Brendan Gara Photography


Jonathan and friend

A slight photographic diversion, so apologies if it’s not to everybody’s taste.  A Flickr contact, Henri Antoine commented on this picture along the lines of how he could guess (usually correctly) which camera I had used to take each image I post before looking at the description.   I guess I’ve probably thought about this in the past, but never really “thought” about it if you see what I mean.  It gelled things I’d been thinking, but not really putting together in the right way.

I took this whilst we were visiting Ilfracombe recently.  I like flight, I like birds flying, but I don’t consider myself a bird lover or watcher and especially not a wildlife photographer.   I like the idea of flight whether it’s a glider, plane or bird- it’s graceful and it’s an escape from the ties of the land (I guess that’s another reason for loving the sea).   I suppose I’m more in love with the idea of flight than actually flying: I went along to a local army-recruiting centre when I was much younger as I wanted to fly helicopters; to be told in no uncertain terms I wasn’t “military material” and to “**** right off”.  Probably a good idea, I have issues with authority: I gave up dive training at university (which was taught by OTC types) for one too many time of being told “don’t point with your finger, but use your whole arm and hand, like this” as the instructor stretched out his arm purposefully.   I seem to recall outstretching fingers in a non-too charitable fashion.

I think Henri Antoine is totally correct; I do change the way I photograph according to the camera in hand and I’m sure I’m not the only one who works like this.  I use several formats; 35mm, 120mm and 5×4 sheet film, along with digital occasionally.  Each format has it’s own way of informing and influencing the act of photographing.  Shooting with a leica tends towards shape and form, fast and on the fly, whereas the big Mamiya 7 rangefinder demands a documentary approach.  I don’t know if it’s the format or the lenses although Henri- Antoine posits it’s the lenses: they’re super sharp.   Any use of the 5×4 immediately slows the process down to a point where you really have to look closely at what you are taking, yet viewing the image on the big, bright, ground- glass screen gives you a grand cinematic – directorial feeling.

So that leaves the last format and the one I’m most uncomfortable with- digital.  Its quality means you can span the smaller two formats (or at least sit somewhere between), and you can desaturate or channel mix to your hearts content to change the way the image looks, as opposed to the pre- shooting decision of film.  And because of that it becomes a “jack of all trades, yet master of none”.   I just can’t work out when and where to use it yet.  There is no instinctive feel for what or how to shoot it, there’s too many decisions, too much choice.

Here’s Henri’s web link, you should check it out, he’s very good.



  1. Interesting point. I’m trying to go the other way. Digital is what I’m most comfortable and experienced with. To me it’s just second nature and yes I do fiddle a bit with the image in LR but not too much. However, I’m trying to and will learn film and I’m finding that with all the films choices, formats, developing techniques, scanning options and printing there are many choices as well. Why do I bother? There is a look and feel of film that digital does not capture. When film is done correctly it’s beautiful.

  2. Cheers John, if it works for you then that’s all that matters. I think it’s about the lack of choice with film that drives (my) creativity in a certain direction. I tend to only use two types of film Tri X and Portra, so there are inherent limitations.

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