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.

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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.

Thoughts…

Color can be a tricky thing to get right when photographing various subjects; I can just hear the gearheads saying that all that’s needed is the latest camera. While that’s nowhere near the truth for the most part because there’s usually a way to achieve it through the use of computer programs, correct filters, or even cleaning the glass; it’s more so about interpretation into a workable file for printing. We’re supposed to be translating what we felt when we took the shot, not necessarily transliterating it; like life, photography is all about feeling, not tired formulas.

In life, we get stuck when we get the two mixed up (transliteration vs. translation), because we forget to bring across what something makes us feel…I’m so at fault for this most of the time as well. Most of the time, we can’t just say “here you go” and then just leave it at that; for me, at least, it doesn’t quite work that way because, half of the time at least, I want to know why, or at least some attempt at the answer to my questions. There’s so much out there that has literally no depth to it (i.e. pop culture), so why intentionally add to the noise? This is one of the things I end up struggling with because I don’t really want to be adding to the noise, but inspiring someone.

In the end, for me at least, the biggest reason I began this blog was to not only air out the odd grievance or two, but try to reach out & inspire someone…by my photography or otherwise. I’m not one for making a point too quickly, so most of the time, these posts turn into a rambling rant and, maybe they do add to the noise, but I at least hope that they add to it in a positive way. The idea that color can easily be transliterated in a photograph instead of translated just right does get me at least a bit upset, mostly because I’m so guilty of this, and doing this can easily make something uninspiring, but that’s my personal opinion; it’s one that I can’t necessarily flesh out in an argument or debate, so I’m just going to leave it at that. So, get out there & inspire!

- Tree & Flowers -
– Tree & Flowers –

What gets me…

…Is the complete over-insistence on what society wants from us instead of the desire & need to inspire others. I mean, c’mon, when did we get so hung up on methodology & certain lists that we forget about the others around us that ARE hurting that we CAN help? I’ve certainly screwed this up so many times that, when I see others do it, it reminds me of my own shortcomings and literally gets me frustrated, to say the least. Shouldn’t we just learn to slow it down & listen, let alone trying to do it all on our own? I’ve failed on this so many times that I’m quite literally talking to myself here as well.

In photography (yes, it’s that rant again), it’s become all about that latest piece of tech or how famous we’ve become through how many shots we’ve sold. In life, it’s become about that latest thing we’ve got & what shiny new toy we’ve got, but have we really thought about how shallow it’s making us? I’m just venting here, but I’m beginning to think that we need to forget about the megapixels and focus on the meaning & the inspiration behind the shot or the person. Like the mainstream media, we’re so hung up getting the most clicks that we’re just doing things that don’t really go very deep at all…And before I’m labeled an alt-right nut, I’d like to point out that the alt-right stuff disgusts me just as much as the regular person. I’m just as tired, as the next person, of being flooded with all the sensationalist crap coming from the CNN & Fox outlets out there, so I’m beginning to really look at this with a grain of salt…It’s just that the proverbial grain of salt is getting much bigger these days.

So, while this might seem a bit winded coming from me, I’m beginning to see that venting, in a decent way, is slowly becoming a way to relieve all the pent-up frustrations I’ve got. Who cares if we’ve got the latest stuff or if we’re rooting for the most likely person to succeed? I’d rather root for the underdog who’s trying to make it through with a bit of humility because, to me, that’s being a bit more real than the favorite.

Inspiration…

I know I’ve done this before, but I thought I’d do it again. What inspires us to do the best we can? Where do we get our ideas from? Everything from music, beliefs, work & play inspires us to do what we do. I can be doing something at work and, all of a sudden, come up with an idea for a photograph or a design; it can even be a certain play in a sports game that triggers an idea (I say this because it has totally happened to me). In a way, it’s how we deal with a situation that can inspire us with different ideas, not just for photography, but for our lives. It’s trying to get ourselves into a creative state of mind, or even just a positive state.

The crazy thing is that although the world around us seems like it’s falling apart, we just seem to think that means we can just get caught up in thinking that we can’t shine a little light to inspire even just one person. We all need to get past the point that we’re unable to do something because of genetics and learn to use what we’re given to do something that will actually mean something to someone, myself included. I have to force myself to get outside most times, especially after a long work week, and then I don’t feel inspired most of the time either; it’s a condition of who we are, lost in all the crap around us & the wrong within us that we can’t really seem to want to inspire others.

- White Bulbs - Painted -
– White Bulbs – painted version-

In this crazy world, there’s so much to distract us from doing something worth it…Just look at all the new stuff on sale at the nearby store. It comes down to the question: do I really need that expensive new DSLR or Mirrorless (the geeks will know what I mean by this) to capture something that inspires others, not just myself? If my answer is yes, then I’m completely full of something none to pleasant and should be seeking to really ask myself if I’ve lost it. Stuff, or gear, can inspire, but it’s really only on the outside, on a superficial level (like the latest shallow pop crap coming out of the music industry). So, until the next time I decide to rant, get out there and inspire!

For all the light’s worth…

For what it’s worth, I’m not totally convinced we’ve got this whole bit about light & photography down pat; mostly because there’s always something that’s happening in the atmosphere that effects the light itself, changing how we see it. We get caught up in chasing the latest gear & tech to supposedly help us adapt our photography to this that we forget how to deal with it. When we see something new come out, we tend to jump on it, instead of studying it to see what it’s all about and working with what we have to get what we see with, and within, our vision.

- Snowy Glow -
– Snowy Glow –

The above photograph came about when I was out trying to capture a snow scene at the local park and I realized that I could use the reflected light from the snow as my primary light source, instead of relying on the overcast, diffused light coming through the clouds. While I exposed for the snow at about +1 or +2, I worked with what the snow presented me with (simple white reflected light) to allow the rest of the scene to glow. It allowed the green branches to brighten up and seemingly glow in the scene, lightening up the scene & bringing it out as a subject, set against the snow. In simpler terms, I tried working it for all the light’s worth; whether it worked or not is not really for me to say, because it might look completely different by the next person that it did to me.

Photography is about getting the most out of light while saying something of meaning and, while the above image doesn’t directly say much, it was about the glow of a plant still very much alive despite the cold winter storm that it had just endured. It’s basically saying that after the storm has passed, there’s still hope that the greenery will return and, indeed, it already has as this tree has shown. So often we hear that we’re supposed to expose for the right (in regards to the histogram), but I’ve come to think that in shots like this, I’ll expose for the green at about -2/3 of a stop, or for the snow at about +1 to +2 stops, whichever one tends to work better for me. So, in conclusion, trying to get it right for all light’s worth is where we should be in terms of photography.

Left behind…

We tend to worry that we’ll get left behind and forgotten because it shows that we’ve not done enough or well enough, but we couldn’t be more wrong. Why? I guess it’s because we always want to be the center of attention in our own ways sometimes. Now I’m not saying we’re all like this every time, but we usually go this route every now & then…We all have our moments I guess, myself included. Sometimes, we need to just get out & try to be ourselves so we don’t get lost in the feeling of being left behind.

- Holding Snow -
– Holding Snow –

While the above photograph isn’t directly about being left behind, it shows the snow left behind when the rest of it falls off the branch…Ok, so that was a bit of a stretch linking it in with the theme of being left behind, but it works, barely. I went out on a snowy, and icy, day to get into a floral conservatory that was indoors, but I got a bit lazy seeing all the snow on the ground on the way up to the spot, so I changed gears and decided to shoot photographs of the nearby pond that was frozen over; this shot was of a small section of the shore of the pond (it’s not at all visible, but it was off to the upper right of the frame). It was refined with the usual adjustments (Clarity, Tone Curve, & Noise adjustments) to really bring out what the scene felt like to me; it was a kind of vision refinement in post-processing I guess.

It gets annoying when we seem to get left behind, but what I find often gets me back up is just getting a shot or two that really shines (for me at least). Not bragging that we got that one shot also works really well because it keeps us on the good side of humble, not the wrong side. For me at least, staying on the right side of humble is a challenge and not worrying about being left behind in various ways is even a greater challenge, but sometimes we just have to let all the worries go, trusting that, in the end, everything will work out.

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!

Progress…

It’s actually quite funny when we hear talk about progress in photography; cameras are getting larger sensors, more megapixels and lenses that are supposedly better. The automatic modes are getting smarter and the need to override the modes is shrinking by the day. While this is an old argument, it’s often resurfaced over the years when people brag, or complain, about equipment; I’ve sure gone over it a few times before. We still don’t quite get it, myself included, that we need to say something with what we shoot, taking the camera off of auto (putting it into something like M, A/Av or S/Tv mode). There should be something behind it because technical mastery means nothing if that’s all there is.

I succumb to this frame of thinking (that new gear is better) so many times that I begin to think that I’ll never get out of it, but then, seemingly out of nowhere, I get a shot that works & I have no clue why I did what I did; technical mastery had nothing to do with it at all, just plain intuition. It’s not any measure of technical mastery that can be the major part of a profound photograph alone, because then emotion wouldn’t have any input. When the two work hand-in-hand, with emotion having a strong pull, then an impactful shot comes as the result; this is real progress, in my mind. It’s not something that always sticks around either, but it can come in waves.

Lean with it, rock with it,
When we gonna stop with it,
Lyrics that mean nothing,
We were gifted with thought,
Is it time to move our feet
To an introspective beat,
It ain’t the speakers that bump hearts,
It’s our hearts that make the beat.
-Holding On To You (Twenty One Pilots)

This happens because, as I figure it, because we all, myself included, are looking for the easy way out, not necessarily the right way. We need to at least strive to make something that says something. Like the above lyrics from the amazing band, Twenty One Pilots, we should make something that says something meaningful from within…That is real progress.

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.