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The Tangibility of Memories: Exploring Life, Loss and Family Through Photography

This past Mother’s Day marked ten years without my mom. I was 19, a sophomore in college trying desperately to become a respected adult when she died. Predictably, caring for and losing a parent is one way to really accelerate that process.

Over the last decade, I’ve struggled to process not only the loss of my mother but also the loss of our future together. I don’t know what she would have thought of my writing or interior decorating. I don’t know what trips we might have taken or how she would have reacted to the challenges of the pandemic. I don’t know, and that is one of the nastiest things grief does.

As I’ve navigated my heartache with sympathetic friends and a lot of therapy, photography has also proven to be a trusted tool through which I explore my grief. It’s allowed me to come to understand my mom better. Seeing photos from before I was born — her in diapers, her first marriage, as a college student in the 70s, that awkward teenage phase and questionable haircuts — alleviates some of the despair. Uncovering images and stories about her life, even the parts that include me and my brother or dad, has had a powerful effect on reducing my fear around a future without her. Instead of doubling down on my sadness, photos whisper clues as to what she might have thought and felt about my unknowns.

Some photos carry more mysteries than others, and I so enjoy the process of exploring all of the possibilities. What was so special about this moment? Are there any clues as to what year that was taken? Is that guy sitting next to her a friend or former boyfriend? Does it even really matter?

In a world where some of my photos push 50MB apiece and we all contemplate the best cloud storage solutions for our terabytes of personal data, there’s something very humbling about the 4×6” family photo collection stowed away in a shoebox or folder inside of a dusty cabinet. Often featuring poor composition and displaying an aggressive use of flash and/or forced smiles, they are a far cry from the “phone eats first” and facetuned society we now live in. Kids are asking for iPhones in elementary school and Instagram accounts for their birthdays. What ever happened to the original filter: the lowly disposable camera?

Physical printed photos remind me of how deliberate photography once was. You had only so many rolls of film. Your batteries were going to run out (not to mention they weren’t rechargeable via USB). Organizing a professional photo shoot necessitates planning and intention. At times, like in the case of a family photo in a studio, a new artificial story is being told. The idea that each of the four members of my family independently decided to all wear turtlenecks on the same day? Think again.

Broadly speaking, photography is about storytelling. It’s an effective narrative tool, sure, but it’s also an important form of proof. Proof that my mom wasn’t always sick. Proof that her legs were way too long and skinny as a kid. Proof that when she was really laughing and happy she’d throw her head back. Proof that we once had the same haircut at the same time. And proof that I look like her now.

Each photographer has their own very personal story as to why they chose this medium. For me, it just feels like a natural extension of how I see the world. I look for quiet moments, light, patterns and textures everywhere I go, and it’s only through photography that I’m able to offer the world slivers of my brain. There is great power in creating memories and freezing moments in time that satisfy something within me.

Like old friends of hers I’ve connected with, I will also always be grateful to photography for its ability to teach me about my mom after her death. Without the images in my shoebox, I would surely have forgotten just how her hands looked and what watch she wore. I would have a hard time visualizing her smile, but I have the proof.

About the author: Caitlyn Edwards is the Community Marketing Manager at PhotoShelter, which regularly publishes resources for photographers. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Edwards has a degree in Peace & Conflict Resolution and is religious about black coffee and great wine (but never together). This article was also published here.

Improve Your Minimalist Photography with These 6 Guidelines

Of all of the artistic photography styles, one of the most interesting is also the most basic-looking. However, don’t let that label fool you, there is nothing basic about the process of successful minimalist photography. In fact, it takes just as much skill, if not more, than any other modern artistic photography style, and it requires the same amount of post-production editing as other popular styles.

We can see “minimalism” just about everywhere we look. From today’s stylish clothing and apparel, home furnishings, and modern art, to the latest tech devices from Apple and other leading manufacturers. With the increased popularity the minimalist style is enjoying, capturing it in your photography is an important, and somewhat challenging, feat.

If you are looking for a refreshing visual break from the constant flood of information, and visual noise that we face every day then minimalism is for you!

For those interested in minimalist photography and who want to express their vision through images defined by open space, clear lines, pared-down color palettes, graphic compositions, and simple beauty, the six tips below will help you achieve better photos in this style.

Watch Your Background: Oftentimes, we become so focused on the object that we are photographing that we forget to take a look at the background. This is very important, especially with minimalist photography as a cluttered background could disrupt the entire shot.

Incorporate Simple Shapes: minimalist photography tends to use extremely pared-down shapes like rectangles and squares, which prioritize simplicity, balance, and harmony.

Choose The Right Subject: your subject should be visually strong, and it should be able to stand on its own. This is because minimalist photography uses very few supporting elements to keep the shot clean and simple.

Focus On The Details: just because the minimalist style relies on the “less is more” principle, doesn’t mean that you can ignore the details. Because less is more, those details are more important than ever, and they require a higher level of perfectionism on your part.

Limit Your Color Palette: be sure to use restraint when it comes to the colors you incorporate into your minimalist photography. The colors you use should be complementary to one another including pairs such as blue and orange, yellow and purple, black and white, and red and green.

Play with shadows: Working with shadows can help to direct attention to a specific point in the composition. They can reveal form or hide features that may be better left unseen. They can also be used to add hint of drama, emotion, interest, or mystery to a photo.

Practice: As with anything, practice makes perfect. Be patient, take your time, and practice your skills. With practice, you’ll find perfection in less and your minimalist photography will show that.

About the author: George Griefy is a photographer who splits his time between London and Greece. He has been influenced by both the multicultural city of London and the Mediterranean sea & plant life. He is a man of little ornamentation: his work features simply staged photographs, heavily influenced by minimalism and surrealism. His physical subjects tend to be nude or barely clothed, and his other pictures are clearly and pointedly focused.

George explores art with a spirit of adventure and a love of play. He loves mixing up and changing styles because he finds inspiration in a little bit of everything; plants, daily objects, or atmospheric landscapes.

Why I’m Not Upgrading to Mirrorless Cameras as a Pro Photographer

Mirrorless, mirrorless, ah the joys of mirrorless. Isn’t it better than DSLRs in every way possible? It may be. But honestly, I couldn’t care less. While that may sound egoistical, the reason I don’t care is that I’m not upgrading to mirrorless anytime soon.

I don’t keep up with camera news. While I know that a Canon EOS R3 is coming soon, I didn’t look at the spec sheet nor do I intend to unless I’m reviewing it. For some of you, this may sound stupidly ignorant. Ignorant it is, but stupid no.

I don’t care about mirrorless at the moment because I’m not upgrading to it, so it’s just irrelevant information I don’t need now. I’m perfectly comfortable with my fleet of aging DSLRs and will be for at least 5 more years. In this article, I will explain why I am not upgrading and suggest why you may want to hold off on upgrading to mirrorless too.

Is There Too Much Hype?

I strongly believe that the mirrorless is way too hyped up at the moment. I have even been laughed at because I had DSLRs in my camera bag. People really think that the DSLR-to-mirrorless change is as significant as the film-to-digital change. Somehow DSLRs just got worse when the R5 came out.

Sony shooters like to think that their technologically advanced camera can beat a DSLR in every aspect. It probably can when it comes to video, but I’m a photographer, not a cinematographer. A question I ask myself before buying any gear is: “Is the upgrade going to make me more money if I invest in it?”

Does It Make Financial Sense?

Let’s evaluate the cost of upgrading to mirrorless:

The Canon EOS R5 costs $3,899, and I’d had to get two to have a backup body. Let’s assume that I will not be retiring my Canon 70-200mm lens from 2001 and my 24-70mm lens from 2006. Because a used R5 is rare at the moment, I’d likely have to buy a new one. That’s already nearly $8,000 to dish out.

Suppose I sold my DSLRs. That would likely bring in a little over $3,000. I’d still have to still shell out five grand for a new camera system. Purchases must be justified, so let’s see if the specs or anything else will make the upgrade to mirrorless worth it.

How Much Better Is It?

The specs that are relevant to fashion & portrait work are resolution, color depth, connectivity, weight, dynamic range.

For the Canon EOS R5, those are:

  • Resolution: 45 megapixels
  • Color depth: 25.3 bits
  • Dynamic range: 14.6 EV
  • Weight: 26.03oz (0.74kg)
  • Connectivity: USB-C

For my current go-to Canon 5D Mark IV those are:

  • Resolution: 30 megapixels
  • Color depth: 24.8 bits
  • Dynamic range: 13.6 Evs
  • Weight: 31.39oz (0.89kg).
  • Connectivity: USB 3.0

Based on the specs, the R5 does seem like the better choice. A marginally better choice. Based on those specs, the 5D Mark IV is still a very strong camera that performs incredibly well.

Read more: The DSLR I Am Not Retiring: A Long-Term Review of Canon 5D Mark IV

Speaking from experience, I can’t think of a time when I wished for a better camera. Sure, the 100% autofocus coverage can help some shooters, but for me, it doesn’t make a difference. I keep composition simple and shoot at f/11 most of the time, so critical focus at a crazy f/1.2 is not a gamechanger for me.

One thing that is marginally better is the weight and size. I do appreciate the reduced strain on my hands, but when the pro glass gets mounted on the camera, that difference is really barely noticeable. Besides, I bring a tripod to virtually every photoshoot that I have. This means that a tether table is coming with me and with it an assistant to take care of the camera.

As a portrait & fashion photographer, medium format is something I can’t avoid. The rented medium-format cameras are a marvel to work with but a pain to handle. So much so, I got used to it and think of a DSLR as the lighter option.

Learning It All

Specs and pixel-peeping aside, let me dive into what switching cameras may mean for many of you, as it does for me: learning and adjusting.

Camera brands will hate me for saying this, but honestly, the last thing I want to do is buy a new camera. Not only because it’s expensive but also because I probably need to spend lots of time figuring it out, and trying to understand where all the buttons and settings are. Sure, most of them are in the same place, but for me, even the slightest shift slows me down in a shoot. Those seconds make me lose momentum and in general, are destructive of creativity.

When shooting with a 5D Mark II and IV side-by-side, I found myself a lot slower than usual. Keep in mind, those are two cameras I know well. I like to think that the fewer steps I need to take to be creative, the better my systems of creativity are. If all I need to create is to turn the camera on and shoot, that’s good news. If I need to mess with the settings for dozens of minutes, that’s not good news.

A great example of this would be Platon, who I believe still shoots on a Hasselblad 500 ELM. That’s the battery-powered medium format film camera produced in the 1970s. Platon’s work is world-famous, and he’s not upgrading for simplicity’s sake. He puts it quite simply: due to his dyslexia, complicated things are never a good idea. Being as simple as possible is often the way. His light, his posing, his composition, and his camera are all simple and brilliant.

Switching Won’t Make Me/You Better

This is one that I see a lot. Time and time again I see the most expensive camera equipment owned by photographers — anything from a Phase One for $55,000 to a Leica for $8,000. There may be more megapixels, color depth, and dynamic range in what is produced, but it wasn’t better quality work by any stretch of the imagination.

Sure, saying that you shoot with a Leica will get you reputation in your camera club. But you can’t (or shouldn’t) put a Leica logo on the photos. The only logo you can put on your work is your authentic style. Being an artist is what makes great photographers. If the people who owned the most gear and/or the best gear were always the best photographers, rental house owners would be unbeatable. It’s hard to compete against a place that can give you $500,000 worth of gear.

When WILL I Switch to Mirrorless?

I inevitably will switch to mirrorless. The main reason would probably be my DSLRs aging. The shutter counts are racking up quite fast for me, as I shoot quite a lot (thankfully). Also, my 70-200mm lens from 2001 won’t work forever. The same goes for my aging fleet of other DSLR lenses.

I think it would make the most sense to upgrade when the time has finally come to say goodbye once and for all to the gear that no longer works or isn’t serviceable. As a photographer, I rely on repairs to be readily available and affordable, no matter where I am. If I can’t get a lens repaired or rented for my camera system, I’m in trouble. When that time comes, I will upgrade.

An upgrade in this way isn’t a panic purchase. It is a process that requires deliberate saving, budgeting, and forecasting to get right. It is, after all, a huge investment.

In conclusion, I’d say to anyone looking to upgrade now: mirrorless is the future, but it’s not the present. There hasn’t really been a bad camera since 2009. What you have is a lot more than what photography legends such as Irving Penn, Robert Capa, and Richard Avedon had. You can take great pictures with what you have if you know how to do it.

What’s Really Behind Getty Images’ Acquisition of Unsplash

It was so close to the first of April, it sounded like an April’s fool hoax: the gentle freedom-loving all sharing company would be selling to the greedy capitalistic money-making titan. Or, in other words, Getty Images was acquiring Unsplash. The two unlikely partners officially became at the end of April, sending ripples through the stock photography world and beyond.

World’s Apart?

They couldn’t be more different on the surface: you would imagine them at each other throats rather than sharing office space. Getty Image is a formidable content licensing operation, generating probably in the $800 million a year, and Unsplash, a free photo platform, small, nimble but extremely popular. But a closer look reveals a different picture: They are complementary. While Getty images adequately serve professional image buyers with very specific image needs, Unsplash caters to more casual users with a more inspirational approach. More to the point, both are providers of increasingly indispensable visual content to an ever-growing population of versatile consumers.

Some of Unsplash impressive traffic numbers…move over Instagram

A Better Mousetrap?

Getty has long understood that free content is an indispensable feeder for new paying customers, and there are not the only ones. Shutterstock has many very lucrative referral deals with free photo sites, and Adobe Stock has just recently made a good chunk of its offering entirely free. Attracted by free offerings, customers end up paying for a more suitable image. With commercial stock photo prices hovering in and about a few dollars an image, it’s an easy decision for customers, especially when on expense accounts. For stock photo agencies competing for new buyers, it is a cheaper customer acquisition than the increasingly costly google ad word auctions and other digital marketing schemes. Especially when those customers have small budgets.

Beyond the Obvious

The success of Unsplash is not based on its freemium approach. There were and are plenty of other sites offering the same. Instead, its rise is to be attributed to an extremely tight and accurate curation. Somehow, the team behind Unsplash hit directly into today’s visual Zeitgeist and delivers a perfectly curated flow of “authentic Instagram-like mobile photos taken by your friend”-inspired images. This editing “magic sauce” is at the core of its continued appeal to an audience who is exhausted by those other massive collections of cold images catered by insensitive algorithms. Getty could gain a serious competitive edge by using this approach.

The real financial value for Getty is Unsplash’s formidable number of API relationships. There are 11,135 applications currently connected directly to Unsplash’s image database with an All-time API request of 100,312,415,477. That is over 100 billion requests. While not all those requests correspond to an image download, even at 1%, that still represents 1 billion images! It is a huge potential market for Getty.

And because these are accounts locked in via an API, they are most certainly repeat and probably exclusive relationships. It’s priceless.

Unsplash took over $6 million investment in 2018, in the height of the ICO / crypto craze, with part of it in SimpleTokens, probably a wash today. It came with the now undelivered promise of some sort of blockchain/token scheme to reward its users. Unsplash has since rolled out advertising (visible on the pop-up download windows), paid content, and gig hiring out of necessity to generate revenue without changing its free model. It is unclear if any are successful. If anything, its sale to Getty would confirm that they are not. Or at least, not fast enough, especially for their investors.

What Next?

Getty now owns a laboratory to continue testing its free/advertising-based revenue model, something they have been investigating for the last eight years. They know that selling the audience rather than the image is where the real revenue is, as proven by Instagram and Pinterest. And Unsplash, with its already formidable audience, brings them that revenue potential. It certainly has the traffic.

It’s an opportunity for Getty to pivot from the traditional licensing model and unleash its collection’s real value.

About the author: Paul Melcher is a photography and technology entrepreneur based in New York, and the founder of Kaptur, a news magazine about the visual tech space. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of his writings on his blog, Thoughts of a Bohemian. Melcher offers his services as a consultant as well. This article was also published here.

The Impermanence of Life Highlights the Importance of Photography

Just outside of the Twin Cities in Minnesota, in my childhood home’s partial basement, there were only two rooms without windows: the darkroom and the crawlspace, which younger me had deemed the “icky space.”

When the darkroom was in use, there weren’t any lights — only noises. When I stood in front of the door and cupped my ears towards my father, I could hear the film making its way out of the canister as it bent its way onto the spool until it was wound up. That is when my dad would give me the “OK” to turn on the light and hurt our dilated eyes.

Other times, in the dim, paper-safe red light of the darkroom, I would look in the developing trays and watch the cut-down 5×7 paper turn from its semi-gloss ivory white to a plethora of grays. Every single shade of gray between black and white would slowly land on the surface and settle before it was deemed “developed,” which qualified to move it to a new tray for the rinse, before going into the fixer bath. Then the enlarger would flash again, only staying lit for 5-10 seconds, before the other piece of paper would follow the same fate of the baths as the piece of paper before it.

As I stared into the developer bath — where the photo would start appearing on the paper — I would think back to what story my dad was telling me when I took it, or what I learned from the photo.

Such was the case every weekend: Saturdays were for going to the Lake Elmo Park Reserve to walk around and take pictures, and Sunday was for developing film and making prints before the Minnesota Vikings or Minnesota Twins game started, whichever season it was.

This was the case except in September. On Sunday mornings before the Vikings played, we would skip doing the developing and printing ourselves. Instead, we brought the film to a local Walgreens to be developed and printed. We always ordered 4×6 doubles in a matte finish. The color film used too many chemicals and was too difficult for us to do at home, but the football weather deemed color film particularly favorable.

During halftime of the Vikings game, typically around 1:30 on Sunday afternoons, my dad and I would thumb through our stacks of photos and critique them. I didn’t know what I was talking about yet and I had no real concept of composition, but I knew what I did like and what I didn’t like. Younger me never understood why my dad took so many photos, but now I can’t understand how he took so few.

“Why do we take so many photos anyway?” I asked one Sunday as the Vikings prepared to get set into formation.

“To practice,” he would respond.

“Practice what?”

“Practicing, I guess,” he said as the play began. He waited until after the whistle to continue. “Apparently more than Jackson!”

Jackson would go on to get four interceptions on the road against the Detroit Lions, a third of his total interceptions for that season, and I would watch the game and ponder on what practicing practice meant, and whether my dad meant we were practicing practice, or that we practiced more than Jackson did.

Practicing photography didn’t make sense to me at the time. I didn’t think of it as an art to capture or say anything. I figured it was just a hobby to have pretty pieces of paper to hang on the wall and to have something to do with my dad.

“Is there any way you can fix this photo?” the gentleman asked me from the entrance, as he walked towards the counter with wet cheekbones.

This would be the first time I dealt with something like this, but I quickly learned we would rarely go a week without this sort of scenario at the photo and film processing store I worked at. We frequently had customers come up to the counter holding the last photo of their parent — occasionally the last photo of their spouse — and, a handful of times, the last photo of their pet.

“We can do our best! What happened?” I asked, opening Photoshop on the computer that sat on the front counter.

The man continued to explain to me between sobs that when he was taking the photo out of the frame — to bring to us and make more copies of in the first place — that he had dropped it and a corner had been chewed by his pet dog.

“It was such a stupid mistake. I don’t know why I took it out at home, or how I even dropped it,” he said, as he pushed his palms into the sides of his head and then into his wet eye sockets.

“It’s the only photo I have of my wife and me at our wedding, and she just passed this summer,” he said as he continued to insult himself for his mistake.

I stood in shock. I knew how to process film orders and photos, but I didn’t know how to process what I was looking at in front of me.

“Let me see what I can do,” I told him, grabbing the photo to scan it.

A few minutes later, I had pulled it up at the computer on the counter and was attempting to repair it in Photoshop right in front of him. It wasn’t that badly damaged, really: just a few dimples in the corner and a small crease that hardly even showed up in the scan. It was just a few clicks away with a spot healing brush from being nearly as good as it was. None of the damage on the photo was over any of the subjects, just the background.

“How did you do that?” he asked me, sniffling his sadness back inside.

“Practice,” I told him, “I’m just glad I was able to help you today.”

The customer made his way out the door after placing an order for six 8×10 photos, and I started to think:

“How many photos do I have of my dad and me?”

When I got home from work that day, I plugged in my portable drive with all of my photos and looked around. It took about five minutes, but I eventually found a selfie he and I had taken when I had my first digital camera.

I continued to look, and by the time I had gone through each folder, I realized that, just like my customer, this is the only photo I had with someone who means so much to me.

Just outside of Montgomery, Alabama, in a town of 310 people called Pike Road, former Minnesota Vikings quarterback Travaris Jackson would die in a car accident at the age of 36, just 17 days before his 37th birthday, survived by his wife and three children.

While there are plenty of photos of him in football uniforms as a player, I hope his family has pictures of the father and husband he was, too.

I still don’t know what kind of practice my dad was talking about when I was a kid, but looking back I’ve decided that the practice is making memories and making them into a physical copy — whether in a darkroom, a lab, or even just a polaroid — and if those memories involve other people, you should always make as many physical copies as you can.

All of this is why I’m asking my dad for one more selfie this summer: partially as a joke, but mostly in seriousness as a way to double the number of pictures he and I have together.

Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.

Action Packed: Photographing Mountain Bikers with the EOS R5

For most photographers, it’s been an interesting past year and my experience is no exception. My regular work shooting for commercial clients and agencies in the San Francisco Bay Area was upended by the Coronavirus pandemic, and keeping busy has meant constantly shifting gears to keep the calendar full.

The pandemic has also meant a year of staying close to home. Now officially vaccinated and with travel restrictions being lifted, I jumped at the opportunity to travel to my home state of Oregon to spend a weekend shooting mountain biking photos. The photos will be used to help promote outdoor recreation in the region, and to build a library of promotional photos for Ashland DEVO — a Southern Oregon non-profit that teaches kids how to ride and race mountain bikes.

Founded in 2017, Ashland DEVO has trained hundreds of area kids to ride recreationally and compete in local, regional, and national races, in addition to providing them with a solid dose of nature therapy. Mountain biking has grown exponentially in Southern Oregon over the past decade, thanks in part to an ever-expanding trail system, plenty of bike shops, growing tourism, and new programs like Ashland DEVO to support the rapidly growing interest in the sport.

With a beautiful, warm weekend forecast, I packed up the Subaru and headed to Ashland, located just a few miles north of the California border.

Aiming High

The photos shot will be used to promote mountain biking in the Southern Oregon region and to help promote Ashland DEVO’s programs. Creatively, I had three goals: I wanted to share the beauty of the Oregon outdoors, show some great mountain biking action taking place, and capture the emotions that communicate the thrill of downhill mountain biking.

Technically, it was also important on these shoots to capture each shot in a way that allows it to be used in a wide variety of media. Photos may be used in print, online, on signage, packaging, collateral materials, or broadcast, and each has its own formatting requirements. A web banner, for instance, may be cropped 1:4, 1:6, or 1:8 tall, and the exact same photo may be used in a print ad at a 16:9 scale. Capturing a great shot can be personally rewarding, but if it’s for commercial purposes and the client cannot use it for their different needs, it likely won’t be able to be used. That had to be kept in mind for each shot taken.

For this reason, I framed each shot fairly wide, leaving plenty of room for various crops and anticipating how each photo might be used in different media.

Lighting Up the Trails

Our shoot location was just a couple miles from downtown Ashland, and our location scout prior to shooting allowed time to find a few great jumps, bumps, curves, and berms to shoot against. It was a beautiful, sunny, 75-degree day, with gorgeous dappled light falling onto the forest floor and trails. The dappled light, of course, was the first thing to manage — while beautiful to the eyes, dappled bright sunlight falling onto a dark forest floor can be very difficult to capture action shots in.

I brought three Profoto B1X strobes and reflectors to light the subjects, and a handful of extra batteries as well, since shooting at (or near) full power all day, plus using HSS, uses a lot of juice. Most shots were taken with just one or two strobes, but having backup gear in a remote area is key, and on a few shots doubling up strobes with a lower power setting on each allowed for faster shooting and recycling speed.

I used zoom reflectors on the strobes, foregoing any umbrellas and softboxes for these action shots. Using all the available light from the 500ws B1 lights was needed with the bright sunlight, and the look of hard, contrasty light for these types of action shots seemed more fitting for the style of shooting I had in mind.

Hiking up and down hills all day also means efficiency and portability are key: carrying lightweight reflectors helps make for a lighter load, they’re easier to hide in the shots, and they’re less problematic in case of any wind. A couple of light stands and a camera bag rounded out the gear needed to capture most of the shots.

Strobes were placed in different positions in each shot, depending on the angles of the camera, subject, and terrain. In some cases, the strobe had to be placed at ground level pointed upwards to properly light the subject’s face; in others, a light held high in the air works better. Lighting under the visor of the helmet proved to be one of the bigger challenges; a dark shadow will rest right on the eyes if the light is placed to close and high.

Choosing the background that appears behind each subject is another important consideration. Even with supplementary lighting, a biker flying through the air can get lost in the photo if the area behind them is too busy or does not create enough contrast against the subject. An open sky usually helps isolate the subject nicely, and dense trees or a dark mountainside also typically work well for me. Other photographers have great results in very different environments and with different approaches, but visualizing what you’re looking for in advance and finding the locations that match your particular vision will make a significant difference in the end.

Ready to Launch

Once I was set up, it was time to start shooting. We had six young athletes to shoot, all of whom were representative of the ages of those in the Ashland DEVO program. Despite their young ages (7-13), all were very accomplished riders who were able to not only keep up with but in some cases completely smoke past adults riding the same trails. They may be smaller than adults, but they’re surprisingly fast, very skilled, and great subjects to photograph.

The speed at which the riders launched down the trails made planning critical and camera settings that allowed great shots to be captured on each run. After a run, each rider had to hike back up to reset for their next one, so fatigue can be a factor — you don’t want to spend time adjusting camera settings or resetting lights only to miss shots on each run or you’ll lose your riders quickly.

Before shooting the action, the area where the shot would be taken was identified, and a few test shots are taken with a person standing in that position. This helped eliminate any trial-and-error during the actual shoot. It only takes a minute or two to adjust the lighting output and/or exposure settings while doing this and saves a lot of time and effort while the actual shooting is taking place. Once the test shots were complete it was time to send the bikers down the hill, around the berms, and up the jumps.

After shooting for 20 to 30 minutes, we moved to a different pre-scouted location. Slowly moving downhill, we shot as many different areas as possible, given the terrain we had to work within the area. With two more shoots scheduled in the near future, we didn’t need to drive to different locations on this shoot, which saved valuable time.

Capturing the Shots

I used a Canon R5 here and it worked flawlessly on this shoot. Most action shots were taken using shutter speeds of 1000 to 2500 second, ISO 200 to 800, and between f/2.8 and 4.5. Many were shot at a distance using the Canon 70-200, with a handful of wider shots taken with a 24-70mm. Focus tracking sensitivity was maximized and as a result, almost every shot was in focus. Any missed shots were the result of an early or late click on the shutter. The 45 megapixels on the R5 also allows for the different crops that might be needed for each photo.

Additional Considerations

Shooting in a hot, dry, and dusty trail environment creates some additional challenges — or at least a few things to keep an extra eye on. Keeping dust off the lens and sensor when swapping lenses, keeping your camera bag closed, and balancing strobes and light stands on uneven terrain are a few (needless to say, the sandbags stayed in the car).

It’s important to anticipate action, and be ready to move quickly if a rider suddenly veers off course or loses control, and not become an obstacle yourself or overly distract the rider. Having some extra water, a snack, and a first aid kit will make the day more comfortable, and having plenty of batteries, memory cards, and backup gear may just save your bacon.

Wrapping up the day

Shooting mountain biking action is a blast, but like any other shoot, it’s a lot of hard work. It’s constant moving, setting up, adjusting, resetting, anticipating, capturing, reviewing, then doing it all over again. Preparation, planning, and scouting are critical to a successful day, but in the end, it’s incredibly rewarding to have spent the day outdoors capturing some very enthusiastic young riders doing what they love the most — mountain biking.

About the author: Chris Constantine is a commercial advertising and editorial photographer from San Rafael, California. A native of Oregon, he now spends his time in the San Francisco Bay Area shooting portraits, lifestyle, and product photography images for a wide range of clients. While he’s studied photography most of his life, it became a full-time career for him in 2013. You can see more of his work on his website or on Instagram.

Like, Comment, Follow: Thoughts on Social Media as a Photographer

One of the most frequent questions I am asked is about social media likes and followers and how to ‘boost’ those numbers.

There are a few questions I will always ask:

1. Why? Simple first question. What is your goal? Why do you want more likes or followers? Is it for personal reasons (for example an ego boost or a feeling of validation) or is it about making a living (you are looking to sell your brand and need those numbers to maximize potential sales)?

2. What are you currently doing to work towards this goal? This could be a simple question such as, “how often are you on social media ?” because we all know Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, etc. are businesses and a business wants to make money. They need to see you as a bankable asset, and engagement by you equals return.

Also when you are online how are you interacting with others, are you just spamming on images, or are you making meaningful connections? Think about if you were to pass someone in the street and mutter “hi” (the equivalent of a like) or you were to stop and talk to them about their day or compliment them on an item of clothing they were wearing (the equivalent of a comment)? Which do you think would mean more to that other person and which could potentially lead to a deeper friendship?

3. Finally, depending on your goal, how are you managing your content, and is it “good enough” to reach your goal? Now ‘good enough’ is very subjective. However, I have seen people who have sent me images that would be categorized more as ‘snapshots’, with little consideration to composition or subject, and have asked me why they aren’t getting attention.

Now you need to remember you are in a sea of millions upon millions of images, so you need to be doing something to stand out — the image needs to grab you in some way. There does come a point when you have ‘loyal fans’ (which I will touch on later) when the support becomes more personal, but initially, looks do matter. It’s like that first date — you need to attract the opposite person.

Do ‘Likes’ Matter?

We all want to be liked as individuals, going back to those childhood days of being in the playground and having that awkward feeling of trying to join a new group and make new friends, feeling that joy if you are accepted, or worse the disappointment to find that your friendship is not wanted. It can be a tough time and that feeling never really disappears.

We are social creatures. We want to mix and share our lives, our hobbies, and interests with others. We also put a lot of time into our art, so we want to know that people are liking what we are doing. Therefore, I understand completely why people want to see a high number of likes against their work, it brings a sense of achievement (but is that achievement of value? More on that later).

But the question needs to be, what does being ‘liked’ more offer to you as a photographer? Does it make you a better photographer if you have 500 likes on an image? Do you think, “Well, 500 people like this, therefore I am an amazing photographer”? Because to be brutally honest, it does not mean what you feel it may. Likes are not a resource you can use to measure quality.

Now if we focus for the rest of this article on Instagram, as this is the only platform I am active on, let’s discuss something that a lot of people forget when it comes to the number of likes an image gets, and that is reach.

Instagram has something called reach, which is the number of accounts that have seen your image. You have the functionality in Instagram to see what the reach of your posts are and if you look at this it is very obvious to see a correlation between the number of likes an image gets and the reach it hits.

Remember when I said Instagram is a business? This is exactly where this comes into play, because if your image is generating initial interest then Instagram is going to put it out there in front of a lot of people.

Let’s create a scenario where you have taken a photograph and you print it out. You then hang it in your hallway. Over the next two weeks you have 30 visitors (your reach) and from those visitors 26 said they liked the photograph. Now you take the same image and put it in the middle of a high street for 4 hours and over that time it is seen by 3,000 people. Statistically, there is much more chance of more people liking the image because more people have seen it.

For ease, let’s say that 1,000 people from the high street like the image. More likes. However another way to look at it is that from the 3,000 only 1,000 liked it (33%) however from the 30 that saw it in your hallway, 26 liked it (87%), so which is the most successful? It is the same image, yet the size of the audience has dictated the number of likes because of its reach.

My own images work exactly the same as this. I have images that have had a reach of over 18,000 accounts and received say 3,000 likes (what a talented fella), yet some images receive 500 likes but only reach just over 1500 accounts (having a bad day). But again, the ratio of likes to reach would say that actually the image with the lower number of likes is liked by more who saw it.

You also need to consider the ease with which people ‘like’ an image and the reason why they click that little heart. Maybe they just follow the photographer and want to support anything they produce, or maybe they are just trying to show Instagram they are engaging on the platform to help boost their own images and just ‘spam like’ anything posted on a hashtag over the past 20 minutes without even looking at the image.

Roll all of this together, reach and if a ‘like’ is genuine or not, and really think how much weight that number actually has.

Follow Me… PLEASE

The flip side of likes is followers. Again it is another quantitative measure that people put a lot of focus on. Similar to likes, it can be seen as being popular. “400,000 people have chosen to follow me! They are all sitting, waiting for me to upload my next image, they idolize me… I am a genius.”

Well, hold that thought.

First of all, how many of those followers are genuine? How many are bots or people who made an account, followed a bunch of people, and then never returned to Instagram again? How many of those people are following you for a totally different reason to you being a photographer? Maybe they like you as an individual, maybe you have a YouTube channel, or you are a famous person and you drum up followers because of you, not your photography.

Also just because you have 400,000 followers doesn’t mean that every image you post will be seen by each and every one of those followers. If you head into your Instagram feed now and look within the ‘least interacted with’ section you will see a bunch of people who you follow but may not have seen their posts for months and there are even more than this within the account list of who you follow. The reason? Again, Instagram is a business and they will show you the content from the creators who you interact with most, also increasingly space is being taken up by advertising, promotions, etc. (got to keep the money coming in somehow) so that space is limited even more on your feed.

Now if you are a brand or selling a product, of course there are more benefits to having a large following. You could be seen as an ‘influencer’ (I hate that word) and you may get opportunities to try out products for reviews (usually biased in some way, or stated to be unbiased but then bias to keep the companies on board), and this, in turn, generates money or more companies to take interest and it could snowball.

Follower count can equate to positives. However, outside of the money side of things, how important is a follower count really?

When I first started on Instagram, I really wanted 1,000 followers. I have no idea why I chose that number — I just thought it sounded cool to be able to say 1,000 people follow me. Fast forward to when I hit 1,000 followers, and I remember waking up and seeing I had 1002 or 1003 or something like that and thought “YES!! I have 1000 followers… Ok, now what?” It was a totally empty celebration.

I hadn’t suddenly become a great photographer, the emails weren’t suddenly pouring in offering me sponsorships and book deals. It was a great eye-opener for me to see that actually what I had been chasing over those months was something that ultimately didn’t really matter if I thought long and hard about it. Actually, what had mattered over those months were the friendships I was making and seeing my work grow and my own style developing. This led me to realize two important things: the importance of loyal fans and that of value.

Loyal Fans

I mentioned earlier the concept of loyal fans. These are followers you have who love your work, they like your style, your ethics, maybe they have spoken to you a few times and a connection has been built up, they want to see you do well. There is an article online about how in order to make enough money to survive within photography (or any art form), you just need 1,000 genuine fans — 1,000 people who will buy whatever you create because they are invested in you.

Loyal fans play a huge role in, say, a YouTuber’s Instagram account and there is a feeling that a large YouTuber could post a photograph on their feed of a dog turd on a pavement and it would generate thousands of likes and receive multiple comments of “wow this is great” or “deep photography man, really made me think about life”, and that is because they love that person for who they are. It will be those people who buy every photobook they release or watch every video on their channel, and that is the fan base or following that (from a money-generating point of view) you want.

However, what about from a personal point of view? Let’s take money out of the equation. I love an analogy, so imagine you had a dinner party (because I am old and I don’t hold raves anymore). Imagine you had a dinner party and it was open door, during this dinner party you had 500 random people show up and they came, ate your food, and left. They didn’t really speak to you or to each other and just came, took for themselves, and left.

Now imagine the next evening you had a dinner party and hand-selected 30 of your friends or people you had come to know and you all sat and ate and talked about your interests and what was going on in your life and then they all left. Now for me, that smaller dinner party where I was making connections with people would hold so much more value than the party where I had more people show up but fewer people take any interest. I see followers in the exact same way.

I have people on my Instagram I speak to almost daily, we talk about photography, life, movies, Netflix recommendations, music, and even use each other as a sounding board to bounce ideas off or get advice from. I would say this core group is my loyal fans (actually I would say they are my friends and 95% of them I have never met in person, yet I love having them in my life).

I don’t want this to come across as ungrateful, as I am grateful for the following I have and I am grateful that so many people have chosen to add me to their own following. However, I would say that when choosing who you personally follow, focus on the quality they will bring in return be it in terms of friendship, inspiration, motivation, support, etc. and try to mold your following to your own needs.

It is nice to have a large following, but just as in the case of likes, it can be an empty number and interaction levels have much more value.


I mentioned earlier the value of likes (and I suppose followers too). I have a few photographers who follow my work who I aspire to be like and to reach their level is definitely an ambition of mine. If one of those people takes the time to like and comment on an image of mine I am genuinely humbled. High value.

Beyond that, I also hold value in a lot of the comments and likes I receive when you know they are coming from a good place. It can be tough without the relationship to know if it is a ‘spam like’ or a genuine one, but you quickly become accustomed to those other accounts who start to see past your images and see something in you and your body of work that is inspiring them. This then builds value.

Also, any comment that is beyond the usual ‘great shot’ or a smiling emoji is also valuable as someone has taken the time to stop their day and make that comment about how your image has made them feel. I receive direct messages, very supportive and encouraging direct messages, that hold value again in that someone has taken the time to send me those kind words. Those moments have so much power and carry so much more weight than any others on Instagram.

I would try and think more about the value of the likes, comments, and followers you have rather than the quantity. If you lose 100 followers who never interact with you and you have never seen their work either is that such a loss? Chances are they are only there for the wrong reasons.

A Few Quick Points

A couple of other quick thoughts regarding a few topics that always come up;

1. Follow / Unfollow. Unfortunately, a lot of people feel that quantity outweighs quality and therefore are in it just for the numbers. Personally, I find that shallow and very unfulfilling but each to their own. To that end, there will be people who will follow you and then either unfollow you because you didn’t do the same or unfollow you as soon as you follow back. It is a side effect of the platform and for many it is frustrating but again think about the value that person was bringing to you anyway. Is it as big a loss as you think?

2. Why don’t you follow me back? I receive messages almost daily from people wanting to know why I won’t follow them back. Now first of all having my account and managing a different account, not to brag, but I receive hundreds of notifications an hour on Instagram and I have zero chance of checking through each and every one of them. Therefore I do not see every notification for every comment or every follow so I don’t always get a chance to check them out.

I have actually recently found accounts that have been following me for months and I have loved them and returned the follow. It can be tough to keep up. Another reason could simply be the type of photography you shoot is not for me, not that it is bad or whatever (I controversially believe there isn’t bad photography if an image is presented as it was meant to be by the photographer, just not to your taste photography). And in order to ensure I am seeing work from photographers who shoot what I am looking for, I don’t want to fill up my feed with other work. It 100% isn’t a personal thing, just a subjective art thing.

3. Should I buy followers and likes? Just no. Why? That is like entering a photography competition and winning because you are the only participant. As much as I don’t believe all likes are from genuine people saying ‘I love this,’ a majority of them will come from a good place, so earn that love and trust me it is much more satisfying.


If you made it this far I commend your stamina and I hope that this has given you some insight into my thoughts on the topic of likes, comments, and followers. If you are just an ordinary photographer picking up your camera and going out into the world to share your vision then focus on that, focus on the enjoyment of pressing that shutter and freezing time. Focus on coming home and uploading your latest work to your little corner of the internet where you have your own loyal fans who love to see what you have been shooting, no matter how big or small that audience is.

The numbers really don’t matter if what you are doing you are getting pleasure from. The best feeling I believe you can get is from sitting in front of that computer at the end of a shoot and being proud of the images you have taken.

In summary:

1. Don’t equate the number of likes to the quality of an image.

2. Don’t focus on having a large, faceless following (unless you are looking to grow your following for possible financial benefits).

3. Build a valuable community with people who respect and support you and want you to succeed.

4. Interact with others, don’t just spam that like button or drop generic emoji comments, and take the time to connect.

5. Finally, don’t put too much pressure on that side of photography, your enjoyment is far more important and the satisfaction with your images should always outweigh the numbers.

About the author: Lee Thirkellson is a photographer and writer. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Thirkellson is the founder of The Northern Street Collective. You can find more of Thirkellson’s work on his website and Instagram. This article was also published here.

Image credits: Stock photos licensed from Depositphotos

How the 2020 Landscape Photographer of the Year Photo Was Taken

In October 2020, the family trip to the local zoo was interrupted by an unexpected telephone call – I had won the 2020 Landscape Photographer of the Year competition, a feat I had never imagined in my wildest dreams. This is the story of that image.

The Covid pandemic and the often-draconian restrictions it necessitated made 2020 a difficult and challenging year but the dulcet tones of Charlie Waite’s unmistakable voice announcing my winning of the 2020 Landscape Photographer of the Year competition delivered a huge ray of sunshine. Left in a state of semi-shock by Charlie’s call, the following week saw me repeatedly checking the confirmation email convincing myself it hadn’t been a dream. This was the third Dorset image to win in 13 years of the LPOTY competitions, which in itself speaks volumes about the beauty of this little county; devoid of mountains and waterfalls but delivers handsomely on rugged coastlines and mysterious woodlands.

As is customary, I welcomed 2020 with a litany of life-improving resolutions and promptly forgot or failed miserably on most. However, one resolution delivered on was to start entering photography competitions, with a further five-year goal of having an image selected for either LPOTY or IGPOTY books. I very nearly failed here too. Having decided 2020 wasn’t going to be my year, preferring the 2021 competition and the chance to build a stronger body of entry images, my wife, fortunately, thought this was a terrible idea and persuaded me otherwise – an intervention I’ll be eternally grateful for, as the accolade completely blew me away!

It is not surprising that the winning image was a springtime effort, my favourite season with the abundance of woodland flora and annual awakening from photographic hibernation. It was taken in a little woodland stumbled upon while foraging in Dorset’s backwaters in May 2018 for a springtime scene a little different from the norm. I’d not had much luck before uncovering this little pathway cutting through a sea of blossoming wild garlic – a scene smelt well before it was seen. Having found a woodland carpeted with a mix of bluebells and wild garlic the year previously, I’d been inspired to uncover something similar, but not in my wildest dreams had I expected to find a scene so unique.

The surrounding area was peppered with garlic patches but nothing startlingly image worthy, so as I neared this wooded hillside, my anticipation rose in tandem with the increasingly rich and pungent aroma that permeated the air, a real treat for the senses. Although the conditions were harsh, with large spots of sunlight burning through the canopy, I knew I’d uncovered a gem and explored compositions for what I knew would be repeat visits in the coming days. The following morning, heavy fog brought excitement and frustration in equal measure as I crawled the twenty miles through mist-shrouded country lanes only for it to evaporate as I reached my destination. On the third morning, I hit the jackpot. Looking down on the valley that cradled this magical garlic grove was like looking into a bowl of soup with the fog blanketing all but the upper edges. Scared of a repeat of the previous morning’s vanishing mists, I charged into the valley to find the scene before me, soft mists and beautifully diffused light spilling through the canopy.

Two mornings of harsh unappealing light had allowed me time to become familiar with the grove and possible compositions so I was ready to start applying my ideas to the stunning conditions. The perfectly formed pathway snaking its way into the misty distance was too appealing not to incorporate as a key element. The path and trees tunnelled your view through the image; although somewhat obvious, the pathway added structure, while simplifying and making sense of the chaotic mess that nature presents in wooded areas. After capturing numerous pathway-dominated compositions and at a point where I’d usually trot off home happy with my morning’s endeavours, I decided to step away from the obvious. For the first time, I shot the flowers low down and close up, giving them greater prominence in the image which I loved with the sea of garlic disappearing in the distance. Although concerned that I lost the visual guidance of the path, having tree trunks on either side and the warm light of the background gateway delivered enough of a funnelling effect to encourage the eyes to wander through the image. Dropping low meant an emphasis on the rising elevation, another element I loved about the scene.

Battling to avoid disturbing the garlic, I finally found these two dominant flowers towering above the sea of white and felt they anchored the foreground, a visual starting point that added depth before the eye started to wander through the scene. Additionally, and not by design, or at least not mine, the soft mistiness of the distant opening added to the mystery of this enchanting scene. Finally, and importantly for me, was negating evidence of the outside world. This secretiveness and containment, and the feeling of isolation it promoted, is an element I continually strive for in my woodland imagery … with varying degrees of success. The scene was so mysterious, a sea of garlic so unfamiliar to most, that I wanted to ensure it wasn’t blemished by distractions. I worked to create an image that the viewer could lose themselves in.

Shooting that morning, I had a clear visualisation of the final image, a soft and airy feel with a sense of the mystical, a place that few are privileged to experience. Not that my vision necessitated a particularly vivid imagination – Mother Nature had delivered a scene of unrivalled beauty. Although I had a preconceived notion of the completed image, nearly two years passed before feeling the desire to process it – a welcome breathing space that meant I was far more capable of realising my original intentions.

Post-processing is always subjective, but I think woodland imagery is at its most pleasing when processed in a softer, more sympathetic way. Working to emphasise the mist and diffused light were vital, as was steering clear of the saturation slider. To keep the central flowers and pathway as star attractions, I worked to harmonise the predominantly yellow and green hues while keeping the colour palette muted and soft. Colour was, in fact, my primary focus. Achieving the correct colour balance and homogeneity across the image allowed me to increase the drama while retaining the subtlety of a misty woodland that constantly draws me.

For those technically inclined, my old trusty, and very rusty, Nikon D3200 allied with a Sigma 10-20mm wide angle lens (shooting at 11mm) were the weapons of choice. Due to the close proximity of the central two garlic flowers, I shot at ƒ/11.0 with the intention of focus stacking multiple images but to my surprise and relief found that one image sufficed. The inherent softness as the image drifts to the background only added to the morning’s atmosphere. Neutralising foliage reflections with a polarising filter was achieved solely through the mercy of a windless morning that allowed an acceptable shutter speed of 1/2s at ISO400; just short enough to ensure the central flowers remained tack sharp.

If the truth be told, I was extremely lucky. I recall reading a statement another LPOTY winner had quoted from the acclaimed war photographer Robert Capa, which I feel is particularly relevant to this shot:

All pictures are already there, the photographer just has to find them.

This was definitely the case here, where a scene of raw beauty and Mother Nature at her finest combined in spectacular unison. It was a scene I was extremely fortunate to witness and one I will remember for a lifetime.

Overall Landscape Photographer of the Year Winner | “Woolland Woods,” Dorset

The article is courtesy of ELEMENTS Magazine.  ELEMENTS is the new monthly magazine dedicated to the finest landscape photography, insightful editorials and fluid, clean design. Inside you will find exclusive and in-depth articles and imagery by the best landscape photographers in the world such as Bruce Barnbaum, Erin Babnik, Christian Fletcher, Christopher Burkett, Hans Strand, Rachael Talibart and Freeman Patterson, to name a few. Use the PETAPIXEL10 code for a 10% discount off the annual subscription.

About the author: As a relative newcomer to the world of photography, Chris’ initial passion for capturing wild and rugged seascapes has recently been surpassed by the quiet calling of Dorset’s hidden woodlands.  Specialising in intimate treescape scenes of mother nature at her finest, combining floral displays, spectacular conditions and grand woodlands, Chris’ unique imagery was recognised in 2020, winning the UK Landscape Photographer of the Year award and a runner-up placing in the Wildflowers category of the International Garden Photographer of the Year.

Why Are So Many Cameras Limited by Design?

Expensive cameras often lack basic features. The most common limitations-by-design are fixed screens and no flash. I suspect that some camera designers aren’t photographers and don’t realize how much these two features will be missed.

Let’s consider these two limitations. Other limitations will be discussed later in this article.

Cameras with Fixed Screens

A movable screen has many uses, yet is missing from many very expensive cameras. A movable screen saves wear and tear on your knees. Some of the ways I use a movable screen include:

  • Achieving a low point of view for photographing pets and children.
  • Using my tripod set low which is easier to set up and more stable.
  • Table-top macro photography.
  • Shooting selfies (still or video).
  • Steadying my camera on low posts, fire hydrants, etc.

Cameras with No Flash

Unfortunately, all full frame cameras lack a flash. They may have once been classified as pro equipment. And perhaps it was thought that pros only use big, powerful flashes. But there are countless situations where a low power flash does the job perfectly. Also, of course, many amateurs use full frame cameras and photography forums ring with complaints about missing flashes.

And there are many closeup situations where it’s best to have the flash close to the lens, such as shooting the anthers (pollen clusters), or insects, deep in a flower:

Flash freezes action and shake. It’s often better and easier than using a tripod.

The easiest way I’ve found to photograph a watch is with a pop-up flash. I just shoot from slightly below center to avoid reflections. But a shoe-mounted flash is so high that I must shoot from well below center to avoid reflections – leading to an oblique view. (The crystal of this watch is flat. Domed crystals pose a greater lighting challenge).

The long exposure (with camera on tripod) alternative is far less desirable, resulting in blurred second hands or pulled-out crowns to hack the movement. And, of course, not all watches can hack (stop the movement).

Flash can dramatically isolate the subject because its brightness diminishes with the distance squared. So the background will appear dark if distant from the subject.

A touch of flash is great to fill harsh shadows with sunlit portraits.

Let’s consider two other limitations by design. Fixed lenses and monochrome only.

Fixed Lens Cameras

These cameras have a short, non-changeable, prime lens. They are valued for instilling a discipline by confining the users to one, moderately wide, field of view. Henri Cartier Bresson and Fan Ho did their greatest work with this limitation.

I only recently discovered Fan Ho, who used a Rolleiflex with a 75mm lens. It has the field of view of a 35mm lens on a full frame camera when cropped to square format. I find Ho’s work to be absolutely stunning. What an eye! Of course, Ho held his camera at belly level, which we can do with a movable screen.

The idea of walking around with a short, fixed lens has intrigued me. I recently wrote an article about it.

My favorite walk-around rig is my Sony a6400 ILC with a 24mm lens having the above field of view. I use either a manual focus lens or an autofocus lens in manual mode. I set it at f16 and focus at 6 feet, which is the hyperfocal distance. This is faster than autofocus and there is never the error of the autofocus focusing on the wrong thing in the picture. With this setting, everything from 3 feet to infinity is sharp. I think it’s the perfect setup for street photography.

But the above is not the only type of photography I enjoy. I also shoot wildlife with a long telephoto, portraits with a slightly long-ish lens or zoom, and insects with a macro lens. My ILC does it all with the appropriate lens.

Many of us have asked, “Why buy a limited camera when you can make the equivalent by putting a short lens on your ILC, or not zooming your point and shoot?” But owners of fixed-lens cameras love them.

Let’s and move on to the final limitation by design.

Monochrome Only

Currently, only Leica offers monochrome-only cameras. But when you shoot with a mono camera or a color camera in mono mode, you lose a wonderful advantage available in edit. That advantage is the freedom to control the brightness (in the mono image) of selected colors.

Consider this image:

Below are two mono treatments of the above image.

The left image is relatively straight mono, about what you would get from a mono camera or a color camera in mono mode. The right image was adjusted in edit to make red brighter.

This just one example of the flexibility of creating mono in edit. You can create any effect that you can imagine.

Filters in front of the lens can achieve these results with monochrome cameras. But I like to play with these effects in edit.

Leica states that their monochrome cameras have higher resolution than their color versions because the pixels are not screened by the Bayer filter. But this greater resolution is apparently difficult to perceive because color cameras have such superb resolution.

Fstoppers did a detailed comparison of the Leica Q2 in monochrome mode and the mono-only Leica Q2 Monochrom, which costs $700 more than its color cousin. The reviewer could not perceive the sharpness benefit of the mono-only version.

One of the other things that Leica claims about the Monochrom is that the new camera will produce better, sharper, and crisper details. The removal of certain filters means that details will be much clearer in the Monochrom. In our testing, we haven’t found this to be the case. In almost every scenario, both in ‘real-world’ and controlled scenarios, the details and clarity between the two were pretty much identical. There is no noticeable change in how much detail the Monochrom captures when compared to the original.


Personally, I strongly prefer cameras that have movable screens, interchangeable lenses, and built-in flash, and I would love to see more cameras (especially high-end ones) offer all three features.

About the author: Alan Adler lives in Los Altos, California. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. He has been an avid photographer for 60 years. He is also a well-known inventor with about 40 patents. His best-known inventions are the Aerobie flying ring and the AeroPress coffee maker.