my photographs and random thoughts

a rant about me and photography | proceed at your own risk

winter rain

winter rain (ok, it’s late autumn rain!) 10 december 2012

there is only one shot in this post!!! be forewarned!!!


some of my best thinking is either done whilst in the shower or on my morning walk to work. but when i go to put pen to paper or digits to keys, those words seem to have dissolved in thin air and all the wonderful thoughts i had have vanished. but the skeleton of the idea is still with me. my thoughts today, and over some time, have been about the rapid pace of life today but most particularly how it applies to photography–the equipment we use and the processes of completing our photos (if one is ever said to really complete one–since they can be worked ad infinitum).

part one | cameras

digital cameras

while it has been said that a gifted artist, a true photographer, can take a wonderful photo with any camera, i beg to qualify this statement. i think that a gifted artist definitely has the upperhand at being able to see, compose and execute a shot over the average bear (if bears were the least bit interested in photography) but one must acknowledge that some cameras definitely have limitations. but i think, at a certain level, that a true photographer can create divine work with less than the absolute best–at some point a good, solid camera is enough.

not that there is anything wrong with wanting bigger and better! i must add, that given vast quantities of cold, hard cash, i would be the biggest camera junkie of them all–i already am, to a small extent, a bit of a collector. BUT my go-to digital camera is a rather modest canon 60d. (this is where professional sports photographers can just ignore the rest of my digital section–that’s assuming that professional sports photographers have even found my wee blog!) i would venture to say that this camera could probably, in the right hands, be able to produce the most fabulous shot possible–that it really isn’t necessary to spend a swankofajillion dollars on the top of the line (except for shooting action shots). but we all want top of the line, don’t we? even when we are saying it’s not necessary.

but i have finally come to the conclusion that i can’t possibly keep up with the demands of acquiring bigger and better. i can’t–not that i don’t WANT to–i just am starting to know the limitations of my wallet. and i am, at last, content with that realization. i can’t possibly keep up with the latest and greatest but i am extremely happy for those that can! and in some ways it is a relief–i must make the very best out of a good, solid camera.

film cameras

now film cameras. that’s sort of a different story isn’t it? but here also i must draw a line in my check book. i can’t possibly afford to have all the cameras that i would love to have if i were bill gates. i must winnow down what i really, really want amongst all the choices. because these are desires. they are truly love affairs really and we can’t taste every bit of fruit in the world, can we? i do adore medium format and i have my hasselblad (lower ones head in respect) which i truly never thought i would EVAH own and i should be happy then, right? well i am… but there is that nagging for a 6×7. but i must realize that my desires can’t always be quenched. that is a difficult thought to bear (lots of bears in this post).

there are so many film cameras and different formats one can be overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of it all: Hasselblad, Contax, Pentax, Mamiya, Bronica, Canon, Nikon, Minolta–just to name a few. and then the holy of holies–Leica!! 120 and 35mm along side of the uncountable polaroids and fujis. then the myriad of odd, special, vintage, one-of-a-kind specialities that are so very hard to resist even though there is no earthly way they will ever work! they don’t need to work–they just need to be held and fondled and loved.

digital and film cameras

it is just amazing–the number of cameras and variations of lenses and filters and doodads that can be used to create!! how to choose–which one is best for me–NO which one is BEST! that might be more to the point. because then we do that, like religion, argue about which camera, which glass, which filter, which extension, which BAG, which whatchamacallit is the most desirable thing to have! and we go round and round and make our statements and break down each pixel and tasty morsel of each photograph and, well, then doesn’t it take a bit of the butter out of the mix? to be so dissected and investigated and torn up? doesn’t the “art” get put somewhere in the rubbish barrel?

so one can see how very difficult it is to make a choice and then to go with it, knowing that one’s pennies really only go so far and isn’t the point of the whole exercise JOY? so, at least in the digital scheme of things, i have made my piece with reality: if it breaks i will get another, but if it is working my 60d is my digital camera and i can live with that.

part two | chemistry 101 or computer science

when i first started posting photographs on flickr in 2008 i saw so many shots tagged as “sooc.” i didn’t know what the hell they were talking about! i made up all manner of things but i finally asked someone. “straight out of camera” well of course, i thought, what the hell else would they be. then i started noticing one particular photograher. the shots all had the same special glow, the same feel–i loved them!!! so i wrote to her and she told me she achieved that effect from “actions.” WHAT? what the hell are actions? is it something on my camera? huh? but then that world opened to me, or i should say “flooded” me!!! which ones? the ones that so and so uses or the ones that hoo haa uses? not the ones that cost a million, no way!!! who has free ones? can i do it myself–“oh, you need programs, you need photoshop or elements or some other such thing.”

this was a world i knew nothing about. but i took a course and my teacher recommended photoshop elements. but not the version that was currently available. the next version that was coming out soon, so wait. so i did. then, when i got the next version it wasn’t compatible with my mac’s older operating system. so i had to get a new operating system. then the new operating system would not work with my scanner. so i had to get a new scanner.

but i digress, back to potions and chemistry and science. playing with the actions was so intriging to me, that i could tweak my shots in such a way, beyond cropping, it was amazing!! but so confusing. the choices were alarming. but i kept on keeping on. and on and on. until this spring when i said NO. i will not do my 365 anymore. i am taking a break.

i know that others in flickr have also taken breaks. that it is difficult to shoot all the time, to manipulate the shots and to post and to comment on all your friends shots. and to have a life!!! for the people who have young children and jobs and spouses or significant others and who make dinner and shop and mend socks and tell bedtime stories and make quilts and look gorgeous–i was so amazed by!!! i just have the one job and carl does everything else for me (well, not EVERYTHING, but he sure is a fabulous husband)–what was i doing wrong?

maybe the one huge thing i was doing wrong was comparing myself to others and, the thrust of this piece, i was utterly and completely overwhelmed by the enormous choices and i had no way to slow my spinning mind down and learn to accept what i COULD do. i had no desire to give up shooting but it was like being from a third world country and standing in a super grocery store–what the hell to buy? and, in addition to the many ways one can accomplish ones goals for their photo, the new programs keep coming out. every. single. day. oh mmm geee.

part three | talent, or what the hell am i doing here?

i grew up thinking i was the most gifted artist. i thought that because my loving family told me so. i went to art school and did very well. then life interfered with my supposed career and i flitted from one creative outlet to another. but one stayed true throughout the years: photography. it was a constant even if i didn’t constantly shoot, even if i didn’t even have a clue about my slr. i loved it. i loved my polaroid sun camera. i cherished all my photos. i have photos from my brownie days–just a little kid with my magical “toy.” but it wasn’t really a toy–it was my love. and in 2006 i began to seriously teach myself, takes classes and surround myself with others who loved it as much as me.

at first, on flickr, my pictures were little more than “snapshots”–i was feeling my way around with the little canon point and shoot my husband bought me. i had fun and i was thrilled when i had a shot that i thought was good. i printed the ones i loved and my friends and family spurred me on (ouch, what a strange expression). and i started making contact with other photographers that had interests like mine, quilting for one. then i started to get a little better and i realized that my camera really couldn’t do some of the things i wanted to do. and i was off and running. and i know that i have improved, i definitely have. but i compare myself to every one–constantly. i wonder if others do that? i imagine most do, it’s only human.

in the beginning there was fun and joy. today there is comparison, worry, self flagellation and tears. back then i knew nothing, today i know how very much i don’t know and i wonder if i will ever get it. when i started my photos looked happy and innocent, today they seem overworked and contrived. yet i still take photos. and i am still amazed at how, when i am shooting, i am lifted out of myself and into the moment and all there is is me and the camera. and i am like a junkie and i want more.

i might just be talented and then again, i may be very ordinary. one thing rings true for me: i am an artist. good or bad, known or unknown. rich or poor. i am an artist. and it is enough. so with all the self-doubt and concern, with all of the overwhelmingness of camera and process, there is nothing i would rather be doing.

part four | going back to basics, sort of

the evolution of my journey is not complete but i think i am on a path that feels good. i cannot keep up with all the different processes. i can’t own all the cameras. but i can do what i love and if i can afford to try some different program, i will. if i am unable to get them all, that’s ok. it’s utterly exhausting trying to keep up with all the stuff going on. the thought that i have to keep up every new program and style and process; every new camera, gadget and feature–is enormous. i am going to shoot to a different drummer. i will allow myself to shoot and process as i like. it is my pleasure. it is my passion. i will be open to new things always, but i can’t be a slave to it all! and the funny thing is i am really not a slave, but i have the guilt of not knowing all the new stuff!!!

photography has been one of the greatest gifts i have ever received and i am learning to bend with it’s changes and mine and not fight what i cannot control. it’s life, really, encapsulated, beautiful and precious.

photo taken with canon 60d, 50mm f1.4 lens


4 responses

  1. What I love is when an artist gets exactly to this point. The point of admitting it and then living in the glorious space of realization. No one can take that from you. And it really can’t be taught. You have to accept it. And when you do, watch the HELL out! I’m so glad you’re there.

    December 13, 2012 at 7:20 pm

  2. thank you sooo much Erika and yes, it does feel good!!! it feels good to say it publicly too–to have it off of my ample bosom.

    December 13, 2012 at 8:56 pm

  3. Fantastic post! As the say, do what you love. My son is a violin performance major where students are encouraged to compete with themselves and not with others. I like this philosophy. I own one old Nikon dslr and a couple lenses. As for “actions,” I use a free on-line editing program. It’s the best I can do and I’m happy with that. I may never be an Ansel Adams or an Edward Weston, but I’m so enjoying the whole process of photography.

    December 14, 2012 at 1:36 am

  4. Linda, your words ring so true! I am still not at a place where I call myself a photographer. Sure, on a good day, I can take some decent images, but a photographer. Certainly not! But I’m working on it.
    As for acquiring new cameras….I’m not buying any more for a while. I just want to improve my eye. And I’m not buying any more gear either. I just want to concentrate on my vision. That’s what I’ve been concentrating on for the last few months. I can see you have too!
    And I love that we’re at this point where we know what we’re doing, we’re not sure where we’re going, but we’re enjoying the process!

    December 14, 2012 at 6:51 am

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