You really never know when your friend is going to resemble an umbrella pole/post, and the camera has to be with you, on and ready to shoot. This is why I take a camera with me everywhere.
I don’t intend to shoot anything when I take my camera. I just notice life’s little moments and document them. For fun, for prosperity, for memories. This photo of him under the umbrella will be a fun photo to look back on in 20 years, when we’re trying to remember where it was taken. (Clue: It was at Bootstrap Brewing in Longmont.)
There are many days I take the camera and don’t shoot anything. I took my Leica for a walk today, an M6 with a 28mm through my neighborhood, and saw exactly nothing that caught my eye, calling me to shoot. That’s okay, that’s why I bring it, for those moments that do call out to me.
I’ve never been one to force myself to make photograph when no opportunities present themselves. Unless I’m on frame #35 and I need to finish the roll because I’m going to process it shortly, I’m fine leaving it on #35 until next time. I consider film not that expensive, but still there’s no reason to waste it. I’m not shooting test shots–there are no test shots. There are photographs I want to make and the rest that I don’t want a picture of, period.
But having the camera with me, that gives me license to be on the lookout, to try and see if anything presents itself. If I were to leave without the camera, which I haven’t done in years, I’m sure I would stop looking and noticing things since I’d have no way to document what I saw. As a documentary photographer, a photojournalist since 1986, my job has been to see, to notice, to seek the moments and then photograph them. That’s what I do without even really trying. I just see things and shoot.
I was up at a friend’s house in the mountains last weekend and I brought with me a Nikon FM2 with a 24mm f2 lens, because I knew I’d need the speedy lens, and I wanted to document our visit. His wife, his son and his son’s fiancee were there, I knew his son is a photographer, too, and it was a treat to make a few photographs of them cooking pizzas in their wood stove, them taking care of their St. Bernard dog, all of us socializing. But I made about ten images, not 30–I was in no hurry to shoot the roll. Those pictures aren’t due, there’s no deadline on them. They’ll be on that roll someday when it’s finished. That’s the beauty of photography, I’ll forget about some of them and get to go back to that night when I see the photos.
I make a point of shooting film for the photographs that matter most to me–friends and family visits. While I shoot digital cameras for some documentary photo projects, street photography and commercial work, and digital is truly the best choice for those shoots, it’s a treat to use film for the people who matter most to me.
To make photographs that will be printed and kept as keepsakes of the times we spent together. That’s the secret of life: Find people who you enjoy being with and find a way to be with them a lot. Savor those times. That’s the point of working long hours, of trying so hard to earn more, to have time for friends.
And they’re worthy of being documented with real film.