Creative: Have the Guts

Disclaimer: I think I’m about to purchase a Fuji XT-2 and two lenses. Having said this.

You have to have the guts. Now, the definition of guts changes from person to person. The best work I’ve ever done came from the guts of this bag. If I had to guess, were I to attempt to make high level work again, my best bet would be to return to the guts of this bag, but there are many, many intangibles involved in doing what I need to do, when I need to do it and for whom. This is where complexity comes in. With complexity comes sacrifice, homogenization, speed and consequence, all the things you DON’T want to impact your work. When I am alone I am pure. I am clear, conscious, focused and patient. When I wear the hat of another all bets are off.

I find myself caught between two worlds, and none of you can know quite the extent what I’m talking about, but it’s true. My needs, their needs. The question is how to do both without losing bearing because once that safety line is released it is nearly impossible to get it back.

$2000 divided by $27.00 is roughly 75. The new math. But when you add the time delay this number drops dramatically.

So moving forward I need balance. And that balance comes with another balance; sanity. One of the great things about getting older is you have less patience for what you know is wrong, or not optimal or not conducive to greatness. And you understand immediately when others don’t get it.

Much happening at the moment. Mostly good, but there is no denying the deck is being shuffled. Now it’s time to flip the first card. Lay your bets.

39 Comments on “Creative: Have the Guts”

  1. Interesting, though slightly cryptic, Dan.

    Love how you see the world and express those observations.

    I think this is a familiar battle many of us are currently at odds with . Reassuring for me, in some sense, that I’m not alone out there with this, so thanks.

  2. Sorry to mention a hardware part Dan, but don’t bet on 23mm F2.0 I never had one, but people say it doesn’t come closer optically to the rest of F2 WR lenses and rest of Fuji lenses too. I know you prefer 35mm focal length, at least double check it by your own. Did you find a way to come along peacefully with Fuji’s EVF and electronically wired rings on lenses? Will you get rid of 5d3?

    1. Sergey,
      I still have 5D3. Never use it. Too big and don’t do that kind of work anymore. The 5D is a much more all around camera than the XT2. I woudn’t put them in the same category. As for all the other oddities, it’s just one camera for one point in time. It’s not replacing anything. None of these cameras are perfect but they are okay for one specific need.

  3. “One of the great things about getting older is you have less patience for what you know is wrong, or not optimal or not conducive to greatness.”

    Well said buddy boy.
    After 17 years of being away from Rodinal, I’ve realized, finally that I should never have left her. Her wonderful countenance and grainy decolletage. It’s good to be home again.

  4. Take a look at the Fuji x70. Lightening fast AF and tilt screen. I’ve been enjoying it a great deal.

    “If I had to guess, were I to attempt to make high level work again, my best bet would be to return to the guts of this bag”

    You have a great eye. You could make great pictures with a Brownie 😉

    1. Jim,
      There isn’t any viewfinder. A friend had one last night. It looks great, but I like the interchangeable lenses.

  5. The X-Pro2 is my daily carry, along with the 23 f/2, 35 f/2 and 50 f/2 – all great lenses if you are okay with F/2 vs f/1.4 . I have the luxury of owning the 1.4 versions too but find the size and speed of the f/2 versions to be better for me. Don’t believe what you hear about the 23 f/2 – its a great lens, contrary to Sergey’s comment.

    1. Mark,
      I’d be happy with any of that, those, etc. All good. Small is good, so f/2 is fine by me.

  6. Hi Dan,
    I read through your last few posts and then came to this one. “I sense much anger in you….don’t give in to the dark side”

    To me it seems that you simply need to decide if making money by starting a commercial photography business will keep you happy enough that you will still want to pursue your love of long term documentary style photography in your non-work time IE hobby. Being an entrepreneur and a business owner comes with a lot of time commitment on its own. If it doesn’t leave you with enough time and money to do what you want then you have to question whether it is right for you in the first place. If what you are doing while starting that business will also drain all your creative energy and thus diminish your free time then it is definitely not for you. I think what limitations you put on your services, and thus your business plan (film, digital, working fast, working slow, what camera, etc) should be a second or third tier decision after you decide if starting a business is the right thing in the first place.

    I have been a business owner for thirty years and wouldn’t change a thing if I had to do it again….but it’s because it gives me the time and money I want to purse my hobbies & enjoy my time off. Not so much in the starting years but more and more in the later years. I wouldn’t ever even think about making a hobby that I love a business because I know what starting a business takes away in return for giving back…but that’s what works for me.

    I hope there is a point and some help in there somewhere! 😉

    All the best,

    1. JT,
      This is where being cryptic comes back to haunt me. I’m not angry at all, nor do I have any interest in being a photographer again, let alone a commercial guy. When I say I I’m speaking more about those I see around me. I just came from a lecture and spoke to several photogs I’ve known for years who are really hurting. This pains me, for sure, but has little to do with me, or my photography. I’m happy doing little things, and can’t imagine making pictures for a client again. That spark died in me years ago. I had a good run, no regrets.

      Now I get to mess around with my own pointless projects, but they sure are fun. And no pressure. If I do something that someone likes then I’m happy. No more, no less.

      On a sidenote, starting a business sounds great. I’ve done it before but if I did it again it wouldn’t have anything to do with photography. Always love your thoughtful notes, and I appreciate you taking the time to send.

  7. If the high-level work is done in your own time and then an shown complete to e.g. a publisher then yes, the above outfit will be ideal, as you have proven in the past, Daniel. If the work has to fit into daily life and daily budget (and you don’t keep chasing the latest shiny camera) then digital is ideal – just find a camera that can be operated like a film camera – otherwise it will annoy after the simplicity of a Leica. I don’t really buy into the argument about having negatives is more of a guarantor of your work lasting than a hard drive. If you can’t be bothered to print your work (or think the effort not worthwhile) why should anyone else? The best bet of anything lasting is to make a print (or a book). Yes, a book.


    1. Mike,
      I like that book talk. I’ll disagree with you on only one thing. Archiving film vs digital and having it last longer. I will only speak to myself, but my work from 1988 is alive and well. My early digital work from the late 90’s is gone. Some survives but in a precarious state. I’ve already written it off basically. And with digital, you are right on. PRINT it. At least you will have one version to survive, maybe.

  8. Dan – just like Joe Walsh, you’re an analog man. You grew up with film, did your best work with it – it’s in your bones. Digital cameras are so capable a jellyfish could get a decently exposed shot. In fact, digital cameras aren’t really cameras at all – they’re computers with lenses on the front. Because you don’t have to think, to work for an image it becomes devalued. K64 and Tri-x demanded attention and a bit of skill. The real pleasure in photography comes from exercising that skill.
    In short, digital for work and film for yourself. That bag of old Leicas is who you are!

  9. Daniel, a negative is a positive asset (you see what I did there?) but it only exists once: whereas a digital photo can be on more than one hard drive, in more than one location. This is useful in cases of fire, flood etc. The early days of digital archiving were probably akin to the early days of tin-type archiving: not too hot; but better now. We both understand the pros and cons, but whatever you photograph, if you share it in almost any form, you will need to make a digital copy – web, book, magazine etc so I’ve decided to shoot digital and save a step. The photographs are sharper than film (but I can make them film-like if I choose) and as long as I resist increasing contrast to soot and whitewash they look o.k. I can also have another go at processing them if I succumb to the latest processing fad (which I won’t). Keeping up with my digital photos is easy, I’m an old film photographer, used to 36 shots per roll, so I don’t take a photograph unless it is worth taking. Pros and cons, I know, but printing and making books are great ways of sharing your work – and for enjoying it yourself, too.

    1. Mike,
      Agreed. And yes, the multiple copies is a good thing. Sometimes hard to do but smart, very smart. One of the reasons I’m looking forward to getting the Fuji is to finally determine a new workflow. My old workflow, which ended in 2010, isn’t good anymore. New software, new options. I’m wondering the best way to catalog. Daily shit, shoots, projects, etc. and being able to find and access them. The cataloging software I used to use is long gone. Lightroom, Mylio, etc. More options now.

  10. Daniel, the Fuji jpegs are very good. We both have an X-100T, I bought mine just to try the Fuji system and am consistently surprised by just how good it is. I used it to shoot raw and jpeg-b&w and I’d be happy to just use the b&w jpegs – and I never thought I would say that.
    I was very interested in an interchangeable lens Fuji, and then the Leica M10 came out. I had complained for so long about wanting a digital M in a film M sized body that I almost felt duty-bound to get one. I also bought the Leica thumb-rest and the combination is perfect. Expensive, but a one-camera, one-lens outfit is all I need. I’m going to look at the Fuji Instax printer as a way of being able to give ‘thank you’ photographs to people.

    1. Mike,

      I sold mine to make room for XT2. Thanks to a VERY, VERY, VERY kind friend I have an M240 at the moment. It’s grand. But, with my budget, potential need for video, etc. I’m going with the Fuji, if all goes as planned. Plus, I’m getting older, Lyme has F^%$%$ up my eyes and the autofocus is working well. And I can get a good deal on it. My goal with it is small and specific, another reason to go with the less expensive Fuji.

  11. Dan I’ve been using a couple of Nikon D3s and D4s for quite a while. The daily grind has literally wrecked my neck and I can no longer take the pain..Call me a wuss but I had to throw in the towel. I’ve been shooting a Fuji for a while on assignments and to honest I have really grown to love this camera. It took some getting used to, it made me slow down. And for this I’m grateful. The last month I’ve shot everything with the Fuji and now I’m pain free. IQ is perfectly fine . I’m sold, the Nikons are collecting dust. Now I’m just trying to make good images everyday. It’s never the camera that makes good work as you well know but a small light camera has made my life more enjoyable.

    1. Mike,
      I want small too. I’m sure there will be a learning curve but luckily for me I’m a genius…………….

    1. AM< I had a few, then made my own. Super cheap style but they work and when I'm too old to remember who I am...they will truly be valuable.

  12. Daniel, I have to say that I am very impressed with the Fuji system. I bought the Leica M10 rather than a X-T2 only because my eyesight requires me to wear varifocal spectacles. With the Fuji, when I adjusted the eyesight correction for the photo display, the information (shutter speed etc.) was out of focus. When I adjusted so the information was sharp, the photo display was out of focus. With the Leica rangefinder I’m back in business – but I’d be more than happy with the quality of Fuji cameras and lenses.
    I did read that the in-camera film simulation for Fuji Acros (for the Fuji X-T2 and X-Pro2) is very special as it produces ‘grain’ very similar to film grain: it is different in the highlights, shadows and mid-tones. This only works with in-camera processing, not in Lightroom etc. The simulation works with stills and video – how cool is that?

  13. Dan I was off base in my last post. Once upon a time I was a full time working photojournalist back in the film days (have been out of the game 17 years). I got out of the game just as digital was coming in. I would shoot chromes and fedex to my agent in New York on pretty much a daily basis. This was all pre-Internet of course. Given Internet, social media, 24 hour news cycle etc etc etc, I cannot begin to wrap my head around the necessities of working as a photographer today. My guess is that you have to shoot digital to survive. The downside of that is a lot of post shooting production time behind a computer. The X-T2 is a wonderful choice. I’d suggest looking at the XPro 2 as well. Best of luck!

    1. Jim,
      Yes, a totally different mentality/world. People still doing it but few and far between. I’m getting Xt2, lenses, etc. Have to get it soon too. Much going on.

  14. I have an X-T2…sold my Sonya99 and use it for weddings now. I wanted smaller and fast auto-focus (coke bottle lenses here)… that being said I also just got a Pentax 67ii…. it’s hard to know what to want/do… I like the rendering of the XT2 but had the original x100 and almost liked it better…I sold it because I was more satisfied using my old Olympus XA…. and now I’m being torn with thinking I must need a full frame for weddings… hoping the Pentax will fill that void…and seeing the negs it’s definitely more satisfying..

    1. Jen,
      I had a Pentax for years. I used to shoot weddings with two Leica M6’s and one Hasselbald, with the Blad being the bones of the story. I’d shoot about 200 images total, then fill in with the Leicas. I worked mostly by myself. The Pentax is a beast but a great camera. I’ve got an XT2 in my sites for a new project I’m going to get involved with.

  15. Seems that once again a post about cameras is very popular, judging by the amount of comments … I guess we love to geek around.

    So here is my point … Yean you liked (but not loved) your X100T (same for me). Your 5DMkIII is gathering dust. But you LOVE your Leicas. Have you considered to buy a digital Leica? I just got a used but mint M Typ 262 for a good price, I can share the lenses with the M4-2, it works in the exact same way except that the speed dial goes the other way (but it is easier to remember that than a whole new camera menu/controls setting), but is pretty much the same feeling as shooting the M4-2 (ok, is not the same but for sure it is as close as you go to get in the digital world). Now that the M10 is out there you can buy a previous model for “cheap” (noted I quoted the word cheap). Menus are super simple. It is not as clean as the X100T at high ISO but I use 3200 with no problem (I’m not a pixel peeper).

    I thought you might wanna consider it.

    1. Erlantz,
      Funny you should ask. I have an M240 at the moment, not mine, but great camera. However, I’ve made a decision to buy an XT2. I don’t expect this camera to be perfect, but my life has changed a lot in the past three weeks and I have new needs. The Fuji, the entire system I’m buying, is less than half of what a Leica costs, and is still less than what a used Leica could be. Crazy I know.

      1. Oh! I know. I still can’t believe I bought myself a digital Leica (even a used one). For what I paid I could have an X Pro-2 and some lenses and extra batteries. But for me here is where I am. As it is right now the type of photography I do has changed radically in the past year. I was getting frustrated with some of the quirks on the X100T (like only letting me use certain functions unless some other that I didn’t wanted/needed were activated). Shooting with a film Leica just felt the way taking photos supposed to feel since the beginning, so I was hoping that a digital version would keep the feeling without having to deal with the snail-speed scanner. I’m turning 40 in a few days, so I guess is part of a midlife crisis (some people buy a little red spot car, I got the Leica).
        Well, you know better that anyone what are your needs and I’m glad you’ve been using one so at least you know how it feels to use it. You know, kind of getting rid of that itch in your back in that spot that is so difficult to reach, and you never get a good scratch.
        I’m sure whatever you use we will be able to enjoy the results of it and as usual it will be interesting for sure.

        1. EB,
          Totally worth it. I’ve got other fish to fry, and I do like the new camera….at least I think I do…

  16. Dan, So glad to have found this new space of your’s. I love it. You reviewed my portfolio in DC in November 2012, and I greatly appreciated your perspective and analysis. Life has moved in alternate directions, as it does for many, and I’m no longer shooting professionally. For a long time, I put down my cameras, other than my iPhone camera, and was in many ways, was happy to no longer be “the photographer” and maker/keeper of all the memories. Recently (this past weekend), I purchased the XT2, together with the 35 1.4 and the 50-140 2.8. Though I prefer shooting with primes, I have kids in far-away sports (baseball and field hockey) and needed the distance. I am interested in how you decide to organize/catalog your digital files. I was using Lightroom years ago, and b/c I stepped away, I’m not sure what the options are and what makes the most sense now. I’m interested in integrating both the XT2 images, and my iPhone images, and then also my husband’s and children’s images. Many images, and yet I don’t want to spend my life in front of the computer. For a while, years back, I shot with the X100s, set my in-camera BW settings the way I liked them, and that was it. No post-processing whatsoever. Please do write more about this (organization/cataloging) if you’re so inclined.

    I’m also sorry to hear about the Lyme diagnosis and how it has completely changed your life. In 1986, as a teenager in woodsy Pennsylvania, I was diagnosed with Lyme, following a tick-bite and large bulls-eye rash and some form of blood test. I was immediately treated with a month-long course of doxycycline, and after that, never followed up and never paid much attention to it (I was 18 and had other distractions…). Years later now, I often wonder if it completely cleared up or stayed with me in some way. I don’t know much about it, but your post definitely made me think.

    I look forward to following along here at Shifter, now that I’ve found it. Your website/blog was always one of my favorites.

    1. Hey Aileen,

      I’m glad we have reconnected! As for not working as a photographer, I’m guessing it’s going to feel pretty good, oddly enough. You and me both…..XT2 as of about a week ago. 23 f/2, 35 f/2 and 56 1.2. So far so good. Oh and a booster. Here is the truth. I’m the LAST person you want giving advice about cataloging. I’m a moron! I use Lightroom, but not very well, and know about 1% of what it does. Mylio is an interesting solution actually. Take a look at that, and I always hear great things about Capture One. Lyme SUCKS. You were lucky, known bite and rash, so getting on treatment right away was key. I went three months, which seems like a lot but isn’t. I just spoke with ANOTHER person who I met several years ago who was told she had MS….well, turns out it’s Lyme and she’s been untreated for years. This is all too common.

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