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Monday, February 19, 2007

Mike's World

SA*

...Or,
How to Be Cool in Nine Easy Lessons:


1. The fewer lenses you use, the cooler you are.**

2. Committing to one camera is very cool, even if you own two or three of them.

3. The longer you've been using the same film, the cooler you are.

4. The closer your camera is to "mint," the less cool you are.***

5. Using a camera that's as old or older than you are is very cool.

6. The shorter your longest lens is, the cooler you are.

7. The more often you carry your camera with you, or keep it within easy reach, the cooler.

8. Cool people do not use zooms. Really cool people use cameras that can't be fitted with zooms.

9. The more you will shoot for every frame you'll show, the cooler you are.


*Satire Alert.****

** Four is fairly cool. Three is definitely cool. Two is very, very cool. One, and you are a God, and I kowtow to you.

*** And a corollary: the more you care what brand of camera you shoot, and especially the more you let other people know what brand you shoot, the less you even have a clue what cool is.

**** I think. On the other hand, I think I kinda believe all these things, deep down.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

ADDENDUM: Mike Prevette's Leica M8. Black tape is cool.

56 Comments:

Blogger Max said...

Looking at this list, I think "cool" and "poor" seem to be two very closely related human conditions!
(I know it's only an illusion, once you start talking brands it's gone!).

1:28 PM  
Blogger cwroundabout said...

Mike...please re-read The Fountainhead. Don't take yourself so seriously, lest people begin to believe you.

1:45 PM  
Blogger Player said...

I loved that Mike. It brought a smile to my face. Thanks!

I figure since I'm 51 and I have a ponytail, I'm still cool even if I have a couple zooms, and two new Nikons. Right? :)

2:16 PM  
Blogger Abdee said...

Cool people don't focus. :)

2:53 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

Ponytails are cool!

--Mike

3:23 PM  
Blogger Randomrubble said...

Yup, I definitely feel cooler when I'm using my ancient manual focus film camera than my DSLR...

4:02 PM  
Blogger Ozymandias PolarBear said...

10. The more cool you think you are having read the above nine easy steps, the less cool you are?

I jumped for joy when I realised how many "cool" things I did - but then I realised that, to be really cool, I shouldn't have cared...

4:05 PM  
Blogger Derek said...

Does a pinhole count as a lens?

4:26 PM  
Blogger wtlloyd said...

Ya, I had to wait for all the 1990's wine swilling, cigar puffing ponytailed Republican trendys here in Los Angeles to cut theirs before I could let my freak hang out....half of them have shaved their heads now, because no hair - Hah!

I feel like I'm 18 again....not.

4:42 PM  
Blogger stanco said...

Pony tails, if you're bald- even with a rangefinder, NOT cool!

4:52 PM  
Blogger Josh Hawkins said...

Ponytails maybe "cool" but they are certainly not "hip". And apparently "hip" trumps "cool" in this day and age. Or at least this what my hairstylist says, and if it wasn't for her I'd still be "cool" and not "hip".

5:22 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Using oddball cameras is cool. Got an Alpa? You're cool.

Saying, "I can learn everything I need to know about a lens by looking at the MTF curve" is cool, even if you don't believe it.

8:00 PM  
Blogger aizan said...

10. you're mind-blowingly cool if you don't even know your camera's name.

11:36 PM  
Blogger Mitch said...

Cool people use a Ricoh GR-D or another small-sensor camera like the Leica D-Lux 3 and need a viewfinder. (The trouble is that I'm absolutely serious, and not at all tongue-in-cheek).

—Mitch/Bangkok
http://www.flickr.com/photos/10268776@N00/

11:37 PM  
Blogger monarch said...

So, I exclusively use a pinhole camera made from an oatmeal container my grandmother bought in 1912.

How cool am I? I also wear small round glasses.

12:33 AM  
Blogger Nick Meertens said...

I am God... until my next paycheck!

12:33 AM  
Blogger Sam said...

Looking at this list, I think "cool" and "poor" seem to be two very closely related human conditions!
(I know it's only an illusion, once you start talking brands it's gone!)


My first thought was, there are cool Leica users?

I kid, I kid...

1:46 AM  
Blogger Arnaud said...

> 1. The fewer lenses you use, the cooler you are.**

Do 18-55 zooms count?
;)

2:09 AM  
Blogger al said...

Buying you cam gear used and at low cost cool, as is using out of date and dead brand cams, all killed by fancy cars and clothes. Worrying about the tiniest bit of distortion etc way way un cool. As is the megapixel race.

2:11 AM  
Blogger Abdee said...

Using Soviet cameras is so cool... And if you use Soviet medium format camera you're elite cool :)

2:35 AM  
Blogger Vladimer Nachkebia said...

I am bloody cool!!! :)

5:06 AM  
Blogger under focus said...

cool?? --- the only thing that matters is the picture one smile at!!

6:38 AM  
Blogger Svein-Frode said...

Ponytails suck, braids are cool!

Gursky is a millionaire. I want what he is using!

7:01 AM  
Blogger Albano Garcia said...

Very funny. But, it'snt a bit slippery the frontier between cool and snob in this case? When I think "snob", a rangefinder (sprecially the red dotted ones) comes to my mind.

7:29 AM  
Blogger rydell said...

I enjoyed the list, but I was left with one lingering question. Were you drunk when you wrote this? Because that would be cool.

7:59 AM  
Blogger Charlie Didrickson said...

This is the coolest post ever.

8:27 AM  
Blogger nextSibling said...

For the purposes of coolness calculus, how many lenses should I count on a TLR?

8:37 AM  
Blogger Photo-essayist said...

Tweaking aperture when stepping to shady side of street, without reference to exposure meter...cool. Way cool if it's an M3 or something similar.

8:59 AM  
Blogger dasmb said...

By all accounts, I was never more cool than when I was shooting with the fixed focus 35mm panorama camera my Dad got for free at a trade show.

You never would have known it to look at me.

9:39 AM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

"When I think 'snob', a rangefinder (sprecially the red dotted ones) comes to my mind."

Not all Leica shooters deserve the term "snob." Some of them deserve the term "photographer."

--Mike

10:08 AM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

"Were you drunk when you wrote this? Because that would be cool."

...Actually, very un-, in my case. Haven't had a drink since Sept. 10, 1990, and hope to continue in that vein.

--Mike

10:09 AM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

"For the purposes of coolness calculus, how many lenses should I count on a TLR?"

Cool question.

--Mike

10:14 AM  
Blogger wirehead said...

Damn you!

I wish you hadn't put the "Satire Alert" on there, or else I'd be able to tell EVERYBODY that Mike says I'm really really cool.

:P

10:31 AM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

"I wish you hadn't put the "Satire Alert" on there, or else I'd be able to tell EVERYBODY that Mike says I'm really really cool."

Ah, but you are. And I do say so.

--Mike

10:39 AM  
Blogger Dave New said...

To hear the guys on Phototalk Radio, all it takes is one lens -- the Tamron 18-200mm zoom.

Feah.

11:32 AM  
Blogger dasmb said...

As an addendum: I've done a number of shoots at the Empire State Plaza in Albany. It is a very unusual place, where Victorian architecture meets post modern, art deco and desert chic, where gardens interact with concrete and sculpture and where the only five skyscrapers in Albany tower over a reflecting pool as long as they are tall.

On a nice day, everything comes together and it's breathtaking. So a lot of photographers go there. When I see them, I usually say hello.

Whether or not they say hello back seems to have everything to do with the price and brand of their equipment. Folks with old Nikons (a lovely camera) or consumer digicams or shiny new DSLRs with kit lenses usually return my smile and chat with me. Folks with big bulky camera bags, "pro" digitals and medium formats rarely even acknowledge my existence.

After noticing this, I put black electrical tape over all the branding on my cameras, including the telltale red rings. I like to take good photographs, and I like to use good equipment. But I'm not letting my camera define me, nor color my perception of anybody else.

At least I hope I'm not!

2:38 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

"After noticing this, I put black electrical tape over all the branding on my cameras, including the telltale red rings. I like to take good photographs, and I like to use good equipment. But I'm not letting my camera define me, nor color my perception of anybody else."


Black tape is cool. (Some Leica shooters I know cover up all the identification on their cameras with black tape).

--Mike

P.S. What the heck is that giant bowl thingy in your pictures?

3:32 PM  
Blogger dasmb said...

What, you mean The Egg?

It's a theatre and music hall whose unique architecture has lead some parties to wonder: When will it hatch?

3:40 PM  
Blogger VictoriaDakini said...

So where does a digital that can't take lenses fit in to all this? It has a little bit of a zoom. It forces me to work with composition, which I like to do. Someone asked me if I have a program that crops the pics and I said "Nope".
So whats the hype about rangefinders? I used to have one and quite liked it.

Ponytails - call me an old hippy, but I still succumb to them. (good thing you are in LA and I am in Victoria)(on the other hand, you might want to come up for a visit - our spring blossoms just came out). But as for the shaved heads, I am now hanging out with Zen Buddhists, so I must have a supressed yen for the shaved head as well......

3:53 PM  
Blogger erusan said...

After reading point 1, I thought myself definitely cool. Points 2 and further brought me back to my senses. I was just being poor.

Please do not forget that "primes" are cooler than "zooms".

10:52 PM  
Blogger Judhi said...

I don't want to look cool, I just want to make cool pictures. The more you try to act cool, more likely you will end up look like a fool. Trust me.

12:30 AM  
Blogger KSH said...

"**** I think. On the other hand, I think I kinda believe all these things, deep down."

Yeah, I feel that way, too. But, looking at the number of lenses I own, I just have to admit that I am decidedly uncool. There, I said it. Now, why don't I feel better?

Karsten

2:09 AM  
Blogger Skidder said...

Cool is a 4x5 Speedgraphic. ..And a HUGE flashgun.

7:41 AM  
Blogger redrob50 said...

Shooting out of production film is cool. Extra cool if it's black and white. Having and using your own darkroom is cool. I am not that cool, but I do shoot a lot on a camera that is almost as old as I am.

8:10 AM  
Blogger Player said...

I put the electrical tape on my D80/D200, also on the SB-600, plus I ditched the Nikon straps for nondescript black Pacsafes.

I'm so cool I stand it: electrical tape, black straps, ponytail, whoa! ;)

9:11 AM  
Blogger Olaf Ulrich said...

> 1. The fewer lenses you use,
> the cooler you are.

I have a theory: You can have too many lenses, but never enough.

So I am rather uncool obviously. I keep hauling a dozen of lenses around. But at the end of the day, usually I have used only two of them. Unfortunately I never know beforehand which these are going to be.

-- Olaf
(no lens purchased since Dec. 10th, 2006)

10:28 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

1. Two lenses. Check
2. One 300D and a P&S I rarely use. Check
3. film?
4. Russian firmware hack, third-party strap and scratches for "personality." Check
5. Dang
6. 85mm but I never use it. I only use my 50. Hmm, hell with it. Check
7. Um, no.
8. 50mm prime. Check
9. Major check!

Excellent! 6 out of 3. I'm cool!

Never knew being poor was cool but I'll take it.

10:39 AM  
Blogger robert e said...

Which is not to say I'm not enjoying the heck out of the lens talk. I am!

1:34 PM  
Blogger Zaphod Beeblebrox said...

How about building one's own camera? Is that cool, or what?
http://www.flickr.com/photos/zab/sets/72057594096324064/

9:06 AM  
Blogger dyathink said...

i dunno, the black electrical tape annoys me more than the conspicuous consumption of expensivie cameras. It's like a big black arrow pointing at the camera saying "I'm too sexy for this camera". Cool post :)

12:58 AM  
Blogger Phojo Nick said...

"the black electrical tape annoys me more than the conspicuous consumption of expensivie cameras. It's like a big black arrow pointing at the camera saying "I'm too sexy for this camera."

That's why the ultra ultra cool folks use gaffer's tape instead of electrical. It's not glossy so it blends right in with the matte black of most camera bodies.

A photog friend and I were chatting yesterday and he remarked at how well worn my Canon 1D was (that makes me highly uncool doesn't it?). He went on to say "wow, even the Canon logo has been worn off." He didn't notice the tape till I pointed it out. Hehe.

10:02 AM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

"he remarked at how well worn my Canon 1D was (that makes me highly uncool doesn't it?)"

No, the opposite. It's having a pristine camera that's uncool.

--Mike (in my world, I make the rules (s))

1:09 PM  
Blogger robert said...

I got my Kiev 60 medium format camera from my brother-in-law, who won it in a poker game from a Russian sailor. While the camera seems fairly new (only 17 yrs old), it has scratches on it from where someone tried to pry open the back (evidently they couldn't figure out how to open it!) I also have a ponytail. Am I cool, and would I be a lot less cool if I quoted you on whether I was cool or not?

11:07 AM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

Robert,
You're cool, especially because of the way your brother got the camera. But you're right, it's just not cool to make the case for yourself being cool.

--Mike

12:33 PM  
Blogger robert said...

right, so it would not be cool to seek additional coolness with a mention of the scotch tape covering the display of my D200 (that prevents the shattered glass on the display from scratching my nose and cheek). Note that neither electrical or gaffer tape were available to me in Antarctica when the damage happened.

However, I do have a follow up question: How does the coolness calculus balance the apparent conflict between Lessons 1 and 8 when one 18-200 zoom can replace 3 or 4 primes to cover the same range?

2:53 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

Robert,
Sorry, primes are always cooler than zooms. I say that even though I use a zoom now myself. I'm not as cool as I used to be. Sort of the same principle as: thin is always cooler than overweight. (I'm not as cool as I used to be there either.)

--Mike

2:57 PM  

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