K.I.S.S Photography – By Ash Scott-Lockyer

No, not how to photograph legendary glam rock bands, but the old mnemonic that my dad taught me when I was a kid just picking up a camera for the first time ‘Keep It Simple Stupid!’

Photography is as simple or complex as you want to make it, and goodness knows I’ve been as guilty of over complicating things as the next photographer. Take film for example: I have very little self-control when it comes to buying film, especially black and white. I mean there are so many brands, never mind speeds. The bottom drawer of our freezer is a kaleidoscope of different film packaging. Then there are developers: this one for fine grain, this one for speed boosting, that one – well because the film manufacturer recommended it. Then there are lenses. The more I have, the harder it is to decide which ones to put in the bag for a day’s shooting. I mean If I’m taking out the Nikon F4 kit I just have to take the 60mm macro in case I spot a nice flower; oh, and the 85mm f1.4 in case I do a portrait.

Hang on, wind back: I used to earn my living with just three lenses. Firstly, as a wedding photographer with a 55mm, an 80mm and very occasionally a 180mm on roll film. Then as a theatre photographer with 35mm gear and again just three prime lenses: a 24mm, a 50mm and an 85mm. For film I used 200iso Fuji colour negative and occasionally 400iso for the weddings, and 400iso black and white Ilford HP5 or 400 fuji. Why is it that when my cameras, film and lenses put food on the table I could be minimalist, yet now I not only metaphorically carry the kitchen sink, but a metaphorical box of spare sink plugs too!

Of course, I know why I’ve not been heading my dad’s words from all those years ago. It’s because all those wonderful film cameras that were too expensive for me to justify when I used them as tools of my trade, have now become very affordable. Well, okay, not as affordable as ten years ago perhaps, but still far more budget friendly than chasing the latest digital wonder. I shot most of my theatre stuff on a pair of battered old Nikon FM2s that were probably third hand when I got them. I could only drool at the adverts for the Nikon F4 when it came out. Now I have an F4s, it cost me just over £150 instead of over four figures.

So now I can have the kit I always wanted – great but wait! The more gear I have, the more decisions I have to make: primes or zooms, Bergger or Ilford, travel tripod or ‘full fat’ Manfrotto. The bottom line is I’m having less fun, getting more tired and stressed, and more importantly not getting as many ‘stand out’ shots as I used to?

The answer is obvious, I’ve been letting the means get more important than the end. GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) has bloated me to the point where some sort of action needs to be taken or there’ll be an explosion!

Now let’s get sensible, I can’t sell my whole cupboard full of cameras and lenses, I would get withdrawal symptoms.  I can however go ‘cold turkey’ for a while to try and get back my mojo.

First the film: well I am standardising on two emulsions for everything. Because I have most experience with Ilford materials that will be Delta 100 and delta 400 And just one developer, my old standby Rodinal. It’s versatility and long keeping properties keep me coming back to it again and again.

So camera wise I am going to try and spend at least a couple of months using nothing but my lovely old 1938 Leica iiib with either my Canon screw mount f1.8 or my Industar f3.5 collapsible lens. Why not my Nikon F4s? Well, I have a wide range of lenses available in F mount, and with pretty much infallible matrix metering, motor wind and a one hundred percent accurate viewfinder it hardly presents a challenge, and it does present a range of temptations.

I started my resolve with a visit to a local steam preservation railway and I’ll include some results here.  How did it feel just to have an ancient rangefinder camera and one lens? In a word liberating. My back wasn’t protesting from my bag loaded to the brim, and I felt much more instantly ready to capture anything interesting that happened in front of my lens. I was free to enjoy the day simply as a spectator, yet immediately able to bring my camera to my eye and react to a picture opportunity.

A side effect of using the Leica was that it started conversations and made people smile – how many modern cameras will elicit that response?

So if you are feeling photographically jaded, why not try a little exercise in K.I.S.S?

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16 thoughts on “K.I.S.S Photography – By Ash Scott-Lockyer”

  1. This article couldn’t have come along at a better time,I’ve recently been cataloguing my kit and I have over 100 assorted film and digital cameras and lenses,I really do need to rationalise starting out with going out with one body and a couple of lenses

  2. 100% agree, and the less lens-swapping, the more focus we can put on the subject.

    You didn’t mind to give us another great insight either:
    “A side effect of using the Leica was that it started conversations and made people smile”
    THIS, could be a topic for another article, IMO.

  3. Ash Scott-Lockyer

    Thanks for the comment. Old cameras are wonderful conversation starters – and yes I’m going to work up an article on just that subject.

  4. I too used Mamiya Twin lens, same lenses! The weight! Oh! Otherwise my battered not collector Leica M3 ( 55years from new) and older50mm Collapsible Summicron. Occasionally the Goggles 35mm Summaron. A roll of film. Seldom extra. Walking light is such fun. I am about to clear house!
    I know tears and torn clothes! It’s impossible at my age carry all this crap! KISS. Indeed. Love your photos! Oh! You want conversations carry a Twin lens! Now it’s my way to street portraits with phone camera.

    1. Hey Ash!
      This was a nice read!
      I had some Delta 100 but didn’t want to develop it myself because I thought it was a t-grain film and I might spoil it with rodinal. I’m still a rookie when it comes to development. For me, FP4 works really well with Rodinal 1:50. Fine grain and sharp result. I think I’ll just give it a try. I ordered Adox FX-39 today, though. Film photography has so many exciting aspects :).
      The photo of the locomotive with the reflection is great! Thanks for the contribution! Rob

  5. Ash Scott-Lockyer

    Ah Jason, glad you like the photos. My C330 and three lenses still lives in my camera cupboard , and still goes out from time to time on photo walks, however Just with the 80mm most of the time.!It’s fun having a variety of cameras to choose from, but I make better art with fewer choices I think. Must try that with street portraits.

  6. Ah, yes, the GAS syndrome, which most photographers deny having. Keeping it simple is why I like fixed lens cameras like the Rolleiflex or Kodak Retina. Does your IIIb have flash synch. socket on front?

    1. Ash Scott-Lockyer

      Yep my iiib has two sync sockets – added I would expect in the 50s. one interestingly has a red dot! Have no idea if they would work with anything mind.

  7. When I started out in film photography during the time the late, great President Lincoln was alive, the mantra was to stick with one camera/lens & film developer; one type of enlarging paper & developer for one year. I lasted about 8 months (mostly due to the lackoffunds illness). But I eventually succumbed to the lure of sparkling glass and semi-matte lens barrels. I must have bought & traded a kings ransom of Leicas & Nikons in 52 years. Now, I’m wiser (?) and older and my kit is one camera & lens, one film & film developer & one type of enlarging paper & developer. It’s not for everyone, but it works for me.

    1. Ash Scott-Lockyer

      My sticking to one camera is to be qualified by the fact I have a cupboard full of other ones that are at the moment ‘resting between engagements’.

  8. A most interesting article. My wife has declared that GAS is a disease!! OK, so I’ve learnt to live with it, and accept that it is incurable.

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