Tag Archives: photos

xkcd: Photos

via xkcd: Photos.

Remember when I used to be heaps into photography? Yeah, me neither.

I still kind of am, but not as much as I used to be. I don’t know about you, but photography was always a “make an effort” thing for me, for the kind of photography I wanted to do (i.e. mostly street photography). I still want to take photos of random people or things on the street in order to tell a particular story, but that involves actually leaving the house — something that doesn’t happen every day because I’m a hermit used to the comforts of working from home most days.

Take today, for example. There was an elderly couple standing outside my work today, looking up at the construction across the road. I glanced up, and the way our glass sliding doors framed them, just gazing up at the construction work going on, was kind of nice. For a brief moment I considered taking a photo, but decided not to because it would have been a little strange.

I’m drawn to couple photography particularly, which probably says plenty about me personally. There’s stories to be told for inanimate objects and individuals, but couple photography fascinates me. One of the best shots I’ve ever taken was a quick spur of the moment thing, like most street photography, depicting a young girl in a school uniform sitting with a guy, also in school uniform, on a bench in the Hobart mall. You don’t know what they’re talking about, or why they’re sitting there, and you kind of feel like an intruder on their private time, but it’s a nice photo. At least, I think so.

It reminded me of the times when I carried my film rangefinder as an every day carry kind of thing. Some people lug around DSLRs, but my Bessa R2A is compact enough to not get completely in the way or be too much of a burden. I mean, sure, I always have my iPhone 6 with me and that takes some seriously good photos, but digital photography has always felt kind of cheap, like it’s too easy to achieve good results without even trying. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but when you can fire off a single-shot HDR photo just by tapping a button, it kind of cheapens the experience a little.

On the above XKCD: I’ve never understood people who criticise other people for taking photos of things that mean something to them. Why does it matter how other people choose to enjoy a particular sunset, or a bunch of fireworks going off? Just looking is nice, but there are some that want to capture the moment so they can come back to it later and then there are some who recognise the technical challenges of capturing multi-coloured explosions in the sky. Either way, that’s their prerogative. Who are you to say otherwise?

These words part of Blogvember, a thing I just made up right then about getting back into blogging. You can read more words about Blogvember right over here, but the gist is that I'll be attempting to post something up on the blog every day in November 2014. Read other Blogvember posts.

Tweets from the road: drafted, but not posted

 Thanks to a lack of a constant internet connection, I wrote a lot of tweets that didn’t get published. A few were thanks to frequent trips to Starbucks, but many, many others didn’t. Without further ado, I present: tweets from the road: stuff that didn’t get posted during my time away from the constantly connected web (note that some are actually longer than 140 characters). There’s a backstory to most of them, but I’ll leave it up to your imagination to fill in the blanks. In some kind of chronological order…

If you look closely, you can see the AMP tower or whatever it's called.

If you look closely, you can see the AMP tower or whatever it’s called.

What most people don’t know is there’s a game you play on intl flights called “respect other people’s personal space as much as possible”.

This guy next to me lost very badly, as did the woman in front who had her chair reclined almost the entire flight.

Travelled something like 6000 kilometres yesterday, but Fitbit reports a mere 5500 steps taken. Technology, hey?

Think my Comply foam tips worked just as well as a pair of noise-cancelling headphones would have on that flight, at a fraction of the cost.

Day two of my overseas trip and my sister already has Wi-Fi. Me? I can wait a few more days to sync my Fitbit, check email, etc.

Kinda disappointed in myself. Only lasted just over a day without Wi-Fi before I succumbed to the mistress of TCP.

Saw the first Hunger Games on the plane over. It was OK, I guess, if you’re willing to overlook the entire dystopian future aspect.

Riddick, on the other hand, was kind of stupid. Did not enjoy.

Worst thing about travelling, by far, is the sub-quality showers. I can deal with everything else, but showers with no water pressure, no.

Can you tell I slept in these pants? Because I totes did.

My sister just revealed to me she turned off autocorrect on her iPod touch. The shame.

Always amazes me how great iPhone battery life is in airplane mode.

…which is exactly what I need on long bus rides from KLIA to my father’s remote hometown. Just me and Miley, or Kilometrey as she’s known here

I seem to be catching a lot of buses in Malaysia. It’s like I never left Hobart!

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The Workhorse

Canon 60D

In the world of cameras, only Sony are doing anything that really interests me right now. By putting big(er) sensors into small(er) cameras, they’re improving image quality without sacrificing portability. They’re improving low-light and noise performance without having to go to ridiculously high ISOs or invest precious R&D into new noise-reduction algorithms. They’re doing the right thing, or at very least, moving in the right direction.

It all started with the RX100, released just last year, a compact camera with a non-detachable zoom lens and a comparatively massive 1-inch sensor, the largest in its class. It was the first camera to put a big sensor in a body that was still extremely pocketable, and it was the first camera that offered anything close to the low-light performance of cameras with much larger sensors.

Not surprisingly, the RX100 received rave reviews despite the slightly higher price point — it was decidedly an “enthusiast compact” camera, and the price reflected its status, but it was still on the expensive side for people looking for an alternative to similar cameras such as the Canon S100 or S110, both of which retail around the $300 mark — by comparison, the RX100 is easily twice that price.

Regardless, the RX100 was a big hit with the wider photographic community. Someone at Sony must have decided this was a worthwhile path to pursue, because half a year later we saw the introduction of the RX1, the first camera to put a full-frame digital sensor in a compact camera. Not much bigger than the RX100, the RX1 is stil a hell of a lot more compact than any other camera with a large sensor, let alone a full-frame DSLR.

Like the RX100, the RX1 comes with a non-detachable lens, but unlike the RX100, the lens on the RX1 is a fixed-focal length lens (commonly referred to as a prime). The lens permanently attached to the RX1 is a 35mm f/2 Zeiss, and I for one am glad Sony chose to go with something decent for their choice of lens. Thanks to the combination of quality glass and a full-frame sensor, image quality, low-light image quality and noise performance all improved markedly.

The only real downside for consumers was the price: at close to what you might pay for a comparable full-frame DSLR, the RX1 is out of reach for anyone who actually wants a full-frame sensor in a compact body without the convenience of interchangeable lenses. You’d have to be a serious enthusiast (or flushed with cash) to fork out for a camera you bought for its size alone, especially when you can get a professional DSLR for around the same kind of money.

Nevertheless, like the RX100 before it, the RX1 was heralded as a breakthrough in digital camera technology simply because it was the first camera to include a full-frame sensor in a compact-like body. It, too, received rave reviews, despite its expensive price tag.

By this time, Sony had caught onto what consumers really wanted: DSLR-like image quality from compact cameras. The RX100 II followed with improvements to the general formula, including a new image processing chip for even better noise performance, coupled with the same big sensor in a compact body. Around the same time, Sony also released the RX1 R, a variant on the original that removed the anti-aliasing filter in favour of more effective resolution and slightly sharper images at the cost of possible moire when capturing certain lined patters.

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PAX Australia 2013 Photos and the Sony RX100 II

RX100 II

I really enjoy film photography, but there are certain aspects which make me pine for something a little more 21st century.

Take ISO and noise performance, for example. With film, you load a roll of film, and that’s your ISO set for the next 36 shots. You can’t chop and change ISOs whenever you want, and you can all but forget shooting at an ISO above 800 as it gets pretty grainy at high film speeds.

On the other hand, digital cameras let you change the ISO whenever you want, and with advances in sensor technology and noise-reduction algorithms, noise is less of a concern than it is with film. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll want to shoot at ISO 12800, but the very fact you can is a feat in and of itself.

I’ve been eyeing off a great compact camera for a little while now, and the only thing that has really caught my eye has been the Sony RX100. It’s perhaps a smidgen pricier than what you might normally pay for a good compact camera, but it does have semi-good reason to be: it has a large sensor paired with some decent optics, which usually translates to decent photos. When I say it has a “large sensor”, it’s big, but in relative terms: it’s still smaller than the sensor in your DSLR, and smaller still than the sensor used in the four-thirds system, but it’s one of the biggest sensors available in what can still be called a compact camera. The RX100 is the pocketable, every-day carry size I’ve been looking for.

Sensor size aside, I’ve wanted to play with an RX100 for a little while now, and PAX was a great opportunity to give one a good workout. Then Sony announced and released its successor-of-sorts, the RX100 II. There’s not even that much different between the two models: a back-side illuminated sensor for even better low-light performance, Wi-Fi and NFC, and a display that tilts, but it still makes sense to get the updated model, right?

Long story short, I wasn’t sure if I was going to get one in time for PAX as the release dates meant that I was cutting it fine. But one phone call later, I secured a RX100 II to call my own. And just in time for PAX Australia!

I used the RX100 to take all the pictures you see below. There’s not that much to say about the camera itself, but there are a few points worth mentioning.

While the camera does have an auto-ISO option, it seems to favour slower shutter speeds instead of using higher ISOs. Normally that wouldn’t be an issue, but there’s no option to set a minimum shutter speed, meaning you can get motion blur if you’re not careful. Because of this, I felt as if I had to shoot the majority of my photos in shutter priority to avoid motion blur in photos.

Low-light and noise performance is excellent, as expected. If you’re a pixel-peeper like me, you’ll probably find it’s a fraction soft in the details, but that’s par for the course for any compact camera. I’m generally pretty happy with the images I took during PAX (they’re certainly better than what my iPhone 5 managed to do), but I’d really only consider them “happy snaps” as opposed to images I would deliver to a client. Read into that what you will. That said, the photos turned out totally fine when resized down, and provided you’re not peeping at the pixels of the full-size images, they’re more than adequate for web usage.

I’ll let the photos do the talking in just a moment, but shooting with the RX100 II at PAX made me wonder how I might have fared with a DSLR. There are obvious size and convenience advantages to a compact, of course, but the photos I took just seemed to reiterate the fact that the DSLR is the workhorse, the one that gets the job done. I hardly use my DSLR these days unless I need to produce extremely high quality images, but I’m consistently impressed by the photos it takes, whenever I’ve done everything I can to make the photo as good as it can possibly be (focus and exposure, in that order).

Taking photos of cosplayers was way more fun than it should have been. Having to ask people for photos took a little getting used to at first (street shooters, represent), but it was cool since it meant they looking into the camera — well, most of the time, anyway. There was heaps of great cosplay on display, but half the time I had issues recognising who people were cosplaying as. Either I need to be exposed to more games or their interpretations of certain characters was just too far off the mark for me. And besides, people in Melbourne dress so weirdly anyway it was hard to tell if they were cosplaying or whether they were just hipsters, but I digress.

The lighting was generally terrible in the expo hall and even worse in the theaters, but here are a few shots I gathered during my time at PAX. There’s probably a million things I missed capturing due to just taking it all in, and I’d love to do PAX with a more serious camera and focus on photography, but hey, I think I did OK.

Photos from PAX Aus 2013 after the jump

I’m confused about photography

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I am all kinds of confused and conflicted about my photography right now.

I’ve long since reached the point where I have to go out and force myself to finish rolls of film just so I don’t have half-finished rolls of film sitting in my camera. Not only that, but somewhere along the line, I lost the ability to tell which of my photos are good anymore, and which ones are bad.

It’s gotten to the point where no photo I take with my rangefinder is bad. Literally, none. They might not be “perfect” examples of photography, but every photo that comes out of my Bessa these days is good, perhaps even great, and the worst thing is, I’m not sure if that’s me, or if it’s just the camera that’s doing all the work.

When I first started out with my Bessa, I really had no idea what I was doing. My first rolls were nothing short of sloppy — missed focus, totally-off exposures, you name it. But over time I’ve learnt the ins-and-outs of shooting with a rangefinder, and in particular, the ins-and-outs of taking photos with the combination of lens and film that I have. I’ve probably done upwards of twenty rolls of the same film now, and it’s getting to the point where I’m not sure if I’m improving, or if I’m just getting so comfortable that it means even the most average shots turn out to be pretty decent. There’s far less out of focus shots and far less wacky exposures, but again — is that because I’ve gotten better at photography, or just because the camera, lens, and film combination I’m used to shooting with do all the hard work for me?

I like shooting film, I really do. It’s just that I’ve reached the stage where I can’t find fault with my own work. The colours are taken care of for me thanks to the brilliance of Ektar 100, and the camera and lens pretty much takes care of the rest. Even the most mundane photos that show now photographic spark turn out to be good, if not great, all thanks to film and camera.

So I’ve been asking myself: if I can’t find anything wrong with my photography, is it actually all that good? It’s like that question of when someone takes a photo of a particularly photogenic subject: is the resulting image a good photo because the photographer is a master of composition, lighting, and has the vision to see his creativity realised in picture format, or is it a good photo because the model is particularly beautiful? I mean, even an average photo of a pretty girl is still going to turn out pretty well, but where’s the line? What defines a good photo from a bad one?

In my case, do I think my photos are good because I’ve consistently improved at taking the kinds of images I do, or is it just that I’m getting lazy with my composition and subjects, not challenging myself enough or pushing the boundaries of what I take photos of, therefore taking these “safe” images that aren’t particularly great, but always turn out to be at least good?

I think what I really need is someone to look at my photos and say: “they’re shit”. I’d even accept “you’re shit”, if it means I have to throw things out and start from scratch. Because as much as that would hurt my feelings in the short-term, I know it’d make me a better photographer, long term.

Or at least, that’s what I’d hope would happen. In reality, I’d probably just stop taking photos for a while.

But if that’s what it takes, then that’s what it takes.

Thirty Six Shooter

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Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t feel pressured to take photos all the time? Because digital is cheap, it means we have this idea that we have to capture everything. It’s terrible if you even have the smallest of compulsive tendencies, because you’re probably taking photos of the most random things possible in your never-ending quest to document anything and everything.

Yours truly:

I’ve felt this pressure myself, too. I’ve often found myself saying: “hey, this costs you nothing and means you can remember every detail of this moment every time you look at this photo in the future” on more than one occasion, and you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. As humans our memories aren’t perfect, so if we need a little help remembering our kids’ first steps, or that time when bird poo landed spontaneously on our friend, or that time we saw our friend at that place, what’s the harm in taking a photo to remember the occasion?

Enter film photography, stage left.

Paul Miller returned to the internet yesterday after a year of no internet, and a lot of what he talked about was how the internet has trained us to give us that instant hit. Click a link, get a webpage. Google something, become enlightened. Hit a keyboard shortcut, send a tweet. Of course, a lot of other stuff happens behind the scenes to make those things happen, but this instantaneous feedback loop that the internet provides is something we should be more cautious of, in my opinion. I mean, It’s probably why people get burnt out more than they used to — in fact, it’s probably why burn out is a even a thing. No-one got burnt out before the 20th century, and you know why? Because they didn’t have the internet. They didn’t have the internet to give them that instant information hit they so badly craved.

Film photography is kind of like that. Not like the world without the internet or anything, but a world where photography teaches you patience. You’re not crimping every shot to see if the lighting was right, to see if the focus was okay, or because you didn’t expose to the right. You’re not re-taking shots because you didn’t like the direction the wind was blowing, or because a car got in the way of that building. Well, maybe you are — but you’re not doing it over and over again, just so you can make sure at least one of your shots is useable. You’re not firing off bursts of shots just to make sure you get that one shot that you can actually use.

And when it does come time to finish off a roll of film, you’re waiting for the development process. If you develop your own film, I tip my hat to you; I don’t think I could without going insane waiting for all the various steps. I’d much rather just give it to someone else to handle, forget about it for a day or two, then come back and grab the processed film and the scans, which I can then just load into my computer.

No mess, no fuss.

It seems that a good 85% of my photography these days is film. In a world where digital SLRs can shoot crazy numbers of frames per second (seriously, have you heard the burst rate on the 1Dx?), it’s even crazier that at times, 36 frames is too many. Having to shoot random frames to finish off a roll of film that I’m itching to be developed isn’t exactly uncommon. I’m not sure whether this is poor planning on my part or just a reality of film photography, but I do it all the time.

I find it nothing short of weird that 36 frames is at the same time too many frames, and yet, not enough.

Too many frames because film teaches you this idea that every frame counts. You only have so many shots before you have to reload your camera with another roll of film, so you make every one count. But then you finish shooting whatever you’re taking photos of, and what happens? You’ve still got a handful of shots remaining on the roll. So what do you do? Do you shoot a few fun ones just to finish it off, or do you wait until you actually have something worth taking photos of? Because I’m impatient and have more rolls of film stockpiled than I know what to do with, I usually opt for the latter. Being able to see my eagerly-taken photos is also a plus.

But at the same time, 36 frames are not enough. It’s nothing compared to any recent-ish DSLR. My 60D, for example, can do 5.3fps quite happily — whereas I can probably manage perhaps one frame a second on my manually-advanced film rangefinder. Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand where a high burst rate comes in handy. Sports photography, for example, or if you’re an amateur like me and want to make sure that you’ll get at least one photo worth using, and the more shots you take, the larger chance that has of happening. And if you happen to capture more than one frame that is usable, well, what’s the big deal? Digital is cheap, remember?

Revolvers are described as six shooters. Film rangefinders, then, are thirty-six shooters.

Digital is cheap. But why does that matter?

My desk, circa mid-2008

My desk, circa mid-2008.

I guess it all started when James posted a picture of his desk back in 2003. Anthony joined in with a desk from 2005, and it was all downhill from there.

As far as I can tell, the oldest photo that I can find of my desk is from July 2008. I can remember having a desk that goes back even further than that, but that sounds about right: around 2008 was when I got my first computer, the first computer that was well and truly “mine”, as opposed to the computer I had previously shared with other members of the family.

If I cared, I could probably look through a few archived hard drives that contain backups of previous computers to see if a picture earlier than 2008 existed, maybe from an old camera-phone, or maybe even an older camera. Come to think of it, we had an old digital camera from around that time, but I’d be damned if I knew where to look to find photos from it.

In an increasingly digital world, everything becomes easier. More accessible. Everything and everyone is interconnected thanks to the world wide web, and in terms of photography, that means anyone can pick it up and press shutter buttons to produce photos.

But here’s the thing: digital is cheap. Digital photography has evolved into us taking better photos, for sure, but it has also meant we’re constantly taking photos. You’ve seen it yourself: people Instagram-ing their lunch, people taking pictures of their cat, their dog, a new vase of flowers, their new outfit, a messy room, their unmade bed, a new toy, the list goes on and on. As much as we’re taking better photos, some of that can be attributed to the fact we’re taking a lot more photos than we used to — our keeper rates might not have gone up, but because we’re taking so many photos, it doesn’t really matter anyway.

“If we screw it up we can just delete and re-do.”

Digital (photography or otherwise) has created this culture where it’s as if there’s this unsaid message, one that says “if you don’t capture the memories now, then they’ll be gone forever”. It’s not uncommon to hear people saying things like “if we screw this one up, we can just delete it and re-do”. Or “take a few photos, so at least one will turn out okay”. I mean, high-FPS burst mode on digital cameras was practically invented so you could fire away bursts during group shots, so you can be 100% sure at least one of the shots will feature everyone with their eyes open — when was the last time you heard a photographer saying “now, everyone close your eyes and open them on the count of three”, at which point he’d click the shutter? Never, right?

Which brings us back to this idea that taking more photos can often lead to better photos, and the reason we take better photos is because digital is cheap.

I’ve felt this pressure myself, too. I’ve often found myself saying: “hey, this costs you nothing and means you can remember every detail of this moment every time you look at this photo in the future” on more than one occasion, and you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. As humans our memories aren’t perfect, so if we need a little help remembering our kids’ first steps, or that time when bird poo landed spontaneously on our friend, or that time we saw our friend at that place, what’s the harm in taking a photo to remember the occasion?

And so, as I continue to click away, to fire off burst shots, to take photos of seemingly the most random things, I remember the universal truth:

Digital is cheap. But it doesn’t matter, because memories aren’t.

Devonport and the West Coast

We got these cool lunchboxes at the midway point of the trip.

We got these cool lunchboxes at the midway point of the trip.

A few friends and I went to Devonport and the West Coast earlier this year, just before Uni started again for the year. Like other times, we took all our computer gear up with us, travelling in a convoy of three cars, and like previous years, played games for most of it.

Most of it, that is, besides that one day that we took out to travel to the west coast of Tasmania to experience the West Coast Wilderness Railway — after learning of its planned demise, we decided it would be a great idea to do it before it went away for good. It just so happened that one of my friends had previously done his placement up there, which meant he knew all the people and whatnot.

The WCWR experience is definitely a tourist attraction rather than anything else. We took the steam train from Queenstown to Strahan, and bussed it back to Queenstown after. I’m glad I’ve done it (especially since it’s about to be shut down), but I’m not sure I’d be so hasty to do it again. Still, not a bad experience, by any means.

Random photos from the trip follow, in no particular order.

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Relay for Life 2013

Hobart Relay for Life 2013

The 2013 Hobart Relay for Life might have been the first time I cracked 10,000 steps on my Fitbit One (and probably the one and only time I’ll crack 20,000), but it was also a time of realisation.

The vast majority of my recreational photography these days is film photography. If I had to put numbers to it, I’d probably say I do 85% film, 15% digital (which includes my iPhone, as well as my digital SLR). There’s just something about film photography that appeals to me — maybe I like it because it’s different to every other Joe who has a digital SLR, or maybe it’s because the photos taken with film all have their own unique character. Maybe it’s just because I haven’t experienced the very best digital photography has to offer, but these days — for whatever reason — I prefer film.

It was during a trip to Melbourne last year when I realised I could do all my recreational photography solely with my film camera. I only took my film-loaded Bessa over there, and it was perfectly adequate for my street photography and random snapshots. I missed focus on a few photos, and didn’t realise what my shutter speed had fallen to (resulting in a blurry mess) in another one or two, but apart from those random three or four photos, the photos I captured were totally fine1. After the trip, I looked back at my photos, compared them to the ones I took the last time I was in Melbourne, and realised: hey, this camera does a damn fine job of capturing the image I want it to, and, not to mention, it’s also a lot more enjoyable to use.

Relay for Life just affirmed that realisation.

I took my film rangefinder along to Relay because it presented a unique opportunity for me: a chance to take photos of people I actually knew and in reasonable light conditions, instead of the usual street photographs of complete strangers. I took my DSLR along as well, expecting it would get used during the night, when my film Bessa had been retired in favour of the selectable-ISO of my DSLR — I even borrowed my friend’s Speedlite, like I had done the previous year — but as it turned out, I took a total of zero photos using my DSLR this year at Relay.

Straight out of camera, would you believe, in the early hours of the morning.

Straight out of camera, would you believe, in the early hours of the morning.

To be fair, the weather didn’t exactly help; it rained for much of the afternoon and evening, preventing any serious photography from taking place. Had the weather been nicer, like it was last year, then maybe things would have turned out differently, and maybe I would have experimented with long exposures. I had intended to do long exposures during the day, even bringing along my 10-stop ND filter to try my hand at daytime long exposure photography, but alas, the weather had other plans.

All of the above should give you a pretty good idea of where I think digital SLRs and film rangefinders stand. Like I’ve said before, there’s still a place for the digital SLR in my photography endeavours, it’s just that that purpose is becoming more and more specialised where the role of the film rangefinder is expending. Don’t get me wrong: there are occasions where I wouldn’t choose a film rangefinder over a digital SLR, but those occasions are getting fewer as I gain more and more experience with film.

Like I’ve been saying all along, one format isn’t better than the other, and there’s room for both formats in my life. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. But when it comes down to which format takes the better photo, or which one I prefer for any given task, the answers to those questions are a little harder to come by.

Pram Cam 2013

In any case, Relay for Life was good. Not great, because it rained so damn much, but good. Like last year, we put the GoPro on the Team Radi8 mascot (a pram adorned with our names and stick figures), only this time around I turned it around so it faced the people pushing the pram, and recorded a mix of video and time-lapse footage. The video was kind of a mistake as sitting through 7 hours of people pushing a pram around a track isn’t the most exciting thing in the world, but I still managed to capture a few nice moments here and there.

Unlike last year, though, that was pretty much all I did photographically. No time-lapse camera in the grandstand. No separate point-and-shoot for later tilt-shift intentions. All the digital frames that were taken were taken on the GoPro (with perhaps a panorama or two on the ol’ iPhone), but apart from that, it was analog all the way.

And honestly, if I was going to do it again, I would have done exactly the same thing the second time around.2.


  1. I’m tempted to add a qualifier here along the lines of “for a film camera”, but you know what? When a friend asked me (incidentally, at the Relay for Life) if my film camera took better photos than my digital SLR, I replied “I wouldn’t necessarily say better, but it does a pretty damn good job”. 
  2. I can’t share any of the (better) photos here for privacy reasons, but if you know me in real life ask to see them sometime and I’ll happily show you. 

The Benny Ling 2012 Photographic Year in Review: By the Numbers, An Introduction to Film, and Just Taking Photos

One of my favourite photos of the year was of this pink bike. Not this particular photo, but one of them.

2012 marks the first year I’ve taken photography seriously. I’ve always been interested in photography, but haven’t really gotten as involved with it as I did this year. It probably had a lot to do with the acquisition of my own DSLR kit late last year, and even more to do with doing my own photography — the shots I’ve seen other people take but have always wanted to apply my own spin or interpretation of, combined with the creative control a “serious” camera like a DSLR allows.

By the numbers

Lightroom says I’ve taken 7343 images with my 60D this year Of those:

  • 3493 were taken with the Sigma 30 1.4
  • 2105 were taken with the Canon 17-55 2.8
  • 662 were taken with the Canon 18-135 3.5-5.6
  • 632 were taken with the Canon 24-85 3.5-4.5
  • 200 were taken with the Canon 50 1.8
  • 251 were taken with a Samyang(?) 6.5mm fisheye

The Sigma’s high numbers are pretty easy to explain: it’s the lens that got busted out at my first ever wedding reception, and it’s usually the one that’s attached to my camera the most often. It’s usually the lens that I take when I’m going to an event at youth, and of course, being the fastest lens I own means it gets used quite a lot. Overall, I quite enjoy the Sigma — it’s a great piece of glass when you consider the price. Fast, with a great focal length for a crop sensor.

The 17-55 is easily the most expensive piece of glass that I own, and in a few respects it’s a better lens than the Sigma. Its numbers are lower than the Sigma on a pure photos-taken basis mainly because I don’t use it as much. I’m not sure why, because it can produce some truly great photos. It’s the lens I took with me to Melbourne that one time, the one I used at the Relay for Life, and what I do most of my landscapes with. But I seldom use it at youth events, purely because it looks (and feels) intimidating; people tend to shy away from it. It may produce some excellent photos, but it’s not exactly subtle. It’s heavy, too — almost a full kilo. In an ideal world I’d like this lens to be the one permanently attached to my 60D, but such is the advantage of an interchangeable camera system.

The rest of the numbers aren’t exactly special: the 18-135 was the first lens I owned, along with the 50 1.8, the latter of which doesn’t get much use due to the slightly longer focal length and the fact that I have the much better (sharper, faster) Sigma to use instead. Maybe when I go full-frame I’ll use it more, but that’s definitely for another time.

An introduction to film

Around April, I bought an old film camera, and experienced film photography for myself. Our family had an old film point and shoot before the days of digital, of course, but I rarely used personally. But the Yashica Lynx 14 I bought off an OCAU forum member made me realise that maybe there was more to this photography thing than just pressing shutter buttons. Perhaps it was the fully-mechanical nature of the camera, or maybe it was having to wait to see if my photos were any good, but film photography made me start enjoying photography all over again.

I ended up loving that Yashica Lynx — non-operational/slightly temperamental light meter and all — so much that it ended up with a stuck shutter, which was the end of that particular camera.

But by that stage I couldn’t give up rangefinder photography, which has more advantages than just looking the part with a fancy film camera. Long story short, I ended up buying a Voigtländer Bessa R2A camera, paired with a Voightlander Nokton 40 1.4 to replace the old (like, late 1960s-era old) Yashica Lynx.

The story continues…

Back in the Saddle

There’s a gap in my Lightroom library.

It encompasses the period from October to November this year, and represents a two month period where very few photos were taken.

Why? I’m not sure myself, actually. It could have been any number of things: the iPhone 5 was released during that period, Uni exams were during that period, I got into the Twilight series, and many more reasons (some even more ridiculous than the ones I’ve already posted) besides. Maybe it rained a lot. Or maybe I didn’t leave the house because I was too busy studying for exams and/or re-re-re-watching the Twilight series.

Whatever the reason, there’s a gap in my Lightroom library.

And it’s such a stupid thing to get hung up on, but it’s more than just a time where I didn’t take photos, film nor digital. Perhaps that gap represents something entirely different other than just “a period where very few photos were taken”. For example, perhaps that gap points to a period where I was felt so uninspired that taking photos felt like the worst possible thing to be doing at that time. Perhaps I just didn’t feel like competing with others when it came to taking photos.

Or maybe — and I suspect this is closer to the real reason than any any excuse I’ve offered up this far — the gap represents a time where I was questioning my own photography compared to the photography of others. By this I mean: what sets my own photography apart from those taking photos with iPhones? Or with their Polaroids? What makes my photography special? Why should I bring my camera out to events when someone else can document it just as well with their iPhone, and share it instantaneously with others?

And, you know, it’s great that we live in a world that can be documented and shared instantly with others. It’s great that iPhones now approach the capabilities of the more advanced point and shoot cameras, and it’s even better that they have the advantage of being able to share their photos instantly via the ever-connected web.

But then I think about things like Instagram, and realise that as much as things change, the more they stay the same. Cute girls post pictures of themselves on their social network of choice garner more likes than should be possible in the blink of an eye, and the more popular individuals on one social network will be equally as popular on others. Haters gonna hate, and so on, and so forth.

I’m not sure why there’s a gap in my Lightroom library. Whatever the reason, I’m glad there is — otherwise I might not be taking pictures now, and maybe, just maybe, my photos wouldn’t be nearly as good as a result1.


  1. Both photos you see in this post are from September. Bonus points if you can name the place where the second one was taken.