It’s better to be lucky than good

As I mentioned in my last post, while I have taken a few photos over the last year, I haven’t really felt that the process was particularly directed. Mostly it was just pointing the camera at something that momentarily caught my attention and taking the shot. Unsurprisingly, I found myself gravitating toward my least demanding cameras – the Minox 35ML got more use than any other. One could argue it was a very zen way of photographing, but that’s a big stretch, as it implies intent; this was zombie photography, driven by some primal urge toward something I vaguely knew I wanted, but didn’t know why, or how to get it. In case it wasn’t clear, I’m talking here about meaningful photos, not delicious brains.

Clearly, this process, or lack thereof, is not going to produce any sort of coherent result, unless of course your objective is to be incoherent (much as I admire the conceptual novelty of Dadaism, it is not something I have embraced). There is no overarching idea or purpose behind any of my photographs from this period. They are snapshots in the purest form of the word. Still, one might ask, doesn’t a group of images taken in similar circumstances or conditions take on a collective meaning, even if the individual photos have none? Perhaps, but I’m still too close to them to even begin to think about them that way. For now, it’s just a pile of pictures.

But this is the Internet, damn it, and by now most of you have either stopped reading and gone to look at Instagram, or if you’ve inexplicably stuck with me this far, are nonetheless growing frustrated and annoyed with the seemingly endless stream of boring words on what is ostensibly a photography blog. So here are a few of the photos I shot in the last year or so, more or less randomly chosen, all from the Minox that kept finding its way into my pocket. There’s no theme, no big idea – just pictures. Are they interesting? I’m not really sure, but if any of them are, it’s pure dumb luck. As the saying goes, it’s better to be lucky than good.

Thoughts on 35mm Lenses (and Yet More Minox Photos)

I’m a natural 50mm shooter. Like a lot of people, I started with it, and it just feels like what I expect when I look through a viewfinder. Anything else is always slightly off at first, but this is especially true with wider focal lengths.

Even though 35mm is hardly extreme, it still feels a little…off. Using the Minox as much as I have (relatively speaking) in the last couple of years has, however, made me a little more comfortable with it. Even though it is considered a general-purpose lens (hence its attachment to so many fixed-lens cameras), I find it tends to exaggerate distances in a very noticeable way (to my eye, at least).

Looking back at my photos, I find I’ve been unconsciously using this fairly often to create a particular sort of a style of photo, often with dominant lines stretching toward the horizon (usually) that further emphasize or create a sense of distance from the viewer. Also included here are photos taken from unusual angles that, added to the mild distortion of the wide angle, tend to be a bit disorienting.

This isn’t to say that I’m using this like some sort of special-effects lens (it isn’t), nor that these are the only sorts of photos I’ve taken with it (see the few posts below this for evidence). But I do find it interesting that I seem inclined to experiment with what is usually considered as fairly normal focal length; I don’t see the same sorts of images coming from my 50mm lenses.

Maybe this means I’m finally getting a handle on how to use a 35mm lens. Or maybe not. If nothing else, it seems as though my photos taken with this particular one at least have developed a degree of consistency that I hadn’t noticed before.

More Minox, Mostly Monochrome

All that color was starting to hurt my eyes, so it’s time for black-and-white. Frankly I don’t have a lot of it from the Minox, but since that’s the stuff I’ve been looking through lately, I pulled a few shots to at least provide some samples.

There’s no real surprises here. The Minox handles B&W as you’d expect – good resolution, moderate contrast, pleasant rendering and smooth tonality. The photos shown here, as always, have been adjusted a bit after scanning, but none of it is anything more than minor tweaking, and the images remain representative of the camera that captured them.

For no rational reason whatsoever, I’m not inclined to shoot B&W with the Minox. Somehow, it’s a camera I associate with color photos, just as I tend to associate my Leicas with B&W. It doesn’t make any sense, but that’s how it is. So whatever you see here from the Minox going forward will very likely be color.