If the image doesn't work you weren't close enough.

So many people think that Robert Capa was talking about physical distance.  And maybe he was.  But I think he was talking about emotional distance.  If you can't feel emotionally connected to a subject I just don't see how you can expect to make a great image.  If you are a sports shooter it's a connection to the excitement of the competition and the grace of whatever sport it is that you've chosen to photograph.  Landscape photographers are drawn to certain areas and terrains.  Even if they have to fly thousands of miles to get there.  And portrait photographers who do their work for the love of the art should feel a strong connection with the person in front of them.  Closing the emotional distance to better understand what to show.  Empathy?  

To blaze away with your camera without coming to some realization of what you are trying to describe about your subject is a recipe for bland photos.  If you are engaged and your subject is engaged then you'll be better able to translate that energy to your audience.  The studio should be a quiet, private place with enough emotional space to allow a certain kind of magic to appear.  I can't do this work with an entourage.  It would be too impersonal.

Tech stuff:  Leica R8 camera. Ilford Pan F 50 ISO film. 90mm Summicron lens.  Scanned on an Epson V500 scanner and post processed in SnapSeed.  


  1. Great post, yes empathy with your subject and a real honest interest in describing it. That is what counts.
    Yes, that has to be what Capa meant - emotional distance, that makes a lot more sense then physical distance.

  2. I would agree. Looking back at my photos from the last few years the only ones that are any good at all, the ones that have something to say or are provocative in any way, are all photos of people or places that I feel very much connected to. Admittedly, these photos are few in number. It is a lesson I have learned only very recently. While digital is fun and has made great strides, I think this medium is also part of the problem. Digital can, not saying it does all the time, but can foster this disconnect that you speak of. It is simply too easy to blaze away, delete the ones you don't want, and fix the rest in Photoshop. Film, at least for me, really forces me to think about what I am doing. I need to have a reason to push the shutter button. When I shoot film I often find myself simply not taking a shot, simply because it's not "worth it". Not from a financial standpoint, because film costs money, and not from an emotional one either; there is something deliberate about committing something to film, and if that connection is not there I tend not to put it to film. SD cards are easy to format and start over. I say this as someone who got really interested in photography as a digital shooter. Lately I've been feeling that I should spend more time with my film cameras and spending a lot more time thinking about my shots, rather than simply firing away, which I used to confuse with practicing my craft. I've also been getting a strong tingling that I need to learn to develop my own film, and I think this is where I'll be headed in the very near future. Fewer shots but more photography, if that makes sense.

  3. need a checkbox for true… good post as always.

  4. I do really like when, at the end of the post, you provide the technical details and maybe why you made that choice. Even if there was no real reason for your choice......



  5. As usual a great post. Is there any possibility you can shed a few details on how you get such great scans from your film. Thanks.


  6. Delighted to see this work with the R8, Kirk. The images have a quality that digital can't achieve in b&w. The R8 was - and is - an underrated camera. Simply because it wasn't an M. But it is the only camera I own where I can twiddle exposure and everything without taking the camera from my eye. But my favourite - smaller, lighter and easier to use for the most part - is the R7. OK, it may be a Minolta on speed but it was a very good Minolta to start with. Perhaps the biggest drawback to the R series was that Sigma made some of the lenses. Yeah, and modern Zeiss is made by Cosina. Even if that's an issue, the Sigma lenses are easy to avoid. Great that the blog is back. I've missed it these past weeks.

  7. Scans. Buy an Epson V500 or (if you have surplus money) buy an Epson V750. Get the "Photo" version. Load the scanning software from Epson. Put the film in the correct holder. Do a preview scan. Crop to the edges of the frame. Go into the menu that is basically a "levels" menu. Set a black point (with the sliders) that works for you. Do the same with a white point. Adjust the midtone slider to taste. Set sharpening to low. Set the resolution to something you can work with in Photoshop like 10 by 10 at 300 DPI. Select 16 bit grayscale. Push scan. Go into Shadow/Highlights and (with shadows and highlights zeroed out) increase the midrange contrast to about 7 or 10. Spot the dust spots using a healing brush. You are done.


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