Honestly (Part 2)…

In reality, all we seek from the artist, be it musically or photographically, is honesty & reality in how their music, or photographs, are done/presented. The issue is that we need to define whether it means emotionally or visually and if it’s making something exactly how we felt, or something exactly how it looks. I’d show another one of my many photographs to help me argue this point, but I’ve done that so many times before that I don’t really want a single photograph to speak out for the entire discourse (it’s more of an argument, but discourse sounds fancier), but I’d rather just use it without really including it in the discourse itself.

To a certain extent, it’s like the song from The Fray, Heartbeat, because we’ve got to go after the heartbeat, feel that heartbeat. I know I’m stretching the lyrics to something that they’re not originally meant to be about, but the song is about a person being able to really feel another’s heartbeat and that’s what we should be after…We should be after some kind of heartbeat in the work(s) of art. It won’t always come so easily to us, me especially, but that’s the challenge and what, in the end, makes it worthwhile…to me at least. My take on it is this: what does it make me think & feel when I look at this photograph that I took? With all the superficiality out there, on both ends of the political spectrum, I think we need a little more honesty, heart & soul in what we’re doing in our daily lives. It’s supposed to start with us and maybe, just maybe, it might not end with us; in doing so, we’re not just inspiring others around us, but it’ll eventually grow to those outside our little circle of friends.

With all we have at our fingertips, we don’t need a little electronic chip in our bodies to improve things, we just need to get out there and do something, make something, that might just inspire someone, or even help them along the way. Looking at all the news & ads about how the latest piece of tech is supposed to solve all our problems, I realize that it’s not going to do that, because it’s either one little tool or one piece of the distraction that keeps us from moving on in life, as well as our hobbies. There’s got to be some balance after all, or we’ll end up going off the deep end & spending way more than we can afford or should be spending to begin with, but that’s just my opinion…And I’m sticking to it.

- Burnt Red -
– Burnt Red –
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Putting a little heart into it…

Putting a little heart & soul into it is one of the easiest things to say that we’re going to do, but one of the hardest things to actually do. Why? In my opinion, it’s because we’re so used to getting things as quick as possible and it’s cost us some of our ability to slow ourselves down & truly consider what we’re doing in our photography as well as our lives. What makes me laugh sometimes is when someone tells me that because of who I am, I should be listening to a certain kind of music, dressing a certain way, & talking about certain subjects only; none of that really holds any water because it would cause me to ignore people that really inspire me & people I want to inspire as well as help.

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying that chaos is the way to go, but moderation & caring should be the norm. There are certain rules that should follow, but super-strict rigidity without any meaning, purpose, soul, or consideration for others isn’t exactly the way to go (or right for that matter). The problem with following rigidity is that modern society is so offended by anything that goes against it that it becomes wrong to express even a slightly different opinion than what’s in the overtly secular mainstream. It’s a little ridiculous if you ask me because we’re heading for something akin to the world in the Modern Educayshun video; look it up on YouTube, it’s actually quite scary (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKcWu0tsiZM). The thing is, we need to respect others to the point that everyone can be true to themselves without being told that their heart & soul isn’t offensive.

For me, the lyrics, “Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise” from the 1912 version of the ancient Irish hymn, Be Thou My Vision, should be at least one of our major ideals because it speaks to the need to not go after riches or popularity first & foremost (side note: there are at least 6 official versions of this hymn, all extremely close in meaning). the fact that modern society is so concentrated on popularity & shallow things bugs me, especially because I can easily get that way really quickly. It comes down to the point that there is no real heart & soul in it if we decide to stick to the way mainstream society & media is going.

A place for review…

Now I haven’t done one of these for quite some time, and I’d like to take the time to say that a must read, for me, among current books just released is The Soul of the Camera: The Photographer’s Place in Picture-Making by David duChemin. I’ve only finished the first few chapters and it’s something that’s quite amazing because it talks, and discusses, about the role we play when we take photographs because we comprise the proverbial soul of the camera in that it’s our emotions that go into making the image. Getting this book a few days before July 1st, Canada Day 2017, I pretty much know what’s dominating my non-theological readings during the long weekend and it’s this book (as well as finishing up War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy for the umpteenth time).

This long weekend, I’ll probably be out taking photographs, while not taking in the Canada Day celebrations because of how busy they get, and I’m going to at least try to take photographs that mean something. For me, life’s a little too short not to care about what the Creator’s let me be able to do, so I’m going to do something with what I’ve been given. The first book above has made me wonder if I’m really putting my heart & soul into what I’m doing, photographically or otherwise; many things have made me wonder this before and here this book is, reminding me yet again. Yet I am always reminded by how easy I end up lashing out when I’m frustrated and end up messing up my chances to be real in life & how I take photographs. Still working on this idea of putting more soul into my photographs, I’m far from getting it right with any consistency, but I’ll try each time.

When it comes to photographs already taken, reviewing them can be a good thing, especially if you’re going about it looking for vision & soul in the shot itself. Maybe it’s me, but I’ve come to realize just how far short I’ve fallen when it comes to doing the right thing and now, little by little, I’m trying to recover from that fault. When it comes to life, I’m slowly, and painfully trying to slow myself down & examine why I am the way I am, and when it comes to photography, I’m learning to slow it down & really examine a scene before I take a shot; either way, I’m slowly learning to really put my heart & soul into it.

What’s up with the noise…

Looking at what’s out there in terms of blogs, advice columns, how-to books, get-rich-quick books, I’ve come to realize that the one thing most of them lack is the idea that the heart matters. There’s some great ones out there that do just that, focus on meaning, and that’s what we all need more of, especially where technique & meaning cross because, if they don’t, then we tend to loose ourselves and photography falls flat. I’m totally far from perfect in this way, so take what I’m about to say knowing that I’m no angel either.

Photo = technique + craft + heart

Now that the math’s out of the way, thank goodness for that, we should always be striving for meaning, not just in life in general, but in the photographs we take. For myself, if I can’t portray the beauty of nature in my nature shots, then I begin to see that I’m losing at least some kind of meaning in what I’m getting a shot of. Now, to be clear, that doesn’t mean oversaturating the colors & editing the crap out of the shot, but it does mean paying close attention to the interplay between colors, tones & form in each scene. I know I’ve done this topic many times before, but sometimes, all this stuff just adds to the noise, detracting from us keeping our minds open to really concentrating on the meaning of what we’re trying to say with our photographs.

- Tiny Strands -
– Tiny Strands –

The above photograph really communicated the message of reaching for something with caution because of the way some of the petals extended themselves. Now, if my craft & technique wasn’t all that great, this shot wouldn’t have come out anywhere near what it did, especially color & noise wise. For me, Clarity (localized contrast) has become a key point in how I see things while editing because it’s a tidier tool/slider than contrast with its less drastic control, allowing for better fine tuning either on the positive side or the negative side.

About the hidden…

When we’re out & about, trying to look for inspiration, or just walking around, we can either see things we think were hidden from us before. We usually get an epiphany one time or other, and not just in the religious sense of the word; we suddenly notice things we thought weren’t there before and sometimes we just ignore them. In photography, getting this is akin to a light bulb suddenly going off in our minds and we think, hey, why didn’t I see this before? or hey, why was this not here before? It’s as if our minds are trying to get us to pay attention or they suddenly begin working; in my case, it’s usually the latter.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Knot in the Wood

The above photograph was such an experience, mostly because I was after something entirely different in the shot; the bark’s monotone texture reminded me of the land of Mordor from The Lord of the Rings trilogy. When processing it later, I saw the image in the wood as a kind of tiger, or large cat, with its head & front leg coming out of the tree itself; not editing the image, I could still notice it as if it was sticking out for me to just see it. Part of the reason for me initially missing it was that the rain was quite distracting and trying to keep my gear dry was next to pointless…I spent the good part of 2-3 hours drying out the camera & lens afterwards. Was it worth it? In hindsight it definitely was. At the point when I was taking the above photograph, I was pushing myself to take photographs of the trees, using what little shelter I had, thanks to the leaves having fallen off a few months ago. Sometimes, we just have to open up our eyes, something I’ve never been consistent or even good at doing most of the time.

I’ve lately been listening to a load of songs by The Fray and the one song, Our Last Days, really sticks out to me, not because there’s some kind of hidden message (there is none), but it basically has the message that when you think that nothing will ever last, there is one thing that will…the heart. And it’s the same with the image as well because, when we strip it of the technical aspects (camera model, shutter speed, aperture & ISO among them), what is left of it is the heart of the image…and what it says. With hidden things in images, the same thing holds true: once we’ve stripped away all the tech behind it, what we have left is the heart of the image and what it’s really saying.

Opinions…

Happy Star Wars Day! Now that it’s been said, on to something a bit more normal (joking): opinions & vision. With all the noise out there, it’s quite possible to get those opinions mixed in with vision when it comes to getting that shot. The big problem with this is when what you/I shot gets influenced so much by the outside world’s opinions that the shot is no longer our own and becomes a derivative (negatively) of what’s already out there. Copycat work isn’t flattery, it’s just plain copying…The idea is that we form our own vision and use that to mold how we shot & what we shoot.

The strange thing about all of this is, in photography, that there is just so much thrown at us from outside that we just tend to forget ourselves in all of it, following others instead of where our heart is telling us to go, and not just with photography. We tend to forget ourselves when all this information is thrown at us and think that all the information is somehow correct…It’s like someone telling us to follow them to make the perfect shot, but in reality, it’s a perfect lie; in a way it’s like those 4 lines from a recent(ish) rock song:

You want a perfect, perfect life
Nothing wrong, nothing real inside
All I see is a perfect lie
I don’t want your perfect life

-Perfect Life (Red)

In working through all this, the key for you/I to remember, is that while we’re all trying our best to get that shot, the heart should be in it as well, not just the mind. In the end, after all is said (over and over and over again, by me), it’s a heart thing if you/I want to make the shot have an impact on the viewer. And by focusing on what others are telling you instead of not working on vision, then it ceases to come from your/my heart.