Disappointments & surprises…

While no one really likes disappointments, especially myself, I’ve come to think of them as necessary for learning. And I’m not just saying this because of the American elections that have just passed either; elections in which both nominees were a bad choice. Sometimes, we have to take what we can get and make something beautiful out of it…Something that makes us see something for its value. We need to work with how things turn out and try to show that we can be better than how they turned out.

- Leaves of Autumn -
– Leaves of Autumn –

Sometimes we need to get out of our metaphorical lane and do something different; for me it was exposing the shot above lighter than it really was, by at least a stop. I didn’t care too much about color initially (I could fix that in post-processing), but I cared about atmosphere, so that’s where I put my concentration towards. It was darker than this in reality, but it didn’t feel like that at all. Somehow, along the way, a thought was put into my mind that I should get out in the wet weather (not nearly as wet as I’ve ever done) and work at getting a good shot. As a result, the weather was a disappointment, but the shot that resulted from it was the surprise. I got out of my usual metaphorical lane by working against the impulse to go darker to match reality and instead go lighter to match atmospheric feel.

I’m beginning to think that having one without the other isn’t a good thing because balancing out disappointments with surprises leads to a healthy learning curve. We should be working for a healthy balance in our photography, one that’s creative, inspiring (or at least some of the time), and not without at least a little bit of growth now & then…The kind of growth that gets us out of our metaphorical lane.

Advertisements

Thought & Taking a Stand…

It says something when we’re about to go into a time where two people, both as mucked up & corrupt as could possibly be, are running for US president; now I’m nowhere near perfect, but that just had to be said. Where’s our thinking when stuff like this happens? I’m inclined to say we’ve all mucked up, because we all let stuff like this happen without much thought, let alone taking a stand and saying that enough is enough. We’ve let our lax attitudes spill over into politics…I’m as much to blames as the next person…but let’s start by at least beginning to take a stand & not taking just any old thing as okay.

We’re just as mucked up when it comes to photography because we’ve let just anything be called photography, including explicit imagery. After all, it’s all just art, right? WRONG!! I’m going out on limb here, but I’m going to say that we’ve nearly lost sight of what photography’s for…showing & saying something of value with the camera. So many times, I’ve fallen short of this, I’m beginning to think that I’ve lost it altogether, but then, every now & then, I actually get it right (or at least close) that it brings me back in.

What seems to get me every time, is that I end up forgetting to really take that stand, thinking that I can’t do it…But I have to dig deeper than just thinking that I can’t do it & acting on it; if we just all stop there, then we’ve lost it already. With a little help, we know we can’t do it on our own, but that help makes us get past it all; with my beliefs, if comes from above, so why do I forget it so many times? I get cowardly and forget it so many times, letting the world get to me, brining me down. So the answer’s right in front of us…We’ve just got to give it some thought and take a stand against all this crap.

An afterthought…

The dictionary defines an afterthought as a thought added after the fact, but how does that relate to photography? Simply put, it’s just another shot taken that doesn’t mean much and/or it’s just another shot added to a collection (or album) that just there because it was put there. Personally, I’ve struggled with this so many times that it’s getting quite annoying because I literally have to force myself not to leave images as an afterthought without thinking too much of them. I can learn so much from these shots because they’re mostly taken on impulse and they show me what my gut reaction is when I’m not really concentrating on a shot.

The bad thing about even just entertaining the idea of an afterthought in photography is that it allows for us, me especially, to just take a photograph without much thought of it at all. It allows for a who cares attitude in our photography and has the uncanny ability to make us complacent in how we go about our photography. The sad thing is that it’s all too natural to become complacent, something I’ve done all too easily and all too often. It’s almost a disease because we can easily get stuck in place and accept that we’re not going to get any better as we get older. It’s something that can really hurt our chances at growth, photographically speaking, in the long run.

One thing I’ve attempted to do (twice now) is a square composition, but so far I’ve only done so after printing out the shot; it was tricky, but it helped me to see just how a different perspective worked, not just as an afterthought & done for the sake of doing it, but because it helped me learn just how much a different view impacts the vision I had for the shot. The image began as a kind of afterthought (“Why don’t I just get out and take a shot or two of those flowers for the sake of it?”), but it quickly morphed into something stronger (“How can I make this work and how do I say something with this?”). The afterthought quickly became more than just an afterthought in this case and it helped me learn from it.

A thought…

Sometimes, just a single thought can direct us into a direction that we didn’t think we could go with our photography and it’s there that we find ourselves taking some photographs that turn out really good. What do we do with this? The thing about it is that we find a fad, or path, and then we tend to use it for all its worth without learning much from it; something that I can easily be guilty of. Sometimes we learn and sometimes we end up way too darn lazy to do any such thing.

- Blue & Light -
– Blue & Light –

Take for example the above photograph; I chose the subject as light & dark among small bluish purple flowers. I took a bunch of photographs of these kinds of flowers in the small surrounding area, but did I really learn from the experience? To be honest, not much at the time…Only later on when I decided to revisit the shot. This is why revisiting a shot can come in handy because it has the possibility of showing us something we didn’t notice before; I ended up actually realizing that while exposing for the right side of the histogram might have produced a lighter & brighter photograph, it could have gotten rid of the mood & saturation in the shadows, something I was going for in the shot when I took it. For me, in this type of situation, the darker colors work well because I tend to favor the mid-range of saturation; any brighter for me and it would have ruined the contrast from the beginning as well as messing up the shadows. Capturing it this way cut back on post-processing time and made it easier to work with because the majority of work was done with the colors, not the brightness. This all started with a thought & challenge: can I actually get a shot or more of the interplay of light & shade on the small flowers outside?

What I’m getting at is that sometimes thoughts can lead us way off track and will be more harm than good or get us shots that we didn’t expect that end up turning out really well. Even though I’ve focused on the positive, the negative is still there; we can let a thought get in our way and miss an amazing opportunity, or we can think it out like I did (or at least attempted to) with the above photograph.

Optics…

Every time something new comes out, we tend to reach for it like it’s the next big thing, myself included. It’s as if we’re conditioned by the greater society at large to do just that and promote it as something that will solve all our problems. But do we really need that longer lens, bigger camera or more expensive filter? Not if we can’t figure out what it actually does or what it’s for.

A newer lens, filter or camera is just that: something new. If we’re not thinking when we take the shot, then it’s not really being used to it’s full potential anyway, so why use it? The idea is that we work with what we have to make the shots we would like to make…The intent matters more than the gear. It basically comes down to need versus want. When I look at what I’m using, I’m thinking that I’m years behind the mainstream stuff; I’m using an older Olympus DSLR with a wide-angle to about standard zoom for basically all my shots because I tend to prefer something simpler that does have the ability to shoot wide-angle, as well as a bunch of filters (UV, polarizer & variable ND). Thinking about it, I usually moan about missing the shot, but I realize that it’s not the camera or lens’ fault…It’s my own because I don’t think hard enough about the shot before taking it. I tend to shoot at about 42 mm focal length on a lens with a 2x crop factor (if you guessed a Four-Thirds system, then you’d be right) because it’s a natural viewing distance for me and doesn’t have the same kind of compression that comes with a longer focal length.

Thinking of it, when looking for a shot, it does depend on your thinking when you go about pressing the shutter button down…to state the obvious. The composition, colors, tones, shapes, forms & depth of field all come in to play when taking the shot and, if you’re doing more than just taking a snapshot, they matter more so than just the camera/lens make & model. On the other side of the equation, you’ve got to take care of the equipment you’re using or the shots will get degraded. Work with what suits you best, and fight against it if you must, but see that vision doesn’t suffer as a result; words I’m trying to live by.

Kensington Park - Autumn
Kensington Park – Autumn

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.

Come to think about it…

When we tend to focus on…or try to focus on…a new subject, we often have only a small inkling of where we want to take it. And by new subject, I mean a new area of photography that’s foreign to us…like something we’ve never quite done before. And sometimes there’s more of a struggle than we care to admit because it’s a new area we don’t yet understand or can’t easily figure out how to capture with some kind of feeling to it. The hardest thing to do is to stretch out & engage in new subjects/areas of photography because we get used to the familiar way too easily. Sometimes, like I’ve said before, the familiar gets us comfortable with our photography and we cease to grow as a results. Trying something new can frustrate us, but it can reward us with photographs that we thought we’d never get. I guess, the surprise is reward enough and the frustration is just a part of it that just keeps us trying to learn & trying to get better at it.

So I’m done with the repetitiveness for now and I’m back to the topic: thought & photography. When it comes to taking a photograph with impact, often times, just snapping a shot & leaving doesn’t work because there’s no thought in it, and it comes out as just another snapshot; something that just says ‘I was here’ and that’s it. Those types of photographs are good for simple vacation shots, but they tend to lack impact & meaning because of the lack of thought in them to begin with. I fail at this plenty of times, mostly because it isn’t second nature to me to think too much when taking photographs, but it’s a learning process.

There are times when you can’t think too much (like action shots) because you’ll loose the moment, but then there’s also preplanning the shotwhile being open to new ideas of whatever might happen. Like in the birds shots I’ve posted on here before, it sometimes takes quick thinking to grab the shot you want, hoping that you got it, or waiting for just the right moment to come along. Nonetheless (big word for me, I know), it does take some thought before pressing the shutter all the way down. So the simplest thing to do…and the hardest…is to slow down & think a bit, or go for it if you’re doing action shots.