photoblogography - Just some stuff about photography

Sort of about camera bags

It gets to the point, eventually.

in General Rants , Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I bought a camera bag today.

The trickle-like pace at which I post stuff on this blog has recently reduced to a drip feed without the drops. It’s not that I haven’t got anything to write about. I’ve got plenty of ideas in my head, but the effort to actually set anything down in words seems to get harder and harder, and the constant questioning of the actual point of it all regularly resurfaces.

I’m not sure where blogging gets us all really, either as readers or writers. Some blogs have a clear objective, like the fascinating and eminently readable One Hundred Mountains.  But most seem to be mainly about self-promotion, openly or under a thin disguise. Being good at self promotion is pretty much a pre-requisite for being a successful professional photographer, or a well-known amateur. But being an interesting and compelling writer probably isn’t, at least not on the evidence I’ve seen.

I’ve given up on photography bloggers who are basically in it to market their book / ebook / workshop and generally build up their business. Good luck to them, but I’m not terribly interested in endless repetitive marketing wrapped up in tidbits of recycled wisdom. Yes, I know, I should use a tripod. Thanks. Got that. I’ll shortly be updating my blogroll to publicise bloggers who actually inspire me with their words, images, or both. Although I’m open to offers to provide paid marketing links…

WARNING: you are now approaching The Point. Please do not undo your seatbelt until this rant has exhausted itself to a complete standstill

So, a certain prominent blogger recently wrote what presumably was a tongue in cheek, opinionated piece on camera bags. It can be summed up quite easily: anybody who has a Domke bag (or apparently a Leica branded sack… whatever) is a way cool dude, anybody who uses a camera backpack is a mindless, unfit moron who couldn’t tie his own shoelaces.

Well that makes me a cool, mindless moron (etc) because I’ve got both. A Domke F803, which is fab for leisurely wandering, say, the coastal paths and villages of Liguria with an Olympus PEN and a few lenses, but pretty ******* stupid for hiking across a glacier in Svalbard with a DSLR, several heavy lenses and a large tripod (to fight bears off with, you understand). For that I’ve got a pretty good huge, ballistic nylon, super-size-me bag LowePro backpack. As have several million others. I’ve also got a smaller but remarkably flexible Kata backpack for less rugged outings (sadly Kata is apparently in the “super crappy camera bag” category. Oh well.). Of course, if I were a studio photographer, carrying my gear in my big fat SUV to my next air-conditioned gig shooting flawless models in Downtown, USA, I might well use the Domke. Equally if I were to wander the streets of Laredo, coolly dropping in to photograph a perfect cappuccino with the camera I just bought, then, yes, the F803 would do nicely. But if I also had some perspective, I might realise that other people have different needs and compromises to make, and maybe, just maybe, their choice of a LowePro backpack doesn’t make them a total dongle. Or indeed an engineer.

Anyway, the author does of course state in his article that this is all just his own opinion, he doesn’t expect anybody to share it, bla bla bla. Which brings me to the real point. If it really is of no interest or relevance, why bother writing about it? This kind of article might make me question why I dedicate time to reading that particular blog, and whether the author is actually worth my time.  And indeed, what the sum total of this shouting from our metaphorical little islands is amounting to.  One might hope it is in part a building of relationships, and exchange of ideas, a conversation even, but when certain (other) A-List bloggers decided that reading and managing comments is just too tiresome, one must really wonder how relevant they are.

Rob Boyer has a far more convincing blog in praise of Domke bags, by the way.

I bought a camera bag today. It’s small and black, and lets me carry my PEN around on workdays without looking like a total tourist. It’s made by Crumpler and didn’t cost very much.

Drm 2012 05 25 IMG 0682

A small, brand new Crumpler bag, some flowers and a bit of my thumb

Marmalade! I like marmalade!



Guru Fatigue

Mr Grumpy strikes again

in General Rants , Monday, April 30, 2012

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to have a bit of a clean-up of the various photography and photographer RSS feeds I’ve been following.  Although I hadn’t intended it that way, the ones that got the chop are, to be blunt, the self-appointed gurus. The ones that stayed tend not to be selling anything. I realised that I’ve been getting far too hung up on various people’s opinions that just don’t matter.  We seem to be going through some kind of bubble, where a whole slew of people who’ve owned a camera for about 5 years have set up websites left, right & center setting out their stalls and inscribing the Truth on their stone tablets. Usually there’s more than a whiff of cod mysticism involved, or some slightly nauseating goody two shoes humanism. And all wrapped up in one of three visual recipes: wild over saturation, fake cross processing, or long exposure complete with vignetting. And spread over countless e-pages in e-books, or even,

, print books.  Travel advertising as travel photography, IKEA prints as art. Sadly the amount of original thought is very low, and awareness of any kind of context or history of photography is even lower. It’s like the world was reset with Digital, or maybe with expired film in crap cameras.

About 10 years ago, things were a little different. I learnt a lot from Michael Reichmann’s Luminous Landscape - which started out around 1998 if I remember correctly, which took a rather different approach. No preachy tone, although plenty of opinions, but opinions, suggestions and pointers backed up with many years of experience. A few others are worthy of note, but none have had the staying power of the Luminous Landscape - even if, personally, both it & I have moved on, and we’re not really in the same space anymore. But actually after all these years it’s still the gold standard.

Much of the preachiness involves the exhortation to “Follow Your Vision (but give me money so I can tell you what it is)” (does that bring the same analogy to your mind as it does to mine) ?  But I’m cutting loose. You can’t buy inspiration in an eBook. Inspiration is all around, it’s free, and uniquely personal. Not everybody in the world can be a great photographer, but everybody can follow their own personal journey through photography. And personally I find it a lot more rewarding when I manage to forget all the gurus whispering in my ears.


Save Hermann Hesse’s legacy

Pull up the trees and put up a parking lot…

in General Rants , Thursday, April 19, 2012

Ever since I moved to Ticino I have been saddened by the apparent total lack of respect that planning authorities and property speculators (who by some wild coincidence may well be closely related) have for the history and beauty of the landscape.  It is incredibly striking to drive from Lugano along the lakeside road towards Porlezza and then Menaggio on Lake Como. As soon as you cross the border, the banal, ugly mass of concrete blockhouses gives way to a more gentle mix of older and newer building styles which blend in to the landscape and give true atmosphere, unlike the frankly ugly and increasingly soulless Lugano. Of course it’s not all black & white: Italian chaos and disrespect for the environment is alive and well even there. But 100 or even 50 years ago Lugano could rival comparable northern Italian cities for the elegance of it’s civic architecture. Now, well it would make a British 1960’s town planner blush.

But the ongoing march of the bulldozer, crane and cement mixer has plumbed new depths in Ticino. Property speculators now plan to cram a set of square concrete boxes (than you so much, Mario Botta…) into the small park in front of the second house Herman Hesse lived in in Montagnola, Casa Rossa.  This takes not only selfishness, greed and tastelessness to new heights, but it adds in a healthy dose of blind stupidity as well. Ticino lives increasingly from tourism, despite the fact that it does very little to deserve it, and somehow expects the Tourist Euro / Dollar / Yen as a Divine Right. But now to deface with legalised vandalism an important part of one of the richest tourist attractions on the territory to build a few extra lake view boxes (priced in Roubles, no doubt) is beyond shameful.

Even if Hermann Hesse’s legacy was not popular (which is not the case - visitor numbers to the museum are increasing), the lack of respect for a valuable cultural legacy of worldwide interest puts the responsible authorities somewhere near the Taliban in this respect.

There is actually a photographic angle to this, because the issue is being championed by veteran Swiss photographer Giosanna Crivelli, and she has created a dedicated website with further information and a multi-language petition which anybody can sign.

If you also feel that this is a step too far, please take a few minutes to add your voice.

Oh well, that’s blown my chances of Swiss citizenship. Again grin


Adobe TimeWaster Pro CS Whatever

World’s worst software company

in General Rants , Sunday, January 29, 2012

The last 5 weeks or so have been pure hell. Essentially non-stop 12 hour working days, with hectic weekends in between. No time for photography. No time for life. This weekend was supposed to be the start of some sort of recovery period. I spent most of Saturday comatose, but today, Sunday, after shovelling last night’s snow fall, I thought I’d spend some quality time printing out a few images. Relaxing, enjoyable, right ? Yeah, sure. So come 5:30pm I’m ready to kill somebody. In fact if I saw somebody, anybody, with an Adobe corporate t-shirt on, I’d whack them hard with the snow shovel.

Having been deceitfully tricked by Adobe into upgrading to a Photoshop CS5 I neither needed nor wanted before Christmas, I finally got around to trying to print from it today, to my Epson 3800.

I had read, ages ago, that Adobe, principally, but with Apple and Epson’s help, had managed to screw up printing (nothing important, just printing) and that there was some issue with v2 ColorSync profiles.

Some issue. Right: like print absolutely F*CK ALL except a pale cyan background.  I’d heard about this, vaguely, but I though it had to do with white areas having a cast, not the whole print.  I tried everything. Reinstalled the 3800 driver, re-started, etc etc, eventually dug into ColorSync and found that the profile (built with ColorMunki and carefully optimised) was indeed a v4 (naturally, since that’s up to date, and worked fine with Photoshop CS3 on the same OS - 10.6.8 - and the same printer). Trying a v2 profile, for a different paper, gave me a print.

So now I’ve got to rebuild all my profiles. Wasting stacks of paper. Until the next time I fall for one of Adobe’s useless, eye-wateringly expensive, bug-ridden pieces of crap they call “upgrades”.

Please, somebody, anybody, out us out of our misery and create a realistic Photoshop alternative. PLEASE!!!


Oh dear, Olympus….

just a pointless rant

in General Rants , Friday, November 11, 2011

I’m not completely unaware of the current misfortunes of the Olympus Optical Co. That the company is being steered into the abyss by a bunch of arrogant management jerks is no great surprise - that’s one thing that there’s no shortage of.  If anything it might serve to at least tone down some of the more unpleasant aspects of Japanese culture, such as the pathetic obessession with “loss of face”. But never mind all that. What I’m find really disturbing is the general level of idiocy revealed on the various interweb fora, where people (I use the word reservedly) are practically foaming at the mouth in outrage at Olympus and of course Olympus cameras (I really am starting to believe that, yes, most people in the world ARE more stupid than me, at least on the evidence I see). 

But it does sort of make me wonder if maybe I need to think about changing camera systems.  But not for long. I am worried that Olympus will go out of business, which is certainly possible, but not because I’ll lose face because I’ve got an Olympus (actually the logo is taped over. Has been for years. Helps avoid idiot conversations), but because the ONLY company making a reasonably large-sensor camera with a 4:3 aspect ratio might stop doing so. And then what ? Yep, only choice will be the mindless apeing of the 35mm frame, a ratio which only came about by happenstance in the first place.  Well, maybe Panasonic will carry on, or buy Olympus, who knows.

I’m finding I take more and more vertical format shots, without really being conscious of this. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t in “35mm format” - it’s too narrow.  Without Olympus, the next step above compacts is, er, the Pentax 645D, which I’d love to own, but is way above my pay grade.

Drm 2011 11 07 0012713

Steppin’ out… actually taken with my Ricoh GR, not an Olympus

Actually for selfish reasons I sort of hope Olympus does go down the plughole. Then the lemmings will rush to buy Nikons or whatever and even fewer people will be shooting 4:3, and I’ll have less competition. Not that I’m competing.



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