100,000 Exposures Later ... [PART IV]
All You Need is Love
By: Thorsten Overgaard, August, 2008 [reprint from uber.com]
Top Photo: Radiohead performing, by Thorsten Overgaard, Leica R9/DMR
Chris Week's recent post reminded me how much love is important in photography. Mind you, the photographer brings talent and love for what he does, along with a vision of what he wants to do. And all a camera does is a recording of light.
So how tricky can it be.
It’s really not a matter of camera megapixels, features, price, brand or any other thing. It’s simply matchmaking between a photographer and the piece of equipment he or she will fall enough in love with that he or she will use it to capture photographs.
Of course, most people fight with equipment they don’t love, less understand. And that goes for professionals to the same degree as any other photographers. I’ve seen professionals ask each others “I wonder what this button is for” or “now, what does that mean” or “how do I…”
When all you need is love.
I could state here, that "Luckily most pro's have the same crap cameras why they can do mutual support on the site" but I won't. I will behave.
But frankly, sometimes I wonder why they got two Mark III's instead of one point and shoot.
Chris being the role model, he has so much love for photographing, he endures all the complications and the horror (o, the horror!) of using a range of new gear that puts complications to capturing photographs.
Look at how well composed even his “candid” holiday photos are. And he even often shoot them on film which is completely pain these days with trillion of kilometers to the nearest lab. Not to mention the waiting time to get your files back.
Now, Chris doesn’t scan his own negatives on an Imacon scanner. I do (which is why I feel more pain than he does). Chris has his lab doing the scans.
Frankly, I don’t know where he gets that love. I wonder if he was a peace negotiator at the UN what he could accomplish. All that energy put into peace negotiation could create world peace.
Anyhow, some professional photographers don’t lift their camera unless they are paid or told to. Others buy new equipment for leisure such as Leica M8, the Hasselblad X-Pan or the Contax G and study it in field use, as if they were biologists faced with a new race of insects, shooting test images of brick walls and parked cars.
Which is not, it is simply not, LOVE for the photograph.
This is actually a belatedly post. I’m sorry, but time has slipped me recently. Been in Africa and around. And I have a whole series of blog posts, I would like to do.
Not kidding. I was in Africa...
Yesterday I saw a blog post from Steven Miric who had two Leica M8’s with him in the field, in the Amazon jungle in Ecuador. Now, what strikes me there, is that he did that post partly as a reflection on some Iraq war photographer who recently wrote some crap about the Leica M8.
What is interesting is that Steven Miric managed to do a lot of great photos that utilizes the great features of the Leica, the file and color quality included.
And enough said about that, but TRUE LOVE for photography means that you take any piece of equipment, and then you believe in it and make the best out of it.
If you’re not a photographer, you will take a piece of equipment and learn it so well you can tire all your friends with long talks about all the new features of this piece of equipment.
You write a critical review about the faults that prevented you from taking all the photos that camera was not designed for.
What you should do instead is blow their socks off with great photos. Taken with an Olympus OM10 or a Sinar 4x5” camera. Who cares what camera as long as there's pictures.
Another point, by the way, is that real artists look for good things in others art they can use in their own art (and tools as well). I could write a long critique of Mona Lisa – but that wouldn't make me a better painter, would it? Could make me a great art critic. But I could study Mona Lise to see and learn those things that would make me a better painter. That's professionalism. And can be applied to equipment in itself.
What's great about this microphone? What could I make out of it?
What's great about using goat milk in my cooking - how could that make me a better chef?
I guess what I’m saying is as simple as this: Find a camera you will love to take out for a shooting, one you will be proud to wear and use. One you feel has something special (perhaps something only you have seen or know about).
Or as I have pointed out before, I often take underdog equipment. When others use 70-200mm auto focus tele-lenses, I either use a 90mm or a manual focus lens. Because I feel the underdog equipment has some qualities that will make greater photography (and more fun and self satisfaction) if and when it works, than if I just did as anybody else and pointed a Canon Mark III with a 70-200mm lens towards the sorry singer on the stage or whatever.
This, by the way, is a 30% crop from Roskilde Festival of Santogold (Santi White), made with my Leica 80mm Summilux f/1.4 which is different than what that the Canon guys got.
Santogold (Santi White) by Thorsten Overgaard WireImage/Getty Images/LIFE
||Leica Digilux 2
For me, the Leica Digilux 2 is a semipro camera that can turn our better pictures than very pro cameras. Because when you love it and use it for what it’s good at, and in a way that utilizes those great features – you will turn out great photos.
I mean, this looks like a 4x5” perfect scan. But really, all it is, is a 5 megapixel camera with a great lens and natural light from a window:
Leica Digilux 2 shot
I bet I could convince a lot of people it was a Hasselblad picture, and that the reason for the sharpness and detail is the large sensor and all.
But it’s not. It’s simply because I love to use that camera in natural light and I know how to utilize it.
||Hasselblad H3D for "only" 12,000 Euro
Speaking of Hasselblad, that is a camera I could love, I think. I have something for it, and I might end up with their 30 mio pixel camera they have a special offer on now. It’s clearly not logically because it’s huge, expensive and hardly has any lenses that can shoot anything without daylight (f/4.5 is where most their lenses start).
But I feel for it. Could be love.
I would take it to odd places and treat it like a point-and-shoot. Those who usually shoot Hasselblad shoot from a firmly placed tripod. I'm odd; don't know what it is with me.
||Leica Minilux pocket point-and-shoot
Another under-rated camera is the Leica Minilux which is a small Leica film camea with a 40mm autofocus lens. It’s basically a point-and-shoot camera, very well built, soundless shutter and motor – and has the most incredible 40mm lens ever put on a camera. I sometimes take that one out for a swing, and after few minutes it’s the type of camera you would love to travel the world with, doing a coffee table book or something.
Here’s a shot of my son I did one day. I did three shots that day that I have sold many times and which are great. Because I thought it was a great camera and I wanted to wear it that day, even I was on holiday.
Leica Minilux shot
Love, you see.
The cameras I have, I love.
It’s all Leica because I believe it’s the best. But all of my cameras have different personalities, styles, good and bad things. But I guess what they have in common is that they were made for photography, not for fondling 200 buttons. They simply lack buttons and complications. I don’t have any Canons because I feel like a jerk wearing a Canon. It's a personal thing and not Canon's fault. Nikon I might like, but I still feel it’s … well, I don’t know. It’s like they turn out a great camera, then four months later, they turn out a new one. If they really meant love, one would be enough. I know it’s silly, but that’s where I’m at with Nikon for the time being.
Not true love. Wouldn't work.
Some people feel convinced they are in love if the price tag is huge enough. Some require their camera to have a certain size or number of advanced Star Wars features before they feel comfortable and “pro.” It’s all right, as long as the end result is love.
Also, a lens I have a really weak spot for, is the Leica 80mm Summilux-R f/1,4 which is deadly to use because the DOF leave no space for errors. It’s like 1 mm of sharpness and if you don’t hit that, you didn’t hit. I get so many shitty pictures with it that it should be considered bad business. But the thing is, when it works, it’s love beyond anything out there.
Leica Summilux-R 80mm F/1.4 shot
In a way, that is the essence of love in photography: That you have this silly or great camera, but you truly believe it’s made for you and you are made for it, and together you can conquer the world. That’s love. And that is the camera you must be looking for.
Read all the reviews you want to, but when you hold a camera in your hands that you don’t feel love for, dump it. On the other hand, when you find one that feels like the right one, go for it. Even if the shop owner tells you it’s last years model, and the new Pentax is a way better offer this week, he has one at home himself, and everybody buys that (... and all that crap) – the one that feels right is the one that is right.
Simple as that.
(The Uber.com series is becoming available later, so far one more article is available: 100,000 Exposures Later PART III)
Blog Comments (43)
Posted by zabong on September 09, 2008 9:30 AM
So true, I understand what you say. For me, the love thing is my Fuji F31FD. Such a great little camera. When my Nikon is too heavy or to obviously to be seen, and even my Olympus looks too big, this is what I carry in my pocket.
Another love: Finally, after 5 years, I have a 50mm 1.4 on a camera. On the D700, the Nikkor 50mm 1.4 D-AF is currently my only lens. Oh boy, do I love the feel of that fast normal lense and the bright viewfinder, wish I was a pro photographer that could photograph all day instead of a modest software engineer.
Posted by Mark Taylo... on July 27, 2008 8:26 AM
Great blog as always Thorsten. I really like reading your long posts, they are very meditative and allow us to discuss the more emotional aspects of our shared passion for photography.
It's an interesting position about loving your camera and I'm not sure if I agree 100%. I believe it could be possible though, I don't think I have found that one love yet.
I can certainly relate to knowing when something just feels right - everything clicks into place, making you want to repeat the experience over again.
Shame the comments were hijacked by a cowardly troll :(
Posted by Thorsten O... on July 30, 2008 6:25 AM
I may have stressed the love for the camera too much, because I started out with loving to photographs - and then was caught into this about having a camera that is not an extension of your own eye and vision, but a machine.
So one should love the light and the photographing, then find and love equipment that allow and enhances that.
Posted by Kamil Wyso... on July 25, 2008 8:12 AM
Great blog entry, Thorsten.
I think I haven't found my real love yet, though I like my 5d with 50/1.4 very much :)
Posted by Thorsten O... on July 30, 2008 6:30 AM
50/1.4 is certainly the right direction. It'll give you pictures like no others. (Those who equip their 5D with a zoom might find it amusing to shoot for a while, but the look of the pictures will be very much what others using the same lens will get; only allowing framing and timing to be different)
Posted by Guest on July 25, 2008 4:08 AM
Shame I haven't found my love yet! The sad thing is, I'm attracted to film but being a poor high school student i don't have the money for it. :( The points you make are great though! Love is the key.
Posted by Thorsten O... on July 30, 2008 6:28 AM
Thanks. When I was in school, I bought those cans with 15 or 30 meter of black and white film and rolled my own rolls. Did my own development and prints as well.
Another way is to find and use digital that can look like film (I kind of think there's nor reason to go digital unless it looks like film).
Posted by Robert Pri... on July 24, 2008 9:56 AM
My problem is I have too many loves in my life, I shoot film and digital. So I love my 1949 Leica 3C and 5cm, and my G2 with a 28mm. My Canons with 17 to 55 or 70/200. I truly love the way my rangefinder feel in the hand, And I think I make good photos with them. They have become an extention of me, just a natural fit. But my Canons are the work horses for me, they serve my needs and the instant gratification that film does not hold, nor the joy of getting the film back from the lab either. So I am torn between too much love at times. But I and happy that I can have all of that love.
Posted by Thorsten O... on July 30, 2008 6:35 AM
The art is to turn "loved ones" into work horses, thus making it a different experience and different pictures than what all the others do. I guess that is what I dislike about Canon gear; that it would give me the same shots as the guys next to me. Though, on many jobs the Canon gear would make life much easier. then again, a shot of Cee-Lo above would never be like that. It's unique because of the lens used. If it sell better than those taken with a flash on a red carpet - time will tell. But at least I want to make MORE PHOTOGRAPHS after having taking that. And that is worth a lot...
Posted by Josh on July 23, 2008 9:04 PM
This is such a down to earth and real journal entry - a pleasure to read and so damned true - brought smile to my face.
I want to try the 80mm 'lux, but I want the 35 'lux more. I can afford neither. But I'll get thm both, it'll just take patience.
Beautiful minds make beautiful pictures, not beautiful cameras - the camera is just a tool for getting it down.
Posted by Thorsten O... on July 30, 2008 6:48 AM
Hello soulmate ;-)
You will get there. The 80mm is often up there in price but saw one at http://forum.getdpi.com/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=2 9 I think it was that did not cost that much (850$), sold now, but... If one keep looking, one will stumble into great gear at great prices.
Posted by jamie on July 23, 2008 3:37 PM
Love love love the shot of your son! And I must agree with 'the love'. It's interesting being around so many photographers and seeing how different they all approach their work. Most of them just go to the jobs they are assigned, others take photos for themselves. I think it definitely comes across in the final product. Some people are 'shooters for hire', others are Photographers.
Posted by Thorsten O... on July 30, 2008 6:22 AM
So true. I may blog about those "angry photographers" one day, those who see celebrities or news as a dish that must be put in front of them so they can "capture them and exchange them for money." Always wondered why photographers as a whole is such an ill tempered crowd, when basically equipped to create aesthetics and joy.
Posted by Paul Zoell... on July 23, 2008 2:29 PM
First I will say you probably need to put that camera down for awhile. That is an unhealthy relationship you have with an inanimate object. HAHA
Second, I will say I don't necessarily love my camera, just my craft. A friend of mine, a snooty art student, told me he could shoot a picture than me with a disposable camera. Truth be told if you understand light, composition and the limitations of your camera then every photo you take should be good.
I know many who have entered the photo world in the advent of the digital age and don't understand what makes a good pic. That is not a matter of camera preference but a matter of talent and skill. They depend on a high-end camera as the answer whereas a good photog can take an pinhole camera and walk circles around them.
One last thing, leave my Canon peeps alone. They can have unnatural feelings for their cameras as well. You just don't know until you ask.
Posted by Thorsten O... on July 30, 2008 6:18 AM
Well, maybe one should see the camera as a companion in loving photography; in capturing light and what it can express. The camera itself is an unhealthy love relationship. I've seen too many photographers who are more photographers because of the gear they get to play with than the photographs. Whenever you see a model photo where the model looks "dead" or like "a cow" that's a shoot where the photographer was more concerned about his camera setting and flash lights than the actual life in front of the camera. No communication with the model, but a lot of interest in the equipment. My guess is that more than half of advertising photographers started out with love for equipment, with no concern in what would be in front of the camera ;-)
Posted by Thorsten O... on July 23, 2008 11:36 AM
@ Sill: Well, at least you'r comment took up all the response space. The very simple point is actually – and no matter what you think of the result – that some people photograph, because they love it. They can't stop looking, compose, photograph. And that is simply the spirit.
Some times it take new equipment to keep up the love, sometimes travel, sometimes a complete change in the way one work, or perhaps a 30" screen to see the photo on. That's beside the point because those things change and vary from person to person over time.
As for Chris, have an expresso with him one day and talk it out - a sit down. He comes across like a bulldog, but he's a pink, adorable, soft artist with sugar on top ;-) He's allowed to yell and shoot out-of-focus. Look at the actual pictures in the post, I linked to. You don't have to love his photography, but you got to admire and see if you can learn anything from his love for doing it.
Posted by Richard Po... on July 23, 2008 10:36 AM
Fantastic post! Loved reading every word! So true about loving your camera... no matter what it is. I mean I’m starting to love my Contax 645 and even though its pretty huge and heavy, I try to bring it wherever I can. Because I believe in it and because I love the results... as simple as you said. I don’t care too much about the buttons and the features, I just want to feel comfortable with it.
Much like the Yashica Electro 35 GSN I have, got it for $10 in a pawn shop and love the results... results that I could never get with a much more expensive camera. Its the feeling that makes all the difference for me!
Thanks for your post mate!
Posted by Thorsten O... on July 23, 2008 11:45 AM
I take integrity to love a camera you bought for 10$ because most will feel they have to pay real money to get "a real camera." then again, it's special and if one know what love is, one will recognize when looking at that lens.
Actually, some cameras are cool to carry everywhere. I think Contax, Hasselblad, Leica and old Nikons - stuff like that - shows that you're an educated gentleman and probably an artist at work. I remember a photo of Lars Ulrich (drummer in Metallica) viewing a painting in an art museum, with a brown Hasselblad hanging around his neck. That was style.
Posted by Richard Po... on July 23, 2008 9:59 PM
Well I agree with you 100% and your words are very dear to me. True that in this day and age it is so easy to get caught in the digital race of the Canons and Nikons. I believe that some cameras will become as rare as great wines, and only the true lovers will learn to love them :)
I don't mind getting a sore neck, the results are well worth it! I liked your reference to Lars Ulrich... old school but with style, that's what he's always been about... and principle.
Posted by Guest on July 23, 2008 6:20 AM
Hi Thorsten - I like this attitude, and I like the images (especially your wife, but let's not get into that here...) I also have a great love for my Leica Ms and my Epson R-D1s, (which I chose over the M8 when I simply compared fullsize images on Flickr - and Kamber was pretty spot-on imho).
But I gotta disagree on your appreciation of Chris. Sorry man, no disrespect, but a whole lot of his stuff strikes me as just garbage. I mean take a look at this page:
to see some of the worst bodily harm to a tilt-shift lens I ever saw. I mean, the guy just points it at everything with no intent - there's no mental filtering there, he just tilts the lens and takes a random shot because he's seen some talented people use the lens this way for portraits or streetscapes, but he simply hasn't 'got it'.
For me this is not 'love' this is some kind of equipment 'masturbation' - self-indulgent and sterile.
Posted by Darren Aba... on July 24, 2008 4:09 AM
If you're going to quote someone else's work as "garbage", please post a link to your port so we can get a frame of reference and maybe, in the process, also learn what a good photograph should look like.
Posted by jamie on July 23, 2008 3:35 PM
If you think there is no intent behind Chris' shots, you clearly don't understand his photography. As someone who is with him ALL of the time, I can assure you that there is meaning behind everything he does. He is a professional, not just a tourist with a camera.
Posted by Eddie on July 23, 2008 11:07 AM
I dont have an opinion about those pictures...because if he wants to tilt the fuck out of the lens then he can do that..he can take whatever picture he wants...i think you should spend less time bitching..thats my opinion
Posted by Eddie on July 23, 2008 9:19 AM
just because you put.."no disrespect" doesnt mean anything
its like saying..."no offense"
its always offensive/disrespectful!!
Posted by Guest on July 23, 2008 10:03 AM
Eddie - I somehow didn't expect my comment to get published, and when I came back to check and read your reply I realized (with an enormous laugh) that you're absolutely right!
I did mean what I said with disrespect. Chris Weeks is one of those blustering, big-mouthed characters that's 'made it' with the celebrities - and good luck to him. The guy obviously has that rough-edged charm that goes down well in Hollywood.
But I'd be more interested to hear your opinion of shots like this one:
than in hearing your lesson in good manners.
Maybe the motto 'if you can't say something good about someone, say nothing' would've been best for me to follow, but I just felt that Chris was the wrong guy to pick as an exemplar of Thorsten's thesis.
Thanks Thorsten, for letting me vent. I guess I come across as bitter. ;-)
Posted by CMphotogra... on July 23, 2008 5:59 AM
but i think i could be happy with any camera. i don't have to love my equipment to take some nice photos...well, i didn't take that many good shots with my first crappy digi-p/s, but it was alright.
i do love my leica, but i also took some great shots with my fed 3 (which i don't really like for it's crappy viewfinder).
Posted by Thorsten O... on July 23, 2008 11:49 AM
You know, the real secret about love is decision: When you decide, he or she is the one, or that camera is the one, you're in love. Simple as that.
I could love any camera, too. Loved Nikon for many years but gave up on it (because I had other interests in life). Then I met Leica and I was back in love with photography. Whatever it takes, but if it's not sparkling, you're missing something. Because it can be.
Posted by CMphotogra... on July 23, 2008 1:52 PM
hehe, sometimes lack of money keeps one from love ;) thats why i got the fed.
Posted by Chris on July 23, 2008 4:55 AM
wow. quite a post, my friend. thank you for your kind words.
i always loved making photos. a deep love. i even loved assisting making photos of pointless advertising stuff. about the time i'd had enough of that i started making photos of my daughter.
i knew there was nothing else i really needed to do in life besides perhaps being a chef.
in as much as i certainly love at least a couple of my bodies and lenses more than others, honestly, i love any camera which in my hands. in fact, once that one is laid at my side ... i love the next one just as much when i put it up to my eye. and, yes, they can be completely different systems but ... dunno ... i don't even think about it.
it just works for me .. probably because ... i love making photographs.
it's not even about "doing it for a living," ya' know, "loving what you do for a living." because... i think i shoot to live. goes beyond some O.C.D.-thing, i need to make photographs.
and whilst i may or may not have met friends with similar viewpoints in my own neighborhood .. i think it's amazing that because of the internet and bandwidth and places like uber ... or the leica board or wherever ... we can become friends and share each other's work.
it's pretty cool.
hope the love convinces you to pick up the 'blad. ;)
Posted by Thorsten O... on July 23, 2008 11:59 AM
I'm building a philosophy about photography, slowly, one step at the time.
So far I've realized there's something about photographers who often shoot against the light source. I do that a lot myself, but most photographers try to get the light source behind them. What the deeper meaning is, I haven't figured out, but I'm sure it tell something.
And the other is that those who can cook, can shoot against the light.
It''s all art and aesthetics, composition and timing why it make sense. But as I said, I'm building that philosophy slowly. Will find the one sentence one day that sums all truth!
As for "similar viewpoints," perhaps those who love it, are those who started out with whatever equipment and got results. "Saw the light" in more than one sense, and then builded it from there. Contrary to them who started off with buttons and features and didn't manage to produce great results, though they have the possibility to buy the right tools.
Was thinking many should try a point-and-shoot with just one button, start SEE and then advance from there. But actually, my photo seminars, turn like 70% of the inactive photographers into active, enthusiastic shooters. Because I tell about light. And that beyond equipment - or above.
Posted by sarchi on July 23, 2008 3:50 AM
the hass shot is wonderful..
you would'nt believe the hassel I had with film dev at school at that young age but it taught me to persevere ..finding somebody or something to want to take is half the battle
there have been some hardware moments..
Posted by Thorsten O... on July 23, 2008 12:05 PM
"There have been some hardware moments." - love that sentence!
Film has the quality that it's definite. When you press that shutter, it's a definitive picture - and you have to deal with it in developing, scanning and whatever comes after. So you should take enough but not too many. And try to avoid the useless ones.
Maybe the Hasselblad - even digital - has that feling. When that huge thing shoots, the file is huge like a rock. Has some definite to it!
I have a Leica 1C enlarger I bought in mint condition (60-70 years old!), and I think I will never use it. Planned to, but I get tired by the thought of all that stuff. But glad I tried it all. Even build my own 6x6 camera in wood and with a belly lens when I was 12 or something.
Posted by Alex Ha on July 23, 2008 2:01 AM
at least 15,000 of my shots, I took with a sony point and shoot back in highschool...still to this day I am in love with it.
The memories made with a camera, can't forget them even if you tried, you will always have pictures to remind you.
Posted by Thorsten O... on July 23, 2008 12:12 PM
You play with light - just saw your photos. Great stuff.
I had plastic point-and-shoot too when in school - and experienced you can do amazing stuff with little equipment. One can miss those days of "purity" sometimes.
Posted by Haonavy on July 23, 2008 12:26 AM
I have to say, this is inspiring...
Thank you for sharing your thoughts! Definitely some of the best I've read in a long time...
Posted by Thorsten O... on July 23, 2008 1:34 AM
Great to hear. I often get realizations myself by writing it.
Love your "Film in Europe" slideshow, by the way.
Posted by Eddie on July 22, 2008 9:51 PM
i wouldnt say that looks like a 4by5 scan...oh and i made a blog reponse!!
Posted by Thorsten O... on July 23, 2008 1:32 AM
Of course it does! What with ya!
Love your "Film in Europe" slideshow, by the way.
Posted by Thorsten O... on July 23, 2008 1:36 AM
Ups, that Slideshow was Haonavy's. Sorry! Thanks for the comment in your blog as well.
Posted by equivoque on July 22, 2008 9:19 PM
the shot of your son is too precious. :-)
Posted by Thorsten O... on July 23, 2008 1:43 AM
Thanks. It''s how he was and is. It's being used by a school these days, in their promotion. He was playing with his sister, the laughed, but then he had this irritation that they had locked the door - like "what the ... don't they know who I am?"
Posted by rstcg on July 22, 2008 9:07 PM
right on. right on.
Posted by Thorsten O... on July 23, 2008 1:45 AM
[Closed for comments, but feel free to send comments and questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org]