Taking my own advice and stepping away from the internet for the day. With a camera over one shoulder.

This is pretty much how my eyes saw this scene. Maybe not with as much saturation but with some information in the shadows...

This is how my Leica SL2 saw the same scene with the same exposure setting for the highlights. 
Some photographers reject post processing but I say, "make the shadow/highlight/clarity (mid-range contrast) sliders your allies. 

Same with the two below.

I felt a certain sense of calmness when I pushed away from the keyboard and monitor yesterday. I put on comfortable shoes. I walked. I looked at stuff at a distance. I drank a nice coffee at Mañana. I had a decent croissant as well. And as I was sitting at a café table watching the sun go down and feeling the wind pick up I did an inventory of the day. 

When I got up I read the national newspapers. Something I'll slow down on and maybe try to be more supportive of the local papers and outlets. I went to the gym and used their machines to really try and strengthen my core, my lats, my triceps and my larger leg muscles. I stretched. And felt exhausted by the end. 

I made some scans of old negatives in the office and was delighted by the results. I read a few online articles already memorializing DPR. I felt conflicted. 

The cure for temporary confliction for me is a good swim so I went to the noon workout and swam well with a smaller crew that we usually have at early morning practices. Instead of only working on swimming hard and fast I took the coach's suggestion and worked on feeling balance in the water. A fun exercise is to float on your back with your nose, belly button and toes out of the water and to stay calm and quiet. Maximum balance is hard to achieve but pushing more doesn't make it better. You actually have to relax to do that drill well. And I think we could all do a better job of relaxing.

I came back home, had lunch and then took a 25 minute nap. Ran a few errands. Ignored the siren call of the internet. Checked the stock market on my phone. Was happy with what I found and thought about going online to buy something cool. Resisted the urge to fire up the Easy Buying Machine and went off the above mentioned walk instead. Played around with my camera and with the files. 

The rest of my evening was more or less typical. Dinner, do the dishes, read until the book started dropping out of my hands and my eyes closed without my willing participation. 

It is possible to curtail time spent online. It's hard to do because it's become such a habit for so many of us.  One good exercise that might work as a first step is this: When you go out for a walk or a photo walk just leave your phone in your house or your care. Don't put it in your pocket or your camera bag or your backpack. If it's there you'll want to use it; check it; check your stocks, check the weather, see if anyone called, check your favorite website, check you stocks, check the weather, see if anyone texted, etc.

If your phone isn't with you then you won't need to spend time serving it with your precious time. Everything can wait till you get back. Really, everything will be fine. 


Does the endless availability of information (and subsequent addiction to gaining "knowledge") actually "kill" the process of enjoying photography?

 The imminent disappearance of Digital Photography Review (DPR) has been rattling around in my brain since I read about it yesterday. In the moment I wrote about what I thought the effect of this deletion would mean financially, both for camera companies and also the many thousands of bloggers and v-loggers that depend on the residual effects of freely and widely promoting so much gear with so much online content. And content delivered with so much detail.

The site itself is like a clearing house for comments, opinions and other ruminations from photographers all over the world. But at its essential core it's a commercial site that uses the promotion of material desire to profit, and to do so requires that the content be made as "sticky" as possible. The goal is to keep a visitor engaged as deeply and for as long as is possible. The hope is that some percentage of the millions of visitors will click on the ads and links and that will end up resulting in sales. Rants, brand tribalism and differences of opinion are part of that sticky glue that keeps people coming back. 

One thing I've found out over the course of my life is the "need" of many, many people to exhaustively research everything they do. Everything they buy and everything they use in their own processes. Consciously or unconsciously the people who have been engineering content on Amazon's DPR site have understood that set of needs for well over a decade which is why the news feed about the industry is constant and the reviews are done only, mostly, for the more popular camera types and brands. The ones most likely to sell well. The  content helps to fulfill the audience's need to sit in front of computers, phones, iPads, etc. and "research, research, research."

In some ways this could be a result of the demographics of serious, potential camera buyers. Since high end cameras could be considered luxury goods which are far better than what is needed for most photographic engagements (or real world photo work) and since a huge percentage of the people in the world can not conceivably afford to buy them it seems obvious to me that most buyers came through a college education and entered a professional workplace. The education and even the protocols of "information technology" work require doing research. Research sounds good. Research drives innovation (sometimes) while less financially rewarding work is much more codified and routine. Not requiring the proclivity for deep research.

While most people who buy expensive cameras (meaning, in this context now, any camera that's more capable and more expensive than a smart phone) start with the plan to spend much time out shooting photographs I suspect that the most avid camera consumers, because of their education and corporate training, are actually more compelled to use any camera purchase as the starting point to begin researching  (avidly and with little concern for efficiency of time) their next step up in the hierarchy of cameras. The vaunted "upgrade path." And this need for research and "advancement" is exactly what sites like DPR have long provided, enabled, goaded and manipulated. 

If the only goal of a photographer is to make a good photograph we could have decided never  to have embraced digital imaging and we'd still be able to make great pictures with film cameras. If we'd copied the process we used for buying film cameras, replacing camera bodies maybe every five to seven years (or more) the sites would have had so much less power over us. Less compelling reasons to park on a site for the purpose of "urgent" research. Less time spent seated and scrolling.

I think it was well known that we all could have stopped buying "up" the digital camera chain at any time past 2010 and realized just as good photographs as we get from current gear except in the most obscure and specialized fields. And having stopped our research, reading and forum disputes we would have had much more time to walk through the streets, forests, cities and the landscape of human relationships and make photographs that would have been superior because our time would have been spent researching the subjects and relationships of ourselves to our passions instead of making images to "prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that camera XXX had 00.15% more dynamic range than camera YYY."

We talk about the  idea that these big sites help us build community but from an overview perspective I think the readily available "bait" and the "promise of superior technical results" pushed us away from actual hands on experience and actual community to a much bigger degree than we think. We spent less time, not more, with other people. Less time engaged in face-to-face conversations. Less time photographing subjects because we like them and not just photographing random stuff to show off the wide open edge definition of some new lens offering some insanely fast aperture. 

We basically, as an online community, imprisoned ourselves in little clusters in the forums to either argue about the buying decisions we made or were going to make, or to argue endlessly about minutiae that has little relevance to our real lives. Or to our photography. 

I'm certainly not immune to the whole idea of researching cameras and lenses and I've spent too much time over the years reading it on so many different sites. But I think I know the solution. It's as easy as turning off the computers and phones, picking up a camera that you enjoy using, and heading out the door to make photographs of subjects that you, personally, find to be interesting. 

The next step is to engage, in person, with people who share your interests in photography. Meet for coffee. Meet for walks. Push each other into fun projects. Help knock down the barriers to actually engaging in the non-virtual pursuit of photographs and fun instead of becoming an endless internet voyeur of gear buying. Or worse, a continuous gear researcher. 

In the end who really cares if your miracle lens resolves a few more veins on leaves at the very edge of a frame? And who in the world would willingly spend minutes, hours and days trying to prove or disprove "equivalence?" 

Perhaps it takes the death of a historic site to get people out of their seats and on to their feet with a camera in their hand, a plan in their head, and the joyful anticipation of what awaits them as they step across the threshold of their homes and into the real world around them.

Sometimes I go hours without drinking coffee. It's called sleeping.