Christmas…

I’m going to get flak on how I go about this, but I figure I’ll try it anyhow…When it comes to the holidays, we think that we’ll make peace on earth possible, but as long as we hold on to racial pride as the be-all-end-all, we’re going to be screwed. How so? It’s peace on earth for all, not just a select few races; we need to put aside racial hatred and come together for a Christmas that, for once, isn’t plagued by arguments over race. Think about it: if we forget about the colour of our skin for just one night or two, we might get past this stupidity that’s plagued us. I’m not saying that we should forget the racial injustices, but I’m saying that we stop fighting over it for once and learn to listen to what the holiday truly means. True peace on earth came through the boy child in the manger, and it wasn’t race-dependent…It was for all men & women.

Now to stop being so insistent for once, I’ve come to think of winter & Christmas as a time of warmth, even in colder climates. Why? Because we have friends to be with and many different people that make up our circle of friends & family that make it a warm time of year…Or at least we should have. For those in broken places, don’t forget to hold on to the fact that there’s people out there that care about us; we have groups like UGM, Salvation Army & others that feed the homeless and, I’ve got to say, they come in where & when others won’t. Nowadays, we like to define everything, labeling nearly just about every little thing, but once, just once, this Christmas, let’s stop labeling every little thing and focus on what’s really important.

There’s times when we want to just forget about the holidays and I’m personally thinking it’s because of all the rampant commercialism out there that’s being thrown at us; it’s tiring and a little too much. What really warms the heart at Christmas is being with friends & family, not fighting it out for the last item in stock at the stores. When it comes to how we celebrate Christmas, the best stories aren’t dependent on one culture or one really specific way of doing something, but the ways in which different cultures (European, North American, African, Asian, etc.) go about celebrating it together as well as in their own groups. So, have yourselves a Merry Christmas!

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Storm the stronghold…

Now this one’s going to sound a little off, thanks to the title, but let me put it this way: the stronghold I’m referring to are the rampant ads & the push/desire for various things that we supposedly need to have. Christmas sales are there for one real, and sometimes disturbing purpose…make us buy more stuff. I’m not saying we should rush to the stores and buy everything that we can get our hands on, but rather storm the stronghold by refusing to let it get to us and drive credit card debt ever upwards.

I haven’t been exactly active photographically, or otherwise, in November and I really aim to change that this Christmas & winter season by getting out there and doing something that just might inspire someone. There’s plenty to do & see out there and I’d rather be one to really contribute to something, than just do nothing or add to the noise. Christmas is right around the corner and there’s just something about giving compared to receiving something; there’s a bit of a challenge when it comes to avoiding the stores because we’re so tempted to dive right on in to the sales. I’ve done this time & again to the point that I’m thinking that just the fact that the word sale might just hook me right in.

This Christmas, it’s a great time to get out once we’re all bundled up for the cold weather, or out in summer weather for warmer climates. We might as well storm the stronghold of the daily consumerism that seems to permeate everything around us; we can really do this much better if we get outside of the shopping malls and spend time with friends & family. After all, isn’t that what the holidays are truly about for most of us? I’m going to at least try to get outside and I hope that I can do something that might just inspire someone in the process.

Without the tree?

There’s something to be said by celebrating the holidays without the tree decorated in the living room, or even outside. What gets me about having a tree is the advertising from all the stores; if the tree we have means something to us, why do we need to go all out for some tree that we might just throw away at the end of the holidays. Having a tree in the living room, at least for me, is about having something for the family, or friends, to gather around, not to show off. I’d rather having something that means something than something that’s superficial. I get just as guilty as others do when it comes to being materialistic, especially when the latest sales are one or the holidays are approaching, so I’m not trying to blame anyone, just trying to point something out.

- Snow & Branches -
– Snow & Branches –

It says something when the weather outside isn’t too great and there’s snow on the trees, but it says something more when the tree inside is all shiny, but never really used or gathered around at all. Things like that tend to suck the meaning out of the holidays & out of Christmas altogether if we’re not careful. Sometimes, it helps to not have a tree because having one becomes a distraction from what Christmas is all about, making us think about the latest things we can get instead of the boy child in the manger. Christmas for me has become more so about the manger and recovering from any soreness from work (he last three months of the year are the busiest for me). The music playing around this time of year is just a welcome bonus, especially when it points me upwards instead of downwards.

It’s great having the days off, but for those that don’t, try not to make things difficult for them, because they’re working so that you don’t have to, or they’re there so that you can shop. We could all use a little more peace in the world, especially right now with all the crap that’s happening all around us. So, let’s just slow down, stop what we’re rushing to get before it sells out, and think about what’s really important this Christmas; let’s get past the abuses in Hollywood (by not letting them ruin Christmas for us) and try to salvage the holidays before we ruin their start.

Do I really want this?

There’s stuff that really bugs me from time to time and it comes down to the question of me wanting something and changing my mind. Do I really want this thing to happen? Do I really want this piece of tech or gear? It’s coming up on Christmas and the stores are going on with advertising about new stuff for sale; it draws me in and then I begin to wonder if I really need it or even want it. It’s like that with virtually everything, especially around this festive time of year…Materialism run amok, I guess.

I’m not going to vent against materialism again, but try to explain out the processes that I go through. I mean, I can get really good at things with what I have…I don’t really need the latest piece of tech to get what I want out of a photograph, or design. When the deals come for new tech, don’t get me wrong, I am intrigued, but I tend to either get too far into the sales, or just forget about them in the end. I’ve been trying to really think about how much the holidays are more for family and the real meaning for the season, the boy child in the manger, not so much about what the stores are selling at a somewhat decent price. The season is meant to inspire us, not make us want more stuff to fill our homes and deplete our wallets.

There’s just something about finding inspiration and what it can do to the person who finds it; it can’t really be bought, but it can be given. Just think, if we’d all just learnt to stop & think, myself included, then we’d really get to the point that we can start to make a change in someone’s life and maybe in our own as well. I personally think this world would be a better place if we’d just learn to think of others over ourselves at least once in a while. Do I really want this to happen? Yes…The answer really is a resounding, heart-pounding YES!

Christmas (Pt. 2)…

Now it’s Christmas Day and I figured that I’d put out another post, just wishing you all a Merry Christmas. We all know the reason for the season (pardon the rhyming) and it’s a manger, not some cheerful old chubby dude in a red & white suit. We all get caught up in the materialism of the season, thanks to all the sales, TV ads, and the need for the latest gear, myself included, but family & belief are more important than just buying thing after thing. It’s one of the hardest things to do because we’ve got such easy access to credit & loans for the latest gadgets; there’s nothing wrong with an upgrade, especially if you need it.

Winter’s got the snow for those in the north and warm tropical weather for those in the south (hopefully). What it’s also got is challenging issues when it comes to exposure settings for photography; what helps is exposing the snow (and white sand) at +1 to +2 stops and checking the greens (if any) at about -.3 to 0. It’s not a full-proof solution, but it helps and works for most scenes because the camera’s light meter wants to read it as medium (gray). Sometimes, bracketing exposures helps with the scene, especially if we decide to turn to an HDR (High Dynamic Range) solution afterwards.

- Winter Grass -
Winter Grass

Now the above photograph, taken recently, potentially had two issues with the scene: bright white snow & overcast skies. HDR wasn’t quite necessary because the snow served as a reflector for the underside of the large leaves/grass and the overcast skies had spots of clear blue skies spread the light around. The snow was exposed at +2 stops and the lighting was helped out by the reflectiveness of the snow itself; it was a matter of working with what there was in front of me and this time I actually got it to work. Part of me thinks that it was an early Christmas present, because this just doesn’t happen this way in my photography all that often, but I’m not going to dwell on that too much because it’s way too trivial when it comes to other issues that are facing the world at large.

So, go and have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Christmas…

Now it’s almost that time of year again…Christmas time! So I thought I would, instead of talking on and on, give a list of favorites. So here’s a list of stuff that really works for me:

Books:
-The Art, Science, and Craft of Great Landscape Photography (Glen Randall)
-Landscape Photography: Art & Techniques (Neil Chrighton)
-A Beautiful Anarchy: When the Life Creative Becomes the Life Created (David duChemin)
-Within the Frame: The Journey of Photographic Vision (David duChemin)
-Photographically Speaking: A Deeper Look at Creating Stronger Images (David duChemin)
-The New Art of Photographing Nature (Art Wolfe & Martha Hill)
-The Art of the Photograph (Art Wolfe & Rob Sheppard)

Musicians:
-Thrice
-Darius Rucker
-Twenty One Pilots
-Red
-Thousand Foot Krutch
-Flyleaf / Lacey Sturm
-The Fray

These lists aren’t exhaustive by any means, just stuff that comes to mind when I think of that inspires me to do better photographically. They aren’t all about photography, especially the musicians, but it’s the creativity in the music & the message in their songs. The key in all of this is creativity & meaning, something that’s been hammered into me over the years, even if I haven’t always followed it all that well. That’s what we should all be striving for in photography…Making images that count for something and say something. Christmas is about so much more than just meaning something, but that’s where it should start…meaning something to us more than just gifts & money.

It’s the holidays and for what it’s worth, it’s time spent with ones that care about you & the ones we care about. It’s not about chasing the latest gear or the latest shot that might just get us famous, even if that would be kind of cool. Sometimes, myself included, we lose sight of what matters: spending time with the ones who care about us and the ones we care about.

So, about that hangover…

When I really think about it, coming back from taking photographs and nothing turns out just the way I wanted it to, does that mean that I give up? Or if I come back with a headache/hangover and I don’t feel like doing it again, does that mean I give it up? In simple terms, nope. It’s basically like trying to recover from a hangover, or too much food (hence the term, food-baby); we don’t give up something altogether because it didn’t turn out good, we give it up if it physically & mentally hurts us too much (although drinking would be better to give it up completely if you’re prone to having too much).

When something puts us in a situation where we’re down, then seeking help from a sensible friend is always a good thing; and by sensible friend, I mean one that doesn’t cheer for the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League (sorry, had to put that one in there as a joke). In all seriousness, working towards trying to find a solution often requires the help of a friend, or some kind of inspiration, to get over feeling down. It can be tough opening up, but sometimes, it just works better when you do because it let’s a close friend see what you’re going through and walk along with you so you don’t feel alone.

Christmas is a time to be with family & friends and it should be like that when you feeling down because it’s usually better to seek help instead of going it on your own (something I’m prone to do way to often). It can be an extremely lonely road and working it out all by yourself can lead to some conclusions that are either deceptive or completely wrong because you end up going down the path that is totally opposite of where you’re supposed to be. So have a good Christmas and remember to enjoy it with someone because it’s usually better that way!

It’s almost here…

Can you believe that it’s almost here? It’s the time of year that rampant materialism takes over and all we really think about is what we want to get for Christmas. It should really be about that baby in the manger and what He means to us personally; it’s about really thinking about how much we’ve come to think of ourselves when we should be thinking about that baby in a manger and what it really means for us. It’s the season of giving, not the season of getting, something I’ve forgotten way too many times.

When it comes to photography, we look for the latest gear for the cheapest prices, thinking that it alone will make us better photographers. I’m probably banging this gong way too much, but it’s about vision & intent in the shot, not so much about what model camera you’ve used. I’ve been the kind of person that’s focused too much on gear to the point that all it ever does is makes me depressed because I can’t afford to buy the latest $2000+ camera or lens; it’s not the gear that makes the shot, but the person behind it. It’s come down to the point that I’ve realized that I’ve got the gear that’s right for me, right at this time & place, and that I need to be focusing on vision, intent & impact in the shot itself. This time of year is getting all too crowded with all the talk of gear at lower/cheaper prices to the point that the whole point of vision/intent gets shoved aside in the quest for the latest & greatest; I say it’s time we take this idea of photography as all about the gear and throw it out the window because, while gear is okay, vision is key (“Gear is good, but vision is better,” as David duChemin often says).

It’s about time I learn to focus on the true meaning of Christmas and not get carried away by all the ads for the latest gear at cheap prices because gear isn’t the end-all-be-all in photography that some make it out to be. Oh yeah, and it’s not about Word crashing because it has a hard time with big documents either…But that’s another story for perhaps another time. I’m not perfect…not anywhere close…but I better start trying to be humble and remember the real reason for the season.

On the holidays…(yet again)

It’s literally only two weeks away: Christmas Eve! It’s that time of year when we all get frustrated trying to find that one gift that we can never seem to find, get stuck getting in (or out of) the mall, honk the car horn because the person in front of us drives like a maniac, get drunk on egg nog, and get pulled over by the police for doing something really stupid. Wait a minute…That sounds more like a plot for some D-rated movie than the real Christmas. It’s the time of year your spend with friends & family, get out that really odd looking Christmas sweater that a relative bought you, and celebrate the holidays together!

Now it happened that in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus to register all the empire. (This first registration took place when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to be registered, each one to his own town. So Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David, to be registered together with Mary, who was legally promised in marriage to him and was pregnant. And it happened that while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son, and wrapped him in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
-Luke 2:1-7 (LEB)

I’ve posted it before in a much shorter blog entry last month, but I figured that it’s always good to repost it closer to Christmas. In the last few centuries, it’s become more of a materialist holiday that caters to the stores selling goods; for a good laugh at this, watch Cledus T. Judd’s song Christmas. In recent years, however, there has been a push to get back to the less materialist version of Christmas among some groups; whatever your beliefs, it’s the time of year to be with friends and/or family to celebrate & look back on the year about to end.

On winter…

While it can be extremely cold outside during the winter months, taking gear out to get the shot can be tricky because it can seize up or not work at all due to the temperature. Keeping the camera warm is the best option; storing it under a jacket when not it use or even getting a good camera bag/sling that has decent insulation will definitely help. Not taking it constantly in & out from cold to warm keeps the lens from fogging up and mucking up the internals.

There’s something about winter photography, especially scenes with all the streetlights & lit up houses, that makes it seem so warm even though it is so cold; maybe it’s the feeling of what’s waiting for us once we get back inside. It’s usually the anticipation of a shot or what’s waiting for us just around the proverbial ‘corner’ that can provide that warmth; that and it’s the time for Christmas carols like the classic Let It Snow & Deck the Halls, among others, sung by many a caroler as well as the classic TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas. Personally, my current favorite has got to be O Come All Ye Faithful…and belting it out as well; Twisted Sister, to which I don’t actually listen to apart from their Christmas CD, does a good job of belting it out (I’m more of a country & pop-punk kind of guy). But, getting back to winter, it provides us with many a challenge in the form of bright white snow (or brown snow if you’re near the roads in the city).

The snow may be soft, or hard, but it’s like a cool blanket of goodness that makes you glad that the scene can look so amazing if you just stop and think about it. Just dress warm, watch out for yellow snow (especially when there are dogs around), beware of flying snowballs (I’ve thrown more than my fair share of large ones), and get out an enjoy the snow. Oh yeah…Don’t forget to watch out for the icy roads; wiping out is not fun, especially on concrete and/or with gear in hand. Staying safe is probably the best option, especially if the neighborhood is in an all-out snowball fight.