Photography Rules, Essential Dos and Don’ts from Great Photographers is a new book by Dr Paul Lowe. To say that I’m delighted to be part of this amazing book would be putting it extremely mildly! I’m humbled to be in such great company and touched by Paul’s kind invitation to be part of this wonderful project. Sharing pages with one’s own inspirations and heroes in photography is quite literally, awesome.
As photographers, we all consciously or more often, sub-counciously form our own philosophies and rules. Be these ethical, compositional, a work ethic or technical. Ways of approaching life, interacting with people, the technical aspects of photography or camera techniques that serve us well.
This fascinating insight from some of the most amazing photographers, stretching back to greats like Ansel Adams or Richard Avedon, Brassai to Bresson, is not only interesting but thought provoking, enlightening and inspirational.
As Paul Lowe writes, “The book is not a systematic ‘how to’ guide to photography but it does have a reasonably logical progression of entries, organised into three main categories of rules: ‘Making Photographs’, ‘Being a Photographer’ and ‘Professional Practice’. These follow the journey of the photographic process from even before the image is made through to building a long- term corpus of work to its distribution to the world. Individual genres and approaches to photography are interspersed throughout, covering fields such as portraiture, documentary and photojournalism, landscape and commercial photography.”
This book is going to appeal to an extremely wide range of photographers; seasoned professionals to those who are at the start of their journey in photography. Not only do I see this as becoming essential reading for every student in photography, but also for photography enthusiasts and amateur photographers who want to get an insight into the thought process of the authors behind some of the images they admire.
My own contribution, is about my personal approach to photojournalism, the ethics I live by and is listed in the ‘Being a Photographer’ section of the book. The beginning of the text reads, “The award-winning photojournalist Edmond Terakopian reminds us that, when documenting other people’s lives, especially in situations of distress, ‘it’s not your story, it belongs to your subject. You must never forget that.’”
It accompanies my photograph documenting life, 10 years on from the devastating earthquake that struck Armenia. “A Woman Prays in an Armenian Church in Gyumri, for the Souls of Those Who Died in the Armenian Earthquake, 1988.”
The photograph from Gyumri was shot on a Leica M6 with a Leica 35mm Summicron, using Kodak Ektachrome slide film.
Photography Rules, Essential Dos and Don’ts from Great Photographers is out now and alongside good bookshops, is also available online from Amazon.
Biography: Dr. Paul Lowe is a Reader in Documentary Photography and the Course Leader of the Masters programme in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at the London College of Communication, University of the Arts, London, UK. Paul is an award-winning photographer, whose work is represented by VII Photos, and who has been published in Time, Newsweek, Life, The Sunday Times Magazine, The Observer and The Independent amongst others. He has covered breaking news the world over, including the fall of the Berlin Wall, Nelson Mandela’s release, famine in Africa, the conflict in the former Yugoslavia and the destruction of Grozny.
Ergonomics. Speed. Megapixels. Focal Length. Aperture. All considerations we photographers make when choosing a camera and lens. All very important considerations, of course.
Then out in the field or in our studio, we put our carefully chosen equipment to the task of helping us create the photographs we envisage, either by observation of the world around us or from the creative concepts within. You reach for your camera at that critical moment, as the juxtaposition of life becomes perfect or your model gets into their groove, yet is slips off your shoulder, you fumble, get a grip, raise it to your eye and that fleeting moment has disappeared and you’ve missed your picture.
If you’ve never worked as a photojournalist, wedding photographer, street photographer and so on, that may seem like a tad of poetic license, but anyone working in a genre which requires fast reactions, especially when working with multiple cameras, has been there. Especially in these genres of photography that involve a lot of moving around, often with two, sometimes even three cameras, for long periods of time. As mentioned, photojournalists, wedding photographers, street photographers, to name a few disciplines, will all know this feeling; cameras that slip off your shoulder not only become very frustrating, they do make you miss a picture. Sometimes as a journalist, you find yourself running (either towards a breaking story or away from an unfolding danger) and cameras which slip off the shoulder aren’t only frustrating, but will slow you down as you need to keep adjusting.
The thousands you spent and the days you agonised over camera and lens choice, don’t reach their potential as the camera slipped when you reached for it. Or as you’re running around a corner during a speedy walk about by a politician in a rush to get back to his office and away from his constituents, and the camera slips off your shoulder and pendulum actions itself into a brick wall (something I’ve personally ‘enjoyed’ doing, many years ago!). Or the tiredness setting in as the cameras on your shoulder or your neck become uncomfortable and you get sweaty, the fatigue and discomfort soaking up your creative energy and stamina for working.
All of this is down to one simple choice. Your camera strap. It’s the simple accessories we spend less time considering that can make our lives easier, more comfortable and fruitful, or frustrating, fatiguing and non-productive. Simple accessories like memory card wallets, battery holders, small bags for cables and adapters, and of course, camera straps.
I have to admit of never really looking at EddyCam before. I had noticed the company on my periphery, but as I had discovered UpStraps more than a decade ago, I wasn’t really interested in other camera straps. UpStraps gripped my shoulder like nothing before. Ugly, inelegant but absolutely practical, with a big chunk of rubber. Very uncomfortable on the bare neck though, but this had been my choice, along with my colleagues’, for a long, long time.
Purely through an exploration based on aesthetics, I started to have a look around online, for a new strap to compliment my Leica M10-D. I’d got a very elegant and practical Leica leather half case, in brown, and wanted to see if I could find a nice brown leather strap for it. The huge issue being that it had to be practical. It basically needed to stay put on my shoulder, be comfortable on my neck and the fashionista in me also wanted it to look good with my Leica combination. I had previously, years before, been through the fashionable and unpractical straps made by various purveyors of beautiful, yet unpractical straps. Google and YouTube then brought me to EddyCam.
When I saw the Edition 35mm cognac brown version, it seemed to tick all the boxes. Strangely, the first thing that immediately caught my eye and made me look at the strap as a serious contender, was the double X pattern stichting on the leather end pieces, which connect the main elk leather strap to the webbing. This was craftsmanship and manufacturing which was clearly made to last, and made for real use. There are so many beautiful straps with a couple of stitches or eyelet connectors, that make me wince in horror at the thought of them coming undone and my camera crashing to the ground whilst on assignment. This however, was properly designed, for heavy use in the field, by photographers who want to use their cameras as opposed to photograph their cameras on cafe tables.
I also liked the notion of an un-padded leather strap, which meant it would be soft, easily wrapped around the wrist and comfortable in use. The shape of it also showed that it should stay comfortably on the shoulder. The website stated “The patented lines, created together with orthopaedists, are so formed that you can easily carry it on your shoulder, around your neck or diagonally”.
The Edition 35mm In Use
I’m pleased to say, the orthopaedists clearly knew their stuff as did Edlef Wienen (Eddy), the brains behind the product. It came as no surprise when I later found out that Eddy is a very keen photographer of decades and also an avid hiker. I’ve found when something is conceived and created from passion and experience, it truly rises to a different level.
I have to admit to never having been aware of elk skin, so when I read the EddyCam straps are made from this, it did make me ponder. The company’s website states “Elk-skin is one of the thickest leathers there is – very sturdy and almost indestructible. At the same time, almost no other leather is as fine and soft as elk-skin”. It does seem a contradictory reality, but after receiving the Edition 35mm, it clearly is so. Extremely soft, but very tough too. The contrast stitching and two tones of leather, along with the high end webbing straps, which still remain malleable, even down to the coated and rounded stainless steel clips, just ooze quality.
One wonderful aspect of the strap is also a little bit of elasticity, which translates into more comfort when worn. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t bounce, but it gives it a little of suspension by stretching roughly an extra 2cm along it’s entire length. A Leica M10-D is a small camera, but it’s solid, so weigh’s more than one assumes. Add a Leica 50mm Noctilux ASPH and you’ve got some heft. I’ve found wearing this combination either around my neck or on my shoulder, has been supremely comfortable and crucially, non slip too. I’ve walked the streets for hours, when documenting the COVID 19 lockdown, or photographed clapping for carers outside a London hospital, working inside a church when services resumed and always found my camera stayed on my shoulder, remaining comfortable. When worn around my neck, against bare skin, it also always remained extremely comfortable.
It’s one thing making a beautiful and elegant strap; it’s a totally different thing making a strap which is practical and usable in real life scenarios. EddyCam has managed to combine both these things. In a career spanning 31 years, I’ve never found any strap which achieves both these qualities.
The Shoulder Range
I was so impressed by the Edition 35mm for my Leica, that I started looking further into the entire range. I wanted a strap for my Lumix S1 and S1R. When on assignment I’ll often work with two cameras. One with a Lumix S Pro 70-200mm and the other with either a Lumix S Pro 24-70mm or 16-35mm, depending on the assignment. My search led me to the Edition 50mm black on black Shoulder version.
The bigger and heavier S Series needed a slightly wider strap to spread the load more as well as a little padding. The materials on this edition differ slightly too; Finnish elk skin on the outside and Mongolian yak leather on the inside. The yak leather brings even more grip. As a result, it’s not as soft as the elk leather, but certainly not abrasive either, nor as uncomfortable as rubber against the skin, so whilst the S Series cameras usually reside hung on my shoulders, around the neck things didn’t become uncomfortable. One could also of course flip the strap over for a softer feel.
Hours spent on assignment, indoors, outdoors, worn on top of various materials of shirts and jackets, all resulted in one universal outcome; comfort and grip. The camera just stays put. The strap grips very well indeed, is extremely comfortable and just wide enough without being too wide, so easily packs away in a camera bag.
I had one reservation before getting the 50mm shoulder version though. As the straps are ergonomically shaped, my worry was that it may not work with my camera mounted with a 70-200mm. With longer lenses, I often turn the camera so the prism is pointing inwards (always on my left side so the shutter isn’t accidentally pressed when it rests on my side). This way the longer lens points downwards rather than outwards, which makes moving around easier and the lens is less prone to bash into things or people. The yak underside has so much grip though, that to my joy, I found the strap works on either shoulder, regardless of the direction it’s facing (although a little better when carried properly as the ergonomic curve helps it rest better). Also, the benefit of having elk on the top side means that if you want to carry your camera diagonally across your body, you can twist the strap so the elk side is in contact with you, meaning you can comfortable slide the camera from your side, to your front and shoot. As before, there’s a tiny bit of elasticity in the strap; it’s much less than the Edition 35mm, but does move a tiny bit, around 1cm along it’s entire length, giving you a little bit of suspension. Lastly, the internal natural rubber padding, which is just right as it’s not too thick, makes the strap sit extremely comfortably, even with a heavier professional body and longer lens, even for extended periods of time.
I also got another strap from the shoulder range, an Edition 35mm black on black Shoulder version for my Lumix GX9. This is identical in size and shape to the Edition 35mm cognac brown version, but has the yak leather on the underside for that extra grip, but lacks the rubber padding of the wider Shoulder versions. I really liked using this version of the strap too and my observations on its performance are as above.
We get the “free” included camera straps in the box with our cameras. Often with bright branding, that from a distance screams “photographer here”. Often with little comfort and very little grip. We also have a range of truly awful straps on the market from various manufacturers, which should be avoided at all costs. There are also several other manufacturers which make a range of straps extending from beautiful to practical. These qualities being mutually exclusive though.
EddyCam is the only manufacturer which I’ve used which has practical elegance, seemingly as an unspoken ethos. It goes further though. Absolutely comfortable, supremely grippy and phenomenally well made. Every aspect, from design, thoughtful choice of materials and production, means this is a first rate product. This is manufacturing at it’s best, realising the concept of design through practical experience and expertise in the field.
Looking at the market, the pricing is nearer the top end. The question is though, is it expensive, or is it good value for money? Having used these straps on assignment and personal work, for over two months, I’m absolutely certain that there isn’t a better camera strap for my needs. I’m also certain that these straps will last for decades. Through several camera changes, easily.
I used to use Nikon burgundy (with yellow stitching) wide camera straps back in the days of film. These were expensive, but lasted many camera changes and I still have them on my Nikon FM2 and F3, over 25 years after purchase. I’ve also used the same UpStraps for well over a decade. Comparing these two straps with my EddyCam straps, I’m absolutely certain the EddyCam straps are the best made and thus will easily outlast them.
When you make this realisation, the cost of the straps becomes extremely good value. In the heat of the moment though, when you reach for your camera and it slips from your shoulder, making you fumble and end up missing that picture, that’s when you will wish you bought that EddyCam.
All the images were made using the L-Mount camera system. Three images were shot on the Lumix S Series with Lumix S Pro lenses and the other two images were shot on the Sigma fp with a Leica APO Summicron SL lens and a Lumix S Pro lens.
All photographs were from raw files, edited and processed in Adobe Lightroom and finished in Exposure Software’s Exposure X5, with the monochrome image being finished in DxO’s Nik Collection, Silver Efex Pro.
Great to see the L Mount shaping up and the L Mount Alliance going from strength to strength. I was at Sigma UK’s Made In Aizu event earlier today and as well as being treated to wonderful aspects of Japanese culture in the way of Geisha performances of traditional Japanese song and dance, wonderfully delicious varieties of Sake from Aizu, it was great to see 11 prototype L Mount ART lenses from Sigma. Sigma will have 10 fast aperture ART lenses and one macro by the end of this year. The 35mm f1.4, 50mm f1.4 and 85mm f1.4 will be first and are due within months.
This year Panasonic Lumix will launch a 16-35mm F4, 24-70mm F2.8, 70-200mm F2.8 along with 1.4x and 2.0x teleconverters. Next year will bring a super telephoto, a macro and at least another fixed focal length lens. The scheduled lens line up for the L-Mount by the end of 2020 from Panasonic, Sigma and Leica will stand at a staggering 42 lenses. From what I’ve seen so far from all three manufacturers, most of these are going to be world class lenses. We’re certainly in for a treat!
Art line prime lens lineup for full-frame cameras with L-Mount
A joy to get a sneak peek at three of the newly announced Sigma L-Mount Art lenses and also the hotly awaited mount adapter. The samples were in large non working prototypes, but they gave a really good idea of weight, finish and handling.
My already huge fondness of the Lumix S1 and S1R took another leap upwards after initially hearing of the launch lineup, but having seen the quality of these lenses, I’m confident the future of the L Mount, with the L Mount Alliance (Leica, Lumix and Sigma), is going to be very bright indeed (as well as being pin sharp, with great tonal rendition!).