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.

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Advice vs. Opinions…

It’s actually quite funny how many times we come across situations where people say that their opinion is better than others, like in politics, career choices and photography to name at least three of them. Going through an election year here in Canada and seeing how the neighbors to the south are doing, I’m noticing that politicians are making various promises by the minute, as if it’s as easy as taking a photograph by pressing the shutter button down. I’m not going to say vote for this party or that other one (just be wary when they don’t release their planned budget spending), but we’ve got to vote with our hearts & brains, not out of anger (something I’ve easily been guilty of); at least think deeply about it and realize where your values stand…pray on it if need be.

Now back to photography. Thinking about opinions when doing an edit can be a distraction, or even multiple distractions when thinking of how to bring out the vision for the shot(s) further in the post-processing stage. Question arise over how deep, or shallow, to go and what to tinker with as well as how realistic (true to reality) to stay; it’s all about interpretation of the scene and how it feels and what the impact is, should be, or can be. It’s not that we should listen to the outside world when it comes to how we should work with our photographs in the editing stage, but we should take in to account advice, but not opinions meant to confuse (like unwanted noise in the image) by saying we should do certain things while editing.

Sometimes, it’s about watching what opinions do to us and how they influence us; it can get to be a bit much when photographing and even more so when in post processing…Or so I’ve learned over the years. There’s always the purist who says that there should be no editing at all or the one that says to go bonkers in post-processing; the issue is to find a balance in these. Each photograph will say something different than the others, so, as I see it, there’s different levels to each shot as it aligns to the vision for it.

Through the lens…

So what does it mean, looking through the lens? I mean, it’s been said that we really have to look through the lens & have a vision for a shot or that it comes as we take the photograph. I’m listening to the band Future of Forestry (great Californian band by the way) as I write this and I comes to mind that in looking through the lens means more than just seeing the scene, but also what the lens will do & how it will behave, something that I’m not always good at doing. Will it compress the scene, stretch it out, or something in between? That’s something to consider when pressing the shutter down all the way, or even just looking through the lens at the scene.

It’s basically in how you view the scene: what you see, how you see it, how your opinions influence composition & exposure. Seeing how different people take photographs, you begin to see a style that makes it their own, even if it’s not apparent at first, but it’s there; we’re nowhere near being objective people, so everything we do will most likely be tainted with some form of subjectivity or other. At heart of it is how we choose to speak through the image using available light or flash, lines or repetition to convey motion, or colors to convey feeling, to mention a few; each image says something, if it is going to have impact or not, so if we’re going to be intentional in this, we need to watch out how we see through the lens and capture the moment/scene, something I’m nowhere near close to perfect at.

Every time we look through the lens we’re seeing the scene as if it’s something to be captured & recorded. Why? It’s not just because we’re looking through a lens, but through different eyes (figuratively) and when we press the shutter button all the way down, we’re taking that scene and translating it as an image. Sounds basic, but in doing so, we’re not just saying, “look at this” but “this is what it looked like to me” every time when we show the image or view it ourselves; vacation snapshots are something that often says the former and sometimes the latter, but cameras aren’t just for vacation. Sometimes, it takes a bit of trying to look at a scene, or moment, through the lens with different eyes, questioning what we see and how we see it.

Boundary Bay Sunrise
Boundary Bay Sunrise

My gear’s better than yours…

That statement is a load of crap…To each his own when it comes to gear. Ever been in a situation where that statement gets thrown around like it’s supposed to mean something? I definitely have, mostly from Nikon guys who, back in the days when I was still using my Fujifilm S5200 (an amazing 5 megapixel superzoom by the way), told me that my camera was either a fake DSLR or it was substandard; neither of those were really set-in-stone true, mostly because their cameras had firmware faults, bad autofocus & produced crappy previews on the LCD screens. You see what I just did? I threw back more trash talk without so much as a second thought and it’s this kind of crap that is holding back photography.

What this does is produce sour grapes, so to speak, between people who should be focusing on vision, not gear. I mean to say, when it’s all looked at, under sober conditions, we find that it’s not the just the camera, but the person behind it; as a matter of fact, it’s the photographer first, then the camera. It’s to the point that I couldn’t give a crap if you/I use a Canon, Olympus, Pentax, Sony, or all decency aside, a Nikon, because it matters what the heart is; it’s not the gear at the center, it’s the heart. I’ve seen shots from a small camera far outdo a high-cost DSLR because there was some emotion in the photographs…And, for goodness sake, if you use a DSLR, take the darn thing off of full AUTO mode.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Little Whites (2015)

Getting off the rant on gear, there’s something to be said for thinking through a photograph after you’ve taken it, in the sense that going back & critically looking at it from a viewpoint somewhat removed from when you/I first shot it. I’ve been the worst at doing this because sometimes it’s the toughest thing to do, looking at a photograph you’ve taken and critique it because it hold some emotional value and you don’t want to smash that value, whatever it is. Like the photograph above, take the time to work through it afterwards, looking at the details…Like the subtle differences in color, light & tone on the petals of the flowers.

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.

Shutting up…

Okay, so this title’s a bit harsh, but the statement rings true when everyone’s chiming in on what they want you to do, instead of letting you listen for that guiding voice that will tell you where you should go and what shot you should get. Personally, getting too many voices saying different things is really confusing no matter what the task at hand is. In photography, the problem with so many different opinions is that it can get quite confusing…I’ve mentioned it before, I know.

With so many different lenses for so many different subjects, there’s varying opinions on which matters, prime lenses (one fixed focal length) or telephoto/zoom lenses (varying focal lengths), for every different subject under the sun. The issue I have with this is that we end up getting the typical shot and think that’s all we can do because we’re supposed to use only one type of lens and not another. Following this rule/opinion logically, this means that there an really not be any vastly different takes on the same scene that are deemed as acceptable; this is basically photography’s version of tech snobbery because it’s basically saying that you/I can’t get the shot because we don’t have a particular lens.

So the point of what is quickly becoming a rant is pretty simple: watch & listen to what the varying opinions are on photography, but somehow make your own informed opinions without stomping on others’ own opinions. The hardest part about this is that there is just so much noise out there that just won’t shut up; it takes time to sort it all out, something I’m still doing, because it doesn’t really go away, but there’s always flip side to the argument in photography and it’s up to us to figure out what exactly it is. Informed decisions about what to shoot are great, but if you’re just taking your first few shots, work at it and try different things to see which works best for you.