Photographic Conditioning

No doubt about it, we humans tend to become "conditioned", "trained", and downright programmed in certain ways no matter if we try not to or not. You can do mental exercises all you want to gain a fresh perspective but no matter what there will be remnants of whatever you used to do built in to your "new" way. Those remnants can be subtle or not so subtle but they will be there. They will probably never go away even if you concentrate hard of making them do so. Of course you can develop new stuff as well but some of the old stuff will still be there flavoring the new stuff for better or worse.

Let's take a couple of examples that I am extremely familiar with. Lens focal length being the first. I grew up on prime lenses. First off because that's all I had when I started and what I tended to gravitate to in the early 80's. When I got a new camera system, the hasselblad, there was ONE zoom lens that was horribly expensive and continued to shoot with a very common trio. A 50, 80, 150 trio to be specific - a little different than my 35mm stuff but not too too much different.

Somewhere along the way I picked up my first zoom lens - a Nikon 28-70 F2.8 AFS. Big heavy and the only thing it had going for it was that it focused very very fast compared to the non-AFS primes I had. I still have that lens and it is still very good but without fail I use it like two lenses that I can change very very quickly. On a full-frame body it is a 28 and a 70. Sort of a wide and sorta-normalish. On a DX body it's a normal and a short tele. I can tell you from hundreds of thousands of images in Aperture that it is always at 28 or 70 and nowhere in between.

When I think about that after having the indisputable evidence of the EXIF in my face, I can see myself wracking the zoom ring and then moving my position by increments back and forth for framing vs. using any zoom adjustment. Heck I still use my Panasonic LX5 the same way - it's a camera with a 24 and a 90 unless I think about it real real hard and set it to something in between. I am not saying it's good or bad but I don't think it's going away. Contrast this to the person that grew up on zooms. I see them all the time. They bring the camera to their eye and fiddle with the zoom to frame.

So what, you may ask. Well, I guess the point is somewhat tangential to a few things I have been harping on for sometime under the guise of shooting film. Specifically about shooting simple cameras that were par for the course in the film era. Want to gain some perspective into your shooting? Maybe change it up a bit? Shoot a different camera with a different medium like film that operates with a completely different set of rules. A couple of things my happen from this exercise. First you may get really frustrated. Second you may uncover some conditioning that you didn't even realize you had when you are forced to operate differently. Third if you stick with it for long enough you may develop some new habits that will bleed over to other equipment you choose to use that will inform your process and possibly your images down the road.

Just something to think about on a windy crappy Saturday - well at least where I am on the planet at this moment.


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