OF SOLID Bs AND A’s FOR E
By MICHAEL PERKINS
SINCE EVERY PHOTOGRAPHER, LIKE EVERY OTHER LIVING PERSON, tends to cast himself as the hero in his own story, we love to close out the calendar year with, at least, a lenient assessment of what, in our art, has passed for progress. Whether honestly or not, we are wedded to the idea that we should be x-times further down the evolutionary plane on Dec. 31 than we were at January 1st. We always entertain the idea that, at bottom, we have, at least, not lost ground.
Like most self-diagnoses, this method is fraught with the possibility of self-delusion. Especially at the remote remove of time, I freely admit that, in some years, my picture-making was flat, even retrograde, mired in unwise habits or moldy with old ideas. This year, I’m not really certain where to place the crayon mark on the growth chart. It’s easy to list the uber-moves, the obvious ways my work changed, less easy to nail down what, if anything, I managed to create. In most years, I’ll settle for a solid B, with an A for Effort if I’m feeling generous, or drunk, or both.
I started the year by turning seventy and making the shift from DSLRs to mirrorless, a decision I still regard as defensive rather than visionary, convinced, as I still am, that manufacturers have decided (prematurely in my estimation) to abandon one good format for another good format, creating an “either/or” market that could easily have accommodated both. And while I am admittedly happy in Mirrorlessland, the main reason I fled DSLRville is because I had finally worn out my shutter mechanism and found myself in a world in which both product support and forward development for such devices was going to be summarily yanked.
The jump into the new format also meant working at full-frame instead of cropped dimensions for the first time in a decade, which meant getting the full visual field out of my old collection of lenses, all of which had been shooting at a 1.5x reduction. Finally 24mm meant 24, not 36. This factor alone redefined my sense of composition.
I also spent 2022 rediscovering the delights of 50mm primes, since I had finally found one of the many great third-party pancake lenses being introduced for the Nikon Z format. The Normal Eye originally grew out of a solid year I had spent with an earlier “nifty fifty”, and I found that working for long stretches with the flexibility of this simple glass was like meeting an old friend on the street.
Finally, after experimenting with a recipe of pre-sets for in-camera monochrome that I truly enjoyed, I locked them into a handy dial button and spent more than a solid month shooting nothing else. For that reason, I believe that a black-and-white shot, like the one that’s posted here, is most representative of my work in ’22. I later acquired a similar recipe for the best faux-Kodachrome simulation I’d ever worked with, again, completely in-camera.
Did all these new toys and tools result in better pictures? Experience has taught me that it’ll actually take a lot longer than twelve months to determine that. However, every shift in procedure or technique has at least the potential to unlock something fresh within the photographer’s normal eye. Perhaps at some point, I’ll find out if that potential was realized.