Monday’s Photo is a minimalist image made in the Oregon Dunes, in the land of light and shadow, this image came from one of my favorite photo outings in 2021. That day of doing nature photography helped shape how I’m doing photography today. For the video youtu.be/Td5NrE7vxn4
I had planned on doing mostly 4x5 large format black and white photography on this outing but ended up making only one exposure from my large format camera. Because of breezy conditions, as often it is the case on the Oregon coast, and fast changing light, I opted to go with my Nikon D810 digital camera for both morning and evening shoots. After reviewing my work when I got home, I was met with a real identity crisis. I’d been working hard to develop my large format game and what I saw on the screen was the best photos I had made all year, both color and black and white. I didn’t know it at the time but that was the beginning of the end for me and large format photography. After much soul searching and analyzing a number of my best photos from that year, I started seeing a pattern, all my favorite photos where made with a 35mm camera. I didn’t want to accept that but it was right in front of me on the screen.
What was it about using a large format camera that was keeping me from doing my best work? The answer was really quite simple, it was time or a better way of saying it, it was the commitment of the time it took to set up a shot. I realized that I was walking past potential compositions because I thought I might be missing something better just up the trail or over the sand dune. I knew if I stopped and setup for a shot, I would be there for awhile so if the composition didn’t look like a sure thing, I would just walk on by. When I’m using my 35mm film and digital cameras, if something would catch my eye I would just stop and make the photo, it was just much quicker to get a composition on the scene or subject, which meant I would be much more willing to be experimental.
I had spent 25 years working as a Photojournalist, It felt more natural for me to keep moving, reacting to what was in front of me, I thought, why not just embrace a work flow I had developed over many years working as a professional photographer. I new that if I wanted my best work, I would need to stop fighting against what was a natural way of working to me. I kept hearing that film slows you down and some how that was supposed to be a good thing, for me, it wasn’t the film that was slowing me down, it was the format. I’ve come to realize that working slow isn’t anything special, being able to work fast and efficient was a much more useful skill and that was a skill I wasn’t utilizing. I think knowing when its ok to slow down and being able to work fast when needed is a much better way for me to approach my nature photography.
So nowadays I’ve traded in my Large format film photography gear and I am working in 100 percent 35mm, I’m ok trading that large negative for better compositions and a way of working that suits my style of photography better, so every time I look at this very simple photo I’m reminded where I’ve been and where I want to take my photography in the future.
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