Ultimately, it is the eye and mind of the photographer that determines the quality of images produced.
It is tempting with small cameras and roll films to make a great number of exposures to be “safe.” True, there will always be one that is better than the others, but that does not mean it is a good photograph! The best 35mm photographers I know are efficient and make relatively few exposures. They know what they want to do, and do not rely on the “scattered” approach.
In discussing mechanical or optical issues we must not lose sight of the much greater importance of image content—emotional, aesthetic, or literal. I believe there is nothing more disturbing than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept!
In general, I do not find the normal lens especially desirable, functionally or aesthetically. … I frequently find that the “normal” concepts and performances are not as exciting as those that make an acceptable departure from the expected reality.
There is something magical about the image formed by a lens. Surely every serious photographer stands in some awe of this miraculous device, which approaches ultimate perfection. A fine lens is evidence of a most advanced technology and craft. It is not surprising that we should develop a real affection for equipment that serves us well, but in spite of all the science and technology that underlies our medium, the sensitive photographer feels his images in a plastic sense. We must come to know intuitively what our lenses and other equipment will do for us, and how to use them.
An electronic and optical miracle creates nothing on its own! Whatever beauty and excitement [the camera] can represent exist in your mind and spirit to begin with.
Too many people merely do what they are told to do. The greatest satisfaction derives from the realization of your individual potential, perceiving something in your own way and expressing it through adequate understanding of your tools. Take advantage of everything; be dominated by nothing except your convictions. Do not lose sight of the essential importance of craft; every worthwhile human endeavor depends on the highest levels of concentration and mastery of basic tools.
I attempt in these books to suggest the importance of craft and its relation to creativity in photography. As for the creativity itself, I can only assert that it exists; that there is a magical potential that can be demonstrated only by reference to those works that possess it, through all ages, in all media.
If everyone possesses some measure of this intangible quality called creativity, photography is unprecedented as an outlet for its expression. Yet at times it seems that the very freedom and accessibility of photography are self-defeating. Thoughtful application is often submerged by avaricious automation of equipment and procedure. … The impression prevails that the acquisition of equipment and the following of “rules” assure achievement.
Some contemporary primitive had left his or her mark with daubs and constructions in paint that had taken on a patina and a wistful quasi-antiquity that commanded my searching eye. It seems that almost anything that endures in time acquires some qualities of the natural. Bleak shapes grow into a kind of magic that, once seen, cannot easily be ignored.
There is often a mournful quality about fall in Yosemite: the Merced River is very low, and the waterfalls are gone for the year. Autumn color is never brilliant there, but the dark gold and russets of the oaks and willows have a particular quiet beauty.