Curiosity Keeps the Cat

Restlessness is my tragic flaw. I have a tremendously difficult time to disengage from learning; lost ideas, undiscovered worlds, technical skills are all areas that my mind wanders to for the sake of keeping it occupied. As Febtober approaches I am reflecting tonight on what I want to achieve over the next few years and what I need to make a priority if I am to be successful. I should mention that if I do not have a clear plan, then I am apt to wander among the lotus eaters and lose my way. If I plan too rigorously, then I become a slave to the task(s) ahead, buckling under the insurmountable pressures of my own creation.

My recent camera acquisitions have left me in a state of scrambling to learn about tilt-focusing (LensBaby), hyper-focusing (Hasselblad SWC/M) and range-finder focusingĀ (Leica M3). While this might overwhelm other people, it thrusts me into a bit of a learning spiral wherein I learn and learn and learn and forget to do. In other words, I get so wrapped up in learning how the camera works that I forget to use it. Even worse, as I learn more about the film cameras I become drawn towards learning how to develop my own black and white film and then towards a large format camera with its infinite adjustability and craftsmanship. I spent an hour or two just learning about large format lenses online. Maybe the difference between me and many other men who do the same meandering online is that I will put this knowledge (and often new equipment purchases) into immediate use to develop my artistic vision versus becoming an aficionado of gear I will never touch or use. It is a slippery slope, however, and any photographer needs to be aware that the best lenses and the best cameras are junk if they merely serve to add to a hoard. Never become the dragon who sits on his treasure in a basement.

The photographs in this blog entry were all taken with my Canon EOS 3 film camera. Egypt and Cambodia were two wondrous countries to visit, and I cannot help but wonder how my photographs would be different now that my photography has evolved. These days I travel with less equipment (maybe one camera, one lens) versus the heavy gear from before (one camera, four lenses). Would I have taken the same type of gear now? Would I have missed these shots because I only had a 38mm SWC or a 50mm on the Leica? Would my shots be more intimate or lost? I seldom use that EOS 3 these days, but it still is a superb camera that outperforms anything else for focusing due to its iris-controlled focus selection; this brilliant feature make the camera worth keeping for that time when I am heading into rough areas and need to “get the shot”, but do not want to risk my digital gear.

Upon reflection tonight, I think that the key to my success with photography has been that I am willing to lose some shots to gain others. I am willing to learn how to accept that the 50mm on the Hasselblad is the only perspective I can shoot in Berlin or Florence, that the 80mm on the Hasselblad becomes my Havana, that the 60mm was New Orleans this time around and that the 38mm will be Peru. The 150mm is for portraits, the 120 Makro is for products, the Canon 135mm is for the United States, and the 24-70mm is my bread n’ butter lens. Maybe the Leica will become my summer camera or the LensBaby will show me something darker in its blurry fashion. The key is to remain engaged, and if that means reading about Rodenstock lenses for an hour or watching Dan Winters talk about conspiracy theories instead of photography, then so be it. Amen.

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