One Camera, One Lens, One Preset

I am embarking on a mission to better understand myself and my photographic direction. For those that have been following along on Instagram the past few weeks, I have been on the tail end of a long discovery phase with my work. Not only has the subject matter I have been sharing become concentrated, but my overall look and feel has changed as well. Today's short post is an explanation behind it all and why I am on this journey.

Why One Camera, One Lens, One Preset

This has stemmed from wonderful long discussions with my friend Johnny over the years and conversations which we recently ramped up - but something I haven't ever really had the disciple to put into practice for myself. In a nutshell and without digging deep into the nitty-gritty of our talks, the idea is every time you change an aspect of your work (a body, a lens, a film stock, a core subject) you are starting from square one towards mastering that combination, even if your have a firm foundation. There's more to it than that, but this will do for the high-level point I am coming from in today's post.

I've dabbled in the idea by having one main film camera (Pentax 67) with one lens and two film stocks (just can't pick one) but there were always several "test" film cameras coming in and out of my house, as well as a few digital cameras (Sony's RX1R II and A7R II being the most recent). Don't even get me started on all the lenses that come in and out monthly on both the film and digital sides not only for review, but for semi-permanent parts of my collection. I really enjoy buying and borrowing gear to play with and review, but, I have noticed that in doing so, I am not giving my art the attention it deserves to truly blossom.

Even with the constant changes, the concept of light was nothing new, nor were the fundamentals of taking a properly framed and exposed image no matter the body or glass being used. What changed though, is how these frequent gear acquisitions recorded the light onto film or digital sensors and how a strong bond between myself, my art, and my camera never really set. I behave and shoot much different depending on the gear in my hand. With film, I have a vision of how the scan will look coming back from the lab. With digital, I was scattered as I flopped between several great presets. But, deep inside, I understood what I wanted to do but was afraid to make a leap of a single set-up. I am at a point in my photography that I really want to see what can develop by concentrating on a single camera, lens, preset and subject for a length of time. (Review gear is another matter).

This journey is 100% about me. It's not a journey to see what people like best and what will make me the most money. It's a journey to find what's inside me and what really wants to get out. Damn the likes.

The Camera - Sony A7R II

I know this will come as a surprise to many of my faithful film friends (or maybe not) but the body I chose to go with is my Sony A7R II. The files this Sony sensor produces are outstanding and versatile, and truly compliment the look I am going after (more on that below).

The Lens - Zeiss Loxia 2/50

The lens that will be a permanent fixture on the camera is the Zeiss Loxia 50. I am a huge fan of manual Zeiss glass and truly see my world in both 35mm and 50mm. When torn between the two options, I feel the edge will be with the 50mm for versatility and the subject matter I want to capture. I think I have to agree with my friends that I am more of a 35mm guy with lens choice and vision, but challenging myself to grow with the 50mm will be an exciting element for this adventure.

The Preset (The Vision)

This round, I am not using an off-the-shelf preset for my color work. I have a driving vision in my head of what I want to capture and how I want it to look and, though several off-the-shelf presets I have seen come close, they aren't precisely what I am wanting to achieve. And if I wanted to be true to myself, I needed to develop my own preset from scratch. And that's just what I did (no, it wasn't easy).

The preset I created is optimized to my Sony, the tone my Loxia renders with, and my method of exposing. It puts the colors right where I want them, every time. The colors are strongly influenced from the 1950's and 1960's aesthetic. The colors used in magazine ads, the colors of the "Technicolor" movies, and more precisely, the colors that Kodachrome film produced. No, I do not aim to replicate Kodachrome, but I do admit that my look has a very strong influence from it.

The colors and work I am aiming for is also strongly influenced by a few photographers (one from way before that time, and 2 that made the 50's and 60's color scream "this is it" for me). 

The big three for me right now are Eugene Atget, Fred Herzog, and Saul Leiter. If you notice the common bond among these three, it's their unique way of capturing real life - real street. Atget is my first influence and a force behind my love of photography. Herzog and Leiter build upon that.

I won't lie - Herzog's Modern Color book was often open and on my lap while creating my colors.

Sony RX1R II - San Diego, California

Where from Here?

So, that's the drive behind what you have been seeing me put out on the 'gram lately. You'll also see that I slightly changed this website to target this move to my simplicity (thank you Cody for your input on design), my new "modern color," and my going-forward style of shooting. No, I am not abandoning film at all. The Pentax 67 is alive and well on my shelf, but is temporarily on hold. For at least the near future though, all work posted by me will be from one camera, one lens, one preset, and mainly one subject - unless it's review gear, which I will occassionally take on.

The colors still need a bit more tweaking, which will happen as I evolve. But for once, I am giving a solid setup a solid chance to develop. This isn't being done for "likes" or "followers" and quite frankly, I am will not adapt this vision based on feedback. If you like the look, great. If you don't, great. I am not doing it for the masses, I am doing this for me.