November 27th, 2018

11/27/2018 - A walk, a direction, a new camera, etc..

I took the morning of the 27th to head out to a forested park along the Snohomish River that I have visited quite a few times over the last several months. I had realized the night before that I didn’t work the next day and thought it would be a good opportunity to take my new-to-me a7R out for the first time, and get back to making images.

On that note, this outing was actually the first time that I’ve set out to make any photos for over two weeks. I have been taking a lot of time recently to step back a bit from the actual photo-making side of things to reflect on my work, on the things I like and don’t like, where I would like to see things go moving forward, etc..

This is actually something that I have been going over in the background for a few months now. The long and short of it is that I have always been deeply inspired by the likes of Ansel Adams, John Sexton, Eliot Porter and the like. I have always found a certain clarity, focus, elegance, and power in the work of those photographers and others working in the same tradition of Straight Photography.

And more specifically the point of contention for me lately has become the fact that despite my love of the work that comes out of this tradition it is an aesthetic that I have never really focused on in my own work, or if I have it has always been very shallow at best.

A Different Direction

As a result of this, much of my time reflecting recently has involved a deeper study of the work around this tradition and attempting to understand or conceptualize what it is that I love about it.

I have been spending a lot of time with the work of the likes of Ansel Adams, John Sexton, and Eliot Porter, as noted above. But I have also taken a deeper look at the works of Edward and Brett Weston as well as Minor White, who is less attached to f/64 and that tradition, if at all, but I have nevertheless found his landscape work deeply beautiful and inspiring.

The concepts that I keep coming back to are the same as those that I have noted above, namely: clarity, focus, elegance, and power. From here, it has been a matter of thinking about the changes I can make that will produce in my own work the elements that I have found so beautiful in that tradition by focusing on that clarity, the elegance of composition, the clear sense of focus, and overall strength in my own images.

And so part of this outing was about working on the changes in my work that will move it in the direction described above. A lot of what I shot didn’t really do that. Old habits die hard, or whatever. But some of it did (what I’m showing here), and to be fair to myself I have to remember that this will be a long process that will take a lot of time and energy honing my work.

The Sony a7R and Other Stuff

Part of my recent acquisition of a first-gen Sony a7R ties into this, actually. I went back and forth for quite some time between finally diving into shooting 4x5 or going back to shooting high-res full frame digital sensors. At the end of the day I couldn’t justify the wormhole that large format requires, even though it is still something I am very interested in shooting at some point. So the Sony a7R eventually won me over, and so far I am very happy with it.

The resolution I am able to get from the 36MP full frame sensor is the craziest I’ve ever seen, and for my needs is more than enough to give me the very rich tonality and detailed rendering that I have always admired from the likes of the photographers previously discussed. From a user perspective I have also found it very user friendly, which is something I was worried about, namely the camera getting in my way and being a general pain in the ass the way some digital cameras do. Once I had it setup the way I wanted it was a joy to use.

The other thing that I changed this outing was shooting off of a tripod. I rarely ever shoot from a tripod but I decided to use one for this outing as a way of forcing myself to slow down and take a more measured approach with each image. Having to set up for each shot forces you to be more measured about every step of the process, which is a good thing when I am trying to rethink the way I am making photographs.

This format is something I am experimenting with as a means of sharing my images and thoughts so I would definitely appreciate any feedback! Love it? Hate it? Lemme know.

Some additional images: