Gesture & meaning…

I’ve been thinking about what it really means to have meaning & gesture in my photography. How do I relate to the scene? What does the scene say to me? What does the entire scene mean? Gesture, I think, is more than just how a living subject looks at the camera because it’s about expression in the end; it’s about how the gesture of the subject looks in the scene. Meaning comes out of how we compose using colour  (or not) and what the scene ‘says’ to me and what it possibly ‘says’ to others; like when I was out photographing birds at a local conservatory, it’s how the animals stare into the camera AND what they are doing as they look into the camera & scene. It doesn’t take a professional to do this…It takes a love for photography & the scene in front of us to get this done, and we don’t always get it right the first time.

- Questioning Bird -
– Questioning Bird –

The scene above obviously includes gesture because of how the bird is looking at the camera with some food in its mouth; it’s as if the bird is asking me why on earth would I want to bother it while it’s eating just to get a shot. The background behind the shot is pretty simple: I was trying out a different way of approaching something with different gear and I wanted to see how I could handle the small, fist-sized birds on the first go. I wanted to see what I learned over the years to see if indeed I had really improved at all; for me, it was about analyzing my approach and seeing if I could really get something decent in it. While it was gently refined in Lightroom (which I hope gets a post-Christmas update soon), it was about the story of a bird feeding and a photographer disturbing it; that’s the meaning behind it.
To an extent, photography really isn’t about what level we’re at (professional, amateur, or hobbyist), but it’s about how we pursue it; it’s about how much we care for what we’re photographing. Inspiration comes with caring, or at least that’s how I understand it; we’re called to take care of the world around us and we’ve all mucked it up badly, but through photography we can give a shot of a specific moment in time to someone else and inspire them. A photographer, by a decent definition, is someone who takes photographs for the love of it & to inspire, not just someone who does it as a paying job or career with expensive gear & possibly massive debt.
Gesture & meaning come through in a photograph when we put them there, choosing to include what makes the shot, when we make the photograph. How do we put them there? We put them there by watching the scene and being ready to capture what we believe the scene is saying to us. The photograph above may seem like nothing more than chance to me, but it was a result of waiting for it to unfold, moving around & watching the birds in the conservatory go about their lives (and me ducking when they left droppings while flying around). In the end, gesture & meaning help to inspire, and that’s what I’m at least trying to strive for.


A place & time…

Nowadays everyone seems to want to get places at certain times with certain milestones reached at that time & place. To me, I’ve almost given up on those certain milestones because I’ve come to realize, that for myself at least, that by living life by some kind of list & schedule isn’t really living at all because it leaves out time for really living at all. If I live out my life by some strict, pre-set schedule, then I wouldn’t be able to notice those around me that are hurting, whether by my own hand or that of others…And I would have missed the chance to spot the small bird looking up to see what was above him when I was out photographing flowers & birds the other day.

- Looking Up -
– Looking Up –

For me, it’s come down to the point where I’m trying to learn as I go about my day without scheduling out every minute of every day…Not that I’m the kind of person to do that, or even stick to it if I did. I’m not exactly inclined to be that rigid with my life and I’m trying to do my best not to be too lazy with how I go about my life. There are times when I wonder what on earth I’m going to do, but there are also times when I realize that I just need a little downtime; my problem is that we all get the two easily confused. I’m in the position that I want to learn from things as I go about life and I really don’t want to miss a chance to absorb, in a good way, what’s going on around me.

Personally, I think it’s come down to a matter of personality; one person loves to have every minute of every day scheduled while the next person plays it by ear. If it comes to the point that stress is a major factor, then I think that rigidity isn’t worth all that much because we were meant for so much more than to just stress out about things. Sometimes, all we have to do is take a little look around when we’re stressed out, or too preoccupied, and then we might learn something along the way.

A day & a time…

Sometimes, we hear that there’s only the now we need to live in and only the now we need to strive for, but what on earth is wrong with us that we’re so far gone? We think that there’s no real need to plan ahead and just let the time roll out what it will; the thing is, the day is generally filled with work, especially during the week. All this really does is cause us to either live for the weekend, or live to work; and is that any way to really go about living? I’m not perfect at following this advice, but it makes me think about what I’m actually doing and what I’m putting into my mind when I’m reading, listening to music or out photographing scenes.

Over the past year, I’ve been digging into some really good books: The Abolition of Man (C.S. Lewis), Stand for Something (John Kasich) and the amazing Lord of the Rings trilogy (J.R.R. Tolkien) to name a few. Among other readings, especially some of my photography books, these three are some of my favorites; the reason for this is that they all promote a strong sense of doing something that matters. The first one, Abolition of Man, is more of a critique on trends to reduce everything down to science, removing emotion from the equation, hence abolishing what makes us human, while the others are about taking a stand for what we believe in and doing something about it. Neither is about going with the flow and letting things just happen all the time. Don’t get me wrong, I am a kind of go with the flow type of person, but there’s always a time to stand for something.

In photography, we’re trying to capture the moment and/or the scene, so where does the idea of taking a stand leave us? It means trying to make the image say something and mean something, instead of just being a snapshot. It means that instead of getting mad because the weather didn’t turn out and the place you had in mind wasn’t any good in the rain (the event I posted about earlier was cancelled due to weather), then focus on something more than just a ruined opportunity. So, by all means, live in the now, but don’t forget about tomorrow.

By the water…

One of the best songs by Future Of Forestry no doubt, but when it comes to photography, water sometimes can hold many a surprise for the photographer, myself included. Do I use a fast shutter speed and freeze the motion, or do I choose a slow shutter speed and blur the flow? It’s a matter of vision for the shot and what you want to do with it; personally, I like the in between option, where, instead of going silky, it turns glassy and at least some flow is indicated in the image. Just focusing on it in a certain way, with a certain shutter, can make it seem as time is moving slowly, or faster.

By the water we can be alone
where the river makes the time move slow
we can be alone
By the water it will be just right
take my hand and let the world go by
we can be alone
-By The Water (Future Of Forestry)

Often, we just assume that slower, or faster, is better when photographing water, but what about in between? There is seldom times, I think, when the middle ground is thought of because we tend to like extremes when it comes to this type of photography, or at least that’s what I’ve ended up seeing/reading in print or on the web. While I’ve done this approach before, I have to say that it tricky to do, mostly because the shutter speed is just shy of about a second on a clear day, that I can remember, and I’ve haven’t done any of this kind of photography of water for at least eight months, because it requires being a good deal close to the water.

By the Water
By the Water

The above photograph is an attempt to make such a photograph from close up because that’s, where I feel, that it is easier to achieve this effect. Having dug through last year’s photographs, this one was definitely a keeper for me and works well at showing the glass-like appearance of the water at a shutter speed. It was taken at about f22 at about 1/6 of a second, from what I can dig up from the original *.tiff file that had been archived about eight months ago. It had been long since forgotten until I began writing this post and remembered the spot where I had taken these photographs and, as a result, went hunting for them. Now the reason for different watermarks is this: every year I often end up making a new one.

On taking the time…

Okay, so it’s been a while since I’ve posted something and I’m starting to wonder if I’m just taking too much time in doing up a post, but then life just gets in the way and I’ve nearly forgotten about it. When I think about it, I’ve never really gone too in-depth on any specific topic for too long and I try to keep it simple, but sometimes just taking the time to do just that is all I really need. With the hockey playoffs starting on Wednesday, there’s one thing I’ll be tuning in to, thanks to internet radio…I’m just not one to watch the local stuff.

Getting back to taking time…In photography, it’s all about capturing that moment, not just that scene and to do just that, you’ve got to take the time to get it right. Like with the photograph of the forget-me-not flowers in the previous post, it takes a bit of time to get to that point where you can get that shot you want. It has taken me a long time to get to the point where I can get even remotely close to getting a good shot of the small flowers, mostly because of patience & skill; it’s something that does take time and something that you sometimes have to force out into the open or it might never get used because you/I need to be deliberate in how we go about taking photographs, not just always shooting from the hip, so to speak.

The beauty of waiting is often missed because the camera only takes a single ‘snapshot’ of that moment at a time, but it’s about capturing the moment and sometimes going with your gut that allow for just the right shot to come about. It’s about practicing and working on your methods to get to the spot where you can rely on that little voice to let you know when to grab that shot. I’ve not always been able to do just that, so for me, at least, it’s like an on-off switch that won’t stay in one place because it sometimes doesn’t speak up at all and, at other times, it just won’t shut up. So the best thing to do, in my opinion, should be to listen for that voice and/or take some practice shots along the way…Take the time for it to improve.