Getting my priorities straight

Posted by Ines Opifantion Filed under Writings · Ramblings · Musings

Wow, more than two months have passed since my last blog post. I’m still a bit flabbergasted from my summer project and the media response. Now, that the dust has settled a bit, I took the chance to rethink and refocus. For the last few years, I had a strong focus for studio work, especially putting a lot effort (and time, money, health…) into the wet collodion process, a very old photographic process where images were captured on glass or tin (tintypes) while they were still wet.

While this process surely has a distinct look and feel, and is also very fullfilling by relying on your own hands’ work, I also started to feel that it was limiting me in an artistic view. The cumbersome way to operate a camera that weights almost the same as I do, the long exposure times and hazardous chemicals… it started to feel like a burden, not an opportunity. Ever so often I looked at the finished plates in disappointment, when thinking how much the image could have been improved with a few easy digital fixes, or by using another medium like film. I feel like I’m not the person anymore who can look at a plate and accept it as a finished product, no changes possible, even if there is room for improvement. I often thought – and still often think when seeing other people’s plates – “this image could have been so much better if it was made with another medium”. And this leaves me unsatisfied with my work. That is why I decided to let it go, for now. I have sold most of my wet plate gear, and all the chemicals. I only kept my huge 16×20″ studio camera, which is stored in a safe place.

The second big step I’ve done in the last few weeks was totally changing my gear. For the last (almost) 6 years, I shot with my very reliable Canon 5D Mark II. Because I worked mainly in a safe studio environment, it fullfilled all my needs without any problems. But as the on location work started to pour in, and with all the dog assignments, I really struggled with autofocus, dynamic range and resolution. I had bought most of my gear between 2009 and 2011 and just used it until now, most of it was still in a very good condition (I’m nice with my gear, lol :) ), but some was worn down over time and needed a replacement anyway. So I took a deep breath, sold off everything I had (lenses, Elinchromes, mobile flash, everything) and bought a Nikon D810 with only 2 lenses, 2 speedlights and one Einstein monohead. Over time, I’m planning to get another lens and two more Einsteins, but that’s it, that’s going to be my full gear in 2016. Because I believe that that will be all I need, and in case I ever require any other gear of a job, I’m still free to rent it any time. But more on that later.

And now, the third big change is, tadaaaa… I gave up my studio. Yep. All my friends say that I’m insane, because I have been mostly a studio shooter so far, and I think exactly this is a problem. If I can resort to a save studio space, I WILL. If I can choose between the save environment of my studio, with all my nice strobes and all, or an unknown location with unsteady factors like weather, environmental light, space issues, people that walk through my set and stare… guess what I would choose? Yep, the studio of course. So I need to let go and force myself to face the unpredictable. Yep, I’m totally sure that I’ll might lose clients. Yep, I’m totally sure I will curse about my decision some time in the future. Yep, I do remember that I drive a smart car that limits the amount of gear I can bring to a job – but on the other hand, isn’t that going to be the fun thing? Isn’t that what I wanted? I think it is! There is a little quote that I carry in my heart for many, many years, and I remember it before making any important decision:

“He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither.”

And so far, I went well with it.