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Thread: New article: Confessions of a recovering magic bullet chaser

  1. #11

    Join Date
    Nov 2003

    New article: Confessions of a recovering magic bullet chaser

    The beauty of largeformat is the ability to do contact printing with minimal equipment, and if, if you are good and have vision, can get darn good results. There still exists plenty of "magic bullets" in large format though. Take the 110xl schneider lens. Its a great lens, one that I used for about a year, until I realized that I really really hated the focal length. I bought it because of the hype, which is true for the most part, but I sold it and now I only have 1 lens for my 4x5 gear. I find I can do most things I want in 4x5 with that lens.

    I also shoot 35 with pentax gear, which in and of itself is dangereous when it comes to internet forums. I don't know how many times I hear that "pentax sucks because it doesn't have professional level cameras" coming from people with canon or nikon gear strapped around them with the largest damned "is that a tree stump in your pants or are you just happy to see me?" glass I have ever seen, and there still in college. No pentax doens't make an F5 camera, but they do make capable cameras.

    In general, I think it is more important to look at images, study light, composition, design and have people critique your shots. This is something that I really need to work on to become a better photographer.

  2. #12

    Join Date
    Nov 2001

    New article: Confessions of a recovering magic bullet chaser

    I enjoyed this when it was originally posted on

    Great article...

  3. #13

    Join Date
    Sep 2003

    New article: Confessions of a recovering magic bullet chaser

    Serious amateur photogs obsess over equipment and I'm no different. Your article did inspire me to critique my photos again and see what I can do to make them better.

    I don't recall who said it but the quote goes something like this..." When painters get together there is no discussion about what brushes are best."

    Something like that.

  4. #14

    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Sweet, ID

    New article: Confessions of a recovering magic bullet chaser

    I wonder if Pyro works as well as Drano to open drain clogs? (PS - you have to read the article, which is outstanding and "spot on").
    The only trouble with doin' nothing is you can't tell when you get caught up

  5. #15

    Join Date
    Dec 2001

    New article: Confessions of a recovering magic bullet chaser

    There may be no magic bullets that will enable a mediocre photographer to take good pictures consistently, but using equipment that's up to the job can make a difference. Here are two examples.

    Years ago I got a 65/6.8 Raptar and a Century Graphic to use it on. I never got a satisfactorily sharp shot with that lens. Other lenses on the Century gave more satisfactory results. I can't blame that Raptar for focusing, composition, or exposure blunders, but I blame the prevailing fuzziness on it. Yes, the lack of sharpness may be my fault since I can't force myself to shoot below f/22. The 65/8 Ilex that replaced it gives results at f/11 and f/16 that are sharp enough to stop my griping about fuzziness. The better lens didn't make me a better photographer, but it makes better pictures.

    A couple of years ago I went crazy about macro and tried out a pile of macro lenses, most with ok or better reputations. I found some of them completely unusable. I also found that at magnifications below 1:1 there wasn't a lot of reason for an obsessive search for the absolutely best lens. Several of the lenses I tried gave results between 1:8 and 1:1 on the emulsions I use and at the apertures I thought appropriate that were nearly indistinguishable. Things were different above roughly 2:1, but even there the differences between good enough and best weren't overwhelming. Testing weeded out the bad ones, though. There may be no magic bullets among lenses designed for working closeup, but there are certainly some anti-magic ones. The lenses that work well enough don't make me a better photographer, but they do let me meet the minimum standards.

    Yeah, yeah, yeah, its the photographer, not the machinery. But this presupposes machinery that's at least minimally capable.



  6. #16
    MIke Sherck's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Elkhart, IN

    New article: Confessions of a recovering magic bullet chaser

    (From the Preaching to the Choir department. Yes, I know that nothing hereunder is new to most of us. Nevertheless, there are quite a few folks who are new to LF, and perhaps this will be of assistance to them.)

    I don't believe that there are any real magic bullets, but there are a few things which can masquerade as them:

    #1 is to look at a lot of prints. After you've looked at a bunch of good prints and bad prints and prints in between you eventually learn the difference between them. That doesn't tell you how, but it gives you an idea of what the goal should be. Museums and shows are great resources but with the tremendous improvements in printing technology over the past decade, well printed books and magazines can often be good enough.

    #2 is to take the time to learn how to use the equipment. I'd rather have one camera and one lens that I can operate blindfolded than three cameras and a bag full of lenses that I have to puzzle over every time I want to open the shutter to compose and focus.

    #3 is to have something to say. If this is confusing then you need to stop and think about what photography is to you and why you're doing it. A little introspection, repeated every once in a while, can go a long way.

    #4 is to practice regularly; i.e., take a lot of pictures. Most (maybe all, in my case,) are destined for the circular file, but one thing is for sure: if you don't take many photographs the ones you do take aren't likely to be much of an improvement. There's a darned good reason why you don't see very much of the great photographers' early work.

    A while back in a magazine (vague memory says it was Lenswork, but I could be vastly mistaken,) it was pointed out that you wouldn't expect to become a concert musician by practicing for a couple of hours a week. Why do so many people expect to become good photographers when they take photographs once or twice a month, and have to force themselves into the darkroom? Yes, we have families and jobs and all of the other imperatives of modern life -- but if that's so and if we feel that we must yield to all of the other demands on our time, aren't we maybe asking too much from an activity to which we can only devote the occasional attention? The editor's column in the current Lenswork points out that it's easy to get a decent B&W print with very little effort from a modern darkroom. Perhaps that fools us into thinking that the next stage, getting a great print, should be easy, too. It isn't, but the search for shortcuts is what gives rise to the quest for the next magic bullet.

    On the other hand, keeping in mind all of the above, I'd still love to have a new, lightweight field camera with a few spiffy modern lenses. And develop in pyro and contact print in Azo and platinum... Knowing that there are no magic bullets is no guarantee that we'll stop lusting after the latest widget!


    Note: Sorry that I don't have better references to the magazine articles I mentioned, but I'm at work, procrastinating over an unpleasant task, and I don't have them to hand. I believe that the concepts mentioned were printed in Lenswork magazine earlier this year, but I could be mistaken. If so, I apologize.
    Politically, aerodynamically, and fashionably incorrect.

  7. #17

    Join Date
    Sep 2003

    New article: Confessions of a recovering magic bullet chaser

    I'm exposing and developing my negatives for a lot more density lately, in an effort to make them magic-bulletproof.

  8. #18

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    san jose, ca

    New article: Confessions of a recovering magic bullet chaser

    Great post. Great article. I was bitten by the magic bullet when I was in Photography School, playing with film every day for 8-12 hours a day. I was using a cheap Minolta 35mm to do my assignments with a 50/2.0 or so lens on it. Realizing that what was sharp in the viewfinder wasn't being translated onto my film, I coughed up the bucks and bought a Nikon FM2 with 105 lens. What a damned difference. So... I bought a 35 lens. Not so much of a difference, but still sharper than the Minolta.

    I confess... it made me think that equipment could solve issues. The fact that I liked my equipment now, made me a better photographer. It did. But...

    After graduating, I lusted after a Mamiya C220. Finally, using leftover per diem money on a business trip to Japan, I got my C220. Pretty reasonable. Found a lens from some guy in New Jersey, a 65mm semi wide angle. Now here's the kicker, bigger negative, excellent quality glass, yet, I don't like shooting TLRs. The prints leave me puzzled all the time. I like 6x6, my everyday shooter is a Zeiss Nettar zone focusing 6x6 folder. Huh? I leave the Nikon home (I still have it and it still takes great photos), I leave the Mamiya home. I leave the Yashica 635 home. I shoot with what makes me comfortable, what works for me. I have become pretty good at judging distances and at f11 the lens on these things are pretty sharp. I feel comfortable with this camera. And I never have with a TLR.

    I haven't gotten on the 'need the next 600 dollar APO LF lens' kick yet. I shoot with the same 150 Fujinon 150 W lens I was forced to buy in photo school, I still use the same Speed I picked up in the late 80's. But... I don't feel with this camera. It's nice for all day walks up into the hills. It takes wonderful photos, I am amazed at the technical quality I can produce. But my photography in LF is not better overall than the stuff I shoot with my 35 dollar 1950's folder. It's sharper, it has ten times the detail, but it hasn't got heart nor soul.

    Films... love the films. I have been bitten by the better film developer bug. I take my time, I shoot a lot of film over the period of weeks and months and I keep good notes. But my love for process will never let me get cured of the bigger better brighter film/developer bug.

    Darkroom. Got the Schneider 150, got the DII, got a cute little B22, got the negative holders, the three types of light sources, yet. what I need is about a year back in the darkroom 8-12 hours a day.

    anyhow, enough rambling.

    Thanks for allowing me to see a bit more of myself.

    Off to dinner and then perhaps to the darkroom. Practice practice practice.

    tim in san jose

  9. #19

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Massachusetts USA

    New article: Confessions of a recovering magic bullet chaser

    Itís an insidious addiction...

    ...Far better that you should refine your vision and printing skills

    ...And you have to learn to SEE

    Perhaps it's not an either/or thing: There is a genuine attraction in all these gadgets, not only in the kind of images they make. Otherwise, many of us would be sketching or painting. For many of us, it's not only about the end result (a wonderful image), but about the joys of getting there.

    I doubt that any of us seriously believe that the next "magic bullet" will bring us a great leap forward, but sometimes, even that 3% improvement you mentioned, is a welcome event. It helps keep our interest in the art. It's fun.

  10. #20

    New article: Confessions of a recovering magic bullet chaser

    Kevin- Great article. And it's true, we are bitten by the bug. But there's nothing like a workshop with a photographer you respect to bring you back home 3 or 4 feet off the ground. The ones I've done have helped me more than I can say. I recommend it to every photographer trying to improve his /her images. Luckily, here in the northwest, not only are there frequent workshops available, some truly high-powered photographers live here. For now, I'm off to a sales workshop: I'm trying to unload 10 gallons of D41 Micro-Goop. Cheap.

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