So while new gear is released and debated and salivated over this month I humbly submit that it may be worth a reminder as to why it means anything to us at all. Something to do with taking photos, I think, I’m not really sure. But while a newer sensor or greater ISO range or more AF points gets your hearts racing again as when the world was new, at some point we’ll need to remember to take some photos. This is in no way to diminish the enthusiasm people have for new equipment but perhaps I can be a small counterpoint to the frenzied gear fetish and dwell on some images.
This article may touch upon several ideas, and truthfully I wasn’t sure which to concentrate on in earnest, but I settled on the idea of revisiting a venue to extract ever more original shots. I’m sure many of us do this all the time. We return to places at different times of year or day, or even at different times of our lives, and wonder if we can find something new. Each time I take someone around London to my favourite shooting spots, part of me sighs knowing I have seen it all so many times before. But then I realise that each time I did so I found something new and fresh. I just had to be willing to look at it differently. I know I previously have touched on this idea of making the unfamiliar familiar but I felt it was worth expanding on.
For this article I have used the Royal Air Force Museum in London specifically as an example of such a venue I have revisited many times, and I was here again recently showing friends around it. It is one of my favourite museums and I have brought many friends here, all of whom are always impressed by the vast scale and variety of the exhibits. But finding new ways to capture the planes and see them differently can be a challenge.
I have been to the museum with a DSLR, a phone (and yes, I’m that kind of photographer, uninhibited about shooting with his phone) and my m4/3 equipment, and each time I was able to collect a different set of shots. The different types of gear may well have influenced my choices, but each time I was able to make the best use of what I had to capture something original. With such an attitude, no equipment need be a handicap, and indeed using something alien to one’s comfort zone can make each visit at the same venue more challenging and ultimately more rewarding.
With the DSLR I seemed to have focused on capturing the exhibits in their entirety using a wide angle lens or 50mm prime (Nikon D90 + Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8). With the phone (long since retired and replaced) I concentrated on composing within the limited frame of its lens. And more recently with the micro-4/3 gear (Olympus E-M5 + 12-40mm f/2.8) I concentrated my compositions more on shapes and details. Thus each time I came away with shots that were always different albeit from the same finite number of exhibits.
Another way in which I tried to make each experience more interesting was to vary the processing style from each visit. From the DSLR shots my processing was fairly straightforward and minimal, with enhancements perhaps to colour and contrast. From the shots with my phone I rendered everything in black and white; in the limited light the images were a little grainier on the phone’s smaller sensor so I thought they would lend themselves to a black and white treatment. And from my micro-4/3 kit I used monotone or a washed out and slightly vignetted look to emphasise the exhibits. I initially chose this look to emphasise my friends against the massive planes but I realised it worked for my other shots too (at least to my eyes; you may well hate it).
Perhaps the next time I visit, I will confine myself to just one lens, either a standard prime or zoom, and see what I can eke out with that. I am sure there is no end of ways in which one can shoot the same subject or venue creatively. Sometimes the location will do the work for you, with changing light or seasonal colour, but oftentimes I’m afraid you’ll have to rely on your creative juices and see things differently.
It definitely helps to disconnect yourself and your bias from a familiar sight and see it in terms of shapes and lines. Those shapes and lines can then be seen from different angles and their relationships changed. Look at the spaces, positive and negative and how they interact. Consider leading lines and light and shade. The image may have the same content as previous occasions but you will represent it differently.
Anyway, perhaps soon you can revisit an old haunt and look at it a little differently. Good luck and best wishes.
P.S. The RAF Museum does not ask or remunerate me to write about it; in fact I doubt they would even know I’m mentioning them here.
P.P.S. At the time of writing this I am too tired to collate and list all the EXIF data for each photo, and in any case it isn’t relevant to the point of the article.