Just another day…

Sometimes, we get caught in a rut, thinking that it’s just another day gone, especially when it comes to working routine; I’ve been there and I’m practically there every so often so much it hurts. After all, we were created to stand out, not just mix in and let the current mess with us, weren’t we? It feels like it more & more, where it’s just another day and then something happens that shakes us out of the funk we’re in; this week it was the end of the regular season in hockey and, for the first time in years, my team made the playoffs…And then came the usual depressing news of crashes across the country, attacks in Europe & the Middle East. So, yeah, while it seems like just another day in a time when the media wants to peddle bad news, there was at least one positive that came out of it.

Then there’s this song from the band Ten Shekel Shirt, a song called Ocean, that seemed to pull me out of the saddened mood this time and there’s one line in in the chorus that brings me out of it: Something about the heavens makes me stand in awe again. Not to say that the rest of the song doesn’t do it as well, but this line stands out, reminding me that life is bigger than just me; the Creator made this world for a reason and there’s more than just our little circles that we should be so intensely focused on. If a single song can inspire us, why shouldn’t we be trying to do the same for others? We might fall short & fail, something I’m all too familiar with, but there’s something to be said for getting up and trying again. We need to take the media with a grain of salt and try to get past the crap that we’re being told; maybe, in the process, we just might help someone else, lifting their spirits & giving them a little hope along the way.

- Perch -
– Perch –

I was feeling pretty upset & down when it came to the tragic accident in the Prairies & a rained out weekend and decided to shake off the funk after watching the memorial service on the TV by going out for a bit when I was asked if I wanted to check out the bird sanctuary a decent half-hour drive south. I figured that it couldn’t hurt, so I went and ended up capturing this little bird (in the upper left if it’s not immediately visible) flying around; it stayed still long enough for me to get it in a few frames and this one ended up being one of my favourites. While the time at the bird sanctuary helped, it also reminded me of the importance of having a breather once in a while. Did it completely get me out of the funk? Almost, but it did set me on the road to getting out of it…It inspired me, especially in the refining stage of working on the photographs, to do better with what I’ve got and work to inspire. So, sometimes all it takes is a good breather to get past the funk…Sometimes it can take more, but that’s what friends & family are for.

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Another break…

Thinking about how many times I’ve missed what seemed at times to be the right shot, I’ve begun to wonder if what I’m thinking is the right shot was completely wrong to begin with; what I mean by this is that we’re often told the perfect shot is completely sharp from front to back, has little to no noise, and has perfect colour. I don’t know about anyone else, but this list can be pretty difficult to achieve within a single shot. Nothing’s perfect when you chase complete perfection in photography, in my opinion, because it comes close to being either technically perfect or creatively perfect; in the end, photography that’s perfect is either a pipe dream or something that’s out of reach for the majority of people.
Sometimes, we chase perfection believing that we can easily achieve it; not that the chase is wrong, but when we chase it, we forget all the good opportunities around us and miss good shots that surround us. Sometimes, it takes a break from editing & refining our photos to recognize a good shot after the fact; I get guilty of this nearly every time I go out to take photographs and it makes me laugh nearly every time it happens now. Sometimes we think something is so out of focus when it’s just that we’ve stretched it when we’ve either printed it, or magnified it too much. Frost photography gets really difficult for me because I can easily miss the right focus point for me; using manual focus (to slow me down) or single-shot autofocus (to make it simpler) are the two focus modes I resort to because continual focus can easily miss the spot we think is just right for the shot…Personally I’m more for single-shot autofocus and manual focus refinement when needed because it means at least a shot of getting something right, or decent.

- Trout Lake Frost -
– Trout Lake Frost –

The above shot was one of those scenes that I missed on the first rounds of refining…I think I passed over it at least TWICE. I had taken a break from looking at the photographs from that New Year’s Day shoot in the morning fog and, having already done more than one round of editing & refining, I was looking through the new sales of gear available at the local BestBuy in the city (a bad habit, I know); it was three days after I had originally taken the shot. Thinking that I couldn’t have missed getting at least on close-up frost shot of the bushes, or believing that I hadn’t really messed one up, I decided to look through the photographs again and this one popped up and it was IN FOCUS (left side), something that I had completely lost in my first round because I thought that while it worked out the beauty of the scene right, the colours were off and it wasn’t focused right. With a little tweaking, it came out just the way I saw it that day in my mind and how it felt…Darn it, I really feel like smacking myself multiple times (metaphorically, of course) for missing this one on the first-time round. Taking those breaks helped me really find this one better than I could have before…Sometimes, time can heal wounds, and sometimes it makes you realize what a dummy you were for missing something (it sure has for me).
We all miss things and we wonder what we were thinking in order to miss whatever it is, forgetting that maybe, just maybe, we really didn’t miss it all along and we were looking in the wrong place. Photography’s like that and so is life…We’ve got to give ourselves a leg up by really looking up for help, not on ourselves. Inspiration is more than just you or me, it’s us working together to really give each other a helping hand.

The beat vs. the meaning…

Thinking about it, we often tend to focus on the beat compared to what the meaning of the lyrics are; I’m so guilty of this as well. We’re so taken back by how much a beat moves us that we don’t really think about the lyrics themselves. In this day & age, we’re focused on the beat & melody that we forget to dig a little deeper and find out what the song really means; I guess it comes with the territory when we fully adopt the materialism that mainstream media pushes our way, along with the shallow, biased news stories.

When was that last time we really stopped to tell someone we care about them and when was the last time we tried to inspire them? We’re so focused on our daily rhythm that we easily forget about those around us who just might be needing a simple word of encouragement or a helping hand. I’m not talking about the street hustlers here, but those people that come into our daily lives and seem to just be looking for a little help, but don’t really ask for it at all. If our lives are always go-go-go, then we just might be in need of a little breather from it all now & then to help us get a refresh.

Thinking about it, there’s so many wondering what’s happening that we might just need to stop awhile and lend a helping hand. Most of the time, it’s not our place to really ask why, but it might just be our place to really help out a person in time of need. There’s so much out there that goes wrong every now & then, especially in politics & money, that taking a time out with a friend might just be what we, and they, need right now.

Staying an hour…

Sometimes spending more time with our photographs is a good thing…Actually, it almost always is because it can help us see where we went wrong, or right, as well as seeing what we were doing to get the shot. This isn’t specifically about editing, although taking time with editing is usually good, but it’s about examining what made us take the photograph the way we did. What makes us tick and do the things we do? How are we going to ever understand it if we don’t stay an extra hour (figuratively of course) and try to really focus on what we’re doing, what we believe, what we’re seeing, and/or why we’re taking photographs?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
– Overgrown Path –

For me, photography is like trying to get a breather, using my camera to capture a scene out in the natural world that will remind me that there’s beauty out there…And that there’s something more than just what I’m seeing & hearing in the news. Sometimes I’ve wanted to just stay an hour in the outdoors, until I remember that it’s either cold outdoors or I’ve got something that needs to be done and then I forget about staying that time. When it comes down to it, staying the extra hour sometimes helps in getting better photographs, especially when we take time to see the possibilities right in front of us and tinker with different camera settings or revisit old photographs & work with them differently in Lightroom or other photo programs like AfterShot Pro. Sometimes, the extra look over the photograph helps us learn from what we did, growing as photographers & artists.

Staying an hour extra, or any other length of time, also can help give us a bit more time to fully work out our vision for potential shots that present themselves. When we slow down, we tend to let things have another chance, or two, at making an impression and give us a feel for a photograph or more. In doing so, it gives us more time to look at the coloration in the scene, telling us if we need a polarizing filter (it will cut out the reflections in water, so beware of this) or if we can change it later in Lightroom. Making more time might just help us out, something I definitely need to remember, and it helps us stay more with each shot, getting us to concentrate a bit more on each one.

On just taking a breather…

Thinking about it now, sometimes it just takes a breather to get back in the rhythm of things when it comes to photography. What do I mean by saying that it just takes a breather? There’s three things (sorry, but a ‘3-point sermon’ works well) that I’ve usually end up doing in the process:

1. Taking a step back when frustration gets to be too much
2. Thinking about what drew you to the art of photography in the first place
3. Letting yourself work it out as time progresses

The first part is probably the easiest because it allows you some distance from the frustration to give yourself some alone time. Taking a step back, as I’ve probably mentioned many a time before, has the potential to clear away the distractions & obstacles. It also allows you to think about what makes photography something you either want to pursue as a career or hobby…or both. Doing this then can lead your right into the third part and help you to slowly, or quickly (depending on your temperament), work on it and constantly think about where you want it to go and just how important it is to you.

This approach works well when you’re hunting for a photograph…really well if you’re paying attention to your surroundings. Sometimes, you just have to slow yourself down or just pause & not think too hard for a bit while just absorbing what’s all around you and trying to soak it in; then think about what stands out in the scene around you, or what looks like it might be an interesting, or challenging subject to photograph. Taking a step back works most of the time, especially when you’re looking for a shot that can be quite different from the typical shot taken by others.

Sometimes you have to adopt a FPS approach (like first-person shooter games where you shoot like crazy and hope you get a hit), but hopefully it’s the last resort to getting the shot…And other times it’s a calculated approach like bracketing with one shot at the selected setting, one at 1/3 to 1 stop underexposed, and one at 1/3 to 1 stop overexposed. The last part is one I’ve used continuously for what seems like years and I’ve done so because conditions can change quickly and I want to see what happens with either underexposing or overexposing for the scene; it helps me learn and can give me better ideas for the next exposure…Memory is plentiful on a CF card and it writes fast so the preview/review can pretty much be done instantly. Like the photograph below, taking a breather (and bracketing) helped to see this scene, small as it was, and shoot it as best as I could.

Pine Cone at Sunrise