TOP Photo

Dear J-

Although it’s fun to read some of the discussion threads on the various partisan forums, it’s better (more relaxing) to read things from folks who have a pretty good idea what they’re doing — today some break time was consumed by The Online Photographer, Mike Johnston (and others)’s blog.  It’s not that experience automatically confers genius status — if that was the case, I’ve got a wealth of how-not-tos to sell you.  After you’ve spent your time thinking about what makes what — why is this better than that, how do I see the world, what fits my work flow best — and you learn from that, that’s when your work is able to grow.

Even better, reading about the traps other folks fall into helps you recognize your own flaws.  For instance, there’s this entry about challenging your lenses; I recognized immediately that I’m guilty of just about all the habits, but especially the zoom habit of treating it as a two-stop train ride:  one extreme of the focal length range or another, very rarely stopping in the middle.  This I think I picked up from years spent with prime lenses, shuffling back and forth with my feet to frame things just right.  Perversely, the added flexibility is precisely what’s kept me away from extreme zoom designs; it was only this year that I broke down and got an SLR zoom, and the one I use most has less than a 3x range (Nikon 80~200 f/4 AIS — referred to around here as the Zoo Lens).  It’s enough of a choice to have two focal lengths, but a huge range of intermediate settings would result in a flurry of fiddling.  Incidentally, the well-developed 80~200 range and its ilk make me wonder about whether the rumors are true about the similarity in design of the Contax, Praktica, and Leitz entries in that range — after all, there’s only so many ways to design that zoom.

It’s not just technique, but the interleaved critical thought and philosophy that make TOP a fascinating read for anyone with a passing interest in photography.  I’ll be back, but hopefully not at work — my break times seemed to stretch a little too far today!

Mike

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