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Creativity and constraint

Chris Kresser

New member
I just read the Ben Lifson essay "Everything is Subject and Kicking Off Your Shoes". It resonated with me deeply, and I found myself nodding my head in agreement all the way through. Early in the essay he says:

"Our busy, time-consuming and important careers and our important family commitments often make us photograph only intermittently, when we can find time and as subject matter either comes our way or, as is often the case, we travel to it, sometimes quite far. But this is not the best road to good pictures and our growth as picture makers."
This is becoming more and more true for me. I have little time these days for "dedicated photography", and likely will not for the next 2-3 years due to work and other commitments. The result so far has been that I've stopped making photographs. And that's not good.

Ben's essay inspired me to come up with some project ideas that are more closely integrated with my daily life. Rather than choosing subject matter that requires me to travel to a location away from home, which I can't seem to find time for now (even if it's in the same town!), perhaps I should focus more on what is right there in front of me every day.

So time has been one challenge for me. The other is choice. I am one of those people, it seems, that doesn't do well with a lot of choices. I've purposely restricted myself to one DSLR and three prime lenses because of this. But even then, this still feels like too much. I've heard some photography teachers suggest an experiment of choosing only one lens and working with it for a period of time, whether a month or a year. This appeals to me very much, and I have an intuitive sense that it would be a powerful exercise.

For this reason I'm thinking of picking up a Ricoh GRD or Sigma DP1. That way I can have a compact, high-quality, fixed-lens camera with me wherever I go. I normally shoot with a 5D, and I find that is too large and heavy to carry around on a regular basis. The GRD and DP1 would also force me to work with a fixed focal length, which I think will improve my photography.

I'd love to hear any thoughts, suggestions, or ideas this post may raise for you. How have you continued to find time for art (if you have) through busy periods of life? What is your experience of the relationship between creativity and constraint (or choice)?
 

Sean Reid

Moderator
I just read the Ben Lifson essay "Everything is Subject and Kicking Off Your Shoes". It resonated with me deeply, and I found myself nodding my head in agreement all the way through. Early in the essay he says:



This is becoming more and more true for me. I have little time these days for "dedicated photography", and likely will not for the next 2-3 years due to work and other commitments. The result so far has been that I've stopped making photographs. And that's not good.

Ben's essay inspired me to come up with some project ideas that are more closely integrated with my daily life. Rather than choosing subject matter that requires me to travel to a location away from home, which I can't seem to find time for now (even if it's in the same town!), perhaps I should focus more on what is right there in front of me every day.

So time has been one challenge for me. The other is choice. I am one of those people, it seems, that doesn't do well with a lot of choices. I've purposely restricted myself to one DSLR and three prime lenses because of this. But even then, this still feels like too much. I've heard some photography teachers suggest an experiment of choosing only one lens and working with it for a period of time, whether a month or a year. This appeals to me very much, and I have an intuitive sense that it would be a powerful exercise.

For this reason I'm thinking of picking up a Ricoh GRD or Sigma DP1. That way I can have a compact, high-quality, fixed-lens camera with me wherever I go. I normally shoot with a 5D, and I find that is too large and heavy to carry around on a regular basis. The GRD and DP1 would also force me to work with a fixed focal length, which I think will improve my photography.

I'd love to hear any thoughts, suggestions, or ideas this post may raise for you. How have you continued to find time for art (if you have) through busy periods of life? What is your experience of the relationship between creativity and constraint (or choice)?
That's a really interesting post and you raise three topics:

1. Photography that's made as part of one's daily life
2. Pocket cameras
3. Simplifying one's equipment use

These almost could be three separate threads and, depending on where this discussion goes, Asher or myself might start those threads.


1. I agree strongly with the importance of integrating one's photography into his or her daily life. Ben's already explained the value of this quite well and he and I have been discussing this idea for the past 25 years or so.

2. There definitely is value, I think, in having a camera with one most of the time. And that does mean one has to be able to carry it without the bulk, weight, etc. interfering with one's daily activities (which, for me example, includes dealing with a booster seat in our cars). I've tried to review some of the most interesting pocket digital cameras (Ricoh GR2, Ricoh GX100, Sigma DP1, Leica D-Lux 2/3, Canon G9) for just this reason.

My two favorites are the GR2 and the DP1 but what bothers me about both of them is that they use a fixed wide angle lens (and the Ricoh gets bulky if one adds the "40" adapter). Some may love the 28 EFOV but I'd love to see cameras like this with 35 - 50 EFOV lenses. Asher and I were just talking about this yesterday. The Leicas, the GX100 and the G9 (with its shutter lag) are more versatile in terms of EFOV.

3. I do think it can sometimes be very useful for one to pare down to using one camera with just one or two lenses. If one does that and internalizes the way the camera/lens sees then that machine can become a more natural extension of one's sight. As I mentioned in another thread, I recently photographed intensively for six weeks using, primarily, only the M8 and a CV 35/2.5.

Cheers,

Sean
 

Chris Kresser

New member
Thanks for your response, Sean. I'd be happy to see this split into three different threads! I imagine they are topics many people are exploring right now.

1. I agree strongly with the importance of integrating one's photography into his or her daily life. Ben's already explained the value of this quite well and he and I have been discussing this idea for the past 25 years or so.
Brooks Jensen talks a lot about this too. I just haven't figured out how to do it yet in a satisfying way. I find that I produce much better work and get more satisfaction out of working within a project-based context. So I suppose what I need to do is come up with some ideas for projects that involve subject matter at home, at work, or on the way back and forth between the two.

2. There definitely is value, I think, in having a camera with one most of the time. And that does mean one has to be able to carry it without the bulk, weight, etc. interfering with one's daily activities (which, for me example, includes dealing with a booster seat in our cars). I've tried to review some of the most interesting pocket digital cameras (Ricoh GR2, Ricoh GX100, Sigma DP1, Leica D-Lux 2/3, Canon G9) for just this reason.


My two favorites are the GR2 and the DP1 but what bothers me about both of them is that they use a fixed wide angle lens (and the Ricoh gets bulky if one adds the "40" adapter). Some may love the 28 EFOV but I'd love to see cameras like this with 35 - 50 EFOV lenses. Asher and I were just talking about this yesterday. The Leicas, the GX100 and the G9 (with its shutter lag) are more versatile in terms of EFOV.
I've read your reviews on all of these cameras, Sean, and find them invaluable. Like yourself, I wouldn't choose 28mm as a fixed focal length if I could. 35mm would be my choice. However, I'm guessing that after working with the 28mm FL on a regular basis I would grow accustomed to it.

3. I do think it can sometimes be very useful for one to pare down to using one camera with just one or two lenses. If one does that and internalizes the way the camera/lens sees then that machine can become a more natural extension of one's sight. As I mentioned in another thread, I recently photographed intensively for six weeks using, primarily, only the M8 and a CV 35/2.5.
I really loved your idea in the GX100 review of buying several OVFs for the GX100. That might be the best of both worlds for my purposes. If I want the discipline and creative exercise of working with one focal length, I just attach the optical viewfinder for that focal length, lock the camera there and fire away. If I want to switch to another focal length in the future, I can simply pick up another OVF.

One question I have about this approach with the GX100 is whether it's possible to turn off the LCD while using an OVF as it is with the GRD2. It was my impression (could be wrong) that doing this improves the response time / focus lag.

Finally, I suppose I could get the GRD and then the 40mm or 21mm adapter. But as you mentioned, if I do this it's no longer a "carry anywhere" compact. The GX100 stays the same size no matter what FL is chosen.

BTW, Sean, I'm so glad you started this forum. Like Mike said in the other thread, I've been searching for an online forum devoted to photography as a visual art for a long time. I'm enjoying it immensely so far!

Cheers,

Sean[/QUOTE]
 

Sean Reid

Moderator
OK, I split up the three interesting topics you raised. This idea of refining the discussion was a tip Asher gave me and I think its a useful approach. There's a lot to think about with all three topics you mention.

Cheers,

Sean
 

Chris Kresser

New member
Sean,

Thanks - I imagine they will all be fruitful threads. FYI, it seems like the "One Camera" thread got created twice.

Chris
 
3. I do think it can sometimes be very useful for one to pare down to using one camera with just one or two lenses. If one does that and internalizes the way the camera/lens sees then that machine can become a more natural extension of one's sight. As I mentioned in another thread, I recently photographed intensively for six weeks using, primarily, only the M8 and a CV 35/2.5.
I shot all of my European photos with a CV 35/1.7 Ultron and a 21/4.0 Color-Skopar and not once did I feel like I was missing out on something. I just focused on making pictures with what I had.

There was a school of thought that you should spend the first two years with a camera shooting only with the 50mm lens that came with it, to genuinely come to grips with its way of rendering the world.
 

Wouter Brandsma

New member
I really loved your idea in the GX100 review of buying several OVFs for the GX100. That might be the best of both worlds for my purposes. If I want the discipline and creative exercise of working with one focal length, I just attach the optical viewfinder for that focal length, lock the camera there and fire away. If I want to switch to another focal length in the future, I can simply pick up another OVF.

One question I have about this approach with the GX100 is whether it's possible to turn off the LCD while using an OVF as it is with the GRD2. It was my impression (could be wrong) that doing this improves the response time / focus lag.

Finally, I suppose I could get the GRD and then the 40mm or 21mm adapter. But as you mentioned, if I do this it's no longer a "carry anywhere" compact. The GX100 stays the same size no matter what FL is chosen.

BTW, Sean, I'm so glad you started this forum. Like Mike said in the other thread, I've been searching for an online forum devoted to photography as a visual art for a long time. I'm enjoying it immensely so far!
I use the GX100 as my only camera. At first I was thrilled about the 24mm setting, but switched to the 28 and 35mm settings more often lately. I use the MY1 and MY2 registred settings to switch. I am looking for one or two OVF myself too. I am thinking about a 28 and a 35mm OVF.

There is a VF/LCD button on the rear of the GX100 to switch of the LCD screen. You normally would use this to activate the GX100 EVF. I personally don't know whether it improves the response time / focus lag. The GX100 is already a fast camera, but you can make it faster. Use manual focus and manual exposure and the camera will response really fast.

And thank you Sean for starting this forum and the invite.

Cheers,

Wouter Brandsma
http://wouter28mm.wordpress.com/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/wouter28mm/
http://www.seriouscompacts.com/
 

Cem_Usakligil

Well-known member
...
And thank you Sean for starting this forum and the invite.
..
Hi Wouter,

You and all the others are very much welcome here. We are delighted to have you over and we are looking forward to exchanging new ideas, which seems to be happening already. BTW, having a new Dutch person joining OPF is always important to me and some other regulars from the lowlands <big smile>
 

Cem_Usakligil

Well-known member
...
For this reason I'm thinking of picking up a Ricoh GRD or Sigma DP1. That way I can have a compact, high-quality, fixed-lens camera with me wherever I go. I normally shoot with a 5D, and I find that is too large and heavy to carry around on a regular basis. The GRD and DP1 would also force me to work with a fixed focal length, which I think will improve my photography.

I'd love to hear any thoughts, suggestions, or ideas this post may raise for you. How have you continued to find time for art (if you have) through busy periods of life? What is your experience of the relationship between creativity and constraint (or choice)?
Hi Chris,

I share these sentiments. I too have a 5D, but have bought a G9 a week ago. Ever since, the G9 went along everywhere I went. So I end up taking more pictures, but I am not entirely certain yet whether this is a good development for me ;-). Have to think this through....


Cheers,
 

Wouter Brandsma

New member
I always take my camera with me. I personally don't think it is restrain on my creativity. I often saw pictures, but had no camera with me. It even helps me to reset my brains after a long day working. Here are some things I photographed on my daily commute.


Urbanized Tree - Ricoh GX100, f4.6, 1/250 sec, ISO 80, -0.3 EV


Bus Stop - Ricoh GX100, f5.4, 1/400 sec, ISO 80, -0.3 EV


From the Hip - Ricoh GX100, f4.3, 1/1400 sec, ISO 100, -0.3 EV
 

peterthompson

New member
I also take a camera with me whenever I go out, even if only to the mailbox...I find it changes the way I think and see, even if I don't take any pictures.

Thanks to Sean for starting a forum that won't have to answer the question "Which lens should I buy?"

Peter T
 

Chris Kresser

New member
Thanks for sharing those beautiful images, Wouter. Rich, moody and full of life. There's no question the GX100 is a capable camera in the right hands!

Chris
 

David Sommars

New member
nice B&W shots


Sometimes you have to just put on the headphones and walk out the front door.
challenge yourself to find something interesting within 2-3 blocks.
Find something a little different or find a context that can make a everyday object interesting.

Dont rely 100% on a "exotic" or "far away" location, or your just a tourist.
 
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