I Love Taking Pictures by Tyson Call

Here is a guest post from a guy who loves to shoot, and this is what this website is all about!  We should all enjoy photography with a passion so enjoy this guest article by Tyson Call! Thanks Tyson!

I Love Taking Pictures by Tyson Call

When someone asks me if I can fix their computer I say yes before asking what the problem is. I have can both vehemently defend or attack Adobe’s Flash Player. I may not have more email addresses than pairs of shoes but I can confidently say that I am technologically literate. When I bought my first DSLR I actually learned where every setting was located and how to use it. That’s why people who know me were confused when I started using a rangefinder.

To use a piece of technology that looks like the love child of Johnny 5 and Robocop could be viewed as somewhat eccentric in the days of easily affordable high-quality digital photographic machines the size of credit cards. I used one such camera while living in Alaska, and it was the gateway drug to the world of photography. Sure, I had taken photos before–even ones that I thought possessed artistic or nostalgic significance. Living in Alaska makes it hard to not get good photos. I caught the bug bad, and although I have some great photos from my time there, I wish that I would have had a better tool for the job. That is what this post is about. It is not about my love for DSLRs or rangefinders, but my love of photography. I subscribe to the school of thought that one is not “better” than the other, but that there are many advantages of both. As for disadvantages–I never feel disadvantaged with any camera in my hand. They do both offer their own unique shooting challenges though. That makes it more fun.

For good or bad, I will not be specifying what gear I used for each picture. This article is not a review of any specific piece of gear, and I don’t want to distract from the images. I will say, however, that save for the image above, they were all taken with a Leica of some sort. This is made necessary by the catalyst of this story; my recent pilgrimage back to the roots of handheld 35mm photography. I am very young. Although my first exposure to “real photography” was a high school class in which I developed and printed my own images, the majority of my photography experience has been that of the world of megapixels and LCDs, not of enlargers and miasmic chemicals.

I create images because I love looking at them. I create images because I like to document where I have been, and what I have seen. I take photos because my extended family expects me to use my skill and be the “family photographer.” I create images because I like using technology. I shoot photos because it allows me to help out loved ones when they need them for some reason. I create images because it helps me relax. With the varied amount of reasons I shoot–some because I have to, or feel obligated–it makes sense that I like different cameras for different situations.

Photography is a multi-faceted endeavor. Despite all these different situations, if I am not enjoying it, it is all moot. I reached a point where I didn’t feel challenged anymore. This is not to say that I mastered photography–far from it. I think that everyone has fallen into a rut at times. For me it was going out to the same spot by the lake, getting a sunset picture, and posting it to Flickr. Sunset pictures are great, but if it is all you do, it can get a little dry. I could have chosen to tackle flash photography with strobes and reflectors and all those other things I don’t understand, but my back was already aching with my tripod, camera and bag of lenses strapped around me. More gear to haul did not sound desirable. So I decided to go the opposite way– simplify.

We have all heard people extol the virtues of rangefinders. Their spartan controls and simple disposition allow the photographer to focus on the subject. This is the reason I decided to go with a film rangefinder. Yes, you can set your DSLR to manual focus, shutter speed and aperture; but the temptation is always there to use fancy features, not that there is anything inherently wrong with taking advantage of modern technology. With my specific goal in mind, to try and create great images without relying on crutches like HDR imaging or an entire backpack full of gear, these features didn’t fit into my plan. I got tired of people seeing my photos and asking what camera I used to take them. Any photographer knows that this can be insulting even though the enquirer usually means well. Cameras take great photos by themselves just as much as guns walk around shooting people… I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it, because to be honest I wasn’t sure.

I got hooked on using HDR in subtle ways because it is comforting to never blow the exposure, and non-photographers are amazed by every HDR photo they see. I will still use it, sure, but lately I have been trying to branch out to other types of photography, beyond the sweeping landscapes I usually shoot. I have been trying to take pictures of people. Some might call it street photography, but I don’t want to label it that lest I then be charged with not practicing real street photography for not always shooting black and white or something. Shooting strangers is a challenge to me. People I don’t know aren’t as easy to take pictures of as large stationary vistas. They are harder to find as well (where I live).

The first time you set out to a photogenic location or event with only the camera and one lens strapped around your neck you will see what I was attracted to. I have always been a bit of a minimalist. I just graduated from college managing to rarely carry a scrap of paper. I scanned all my syllabus’ in as PDF’s and used eBooks when available. I get great joy out getting by with just enough. Some people get joy out of having everything they might ever need with them at all times. I am not one who carries a bottle of mouthwash with me in my bag. In all seriousness, I was looking to trim my gear collection, and separate photography from technology. I am very capable with photoshop. I can do things with my smartphone you didn’t know was possible on a computer. Technology is not a challenge for me. Losing the technology is my challenge. I wanted to break down the barriers between myself and the images I create. Perhaps some people desire to become better at using photoshop or the other tools available to improve images. I believe that if your only intention is to create a beautiful image–and not document the human condition or reality–go hog wild with photoshop. If you are not presenting your work as unretouched or as anything but a digital illustration, by all means use the tools available to achieve the effect you are looking for. My desire was the opposite, however, I wanted to shoot naked.

My experience has been positive. If you are reading this while contemplating trying film or some other photographic venture, whether it be rangefinder, flash, street, or underwater photography–just try it. You have nothing to lose except naivety.

You can find more of Tyson’s images on Flickr, username Clancycoop. He is also on Twitter (and most other places) under @Clancycoop.

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17 Comments

  1. i love taking photos but my parents won’t buy me a proffesional camera
    and the other cam that my sis says can be good for taking pictures, takes flou picss

  2. Great article! I felt the same way as you, Tyson. And that’s why it brought me to Rangefinder world of Leica.

  3. Great article. Like Tyson said, it doesn’t matter which gear you are using. The most important is the photograph. Everyone seems understood. When seeing the comments, it goes back to “digital storage”, “film”… blah blah blah…. Maybe I am wrong. LOL

  4. Eric, I hope you’re right. That would be cool to be able to use film 50 years from now. But I’ll be in my late 90s and it will be tough to do street photography then. LOL!

  5. Jeff, That’s why I said digital is better for the environment in regards to paper and chemicals. I know that digital has its own wasteland of toxicity.

  6. Thank you so much for the kind words!

    I hope that no one misunderstood me to say that one should only store things digitally. That seems to be the vibe I am getting and all I meant is that I like to travel light. Hence I made my school papers digital. As far as storage for documents and photos, redundancy is key. Make at least two backups and keep one off site. Keeping negatives is never a bad thing. I just wouldn’t carry them with me all the time! 🙂

  7. I have to agree with a lot of the comments on this one. The thought that in 50 years i can look at my negatives will be amazing. I cant tell you how many people come in to the camera shop i work at / print lab and cry about how they just lost all there baby photos, or the wedding photos, or something similar. Also, great article in general with some cool images.

    @Elaine
    As long as one company makes one size of film then there will always be film. There is enough people out there mixing there own chemicals to develop film but even then i dont see Illford or Kodak completely dissapearing from the chemicals business. Really we have enough cameras to last a hundread years and can make our own chemicals if need be. Just need one person somewhere to make some form of film.

  8. Great article Tyson, very well written. Stephen B, you said it very well too… Thanks a million to you both! Stephen, i read everything : )

  9. Elaine,

    If that happens, the solution is to print copies on best quality paper with best quality ink/laser or whatever is best and most permanent and that way the past is preserved for the future. Frankly, we could all do with a bit more printing and framing…I don’t think there is enough of this.

  10. I whole heartedly agree with Stephen B. I wonder what the outcome will be years from now with digital files and storage. Yes, film costs more, and in danger of becoming extinct, but I can’t help wondering if this extinction applies more to bits and bytes. I love digital as it’s easier on the environment in some ways (paper, chemicals), but I’ve had hard drive failures which in one instant evaporated all of my music and picture files. (I had back-up, but still! I don’t have back-up off site, or triplicate back-up like some people.) I’ve had CD and DVD files become corrupted, unreadable, thereby losing valuable picture files. (Earlier days).

    The file storage is only going to get bigger and bigger as we get bigger megapixel cameras and accumulate more photography data over the next 10-20 years. So, really, it is kind of scary as Stephen states.

    Scarier still is the possibility of film and labs disappearing and having digital as our only means of taking pictures. That’s really scary.

  11. Nice article. And I can certainly relate. Having been in the digital world for a long time, only recently have I dipped my foot into the film / rangefinder world and now it’s no longer just my foot in the water but I’m pretty much waist deep… For me, your line, “but lately I have been trying to branch out to other types of photography” was spot on. I still do HDR (even took a class with Trey Ratcliff), I still do digital, but I think shooting film and with rangefinders is refreshing and new and it refills my creativity meter in the same way that learning to shoot and edit HDR with Trey did then as well.

    That combined with processing my own B&W film and it’s like a whole new world. I think the two compliments each other and I find myself being more deliberate when shooting digital while at the same time, I bring the experience I gained shooting digital into the film world. It’s also nice to see an article like this not get twisted by others into some sort of film vs digital thing either. That seems to happen all too frequently…

    Though…having lived in the midwest or Buffalo most of my life, I don’t know if I can shoot anything other than sweeping vistas if I was in Alaska…or at least for a while 🙂

  12. A great article and some real truths indeed. I do have a couple of comments and opinions of my own in this area:
    1. Digital storage and paperless (clutterless?) existence is great when considered on a stand alone basis. Not so great if you consider the potential downside and the downside in my view is massive. I have been around long enough and worked with enough companies to know just how temporary companies and the services they provide are. What is a long time for a company to exist these days? Ten, twenty years? Thirty? Some would say this is quite long. My point is that so much of our lives are tied up with digital storage. I see Amazon and Google are fighting for control of the world’s books and want them all digitized and so accessiable on the Kindle and iPad. Great idea in the short term but as we know, as soon as something becomes available on digital, the hard copy version is quickly forgotten. What if… all books get digitised and future books are only in digital form and then suddenly, for some reason, they get deleted, lost or are no longer accessable due to a virus, obsoletion, companies being liquidated… whatever. What then? Most of us have had a terrible experience with digital storage and losing photos. This is bad enough, imagine if it happened to books, certificates, diplomas etc. Something too scary to even think about.

    One thing about physical storage (negatives/ paper books etc) is that to destroy them, a physical (on the ground) disaster would have to happen to almost each and every household and libary in the world. Something that is just about impossible. With digital storage, a virus that is bad enough could attack and delete almost all digital data in one fell swoop. We would not even know it had happened. This could happen and I suggest, probably will at some point. Not to be doomsday and all but my advice is if you want something to be completely under your control and not dependent on other companies or a virus not arriving – keep it in hard copy. I know many will laugh at this and that is fine. I have digital copies of degrees, certificates, warranties, guaranties but I also have a hard copy of them. A digital future is a dangerous one and one which we as individuals cannot control. The internet set people free from big corporations and states due to the free flow of information. Allowing everything to be stored by 3rd parties digitally is giving this very freedom away and giving the power back to the big corporates and the state. It is going full circle.

    2. I also shoot film and have gone from high end digital back to film for a number of reasons but among them is the reason to just shoot and keep it real (‘shoot naked’ is a good description) but we must also ‘keep it real’ when we say this. 35mm film shooting is not exactly the benchmark of simplicity. It is a point in the timeline of photography development. There was photography before 35mm and now there is photography after/in conjunction with 35mm photography (digital). 35mm film and the modern analogue cameras such as the Leica Ms have much advancement over earlier photography, built in meters (on some of them), better shutters, the film is better, the chemicals more consistent etc, etc. Some would argue that 35mm film of today compared to photography in the past, is what photoshop is to the early digital software. Both are points in time in photography both are more advanced than what came before. Dodging and burning in the dark room… is just HDR but in analogue. Would Ansel Adams have used Photoshop if it had been available? I would say yes as he was certainly using the best and latest technology available at the time and would not go back and shoot with older equipment and use older techniques simply because it was more ‘pure’. We use the word ‘purist’ to describe people that at their time were often far from ‘pure’ they were ditching the old techniques and using new ones all the time.

    Anyway, to conclude: Digital storage is the enemy – it will turn on us all eventually. Just take pictures and don’t worry what you used to take them. No matter what we do, it is always using something that was not available to some great photographer/artist that lived before us. We are as ‘pure’ as Ansel Adams, if we use photoshop or not. To be completely ‘pure’, we must go and paint on the walls of caves but I don’t think many will want to do that.

    Lastly, the longer a comment is, the less likely people are to read it. Certainly, that is how I am. Nobody probably read this. Maybe that is a good thing!

  13. Very well written exposition Tyson – congratualations … so what camera do you use now ? (just joking !) 🙂

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