An unproductive time

First posted 7 July 2009

My posts have been delayed recently because I have been away a couple of times and had a number of teaching workshops to do.
In my personal work, I have been using a 5×7 inch Kodak Specialist camera with old Ilfospeed paper in the back. This technique can produce lovely results, but often the paper negatives are difficult to print.

Recently, I acquired a box of old Ilfospeed RC paper from the photographer David Ellwand (author of the book ‘Fairie-ality’). I tested it and found out the effective speed, then shot a tree in my garden as a test. I discovered that it had an unusual texture (when used as a negative) and I liked the look of it.

Our tree

I had also been playing around with various lenses on the 5×7 camera and managed to grab myself half a day to go out and do some tree shots. I thought the combination of this paper with one particular lens would give me a really nice result.

That evening I processed the negs and did contact prints.
The resulting images were really disappointing, there was one neg which had potential, but the other seven were terrible. What had I done wrong? I was really hacked off with my wasted half day and had a good old moan to my wife later in the evening.

She wisely suggested that I spend the evening watching a programme on a photographer online (Annie Leibovitz). We watched it together and I immediately knew what I had done wrong,  -I was concentrating too much on the process of photography and not actually looking for things that needed photographing.

The next morning I grabbed a 35mm camera and spent 15 minutes at most walking around the garden taking pictures of things that looked interesting. The experience was electric! – I shot a curled up hosepipe, a plant, some interesting pebbles collected on holiday last year and one or two other subjects and totally enjoyed finding pictures instead of playing with equipment.

I can see now that this has happened before and I have allowed myself to get too wrapped up in an enjoyable, but distracting area of photography.

The next free day I have, I will let the picture dictate the appropriate equipment, not the equipment dictate the picture. A valuable lesson learned.

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