Musings on Photography

Horse Apples

Posted in process by Paul Butzi on October 5, 2008

5D-080822-6449
The trend over on Luminous Landscape has, for a while now, been veering sharply away from my interests. Today, it veered even more sharply, with this post on the “What’s New” page:

It seems to me that most amateur photographers aren’t terribly excited about stills / video convergence. That’s OK – they don’t have to be – yet.

But for working pros it’s another matter. A just published article in the pro journal PDN, titled Seeing RED, looks at how sometime National Geographic photographer David McLain used the ultra high-definition Red One camcorder to shoot a print and video campaign in Baja for clothing company Horny Toad.

A new business opportunity is emerging for professional shooters and a new art form is developing for adventurous amateurs. Ignore it at your peril.

Stay tuned.

Uh huh. Ok, let me be the first to say it. I’m vaguely interested in video, in the sense that one of the blogs I follow closely, Doug Plummer’s excellent Dispatches, is reporting on Doug’s forays into video. Doug’s a very interesting guy, and for quite a while now, I’ve read with rapt interest not only about Doug’s photography but also his involvement in dance, and his neighborhood, and his learning about video. I don’t think Doug’s going to win a Pulitzer for his blogging, but he’s really smart, writes well, and works really hard, and he shares both the ups and downs of what he’s thinking and doing. And as a result, if Doug writes about photography, I’ll read about photography. If Doug writes about dancing, I’ll happily read what he writes, despite the fact I don’t dance. And if Doug decides to write about doing video, I’ll again happily read about it.

And, I admit, I read about cameras like the Red with some interest. I’m a technology guy, and so reading about new technology is always on my list, regardless of whether it’s new, inexpensive video technology or carbon nanotubes used to build space elevators.

Except for that minimal interest unrelated to my artmaking, though, I have no interest in video. I’d like to think I’m a pretty serious amateur photographer, but I still have no interest in video. I’m not saying it’s bad for other photographers to be interested – I think if they are, that’s fine, and if they aren’t, that’s just dandy too.

But this business of most amateur photographers not being terribly excited about still/video convergence, and how “that’s ok – they don’t have to be – yet.” And how a new art form is developing for adventurous amateurs, and I ignore it at my peril?

That’s a big, fat pile of smelly, steaming horse droppings. No amateur photographer on the planet can be even the slightest bit at peril because of some much ballyhooed ‘still/video convergence’. That’s arrant nonsense. What peril, exactly, could there be? If I continue to take walks around my house armed only with a still camera, and I continue to sit in my workroom and make still prints, will the still/video convergence storm troopers come and take me away?

I mean, what the hell could happen? Galleries will stop showing my work? Hell, galleries don’t show my work NOW. They can’t stop until they start. And, to be honest, I don’t much care that I’m not showing work in galleries, or getting book deals, and so on. The rewards are self-generated, and I don’t see that changing just because Canon managed to cram HD video capability into a camera body that I might buy for reasons entirely unrelated to that feature.

Here’s my advice for the people who, like Reichmann, are intent on making me feel anxiety about some meta-theoretic still/video convergence.

I will point out that, when word processing software made it easy to type and format both poetry and novels using the very same computer and software, no one was stupid enough to natter on endlessly about a ‘Poetry/Novel Convergence’ that would leave both professional and amateur writers behind if they didn’t breathlessly leap on to the bandwagon. Poets did not suddenly ‘ignore the poetry/novel convergence’ at their peril.

And so when you try to crank up my interest in this stuff by making me anxious or afraid, what you actually do is convince me that you’re ’round the bend and I should start ignoring your website and stop reading your nonsense.

17 Responses

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  1. Chris said, on October 5, 2008 at 9:00 am

    I may sound a bit too negative here, but when has the Luminous Landscape ever been about anything but self-promotion and technical wankery? The layout of their site is hideous, and punctuated far too often with ugly ads to buy buy buy their videos. I did buy one once (on Colin’s recommendation to see their color management video) and felt that by and large it was full of technical lusting with a smattering of information. Their reviews read the same way.

    I get much more out of sites like yours and Colin’s. You guys actually seem to care more about photography than the gear associated with it.

  2. Martin Doonan said, on October 5, 2008 at 9:34 am

    I’ve also been reading Doug’s blog for a while and been amazed by his perseverance with video. I’ve also wondered about whether this apparent device convergence is wonderful at all.

    It seems to me that this is technology much for its own sake. There will be a few who want it and over time I’m sure things will diverge again. Good stills photographers do not naturally make good videographers and vice versa. It can take a huge mount of time to learn either skill.

    Like other skilled crafts, there is enough to learn to justify individual trades. For all the time I’ve been an engineer there’s been talk of “multi-skilling”. hasn’t happened yet, those who try just end up being rubbish at everything. I think photo/video will go the same way – skilled practitioners who specialise and a whole load of dross in the middle wondering why they don’t get the good gigs.

  3. Rory said, on October 5, 2008 at 10:56 am

    I’ve been waiting around patiently for someone to say something about that statement by Michael re: my/our peril. Hurrah! I didn’t have to wait long. Considering that I still use film, I must therefore lead a really perilous existence. I’m doomed, shame on me.

  4. Gordon McGregor said, on October 5, 2008 at 11:40 am

    I used to read the LL a lot, was a subscriber to the video thing for a bit too, but stopped reading it about a year or two ago, as I got more interested in photography and less interested in cameras.

    The funny thing was always the tone of deriding ‘pixel peepers’ while being king of that genre, it was a bit strange and lacking in self awareness I always thought.

  5. Charles Dunton said, on October 5, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    Well, it’s probably very uncool to admit it, but I still enjoy Michael’s LL site very much. And I still buy the video’s. I learn a few things, and Jeff Schewe is always fun to watch. And besides, they’re both Mac guys 😉

    And while I agree that a fine art photographer is not at present in serious risk or peril for ignoring the convergence of video and still, I agree with Michael that some photographers definitely are.

    If you are a working photojournalist, be afraid, be very afraid. If you work for a news publication as a still photographer, you better be learning video or you are likely to lose your job to your co-worker who did. Short snippets of video is where the world of instant news is heading (regrettably). Same thing if you are a wedding photographer. When brides start to expect it and you can’t do it, and do it well, you’re going to be eaten by the competition who can.

    So in photojournalism and wedding and probably a couple of other fields, now is the time to jump ahead of the competition. If your interest is in fine art still photography prints, you probably have longer to prepare. But just as the internet opened up a whole new venue for selling fine art photography, hi-def video may turn out to be an important sales tool, even for still photographers.

    So was Michael’s statement a bit broad and self-serving? Maybe. But it’s still something to keep an eye on.

    Charlie

  6. Doug Plummer said, on October 5, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    Thanks so much for your generous mention of my blog. You tripled my visit stats.

    Video and photo operate in separate mental and creative realms for me, and they will for some time. I left the video camera home on this last assignment, because I knew I could not divide my attention and do a good job for the client. I’m waiting for a job where I am asked to do both, and I’ll figure out how to solve the logistical and attention issues then. Which is one reason I’m excited about the new camera–it might, just might, make this hybrid career I’m trying to invent a lot easier.

  7. Paul Bradforth said, on October 6, 2008 at 8:13 am

    Well said. I can see that there might be some “convergence” in the news photography field, and I’d imagine that those photographers will probably be issued with 5D MkIIs, but I can’t for the life of me see how the majority of still photographers will be affected in any way. I mean, it’s a totally different discipline; one of the main things about photography is that there is _no movement_ and it’s a slice of time and all that. I’m a still-life and landscape photographer and I can’t see how video would help me in any way at all. I did shoot some (amateur) video years ago and quite got into it; it’s very interesting in its own right, but I can’t see that it has any connection at all with still photography. Perhaps Michael is saying that it will be necessary in the future _if you want to make a living out of it_ but that’s something else.

  8. David Mannion said, on October 6, 2008 at 10:56 am

    A bit strong perhaps? However, its always good to question the “aristocracy”. The Luminous has become the playground of those whose focus is getting mega megapixels into exotic locations, presumably enriching the organiser. I find the display entertaining whilst experiencing concern for the environment (and envy). Video will be great for photojournalists, but the rest of us can relax.

  9. Dennis Allshouse said, on October 6, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    As has been noted, certain genres may merge pj, wedding, sports. That seems likely given the smearing together of print and web. But otherwise photography is photography, video is (dare I say it) filmmaking. I do photography and fooling around with video. I don’t see any need to converge at all. Frankly i think they’re like painting and sculpture.

    In the end MR just like to make bold statements, jacks up the hit rate. And here we are helping him out.

  10. David Mantripp said, on October 7, 2008 at 2:11 am

    From the little experience I have of video, but looking at how designs have evolved, I’d say that the ergonomic requirements of a still camera and a video camera are quite different. I can only imagine what it must be like to try to shoot video using a DSLR, but in my imagination it is like trying to eat soup with a fork…. I don’t want to resort to name calling, but personally I’ve totally switched off from the Reichmann-Schewe show. Two rich old guys rabbiting on and on and on about their expensive toys doesn’t hold my interest.

    I’d prefer it if manufacturers optimise their devices for one task. I suppose the next big thing will be integrated satnav. Although now I think of it…maybe that WOULD be useful 🙂

  11. Gordon McGregor said, on October 7, 2008 at 7:47 am

    re integrated satnav – I wouldn’t mind built in gps – found that useful/ interesting a few times to combine images with GPS co-ords. Having it in one unit would be good – might as well use that big LCD to show a map too 🙂

  12. Sean said, on October 7, 2008 at 9:45 am

    Paul, thank you SO MUCH for articulating what I was feeling about the video thing at LL.

  13. Ed O'Mahony said, on October 7, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    Hi All,
    I must say I found Doug P making really hard work of his video attempts,yes any steep new learning IS hard work,but common Doug I never saw the gun near your head.
    Michael R does have an certain attitude (look as his 5D Mk11 video,Jasus he loves the sound of his own voice)to say the least,but his pieces on convergence ARE informative,not too many other sites are doing it.
    Personally I believe shooting video is NOT miles from still pictures anyway and we can all learn to challenge our thought process and fall out of our comfort zone for the better by embracing not fearing this exciting new wave.
    Thanks,
    ED.

  14. rvewong said, on October 7, 2008 at 8:59 pm

    Heck, we’ve already had a convergence of video and still photography in the Point and Shoot cameras. Remember that decent LCD rear panels first showed up in the point and shoots and then moved to the DSLR’s while many decried their usefulness on such a serious photographic platform.

    Now it’s my turn to be negative. Don’t any of you guys have kids? Know what I mean, or do I have to spell it out…

    For many, capturing the moment, as in, meaningful life experience, is the purpose of the camera, as opposed to making an artistic statement.

    Some moments are fleeting while others tend to last for more than a moment or two.

    I’m not trying to say that one is preferred over the other but that each serves a different master.

    I like that David above has pointed out that the ergonomic requirements of the cameras may be different. I would suggest that the ergonomic requirements are very similar and the fact that we have so many different form factors in use is testament to the fact that all existing form factors suck.

    Now I think it’s time that I apologize for being so argumentative. Have a good night all.

  15. Martin Doonan said, on October 7, 2008 at 10:56 pm

    Heck, we’ve already had a convergence of video and still photography in the Point and Shoot cameras.

    Yep, a feature that I reckon less than 1% actually use. Just as useless in those cameras.

    while many decried their usefulness on such a serious photographic platform. I still do.

    And I think those that best capture their kid’s lives do so with good stills rather than crappy video.

  16. Andrew said, on October 8, 2008 at 8:16 am

    I think the notion is ridiculous. And a poll over at TOP informs us that many agree. Give photographers a better still camera!

  17. Mike said, on October 8, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    I’m beginning to think that Ken R was right:) I have video on my P&S and I’ve videoed the children once or twice, but I prefer the snaps I take really.

    I remain very unconvinced that anyone really watches their video footage (not many look at pictures for that matter). I find video is much more work to set up than simply opening an album, as well as being both less demanding and less rewarding when you do.

    Still pictures on the wall form a backdrop to our life, reminding us of times fondly remembered as we and our children grow older together. Others show us the world around in a new light, helping us to see more clearly. Video doesn’t do this for me.

    Where I think video excels is at making films – I don’t have the talent for that as far as I am aware. It’s a whole different storytelling approach. But, with the exception of the professional uses set out above, I think the development of the still and video camera have diverged for a good set of reasons. Ever tried to handhold a 50 lens for a 10 second exposure?

    Mike


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