9.19.2014

Layers are lovely.





I experimented yesterday with turning things off. I was heading out for a walk and I decided to take a counterintuitive camera and lens combination with me; the Samsung NX30 and the its 85mm 1.4. The general twist is that I set the camera up in manual exposure, center focusing spot, raw, AWB and ISO 200. Then I turned the rear screen completely around to it faced the camera body. I wanted to shoot as we used to shoot with film cameras, without the benefit of instantaneous review of the images I was shooting. I wanted to trust the camera and let it do the work.

I actively ignored the EVF image and tried to just meter each shot using the metering indications in the finder. I think that I've become so dependent on "pre-chimping" and trying to get everything just right in the moments before exposure that I've been losing my connection with the subject and the real reason I might want to take a photograph in the first place. I didn't adjust anything if the screen in front of my eye seemed too light or too dark. I concentrated on using my exposure experience and fine tuning based on a spot metering of a subject and a little dial in of aperture to avoid running out of shutter speed. I find this is a good way to shoot this camera. The EVF never seemed to track proper exposure (or my interpretation of proper exposure) anyway. Juggling screen images was becoming a distraction. 

I found that willfully ignoring the rear screen and squelching the idea of making lots of little adjustments at the time of shooting freed me up to enjoy the process of actually looking for images more. We've talked here before about having a camera with just a few basic controls. One which would shoot to raw files and allow correction from there. This is what I was trying to do. Essentially pushing the ability to recognize something I wanted to shoot instead of focusing on how to optimize a scene.

Was I successful? I was in that the images I captured pleased me and my walk was more fluid and less stoppy-starty. What would it take to really do this right? I'd want to use a camera with an optical viewfinder and put gaffer's tape over the screen on the back. The finder would merely be an indication of composition and whether the camera had hit focus. All other information would be blacked out. Is this a new trend in shooting? Well, judging by the new Leica which does away with a screen entirely, maybe. Will I be shooting this way a lot? Probably not. More of an exercise in re-asserting my visual primacy over the highly addictive interplay of pre-chimping and compulsive correction. 

It has piqued my curiosity though. I'm heading out the door this afternoon with a Nikon F camera and a 50mm lens. Two rolls of generic ISO 100 print film. 72 blind exposures. Should be frustrating and exciting. But to me the "hunt" is always better than the "dissection."


9 comments:

Paul O'Mara said...

Kirk,you have a much larger audience than I so I'm glad you posted this about trusting your instincts. I've been doing personal projects: http://twoeightproject.wordpress.com/
with an M2 and BWCN400 film. No meter and I do not reset the frame counter! It's interesting to see how I have started shooting less and thinking more.

aurèle said...

it's always good to go back to basic some times, at least to be sure you still master it !

Perfect words to describe it, as always !

Julian said...

"The EVF never seemed to track proper exposure (or my interpretation of proper exposure) anyway."

But... but Kirk! Then what's the use of the EVF if it doesn't reflect the, uh, output? Aren't OVFs then just as good? I'm not just being frivolous- I think we all learned to interpret our OVFs automatically, and I thought the point of EVFs was that one didn't have to do this any more.

Kirk Tuck said...

Dear Julian, please read more carefully. The lack of visual tracking I mention is specific to this one camera model only. All the other EVFs I use track very well. Stop kidding yourself about the relative strengths OS OVFs and EVFs and try a modern camera. Just as Hagrid said in the Harry Potter movie, "not all EVFs are good." One exception proves nothing.

Kirk Tuck said...

And no, no one can interpret their OVFs automatically.

Carlo Santin said...

Technically speaking, you can go into any strip joint and order a beer, listen to the music and avert your eyes, maybe have some interesting conversation with a buddy...but really...

And so this is what a digital camera is for me. If it's there, I'm not going to be able to avert my eyes for too long. On go the menus and the filters and the 5,000 different shooting options and parameters. White balance bracketing? Sure, why not.

At the risk of sounding like a cheesy Nikon commercial, the purest photography I do is with my Yashica 24. The meter is busted so I carry a small chart in my pocket and guess from there. Set the shutter and f stop and have at it. Not counting composition, I haven't ruined a single exposure yet. It's a wonderful process and a very peaceful one. I've learned to develop c-41 at home and I do a few rolls at a time. I like digital just fine but the process with a simple film camera is still very special to me.

vo2max said...

Dear Kirk,

"What would it take to really do this right? I'd want to use a camera with an optical viewfinder and put gaffer's tape over the screen on the back. The finder would merely be an indication of composition and whether the camera had hit focus. All other information would be blacked out".End of quote.
You mean such cameras as SONY a850/a900?? Remember those??

vo2max

thequietphotographer said...

This article comes in the right moment for me! Next week I'll go for a very short vacation (4 days total) and I decided to bring only one film camera (not sure yet if Nikon FM2 or Voitglander Bessa R), the 500 mm lens and 4 rolls of film, 36 exposure pro day.
Sometimes it's a good exercise! nd I think I'll enjoy more this short holiday!
robert

Andrea said...

"I set the camera up in manual exposure, center focusing spot, raw, AWB and ISO 200. Then I turned the rear screen completely around to it faced the camera body."
I shot exclusively in this way for an year, for a b/w fine art project, with my G3 and an old Prakticar 28mm manual focus lens. Took a little less than 2000 pictures, edited down to 120 and used the best 52 for a photobook. In my mind I went back to my film photography days, and I think I proved that you can shoot "old school" with every camera you own: just flip on that little switch called "willpower", no need to buy a camera without LCD...