#994. Why less is often more in photography

By pascaljappy | Art & Creativity

Apr 22

If our recent confinement photography challenge results prove anything, it’s that we are all capable of creating wonderful photographs stuck within four walls or within the corner posts of a garden, or the tolerated walks we can take. My cheeky question is : does this lack of freedom actually make us better? ๐Ÿ˜‰

Rosa, Rosa, Rosa (Glauca 1)

Do we benefit more from opportunity and choice or from constraint and obligation?

My frequent railing against the modern trend of do-it-all cameras that can photograph back cats on coal sacks on a moonless night at 20fps and 80Mpx and a million ISO has often got me into trouble. When comments didn’t skin me alive, offended readers would simply unsubscribe. To the point that it sometimes led me to question my judgment.

And, to me, this is an important point, because GAS should be a source of pleasure but often turns into suffering (and, as we all know, suffering leads to the dark side ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). And so many elements conspire to vindicate my maligned position that it seems appropriate for me to revisit this controversial topic once again, from a different perspective: not just gear, but focus.


First among these elements, is my personal experience. My current camera, while expensive and very high quality is slow enough to make French bureaucracy seem hasty. Nah, kidding. Nothing in the world is slower, more irritating and more brain damaging than French bureaucracy. But that camera is slow. As in don’t ever switch it off, or whatever it is that’s making you think of switching it on again will be long gone by the time the X1D’s awakening beep can be heard. I mean, even a glacier. And AF is slow. And the whole system is buggy and crashes often.

But there’s no doubt in my mind this camera has made me a better photographer. My photographs are more deliberate. My keeper rate has skyrocketed. I no longer snap. Because the camera is slow, every photograph is a decision. Every loud click happens for a reason. And while there are fewer photographs on my card, far more make the final cut. Culling? What’s that?

As for confinement, it hasn’t made me better in general, but certainly better at observing the trivial, at making acceptable photographs from tiny things that would have gone unnoticed to me with more exciting topics at hand.


Now, that single example won’t convince gearheads. It could just be me. Still, it’s amusing how many of those who criticise me for taking that low-key approach to gear hunting are worshippers of masters like Henry Cartier Bresson.

HCB: 1 camera. 1 lens. For most of his life. Film, not even digital, and a 50 mil. And hundreds of iconic photographs collected in museums and prestigious galleries. And he’s not alone in that case. Ah, but HCB was a genius, right? His genius would have allowed him to create masterpieces with any kit, right?

Wrong! I believe his limited gear was a huge step towards becoming a genius. He became great because of his gear, not in spite of it. He practised practised, practised, as illustrated by his famous “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” ๐Ÿ˜‰ As for subjects, well, HCB did roam the world, and did dabble into multiple areas. But he is most remembered for itinerant candids, and what is remembered as “the decisive moment”. That was his focus, his domain of excellence.


Also, there are women photographers, who seem both very talented and largely immune to gas. The two who have graced our community with their presence most often are Nancee Rostad and Valerie Millet.

Nancee recently explained her process to us, stunning us with the photographs on that page while explaining to us how little she cared about gear. Happy with that one camera and those two zooms, keep using them till they die.

Valerie stunned us twice as well. Once when we saw her photographs. Once when she explained her gear : “I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark II that I bought used from another photographer when I started out and Iโ€™m still using the same camera” and “My go to lens is my Canon 70-200mm f/4 that a photographer from Australia gave to me after we shot together a few years ago”.


Both explore deeply rather than broadly. Nothing in human history has ever spread our attention and focus thinner than social media: photographs have to be spectacular and meaningless (cute is the intellectual limit, if you want Likes ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). But proficient photographers tend to explore one or two ideas in depth rather than hop about like butterflies. And, while both Nancee and Valerie roam the world, their focus is very accutely placed on one type of aesthetic and underlying idea.


Why should this be? Why do limitations make us better ? Probably multiple reasons, but three speak to me.

First of all constraints foster creativity (a.k.a. necessity is the mother of invention): see this excellent recent World Economic Forum post “Why quarantine can make you more creative”. Or here. Or here. Three good posts on the topic. It’s almost impossible to create something good from scratch, but far easier to think creatively within boundaries.

Secondly, simple gear means perfectly automatic (mental) execution. Visualising a photograph, framing and composition are intuitive processes. Any left-brain intrusion to manipulate one of the zillion hideous buttons on modern gear will instantly pop the bubble of flow that leads to great images. Imagine waking up in the morning with a beautiful dream in your head when the radio starts and that twerp journalist paid to deliver sensationally bad news spews the latest number of covid casualties into your ears. Dream? What dream? Complex gear can do that to your photography. HCB’s one (very very simple) camera and one lens, used a hundred thousand times had become a part of him that required no left brain intrusion into his visualisation of the world around him.

Thirdly, exploring a theme over a period of time helps us develop new ideas. As tempting as it may seem to have a plan for all things to come, that’s as naive as just winging it. Mastery develops through a long series of idea – execution – feedback iterations, which is simply impossible to achieve when there is no focused idea in the first place and no consistent feedback to feed the next round of ideation.


Ultimately, my guess is, deep down, we all want to achieve something. Our instinct makes us want to break shackles, so we lack creative energy when there are none to break.

Just like social media syphons our vital energy and the environment into billions in the pockets of a few (insert explitive) men, modern cameras drain our creativity to make billions (fewer and fewer) millions for a handful of manufacturers too lazy to think laterally. At least that’s what I think.

But it goes beyond gear and my guess is a great part of becoming a successful artist boils down to elimination of fluff. Focusing on a style and a process to the exclusion of all others. Just like highly-specialised employees get paid much more than others (did you know AI programmers get paid half a million a year by the evil twins at fooble and gacegook?) highly specialised artists receive far more attention than Jacks of all cams.


Exponential growth in scientific knowledge implies that there are no universal geniuses anymore, only highly specialized scientists. It also means that the general public has much more difficulty understanding current science and forming a bond to it. Hence the rise in conspiracy theories and the success of anyone claiming to solve a complex problem with a simple solution such as Brexit or a wall between the US and Mexico.

And I strongly believe the same phenomenon is at play in the art world as well, made only worse by elitist twats and pseudo-artists cashing in on the blur. So much has been said, done and explored, that only specialists break through. And so, the general public feels disconnected to what actually makes humans humans: creativity for the sake of it, everyone’s birth right. And so, manufacturers and self-proclaimed gurus swoop in to fill that void with promises of universality of gear and other easy solutions to complex issues (what can be more complex than human expression and personal fulfillment?).

Humm, humm

Now, not everyone wants to become an artist like Hiroshi Sugimoto or Andreas Gursky. And rightly so, it’s a tough, tough life. Does that change anything? I think not. Simplicity brings results and satisfaction, however we want to play the game. Gear, on the other hand? Well if we were satisfied with it, would we crave more?

This post is so obviously a bad case of “do as I say not as I do”, it makes me cringe to proof-read it ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€ For the yellow roses alone, two different lenses were used. So don’t take it from me. Take it from the successful artists who, for years on end, focus on a small number of projects and keep all the rest as simple as possible to achieve the project goals. After all, even a resplendant genius like Raphael was remembered as a very minor sculptor and a really poor poet. Maybe confinement is showing us the way on how to find our focus. It’s certainly helping many realise that less can be more … fun!


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  • Kristian Wannebo says:

    you have a knack of making your flowers look very three-dimensional (besides being very well composed)!
    Some seem to pop out of the screen, especially #4, and some linger behind the screen, e.g. #6.
    #2 & #5 each seem to stick a petal out of the screen while mainly staying behind.
    Occasionally an image can give me both impressions, but none lie flat in the image surface.

    And thanks for the good – and (IMO) true – read!
    — * —

    > “… boils down to elimination of fluff.”
    !! , ๐Ÿ™‚
    (… but that is the hard part.)

    > “First of all constraints foster creativity…”
    Another good “post” on that – and a very good read:
    ( I’ve mentioned it before, but it deserves repeating.)
    Poetics of Music in the Form of Six Lessons,
    by Igor Stravinsky.

    > “.. modern cameras drain our creativity..”
    Aye, but only because we let them…

    So long as the UI doesn’t get in the way, it’s easy enough to set the camera to a simple subset of its features – once one has played enough with them to bridge the first enthusiasm of playing with a new toy – and then slow photography becomes easy enough.

    ( Of course, I may have the advantage of making my first beginner’s mistakes with a mechanical fixed lens 6×4.5 rangefinder, and of a long use of a ditto 6×6 plus different pocketable 24x36s.)
    — * —

    Pascal, do you have the latest firmware? Ming Thein mentions significant continuous improvements including an efficient sleep mode with quick awakening.

    • pascaljappy says:


      thank you for the kind words (although the lens must take most of the credit for the 3D ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) and for sharing that Stravinksy read again.

      You’re right, cameras are only distractions if we let them and focus and concentration are part of the deal.

      Yes, the camera has had firwmware updates and wakeup time from sleep mode is indeed extremely short. But this remains a ponderous camera compared to most. And I like it for it ๐Ÿ™‚

      All the best!

      • Kristian Wannebo says:

        > “.. although the lens must take most of the credit for the 3D..”

        allow me to doubt that, yes, transition sharp to unsharp makes a difference.
        But I get the impression that your choice of direction of light, camera position and combination of sharp and unsharp objects to a large extent builds this 3D effect.

  • Pascal Jappy – I so oft look and sometimes read the Dear Susan posts… for whatever reason, I read this one. Wow – there are so many ideas to chew on in your post! Don’t let this get to your head – but there are some thoughts that are genius. When I’m not getting a humble fee to photograph a person, family or for a client, I think many of the statements you make are what’s behind my turning off AF on a modern lens… what’s behind my often putting on a vintage lens when shooting for myself. It also touches on why, when I got my first A7R (because it “felt” like my old Minolta X570), I shot with that wonderful 35 1.4 Zeiss/Sony Distagon and only that lens for 4-5 months… I knew that lens like the back of my hand (AF and manual). Well, huh… aren’t you the same individual who wrote, shot and posted #342? Heck, I still haven’t gotten past that post and the “simple” work you did with that stunning OTUS 85 1.4 and humble A7R. Now, back to creating and organizing!

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thank you so much Scott. We certainly agree on the magic of the Distagon 35/1.4 ! One of the greatest lenses ever made, period. And the Otus 85, too. For what it’s worth, I have kept it and it was used for most of the photographs of the yellow roses on this page ๐Ÿ™‚ It is my goto lens for close work (with an extension ring) and (don’t tell anyone) I don’t even focus it, but move the camera using the excellent EVF and focus assist on the X1D. It never misses ๐Ÿ™‚ That’s what I call simple ๐Ÿ™‚ Have a great day.

  • Nancee Rostad says:

    Nicely said, Pascal! This self-quarantine that weโ€™re all adjusting to can be stultifying and non-productive, as far as creativity goes. Iโ€™ve found it immensely difficult to even want to pick up my camera, but have scolded myself into doing just that from time to time. Subjects are limited, of course, but are available by using your imagination, not surprisingly!
    Thanks for sharing the images from what I suspect is your beautiful garden brimming with wonderful subjects. Also, thanks for the mention. Itโ€™s interesting that Valerie & I both use the exact same camera and lens. Less gear means less technical decisions and more time to be creative.

  • Pascal O. says:

    Pascal, thank you for yet another most interesting, thought-provoking article.

    Does confinement make us better ‘togs? Less is more ?

    I have been on, so far, seven weeks of house arrest and indeed used this โ€œopportunityโ€ to try and refresh, brush up, whatever knowledge I have acquired thus far.

    Revisiting past photography readings, going back to PP software videos to improve my post production skills thus re toggling some previous shots, finding some past worthy pictures not detected before, containment has given me the “chance” to spend some time on these subjects.
    And probably more focus at the same time. My camera parameters have been checked top to bottom after again watching numerous videos; when allowed to go out again, I feel better prepared than ever.

    Looking back at my photography and usage, I went from SLR with zoom to DSLR with zoom, to DSLR with primes to mirrorless with manual primes to mirrorless with manual primes with the body in manual mode.
    Not going down the AI route.

    You could say that, in a way, I have made it more complex, as I have to intervene more and more in the photographic process even though my equipment is more contemporary, yet the latter is significantly lighter than when I was lugging my DSLR.
    Also, if push were to come to shove, I could do with a single lens, ie Julia aka Zeiss Loxia 25mm on my A7.
    Not something I would have ever been comfortable with in the zoom days of my Nikon D300, ie like what Nancee Rostad has masterfully accomplished.

    I believe I can now take better pictures while simplifying the initial PMPM to quote Philippe, walking in the direction of simplicity to take on more complex subjects.
    Not at all down the road of “do-it-all cameras although I could do so more than ever with my current equipment.

    The parameters of โ€œmyโ€ complexity have changed. It used to be in the equipment variety, lugging and selecting, it now lies more in how I have a โ€œdeeperโ€ use of the simplified, manual latter, and then, very significantly, the time I devote to PP.

    Bottom line, most importantly, I take much greater pleasure in my photographic results than ever before.

    Thus the current (?) confinement, hopefully due to end in the coming two, three weeks, has been a great occasion to learn, refine, polish, revisit, reset and get ready to go out and hopefully focus… time and again.

    • Sean says:

      Hi Pascal,
      This is the bit that sold it for me โ€œ… As for confinement, it hasnโ€™t made me better in general, but certainly better at observing the trivial,..โ€ To me, itโ€™s the ability to not only look at – as in a surveyors perspective – but to see and reveal the pearls hidden within the trivial of the mundane; then through the art and craft of photography, lift those found pearls to a higher level of appreciation. Yes, I sense H, C-B could do that because he wasnโ€™t shackled nor enslaved by his gear, and neither, I feel, was Weston . Iโ€™m sure theyโ€™re other photographers just as unshackled – Daidล Moriyama comes to mind. He uses simple cameras to craft images that reflect his feelings at the time he presses the shutter.

      • pascaljappy says:

        Hi Sean, Daido Moriyama is a great example. His lips series is exactly that …
        If we spent as much time obsessing about our eye as we do about our gear … ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Dallas says:

      Pascal, I can relate to what you have been doing and agree at the ned of this I will have improved as a photography.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Hello Pascal ๐Ÿ™‚

      Thanks for what is more a fascinating testimonial than a mere opinion. What comes through your words feels a lot like the diamond process of creation. First, you explore in all directions (reading, videos, PP, culling …) followed by an elimination of ideas in favour of one chosen solution : spending more time & using less gear.

      And your exposition of your parameters of complexity is great ๐Ÿ™‚ Simplicity of procedure allows you to tackle more complex subjects. And the results is … more fun.

      Brilliant ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Dallas says:

    Pascal, a very insightful and thought provoking article. Slowing down is something I’ve been trying for what seems like every and it works when I remember to do it. Classic images well done.

  • philberphoto says:

    After chewing on your article for a couple of days, I choose to disagree…. as so often…:-)
    In my opinion, this discussion of what comes first, the chicken or the egg (the simple gear making us good ‘togs, or good togs making good pics even with minimal gear) is possible only if you leave out the key component: the infinite depth and wealth of images that subjects can lend themselves to. The reason HCB managed it is that, his talent notwithstading, it was manageable with minimal equipment. The reason Nancee and Valerie manage it with gear I let go years ago (more power to their elbows) is that it is there to be done. The reason we can collectively produce surprisingly many fine images from minuscule shooting grounds is that the material is richer, far richer in opportunity than we think, when we have so much at hand that we merely reach for the lowest-hanging fruit. I am now down to shooting less than a dozen iris, and it has kept me producing for over a week. And one thing I am sure of, I am far from having exhausted the subject. Thus it is this huge range of opportunities that makes so many solutions technically possible and viable. Not the reverse.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Ah, opposition ๐Ÿ™‚

      Things we agree on: digital has opened up possibilities.

      What we disagree about it the rest ๐Ÿ˜€ I cannot think any proficient artist, scientist, technician, now or in documented history, that hasn’t specialised (focus) and used specialised gear to achieve great results.

      Elimination of mental distractions matters tremendously in achieving something. It is well documented that no one can design anything valuable from a clean slate and that constraints lead to far better results. And I don’t know of anyone who uses multi-purpose tools at a professional level. Only campers use swiss knives. The pros and avanced amateurs have specialised gear that optimises their workflow.

      I have seen your gorgeous irises and hope you will share them here one day. But they prove my point. Elimination of distraction has enabled you to make the best out of them, using one lens exclusively and converging towards one very specific lighting scenario. And the results speak for themselves.

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    “. . . does this lack of freedom actually make us better?” Indirectly, yes. Because it compels us to a course of action we had not previously decided upon. But it’s that action which makes us better. For the sake of this discussion, one is a sine qua non – a necessary condition. But it’s the other that’s the sufficient condition.
    “Do we benefit more from opportunity and choice or from constraint and obligation?” They are all challenges. How we benefit from them is going to vary according to who we are and what we’re confronting. As a general observation – we should benefit from all of them, but it is likely to be in different degrees.
    “. . . this camera has made me a better photographer. My photographs are more deliberate. My keeper rate has skyrocketed. I no longer snap. Because the camera is slow, every photograph is a decision.” Tempting – but I’m going to leave that one to Nancee. ๐Ÿ™‚
    GAS – gear heads – cabined, cribbed, confined. I don’t know that there’s too much opportunity for that in these circumstances. Mostly we’re stuck with whatever we have – both in terms of gear and in terms of subject matter. Creativity now depends on how we can try different solutions to the same problem – because we have a more limited number of “problems” to choose from.
    But how is that different? Although that has changed is our perception of it.
    And besides, Monet set a fine example of exactly this, with his iconic series of paintings of haystacks. Countless others have followed his example – not with haystacks, I imagine, but the principle of seeing the same scene over & over, under different conditions, so you can analyse “difference” and learn from it.
    “. . . women photographers, who seem both very talented and largely immune to gas.” Yes. Quite. Don’t men claim to be more practical? And here you’re giving the yellow jersey to them? Funnily enough, two of the best photographers I have ever come across are women – and both use fairly basic gear. I can’t speak for both – certainly one of them does experiment from time to time, with different genres, but mostly using the same camera – just using it a different way.
    “Dream? What dream? Complex gear can do that to your photography.” Of course it can. But that’s not the fault of the gear. Just because “you can” doesn’t mean ‘you must”. It’s perfectly possible to set practically any camera as a “point & shoot” We can’t blame the camera for the fact it has 100 functions and a thousand settings. We chose it – we bought it. But then the pros tell us to check our gear before hand – maybe the night before – leave it “set”. And if we follow their advice, there should be no problem – we can keep the gear AND the dream. It boils down to self-discipline.
    As an addendum – now that I’ve made it quite plain that I have the gear I want, and I shoot mostly with my D500/D850 pair, and that part of my reason for being a stick in the mud and staying put – not even attempting to keep up with the Z7 or later – is because the task of learning how to use this kind of stuff is enormous. And I will NOT waste that, constantly changing cameras. There is no reason why using such gear cannot become intuitive – basic stuff holds no patents on intuitive use of gear. And to keep this in balance, in focus – being basic imposes limitations, as well as advantages – just like NOT being basic does.
    Becoming a genius? – I’ve never been an attention seeker, I’m far too reclusive – but if it helps, what I HAVE done with my photography is to follow my own dream, and not someone else’s. Pastiche and plagiarism certainly AREN’T “art” – scanners and photocopiers and specialist printers can do the same job these days. There are trillions of photos out there already? – so what? – are we expected to stop breathing because there are 7 billion people out there, breathing already? Nobody can take an original photo of tourist icons like the Eiffel Tower, because so many people have taken photos of it already – bollocks – all of those photos is “different” – anyway, none of them are mine, so I couldn’t give a damn about them – refer “breathing”, above.
    Oh – and I love you final photo – it suits the yellow roses extremely well – you could place one or two shots of the roses with it, and they’d make a great display!

    • pascaljappy says:

      “We canโ€™t blame the camera for the fact it has 100 functions and a thousand settings.”
      Well, if the ergonomics stay user friendly with so much nonesense going behind, I agree. From my experience, though, those cameras constantly get in your way.

      Monnet is a great example !

      ” Iโ€™ve never been an attention seeker, Iโ€™m far too reclusive โ€“ but if it helps, what I HAVE done with my photography is to follow my own dream, and not someone elseโ€™s. ”
      I think that is step #1. Everyone should learn to do that. We soon realise what we like is limited to one of two things, and the distractions stop.

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        “those cameras constantly get in your way.”
        I have to agree with that. I grew up on cameras that had few controls – shutter, aperture, focus, and shutter button. Then one that added an inbuilt exposure meter.
        Changing ISO was effected by changing films – which became possible in midflight, when Zeiss released cameras with a magazine back. Pros had been using such backs for quite a while, on cameras like the Linhof Technica and the Graflex used by the press, but with my interest in available light photography I was over the moon being able to switch from 40 ASA to 400ASA to 1000ASA, in the field.
        Buttons? Menus? Bollocks!
        1 – don’t keep changing cameras – keep the damn thing, and learn thoroughly, how to use it
        2 – read the manual – re-read the manual – and keep reading the manual
        3 – buy one or two text books by high grade pros, on the camera you are using
        4 – see if there’s any way you can load a selection of YOUR favourite “groups” of settings – then instead of ripping through menus, it’s down to pressing one button
        5 – when you plan to do a shoot, check the settings you left on your camera last time, and re-set them to something suitable for the one you’re about to make
        6 – while you’re checking – make sure you actually have memory cards, that they aren’t full already and have the residual unused capacity you’re about to need – ditto with battery charge, and your spare battery – which of course you never forget – oh, and maybe some spare memory cards
        ROTFLMHAO – did I ever do all or – even – ANY, of the above, before I gave up on my “clockwork” cameras?

  • Kristian Wannebo says:

    Very nice!
    Though I get the impression that we point more or.less in the same direction but with emphasis on different aspects?

    Now, how much constraint (of any kind, with gear or plans)…?
    Too much, and we are stifled; too little, and we risk getting lost in space.

    Consider the first electronic music which appeared in the 1960s. Some of it used most all possible sounds with total freedom. The result? It sounded like a random sequence!

    From the viewpoint of information: The larger the set from which you choose, and the less rules you have, the less information the choice will contain.

    No matter how artistic someone is, we need some kind of pattern (in a very wide sense) in the result or as a reference to it in order to be able to recognise content.

    ( When confronted with – to me – new modern music or art, it takes me some time of viewing or listening to examples until I begin to “learn” the “language” – or perhaps I don’t find it.)

    Let me end with a (possibly repeated) quote from Stravinsky’s book mentioned above:
    ( from memory )
    “The stricter rules I make for myself, the freer I can compose.”

    And another quote
    [ Re.:
    > “But it goes beyond gear and my guess is a great part of becoming a successful artist boils down to elimination of fluff.”
    Pascal J. above ] :

    Elisabeth Schwarzkopf once said in an interview,
    that music by Mozart was the most difficult to sing,
    because it had to sound so easy.

    • pascaljappy says:

      – “Too much, and we are stifled; too little, and we risk getting lost in space.”
      Interesting point. What I like in the linked article is that the more people have been constrained, the more creative energy they develop to overcome the limitations. I’m not saying we should lock ourselves in a cupboard for 3 weeks to become more creative ๐Ÿ˜‰ Merely suggesting that this temporary lockdown situation can have beneficial effects on us.

      – “From the viewpoint of information: The larger the set from which you choose, and the less rules you have, the less information the choice will contain.”
      Excellent analogy.

      – “The stricter rules I make for myself, the freer I can compose.”

      • Kristian Wannebo says:

        Pascal, thanks!

        > “What I like in the linked article is that the more people have been constrained, the more creative energy they develop to overcome the limitations…”

        I suppose you mean “Why Constraints Are Good for Innovation”, yes, I read it, and it was about a corporate environment (if I remember rightly).

        But it also says”
        “When a creative task is too constraining, employeesโ€™ motivation is hampered. If the space within which creative ideas are generated becomes too narrow, it is harder to form novel connections and serendipitous insights โ€“ both of which are vital for creativity.”

        Pascal, as you say, we shouldn’t lock ourselves in a cupboard…
        – – –

        Also, we shouldn’t forget that in e.g. science, public-domain programmming and often in art there is no deadline – which gives a totally different working philosophy.
        I’ve witnessed (in an on-line forum) collaboration between a company and a Linux community, and in the end it failed. The company (more responsible) didn’t manage to help overcome their very different goals – to manage a deadline with something useful vs. to finish the implementation of the partial goals.

        I just want to suggest, that to increase constraints might also possibly have different effects in so different environments – anyway the conststraints probably ought to be of different kinds.

  • Jean-Claude Louis says:


    Great post, thought-provoking. Beautiful flowers, too; I was hoping, scrolling down the page, that there would be only yellow flowers, and then I saw Oops ๐Ÿ˜‰

    There is matter for endless debate and comments in your post.
    I’ll just pick this one: “All constraints foster creativity”. Not sure I agree with this statement. In my experience, external constraints impose restrictions to what can be done and how it’s done. That does not bode well for me.

    I agree, though, that it is easier to think creatively within some sort of boundaries. But those boundaries are best established by the photographer/artist her(him)self. What is the objective, what is needed to achieve it (for ex. a good working knowledge of the gear and techniques used, so that they are not in the way of the creative process, but supporting it)? And above all, discipline and elimination of distractions in the execution of the project.

    This being said, I can understand that, for some people, imposed constraints can help focusing on their creative endeavors. It’s not one-size-fits-all ๐Ÿ™‚

    Stay safe!

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thank you Jean Claude.

      I was going to leave it at yellow flowers only, but didn’t want to give the impression I had mastered what I preach, because it isn’t the case. Hence the naughtiness at the end ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’m glad you spotted it.

      – โ€œAll constraints foster creativityโ€
      Hmm,maybe I should rephrase that. Let’s just say that our need to feel free makes us creative when we can’t. We can become agitated / desperate or we can harness the energy into something bigger. That’s not to say any of this is easy, or Whitecube would buy exclusively from prisons.

      And, as you say, in the context of a project, the boundaries help eliminate some of the combinations and distractions.

      You stay safe too ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Humm humm (buzz buzz en anglais) is lovely. Not sharp, not well composed, lacking contrast, not much saturation. Just lovely and very memorable!
    Thank you for ridding me of any hasselblad wet dreams though it still looks like a fine machine to admire and fondle! Not for me but it clearly works very well for you.
    There is much to be said for simplifying equipment and, for me, that demands light weight and a wide range of focal lengths. Otherwise leaves too many opportunities on the table. I try to find a simple set of controls and stick with them. Speed of working (i.e. “intuitive process”) trumps most other considerations and most ‘features’ are just distracting. I never seem to remember what button does what so ignore most of them except the shutter button. If I add a second body I think it will be another Lumix gx85. It does what I need and I don’t have the energy to learn something new.
    “Creativity for the sake of it” sums it up. Praise always feels good but, unless you’re shooting professionally or making money as an artiste, there’s no need to pay much attention to others’ opinions. If they help you out or make you happy, nice. If your work pleases others that’s a bonus.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thank you Alan, I had almost given up on chasing those fast-moving bumble bees with my desperately slow AF when I set it to MF and stopped focusing altogether. I simply moved back and forth trying not to loose sight of it and click at the right moment. If neighbours saw me, I’m surprising they didn’t call an ambulance ๐Ÿ˜€

      The X1D is an acquired taste, that’s for sure. I love it to bits, because it is so fast and predictable and neutral. You can do what you want with the files and they never break up. And it’s lovely in the hand. A one button camera, imagine that ๐Ÿ™‚

      – “thereโ€™s no need to pay much attention to othersโ€™ opinions.”
      Exactly. Feedback is essential if we want to make progress. But feedback is asked for, and not random opinion.

      All the best!

  • Kristian Wannebo says:

    Somewhat O.T.:
    An example of what constraints can achieve,
    – just for entertainment.

    We are (well, most of us) also fairly deep into computers – and again and ag…, now and then swe…, let out our frustration over bloated programs and recur…, occasional dam…, strange behaviour.
    And over the lack of well thought out and written or videoed manuals.
    [ Sigh! ]
    As a previous DS post has so well illustrated!
    ( #985 by Paul Perton! )

    Let me travel back in time, <—, to almost the beginning of personal computers.
    Somewhere towards the end of 8 bit Z80 processors with (max!) 64 KB (yes, kilobytes) of memory and the beginning of 16 bit 8086 8 MHz (yes, megahertz) processors with also only 64 KB of memory.

    Programmers had to code much in assembler, i.e. machine code – almost forgotten nowadays – in order to be able to fit enough functionality of text editors or spreadsheets (yes, modern ditto are to a large extent just bloatware) into the limited memory and to get decent speed from such processors.
    – – * – –

    Once upon a time…

    There were rumors about a text editing program, said to be exceptional in its functionality and stability…
    I looked for information, found very little, and finally an article about it.

    It turned out to be written by some, I believe, private programmer with a – compared to the accepted way – rather upside down coding practice.
    Usually programmers first streamlined and minimised the code for it to fit – and the user interface came out accordingly, i.e., to put it mildly, rather inconvenient.

    No, this programmer had *first* written and revised the user manual, and *then* started coding…

    And everybody (well, those who were lucky enough to find it) lived happily ever after…
    No, just until the program didn't work on their next computer.
    – – * – –

    And then…
    Then MS-DOS – a kludge – took over by IBM's dominance.
    And later the first Windows – another kludge, sigh.

    … the rest is history, they say, I wonder…

  • Jaap Veldman says:

    Iโ€™ve been coming back to your photo nr.3 of Eva in front of the School, many times.
    Reminding me of Gregory Crewdson scenes. The light and the atmosphere. Beautiful. As is Eva.

  • John W says:

    Pascal – I agree with your thesis on several levels. My first truly “great” photographic learning experience was buying a Rolleiflex after years of 35mm GAS. I learned to slow down, look carefully, and make those 12 frames count. That was the only camera I owned for 17 years. Many years later in the digital age, my go-to lens went to the repair shop and stayed there for 9 months, leaving me with the two lenses I used the least … a wide angle zoom and a 70-300mm. Once I calmed down and made friends with the two strangers who’d invaded my comfortable photographic life, they took me to places I’d never imagine.

    Yes, constraints can make you more creative. They force you to focus mentally and visually. But equally important, they can force you out of your comfort zone into places you never imagined.
    What if HCB had been forced by circumstance to use either a 35mm or 85mm lens for 6 months? What if Gary Winogrand was stuck in a far off place with an 85mm instead of his favourite 35mm? What would that have produced? Hmmmm …..

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