Creating the images
My photographic motivation is pretty simple: I am interested in photographing what is important to me in terms of communication and self-exploration, and so colour, shape, shadow and time are more important to me than particular motifs. Over the years I have focussed (pun intended!) mostly on photographing landscapes and cityscapes. But I am discovering the joys of photographing people who want to be photographed – a tremendously enjoyable process. However, this is increasingly with the ambition of communicating something, not just creating pretty images.
I use a mixture of digital imaging, transparency (slide) film, and black and white print film. I am not that interested in camera equipment for its own sake – and whilst I prefer the look of film, I also like the convenience of digital… I am not a format fetishist!
I don’t have any offshore bank accounts that fund my photography, so everything I buy represents a major investment, or is a gift from a kind person who wants to offload equipment/support me. In any case, I try to live Bruce Percy’s line that your camera does not matter (others, such as Ken Rockwell, say the same thing). So the equipment I mostly use is listed here, rather than with each image in the galleries where it doesn’t belong (either enjoy the image or don’t, but forget about the machines used in making it). And, of course, I register every Nikon purchase in order to extend the warranty, though I’ve only needed to use a warranty once (so far).
In 2012 I bought a Chamonix 045N-01, and then some time later a Fujinon 180mm f5.6 lens (this is about ‘normal’ in 35mm terms, i.e. about 50mm). I usually take a selection of film in dark slides with me – Ilford FP4+, Fuji Provia 100F, Fuji Velvia 50…).
I use two medium format cameras (warm thanks to Antonio for giving/selling me these).
Rolleiflex 2.8C (from 1954)
Mamiya 645 Pro TL (first released 1997, now discontinued) with two lenses:
- 80mm f2.8
- 150mm f3.5
My 35mm SLR cameras are all Nikons (of course, the crop sensor digitals listed here are not really 35mm…).
FM2 (see these notes about acquiring this camera)
F80 (kindly given to me after an appeal for a Nikon film SLR on Freegle)
D90 (body only at this link, but kits are also available); I use the MB-D80 battery pack too, though mainly because it makes shooting vertical images easier, not because of the spare battery. The batteries generally last for at least 700 images; I am rarely in a situation where I need more than that and wouldn’t have time to change battery.
Before buying the D90 I used a D40 – I loved that camera!
Unless noted, all my lenses are from Nikon.
10-24mm AF-S DX f3.5-4.5G ED
18-200mm f3.5-5.6G VR DX (in the past I used the 18-55mm f3.5-5.6G DX)
Series E 28mm f2.8
35mm f1.8G DX
105mm f2 AF DC
Lensbaby Composer (Nikon mount, of course); it’s about 50mm
My flashes are from Nikon.
SB28 (now quite old, but once a flagship product; only for my film cameras)
These are cameras I use intermittently, but shouldn’t be discounted as useful tools in the right circumstances.
FED-4 (a USSR-era camera, Ukraine 1964-1980, mostly for messing about with, but great fun, though it seems to now have developed light leaks)
Olympus mju-II zoom 80 (film)
Canon PowerShot A470 (digital)
I also use my mobile ‘phone at times… though I’ve never managed to get very excited about mobile ‘phones as cameras (hmm, and not even as telephones!); I currently have an iPhone, but am not an Instagram/Hipstamatic sort of person.
I have a plastic pin-hole camera, but need to try this a few more times before I’m prepared to show any images from it!
I mostly use the following films, though others at times too. My ‘go to’ films are Velvia 50, Provia 100F and FP4+. I have tried films like Kodak Portra 160/400, but found it hard to use them well; I am currently trying out Fuji Pro 160NS… I’ll see what I make of that.
Fuji Velvia 50 – a ‘classic’ landscape film, with rich (distorted?!) colours and incredible detail. Not a great dynamic range, and easy to underexpose, but it is wonderful (I have used Velvia 100F and don’t like it much; I want to try the Velvia 100 too, though, which is meant to be much closer to the Velvia 50, just faster).
Fuji Provia 100F – I have been using this for large format, and it has lovely tones and a good dynamic range.
Fuji Provia 400X – I started using this for the Mamiya, and though I don’t use it often, it works well for eg seascapes and portraits.
Ilford FP4+ – a very smooth black and white film that I particularly like for portraits (though I use it for everything, actually!).
Ilford HP5 – a grainier, beautiful black and white film that is great in accentuating shadows and contrast detail.
(Up until 2007, I mostly used Fuji Sensia 100/200/400 – sadly, in August 2010, Fuji announced it was ceasing production of this film; I mourn the loss of it, but in a small way I contributed: I had switched to Velvia as it is better for the kind of landscapes I want to do…)
I have a studio light set that I sometimes use for portraits.
I use Nikon’s IR remote control (the cheap and functional Nikon ML-L3) for the D90 and F80 – great for reducing vibration (also worked for the D40). For the FM2 I have a traditional mechanical wire cable release.
Tripods: I have two tripods. My main one is a Gitzo Systematic 3541LS with long steel spikes and a Manfrotto 410 geared head – this combination is rock solid. For lightweight travel I use a Velbon Sherpa 600R. I used to think that tripods for day times slowed me down and got in the way, restricting my movement and sometimes just making me lazy, but I have changed my understanding of tripod use. Now I relish the slowing down: it helps me to be more aware of the space around me, and gives me mental space to think about the image I am wanting to produce.
I also use a Sekonic L-758 light meter. Despite the excellence of the meters in modern cameras (incl. the FM2, which doesn’t have the modern ‘matrix meter’ of the later Nikons but a 60/40 meter), this is still invaluable for both landscapes (e.g. spot metering to calculate dynamic range and filters needed) and portraits (for lighting setups), and completely indispensable for things like the Rolleiflex and the Lensbaby.
I use Lee filters – they are expensive, but unbelievably good; I sometimes also use selected Cokin filters (not quite so great, but ok for certain things). These systems are great since they work well on a variety of lenses: different lenses simply need different filter-rings. Apart from being so much cheaper than a full set of screw-in filters (even if just buying one size of screw-in filters – e.g. 77mm – and a matching step-up ring for different lenses), they also allows the graduated filters to be moved, which is obviously really important when photographing landscapes.
There doesn’t really seem to be a good page on which to put this, but I do want to clarify that I am obviously not the photographer extraordinaire who has the same name as me! Some of my images are perhaps quite good, but the other Michael Marten is in a class apart… you’ll find a link to his page as well as to some of the other photographers that I find inspiring here.