That one photograph…

Thinking about the one photograph that has always come back to either haunt me or inspire me, I’m in wonder at how much that one shot can inspire me. It’s not much, in reality, but it gets me stopping & thinking about just how much I admire the spot where it was taken and what it really means to me. Personally, it has changed over the years and has varied in its effect on me over the days & months; lately, it’s a photograph of a mossy rock with overgrown grass surrounding it.

- Rock & Grass -
– Rock & Grass –

Why does this photograph inspire me? This shot, taken at another angle of the spot in the botanical gardens that is so overlooked, makes me want to pause for a while and wonder just about where I am, who I am, and where I’m going. Other angles on this scene show only the rock, moss & grass, and yet they still have the same effect; they make me stop, think & want to do better just because it seems so peaceful, especially because the sun rarely hits it when the surrounding plants have come out of their winter slumber. The cool-hued shade, coupled with the sunlight that does break through on the scene, has a somewhat calming effect, especially when I actually stop to see it. Letting myself soak up a scene works much better with a scene like this and I’m thinking it’s because of the simple colour scheme.

Sometimes it’s a struggle to feel inspired, to feel something more than just okay, but that’s alright because it gets us moving & thinking; an elderly neighbour once said, without a little trouble, we don’t really grow. Of course, she said it in more of a metaphorical way, but it holds so true because without some struggle, we don’t really get a feel that we’re growing at all and we tend to become complacent…myself included. Sometimes, there’s a struggle to just get past that one photograph to make others and, for me, that’s as good a reason as any to keep trying; especially when I’m trying to learn off of what I’ve already done.

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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 –

Thinking out loud…

For me, photography is a way of thinking out loud because it’s a kind of attempt at visual translation of what we see in our minds. This may sound basic, but let me explain: we see a scene with our eyes, our mind processes it, we adjust the camera settings, and then we press the shutter button. What happens afterwards is the translation of what we saw to the shot, or print, itself.

There are multiple ways this can be done afterwards, be it in a specialized photography cataloguing & editing program like Lightroom, AfterShot Pro, or Aperture (I know it’s been discontinued, but it’s still quite powerful, even compared to Lightroom 5) among others, or something akin to Photoshop or PaintShop Pro. The problem is that we tend to focus on what these programs can do instead of what we could do with & through because, in a way, we think out loud through them, showing what the scene felt like to us through our use of these programs. What I’ve been trying to do is think out loud through my use of these programs, asking myself if I’m going too far with my edits…Are they betraying the look & feel of the scene as I saw & felt it?

- Q E Park Sunrise -
– Q E Park Sunrise –

What sticks out for me when I’m doing this is that it becomes a way of holding myself to what I felt & saw, instead of just going for all the controls & tools without any thought at all. The above photograph was one of those shots where I could have gone way off on the controls, but what kept me from doing so was desire to make it evoke feeling without looking contrived or fake in any way. Going way off from my initial capture would’ve made it untrue to what it was really like; sure, it looks a bit like a sunrise shot when in fact it’s a sunset, like the last shot I’ve posted here, but I didn’t want to make the colors untrue to the feel of the moment. I wanted to think out loud, so to speak, without yelling out, and I think it came out alright…But only time will really tell.

Just thinking…

Taking time to think & reflect on what we’ve become through the years is a good thing, especially when we think about the results of our decisions. The thing about it is that we all leave a legacy and it comes down to what kind of impression we want to make on those around us. Are we prepared for the fallout of our decisions? I’d be lying if I would say I’m completely prepared for the fallout, especially over the many missteps & dumb mistakes I’ve made over the years.

That’s the beauty of photography, and art in general…It gives us an outlet to express ourselves and take a break from letting the world drain us. Other things do as well (our beliefs, families, friends, etc.), but photography adds, onto that, a visually expressive outlet. I guess that’s part of the reason why a simple snapshot just doesn’t cut it for me, most of the time; why just snap & run if I can slow down & soak up a bit of what’s around me? For quite some time, I was told, by a few people, that, because I used a 5-megapixel zoom camera, I was just using a fake DSLR and was only taking snapshots; it was my outlet for photography and I’m beginning to realize that an attitude of who cares in regards to those critical opinions was justified. When moving to a DSLR, my outlet, in gear, changed, but my mind didn’t; it wasn’t dependent on gear, but craft & vision and a certain, slightly rough attitude towards the critics was somewhat warranted…the key is to take it in & grow from it, not just toss it aside. Listening to them too tightly can void any hint of photography being an outlet, something it nearly did for me, on several occasions.

Sometimes, just thinking about what’s happened along the proverbial road can be a blessing in disguise, especially when things don’t work out the way we thought they would. We, myself included, can easily get distracted by how wrong things went and then forget the good that came out of it. Past mistakes & missteps can really hurt, but they can sometimes point to a better, brighter future because they guide us along a path that can, ultimately, bring us out of the bad spot we might be in…They force us to change, or modify, what we’re doing so that we get to where we’re supposed to get to.

Answers…

What is the answer to life’s ultimate question? 42! Ok, so that’s only funny if you’ve read, or watched Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. But seriously, when it comes to life, we’re all looking for answers or laying blame; we looked to politics for answers to why the economy is going in to the tank then blame them for screwing it all up, or looking to sports to lift our spirits up when we feel down, only to be let down by our team loosing (I cheer for the Cleveland Browns in the NFL, so, yes, I know how that feels). It’s the same in photography because we blame our gear, not ourselves for doing what we want it to (been there, done that). The question for us all is this: we were made by the Maker to live life to it’s fullest, not worship ourselves, so why on Earth are we looking elsewhere than ourselves to cast blame? The answer to this question, in it’s entirety, is not 42; I’m asking it to provoke thought about why we do what we do…And not wallow in blame itself, but to move on. What we’ve got to do is learn from it and move on, something much easier said than done…We (myself included) don’t want to accept responsibility for our actions, because that means we have to get past it and learn from it, something I’m never much good at. Not to get too spiritual for you, but ever thought that we’ve forgotten, myself INCLUDED, that we’re at our best when we’re down on our knees (literally or figuratively) praying for guidance to what we should do next, thinking about more than ourselves.

Getting on to the topic of photography…Thinking about it, stopping for a second while we’re out with our camera, how many times do we stop and think about what we’re actually doing? I’m not advocating praying about/for the shot, but really stopping and thinking about it…What I’m trying to say is that we don’t spend too much time thinking about other things besides ourselves (myself included) and then miss the shot we want to get. It’s sometimes the worst thing we can do, not thinking what & when, as well as why, we’re going for it. Taking time to stop and smell the roses can really help; and this is something that has really started to become apparent to myself lately.

Thinking about it thoroughly, looking for answers is a quest that we’re all on, even if we don’t want to admit it, whether it be photography or life in general. The worst thing we can do is think we’ve got it all together, because then we (myself included) tend to become arrogant; I’ve seen it, and read it, many times, especially in photography where we’re told that we have to use a certain lens or brand and in life when we’re told we have to vote this way or that. In the end, it’s a heart & brain issue. If we tend not to think when we press the shutter button down, what does that say about us (myself included)? I’d rather be thoughtful and learn to think, something I don’t always do, than just being mindless about it al the time.