Friday, August 7, 2015


Time for another one of my more or less standard rants.

It's a common refrain on Photography Blogs and so on, that the camera you choose must be transparent. It has to be capable of being used without thought. You have to find the camera that fits you, that you can learn to work with in this way.

The obvious problem is that this is false. There's tons of photographs that can and are made while swearing loudly at the camera.

The less obvious problem is this: the conventional wisdom is that most cameras are too poorly set up, and the problems are too complex; you have to find that right magical camera that will somehow, magically, just feel right, and then you'll be able to just use it without thinking. The conventional wisdom is just wrong.

Here's a fucking tip: If you're still struggling to get your camera to behave, you're not practicing with it enough. Damn near any task can become unconscious if you're willing to work at it. If you have a dozen cameras and keep dragging all of them out, don't be too surprised when they're all kind of mysterious and cantankerous. The problem ain't the cameras, though, it's you. Pick one. Any one.

People can and do learn to heel-and-toe a manual transmission automobile. Don't worry about what it is, or look it up.

In this move, you simultaneously manage all three pedals on the floor (with two feet), while steering with one hand and shifting with the other. Five controls, all inter-related, all simultaneously. You're integrating all the usual sensory inputs related to driving to keep the car on the road, between the lines, without hitting anyone. You're also listening to engine pitch, considering your speed, and the impending gear shift, and putting that together with the previous stuff. Simultaneously, and usually at a pretty brisk pace. If you fuck any of it up too too badly, you might die.

People learn to do this well enough that they literally don't think about any of it, and instead enjoy the pleasure of coming out of a curve under full power, VROOOOOM. Whee!

This is way more complicated than anything to do with cameras, and with practice it becomes completely automatic. And, amazingly, it does not require the purchase of dozens of cars in order to find the one that has the right spacing between brake and accelerator to make it all fall together. Learn how to do it, and you can pretty much just do it on most cars with a little practice.

You can probably manage to focus AND adjust aperture at the same time, even if one of the control wheels is a little too nubbly or whatever the hell your problem is. Just work at it a bit.


  1. I disagree with your analogy, because there are cars out there that cannot be properly heel-and-toe'd due to the poor placement of their pedals.

    In fact, I recently test-drove a car where the pedals were so poorly placed, that my foot came up _behind_ the brake pedal when I tried to heel-and-toe a downshift, which scared the bejeezus out of me at the time.

    Just as it's impossible to heel-and-toe a car where the designer positioned the pedals in such a way as to make it difficult, if not impossible, IMO, it can also be difficult, if not impossible, to adapt to a camera with a poorly laid out menu system, no matter how much time one is willing to allocate the process.

    1. Fair enough! And something I didn't know about cars. However, see also:

      I can be taught! Occasionally. Slowly. Very unreliably.