Musings on Photography


Posted in art is a verb, Photo Garden, process by Paul Butzi on October 28, 2008

I spent a pleasant hour this morning, browsing down my driveway with my trusty EOS 5d and my old friend, the EF 100mm f/2.8 macro. My habit now is to browse with the aperture set to f/2.8. One lens, one focal length, one aperture. Simplify, simplify, simplify.

It’s true that to a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. It’s also true that there are uncountably many photographs to be made between my studio door and the end of the driveway. If I took a different camera, or a different lens, or selected a different aperture, I’d get different photos. That’s fine. I’m not looking for photos, I’m looking for peace of mind. The photos are, in a very real sense, a nice byproduct.

There’s a lot of peace of mind to be found on my driveway if you happen to have a camera in your hands. Equally important, I suspect there’s a lot of peace of mind to be found in an awful lot of places if you happen to have a camera in your hand. If you’re a dog person, you might want to take along a dog.

I’ve been thinking lots of ‘upgrade’ thoughts. Should I upgrade my EOS 5d to a newer, spiffier EOS 5d mk II? There’s a lot to be said for upgrading: weather sealing, higher resolution, sensor cleaning. Lots of stuff I don’t care about. The cost is not to be ignored, not only the cost of the body but the cost to buy things like L-brackets, etc. And no word yet, really, on the things I care about: noise and dynamic range. It’s interesting, in some weird way, that the world is abuzz with news about the new camera and yet none of the buzz is about the bits I care about.

Likewise, the whole upgrade to Photoshop. Feh. It pains me to give Adobe more money. That’s entirely separate from any need to upgrade. The only upside to upgrading is that it would get me out of the annoying situation where I have to call Adobe to reinstall.

12 Responses

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  1. Gordon McGregor said, on October 28, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    I think the piece of mind comes when noodling around with the camera, because it helps you become present. You slow down, literally smell the flowers and become grounded in the here and now. Not worrying about the future, or maybe being concerned about the past.

    The flip side is true too, I can’t take good pictures if I’m worrying about the shot I just missed or where I need to be for the next one. That being present in the moment is key, however you want to slice it.

  2. Dave Kosiur said, on October 28, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    I’m not sure I understand why you need a camera in your hand to find peace of mind? Do you not stop to admire the same scenes without a camera in hand?

  3. Tommy Williams said, on October 28, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    Dave: I think in many ways the camera gives you an excuse to go out, slow down, and close attention to the world around you. We talk a lot about the value of “stopping to smell the roses” but it’s hard to just go out and do that.

    But there’s more to it than just the excuse to get out: the act of making pictures is like a form of meditation, I think.

  4. Andrew said, on October 28, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    Dave, I understand what Paul means. For me, walking around with a camera and seeing and framing and visualizing is all very meditative. The psychology of flow. And, spending the past 3 years practicing photography has taught me to see in new ways that are present even when without a camera. But searching with camera in hand is a lot of fun and very relaxing. Some minds work that way.

  5. Jeremy Moore said, on October 28, 2008 at 2:09 pm

    I’m with you on the dogs, Paul. The flaneur has often been referred to as a “walking eye,” but I’ve started building a body of work where I (or my wife and I) walk the dog. We let her lead us like a “walking nose” instead of eye and then I make photos of the places she leads me/us to on her walks.

    All of this takes place within our apartment complex and I’m really enjoying the process of “seeing” where she is smelling.

    Here’s a set on Flickr of the images I’ve processed. (Which reminds me that one GREAT thing about Lightroom is the ability to go back and quickly apply the same split tone–or any other global setting–to all of the images now that I’ve settled on what I like… for now.)

  6. rvewong said, on October 28, 2008 at 7:35 pm

    Dragging a camera along on a walk is like changing from a traveler to an explorer.

  7. Dave K said, on October 28, 2008 at 10:11 pm

    I find it interesting that photographers often state the need to have an instrument (i.e., a camera) in front of them to help them further explore nature around them. Naturalists have been doing it for year, and probably to the same degree of satisfaction, without putting a camera to their eye.

    Different strokes for different folks … 😉

  8. Michael Van der Tol said, on October 29, 2008 at 9:59 am

    Paul, when you stated: “I’ve been thinking lots of ‘upgrade’ thoughts”.

    I remember hearing a podcast by Paul Giguere in which he talked about our over obsession with technology advancements in photography. In that podcast he stated “take over 10,000 pictures with your camera before you consider an upgrade”. Words to live by (and save by).

    I’m at 6,000 with my D70S and it feels like an extension of eyes.



  9. David S said, on October 29, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    I am sure that naturalists have the same degree of enjoyments but they see different things than a photographer. As photographer/artist I look and see the relationships between the objects in a scene and how the forms play off of each other, how the different seasons offer a different palette and the way light plays with the objects in a scene and changes the mood as the sun travels through its arc or plays tag with the clouds. As winter comes on the landscape changes from the rich range of colors to a palette of subtle grays. As winter comes to an end the quiet grays gently begin to glow with the transition into spring and then on to the full blown colors of summer. I think of the camera more like a filter which allows me to remove the visual noise of a scene and enjoy more fully that special moment that I have discovered. This is not unlike the naturalist that discovers something interesting and then puts it under a magnifying glass or a microscope for further investigation.

  10. Simple Abundance — Meandering Passage said, on November 1, 2008 at 6:58 am

    […] a recent post on his site, Paul Butzi also reflected on […]

  11. Shu Leu said, on November 1, 2008 at 7:33 pm

    Canon’s auto lighting optimizer (ALO) is designed to optimize dynamic range and protect highlights, although at the expense of a little noise, according to reports.

    You can see some example pics here at various ISOs:

    Here is Canon’s example of a lanscape image (5616×3744 pixels):

    And here is the manual (Acrobat file):

  12. Shu Leu said, on November 1, 2008 at 8:13 pm

    And you can download high ISO RAW from the camera here:

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