Tuesday, May 5, 2015


Some time ago I stumbled over a forum posting in which a chap was asking for help using Farmer's Reducer. If you're not a black and white darkroom person this means nothing to you and that is OK. Anyways. It became clear that this chap does not own a copy of Ansel Adams' The Print.

This is the text. If you're going to do black and white darkroom work, you need to own a copy of it. It's not optional. You don't really need anything else. It's easy to obtain these days, and it's cheap.

So what?

This chap is unserious about darkroom printing. This is not a crime, dabblers are welcome in my world. I dabble.

The deal is, though, you should know when you're dabbling. Most self-styled photographers appear to me to be dabblers who don't know it.

Equipment is another angle of view on the same topic. People who rattle on about camera ergonomics, haptics, and how it's so terribly important to get a camera that just feels right are simply not serious about pictures. They are, almost without exception, inveterate gear hounds, always buying the latest and then selling it a few months later because they cannot adjust X in Y mode (where X and Y are two features the mere suggestion of which 20 years ago would have had you burned, justly, as a witch).

Some of these people are actually wonderful photographers (not many, but some) and are clearly serious about it. But at the moment they're going on about ergonomics, they are being unserious. They're wallowing in a bit of gearhead joy. They are, at that moment, dabblers in the land of photography.

It is not important to have a camera that just feels right. That is rubbish. For certain kinds of photography it is indeed necessary to have a camera that does not require a tripod. Beyond that it's all details. As proof, I submit.. the first 150 years of photography. There are, it turns out, some pretty good pictures in there.

Of course there are a few people on the edge, who will shoot with a comfortable camera but who won't with an uncomfortable one. If you are serious about pictures, you'll shoot with whatever you have. You'll figure it out, you'll find some pictures you can make with it, and you'll do that.

No crime being a dabbler. In our relatively affluent western society, we have that luxury, and we should feel free to exercise it. But please, be self-aware enough to recognize it.

So why not dabble? Because dabbling gets in the way. Dabbling gives you an excuse. I couldn't make anything of this negative because the instructions for Farmer's Reducer I found on the internet ruined the negative. I can't make the pictures I want because I need a different camera, or a different lens, or I can't afford to go to Africa, or whatever.

If you're serious you'll find some pictures you can shoot, and you'll shoot them. That's pretty much the definition.

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