Self discovery



I have been playing with m43 and a variety of different serious compacts for a few years now and I have been really trying to find myself as a photographer. While I realize this has no bearing on anyone but me I figured I'd share. What I'm looking for is the zen of my photography. Not long ago I was on DPReview and saw a bunch of work posted by a fellow in Spain using a Panasonic ZS3. In modern camera years that would be a prehistoric artifact. The work was gorgeous and to be honest (being a former ZS3 owner) I wondered how the heck he could have gotten that camera to produce images like it did. It was like he was some sort of sorcerer and able to get his camera to make images that no one else could (his low light stuff was especially cool).

I have spent way too much time geeking out about gear and far too little time working on my craft. I have been getting some great advice by a few generous souls here (and homework) and have started the process of looking at my work and trying to both make sense of it and understand myself and what my vision is. I have so much to learn and so far to go (and have no idea of I will ever get to that "there" I am looking for) but I am starting to see some patterns emerging and some directions starting to take shape.

What I have come to is that I seek the zen of photography where it is an act of creation that is complete on to itself. Nothing else matters and things like gear, output and all the other buzzwords are just noise to be set aside. What comes of that single act is beautiful and fleeting and if you're lucky you can hope to capture a shadow of it.

Steve Noel

Casey County, KY
Reading forums like this is distracting to your goal. Too much temptation with the toys. But if you can wade through it all, there is much good help here also. Study other people's work, but mainly study your OWN work. I am still studying mine after over 50 years. My biggest problem, is that I have spent too much time chaseing the "perfect" tools. And they don't exist! I am now a one camera and one lens shooter (until I let temptation get me:redface:). Let the joy of the "captured" moments, though they be few, fuel your quest!
One camera: Pentax K20d
One lens: Asahi Super-Takumar 55mm f2.0


Hall of Famer
I am on the same path of self discovery as you are and-- as you probably have done, have tried different cameras to see where I feel most at home as if the gear might stimulate me to some revelation. I can not at this point say that this method of attack won't work because of course gear facilitates our ability to capture images. Film and digital are different, older cameras produce different results than newer ones.. so this is reasonable notion to believe based on what one might want to achieve-- to an extent.

Nobuyoshi Araki said, “If you want to change your photographs, you need to change cameras. Changing cameras means that your photographs will change. A really good camera has something I suppose you might describe as its own distinctive aura.” I believe in this however mere acquisition of a camera will not immediately yield breathtaking photos. Only experience with your gear will and that means getting out there, or indoors if you do studio type work and practicing. It's the meditation of zen photography so to speak, your mantra, click, click, click.

You don't need a ton of gear and you don't need numerous 'likes' on some photo forum you just need to find your happy place. If you know what you want to accomplish go after it and if you are uncertain, look at images online, find out how they were done and experiment. Eventually you'll find what you do like and want to concentrate on or maybe like me you'll be happy photographing the street or landscapes or macro and all of it is good.

Of course I say this after having bought two compacts... but I do need camera backup for vacation. Buying is terrible though because it stimulates the gear acquisition center of the brain and then you start looking at it all again! Time to meditate, click, click, click. :) Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I found them relevant to my own.


I'm in the same boat and in the middle of downsizing and consolidating my "gear collection". I learned to accept that all this "camera of the month stuff" doesn't do much for one's photography. And I believe that the newest crop of digital cameras is now mature enough to settle on one or two cameras and keep them for a couple of years rather than changing frenetically. The goal of my "self finding exercise" will be to focus on photography and to work with one or maybe max of two digital cameras/sytems and one film camera for the next two years and to ban myself from any new purchases.
Whilst it is true that some marvellous pictures can be taken with the most mediocre gear I don't believe that means you can dismiss the gear as secondary to a good shot. However it does indicate the importance of getting to fully understand what you have. Knowing its limitations and where it excels. Some people are able to squeeze every last ounce of performance out of their gear and they get my utmost respect for being able to go the journey without being distracted by the next new model. I find it hard just reading the manuals. I'm keen to begin with and then what I'm reading stops sinking in and I put the manual down and forget much of what I've just read. It's the same with learning Photoshop etc - I'm very receptive during the introductions but once the lesson starts going deeper my eyes just mist over and I switch off.

I guess I should cherry pick more and I'd get to know what I want to know rather than trying to be clever and learn it all..


Real Name
iIt is probably more than obvious that I love my toys, and new things are always interesting, but I have to admit that I lost any emotional attachment to cameras, other than maybe my first Nikon F which sits in it's case on a shelf waiting to be used sometime, anyway I was saying cameras are just tools that allow you to find your creative vision.
Never let cameras get in the way of what you see and the very best camera is always the one you use. New toys sometimes helps to motivate but that only lasts a few weeks, at the end of the day one just needs to shoot. It does not matter if it is a cell phone, a P&S or the most sophisticated high-end digital capture machine. Push your self break some rules play and then stand back, tough love your edit, see what you like and what you can do better next time.
Shoot, shoot and shoot, take your camera with you even on those times when you did not plan on shooting. It is amazing what one sees, when we stop to look and if you have that camera with you well.


Administrator Emeritus
Philly, Pa
For some photographers there comes a time when one wishes to find the perfect image. Yes it does exist but it's not one that you or anyone else recognizes....YET.
For others, this revelation never takes fruit. There is no right path but only the path one chooses to follow.

If the interest takes off here and it seems to have taken root, I'll be glad to list a few exercises and some steps that I learned to find one's path to the perfect image.
Please decide if you, any of youse would like this stuff. I'm a real serious person when it comes to this way of working.
Post on the thread, PM or email....I'll respond quickly.
I will just say that Minor White is smiling down on youse already......


Real Name

Been lurking for a while -- I'm an old film guy getting into digital (past the P&S) and just want to say thanks in advance to Don for this generous offer. I would love to do the excercises.

Best --Jim


betwixt and between
Real Name
Many thanks for beginning this train of thought, Kevin AKA dixeyk. Another oft repeated truism from William Shakespeare in the voice of Polinius from Hamlet

"This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!"

Jim, what excellent timing you have! Welcome aboard! Do us all the great service of introducing yourself on our Welcomes and Introductions forum so we can all get to know you.:flowers_2:
Kevin, you do a great service to this forum's membership by starting this dialogue. All of us, to some extent, are wandering aimlessly in our pursuit of visual "enlightment". Thank you!

.. and Don .. your offer is very generous. Count me in as a participant in your exercises. I've been mucking about with photography for over 40 years now and maybe it's time to stop 'practicing' and get on with the real essence of personal photographic expression.


Hall of Famer
Dallas, TX
Real Name
Kevin, thanks for starting this thread. I suffer badly from GAS, and feel it take my energy from actually seeing and shooting.
Today I felt this very keenly. I was visiting my Husband at the VA Hospital and had only my phone with me. To cheer up I tried opening that Inner Eye, not caring about or even noticing my gear.
Very freeing.

Don, please do count me in as well...


Don, I am still working on the last bit of "homework" you gave me and it has been an eye opening experience (ouch that was a bad pun). Whatever you have to say I am all ears.


Administrator Emeritus
Philly, Pa
Ok, we have some interest.
Let me start by saying a few things.
I no longer have Mod permissions so it's going to be difficult for me to mod the threads.
This should be considered a long term project. If anyone is looking for Instant Gratification, this is not the place.

I will start a thread in the Philosophy region. This master thread will be the content for sessions. We will request that no one post on that thread unless they are working on the project.
Then, each member participating will start a thread of their own with the results, thoughts etc. If you work on an assignment and have results to share, please post on the master thread but use a hyperlink to direct to your thread. This will make traffic between us but that's part of the exercise right....communication.

This project will require a firm commitment to yourself. You will only get a real result if you work on each area and be honest with your self.
None of this is like rock climbing or painting the garage. All of this is just to get you focused on your own personal work which becomes your own personal journey.


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