Landscapes (and thoughts)

A simple word title for this post, landscapes. It sums up my exclusively style of photography for the past year. Indeed, 2011 was the year of landscapes for me. I pretty much ignored everything else in favor of capturing the beauty of nature. If I think again, even the half of 2010 was devoted to this subject.

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When I started taking photography “seriously” (which means I didn’t just shoot snapshots or the casual family and travel photos) my main interest was street photography. I loved to walk in the city trying to capture candid images (which I always converted to black and white since I believe monochrome serve this genre better). My small compact camera (an Olympus C5050 and later a Lumix FZ8) soon proved to be insufficient as my need for image quality and control of depth of field grew. So, I took the next step in purchasing a more “pro” camera.

I considered (as many would do) a DSLR and got the Nikon D300 with the 18-200 lens. The camera was a huge upgrade to my existing gear, and of course much more above my ability as a photographer. It took wonderful images, was super fast and the ISO performance alone was a revelation for me.

But, was it for the right tool for street images? Well, it’s wasn’t, at least for me. I never felt comfortable with carrying this camera in the streets. Large, heavy and noisy, I couldn’t get along with it. Also, I found the super clear almost plastic look of the images when converted to b&w, not suitable for my tastes. So, I took a step towards the holy grail of street photography, the Leica M6. A film camera, small and silent with superb image quality (due to the lenses of course) which allowed me to shoot black and white film. Now, this is a camera I still adore and will never sell even when film is over. Built as a tank, fully mechanical (no batteries needed except for the light meter of course) and a joy to hold and shoot.

The problem was that I got addicted to film. I found it a superb medium which provided me images I liked much better than digital. Also, the image quality for such a small camera was simply stunning (this was before the first mirrorless camera from Olympus hit the market). A second body was necessary since I didn’t like to waste film mid-roll, so a Leica M7 was added to my arsenal. Used film cameras could be found in great prices since most people were shooting digital.

After that, came medium format. A friend of mine showed me a Mamiya 645 and when I first saw this huge 6×4.5 negative I was speechless. The Mamiya was not a comfortable street camera of course, so I started shooting landscapes.

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(my first image taken with Fuji Velvia 50 with the Mamiya 645)

That was it !! Landscapes were going to be my favorite subject from now on. Whether it was Velvia or a slow black and white film, the look of film was more beautiful to me than digital, so I embraced medium format.

Inevitably, I stepped up to a larger format and ended up today with the Fuji GSW690 (6×9) and the Gaoersi 617 panoramic camera. At these format sizes, nothing comes close for landscapes. The image quality, smooth tone transition and ability to print at huge sizes are the ones that keep me shooting media format film.

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Modern cameras like the Sony NEX 5N and Fuji X100 can be very versatile, with great IQ and ISO performance, but when it comes to landscapes I will almost always choose a medium format film camera.

In addition to the IQ, its the whole process I enjoy when making a landscape image. You don’t just shoot whatever you see with film, it costs money and the developing and scanning process is time consuming, so you just take your time and think before you press the shutter. I end up with few images but many keepers. Photography is not just about the final image, but I want to enjoy the whole process of making an image, so that the final result is even more satisfying. After all, I am not a professional, this is my passion, so I just want to do it the way it pleases me more.

Landscape photography among other things, is “pushing yourself” to get out and view the wonders of nature, discover beautiful places and capture them with your camera.

As time goes by, it’s getting more and more difficult to find free time to do this, and there are sometimes when I think a digital system would be more convenient since it would me save much time (and money). The fact that evolution of digital cameras is at a frenzy pace means that a modern digital camera will be able to everything I need fast and reliable, with great results.

Cameras like the recently announced Nikon D800E with its monstrous 36 megapixels sensor and lack of the AA filter, would nominate for a stunning landscape camera, with superb image quality, ability to print at huge sizes and at the same have all the conveniences of a digital camera.

The thing is that by purchasing a camera like that, I would have to sell most of my film gear, since I really don’t wanna get broke by keeping similar camera systems that overlap each other.

So, that’s a great dilemma about system choices, and one I will probably will have to deal with very soon !!

After all, it’s getting more and more difficult to develop film since the variety of films offered are decreasing, labs that can develop slide or C41 film are fewer each year and eventually it will be a time consuming and expensive process to shoot and have your film exposed.

All these are factors one has to consider, and make decisions.

For now, here are some more landscapes images (with the exception of the first image on this post, the rest were taken with film cameras).

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(c)2012 Konstantinos Besios. All rights reserved.

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