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Warning - A & B are a trap!
The sneaky duality trap
30 June 2020 . 4min read

Well, here you have it, the first longhand words of this newsletter thing. How does it feel? Well, my hand is already hurting, and I've realised how much I rely on auto-correct.

I should perhaps briefly say what I am doing. Why I'm doing it, and how I am doing it.

Just realised that those are in the wrong order - I miss cut and paste too.

Last week I chatted about taking a "Longhand view of the World". If you haven't read it, then you should get right on it, and do so now!

The basic idea was that in doing something different, you get to view it in a new light. There I was talking about how I write this stuff. What would happen if I wrote it out longhand?

Which brings us to this.

So this started out on a sheet of lovely cream paper, in a lovely Moleskine book, written with a lovely Japanese metal pencil. It's actually quite an organic and texturally rich experience - so far!

I've always liked Moleskine notebooks. It started when I saw the opening page, a specific page stating, "In case of loss, please return to:" Followed by, "As a reward: \$ ". I think it's cool that they place a value on whatever you write in the notebook.

The Japanese metal pencil is a particular work of engineering art. As you write with it, the lead automatically rotates and pushes out, so you always have a perfectly sharp & pointy nib; nice and crisp.

Having got this far, I've noticed a couple of things. The first is that the pencil and paper are solar powered - the batteries never run out! The second is that, contrary to popular belief, you can't actually write anywhere! Sure, you can scribble a quick note anywhere, but I challenge you to write a few thousand words! Nope, you need a table and a comfy chair.

I have a camera. Well, I have several cameras, but the one I want to draw your attention to is my 1970s Russian (USSR) Zenit SLR camera.

I've had it for a few decades now, and it is a vast distance from being automatic that it is possible to get. It is simple, made entirely out of metal, and bomb-proof. Even the plastic-looking bits are actually metal painted to look like plastic. I have no doubt that I could use it as a rather effective weapon if the need arose.

Know as a 35mm film shredder, because of its hard-as-nails film cogs, it is actually a delight to use. It's how I learnt to take photos. About 20 years ago, its light meter stopped working. I think that was the only piece of electrical shenanigans in it. So I got a handheld light meter of a similar vintage. It also is Russian (USSR), from the 1970s, and uses a rather curious (or is that worrying) selenium cell to take readings. Equally manual, it helpfully also has readings for when I want to shoot Cine film!

I promise I'll get to my point short; I always have a point.

I also have a Nikon DSLR, which is only a couple of years old. The exact opposite of the Zenit.

I do occasionally think about threading some black and white film into the old camera, and being old school. So, the other day I found the old camera. Remarkably, or is that worryingly, it had a roll of Ilford B&W professional film in it. Probably a decade past its use-by date; I'm going to get it developed.

The lens on the Zenit is another metal wonder. Which got me wondering. Could I use it on my new Nikon? Turns out, with a little research and an adapter, yes you can. So I did.

Felt rather odd, using an electronic camera on total manual. Manual focus, manual use of the old light meter, manual setting of exposure, manual working out of the depth-of-field needed.

It was a delight! I took this week's photo using that setup.

So we have an Apple MacBook (from last week) vs pencil & paper. New DSLR vs vintage SLR.

Which gets me to the point; which is better?

In my piece, on-off tribalism, I talked about our default programming of duality. A or B, On or Off, Yes or No, Old or New?

Last week, I mused about whether writing this longhand, using a pencil and paper, would make it more creative. Would make it somehow better. I think I missed the point; I fell into the duality trap.

The mixture of a new camera and a vintage lens were different. Using a pencil and paper to write, when you want to sit out in the sunshine, is great.

You don't have to always use a pencil & paper. You don't have to always use your iPhone to take photos. You don't have to choose to always use a manual vintage camera.

We always want to compare things. I was comparing writing something on a laptop vs a pencil. I was considering the Vintage camera in relation to the New camera.

Over these past 2 weeks, I come to realise that it is not about using A or B. It isn't even about using A and B. It is about knowing that both A & B exist, and that sometimes you can choose to use C.

There are stories in this photo. I took is using a 50-year-old lens, coupled with a new DSLR camera; that's one story. The gardening gloves themselves, is the other.


Profile photo of Nigel Derbyshire

I'm a carbon-unit who writes; a Carbon Writer. Life & culture are my default topics, mixed with a little English wit & sarcasm. Full of mostly true stories, I occasionally remember to write them down. Found in a crowd, or contemplating in a corner. Habit of talking to anyone. Author.
- Nigel Derbyshire