Gear envy (Part 2)…

No, I’m not going to do another rant on gear buying or collecting, but I do want to finish up the idea that we’re so hooked up on the latest tech. I mean, think about it, if we’re so stuck on the latest & greatest, then where does that leave us when it comes to learning from our mistakes? There’s something to be said for remembering what didn’t work and what did, while learning from both; I may not remember everything when I need to, but I hope, sincerely, that there’s always room for improvement and I don’t forget what brought me to where I am. I’m not saying not to buy that lens, but I’m saying, or at least trying to say, that if the sole purpose is just to have that shiny new lens, then there just might be a problem.

- Tree & Flowers -
– Tree & Flowers –

Take for example the above photograph, taken with a macro lens; the macro function wasn’t used for this one, but the idea of being restricted by a single focal length, made me think just that much harder before getting the shot. What I was trying to say/express with this shot was to show a normal point of view while showing just how beautiful an ordinary POV can be; I was testing out the macro lens and working with what I had, trying to push myself to be better. Now, I know some are probably thinking that I’m contradicting my earlier statements on gear but hear me out: I’m not using anything fancy or even professional, but I’m using something to restrict myself in order to make myself learn more and do better. The above shot had some refining done to the shadows, clarity, vibrance, contrast & noise sliders in Lightroom, but it came out with the idea to not blur the background as much to show context (something that the focal length does for me) while not making it an image that’s too busy for its own good.
Sometimes, gear gets to be too much, especially when we’re just spending it to get it, instead of using it to get better at what we love to do. It’s been said that Ansel Adams preferred to have a natural/realistic look to his photographs and I’m sure that he could afford to get the fancy gear, but I’m no Ansel Adams (not even anywhere near close), so I’m not going to say that gear is king & I’m sure he wouldn’t either (but that’s just my opinion). The key to decent photography is honest photography and, in my opinion, that means it’s done for the love of it, not the love of gear; at times we might get lost and forget about it, but we’re definitely not perfect and that’s alright.


Gear envy…

Great, yet another post about gear, or at least that’s the kind of response I think will be common when people read this title. But hear me out…If we think about just how much we spend on stuff to make us feel more comfortable & more supposedly accomplished as people, we tend to focus on the immediate future in front of us, instead of thinking ahead, or at least that’s what I’ve found happens. Do we need the latest gadgets to produce photographs that really say something? Not if we’re really honest with ourselves. It’s something that I really struggle with. What can really hurt is someone coming up to you and saying oh, it’s a fake DSLR or oh, it doesn’t have all that many megapixels. What does that kind of thinking do to us mentally and what does that really do to society at large? Personally, I think it demeans the person and degrades what the person is trying to say with their photographs. It can cause something called gear envy in that same person because they feel as if they need to get the latest & greatest to even be remotely relevant.

- Purple in Shade -
– Purple in Shade –

I don’t know about you, but I’m beginning to think that being up-to-date in this current cultural climate is starting to get overrated. Look at the photo above: all I did was slight contrast, clarity, very mild colour & noise adjustments (as well as tweaking the exposure by 0.1 to make the purple pop). I did do a medium tone curve adjustment as well, but the shot was take with a stock lens that someone else wouldn’t look twice at…And it’s become my workhorse lens. The long & short of it is that it’s not about how much the lens/camera cost, but how much effort you put into the shot; and life’s like that too…It’s not always about the money. I’m not going to rant against the ones selling cameras for the price of a sports car here, but I am going to say this one thing: does it really matter what the price is when the images don’t say or mean a thing?
There’s something to be said for making something that inspires over something that just is a simple snapshot; to be fair, I’ve seen what some would call snapshots that are amazing snapshots that are more like works of art…The kind of stuff that makes me stop in my tracks and realize that there’s more to life than what’s immediately around me. If there’s a chance we can inspire someone, then we might as well try to do just that so that we can make life just that much more bearable for someone. The thing about all this is, if we don’t get up and work at it, it won’t get done and I’m just as lazy as the next person. Time to get out there…

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.

Gesture & meaning (Part 2)…

It’s been a while since I last thought about gesture in photography and I keep coming back to it whenever I’m out photographing wildlife. Most of the time, it comes as a happy accident in my photographs, a result of not quite paying attention of what exactly I’m photographing. Sure, it’s not always possible to be 100% alert, unless there’s enough caffeine in my system to fuel an army, but there has got to be an awareness of my surroundings when I’m out photographing. When we’re out & not paying attention, we’re most likely putting ourselves in situations that can be quite deadly (sneaking up on a hungry tiger to get a shot, for one, is highly advised against). If we’re not somewhat alert (>70%, give or take), our compositions become sloppy and our horizons can get really off kilter all too easily.

- Looking Up -
– Looking Up –

The above photograph was one of those really happy accidents, one that I’m not too sure I could ever repeat, given the tight space; in all Creation, these little birds often bring a smile to my face in how they interact, chasing each other around, playfully battling for food, or just relaxing where they are. I’m far from perfect and these birds have a habit of cheering me up because of their carefree attitudes; it makes me wonder, at times, if I’m not getting too caught up in how crazy the world is to really stop & pay attention to just how peaceful things can get. Sure, I tightened up the colour, fixed the noise (not that there was much to begin with), refined the contrast & clarity, and added a slight vignette, but it doesn’t take away from the bird’s gesture in looking off-frame the way it does or staring at me with its left eye (I can’t quite figure out which one, so I’ll leave it at those two options). The slight refinements that I did solidified the meaning in the shot, I think, because it hemmed in everything together much nicer that it had been in the unedited RAW file.
I’m still getting used to the new gear, but, when all is said & done, I hope I’m not forgetting where & what I’ve come from, because, if I have, I’m getting too off course for even my own liking; if the about shot is any indication, I don’t think I’ve lost it just yet and it doesn’t seem like I’m getting closer to losing it at all. When it comes to working with gear that we’re unfamiliar with, or new to, there’s always a learning curve, but, I think, without that learning curve, there isn’t a chance for real growth at all. Why? Because, I think, we can easily fall into old habits & become haphazard, forgetting to learn something new or even forget to have a critical, meaningful eye when it comes to photography.

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.


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.

At the intersection of faith & art…

…There lies something of real worth. Let me put it this way: if we make art devoid of anything that really means something to us or contradicts what we believe in, it has a greater tendency to fail when it comes to inspiration. Art, at its core, should say something, even if it’s just to point out the beauty in a scene; personally, I believe that we’re called to make a difference, even if we have the habit of failing miserably (I do this more than I care to admit). How many times do we see things that are just meaningless? It’s like the repetitive shallow news we see in the mainstream media outlets like CNN or FOX with their heavy bias; getting the same line repeatedly given to us, coming across as senseless, can really dull the senses.
There’s more out there than just shallow noise and, I think, that we’ve got to start shoving the noise aside to really get art out there that doesn’t go by mainstream labels and cuts to the heart of really matters to us. This is one of the reasons why I have a hard time watching the SAGs, Oscars, & others; they just repeat the same old noise every time and focus on the shallow crap coming out of Hollywood (or as one artist has put the sign, Hollyweed). Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing the artists themselves, but I think it’s time we get away from acting & onto really doing something that really means something, devoid of labels from the mainstream media (Facebook included) and not going extremist either; some do this, but some just don’t. I don’t know about anyone else, but I think it’s time that we make art that gets to the heart of what we believe and inspires others.

- Toothpick for a Bird -
– Toothpick for a Bird –

We’re at the point that we’ve got to get past the labels and, in photography, getting all nerdy on tech; we’ve got to find something to pick our teeth, metaphorically of course, so we can get that frustrating crumb out of our teeth and speak clearly. There is more than one way to stand up & speak out and it’s not just verbal like the celebrities in Hollywood with their speeches (some of which we need to hear, but most of them being just noise); it can come just as clearly through our art when it aligns with our beliefs. I’m not anywhere near perfect at this, or even close to being consistent in this, but I’ve begun thinking that there’s more than going with the mainstream crowd; let’s not be actors who cheer when a cohort joins in and then take the cheer back when it comes back at a disadvantage…Let’s be measured in our approach and seek to inspire others first.


Now I’m not one to really be out there when it comes to talking about everyday life, but I’ve come to think that we forget, all to easily, how our daily life is more than just a routine we follow. Every decision we make affects us, obviously, but we tend to get so serious that we go about it like steps on some kind of ladder; to a certain extent, it’s like the Good Charlotte song, Cars Full Of People, where there’s all these cars full of people going somewhere but they end up going nowhere fast by just following the clock. Life’s more than just steps to nowhere and I’ve come to believe that we’re called to a higher purpose than just to live to better ourselves; I often struggle just thinking about how to live to make something better for others…In the end, inspiration is really what matters because we’re saved for a reason and it’s not anything we’ve done on our own.

- Rocks &amp; Green -
– Rocks & Green –

Personally, I think that life sometimes gives us little hints about what it’s all about; as I am looking at the above scene, I think about there being a chance for life to come out among the rocks. Now my original intent for this image wasn’t about this, but to show nature in an among the rocks of this miniature scene and the fact of it stands that it also has this message to it; life just has a way of coming out of the rocky parts if we let it. Personally, I think we’re so consumed by on-demand media that gets easily twisted around by political aims, that we don’t take any real time to really weigh out the views that are thrown at us by the media. Here in Canada, our last elections were so taken over by foreign media groups, that I’m seeing foreign intervention by foreign interest groups, including American groups, just like there was south of the border, in the US; political parties of every stripe nowadays just let themselves be hijacked by interest groups to the point that it’s not funny at all.
We get stuck in ruts we let get created out of either arrogance, ignorance or laziness to the point that we believe whatever the media tells us; for me, photography is a way for me to disconnect myself from all that and my personal beliefs & faith are the others. I think that we all have ways of disconnecting ourselves from the ruts, being those that are created by the same thing being repeatedly thrown at us (like on CNN or FOX); for some people, it may be family. Whatever it may be, we can’t let politics decide our lives like this much longer or we’ll end up like it is in Orwell’s book 1984, or like it almost ends up being in C.S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength (losing the ability to really think critically for ourselves), because then we just end up really loosing ourselves and what we were created & meant for. These are just my thoughts…Take them as you may.