We recently got to talk to him about his work and love for La Sardina's dreamy and aesthetically pleasing results.
Hi David, welcome to Lomography magazine! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your work?
Thank you for inviting me for this interview. I’d be glad to. Most people in the photography community know me from my YouTube channel, the David Hancock Channel, where I teach people to use cameras and lenses. My work’s goal is to help people shorten their learning curve and get to the important work of exploring their creative photographic vision more quickly.
Outside of my channel my wife and I have a dog that is good at agility– for fun not competitively, and we hike a lot. We enjoy taking our teardrop trailer out to different campgrounds, waking up early for a day hike, and then coming back to cook something over a campfire. Fun fact, every now and then someone on a trail recognizes us from YouTube. I think that’s happened three times now.
What made you initially pick up the La Sardina?
I hike a lot and camera gear displaces a lot of necessary items – layers, first aid, and snacks, for instance. So I often look for light and wide-angle cameras I can use on hikes. La Sardina’s design, the bright colors, and the size and weight caught my eye. When I looked into the images online, I really liked what I saw. I picked up a couple of them and they joined me on a lot of hikes in the few years after that.
How does La Sardina fit into your style of photography?
I’m comfortable on the wide-angle end of the lens spectrum. La Sardina gave me a nice, wide perspective. What I found as I used La Sardina was that the image aesthetic of softness, saturated tones, and some optical imperfections complemented my subjects well and turned some of my rather pedestrian images into much more captivating work.
An image works when it has a message, not because it has perfect sharpness where every eyelash or whisker is rendered perfectly. La Sardina takes away the technical perfection that a lot of lenses strive for and that forces the photographer to work in a space of image meaning and atmosphere. Using La Sardina forced me into that space more than I had been before and, I think, my work benefitted overall. I stopped looking at potential images just for technical accuracy and instead started focusing my image creation on the story that an image had to tell. My work has improved a lot from that.
Do you have a favorite photo that you took with it? Is there a story behind it?
Oh yes. There’s a black and white photo of a longhorn bull sitting in grass. I took it the first or second time I used La Sardina, before I had seen any of the images I had taken on it. I didn’t have a sense of how my La Sardina would work, what the images would look like, or how to frame shots well. I saw that bull just lying on the other side of a fence along a trail, walked up to the fence, and then it watched me take a photo. The bull was clearly un-phased by me and used to hikers. I already had one of my La Sardinas in hand and I set the focus, held the camera up to the fence so the lens would be between the chain links, and took the photo. I had no idea if I had focused it properly, framed it well, or anything. I still think that’s the best photo I’ve taken with a La Sardina.
Do you have any tips or tricks for shooting with the camera?
My best tip is to keep it on you. It’s light and fits into most pockets easily. Take it when you go out. If you shoot five photos a week with it, after a month you’ll have a nice cross-section of that time. And it’s a great way to have a film camera to take impromptu photos of or with friends.
What subjects do you prefer to shoot with the La Sardina?
Most anything, honestly. This is one of the few wide-angle cameras that I think captures people well, and that owes to the aesthetic it provides. La Sardina isn’t going to deliver a technically flawless image, so it’s okay to use it to break one of my cardinal wide-angle lens rules – don’t photograph people with wide-angle lenses. The perspective distortion of the 22 mm lens, when mixed with the overall image aesthetic, doesn’t hurt portrait images in the way that a very-high-end wide-angle lens does. So photograph yourself and your friends, random people, and places. If you can put it in front of the lens, photograph it. Landscapes, street photography, and daily slice-of-life images are all great and readily accessible options with La Sardina. I don’t think that I had any images where I felt that it handled the subject poorly.
If you could bring La Sardina anywhere, where would you bring it?
I've taken my La Sardinas all over – to the tops of some of Colorado’s 14ers, on a friend’s boat, and on vacations. I think, maybe this is silly, that if I were to have the chance to go in one of those plexiglass submarines one day that La Sardina might be a fun camera to take.
Who would you recommend the La Sardina to?
The La Sardina has a distinct aesthetic and it needs to be embraced. I would recommend La Sardina to people whose work fits the aesthetic, whose creative vision accepts captivating images that are not grain-level perfect, and who want images that capture a mood or a sense of place rather than a perfect record of every person’s wrinkle and every wall’s paint drips. Technical perfection has a place, but mood will always evoke more from viewers. No one has ever been moved by how a lens renders a test chart, but people are often moved by how a lens reconnects them with a time or place. The lens on La Sardina does the latter.
Do you have any future analogue-related projects or videos that you can tell us about?
I do. Most people know that I’m incredibly organized, which I need to be for the content quantity that I produce. I plan out my YouTube videos about a year to 18 months in advance. Recently, I assigned target release dates for eight "All About Film" videos for 2023. I've also identified 24 lens reviews for 2023 as well. I started writing eBook and printed camera manuals based on my YouTube script format in June. The books and videos overlap about 95%, but each format has a unique section or two. I’ll have five, maybe six, books released before the end of 2022 and plan to release at least ten in 2023. So I keep myself pretty busy and having organization and a long-term plan that lets me work on multiple concurrent projects at once is vital to that content volume.
Anything else that you'd like to share?
I just want to say that I really enjoy Lomography’s cameras. I like how creative they are. No one else is making a hand-crank movie camera, a 360-degree panoramic, or anything 110. Film photography is not just an industry; film photography is a community of photographers who want to explore both the technical and creative sides of the art form to grow personally and as artists. Artists need creative and unique tools and Lomography’s cameras really do that well. I greatly appreciate the opportunity to share the work I’ve made with Lomography cameras.