Seeing The Basics

This evening I was puttering around the Internet looking over a variety of photography-related web sites.  I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, but eventually felt compelled to visit a web site which had been pretty instrumental in helping me during my research phase for the purchase of my first dSLR.

In reading one particular posting by the author I was immediately struck by how photography can be so readily segregated into two primary types:  art and everything else.  Granted, this isn’t the first time the issue of what is photography has come to mind.  Hell, I spent plenty of time considering and discussing the various merits and pitfalls of the terms photograph, image, record, etc. without coming to any real conclusion.  But putting that aside, I think the author went to great pains to illustrate how photography can be art or something else altogether.

He strongly urged a burgeoning photographer to not hang out with other photographers, reading books on photography and scanning the Internet for like-minded photographers, but to look at, read about and hang out with art and artists.  He states “If an image lacks the right fundamentals of composition, light, form and colour, don’t even bother to press the shutter.”  He further states “As a photographer, the hardest part is seeing the fundamentals and then paying enough attention to get them right.”  Strong words.  Strong words indeed.

During the course of reading the article I wasn’t certain what to think or feel.  My feelings and thoughts were all over the place.  Firstly I was rather depressed and thought how absolutely horrible my pictures must be.  But once I got past this bit of self-indulgent self-deprecation, I understood that the author was really only trying to help me realize my possible potential.  Nothing wrong with that I suppose.  But I think the advice only works if the photographer in question (me, in this instance) is looking to create art.

I freely confess that I often take pictures that are simply records of a given moment in time.  The pictures I took of my neighborhood’s luau or of my friends visiting from Florida are perfect examples.  Do I try to frame and compose them?  Yes, but not to any large degree as it is really about capturing the moment and with people and events everything changes moment to moment.  Or when I was out taking pics of the dragonflies at the Cox Arboretum, I worked hard to put the sun in the right place, myself in the correct position and then it was mostly up to Mother Nature and we all know how fickle she can be!  As soon as a dragonfly would alight upon a leaf I had mere seconds (if that long) to get the dragonfly both in focus and framed/composed in a reasonable fashion.  Time was of the essence and in instances like these I don’t think there is a lot of time to consider the artfulness of any given shot.  It’s either SHOOT NOW or never get a picture of a dragonfly.

But upon further reflection of the author’s posting, it seems that the author is inferring a different type of photography.  A type that involves forethought and planning.  The sort that means a reccee of the location, consideration of the lighting options, set-up, etc.  The sort of planning which might be involved for a painter considering an upcoming painting project.  I think this is a markedly different sort of photography than the average every-day photographer is looking to do.  It actually reminded me of another photographer/blogger who discussed how he has in his mind an end result for a given photograph so he shoots the image and then returns home to use his various photo-editing software to then try and create an end product that matches to his original vision.  Wow.  I still have a hard time wrapping my head around this sort of work.  I mean, I could take an image file and manipulate it into something ‘artistic’, but the idea of starting with a vision and then bringing together the process of picture-taking and then editting is simply outside the scope of my abilities.  At this time.  Hell, maybe forever.

But you know what?  You know what I really learned from this?  I learned that I have once again reaffirmed my belief that I’m not in this to create art.  I’m in this because it’s a hobby.  I enjoy taking pictures.  I eschew the editing process.  But I really enjoy getting out the camera and snapping pics.   And often it becomes infectious.  I start out wanting to grab a few shots of the cats or the squirrels and then my eye catches something else and I’m suddently shooting it instead.  It doesn’t mean these diversions meet with success, but they help to expand my mind to different options.  They help me to keep an open mind to this photographic endeavor and I think that is probably more important than anything else.

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5 thoughts on “Seeing The Basics

  1. I stopped reading articles/blogs that encouraged me to have a “plan of action”, so to speak. True, I carry my camera just about everywhere I go. However, I look for a photograph when I am out and about, not go out with a plan. I am a nature shooter; I have to seize the moment, go with what Mother Nature throws my way. I love it!

    You are an awesome photographer! 😀

  2. Yeah, I’m pretty much like Tam in that respect. Even with the “events” I attend I rarely have a pre-formed idea of the shots I want to get. Essentially its just a matter (for me at least) of being there and see what’s thrown my way.
    However, I anticipate that this new project we’ve been chatting about may well take us all into the realm of planned shots. So be it. Doubt it’ll lead to much change in my normal modus operandi outside of that project though.

    Also, for me, most of photography’s all about “capturing the moment”… which is significantly different to setting out to create a work of art.
    If I wanted to do that I’d simply set the camera aside and resort to more traditional methods.

  3. I never work with a planned shot either, but when I see a subject, scene ,or whatever I instantly see the photograph in my mind. But I do agree that it helps to see the work of painters in particular. Especially, I appreciate the work of Dutch and Flemish painters. The way they made the light work for them, and how they painted those beautiful skies. Stunning.

    But most importantly in my opinion is to enjoy photograph, a lot of learning, and capturing the moment. Photography is so great, some creativity, a technical achievement, and fun, pure fun. The worst thing is doing without a camera (sigh).

    Wouter

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