Photography is Stupid!

There! I said it. Photography is stupid. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it! WHAAAA!

Ok, not really. But, kind of… sort of… almost…. My problem, I suppose, is that I have an intense love/hate relationship with the art. It’s kind of like a very long term marriage that’s gone sour — deep down I really, really do love it, but it has gotten to the point where I just can’t live in the same house with it anymore. It annoys the hell out of me just to watch it eat, and it keeps leaving the bathroom in a terrible mess. I swear that the next time I see photography forget to put the top back on the toothpaste, I’m going to drive a twelve inch butcher knife into its heart!

Even though it’s a part of my soul, and on a very primal, emotional level it’s inseparable from me — a part of my very identity — all of its annoying little foibles now makes me want to just strangle the life out of it.

I love to shoot. I absolutely love it. I love it in an almost sick, twisted, creepy kind of way. I love to feel the weight of my old, heavy Minolta 35mm bodies in my hands. I derive a strange pleasure from the feel of, not just “taking a picture”, but really “operating” a camera. When I feel a quality camera in my hands it feels good, in that sort of “this feels so right and natural” sort of way. It’s the same effect, albeit to a much lesser degree, that I get when I pick up a guitar, or, greater still, when I hold a woman. Creepy, huh?

And, of course, the click of the shutter, and the feel of the mechanism firing to move the mirror and capture the moment, when you know you’ve got gotten that magic shot — when you know you’ve nailed it… well… there’s something magical about that. I can’t describe in words just how emotionally fulfilling and rewarding photography is to me.

However, with that said, I still want to strangle the damned life out of it! I want to get drunk and beat the hell out of it some night in an intoxicated rage and wind up on an episode of “Cops,” shirtless, being pushed into the back of a police cruiser in handcuffs, while an officer with a bad crew-cut attempts to take a statement from photography over its hysterical, tear-soaked protests of “Don’t arrest him! It was my fault. I drove him to it! … I’ll come to the station baby! I’ll come to the station!”

I suppose my main problem with it is that I just like to shoot too much. And, this is a problem for me mainly because of photography’s 80/20 rule. Do you know what that is? That’s a rule that says: For every one-hundred pictures you take, eighty of them will go directly into the trash bin — twenty of them will be keepers. If you’re getting less than twenty keepers per one hundred shots, you need to figure out what you’re doing wrong. If you’re getting about 20 out of every 100, you’re doing pretty good.

It has also been my experience that, out of those twenty keepers, about 0.5 or so will be truly excellent keepers. Of course, I don’t really mind that. I’ll shoot and shoot and shoot, and if I only get one or two decent shots, I’m happy. The problem is: You still have to buy film and pay to process all of those shots in order to get that handful of keepers. Plus, you have to take the time, and spend the gas money, to go down to a photo-lab, hand over your rolls, wait a week, and then spend the time and gas money to go back to pick them up. It’s an expensive hassle. And, yes, I know what you’re thinking… but, one hour photo places just don’t cut it for me. I learned that a long time ago.

It is absolutely amazing what a difference a photo-lab that really knows their stuff can make. I guess I’ve been spoiled somewhat, but after seeing my shots come out of a pro lab, compared to my shots rolling off of the one-hour machine down at my local Loblaws… well… I’m sorry but I just can’t settle for anything less than a pro-quality lab. I just can’t do it. When I record music I can’t plug my Les Paul directly into a cheap amp simulator, and I can’t get my film processed by a pimply-faced seventeen year old who’s working for minimum wage. I just can’t do it.

So, the problem is, all of this is really expensive. REALLY expensive! When you take into account that I want to get, perhaps an absolute minimum of, five hundred keeper shots a year, that’s 2,500 shots I have to take in accordance with the 80/20 rule. That’s seventy rolls of film per year, seventy rolls to be processed, and probably twenty or so trips to the lab.

All told, that’s an expenditure of about two-thousand bucks a year. Yeah… I can’t afford that. Not with all of my other priorities. If photography was my only thing, then sure. But, it’s not. So, it’s just out of the question.

So… late 1990s… enter digital photography.

At the news of the first digital SLRs to hit the market I was overjoyed. I thought my savior had arrived. Boy, was I wrong. Here it is, the year 2008, and I still don’t own a digital SLR. Of course, for quite a few years digital SLRs were just stupid-expensive. There was no way I could justify dropping the cash on one. But, having experience with how pricing works with new technology, (In the late 1980s I once contemplated buying a CD-burner that sold for just under $12,000.00 and it used blank, recordable CDs that cost $100 each!) I decided to wait until prices came down and technology improved. I kept my eye on the market, but prices never got to within a range that I was comfortable with… until just recently.

While browsing an on-line camera store recently, and taking note of prices, I concluded that it might finally be time to invest in a digital SLR rig. So, I threw myself into some heavy research to figure out which camera would be right for me.

And, what I found was only another reason why I want to kill photography. I want to kill it right in the face!

Basically, it’s 2008 now and, for my purposes at least, digital photographical technology STILL SUCKS! And, for my purposes at least, it’s still stupid-expensive to boot! So, photography has crushed my soul once again. That bitch!

I initially became excited because I happened to see a review of a Sony Alpha A200. This led me to suspect that semi-decent SLRs might finally have fallen to within my price range. The A200 inspired me to research the market. What I found, of course, is that I’m not really very much closer to going digital today than I was in, say, 2001, or 2002.

The main problem is, because of my style of shooting, there isn’t really a digital SLR on the market today, at any price, that will do what I want it to do. I shoot mostly artistic photography and I do a lot — A LOT — of work with really overly-exaggerated, very narrow depths of field. I’m a big, big fan of a wide open aperture. On film f2.8 is kind of my limit. f4 really begins to cramp my style. Of course, my research has taught me that with digital SLRs, even if I had the means to drop $8,000.00 on a body, it’s not going to give me the ability to control the shot in the way I want.

The narrowness of depth of field, in any camera, is calculated as a relation between focal length and the width of the focusing sensor. The digital sensors on digital SLRs are still very small compared to film. This is because of the manufacturing costs involved. With today’s technology the manufacture of digital sensors is so expensive that if a manufacturer was to build a camera with a sensing area approaching that of film the retail price of the camera might be close to $100 grand or so. So, they build much smaller sensors that are still capable of producing detail approaching 35mm — leaving the camera with a reasonable price tag. However, since the actual focusing area is still quite a bit smaller than 35mm film, but the lenses are of the same focal length, you wind up with an increase in the depth of field. Very shallow depths that I can obtain with my old film cameras are impossible on a digital SLR.

Of course, the way digital SLRs handle DoF is good news for most photographers. Most photographers, in most situations, want a wider DoF. Most photographers usually try to shoot the widest DoF that the current lighting situation will allow. But, because of my particular style, it sucks for me. Much more often than not, I want the narrowest DoF.

No matter though. That sucks huge for me, but I suppose I could live with it. I could keep shooting film for just those shots that I absolutely have to have a narrow DoF for, and digital for most other things. I could live reasonably happily with that. It wouldn’t be an ideal situation, but it’d be workable. But, even with that in mind, I’ve come to find that the market still isn’t where I need it to be — and most likely wont be for quite some time.

After researching my options I’ve realized that I just wouldn’t be really happy with a digital SLR that occupied a class of camera any lower than the Nikon D3. Anything less than something comparable to a D3 and I can really see some fairly serious frustration in my photographic future. Even with everything I know about the D3, it really seems to me that, taking money out of the equation, I would never even consider trading even my old, dinosaur of a Minolta X-300 35mm for one. And, the D3 has a price tag $5,000.00!!! WHAT!?!?!?! X-300s are selling on eBay right now for well under $100.00! Crazy!

But, I’m not so shallow or spoiled to think that it’s a D3 or nothing. I’m just saying that the D3 would be a minimum ideal for me from the selection offered by today’s market. But, of course, I never owned a Hasselblad before there was any such thing as digital SLRs, and I got a long fine. And, I’d get along fine with something less than a D3 now.

However, according to my research, I have decided that the absolute minimum of a camera that I could use, and not end up tossing it out of a seven-story window within a week of using it, would be a Nikon D60. Anything less than the D60 or a comparable camera and, even if I was a multi-multi-millionaire, I just couldn’t justify spending the money — on account of the disappointment and frustration the camera would surely bring. Even the D60 is pushing it a little. I think perhaps the D80 might be a safer bet as an absolute minimum to settle for.

The problem is, the D60, with a kit lens and card, is close to a $1,000.00 investment. Yeah… I don’t have that kind of money to spend on a camera right now — nor do I see myself getting it at any time in the near future. It SUCKS. Photography is stupid. Whaaaa!

So, the current state of the market has me all in a tizzy.!

I really, really, really, really, really, really want a good quality digital SLR. And, good quality digital SLRs have fallen to within my price range ($400-$600.) But, the ones that are in that range, while being very good cameras and adequately meeting the needs of many people, will leave me, on account of my particular needs from a camera, frustrated and disappointed to be sure.

But, at the same time, even going with a budget camera like the Sony A200, or Nikon D40, which I wont like, and I know will be the cause of me pulling large chunks of hair out of my skull on a regular basis, is still better than what I currently have. And, it will most assuredly get me out shooting a lot more often — something which I do enjoy immensely.

On the other hand, can I justify spending the cash on, perhaps, say, a Nikon D40 right now, if a D60 or D80 is going to fall within my price range in a year or two’s time? Do I spend $500.00 now on a D40 kit, wait two years, and then drop another $500.00 or $600.00 on a D80? …seems like a silly waste of money. Would it be better to put up with my current situation for another couple of years and then just spend the $500.00 or $600.00 on a D80 class of camera when it falls into that range? It seems to me like it would be a wiser use of my money to go out and spend $500.00 on some Nikon lenses and sit them on a shelf for a couple of years waiting for the D80 to become affordable.

It’s a dilemma.

Photography is still stupid… harrumph! I’m so damned frustrated! To hell with photography! To hell with technology! Whaaaa!

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