An amateur's perspective

On the West Coast of Trinidad, photographed using 8"x10" LF Ilford Delta. Photo courtesy Trinidad Dreamscape.

In response to a few questions that I sent to gather perspectives for
this BitDepth column, R, the proprietor, chief photographer, programmer and darkroom technician of Trinidad Dreamscape, offered these responses.
They were way too juicy to just discard, so I'm posting them here in the public interest.
For more perspectives on photography from this talented artist, visit Trinidad Dreamscape. You might want to start
here and here if his thoughts as expressed in this brief interview interest you.

What, in your mind, is the point at which an amateur becomes a professional?

I have no idea, definitions vary. As my earnings from photography remain anchored at zero all I am sure about is that I'm definitely an amateur!

How long have you been a photographer and how long since you chose to pursue landscape photography?

I have been taking pictures for 28 years. I started to get more serious about landscape photography about 14 years ago.

Why landscapes as a specialty?

I had some rough times many years ago where I lost faith in my friends and colleagues, so I gravitated to the beauty of the landscape to offset the fact that I didn't find much of anything uplifting in human interconnectedness, at least at the time. I continue now as, well, old habits die hard.

What equipment are you working with these days and how have your choices in gear changed since you began photographing?

My main cameras consist of two large format film cameras (old-time cameras where the photographer has to hide under a cloth to focus), one medium format film camera and a Canon digital camera.
The digital camera I find unrewarding to use so it remains on the shelf more often than not. With the exception of the digital camera, I have been using the same cameras for the past 10 years or so. I am familiar with their workings and they take good pictures.
In the past I took a little while to find a camera I was comfortable with for the work I do. I also couldn't afford anything too wonderful either so I made do with used cameras mostly.

What do you think of the new "breed" of young photographers who have come to the craft in the digital age?

Haha, I can write a book about them.

I have heard all too often that the difference between film and digital photography is restricted to the capture medium alone, everything else is the same. I completely disagree with that sentiment.
Digital photography favours the iPod generation, it is their medium for capturing life around us. Digital photographers are obsessed about capturing the perfect image: a bit-perfect artifice of the landscape derived through a digital sensor enhanced with software.
Just like the iPod listeners who have never heard a real orchestra perform, the digital landscape photographers of post-film vintage I have met seek merely to emulate and recreate pictures they have seen on the internet without any appreciation for the grand landscape sitting in front of them.
Digital images are the new photographers' mp3 files: bit-perfect, innumerable facsimiles of something infinitely more grand.

Film, on the other hand, is an imperfect medium and it takes many years of trudging through mediocrity to get the best out of it. Along the way one gains an appreciation of the landscape as each picture is consciously considered. I usually take only one shot per outing, the rest of the time I admire the view!
Film also has flaws, there is no perfection here. Things go wrong. But it is human to err. Film anthropomorphises the landscape through its inherent "analogueness". The viewer sees not just a landscape but a landscape as seen through the very human eyes of the photographer with all his flaws in tow.
The Native American Indian belief system revolves around the view that man and nature are one. A landscape photographer, by extension, incorporates his or her humanity into every image. Digital photographers have a harder time learning this as the rapid-fire automaton camera is a barrier to this reality.

What advice would you offer to photographers interested in pursuing photography seriously, whether as a professional or as an amateur?

Well, giving advice where it is not really wanted nor sought is always fraught with peril. Everyone has his or her own motives for taking pictures and any advice should be given within the context of, or with the assumption of, knowing what those motives are.
I have found that the photography knowledge I possess, in this age, is not really relevant to those starting out. They are interested in megapixels, lenses, filters and software: stuff I don't know very much about.
I can and have offered advice about the philosophy of photography: why we photograph a landscape, how a photographer should seek to confer an appreciation for the landscape in a viewer, how a scene that really means something to a photographer can transcend any deficiencies in technique when viewed.
But no one wants to hear about those things. What can I say therefore? Be honest in your photography. Love your subject so that others can sense that in your pictures. Make your pictures your own way: they are, after all, your pictures.
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