It has been a few days since I last clicked some photographs. I have been busy with marketing activities and some finance-related matters. However, my camera is now calling me. It’s raining outside with occasional wet snow, but I do hope that the weather should improve soon.
My Desk by the Window
For those of you who have seen my work-place, you know what it is like. For those who haven’t. It’s an old small desk perched at the end of a corridor on the top floor. The window in front overlooks the valley and is sadly sealed with a glass-pane which I can’t open. A table lamp provides a warm glow. My wooden chair creaks occasionally under my weight. I’ll change it someday to something more ergonomic.
Sitting outside my window is my sole companion, a blue whistling thrush. The roof over my house extends a little towards the outside and provides the window a good cover from the elements. I look at the bird. It was about to open its orange beak but then didn’t. If you have not heard it sing, you have missed something in your life. Maybe like me and my camera, it is waiting for the weather to improve, to start its song.
The metal roof above provides percussion with occasional hail and the blowing wind sings in low keys. At night, this can be depressing, but in the morning, with a view of the valley outside my window, and the bird keeping me company. This also sounds like music. The clouds float by. An occasional chirp from some distant bird.
(A photograph from some days earlier. The clouds had gathered up in the valley below and the snow-peaks were visible.)
Camera Lies Ready
My gaze shifts to the camera. Just a few more hours, I hope. Sometimes on days like these, the clouds clear up and provide some beautiful landscapes to capture. This is my favorite camera. A Nikon Df. It has that nostalgic feel to it and somehow connects me to photography more than any other DSLRs. I had changed its focusing screen to provide a microprism collar and a central split-screen focusing aid. (Staying Focused). Lens that I have mounted also happens to be my favorite. A Zeiss 135mm. It’s metallic, heavy and reeks of sheer quality. Why such investments when I say that it is the photographer that matters and not the camera? For one, if my photographs are below par, I am the one to blame and in no way can I blame the equipment. Second, I bought it when I had the money to do so. Now I don’t and so won’t even think of buying any such new equipment. Third, all said and done, the combination does have image quality which satisfies me. My customers also ask for the same quality when I click images for them.
Why a 135mm lens when I have plans to click landscapes? This is something a lot of my friends keep asking me. I love short-teles for most of my photography work. When it is a wide panorama. I prefer to click multiple images and stitch rather than opting for a wide-angle lens. (Panoramas, Snow & Coffee). A prime also makes me visualize things better and as a result, my photographs turn out nice.
Battery is charged, memory card is formatted… waiting…
Just a few days back, a friend of mine had called. He was interested in the new Fujifilm cameras. Yes, they are a nice bunch. Those guys were great with the colors in the film era. I miss their Provia and Velvia films. This friend of mine shares the same passion for a lot of things in life as do I, photography being one of those. We discussed what a person needs to click good photographs. Should a camera body be more important or a lens? What advances have happened lately and so on? From Fujifilm’s stable, their X100 series attracts me. A nice handy camera that reminds a little of my first rangefinder camera (Canon G-III QL) and also a little of my dream, a present-day digital Leica rangefinder. Unfortunately for photographers like me, that’s an expensive camera and we can’t justify the cost by the little that we earn from time to time.
… and I am all alone
My train of thought was interrupted by a fluttering sound. My companion, the blue whistling thrush flew away. Maybe to rest on someone else’s windowpane. Someone who would appreciate its beauty more rather than sitting lost in thoughts.
Buzz, my phone vibrates. A flurry of messages pours in. Here, where I sit, writing this article, the mobile networks make their presence felt from time to time. This was a moment when the network would have found my phone.
Some people seem to be telepaths. This friend with whom I had discussed cameras just a few days back sent me messages about his plan on buying a high-end 50mm or an 85mm lens for his Canon camera (with an APS-C sized sensor) and also about cleaning aids.
He already has a 50mm lens by Canon. As it so happens, 50mm lens design dates back many decades. Over the years there has been very little change in its optical design and as a result, most manufacturers have been able to perfect their designs for this focal length. The cost is also low for the same reason. 85mm is something more exotic for most manufacturers. To me, it makes more sense buying this focal length, especially if the glass will also be of the legendary Zeiss quality. As an afterthought, it will provide almost the same angle of view as I get with my favorite lens and camera combination. However, does he really need a new lens? I ended my discussion with him with this last question.
For cleaning, I recommended a trip to my place. I clean my lenses and camera on my own. Somehow, I trust my own hands more than most of the service centers. Maybe till the time they improve their after-sales service to match the standards of at least their own manufacturing companies. (My last visit to a service center was quite a disappointing one. They could not clean my mirror / focusing screen / pentaprism and viewfinder. I do a better job at cleaning than them.) Coming back to his question, I did suggest some items. He had already got his camera cleaned sometime back at a service center. So I told him, a blower bulb, a microfibre cloth, and a make-up brush are three things that every photographer should have. (Cleaning DSLR and Lens)
To me, photography is more about expressing oneself, capturing photographs that talk to us, visualizing photographs that are there around us. Buying cameras or lenses is not photography. It is just an acquisition of some expensive items. It does not translate into good photography on its own. My friend, who already has good photography skills and visualizes nice photographs, happened to ask the wrong person about purchasing new items. I am usually the last one to say yes to a new purchase. Call it minimalism (Minimalism – A Way of Life!) or simply a lack of funds.
The signals are lost again and once again I am sitting here all alone, the constant drumming on my roof, the wind and the faint noise from the computer fan keeping me company. Music from a flute sonata in E Major by Bach, playing softly on short-wave radio fills the place, occasionally interrupted by fleeting noise. If not the bird, at least the radio sings.
The second half of the day
The weather has not eased up. I cooked up a fast snack for myself and spend some time with a good book. Finished in one sitting. And now with a cup of hot coffee, I am once again back at my desk.
The sky has turned still darker. The days are quite short now. Soon, the sun will go behind the hills and it’ll be night before I realize it. It is hard to keep a track of time on days like these. On second thoughts, why should I? I don’t have a train to catch or a meeting to attend. I left my last job, a long time back. I worked hard over the last few weeks and so I deserve a day when there’s no need to keep a track of time.
Ah, the network is available again. My internet is working. The news-paper loads, messages appear from friends showing how politicians and journalists are playing with emotions and creating disharmony, notifications on social media accounts showing the number of likes, new friend requests, a few advertisements, some spam that finds its way into my inbox… nothing worthwhile. No, there is something useful there. An offer to accept a summer assignment to do some photography of a resort for their website and marketing campaigns. Still a long time for that. Today, I can just relax and hope for the weather to clear up a bit.
A blue whistling thrush came over and again made itself comfortable on the window-sill. Was it the same one from the morning? I can’t say. They all look the same to me. This one broke into a song after settling down. A sweet melody! Maybe it was an indication that the weather will clear up soon.
I was mistaken. The sky is now starting to turn dark. Rain and snow have been incessant. This is another day where I did not do any photography. The whole of the day was spent indoors, but what a day! I read some good articles on the internet (whenever the mobile signal was strong enough), wrote most of this article, cleaned up my book-shelf after lunch, and read a very good book, complete from start to end, at one go!
Camera is still calling me. Maybe tomorrow…
(No, this was not clicked today. I am adding this just to show what kind of landscapes await when the sun shines through on such days. Maybe tomorrow, I’ll be able to step out.)