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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

odds and ends...

So as you can tell it has been a few weeks since I have done much on this page, and believe me it's not for lack of ideas, but more for a lack of time. I have to sleep, so somethings suffer, and since this place is not something that is actually making me any money, I have to back burner it now and then. A couple of other things have also kept me form being a busy blogger, namely Facebook and my new camera! You can see from the last few posts that I have been a busy little photographer.

I have now had the camera for about 5 weeks and I noticed the frame count today was nearing 3000. Yes, I am a prolific snapper. Not all of my snaps are collectible photos, but each of them teaches me something, and therefore they are valuable. In fact, today I have decided that I wished to try and get a better understanding of exactly how flash compensation worked, and so I sat down in the shade and shot a few geraniums at various settings to see how the various flash settings affected the shots. And I recorded the data for each shot in my little data book so that I may later refer to the data to help me perfect my technique. The truth is that I much prefer to use natural light and the shadows that it casts, just as it casts them, however there are times when I do and will need to understand how to use a flash to eliminate certain harsh shadows or to even the light across a subject. Thus I have to learn how to do it, when the situation is controlled and I can learn without the pressure of the shots "counting". Getting a grip to be sure.

Facebook seems to be slightly addictive, and I am trying to find ways of interacting a little more with people and getting some feedback. There are certain people who constantly give feedback, and I do appreciate it to an extent, but there is a limit to good wishes from people. Sometimes rather than simply telling me how much they like my stuff, I would like it if they told their other friends how much they like it, and get me some more eyes and maybe some eyes looking to buy! I have been putting up various pictures that I have been taking, especially with my new camera, and The hope is that eventually I will be able to start selling prints. I am not looking to get rich, honestly, I would love to be able to make a living at photography, but I know that it is a long way to get to that point. I know that I am not the best business mind, I am much more creative. That said, in order to make a living at photography, I have to figure out what my niche is. Am I a nature photography, or an action shooter? Am I a concert portrait maker, or do I capture the raw emotion of an event? I have been taking pictures at fire scenes, and I have shot some youth sports. I love taking pictures of plants and flowers and trying to capture the peacefulness or grandeur of landscapes. A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to take some portrait style pics of my niece for her senior pictures. What did I like best?

Truthfully, I liked doing all of it. I like nothing better than looking at the world and seeing what I want to capture and then the satisfaction of getting some shots that turn out to be exactly what I had in my head when I initially looked at the scene.

I have this dream of doing a book about barns, as any longtime (longtime being since last fall when I started it!) reader of this blog can tell you, I love barns, and especially the old gambrel roofed style barns. Sadly, they are a disappearing structure in the American landscape, and the history that they hold is disappearing with them. How many times have you driven down the road and seen a lone silo standing sentinel over an empty field? You can bet that lying below that silo is the remains of a barn, whether collapsed into the ground or burned in some tragedy or demolition, it is the barn that raised the silo. The lone silo is the orphaned child of the barn. I don't know if I will ever have the drive to actually finish the book, but perhaps someday I will get much closer to getting it done.

I have been taking pictures yes, but I have also been writing about them. In more than one place. I have the pictures on Facebook and each one has a little something with it as an explanation, and in some cases I use the pictures to illustrate some narrative about what they are or why I took them. Recently someone was looking at some of my pics and asked me why I took a particular picture, and my immediate response was to ask, why not? In the age of digital cameras, there is no good reason NOT to take a picture. True that in many cases you only get a snapshot and not what the professionals call a "picture", but what is a picture but a well staged,placed and/or planned snapshot. By definition the BEST pictures of the last 100 years have been lucky snapshots when someone was in the right place at the right time shooting the scene. "The Execution" in Saigon, "Napalm girl", The flag raising at Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima. Granted the most famous one is a staged event, but the original was a snapshot. Part of the photographers job is being in the right place at the right time, and knowing where to look when the action is taking place. The guys on the sidelines of the big league games, they have earned a place there, so that they have the chance to get that special shot that becomes iconic for a particular athlete, like the crestfallen look of Scott Norwood after he missed the field-goal that lost the Super Bowl, or the moment of triumph when Lance Armstrong crossed the finish line for his 5th consecutive Tour De France win. The guy who was positioned to capture the flight of Richard Petty along the fence at Daytona when he went airborne. These guys have only one chance to get that particular iconic shot, and if they miss it or screw it up, they will never get the chance again, and we, the public, will never be able to review it and see if it is like we remember. In these days of video, and cellphone cameras, it is likely that someone got the picture, but what would you rather see, a picture that you have to squint at to see the details, or a giant glossy poster of that perfect shot? Yeah, that's why I took that picture, because eventually no one will have to ask why I took it, because they will be able to see in the frame why I took it, whether it's the tears of defeat, the joy of victory, the gossamer wings of a dragonfly skimming across a lily pond, or the spectacular colors of an August sunset. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but I truly believe that the story behind the picture is what makes the picture with it.

Pictures are art. Every snapshot, every school picture, every painting, every sand drawing. If it is a graffiti tag spray-painted on a building or the doodling of a child on a notebook, it is art. Art is in the eye of the beholder, it is interpretive and has the distinctive duality of being both valuable and worthless at the same time. Each creation is unique, if for no other reason than it is separate from all others, even the copy has it's own individual flaws that make it unique from all other copies. What we create as artists, ( and we are all artists) we always hope to have accepted by someone. Even if it is a small group that sees the innate value of your work, you always appreciate the acceptance. As an artist I know that my art has value to me, in that it is something that I have put myself into, but I hope that it captures something that gives it value to somebody else as well. When I die and the things that I have made are kept as mementos of my life, then they have a new and greater value, because I will never create or capture another piece with my unique vision. From this standpoint, one can argue that even the electrician who puts the wires in the walls of your house, that you may never see or worry about, is an artist, because his work is unique.

We are all artists, and we all deserve appreciation, it doesn't really matter the medium, or even the message, if we leave behind a piece of ourselves, that is appreciated by someone else, then we have achieved a "masterpiece".
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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

My current favorite pictures

As some of you will undoubtedly remember from a few weeks ago, I have a new camera, and I am loving life playing with it! There is just no stopping the ideas flowing through my brain and the endless possibilities that keep popping up before my eyes. I want to try new things and shoot in different ways. and to show my vision of the world. I feel almost like a veil has been pulled from my creative eyes. I am seeing the world once again in a way that makes me glad to greet each new sunrise. I wait for inspiration to strike, and it seems that I never have to wait very long. Today it was a sunset. Yesterday it was a barn fire!
I am always looking to learn something new, and to refine my own picture style. I am steadily getting my comfort level back with the higher-end camera. I have been using the point and shoots for so long that I have to get my steady hand back for the longer lenses, and to see how to capture the images that I want so that they convey the stories that I am trying to illustrate. Each time I break out the camera I learn a little something that I didn't know before. I find new ways of doing things and especially seeing things. I want to show things in a perspective that maybe nobody else has tried. Although today with all of the amateur photographers out there with high-end, pro gear taking great pictures and trying to be the next Ansel Adams, it's all likely been tried. The odds are that what I do will be noticed by my small group of friends and family on facebook, and perhaps a few friends of friends steered by the linked pictures, and not much more than that.
What I would like to be able to do is to sell my pictures and make enough money to travel and take more pictures. I love to take them and to show them and to have someone tell me that they like them. My firemen friends like the stuff I do for them, at their functions, and after I get a few under my belt and get my technique figured out, I will be much better at the fire scenes too. I have been taking pictures of musicians for years, but this is the first time that I have had the gear to get a good ambient light picture of the guys on stage and not needed flash to keep the fingers from blurring.
The one thing that I don't want to be is the guy with the shingle in front of his house who gets the call for the school pictures. Senior pictures! I like doing portraits of people that mean something to me, I want to show them to the world the way that I see them., I want to be able to capture that little bit of attitude and recklessness that I see in these people. I can only really do that with people that I know. My niece is one of those people. I will give you, that she is so photogenic that it is nearly impossible to get a bad picture of her, but it is still a skill to do it without being boring about it. Catching her being goofy, without being obvious about it, and keeping her in a playful mood makes it really easy to get great shots of her. So what kind of photographer do I want to be? Well, I guess that I want to be the one that people call after an event and ask me if I was there taking pictures, because they are looking for something different, or better than what they have from everyone else. They will know that I will have the background pictures, the pictures capturing real emotion and real action, not some staged, gimmicky, "aww" shot. Not the treacly kiddie shots that most parents take with their cell phone cameras, but the picture of the guys doing the work, the grimace of pain and strain, the dust and the dirt of the events. The stuff that shows how the work gets done, and why people were there.
But then again there are always some really cool "aww" pictures too. They aren't all throw-aways. Sometimes you have to be sneaky to get the really cool pictures. I have been called paparazzi on more than one occasion! It helps that I generally know my subjects and they get accustomed to the fact that I have a camera and they never know when I may be shooting. They forget that the glass is looking for a subject to see, and when they are their most comfortable is the best time for shooting. But there are those who are ever vigilant, lest they be caught being natural, and for those subjects it becomes a challenge to get a great shot. Sometimes you can position yourself in the right place and lie in wait for the right time to present itself, or you just become ubiquitous with the camera and sooner or later you get a great shot of that elusive subject. What ever way works is fine by me, I'm not too picky about the how, I'm much more interested in the "how did it come out?" The bonus of digital is that you can take 200 pictures, be happy with 100 of them, ecstatic about 10 of them and toss the rest and be out nothing but time and experience. A person can learn.

Life is about learning, and photography is about capturing, so a photographers life is learning the art of the capture, I guess.
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