That ol’ list…

Pondering what makes me do the things I do, and the way I do them, not to mention why I do them, often gets me either annoyed, or gives me a bit of a headache. I guess that’s a part of not really being an A to B kind of person and not always following a straight line in how I do things, but sometimes I think that I’d have it no other way. Nowadays, we’ve got students coming out of university without the ability to have any critical thinking or allow for anything with even the slightest difference in point of view, so I think that being able to go from A to C in some instances might be a good thing, but we need to be careful that it doesn’t become something we do in every instance.

With that said, I usually make lists for what I going to do before I go out photographing some thing or place, but I end up tossing out most of it…For me, it’s really only a suggestion list after all. Sometimes it helps to have a plan, but sometimes it can also restrict us from getting what we’re planning to get. In life, we want structure and normality, but when it all falls apart, we tend to blame it all on something or someone else, instead of looking up for help. It’s like that when we follow rules to the dot, becoming legalistic in how we approach life; it however can leave us drained when what we’re trying to achieve takes long or seems way out of reach. For me, when I going to a place for the express purpose of photographing it, I’m definitely going to make a mental checklist, not just of what to photograph, but what settings at which to photograph it; it all in what I choose to keep and how I adapt to changing circumstances because going with the flow sometimes brings out a photograph or more that says something and means something.

- Hibiscus Three -
– Hibiscus Three –

In the end, it basically comes down to meaning something with what we do, and what we photograph, because if there’s no meaning, then it sometimes doesn’t really carry any weight in the long run. With all this international rhetoric being passed around, we need to be the people that carry some semblance of decency and do something that means something. I may not always be able to do just that, but I’m at least going to try to raise awareness by doing something that means something to someone.

When all else fails…

Thinking about it, I can’t help but wonder why the last thing I do when I’m struggling with something is to look up (aka pray). Why can’t it be the first thing? I mean, c’mon, I know I can’t do anything decent on my own because of just how much I’ve mucked things up, so I should be thinking three steps ahead, not three steps behind. This goes for everything I do, not just in life, but in my hobbies as well; I guess it’s just the fallen nature in me that doesn’t think things quite through. It’s sad when I see that others are suffering and I’m the one thinking that woe is me; I’m NOT judging anyone but myself in this (it’s happened a few times to me and a certain instance has brought this topic to mind).

- Lynn Canyon Rapids -
– Lynn Canyon Rapids –

The things that I’ve seen around me makes me wonder what on earth I’m doing to deserve even another chance, let alone a second chance, but that’s just the depressing voice in my mind. I’m not going to dwell on it, just take it for what it is and then try to make something of it that might just turn into something of worth to someone…It comes down to inspiration with me. Do I think I’m there yet? Maybe, but I’m going to keep trying. It’s kind of like what Winston Churchill said about success: Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm. I’ve just got to say that we’ve got to rethink what success really means because I sure don’t think it’s about things or how we’re feeling at the moment, but it’s about reaching out to others and walking with them, inspiring them, and confiding in them. I just have to say this: If you ever feel like nothing’s worth it, seek out help, especially that of a good, solid counselor that can show you that life is worth it. That’s what I love about the Good Charlotte song, Hold On: it’s about not giving up, because it will get better.

We’re going to fail & fall flat on our faces, wondering what’s going on with us, but the key is to NOT give up; it’s a message I’ve got to keep reminding myself of daily…And yes, it is worth it, even if we don’t see it at first. We’re at the point that we need to learn from our failures and move forward, not dwell on them or get more things to fill our time up with the shallowness of materialism. This all is just my take on things and my way of ranting out my thoughts on the matter.

Yeah = Utah?

Ever experience autocorrect making mistakes (i.e. like the one above)? And yes, this is a rhetorical question. I’ve had it happen that autocorrect corrects itself to auto-coconut, but don’t ask me on what planet that makes sense because I’m starting to really think that common sense has all but disappeared these days. Just like all this talk about which brand name is better than the other (apart from Porsche being leagues better than BMW), it’s ridiculous, and just another way for people to sell us more things…As if we don’t have enough stuff already. Sometimes we just need to get ourselves off auto and onto something akin to manual, especially when it comes to photography.

- Cascade Falls -
– Cascade Falls –

I’ve gone through some of my photographs over & over, trying to figure myself out and where I’m going with this thing called photography that I enjoy, but it seems as about as elusive as politicians making any sense at all. The above photograph is one that I’ll most likely keep going over for months, mostly because I can’t seem to make up my mind about exactly how I want to finish it; I’ve already gone through two revisions, after the first refinement session, and I’m most likely going to keep tweaking it. I might even try a sepia, duotone, or B&W treatment on it, but the most important thing in all of this, to me, is that it wasn’t taken on auto, but on full manual; to each his own, I guess, but I’m going to keep going this way because it helps me think a little more when I’m doing things, and really muck up along the way while I’m at it which helps me learn as well.

In these days of everything going so fast, I’m thinking that we need to slow down and really think about what’s going on, but that’s not what the mainstream wants because then we’re not as gullible as they want us to be. We need to get some common sense back before the mainstream with its lack of any ethics runs roughshod over all of us. Just look at our Facebook feeds; they’re mostly about the latest stuff we’ve bought or how great we look, and little about uplifting, helping & inspiring others (I’m totally guilty of this as well). We’re at the point that we need to get past this whole gear & tech stuff and I’m at least going to try to get past it.

A place for review…

Now I haven’t done one of these for quite some time, and I’d like to take the time to say that a must read, for me, among current books just released is The Soul of the Camera: The Photographer’s Place in Picture-Making by David duChemin. I’ve only finished the first few chapters and it’s something that’s quite amazing because it talks, and discusses, about the role we play when we take photographs because we comprise the proverbial soul of the camera in that it’s our emotions that go into making the image. Getting this book a few days before July 1st, Canada Day 2017, I pretty much know what’s dominating my non-theological readings during the long weekend and it’s this book (as well as finishing up War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy for the umpteenth time).

This long weekend, I’ll probably be out taking photographs, while not taking in the Canada Day celebrations because of how busy they get, and I’m going to at least try to take photographs that mean something. For me, life’s a little too short not to care about what the Creator’s let me be able to do, so I’m going to do something with what I’ve been given. The first book above has made me wonder if I’m really putting my heart & soul into what I’m doing, photographically or otherwise; many things have made me wonder this before and here this book is, reminding me yet again. Yet I am always reminded by how easy I end up lashing out when I’m frustrated and end up messing up my chances to be real in life & how I take photographs. Still working on this idea of putting more soul into my photographs, I’m far from getting it right with any consistency, but I’ll try each time.

When it comes to photographs already taken, reviewing them can be a good thing, especially if you’re going about it looking for vision & soul in the shot itself. Maybe it’s me, but I’ve come to realize just how far short I’ve fallen when it comes to doing the right thing and now, little by little, I’m trying to recover from that fault. When it comes to life, I’m slowly, and painfully trying to slow myself down & examine why I am the way I am, and when it comes to photography, I’m learning to slow it down & really examine a scene before I take a shot; either way, I’m slowly learning to really put my heart & soul into it.

Worth…

It comes down to worth, for me at least…Is it really worth getting out there and using my camera, old by today’s technology standards, to capture a shot that might not be that significant? YES. Sure, I may not be anywhere near famous, talented or even anywhere near more than decent, but it gets me thinking and gets me to the point where I can unwind from all of life’s issues that the world seems to throw at me. I might not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but I’ve come to realize that I need to get to point that I’m able to not give a crap about how toxic the critics can be and try to do something that’s of worth. Personally, I believe we’re created to do something of meaning, something of worth, that might just inspire others to do better; the Creator’s calling us to really believe in him and he’s given us means of expression, whether that’s in the sciences, or in the arts.

- Tiny Blues -
– Tiny Blues –

It’s shots like the one above that really seem to get to me in a good way, especially after minor tweaking (after shooting it in RAW instead of the compressed JPEG format), because they show the beauty in the small things that can be so much greater than all the rest of the flashy crap out there in the world at large. The cool thing is that the center of the photograph isn’t the sharpest thing in the photograph, the spot on the right of it is; we’re drawn to the center and then left to explore the rest of the scene that the photograph presents. It’s about the exploration that just might make it worth it for the viewers and even if it doesn’t, it just might do that for me for even just one more time.

It’s not always about doing something of worth every single time, but about doing something that might just be of worth at one point or other. We stumble & fall all the time, but are we trying to at least get up and have another go of it, trying to do something of worth, not for ourselves, but for others? I’m going to make a go of it, or at least try to do just that, and maybe, just maybe, I might be able to brighten someone else’s day.

Thought & Taking a Stand…

It says something when we’re about to go into a time where two people, both as mucked up & corrupt as could possibly be, are running for US president; now I’m nowhere near perfect, but that just had to be said. Where’s our thinking when stuff like this happens? I’m inclined to say we’ve all mucked up, because we all let stuff like this happen without much thought, let alone taking a stand and saying that enough is enough. We’ve let our lax attitudes spill over into politics…I’m as much to blames as the next person…but let’s start by at least beginning to take a stand & not taking just any old thing as okay.

We’re just as mucked up when it comes to photography because we’ve let just anything be called photography, including explicit imagery. After all, it’s all just art, right? WRONG!! I’m going out on limb here, but I’m going to say that we’ve nearly lost sight of what photography’s for…showing & saying something of value with the camera. So many times, I’ve fallen short of this, I’m beginning to think that I’ve lost it altogether, but then, every now & then, I actually get it right (or at least close) that it brings me back in.

What seems to get me every time, is that I end up forgetting to really take that stand, thinking that I can’t do it…But I have to dig deeper than just thinking that I can’t do it & acting on it; if we just all stop there, then we’ve lost it already. With a little help, we know we can’t do it on our own, but that help makes us get past it all; with my beliefs, if comes from above, so why do I forget it so many times? I get cowardly and forget it so many times, letting the world get to me, brining me down. So the answer’s right in front of us…We’ve just got to give it some thought and take a stand against all this crap.

What I’m working on…

I figure that’s it’s time I show what it is I’m working on at the moment and stuff that’s come out of the works so far. The thing is…I’m always working on some images, constantly tweaking them in one way or other. Sometimes, like in the photograph below, I’m revising the edits I’ve done; this one’s had the tone curve changed more times than I care to admit…And I’ve posted it with a much darker background already.

- Tiny Strands -
– Tiny Strands –

Most of the time, I just decide to revisit an edit on a whim and see what can be worked on & what can be improved or changed. Call it paranoia, which I sometimes think it truly is, but I’d rather be sure or work at it than ignore it…One & done just isn’t me most of the time. For me, going back to it a few times or more opens me up, usually, to trying other things with the photograph, not to necessarily change my vision for it, but to allow the photograph to speak to me from a distance that time away has provided. Now, will I go back & revise the above shot? I probably will, not just because I can’t seem to make up my mind, but because I’m constantly trying to refine my vision & work on my technique.

- Tiny Strands II -
– Tiny Strands II-

However, the one above, taken at roughly the same time as the first shot, will most likely be the final edit, mostly because it had a stronger negative (RAW) file and was much easier to work with. I also went to refine it after working on the first shot multiple time, so, by then, my vision has become much more firm for the photographs I took in that area. All things considered, sometimes I go back with multiple edits & revisions, and sometimes I don’t. It really depends on the shot…The first one seemed to warrant multiple revisions because of the way the first revision turned out & how I felt about it when looking at it with new eyes, while the second doesn’t really have that because the first revision summed the feel of it up just right.

Stuck in the depths…

It’s probably one of the worst feelings, being surrounded and wanting to say something, but you can’t, or you feel like you just can’t seem to find the right words…Not just with our photographs, but with our lives. We’re all looking for something important, something that will make us feel something other than stranded without hope. I’m not talking about the greater picture here, but the smaller one; why not do something that positively lights up the moment?

The hardest thing is really doing something that matters, especially for someone else. I mean, why worry about the world when you’ve got so many things going on yourself? Sometimes, spreading a little cheer is all it takes, letting someone know you’re there for them, giving a shoulder to lean on. In photography, the closest thing I can think of off of the top of my head would be sharing a photograph (without bragging about how it was taken) that would make a person smile who hasn’t smiled in a long time because it could just take that one image to brighten them up. After all, isn’t it doing something that matters to someone that really matters in the end?

- Lily Pad Flower -
– Lily Pad Flower –

The last verse of the song Words In The Water (by Thrice) ring true because when we decide to shine a little light in someone’s direction, it brightens their day and can help them get out of the funk they’re in. The song may mean something greater, but even just applying it to the little acts of kindness or brightening up some’s day, it still works. When we, or they, are stuck in the depths, shining a little light helps, no matter how big or how small when it comes from the heart. The problem we all have (myself included) is that we sometimes have a difficulties doing just that because, in this day & age we’re so focused inwards on ourselves.

Gear hunting…

For one thing, it’s not the gear that counts so much as how we use it, but that being said, isn’t it fun, hunting for more & more gear? Wanting & getting the latest gear, spending ever more money thinking that it will make our photography better? It sure is great, isn’t it? Bragging about how we’ve got the latest & greatest stuff from who we think are the best & brightest companies in the field.

In case you haven’t clued in, the above is nothing more than a joke, a sarcastic rant (apart from the first 16 words). There’s really nothing much more than the continual quest for more gear, latest & greatest, that really pollutes photography at its core. We’re the ones actually taking the photograph, using the gear, not the gear taking it for us, because we decide when to press the shutter, to capture the moment. Gear is good, but what we do with it, what our vision is, is greater. When we fail to realize that (as I have done some times), we forget what makes a photograph stand out, what makes it say something. No one really cares about our photographs (a point made by Ted Forbes of The Art of Photography YouTube channel), but they care about what we have to say with them; we need more that matters. Only when we work at our vision, our intent, then our photography can & will shine through the array of others out there.

Why would my shots matter to me? They’re an outlet…a kind of release from the day to day grind during the week and they help me, in a way, to get just a little lost in the moment. Gear hunting, while it seems like it helps, only keeps me from really enjoying photography because it takes time away from actually photographing a scene & makes me worry about my gear more than worrying about composition…Gear hunting is more than a distraction most times because it takes from more than it gives to actual photography. Photography is more than staying within the strict rules, it’s doing something that matters, saying something that matters with the images we take, regardless of the gear we have, or the rules…And being respectful while we’re at it.

Taking a stand photographically…

Where do we stand when it comes to photography & our beliefs? What’s our relationship between the two and how does it form, and how does it influence, what we take photographs of & how we take them? For me, the one thing that couldn’t be more disastrous is when we completely forget to incorporate ourselves into what we do & what we shoot. Images without impact are just an arrangement of pixels, meaningless to the eye because they don’t move us deeply or say anything to us, or others.

Nature & landscape photography should be about the beauty of nature, the wilting of the flowers, or the intersection of beauty & grace; if not, it just might as well be a small kernel on the sands of time. Architectural photography should be about lines, curves, colors, or the impact of buildings on their surroundings. Portrait & sports photography should be about the person and what he, or she, is feeling or doing. Why just say “I was here and saw this” when you can show how it felt & what it was like? There are plenty of images out there that are just plain snapshots (not that there’s nothing wrong with that), but I don’t think we should be adding to the noise. Now, I’m not perfect and I’ve made more than my fair share of shots that don’t say much, but I hope at least I’m striving to capture something with at least a little heart to it.

When we begin to separate ourselves from what we shoot, we end up with shots that don’t really say or mean much and come across as just more photographs. Following compositional rules for rules’ sake is the same thing because they aren’t made with any emotion, just mathematics or cold, distant logic that tends not to mean much to the heart. I’ve made way to many of those images and I hope I’m not just adding more to the bin; bracketing doesn’t always fall under this method, mostly because it’s either making sure to get the right lighting/exposure, or more leeway in case editing or image combining (HDR) is needed/wanted. Taking a stand isn’t pushing others aside or bragging about how great we are, it’s making an impact with what we do & what we shoot.