challenge squared..

As a photographer and as an artist I am always looking for ways to challenge myself and step out of my comfort zone when it comes to creating an image. I find the more I do this, the more inspired I get, which in the end gets my creativity flowing when I am working for a client. I don’t claim to be perfect, nor am I the best photographer in the world, and I do recognize the areas where I feel I need improvement. That is where this little guy comes in to play:


I have a love/hate relationship with my Mamyia C330.  But when I find myself looking for a challenge, it is the camera I turn to. It has a waist level view finder that can be difficult to find focus and to make a straight crop in camera. There is no built in light meter, so I am often times guessing at what my exposure should be when I don’t have my light meter with me and it takes a long time to load film into it. But, on the upside, it has many features that I love. It forces me to slow down and take my time with composing an image, I can shoot 120 or 220 film (12 or 24 shots to a roll) simply by twisting the back plate,  and the 80mm 2.8 lens has a leaf shutter which is nice because I can hand hold the camera when shooting longer exposures, usually around 1/8th or 1/4th of a second, and I get minimal camera shake.. here is a picture I took in Mexico after the sun had gone down and the lanterns came on. I believe my exposure was 1/4th of a second, hand held:

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The other great thing about this camera is that it’s ideal for candid shots. It can be hung on a neck strap and most people don’t know I am taking their picture. This is a great benefit for me as I am not comfortable with asking random strangers if I can take their picture.

Since I am out of my comfort zone there,  I add to the challenge of using this camera by approaching people on the street and asking for a quick shot. I use the word “quick” very lightly here, often times it takes me a while to find the right focus, even out the angle (in case you did not know, when you look through the view finder, everything shifts opposite of what you would normally see when looking through a single lens camera), get the exposure set, then take the shot. By that point most people are ready to move on with their day, especially when I am shooting in a city like New York.. or in this case the random gentleman in Mexico, who was not happy I was taking his picture in the first place:

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This nice man was cooking breakfast and happily stood in one spot while I focused, re-focused, straightened out, focused again and changed my exposure until I got just the right shot:

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Sometimes I can get a really great shot and it will happen completely on accident and I am usually not expecting to get anything on that exposure. For example, the Batman picture below was one of those “luck of the draw” exposures. We were in Times Square on a sunny weekday afternoon, and he walked by us at a very quick pace. I focused my camera as quickly as possible and with out having a clue what settings I had my camera set to, I released the shutter and just hoped it would come out:

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I love to photograph architecture with this camera, but since I have committed to myself that I would break out of my “zone”, I will try to look for challenging angles or shots that I need to work quickly to get, like this one of the pharmacy in Mexico with the woman sitting outside. This was on a very busy street and I had to shoot quickly so I didn’t get the cars going by me.. a moment later, her ride came by and picked her up:

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When there are no people around to challenge myself with, I will try out different angles that I wold not often try when I am working on a job. By doing this, it helps me to remember to try those same angles when I am working with my clients:

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Another thing I love about this camera is how soft my images can look when in the right light and setting, I may not have produced the same look if I were shooting with my digital camera or my other film cameras. Knowing this, I seek out the right light and take my time composing an image that I know will come out beautifully:

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A few weeks ago my parents came to visit us and we took them up to Newport Rhode Island for the weekend. My husband does not like to have his picture taken and is sometimes not patient with me while I compose the perfect picture. So I find the challenge in trying to be stealth and getting a shot without him knowing. Which can be challenging no matter what camera I am using 🙂

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I am always looking for new ways to step out of my comfort zone and challenge myself. For all the artist and photographer readers out there.. what kinds of things do you do to challenge yourself? Do you have a camera that you are not 100% comfortable with, or is there a specific lens that you find difficult to use? I would love to hear what you do to get your creativity flowing!