Thursday, 2 February 2012

In praise of lesser photography

Having posted the link on a previous post I have now had a good read of this little manifesto for simpler photography. As is often the case with American authored self help books it is full of home-spun wisdom and lashings of Mom’s apple pie, but tucked away inside is the core of an idea that rings true if you don’t wear it as a strait-jacket – that spending money on kit doesn’t improve your art and that the viewer doesn’t really care what kit you used.
It’s an interesting irony that in order to experience this for myself I ‘had’ to buy another camera, but I’m glad I did because it’s changed my thought processes to a degree. The camera was the Pen E-P1, which is small, fully controllable and equipped in my variant with a 17mm prime lens (35mm equivalent on a 35mm camera – the PEN has a four-thirds sensor). I still love my E-3, but it stays at home more frequently these days, because I enjoy the simplicity of a single focal length, and the portability of a small camera.
A single focal length makes you work, and think , harder. I think my photography has improved as a result. Using the same focal length again and again gives you a real understanding of what does and doesn’t work effectively. It also forces you to think about composition so that all your photos don’t come out the same. A slightly wide angle lens can make everything seem small and insignificant unless you work at it. You have to work a bit harder to give the subject some context:
1000/435: Dandelion
Of course, you can also use it to ‘get everything in’ when that’s appropriate:
Geneva, Night View
One thing I’ve not been convinced by is “zooming with your feet”. With a relatively wide lens on distortion soon creeps in and I’ve found it preferable, rather than attempting to fill the frame, to use composition to put the emphasis where you want it.

And adopting this approach has changed the way I use my ‘full-size’ kit as well. I used to take everything out with me – but now I tend to think ’Today I’ll go wide/standard/tele” and just take the appropriate zoom rather than all three.

No comments: