Shrinking Camera Market: What Fujifilm Should Do In 2021 & Beyond

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Fujifilm X100V captured by a Fujifilm X-T1

It’s no secret that camera sales have been declining for several years. The global pandemic has unsurprisingly significantly impacted the camera industry. Some companies have had bigger declines than others, and I think over the coming couple of years we’ll see some camera makers restructure, put themselves up for sale, or go out of business altogether. What should Fujifilm do to minimize declines and maximize profits in these tough times?

I’m not an industry insider or business expert. There aren’t any good reasons why Fujifilm should listen to me on this topic (other than I’m one of their customers). Besides, they have a pretty darn good track record for dealing with change within the industry and economy. Fujifilm doesn’t need my help. This article is more for my own enjoyment and perhaps yours. It’s fun to consider and discuss this topic. I don’t expect anything else to come from this.

Camera sales have been declining since the collapse of the compact camera market. Cellphone camera technology has come a long ways, which has rendered point-and-shoot cameras obsolete. The casual amateur snap-shooter uses their phone now to capture pictures, and has no need or interest in another camera. Before cellphone cameras had decent image quality, camera manufacturers were selling cheap automatic cameras to these folks. Lots and lots of them. But now that market is all dried up.

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Captured with a Fujifilm X-T1. This camera is four models old but is still quite capable.

The more serious shooters are still buying cameras, but cameras have reached a point of diminishing returns. Digital technology changes quickly, but if a camera is already really good, these improvements have less of a practical application. For instance, if a photographer finds that his or her camera’s autofocus is already more than good enough for their photography, a quicker autofocus system won’t likely tempt that photographer to upgrade. If a photographer finds that his or her camera already has enough resolution for the size they print, more resolution won’t likely tempt that photographer to upgrade. In other words, photographers by-and-large are keeping and using their gear for longer than they did 10 years ago, or even five. Digital is still disposable, but it is becoming less so, or at least photographers are beginning to realize that they don’t need to “upgrade” as frequently as they used to.

The camera industry isn’t Fujifilm’s main business. After the film collapse, Fujifilm diversified, and now they’re a pharmaceutical and cosmetics company that also happens to sell cameras. Their camera arm, which is just a small part of their business model, is doing better than many other camera makers right now. Still, the current market is impacting Fujifilm, and will continue to do so, which means Fujifilm might need to consider some changes.

Fujifilm has several camera models that are essentially the same, but look different and have only small feature differences. Fujifilm should consider ways to either further differentiate their similar models or combine them into one. The X-T200 and the X-A7 have nearly identical features, and having both models seems redundant. The X-Pro3 was made more unique to further separate it from the X-T3, and that worked out well, I believe. I look at the X-E line, which I love. My first Fujifilm camera was an X-E1. The X-E3 is so similar to the X-T20, aside from camera body design, so what differentiates the two besides shape? Fujifilm should consider discontinuing the X-E line, or do something to the eventual X-T40 or X-E4 to better differentiate the models. For example, if Fujifilm added IBIS to the X-T40 or made the X-E4 a black-and-white only camera (the “X-E Acros” is what I’d call it), that would separate them, and Fujifilm would have unique models. I think, alternatively, the X-T40 could basically be transitioned into a higher-end model, and serve as the (eventual) X-T5 without IBIS. The X-H line, now that the X-T4 has IBIS, is also redundant, so the X-H2 would need something to make it stand out, such as 8K video. Since the X-T4 has been so well received, I’m not sure how much of a market there is for an X-H2, but Fujifilm insists that this camera is in the works. It will be interesting to see it when it comes out, perhaps next year, and how well it does.

Fujifilm has situated itself as the leader in digital medium-format. It seems like overnight they went from not-even-in-that-market to top-dog, thanks to the success of the GFX line. Still, it’s more of a niche market than anything mainstream. I think what’s missing is a “budget” rangefinder-style 100-megapixel camera without IBIS. Essentially a GFX-50R, but with the 100MP sensor of the GFX100 inside. Maybe Fujifilm should consider adding IBIS to whatever camera replaces the GFX-50S. I have no idea how profitable this line has been for Fujifilm, and if it will stand the test of time, but I think it was smart of Fujifilm to jump into a market that they could easily dominate.

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This is a camera-made JPEG from a Fujifilm X100V, but looks more like film.

Something else that I think Fujifilm should consider is replacing cameras less frequently. When they release a camera and then replace it with a new model one year later, that’s too soon. Two years is too soon. Three years should be a minimum between updated cameras, and four to five years is even better. I know this might sound counter to what consumers want, but X-Trans III cameras, such as the X100F, X-T2, X-T20 and X-E3, are still very excellent! The X-E3 hasn’t been replaced yet, and the X100F was only recently replaced after three years, but the X-T2 is three models old now, and there’s already “talk” of an upcoming X-T40, while the X-T30 isn’t even a year-and-a-half old yet. It’s better to get the most out of a model, then replace it with something that’s a significant improvement over the previous edition. There’s a latin phrase festina lente, which means “make haste slowly.” Fujifilm needs to keep pushing the envelope and strive to produce more technologically advanced cameras, but not be too eager to release new models that only have small improvements over previous versions. If Fujifilm were to update the firmware on the X-T3 and X-T30 to breathe new excitement into these models, these cameras could still be sold for another two years easily.

There’s one more important point that I’d like to make, and this relates to Fuji X Weekly. I think Fujifilm needs to focus even more on JPEGs. I’ve discovered that there’s a huge community of photographers who love the camera-made JPEGs produced by Fujifilm cameras, whether straight-out-of-camera or with X RAW Studio. The film simulations—a brilliant idea by Fujifilm—were just the tip of the iceberg, and now film simulation recipes are all the rage. There’s something big here, bigger than I think Fujifilm realizes. Yes, Fujifilm has demonstrated their commitment to the JPEG with the X100V, X-Pro3 and X-T4, but they need to continue their commitment on future models. This is a fairly unique angle that Fujifilm has. While other camera makers do, in fact, have some nice JPEGs, Fujifilm is perhaps the only brand with a cult following based on it. They should absolutely capitalize on that, more so than they have been.

I doubt that Fujifilm will read this article, and I’m even more doubtful that they’ll make any internal changes based on it. I think it’s sound advice, but what do I know? Whether or not Fujifilm does any of the things I suggest, I think they’ll be just fine and will weather this “storm” without too much trouble. The guys running the company seem pretty smart to me, and are doing just fine without my advice. It will be fascinating to see exactly what happens within the camera industry in 2021 and beyond, and what Fujifilm does to find success during these tough times.

Defending Tatsuo Suzuki

This will be a controversial post. I’m a bit hesitant to publish it, because it will cause a stir, and I’m not looking for trouble. The Fuji X Weekly audience has been extraordinarily civil, which is something I’m extremely grateful for, as the internet can oftentimes be the exact opposite of civil. The internet has a way of bringing out the worst in people, perhaps because they can hide behind anonymity, or maybe there is a disconnect that makes interactions seem a bit less human; whatever the reason, people sometimes are rude or downright mean on the web. I’m asking right up front for civility and human kindness in regards to this article.

The video at the top, entitled My Milestone, was produced by Fujifilm to promote the X100V. It was promptly removed by Fujifilm because of public outcry. The featured photographer, Tatsuo Suzuki, is controversial, not for his images, but for how he captures those images. This video created quite a stir on the internet, and the worst in people showed up strongly in the comments of various articles regarding the video.

Here’s another video that shows Suzuki’s photographs and technique:

It seems as though the majority of people are against Suzuki’s style and agree that the video is controversial, and they believe that Fujifilm should never have associated themselves with him. Fujirumors and PetaPixel even conducted polls that confirm it. Now Suzuki is no longer a Fuji X Ambassador, either because Fujifilm dropped him or he dropped them. I’m going to go against popular opinion and defend Tatsuo Suzuki. The reaction to the Fujifilm video has been a huge overreaction.

As best as I can gather, what Suzuki did in the video that sparked all the outrage is demonstrate his “aggressive” style of shooting. He’s very much “in your face” as he walks the streets of Tokyo with his camera. It comes across as rude, as he invades people’s personal bubbles. My opinion is that he does this because, in Japan, people are extremely guarded, and the photographs that he captures, which are very good, would be impossible with any other technique. It’s the technique that he chooses to use in order to fulfill his photographic vision. It’s abrasive, yes, but also effective.

Suzuki is not the first to use this aggressive technique nor is he the most extreme with it. Bruce Gilden, Garry Winogrand and Eric Kim come to mind, and I’m sure there are many others. These are all successful and celebrated, albeit controversial, photographers, including Suzuki. They are far from the only controversial photographers out there. Even the legendary Steve McCurry has been called controversial at times. My point is this: just because you disagree with something doesn’t make it wrong.

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Man In Red – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T1

Was Suzuki doing anything illegal? No. In Japan, and many parts of the world, this type of photography is legal. Was he acting different than you or most people might act in public? Yes. Just because you don’t go around taking unsolicited closeup pictures of strangers doesn’t mean that it’s wrong to do so. Is it strange? Yes. Wrong? Not necessarily.

There’s a trend right now to shut down debate when faced with a differing opinion. If there’s something that you disagree with, it’s become common to attack the person whom one disagrees with. It used to be that people could “agree to disagree” and still be kind and caring and remain friends. Nowadays, if someone says or does something that you disagree with, you might attack their character and call them all sorts of names, demanding that they be stripped of their dignity until they change their ways. That’s exactly what I’ve seen in this debate. It’s really nasty and harmful. Those who go to war with their words against someone who did or said something that they disagree with, those people are the ones that stop dialogue, who encourage hate, and stifle civility. It’s good to say, “I don’t appreciate the way he conducts himself.” It’s not alright to call him all sorts of mean names and tear apart his character bit by bit.

I don’t know Tatsuo Suzuki personally. For all I know he’s the nicest guy in the world. Perhaps he helps little old ladies cross the street and rescues cats from trees and does all sorts of good deeds. Maybe he’s the “jerk” that people have been calling him, but maybe that couldn’t be further from the truth. You don’t know. I don’t know. Why assume the worst in him when you don’t know him? We’d all be better off if we assumed the best in others.

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Ghosts of the Past – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm XF10

When I do street photography, I like to be the guy that nobody notices who stealthily gets the shot without being seen. One of the big reasons why I do this is fear, but I tell myself that it’s also out of respect for those I might be photographing. Is that really the best approach? I noticed that a lot of people called Suzuki a “creep” because of how he conducts himself when he photographs. But what is creepier: the guy in the shadows hiding and lurking or the guy who makes it completely obvious to everyone around him exactly what he’s doing? While it’s much more shocking to see Suzuki at work, I wonder how shocked people would be to find out someone has been secretly photographing them without them noticing? While ignorance is bliss, I do think being open and honest is better than being secretive and sneaky. Most people don’t have the guts to be open and honest in candid street photography, so they hide.

You might be saying to all of this, “So what?” There’s something that happened to me a number of years ago. Somebody that I don’t know wrote a college paper on the evils of Photoshop. They argued that manipulating photographs of woman was causing a self-esteem crisis among young girls. I had written an article (for a different photography blog) defending Steve McCurry’s use of Photoshop. Remember when that was a big deal? Anyway, whoever this person was that wrote the paper quoted (really, misquoted) me in it, taking my words out of context, and made it seem as though I wanted young girls to have self-esteem problems. It was completely absurd! The university published this paper on their website. Someone that didn’t know me assumed the worst in me based on a quote that they didn’t understand, and unfairly attacked my character. That was completely wrong of them to do it! The lesson here is that we have to be very cautious not to do the same to others that this person did to me. Thankfully, I don’t think anybody cared what the paper said and nothing negative came out of it. In the case of Suzuki, someone did care what was said and something negative did come out of it.

Fujifilm knew who Tatsuo Suzuki was when they invited him to be an ambassador. They knew who he was when they made the promotional video for their product. They should have stood by him and defended him. If they lost a few customers over it, that’s alright because they knew who he was and despite that (because of that?) decided to partner with him. It seems pretty crummy to toss him aside just because some people complained. It also seems crummy that people don’t care to understand Suzuki’s point of view, and prefer the easy route of character assassination instead. I think that the best advice moving forward is to take a deep breath and examine ourselves first before biting someone’s head off. We have two ears and one mouth, so we should be quick to listen and slow to speak. Or, in this case, slow to type.

5 Tips To Become A Better Photographer in 2020

Fujifilm X-E1

It’s almost the new year! 2020 is at the doorstep. This year is nearly over. You might be wondering how to improve your photography in 2020. Perhaps you feel that your pictures aren’t “good enough” and you wish you could make pictures like what you see others creating. Maybe you are in a rut and don’t know how to move forward. Or it could be that you always keep your camera in auto because you are intimidated by all of the different settings and you don’t really understand all of the technical stuff. Perhaps you just received your first “real” camera for Christmas and don’t know where to start. Whatever the reason, you want to become a better photographer in 2020. Well, this article is for you!

If you are not moving forward, you are moving backwards. No matter what your skill level is, you should always be striving to improve. You should be pushing yourself to be more technically proficient or to learn a new technique or to be more creative or to have a stronger vision. Throughout your life, and not just in 2020, you should be trying to become a better photographer. Keep working towards improvement. Don’t stand still, because you can’t.

Really, I’m in the same boat as you. I’m trying to become a better photographer in 2020. I’m pushing myself to improve my camera skills. My advice is aimed at myself just as much as you. We’re all in this together. I hope that you find the five tips below helpful in your quest to become a better photographer in 2020!

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UP 4014 & UP 844 Racing West – Richardson Draw, WY – Fujifilm X-T20

Tip #1 – Know Your Gear, Part 1: Read The Manual

This might sound silly and obvious, but it’s important to know your camera and other photography gear inside and out. You need to know what all of the different settings do. You need to know how to make adjustments. You need to know how it all works. Most people thumb through the manual when they first get a new camera or other gear, and never look at it again. It’s a very good idea to take a careful look at it during unboxing, but it’s also a good idea to revisit the manual every so often. Pull the booklet back out after owning the camera for three months, and again at the one-year mark. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll find! If you are like me, you’ll learn new things each time that you do this. Knowing your gear is the necessary foundation for improving your photography.

Tip #2 – Know Your Gear, Part 2: Understand How It Works

Knowing how to change the aperture is one thing, but knowing how it will affect the picture is another. Those who have been doing photography for awhile likely have a good grasp on what all of the different settings do to a picture, but those who are inexperienced might have no idea. Even if you have a good grasp, it’s always beneficial to investigate more deeply, understand more precisely, and try new techniques. There are tons of people who don’t understand even the basics, and things like the exposure triangle are completely foreign to them. If you rely on the camera to guess what the right settings should be, you are basically crossing your fingers and wishing on a star that your picture will turn out well. If you intimately understand how your camera works and how different settings affect the image, you can ensure that your pictures turn out just as you want them to.

There are tons of great resources for learning different aspects of camera settings. Nowadays, with the internet, everything is right at your fingertips. Oftentimes the best way to learn is by doing, which means that you take your camera out of auto and play around with it. Spend some time experimenting with different apertures, different shutter speeds, different ISOs, etc.,etc., and compare the results. This is a learning process, so don’t worry that your pictures aren’t good yet. It takes a lot of time, but the time investment is well worth it. Whatever you are trying to learn, read up on it, then go out and do it, not being afraid to fail, but trying again and again until it’s second nature.

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Onaqui Wild Horses – Dugway, UT – Fujifilm X-T30

Tip #3 – Invest In Experiences

Camera companies want you to think that you need the latest and greatest gear to become a better photographer. If only you had more resolution, better auto-focus, a larger sensor, a faster lens, etc., your pictures would look amazing, and they don’t because you didn’t buy it. My advice is to use what you already have to the best of your ability, and spend the money on experiences instead of new gear. Travel! Go someplace amazing. It doesn’t have to be far. Even if you were only going to spend $500, that money could get you somewhere. Take your camera with you and use it. Take lots of pictures! It’s better to keep the gear that you own and really use it, than to buy new gear and not use it as much. Eventually it will make sense to “upgrade” to something new, and you’ll know when that time is, but for now spend your money on experiences and not gear.

Tip #4 – Find The Light

Photography requires light, so it should come as no surprise that great photography requires great light. “Great light” is a little difficult to define, and it varies greatly depending on the subject, but oftentimes you know it when you see it. You can find great light anytime of the day or night if you look hard enough, and most of the time you have to seek it to find it. You can sometimes even create your own great light if it does not naturally exist. The most obvious great light is found near sunrise and sunset, and that’s a great starting point for those searching for it. With practice and experience, you’ll more easily spot great light, recognizing how to best utilize it for stronger pictures. The key is to always actively look for great light, but it takes a lot of clicks of the shutter to be proficient at finding it.

Tip #5 – Be The Man Who Came Back

There was an article in the September 1955 issue of Arizona Highways magazine by photographer Chuck Abbott entitled You Have To Go Back To Get The Good Ones. In the article he addresses the very question of this blog post: how does one become a better photographer? His answer: be the man who came back. Return again and again to the same subject. Try the picture at a different time of day, in a different season, under different light, from a different angle, etc. Keep coming back to it over and over, and don’t stop, even if you are satisfied with the results. Press yourself to make a more interesting picture of something that you’ve photographed before. Be a better storyteller than the last time. Make a stronger composition than your previous attempts. This is the best piece of advice that I can give you: if you want to become a better photographer in 2020, be the person who came back.

Photography Investments

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Cameras are terrible financial investments. In a way they’re like cars: as soon as you own it, the value drops, because it’s now used and not brand-new. And the more it’s used and the older it gets, the more the value drops. That’s not 100% true all of the time–there are exceptions–but it’s pretty true. You don’t buy cars as a financial investment, unless it’s a rare antique car, and you don’t buy camera gear as a financial investment, unless there’s something that makes it collectible. Most of your photography gear, if not all of it, is worth a little less now than when you purchased it.

About a year-and-a-half ago I did something really crazy: I distressed a Fujifilm X-E1 to look old and worn. It was a gutsy thing to do, and I had mixed thoughts as I did it. I mean, who takes sandpaper to their cameras? Once finished, I sold the distressed camera for more than I had paid for it. I turned the camera from an appliance into art, and that increased the value of it, at least a little. That’s an unusual situation. Most of the time, the photography gear that I buy decreases in value, not increases.

Cameras are a lousy investment, but you can make money with them if you want. You can do family portraits or weddings or sell prints. People make money with cameras all of the time. Not necessarily lots of money. In the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the medium salary of a photographer is about $35,000 annually, which is an average wage. You can use your gear as a tool to make money, even if down the road you sell your camera for far less than you paid for it.

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The photography business world is extraordinarily crowded. Everyone’s a photographer nowadays. Not only are there a ton more photographers than there used to be, but the number of great photographs being created has skyrocketed. What used to be considered “good” is now “average” and what used to be “great” is now “good”–yet “amazing” photographs are still amazing. It’s easy to get lost in the crowd, and there’s very little being created that’s unique. Starting a photography business has never been easier, but creating a successful photography business is still just as tough as it has always been, if not more difficult because there are fewer photography consumers (from a business standpoint) than there used to be, yet with stiffer competition.

There is a way in which photography gear is a worthwhile investment, and that’s experiences. Because I own a camera, I want to photograph with it, and because of that I go places, see things, meet people, and otherwise live differently than if I didn’t have a camera. The camera opens up a life of experiences that would be completely foreign to me if I wasn’t a photographer. You cannot put a dollar figure on these experiences because they’re priceless. Their value transcends money. I wouldn’t trade these experiences for any amount of money.

Besides, I love creating photographs. There’s something deep inside of me that yearns to be creative, and photography is my preferred artistic outlet. I feel that photography is just as necessary for me as eating, sleeping and breathing. An investment in photography gear is an investment in experiences if I allow it to be. Even though the camera I spent $1,000 on might only be worth $500 next year, it was still money well spent, just as long as I create photographs with it. If gaining wealth isn’t the goal, investing in photography is a great decision because my life is richer for it. In my opinion, it’s better to live a rich life than to live a life devoted to being rich. My photography gear allows me to live a richer life, not because of the gear itself, but because of what I do with it.

‘Tis The Season For Stealing

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Ethos – Riverdale, UT – Fujifilm X100F – Double Exposure

It’s come to my attention that I’m the victim of theft. People have been stealing my words and pictures from the Fuji X Weekly blog. They have taken them without permission and illegally used them on their own websites. Sometimes they’ve even claimed them as their own. It’s extraordinarily disheartening. This blog is intended to be helpful to Fujifilm photographers, and not a place to find license-free content. I, and I alone, own the copyright.

This isn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last, that someone has illegally taken my intellectual property. Five or six years ago I was reading a newspaper (something that I rarely do) and I spotted one of my pictures in an advertisement. Someone found my picture on the internet, copied it, and used it in a printed ad to sell their product. Crazy, huh? I’ve seen someone trying to illegally sell one of my pictures on a print-on-demand site. Someone else used some of my pictures without permission in an article that was factually untrue. In a theft that I just recently became aware of, an entire article of mine was copy-and-pasted onto someone else’s website, word-for-word, picture-for-picture, without permission. They didn’t even credit it to me (not that it would have made it any less illegal, but perhaps slightly less unethical). Sometimes creative people are easy targets because we put ourselves “out there” for the public to see.

The internet has made theft incredibly easy. It only takes a couple of clicks to steal someone’s pictures or words. As many times as my pictures have been illegally taken and used, my words have been plagiarized even more often. There are ways to use someone else’s words legally and ethically, but there are people out there on the internet who either don’t know or don’t care. Perhaps ignorance is better than irreverence, but they’re both bad. I just want people to stop stealing my stuff. I don’t want to be victimized by lowlifes on the internet who are trying to benefit from my work. Go write your own words! Go capture your own pictures! Oh, you’re not very good at those things? Well, did you ever think to contact me and go about this the right way? Or do you only care about yourself?

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I do this website mostly as a service to you. Nobody pays me to write the articles you find on Fuji X Weekly, a blog that has been beneficial to many Fujifilm photographers. I do get compensated a small amount for the ads and the affiliate links, but it doesn’t pay much; mostly it covers the cost of running the website. In the words of Napoleon Dynamite, “That’s like a dollar an hour!” If only it were that much. But I enjoy “giving back” because so many have helped me along the way, and it’s good for the soul to be helpful to others. I also love to write, and this blog is good practice for me. I hope that you like seeing my pictures, too. There are many reasons why I do this Fujifilm blog, but being victimized is surely not one of them.

If you are reading this and you illegally copied my pictures and words and are using them without permission and in a way that violates “fair use” laws, please take it down. Please remove from your website what you stole from me. If you go to the About page, there’s a way to contact me. Please use that to reach out to me if you’d like to use my pictures or words the right way, the legal way: with permission. I’m sure we can work something out. But please stop stealing. I don’t like it. Nobody does. It’s wrong. This is a community, and we’re all neighbors, so let’s be kind and not disrespectful. Thank you.

Some of you have shared my content in limited ways, citing the source, and following the rules of fair use. Rest assured that this article isn’t aimed at you. I appreciate what you do and your support. My disdain is aimed towards those who don’t follow the rules, operating outside of ethical and legal; those who would rather steal, profiting off of the hard work of others. My words belong to me, and my photographs are mine. Don’t take what’s not yours, it really is that simple.

New: Fuji X Weekly Development Page

Fujifilm Blog

I created a new Fuji X Weekly page called Development. You can find it by clicking on the top-left “hamburger” menu and then selecting Development. This new page has absolutely nothing to do with developing pictures, but instead has posts relating to personal development as a photographer. This is where you’ll find things like how-to articles and photography advice. So far it’s not a huge list of articles, but I hope to expand it greatly in the coming months. It’s small now, but it will be much larger soon enough. I’m hoping that it will be a wonderful resource for some of you. I encourage you to check it out, and to revisit it regularly to see what’s new.

Times Have Changed

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Airport Lobby – McKinney, TX – I captured this picture about 20 years ago.

I was thinking about how things have changed significantly in photography over the last 20 years. I have been doing this picture-taking thing for 20 years, beginning when I enrolled in Photography 101 in college. I remember that it started because, in the summer of 1998, I took a trip to New England, and brought along my dad’s Sears 35mm SLR and a bunch of film. I didn’t really know how to use the camera, but how hard could it be? When I returned and had the film developed, the pictures were extraordinarily awful! There were only a few frames that were correctly exposed, and the ones that were exposed alright had other issues, such as improper focus or were poorly composed. My desire to learn photography came out of the frustration of not understanding how to capture a descent picture. That fall I enrolled in college and signed up for a photography class, and soon fell in love with the art of creating pictures.

While it’s easy to say that the biggest change in photography over the last 20 years is technology, I don’t know if that’s completely true. Gear has changed a whole lot. When I started, it was all about film and darkrooms. Now it’s about sensors and software. However, there’s some carryover between the two methods. Technology has made things easier for the most part. I think it’s possible nowadays to throw a camera into auto and get good results, and one-click software has made editing much simpler. The prerequisite knowledge of how stuff works and why is no longer required, although it can still be very useful. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the learning curve for digital isn’t necessarily less–it’s definitely different–but there are technologies that will allow you to appear to know what you’re doing even when you don’t. Because the camera and software will take care of many things for you, you don’t have to know what you’re doing to capture a decent picture. Today’s cellphone cameras are more capable than many DSLRs were 15 years ago, and are one-click wonders. Advancements in photography technology has opened up photographic possibilities that weren’t conceivable before. It’s incredible what the modern camera can do! Another aspect of all this gear change is that cameras have become throw-away. People often “upgrade” their gear every year or two, and many don’t keep a camera more than five years. A ten year old camera is ancient. It used to be, in the old film days, that people kept their gear much, much longer, and typically only replaced their camera if it broke.

Another big change is the number of photos being created. Over a trillion pictures are captured worldwide each year now. When I started out the number was around 85 billion, so that’s a pretty big increase–about 12 times, in fact! Not only are there a ton more pictures being captured, but the ability to share those pictures with an audience worldwide is much, much easier (that’s a gross understatement). Everyday, each of us are bombarded with pictures. It’s become overwhelming! It’s to the point that it is difficult to get noticed among all the noise. You have to be extraordinarily great, do something especially unusual, have great marketing skills, or have amazingly good luck to get noticed. Or cheat. A lot of people buy their way to success nowadays, using questionable or downright unethical methods. Despite the fact that it’s more difficult to get noticed or create an iconic image, the number of great pictures being captured now is significantly higher than it used to be. Since there’s a heck-of-a-lot of quality pictures available, it’s a great time to be a photography consumer.

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Clearing Rainstorm – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 – I captured this yesterday.

While way more photographs are being captured now than ever before, the number of pictures being printed is way down. Most photographs are only seen digitally via a computer monitor or cellphone or tablet. The physical print is significantly less common than 20 years ago. While the number of digital pictures is high, the number of physical pictures is low. However, with print-on-demand services, it’s very easy to obtain a print of almost any subject, if you should ever need a photographic print of something.

I bring this up because, in my opinion, the biggest change in photography over the last twenty years is the photographic market. It’s much harder to make good money as a photographer now than it used to be. Everybody with a camera–and everyone has a camera–is a photographer. It’s incredibly easy to start a photography business nowadays. Buy a camera, which will take decent pictures in full-auto mode, take a few snaps of family and friends, create a (free) website to look professional, then post a portrait or wedding photography business ad on Facebook Marketplace. I have seen a lot of people do this. And they make money, but not a lot. The photographers who are actually talented, which is a minority group, can do well for themselves, but many earn much less than they should for their efforts. The stock photo business is pretty much dead, replaced by micro-stock, which sells images for cheap and gives photographers peanuts at best for their work. They get away with this because a huge number of “photographers” willingly participate, trying to earn something from their pictures. The photojournalist has been replaced by onlookers with cellphones. The travel photographer has been replaced by the “influencer” who probably cheated his or her way to success. A lot of photography jobs that were good jobs have been replaced by things that don’t pay much, if anything at all.

I’m not saying this because I’m bitter. I’m just pointing out how the photographic industry in many genres has changed a whole bunch, which has made it more difficult for the photographer to make a decent living. There are still plenty of people who are making good money at photography. There are new opportunities that didn’t exist before. If you really want to become a successful photographer, I believe that if you keep trying really hard and are determined to do so, you’ll likely see your dream fulfilled. It won’t be easy and won’t likely happen overnight, but it can certainly happen. If you are doing photography for the love of the art and have no interest in the financial side of picture making, you’re doing it at an extraordinarily great time.

It’s an interesting era in photography. Gear has changed, becoming more impressive with each year. People across the globe are capturing pictures at an unprecedented rate. If you like viewing photographs or creating photographs, there’s never been a better time. If you want to earn money from making pictures, competition is extremely fierce, and you might find it as tough as it’s ever been to be successful. There are opportunities, so it’s far from impossible, but making good money from photography is not an easy task. It never was easy, but it’s more true today. You have to discover your niche and market the heck out of it. Those who don’t need to earn money from photography, but can create simply because they love to, are the lucky ones. They have it good. In fact, they’ve never had it better.

Art & Photography

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Pas Une Abeille – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-Pro2

Photography is a form of art, or at least it can be. Discussing art is kind of a dangerous proposition because it’s subjective, and you are bound to step on someone’s toes. I think it’s important to talk about art, and, even if someone might be offended, it is beneficial to have some understanding of what it is and how it relates to photography. I’ll make an attempt at defining art and demonstrating how it relates to you.

Most photographs are not art, which means most people who snap pictures with a camera are not artists. Most people who have a paintbrush in their hands are not artists. Most people who sing aren’t recording artists. Not all people who whittle are wood-carvers. Not all people who draw letters are calligraphers. You get the idea. Just because something is similar to art, does not make it art. There is something that separates actual art from facsimile “art” that’s not really art at all.

Before jumping too deep into this, I want to clarify that it is perfectly fine that most photographs are not art. There are many different purposes for the photograph, and art is just one of them. There is nothing wrong with pictures that aren’t art, as they have their place, just as photographs as art also have their place. Just because one uses a camera doesn’t mean that person must be or should be an artist. You may have little to no interest in art at all, but you love to photograph, and there is nothing wrong with that whatsoever.

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Curtain Abstract – Mesquite, NV – Fujifilm X100F

Webster defines art as “the conscious use of skill and creative imagination.” Oxford defines it as “the expression of human creative skill and imagination.” Both of these explanations are similar and describe the two critical components for determining if something is art or not: skill and imagination. If something is created skillfully but not imaginatively, it’s not art. If something is created imaginatively but not skillfully, it’s not art. It must be both skillfully and imaginatively completed in order to be considered art.

People have different levels of skill and creativity. You might be very skillful but only marginally creative. You can be highly creative but only marginally skillful. Either way, you can still create art, and you can work to improve your shortcomings. You can become more proficient and increase your creativity with practice. Obviously you want to be very skillful and highly creative if you wish to be an artist photographer. That’s a life-long process, and there are no easy one-size-fits-all instant answers. Just continue to work hard and be persistent.

Aside from knowing how to use your camera gear to achieve your desired results, and having imagination enough to know what you want the results to be in the first place, I think that there are a few more aspects to art that should be talked about. Look again at what Webster said of art, paying particular attention to the phrase, “conscious use of…” in the definition. You have to know what it is that you are creating. You have to be able to define it. You should be able to explain it to some extent. If you can’t, it’s not likely art that you’re creating.

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Ethos – Riverdale, UT – Fujifilm X100F

I used to show my photographs to people and they’d say, “Oh, that looks nice!” Or, “What a pretty picture!” Then one day someone asked, “What does this picture mean? What is its purpose?” I had no answer because I had never thought of that before. I really didn’t know what to say, and it was kind of embarrassing. I realized that I needed to have an answer for all of my photographs–I needed to know the purpose and meaning of each–but the answer needed to be made prior to exposure, not after. If I’m trying to make it up after the fact it will typically translate as artificial and weak. If a photograph is art, the photographer should be able to give a clear and concise explanation of the image. It doesn’t necessarily have to be profound. It doesn’t necessarily have to be obvious to the viewer. But the photographer should know clearly in their mind why they created the image and what the meaning of it is. And it’s okay if the viewer doesn’t see it the same way that you see it, it only matters that you know why you created it.

I believe that if something is art it should convey something to the viewer. It might be a strong and obvious message, it might be a subtle concept, it might be an emotion–there should be some kind of nonverbal communication, whether clear or vague. The photographer must decide what it is that the picture will convey, and then make decisions prior to exposure that will most strongly speak it. The Oxford explanation of art uses the word “expression” which can be defined as making one’s thoughts and feelings known. When you are an artist photographer, that’s exactly what you are doing. You are expressing your thoughts and/or feelings to others through your pictures. You are giving the viewer a glimpse of yourself through your photographs. Art is self expression. How you do this is entirely up to you. What glimpses you give of yourself is entirely up to you. You have to make those decisions, then skillfully and imaginatively create something from it.

Not everyone will appreciate your art. Not everyone will get it. In fact, if you are truly expressing yourself, you should expect criticism. People have opinions that are different than yours. People have experiences that are different than yours. People see the world through different eyes than yours. Strangers will look at something that you think is great and they’ll think it’s terrible. That’s completely okay, and you may not realize it, but you do the exact same thing. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

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Snake River Fog – Grand Teton NP, WY – Fujifilm X-E1

If you are an artist photographer, you have to expect that criticism will come. Take it for what it’s worth, and, most likely, it’s not worth much. Listen to people who you trust, and take their criticism to heart. They mean well with what they say, and they’re just trying to help you. For everyone else, give the criticism a listen, but don’t put much stock into it, and don’t let it bother you. If you’re not getting any criticism at all, it’s most likely because you are not creating art, and you are not expressing yourself through your photographs enough.

Not everyone is an artist photographer, and not every artist photographer is always creating art. Photography as art happens when someone consciously expresses themselves in a masterful and creative fashion. It happens when the photographer communicates thoughts or emotions through pictures. I’m constantly striving to be an artist photographer. Sometimes I think I’ve succeeded, other times I feel like I’ve fallen short. But I keep at it, never giving up, always striving ahead.

The takeaway that I’d like to most impart is that you and I should continuously be working towards becoming more skilled with our gear and we should daily be practicing creativity. Constantly take baby steps to become a better and more artistic photographer. Even if things are slow developing or mistakes happen, don’t give up but instead keep moving forward. Be persistent. Tomorrow’s photographs can be better than today’s.

Focus On What Matters

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I’ve been thinking about focus a lot lately. Not focus of the lens, but focus of the mind and life. How can I photographically improve? How can I use my time better? What should I be doing different? There are a lot of different aspects of this that I could talk about, and I’ll try to get to several of them in this article.

What comes to my mind first regarding focus and photography is composition. Something catches your eyes and you want to capture it with your camera. You have to consider what it is exactly that you wish to make a picture of. There is something about the scene that fascinates you, but what is it? Is it the light? The color? Design? Juxtaposition? Contrast? How can you best photographically communicate that? Once you’ve answered those questions and many others, then you can go about creating a meaningful image by cutting out everything that isn’t important.

Photography is a lot like sculpting. The sculptor starts with a rock and chisels away everything that isn’t the finished sculpture. The photographer starts with a vast scene and removes everything that isn’t the picture that’s in his or her mind. Focus on what the picture should look like, and then take out of the frame everything that doesn’t belong.  Less is more. Successful photography is often about non-verbally communicating as clearly and concisely as possible.

I get asked sometimes how I find time to photograph every day. Life is busy. I have four young kids that keep me immensely occupied. I have to put food on the table and a roof over my family’s heads. There are so many different people and things that require my attention. It’s often easier to not photograph. On the flip side it’s also easy to photograph too much and neglect the more important things around me. I get pulled in a lot of different directions. Finding balance is difficult, but possible.

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When you are passionate about something you find the time for it. I’m passionate about my family. I’m passionate about photography. I’m passionate about writing and other things. I make time for the things that I love. Something’s got to give, so I spend less time on the things that don’t matter as much to me.

You have to focus your time deliberately and wisely. If you are flying day-to-day by the seat of your pants you’ll spend too much time on one thing and ignore the others. Everything will find itself unbalanced. You have to focus your time and energy with purpose. You have to set aside a predetermined amount of time to your passion, and focus on accomplishing what you need regarding that passion within that time.

Sometimes things can spill over from one thing into another. For example, I love photography and I love my family, so I can sometimes photograph while I’m doing things with my family, or my family can become the subject of my photography. The caution here is to not let the camera interfere with family time, and not let family interfere with camera time. It’s important to set aside time that’s just for family and just for photography. There has to be a balance. It takes careful planning, but it is possible to accommodate a lot of different things in life.

Everyone should have passions and everyone should have dreams. Your passions will be the focus of your life. Where two (or more) passions meet is where you’ll do your best work. For example, if you love photography and also horses, you should combine the two passions and create your best work. Dream of what you could possibly create by photographing what you love!

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I think a lot of people photograph whatever it is that catches their eyes at any given moment. I know that I do this often, and there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with it, but it creates disjointed work. It’s better to focus one’s efforts onto refined ideas. The more specific you can be about what you photograph the better. You could call it specializing, but I don’t think you have to pick just one genre. I suggest focusing your attention on very specific photographic topics and create a cohesive body of work. If there is some subject, object, genre or style that you are particularly fascinated by, focus your efforts on that. I believe that the more specific you can be the more successful you are likely to be.

Richard Steinheimer once said something to the effect of, “Photography is about being in the right place at the right time, and that often means going places that others aren’t willing to go and at times that they’re not willing to be there.” In other words, a big part of photography is luck, but you can create your own luck through determination and preparation. Focus your energy into being in the right places at the right times to capture great photographs. This might entail extra research, it might entail going down the road less traveled (metaphorically and literally), it might entail getting out of bed and venturing out into the cold while everyone else is warm and comfortably sleeping. Whatever it means, you have to be determined to do it.

I find myself too often with metaphorically blurred vision. I feel that sometimes my efforts are going nowhere, that I’m just spinning my wheels. I need to focus better, and that includes my time, my dreams, my efforts, my subjects, my compositions and more. It’s about refining, which means removing the unnecessary stuff that just takes up time and space, and clearing away all of the useless distractions that abound each day. Focus more on the things that matter and less on the things that don’t.

RAW Doesn’t Make You Better

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Canyon Pinion – Canyonlands NP, UT – Fujifilm X100F

I read something yesterday that bothered me. A really talented photographer, who has a blog that I like to read sometimes, posted an article stating that the number one thing you can do to improve your landscape photography is to shoot RAW. His argument was, essentially, that post-processing is a necessary aspect of photography, so you might as well fully embrace it and start with a RAW file. I get that if you plan to significantly manipulate your photographs you should probably use RAW because a JPEG is limited in how far you can take it before it begins to degrade. I disagree that post-processing is always or even usually needed, and I don’t think anyone should feel like they must fully embrace it. Edit if you want, or save yourself a bunch of time and strive to get the look that you are after using the options found in your camera. Most of the time it’s possible to get the look that you want straight out of camera, no editing necessary.

Fujifilm cameras are especially great at JPEG processing. Using the different film simulations, which can be significantly customized, and the dynamic range options, it’s possible to get polished images straight out of camera that resemble edited RAW photographs. In fact, while I do some light post-processing occasionally, most of the time I do not edit my photographs whatsoever. I don’t need to! Fujifilm cameras save me so much time because they can produce really nice pictures that don’t require editing, such as the two in this article.

In the early days of digital photography, cameras had a narrow dynamic range, were not particularly good at anything above base ISO, were spotty at white balance, and weren’t programmed to make JPEGs any better than mediocre (at best), so RAW was indeed necessary. Even just 10 years ago camera-made JPEGs weren’t especially great, although on most camera brands they had improved significantly. There was a time when the “you must shoot RAW” argument was valid. It’s not 1998 or 2008 anymore, and almost all cameras are capable of making nice JPEGs. Some cameras are better than others, and that’s why I shoot Fujifilm, but almost any camera make and model manufactured over the last five or so years can make a good JPEG if you take the time to program it to your liking.

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Storm Over San Luis Valley – Alamosa, CO – Fujifilm X-Pro2

I’d much rather spend an extra moment setting the camera to what I want before capturing the image than sitting at a computer later fiddling with a RAW file. I’d rather let the camera do the work for me in the field so that I don’t have to at home. My photography doesn’t suffer for it. You wouldn’t know that my photographs are camera-made JPEGs if I didn’t tell you. I don’t know about you, but I already spend too much time sitting at a computer, so the more I can reduce that the better off I am.

Shooting RAW doesn’t make anyone a better photographer. Use RAW if you want, but it’s just a tool to achieve the results that you’re after, just as the JPEG processor in your camera is a tool to achieve desired results. Use the tool that works best for you. Don’t think that you must shoot RAW because someone doesn’t understand how to get good results without it. If the person who wrote the article took the time to set up their camera in the field, I’m sure that they could create the images they want without the need for Lightroom or Photoshop. It’s fine that the person didn’t, but I think it’s unfair to suggest that RAW is necessary for “better” photography. It’s untrue that you must embrace post-processing to create great photographs, because which format you choose has no bearing on your talent.

The Certainty of Change

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Gate To Indifference – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X-E1

If there is one thing that is certain it’s that things change. Nothing stays the same forever. Changes can be big, and they sometimes happen overnight. Sometimes they’re quite small and are hardly noticeable, occurring over years and years. But you can rest assured that change will happen, whether big or small or fast or slow.

The photographs you see in this article of the abandoned homes are an example of slow change. It took years for these structures to transform from nice living spaces to derelict dumps. After a place is no longer maintained, the change seems to accelerate as vandals and nature take over. For these abandoned buildings that’s not where the change ends. There would soon be rapid developments that made the property essentually unrecognizable.

I captured these photographs in April of last year. I’d pass by the buildings often and wanted to stop and make some exposures. I used to do a lot of urban exploration type photography. I don’t venture into that genre much anymore, but I still get excited when I see an abandoned place, and I still have the desire to capture it. After a year of seeing these abandoned houses on a large property in Salt Lake City, Utah, I decided to stop and photograph them.

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Losing History – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X-E1

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Little House In The Valley – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X-E1

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Abandoned House – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X-E1

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Still, I Love You – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X-E1

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The Place Had An Air of Neglect – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X-E1

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Tree of Broken Glass – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X-E1

It wasn’t but two weeks after I captured the photographs above that the buildings were demolished. Big machines came in and knocked them down. The rubble was removed. Then more big machines came in and removed the trees and leveled the ground. Soon enough there was nothing left but a huge patch of flat dirt.

I watched as things changed rapidly. In a matter of weeks the property was unrecognizable. It looked absolutely nothing like it had before. As time passed concrete began to pour and after that walls went up. Something big was being constructed on the site where the abandoned homes once stood.

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Sitting Large – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X100F

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Diversity – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X100F

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Caterpillar – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X100F

From start to finish, the project took about 16 months to go from a neglected property with derelict buildings to a finished distribution center. Now huge structures sit on the land, complete with sidewalks and nice landscaping and such. The transformation is almost unbelievable!

The moral of this story is that you should get out and capture the things that interest you, because things will change, and your opportunity might disappear. Don’t wait. Don’t procrastinate. The time is now! Grab your camera and capture that thing you’ve been eyeing before it’s too late, because eventually it will be too late.

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Distribution – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X100F

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Industrial Mirror – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X100F

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Distributing Abstract – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X100F

Less Angry & More Caring

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Ain’t No Love On The Streets – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X-E1

I’m going to get on my soapbox for a minute, I hope that you don’t mind. There’s something that’s been bothered me for the last few days and I feel the need to say something about it.

Last week I published an article about distressing a Fujifilm X-E1 to make it look old and worn. I knew that there would be strong mixed reactions to it. I was actually surprised that, of all the comments and emails I received, about 60% were positive and 40% were negative. I thought the reaction would be more negative than positive, but it turned out to be the other way around. More people seem to like it than not.

What bothers me, though, is that every single negative reaction that I received, either as a comment or email, had a personal insult attached to it. Each and every time, the person who had something negative to say also said something mean, intentionally being hurtful. In one case, the person was clearly bigoted, and their words were laced with intolerance.

I was expecting negative words. I don’t have a problem receiving constructive criticism. In fact, in photography, constructive criticism is essential for improvement. I learned this decades ago in Photography 101, when we would have “peer review” in class. I’m very open to criticism, as long as the person means well and has the experience to back up what he or she is saying.

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Broken Souls – Newberry Springs, CA – Sigma DP2 Merrill

What I received was not constructive criticism, but destructive criticism. The words written to me were deliberately intended to tear me down. These people didn’t like what I did, so they decided to verbally destroy me. It wasn’t enough to simply say, “I don’t like it.” Or, “It’s ugly.” Or, “I find it to be dishonest.” No, what was said was more akin to, “I don’t like it, and you’re a pathetic excuse for a cotton headed ninny muggins and your breath stinks.” Or something along those lines, but with stronger words.

It seems like more and more that it’s not enough to simply disagree with someone. If you don’t like or understand what someone did or said, the first response seems to be to discredit the person by verbally thrashing them. It seems that, instead of trying to see things from that person’s perspective to understand it, what happens instead is people tend to become abusive with their words. It’s like they cannot handle an opinion or thought or action that is different than their own.

If you gave 10 photographers the same subject to capture, they’d each come up with a different picture. Each one has different ideas and experiences that effect the outcome of the image. Each person is unique, so their process is going to be unique. Their perspective on the subject is going to be different. Each person sees the world through their own lens.

Can you imagine if each person verbally assaulted the others for having a perspective that’s different? Can you imagine if they were calling each other nasty names for not capturing the image in the same way? It’s absurd, but that’s essentially what’s going on. Everyone has a different perspective on things based on their own experiences. It would be better, instead of shutting down someone for having a different perspective, to attempt to see things through the other person’s lens, to try to understand that person’s opinion, thought or action. Walk a mile in their shoes first before coming down all judgmental-like.

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Because Everyone Is Unique – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-E1

I’m having a difficult time understanding why someone’s first reaction to something that they don’t like or understand would be anger and wrath. This isn’t anything new, though. When I had my old photography blog, I wrote a camera review and someone didn’t like what I said, and they wrote, “If I see you on the street I’ll punch you in the face!” Now I don’t think the person was entirely serious, but what would make someone have that kind of reaction to something that, in the big scheme of things, doesn’t matter whatsoever? Why so quick to anger?

What I do with my camera is my prerogative, just as what you do with yours is your prerogative. And what I do with Fuji X Weekly is my prerogative, because it’s my blog. That’s why you don’t see those negative, hurtful comments. I deleted them, because I can. Don’t like it? Go make your own blog, and handle those kind of things in the manner that you wish. If you have some constructive criticism, by all means offer it. If you have destructive criticism, you are wasting your time, because I will not put up with it. Take your anger and mean spirit elsewhere.

We should all be more kind to each other. We are all humans. Nobody is perfect. We’re all broken and awkward in some way. We’re all on this road of life together. Let’s be kind. Let’s be helpful. Let’s build each other up instead of tearing down. There’s no need to be mean. There’s no need to be bigoted. Nobody is better than the next guy. Everybody makes mistakes. Everyone has their own reasons for things. This world needs more love and less hate. More understanding and less prejudice. More civility and less rudeness. More forgiveness and less resentment. More helping hands and fewer middle fingers. We can accomplish this together, if each one does his or her part.

Okay, I’m off the soapbox. Now back to your regularly scheduled program….

Digital Is Disposable

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Fujifilm X-E1 & Meike 35mm

Digital cameras are disposable.

Camera manufacturers introduce the replacement models, the next generation, about every two years on average. This isn’t always true–the X100T came out just one year after the X100S while the X-Pro2 came out four years after the X-Pro1–but, generally speaking, it’s true. Your new camera will be “last year’s model” soon enough.

It’s no surprise that photographers, on average, upgrade roughly every two years, as well. When that new model comes out, it’s very tempting to buy it. The new model is better in this way and that way–faster, more resolution, etc.–you know the song and dance. You might still keep your current camera as a “backup body” once the new one arrives in the mail, and it will mostly collect dust.

There are plenty of photographers who don’t buy new. They’ll wait awhile until they can get a good deal on a gently used camera. But it’s still the same story of “upgrading” every other year or so. They’re just a model behind what’s current.

There are some who keep their cameras for many years. There are plenty of photographers who happily use their five-year-old camera. A much smaller number happily use their ten-year-old camera. Almost nobody happily uses their fifteen-year-old camera, because the cheapest interchangeable-lens cameras today are more advanced and capable of better image quality than the best “pro” cameras of 2003. Digital technology changes quickly, and advancements have come at breakneck speed.

We’ve reached a point of diminishing returns. Digital technology is still advancing quickly and the cameras released in 2017 are better in every way to their counterparts released in 2012. But how much better do they need to be? If a camera already has more resolution than what most need, what does even more resolution do? If a camera is already quick enough for most photographers, how does a faster camera help? If a camera already has amazing high-ISO performance, do you really need a stop more? Yes, there are people who need more, but that’s a small percentage. Most photographers already had everything that they needed in cameras from years past, and all the advancements since then have just been overkill. Cameras are becoming better all the time, but they were already more than good enough before.

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Barn By The Tetons – Grand Teton NP, WY – Fujifilm X-E1

I’m not suggesting that camera manufacturers should stop pushing forward. What I am suggesting is that this habit of upgrading to the latest camera model every couple of years is unnecessary. If you want to buy a new camera, go ahead and do it, I’m not trying to stop you. But I do want to make aware to the photographic community that many very good and highly capable cameras are being disposed simply because they’re several years old. I’m telling myself this just as much as I’m telling others, because I’ve been caught up in this routine just as much as the next guy.

My first “real” camera, a Canon AE-1, was over 20-years-old when I bought it. I used it for several years, and even at 25 it was still going strong. I sold it, and that’s one of my photographic regrets, because, even though it is around 40-years-old now, I’m sure someone out there is still capturing wonderful pictures with it. I have several film cameras on my shelf that I occasionally dust off, a couple of which are over 50-years-old, that still function properly and are still capable of capturing excellent pictures.

The idea of someone using a 50-year-old digital camera for anything remotely serious is laughable, and not just because a 50-year-old digital camera doesn’t exist, but because of the poor image quality and usability of the early models. Someday, though, the cameras manufactured today will be 50-years-old, and I can see some of them, if they’re still working, being used by photographers who want that “retro digital” feel. I don’t think too many cameras made before 2010 will ever be used at age 50 or even when they’re 20-year-old. A few of the higher-end models, perhaps, but by-and-large the technology just wasn’t there yet. However, the ones being made today, and even five to eight years ago, have advanced enough that they could still be used to capture quality photographs well into the future.

The Fujifilm X-E1 is not as good as the X-E3, but it is more than good enough for creating wonderful photographs. It is five-years-old, almost six, but it is still an excellent camera. You can find them for under $300 pretty easily because people have moved on. The X-E2 replaced it, and then the X-E2S came out a couple years later, and now the X-E3 is approaching the one year mark and there’s already talk about an X-E4. In the realm of digital cameras it might as well be 50-years-old because it is three and soon-to-be four models old. It’s archaic. It’s a has-been. It’s disposable.

I recently picked up an old X-E1 because they’re so cheap. I liked the one that I used to own, and I wish that I had kept it. I sold it to help fund the purchase of my X100F, which is another camera that I love. The X-E1, or “Sexy One” as it was nicknamed back in 2012, is still an excellent little camera, and for the price that it currently goes for, why wouldn’t you want one? It’s great for travel because of its size and weight, and if it gets stolen or damaged it’s not a huge deal because it didn’t cost much. It’s not as good as the cameras made in 2018, but it’s more than good enough to capture great pictures for years to come.

Digital cameras are disposable, or, perhaps they used to be. We’re at the point now, and have been for several years, where we can hold onto our cameras longer because they’re more than capable photographic tools. The latest and greatest cameras are wonderful, but, really, the advancements are mostly overkill stacked on top of overkill. Maybe it’s time to be content with what we have, myself included. Maybe it’s time to rediscover these wonderful “vintage” digital cameras, such as the original X100, the X-Pro1 and the X-E1. There was a time not very long ago when people raved over these models and stores had a hard time keeping them in stock. Now they go for a few hundred bucks on eBay.