In isolation

Much is made about keeping the subject the key part of the photograph and I fully agree, but a little chaos can be a good thing; as long as it’s there for a reason. We know that living in isolation isn’t a good thing for our mental well-being and Christians believe that man is not meant to be alone (Genesis 2), so from this I know that being in complete isolation isn’t a good thing at all. Where this relates to photography is when we think that we become so important that we don’t need anyone for input; when this happens, we cease to learn and stop growing. How do I get past this? I look at other works by others put out there, whether it be on other blogs out there, photography books, other photographic tools, or asking others, it’s a way for me to learn. I’m not exactly outgoing when it comes to my photography (at least not face-to-face), so that part doesn’t exactly come all too easy for me. We all get inspired by different things and in different ways, so isolation (in the personal sense) isn’t all that good to begin with.

- Mushroom & Grass -
– Mushroom & Grass –

When it comes to certain subjects, a large aperture will work better than a smaller one; I know it sounds obvious because the depth of field is shallower & more isolating with the larger aperture, but it also makes the background & context of the subject nearly irrelevant. Irrelevancy isn’t something that is necessarily a good thing, mostly because it keeps the eye from moving around in the photograph and can often make the view bored with it quicker than should be happening. In my opinion, the above photograph gets away with this somewhat by simulating a wider aperture because of a gradual filter with negative clarity for anything outside of the circle, creating a kind of vignette of clarity around the subject; I refined it this way not just to draw the eye the way it does, but to show the miniature scene the way it felt when I first shot it. While the shot doesn’t strictly stick to the leave-as-shot rules, it does stick to the feel of the scene itself and it sticks to the emotion of the time it was shot.
Getting the feel of a scene in a photograph has mostly been a long struggle for me and I’m far from getting it even half of the time. Maybe it’s my stubbornness that causes this or maybe it’s just that I work without all the bells & whistles that most other people work with, but, either way, I’d rather be doing this and learning as I go instead of just reaching the next step quickly and then wondering where I go from there. I get bored all too easy, especially for someone that isn’t prone to being hyperactive…Even if I do have my crazy moments.

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Wearing the past…

When I look back, I’ve come to think that we tend to wear our past mistakes like they’re what define us and, in a way, it’s kind of true, but in doing this, we put ourselves down so far that it’s hard at times to get up. We all make mistakes and we all have things that we regret, but I’ve come to realize that the Creator’s given us one way out. I’ve made so many bad decisions that I’ve come to think that I can’t do it on my own and I’m totally right in thinking that; I can work at something so hard that I lose sight of the bigger picture. When it comes to who we trust and who we think have our backs, we need to look to those that will walk alongside us, not whispering things in our ears that beef up our pride because we need to stay humble, something I’m so often forgetting.
For myself, reading & photography have been ways that often seem to get me realizing just how small I am, yet just how much the Creator cares for each one of us…Why else would such a messed up creation look so good if it wasn’t for something bigger behind it all? There’s always a flip side to the good and we need to tread that line carefully so that our pride doesn’t get the better of us, making us think that we can’t do it on our own; we need to wear our past to the point that we don’t treasure it as the only thing, but so that it reminds us to stay humble, something we all can easily forget, myself included. I want to remember the past so that I don’t repeat it, but I don’t really want to let it define who I am. When it comes to what I think photography does, for me in particular, I think it’s a bit of escapism in that it helps me focus on something else besides what mistakes are in the past; it’s almost as if it’s one way of me wearing the past quite loosely and not letting it get to me too much.

- Pink Lily -
– Pink Lily –

When I think back on what I’ve done, with my photography, in the 3.5 years since this blog was started, I wonder if how I started was a little stronger and I’ve been taking it a little too laidback when it comes to refining, or even taking, a shot of a scene; sure, I’ve changed a bit in how I go about things and why I do them, but have I lost sight of purpose & inspiration? If I’m being honest with myself, I think I have, at least to some extent, but I hope I’m also learning as I go because, if I’m not, I’m going to lose sight of why I’m doing it in the first place. I don’t think I would’ve gotten the above photograph the way I did if I had done it back then, but I’ve learned a few things since; my inspirations have changed and my tastes have morphed a bit over the years, so it’s no wonder that I’ve grown at least a little in photography. I’m nowhere near perfection, but that’s okay because it’s a journey that I’m glad I’m on.

Side issues…

We’re often told that going with the flow is more important, but I don’t get it? Why go with the flow when we’re born to stand out? If we’re really individuals, then I don’t think that we’ve got to necessarily go along with every little thing that society dictates we should do, especially when things are getting increasingly out of hand with both the far-right & the left, politically. Here in Canada, we’ve got a leader who says that we must say people-kind instead of mankind, but then he says that he was just joking to cover his back (yeah…right); most of the time, politics is so full of crap that it’s nowhere near funny anymore. But then, that’s just a side issue because we look at our politicians and think that’s okay because they’re just being politicians; since when did we let them think it was okay to do that to begin with?
I think the same goes for photography & the rest of the arts: when did we become so enamored with the latest gear that photographs became increasingly two-dimensional & shallow? Sure, we can’t always be on-the-ball with every shot we take, but we, myself included, can sure try our best not to let ourselves get lost in all the gear and focus on meaning instead. In a way, when we focus on getting it right in camera, forgetting about how new our gear is and instead on what our gear does, it makes it easier to get meaning & impact in our photographs. Personally, it sucks when I worry about my gear because it distracts my mind and keeps me from getting in my best photography and it can really derail what could be a good time of photography. When I’m letting go of just thinking about myself & my stuff/gear, then maybe, just maybe, I stand a good chance of getting something of meaning in my photography; after all, if I hold to the belief that the Creator made this world beautiful to begin with (even though we’ve screwed that up), I might as well try my best to focus on that instead of my own selfish needs for once.

- Perch -
– Perch –

Sometimes, we all need a little inspiration to get us going & lift our spirits; I’m far from perfect on this one, so I’ll keep trying, even though I’ll fall down, Ill eventually get back up. Personally, I think it’s about time that we get past all the crap around us and live like we’re the kind not just to say so what? but the kind to at least try to do something about it. Let’s get past the side issues and really start to work at something more instead of dwelling on them.

Needing a drink…

There’s quite a few country songs about needing a beer, some of them are among my favourites. What I’m trying to get at is that sometimes things happen that leave us needing a beer or just a simple coffee. Easter is right around the corner and it’s not about some bunny that lays some chocolate ears, but about the Saviour’s ultimate sacrifice for our sins and rising again for our redemption/salvation, should we choose to get down on our knees and accept it…Although it’s more of the Creator choosing us, but I’ll leave that for theology masters to duke it out. I’m just as guilty as the next person and I’ll readily admit that if I can, but I just want to get that out there. Sometimes, all the worries of this world make me want to sit down and grab a cold root beer or a coffee to just let the worries drift right off of me.
It takes a mind that’s open to even think about this kind of stuff and, being a stubborn person myself, it can also take some time…It’s not light decision. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that live is more of a battle, thanks to pride & all the crap that mainstream society & the radical fringes throw at us, but, in the end, we’ve all got to really struggle against it, but thankfully the power isn’t something that we have to do on our own. With Easter, it’s about seeing that there’s more to it than all the chocolate that we’re bombarded with and realizing life isn’t always about us, something I’m so guilty of doing every now & then. With that said, there’s something to be said for not buying into the hype over all the chocolates on sale and maybe, just maybe, we might avoid a massive sugar crash.

- Sunrise Over Trout Lake -
– Sunrise Over Trout Lake –

Easter is also a great time to get together with family and, if you’re far out from them for most of the year (unlike I am), it’s kind of a catch-up time after Christmas. Family’s more than just biological family because it’s the kind of people that you can get along with & trust and/or lean on in times of struggle…And ask their honest opinions of when it comes to certain decisions. Getting back to the title of this post, I just have to say that we need more than a drink, something that really gets to the heart of the matter and I believe that’s where Easter comes in.

When gear gets to be a concern…

Thinking about it, I’ve come to realize that, in a world so oversaturated by materialism & oversexed imagery, we’re getting a bit too enamored with this kind of crap. I’m just as guilty of this as the next person and it brings me to the realization that we’re at the point where we are beginning to worship the created instead of the Creator. I mean, think about it: we’re so focused on the tangible & physical that we let secular society twist our lives for us, telling us what we’re to believe and what we’re supposed to believe without any critical thought, al so we just let it slide. For example, the children’s education program in a populous Canadian province (I’m not going to mention which one) was so graphic that there’s a lot of outcry about it; the provincial government okayed it, pushing for it in schools without much thought and young minds are at an extreme risk because of it (any who oppose the sickening curriculum are lambasted by the corrupt governing party as well).
It all gets to be way too much and we wonder what this world’s coming to when things like this happen; this kind of stuff is making its way westward and I’m thinking that it’s going to really mess us up. We focus on gear and the physical so much that we forget to really think about what we’re saying to others when we let this happen; what kind of legacy do we want to leave to the next generation? One of the places where this gets to be quite visible is in the field of marketing photography gear; each lens is sold as the best at portraiture, landscape, macro, etc., to the point that it’s implied that we NEED it to SHOOT LIKE A PRO…We get so inundated with these kind of ads that we forget that it’s all about who’s making the shot, not what’s making the shot; we should be reminding ourselves that while gear is good, if not expensive, what we do with it, and what we say with it, is much more important. I know this comparison is a really big stretch, but the two situations have one thing in common: they focus only on the physical and have the potential to distort the mental.
Life is more than just the physical and it definitely means so much more than what we can see right in front of us with our own eyes; it’s so much bigger than just us. So, now that this post is nearly over, I’ve got one last thing to get off my chest and it’s about this whole thing regarding gear: it’s about time we focus more on meaning & inspiration so that we can truly, or at least try to, make this world a little better. Labels put on us by society can’t, or at least shouldn’t be able to, define us, so we should try to get past them and inspire others to do the same.

When the media lies to us…

This one was a hard one for me to write, hard because I couldn’t seem to get it done without getting really angry, especially because we’ve seen some really bad reporting here, north of the border, in Canada, especially when it comes to politics, most of it being outright lies; everyone’s in it for the five seconds of fame or the race to be the first with news, even if it’s completely wrong. When the politicians lie through their teeth and the media, who says they’re just stating the facts, are so off-base that it’s just plain crap, what are we to do? We’re all just as messed up as they are, but we’ve got a choice to fall for it and buy in to the lies, or really try to make a go of it by seeking to inspire others, spreading the truth and walking alongside others when they need it.
In my opinion, I think that photography & the arts hold a decent chance of breaking the media’s lock on reporting, whether the media’s mainstream or not. Why? Because we can show life in ways that can really speak to others through use of meaning & emotion; we can do more to inspire others than just let things come and slap us across the face. I mean, think about it for a second, if we just stop and turn off the crap that the news spews at us, we have a chance to get away from it and really get out there to create something in this fallen world that might change people’s minds about how crappy things are and they might just give up taking the crap at face value to realize that there’s something, someone, greater out there. When we fail to at least try, it’s almost as if we’re giving up and quitting on trying to make things at least a little more bearable for others; I mean, in simpler terms, if we give up, we’re letting the things that we don’t want to win do just what they want to.

- By the Waterfall -
– By the Waterfall –

There’s something to be said for doing something that’s meant to inspire instead of just going with the downward flow of society nowadays. The above shot was one that I didn’t think I could ever get, but getting it inspired me to try more often to do better with photography; sure, the bird’s a bit small, but it shows up in such a way that it makes the viewer look closer at the scene and it serves as more of a landscape type of scene (as opposed to a portrait or close-up). What I’m getting at, with this rant, is that we need to watch the negative crap society is throwing our way and, while not quietly standing by, seek to make this world a better place, shrugging off the labels, and the crap news, that the mainstream is trying to throw our way. So, let’s sit atop the waterfall and not let it drag us down.

Winter weather…

Now that I’ve got the last post off my chest, I figured that I would get back to really focusing on photography, and watching a few Dude Perfect videos online; those guys are hilarious…and talented. With winter still hanging around for a little while longer, I was aching a bit to get out there yet again and work on my photography; I usually get some photography done every two weeks, with short excursions (<1 hour) in between then. Snow doesn’t come often enough to the northwest, but when it does, the roads aren’t exactly the easiest to get along because of the slick roads, but they’re simple enough for most of us to get around in. Sometimes you just have to marvel at how much people get caught off-guard by snow and with photography it’s the same because we don’t always remember exactly the right settings for snow exposure (+1-2 stops to keep the snow white)…Something I’ve done too many times to keep track of.

- Snow &amp; Green -
– Snow & Green –

Snow is never really the easiest thing to remember what to do with when it comes to exposure and, sometimes, that’s what exposure bracketing is good for because it can show us, especially in this digital age, what the settings will do while translating the scene into the image. The above photograph, while it’s nothing special, shows what is possible when the snow is exposed for at +1 or 2 stops and used to focus on; with the snow being sugar-like in appearance, the focus needs to be in the right spot so that when it brings edges into focus, it doesn’t fade or blur at the wrong point, leaving the edges too fuzzy with any lack of contrast to their surroundings. In this shot, the snow itself, while having its sugar-like composition, makes focusing a little harder because the depth of field is much more important, especially because this is a close-up shot. What worried me the most about this shot was indeed the focus because I wasn’t shooting with a high depth of field in order to get a good background blur, so I think it actually turned out quite decent.
Now, what matters is not that it turned out quite decent, but that it turned out the way the photographer (in this case it was myself) had envisioned it; it would’ve most likely needed tweaks, being a RAW file, but it came out the way I had roughly envisioned it. Brightness & exposure were barely touched in the refining stage (+0.2 for Exposure in Lightroom), so it came out pretty darn close to the way I had hoped it would; this seldom really happens with most of what I photograph, but it worked. I, personally, think that we stress a little too much on technical perfection and not enough on vision & what the image says. What else can we do when society is so focused on the material side of things? We can start by listening a little less to the noise of material perfection and more on message & meaning.

Labels…

Personally, the idea that we’re identifying with what we do for a living as our main source of identity get me thinking about just how much we’ve messed up; for the longest time, I used to identify myself by the ethnic group I was a part of as my main source of ID. It’s something I’m not too proud of because it wasn’t the sole part of who I am and it puts me into a set box & stereotype(s), even if most of those are mostly true about me. What I getting at is that we so easily accept labels put on us by ourselves or society at large that we place ourselves in positions that only serve to do us harm. In simple terms, we end up serving the created instead of the Creator and we get our heads full of self-praise, or loathing (pick your poison type of thing), that we can’t see the forest for the trees.
When it comes to art, we define ourselves with tiny, miniscule labels that confine us to not believing we were meant for so much more; personally, I believe constraints are something completely because they are meant to push us to do better. We get so caught up in being defined by what gear we have & use that we buy into the lie that it’s all there is to us & we can’t change; it’s as if we’re fighting a battle and we don’t even know we are. I know I hammer on how much society likes to define us, putting labels on us, but what makes us think that we should let society, dominated by the likes of Hollywood & corrupt politicians (and the media), define who we are, let alone what we are? It’s like we’ve given up on really being ourselves in who we’re meant to be & that we were meant to live for so much more. Here’s an example: we let magazines put out the trashiest covers, claiming to be all about stopping harassment, and we wonder why society is all messed up. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m for free speech, but there’s got to be some logic & reason behind it.

- Moss -
– Moss –

Most of the time, it’s a struggle when it comes to figuring out who or what we are going to do because, for some of us at least, we’re fighting to not be defined by the labels that society puts on us while staying true to ourselves. Thinking about just that idea while refining some of my photographs from a nearby botanical garden, the above photograph stuck out to me because it looked like two patches of moss encroaching on each other, readying for some kind of fight; like two armies rushing towards each other, these two patches were going towards each other, or at least that was how my mind saw it at the time. When it comes to identity, we tend to think of it in material/physical means in how we create or define it, but what if it’s so much more than that? What will it mean for us then??

Jumping at the opportunity…

I’m not exactly the best at taking advantage of opportunities, being a bit on the laidback, lazy side, but there’s something to be said for looking for opportunities when they come, especially when it comes to landscape nature & wildlife photography. The weather on the Northwest Coast (make that Wet Coast) of North America, isn’t exactly the best for outdoor photography, but there’s plenty to explore, even in the rain, just that safety should be of at least some concern. Just north of the US-Canada border lies Bloedel Conservatory, a great place to see a domed, indoor conservatory with tropical plants & birds (as well as one very LOUD white bird), and many great parks & trails; the mountains are amazing no matter the time of year (not always safe to hike if you’re a beginner, or not as fit, like I am). There are many gardens just north of the border and quite a bit to see; sometimes I think that there’s so much that we get lost in all of it and just ignore it all because it’s all local and not something fancy or exotic enough to us.
In this day & age, we tend to want to see the new stuff and forget about what we think is already been done before. We’re so used to throwing off everything we’ve learnt over the years that we sometimes forget that there was a reason & meaning behind why we learnt some of what we did. There’s just so much out there that we’re missing as people because we pass it by and don’t stop to really think & take it in with our cameras. Sometimes, we end up moaning & groaning because the weather is not really all that great, sticking ourselves inside and not really going outside or even out of the house at all; we forget that we all need rain to grow (figuratively of course) and end up forgetting the opportunities await us.

- Greens &amp; Water -
– Greens & Water –

The photograph above was taken after the rains had subsided and I was, like usual, getting a little bit impatient with the weather; it was still overcast and there was a slight drizzle, but I figured I might as well try to photograph a bush that I had been thinking of photographing for at least over a year. I had been putting it off because of laziness, and the fact it was something not out of the ordinary, but this time, on my second go-round, I figured I would stop moping about and try to at least catch the effect of rain on the leaves of the bush. While I was working with some gear that was still relatively new to me, I tried to catch the so-called ‘ordinary’ in a way that would show off just how it wasn’t as plain as I first thought it was. It wasn’t that photographing the bush was done before, it was about me trying not to just push it off as something to be ignored, but something that just might deserve a second look. In this world where we’re told that the new is better than the old, I’m beginning to think we’ve really got to start looking up and think, really think, about what society’s shoving at us; it starts, I think, but not dismissing the ordinary all too easily.

At the intersection of faith & art (Part 2)…

Going over the last post on this subject, I’ve come to notice, and realize, that there’s something to bringing art to the point that are beliefs are evident in art; just think of how the medieval murals in cathedrals displayed immense talent in how their subject in their art. The sheer talent in those works of art are so immense that they make me want to curl up & shiver at just how gifted the artists were and, unless there was something behind that talent, each of those murals would be meaningless. This doesn’t just apply to the murals, but music as well; Beethoven, Bach, Mozart & others were amazingly gifted and, in my opinion, blessed. And literature has even more examples to offer us as well, we sometimes just have to open our eyes & ears a little wider.
Think about how many John Newton’s Amazing Grace hymn has inspired over the years: it’s known to change the course of some in the slave trade, not just the author himself, and it’s been used at funerals for people that have made a difference in the world at large. Be Thou My Vision, the Irish hymn, has had an impact that I would have to say is immense because of how widely known it is and how deep & inspirational it is, and not just in the English language. John McCrae’s In Flanders Fields has a great impact when it comes to how we think of the effects of war; Winston Churchill’s rousing speeches about not surrendering to Nazi Germany bring out the sacrifices that those men & women much more than we ever could in our overwhelmingly ‘me-centered’ society. The point I’m trying to get at here is that sometimes a song, or even just a little lyric, saying, speech or artwork, can have a massive impact that we don’t necessarily see; I’m not saying we all have to be like the examples listed above, but I’m trying to say that if there was no meaning behind them, those examples wouldn’t have any impact or at least not anywhere near as much as they did.
We get so self-involved because of how media around us tells us that we’re important and that the superficial is the only thing that really counts, that we think that if our team doesn’t win the championship, we’re completely & utterly messed up. Look at how the awards ceremonies are; they are all about the achievement, not necessarily the why of the performance itself & what it means. It’s become so trivial nowadays that real movies that really say something usually don’t make the headlines anymore; just think of the last book that really inspired you to do something of worth that wasn’t all about yourself and ask if it would make the headlines today…The answer to that question is what gets me every time and it’s one of the reasons why I try to read something of meaning (outside of direct religious writings) at least once a year, like War & Peace or some other great classic.