I’m out of OCOLOY

I have tried the One Camera, One Lens, One Year for a while this summer, then I realized it was too restrictive for me, and I allowed myself a couple of more lenses. But after a few months of that, I have come to yet another conclusion.

This exercise just a ting that was suggested by “The Online Photographer” many years ago. I’ve seen the same suggested several times. The main thing is that you should get to know your tools so intimately that it becomes an extension of you. This all sounds well and good, but I’m not so sure. In fact, I did this when I was young. I photographed almost exclusively with a Pentax LX and a 100mm Macro for several years. Eventually adding a 35mm as well. But when I look back at my images, I don’t think it did me all that much good. And that is what I feel this time around as well. However, what I do think is effective is to go out shooting often. Several times a week. And also, work with those images. Find the best ones and print them.

So, I quit OCOLOY, but I will keep at the discipline of shooting often and printing often.

In need of longer arms

One of my mistakes (in photography) is to watch too many YouTube videos about photography. It’s not all bad, but the tips and tricks don’t always add up. For some reason, I got the impression that off camera flash could be handled hand held. That is, both camera and flash in hand. That’s a mistake. I’m not saying it’s no possible, but it’s very awkward. The image at the top of this post, I did just that, and notice how the shadow falls. First thing I did after this was getting a cheap light stand

Still life

This was fun. My first attempt at a studio still life.

ocoloy print 29 08/01-23

The item is a kind of a bowl for candles that my wife bought a few years ago. I have always liked how they look, and how the candle shine through the semi transparent leaves, so I decide to have a go at it.

The orange light from within is just the candle. I had to use a fairly long exposure to get it right. I put up a grey cloth as a background, but it ended up all black, so I flashed my Godox AD100Pro at it. It was fun to be able to adjust the tone of the background using the flash power. Next I decided to put a flash on the item itself to lift the underside a bit. I put a flash with a softbox very close on the left side. You can see the cold light on the base, and on the leaves on the left side. I went for a very subtle effect since I wanted the candle to dominate, and I wanted to keep the reflections in the table. I spend quite some time on tuning the flash power and balancing the candle exposure using the shutter speed.

The result? I’m happy. I managed to use the flash to improve the result without being obvious. It is not merely a product shot as I think it has some mood to it.

Could I do better? No doubt, but to my untrained eyes I can’t think of much. I think I could have added another flash on the right (or a reflector) to get a tiny accent on the right hand side of the base as well, but that’s about it. Maybe I’ll see more options later.

This is a very different type of photography than I’m used to. I have never “created” an image in this way before. I have always found naturally occurring subjects. Either in nature, or objects left there by other people. To pick up an object and then building up an image from that is something completely different. And it’s fun. It is more like drawing or painting. Most of photography revolves around removing unwanted stuff, but here it is the opposite. Even light is something you add yourself.

What I like

They always tell you to photograph the stuff you love, and I have always found that a bit frustrating. I hasn’t really worked for me before. How do you identify the “stuff you love” in this context. For some it can be as simple as; they love horses, so they photograph horses. For me, it’s a bit more elusive.

This summer it dawned on me that I do enjoy street photography. Why is that? Mostly because I like to watch people. How they look and what they do. I always do that when I’m out walking the streets or sitting on the subway. It is however some way between just observing, and actually taking photographs. At least for me it is. But I try as best I can. The thing is, I didn’t realize this until recently. I have photographed street on and off for many years, but I didn’t know exactly why. And it only became apparent to me that I have done street quite a bit when I went through my library a few weeks ago.

A shot this one back in 1991.

Then, just the other day, I realized another thing I always tend to do. This may sound strange, but I find a surprising amount of pleasure in various man made objects. Usually finely crafted things or precision mechanics, but it can also be old and weathered objects. Big or small, but most often small. I have stuff lying around just because I like to pick them up from time to time.

This small microswitch has been lying on my desk for at least 3 years now. Every now and then I pick it up, pushing the lever and enjoy the solid click and the smooth action. I also remember boarding a plane once. I had to wait a minute right in the doorway, and then I had a look at the hinges used for the doors on that plane. Beautifully machined parts that was custom designed and manufactured for that single purpose. I loved it. Why don’t I photograph all these objects? I don’t know, but I guess I didn’t connected the dots all the way to photography. Also, I don’t want to do straight product shots. It has to be something more. Maybe I was afraid of not being any original.

Another thing that dawned on me recently is that I really love threes in all its forms. Both live and … processed. This was also a thing that I realized by looking through my library.

ocoloy print 23 12/12-23

In fact I do find all the details and stuff lying around in nature (leaves, twigs, fungi, and so on) very interesting, but I find it hard to photograph. Light is often a problem in the forest, which often lead to boring images. And that leads me back to my recent introduction to off camera flash photography.

So, any conclusion to all this? Maybe. I find the recent realizations quite motivating, and I like that there are a variety of stuff. Streets are fun, but you need the time and opportunity to get in to the city. Nature …. well you have to get out, which is a good thing, but not always possible. At least not in daylight during winter. Small objects can be shot in an ad-hoc home studio, or on location. As long as I can find the time, there should be an opportunity. Also, adding my own light to the equation makes thing easier since I’m not always able to postpone my other obligations every time the light is optimal.

Trying out flash

I have dabbled with Speedlight flashes before, and even got some decent results by bouncing off ceilings and so on. However, I have not tried it out for real. Flash equipment has been expensive, and I didn’t see how it would fit to my way of photographing. But now, two things have happened.

  • I found some really nice examples on using light in close-up/macro outdoors.
  • Off camera flashes has become accessible at a reasonable price (Godox).

So, to start off, I got myself a Godox AD100Pro and a wireless trigger for Fuji. I also got a silicon dome to put on the flash, and a small collapsible reflector. Wow, this was fun. Below is my first attempt. It was taken on a gray overcast day in the forest. The first image was the one I got without flash. I tried to develop it to a decent level, but I didn’t go all in. Just 10 minutes of Lightroom work.

The next image is a composite of two flash images. I emulated a two-flash lighting setup using one flash and photoshop. Notice how the texture is improved.

ocoloy print 24 17/12-23

I’ll definitely do more of this. Probably get a second flash unit and a couple of cheap light stands.

B&W or color

This has been an ongoing process for me for several years. When I started photographing in 1987, I only used B&W film. Partly due to the cost of color film, and partly because I enjoyed making my own B&W prints. I rigged a makeshift darkroom in my own bedroom, and had a lot of fun.

Fast forward to digital. For a long time, I have kind of thought I liked B&W most, but for some reason I have gravitated more and more towards color. It is fairly recent that I figured out that I mainly am a color photographer. But then there is that odd shot.

ocoloy print 3 9/11-23

I don’t think that one work at all in color. I B&W, the focus moves to the people in the foreground, while the 7-eleven storefront takes up too much space in the color version. I’m trying to figure out what I think about this. I’m not bothered about shooting B&W photographs, but I don’t like making that decision afterwards.

But all this is just me being silly. No one else is cares whether I planned a color shot or not, and whether I changed my mind afterwards.

OCOLOY – Sort of

ocoloy print 1 7/11-23

The almost-ocoloy project is coasting along. Still on the project, but winter is hard. It has been very cold for a couple of weeks, which really has affected me. The productivity went down the drain, but now I hope to pick it up again. To mitigate the problem of not getting out as much, I have added another tool to arsenal. A macro lens. I don’t think there has been that many weeks since 1989 that I haven’t owned a capable macro lens, but for the Fuji system I have only used my old Pentax 100mm. This is not really a satisfying solution. Even for macro, or maybe I should say close-ups, I enjoy shooting hand-held. So when I found a used Fujinon XF 80mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro at a very good price, I jumped at it. That gives more opportunities to go around the house and finding abstract details.

A falling out with Instagram

ocoloy print 21 10/12-23

I don’t like Meta anymore. Or, I never really like them, but they have gotten worse. I haven’t experienced anything unpleasant, but I don’t like their business-model. I have no illusions about Google either, but you have to start some place.

Also, I don’t think Insta is that good for photography. My goal is not to gather likes or followers, but I do enjoy the occasional chats. However, I don’t want to do the stuff that is necessary in order to get my Insta account rolling. Just the simplest thing, like tagging the images is too tedious.

Right now, I’m testing out Flickr. Much better for presenting photographs, and maybe more my thing. I just want to have some galleries out there to show whenever someone asks. I’ll try it out for a while, and we’ll see how it goes. Maybe I’ll end up terminating my Insta account, or maybe I just leave it dormant.

Or digital?

Just had a fallout with film the other day. I’m not sure what changed the mood, but suddenly the hassle got to me. Maybe because I use it more intensive than ever before. Developing and scanning 3-4 films each week is a new experience, and it robs me of time I could spend on looking at images and printing. And then I had an instance of the M6 film loading failing me. Or maybe I was failing it. Anyway, the film didn’t catch the spool, and I didn’t notice because I was in a hurry. This never happened to me with any other film camera…. ever. The result was that I shot 36 exposures on nothing.

So, I’m rethinking my approach now. I have too many cameras right now. And I don’t cope well with owning too many things I don’t use. Soooo, what to do? What do I want to achieve?

  • Photograph every day
  • Be more comfortable on the street
  • Take pictures of strangers
  • Have fun while photographing
  • Experiment with more abstract images

Nothing on this list screams out “Film”. If anything, it suggest “Convenience”. So maybe just keeping a film camera for the odd times I want to dip my toes again, but rely on the Fuji for everyday work.

I have already concluded that I don’t really enjoy landscape photography all that much. I love being out in nature, but I like the experience more than the photos. I do like the city and man made objects. I want to photograph people and their environment. And I like abstracts. It’s not that I never find exiting images in nature, but the classical landscape thing is not for me.

What the M6 experience has taught me so far is that less is more when it comes to gear. But the solution is not necessarily the M6. I think I will sell most of the cameras. At least the Hasselblad, the Pentax and some of my Fuji lenses. Maybe keep the M6 as my only usable film camera (the Konica is more of a exhibition piece), but use it only when the mood is right. It’s an expensive item to have on the shelve, but it keeps its value pretty good, so no harm. But then I go back to a 2 lens setup for the Fuji. The 23m f/2 and either the 35mm or 50mm f/2. And if I manage to sell the stuff, I’ll upgrade the X-T3 to X-T5.

I could have gone for Leica digital, but the cost is too much. A new M11 is crazy no matter how I see it. A used M10 could be it, but they still go for 45.000NOK, around 4000-4500USD here in Norway. Not to mention the cost of lenses. A single 50mm lens can cost more than my entire Fuji setup. As nice at the Leica is, it’s not that nice.

We’ll see.

Going analog

Why?

I must admit this caught me a bit by surprise as well, but it all happened in December 2020. After spending too much time at home, I was hit by a wave of nostalgia. When I first got into photography, back in 1987 I think, I found my first true love in the used shelves at my local camera shop. It was a Pentax LX. I got two lenses for that one, 35mm f/2.8 and 100mm f/2.8 Macro. Both very nice lenses. I used that camera for more than 10 years before I sold it. Anyway, nostalgia hit, and I found a used LX with a 50mm f/1.4 and a 28mm f/2.8. This one had the issues almost every LX has. The rubber that dampens the mirror had failed. But I got it fixed, so now it works fine. I also bought some HP5+ and a bottle of Rodinal and went out shooting.

From this experience I came back with the following:

  • I truly enjoyed holding an analog camera and shooting film.
  • I love how I have to wait to see the negatives.
  • I still hate Rodinal. Did back then, still do.
  • The LX was not all I remembered. Good but no longer the love of my life.

Then I got hold of a Hasselblad 500C/M. That was something else. The experience is so different, and I had a lot of fun with it. I must have shot 60-70 rolls with that camera so far. But as good and fun as it is, it is also heavy and cumbersome. This is a camera I most likely will continue to use, but I also needed something lighter and smaller.

Chance would have it that I found a Konica IIIa from Japan for next to nothing. I started using it, and soon found that I enjoyed to use a range finder. Never tried that before. The Konica has a super nice 48mm f/2.8 lens, probably the most beautifully rendering lens I have ever used. But that camera is a bit of a hassle. No light meter I can live with, but the shutter button wasn’t all that reliable, so it was easy to miss a shot.

Then, at last, I got myself a Leica M6. I have never really lusted for a Leica, so this was a bit surprising to me, but after using the Konica and finding that I enjoyed the range finder, I thought it would be difficult to go wrong with a Leica. And so far that has really been the case. It’s not as perfect as the fan boys are claiming, but it is a very enjoyable camera to use. It is small and light for a pro film camera. The ergonomics suits me well. I love the light meter. Just the way I want it (almost like my old Pentax MX). But it is the viewfinder that I enjoy most. Imprecise as it is, I find it very “transparent” and unobtrusive. It is like it isn’t there. And also, the focusing patch just felt very natural to me. And I can use it event without correction for my failing eyes. That didn’t work on SLRs.

So, for the next year now, it’ll be Leica and only that. I will miss the Hasselblad, but that would not have been the right camera for this project.