi,

it seems to be that this is a non-argument. Both sides, if sides there be, are right in their contexts. I think it would be easiest to sum up the positions as follows:

MR: Ultimate potential image quality is compromised with less than ideal tools. At a more basic level, the camera has to be functional to even take a shot.

KR: Tools that can provide ultimate image quality are not going to provide it unless the user knows how to use them.

Both are truisms, both are right.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=181402\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
You paraphrase Michael pretty accurately, but you miss KR by a long way. He doesn't say anything like "The photographer's craft is much more important than the equipment used." What he says is "The camera doesn't matter!"

The KR supporters in this thread consistently try to suggest that KR's point is something that they wish he had said, instead of what he actually said." There is a huge difference between saying "A is much less important than B" and saying "A doesn't matter at all."

Nick's posts on this thread make a lot of sense to me. And I like any of Nick's photos I've seen much better than any of Ken Rockwell's that I've seen.

To further muddy the quote from Ansel that has been bandied about here recently I'll say that KR's essay is "a fuzzy expression of a fuzzy concept."  
« Last Edit: March 14, 2008, 10:27:37 am by EricM »
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barryfitzgerald

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« Reply #71 on: March 14, 2008, 10:35:25 am »

Eric, did you really read the article from Ken?

http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/notcamera.htm


I see that he says good gear can make life easier. I think that counters your argument here. I am not a Ken Rockwell fan by any means, sure dont agree with a lot of what he says. Neither am I here to say anyone is a bad photographer, its all down to taste. Its just as simple as this. Ken is right on this one, sorry!
« Last Edit: March 14, 2008, 10:35:51 am by barryfitzgerald »
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DarkPenguin

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« Reply #72 on: March 14, 2008, 10:37:28 am »

Quote
The KR supporters in this thread consistently try to suggest that KR's point is something that they wish he had said, instead of what he actually said." There is a huge difference between saying "A is much less important than B" and saying "A doesn't matter at all."

Is this like truthiness?
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Digiteyesed

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« Reply #73 on: March 14, 2008, 11:35:56 am »

Quote
But which Michael do we believe?

Both. I was having fun being snarky, but I believe that Michael was saying you need the right tool for the job. You can't hand tighten a bolt that requires nothing less than a wrench to tighten it safely (e.g. lug nuts on your car's tire). That being said, you can either use a cheap wrench or the most expensive one on the market. The professional mechanic will probably have a chest full of Snap-On tools. He needs something that works every time and that will take a fair amount of abuse. But those just starting out can probably get by with less -- so long as they use the right tool for the right job.

That's the point of Michael's "Parable".

As to his "Why Cameras Matter" article...

You don't try and saw with a hammer or use your hands when you need a wrench. I own a 6x9 Zero Image pinhole camera -- which I absolutely love using -- but I would never ever go birding with it. I'd take my Canon 20D with the 100-400 EF IS L lens.

I get the impression from KR's article that he would send someone birding with an old Kodak Brownie. Or that he'd tell someone to use a Canon a620 when what they really need is a camera with T/S movements to correct perspective. My opinion of KR is less than complimentary.
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grabshot

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« Reply #74 on: March 14, 2008, 11:42:27 am »

Personally I've always thought that what is in front of the camera (landscape, model, whatever) is the most important thing. Decisions about framing/composition/lighting come next. Equipment choice is a much more distant third.

A shit and/or boring subject will always result in a shit and/or boring photograph - no matter what equipment was used to shoot it.
« Last Edit: March 14, 2008, 11:46:32 am by grabshot »
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Provokot

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« Reply #75 on: March 14, 2008, 01:07:12 pm »

According to my girlfriend, the camera doesn't matter and no, I cannot have the money to get a new 1DSmkIII.
« Last Edit: March 14, 2008, 01:07:39 pm by Provokot »
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jashley

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« Reply #76 on: March 14, 2008, 01:27:54 pm »

After looking at Mr. Rockwell's site, I believe he is what my teenage daughter would call a "poser".  Michael, I must echo the comments of others who wonder how you could have dignified his opinion with a "rebuttal".
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jashley

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« Reply #77 on: March 14, 2008, 01:38:38 pm »

Quote
According to my girlfriend, the camera doesn't matter and no, I cannot have the money to get a new 1DSmkIII.
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Damn, your girlfriend is rich enough to give you the money for a mkIII but she won't do it?  Get rid of her!
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Streetshooter

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« Reply #78 on: March 14, 2008, 01:42:51 pm »

"And who says you can't shoot the Serengeti or Antarctica with a Holga ? Why not, actually ? Might be a helluva lot more engaging than a bunch of bland, boring, repetitive 48 Mpix (is that where we're at ?) pixel arrays."

Well what a touchy subject we have here ! KR was as usual being provocative and MR fell for it. Must have been the jet lag as it seems an unusual outburst from him.

I agree with the above statement entirely. In my opinion the majority of people who shell out mega bucks for the latest MF digital gear would do better spending their money  on improving their craft rather than their equipment. Better gear does not improve your photography unless you have the aptitude and skill to take advantage of it.

A good example of this is Mark Tucker. He can make a great photo from a camera equipped with a loupe instead of an expensive lens. David Burnett produces wonderful images from almost anything with a lens too. From a Holga to an old Speed Graphic.

It's the person who makes the image not the camera.

My two cents of course
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Rob C

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« Reply #79 on: March 14, 2008, 01:55:17 pm »

Quote from: jashley,Mar 14 2008, 05:38 PM
Damn, your girlfriend is rich enough to give you the money for a mkIII but she won't do it?  Get rid of her!
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[/quote

Well, that´s an interesting point of view, and better yet, shows how cloudy things can get.

If the girlfriend has the money but won´t do it, get rid of the girl friend; if the girlfriend has no money but does it like a rabbit, keep her.

This is what you meant, isn´t it?

Best solution, of course, is a girlfriend who both has the money and is willing to do it as often as you want her to do it. But trust me, even then there will be those who find fault with your ideal solution, possibly even those who have never met either you or your girlfriend, but most likely those who have no money but never do it anyway.

Funny thing, ffff - photography.

Ciao- Rob C
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