Things in life…

They say there are two things in life of which one may be certain: death and taxes. I’d like to add a third: not working on your blog.

Clearly I’m guilty of such.

As this is a blog dedicated to my adventures in photography one may be forgiven for thinking I had given up photography. And some would further suggest this isn’t such a bad idea! However, they would be wrong. Wrong about my having given up photography, but not about it being a good idea.

I have, actually, been snapping pictures and such ever since my last post regarding the birds in the snow. That was, I might add, a glorious day. One for the record books. And as is my wont I have been all over the place photography-wise. I’ve snapped more pics of the feral and homeless cats I feed and watch over. I’ve snapped some using the daughter and her friend as models. And, of course, there have been birds, flowers, landscapes, etc. I’ve pretty much covered all my usual bases.

Hell.. I even attended a Scott Kelby seminar in Indianapolis, Indiana with my camera store guru and new friend Alex. It was titled “Light It, Shoot It, Re-Touch It”. It was fun and cool and very exciting. Also a bit baffling as I don’t use Photoshop, which is the software he was using for the seminar. Even more bizarre was that I was the grand prize winner of an all-access pass to Photoshop World being held in Las Vegas this coming September. Absolutely wild it was. A room filled with over 500 professional photographers and I, the non-Photoshop using hobbiest, walk away with the grand prize.

Who would have thunk it?

Though all this background information does nothing to explain why I haven’t been posting. I wish I could offer a reasonable or useful explanation, but I have none. Unmotivated? Surely. Lazy? Without doubt. Lacking guidance? Of course.

But if pressed to offer a real reason… if pressed to truly weigh and consider why it is I haven’t been posting for a while I think I would point to two reasons:

1) The situation at home. Meaning, the continued lack of gainful employment coming my way (regardless of the number of resumes I’ve been sending out) and the low-level tension which exists between myself and my ex-wife-to-be. Mind you, we get along just fine. Our problem was never one of fighting or anything like that. The tension comes from simply having to continue living together while anxiously waiting for something good to happen to/for me in the job market so we can get the ball of divorce rolling, so to speak.

2) A lack of direction related to photography.

Point 1 is simply no within the purview of this blog so I shall not venture forth and illuminate you to the particulars in that matter, but I can speak here to point 2.

I enjoy snapping pictures. I really do. I do it almost daily. If not with my dSLR I’m certain to play shutterbug with my cell phone. Hey… a photograph is a photograph regardless of the device used to take it. And while I have no problem with being a basic and generic shutterbug I had hoped… maybe expected… that by now something in particular would have shown itself to be the sort of photography I wished to focus upon.

I don’t know why. I mean, I don’t know why I felt that need at all. Maybe it’s a normal and logical conclusion to which to arrive when one undertakes a new hobby. That at some point in the future the hobby will become more sharply focused. More specific. That it will cease to be something simple and become something more complex. Something which requires more time and dedication and in which one feels as if they are growing within the confines and context of said hobby.

But why does it have to be that way? I suppose it doesn’t. Regardless it is the way I feel and since it’s my hobby and my blog and my life, why shouldn’t I live it the way I feel regardless of how it appears to only add anxiety and complexity where none is necessary?

So where does this leave me exactly? Where am I and what are my plans? My intentions? My concerns and needs?

Fuck all if I know.

I almost wonder if I’m holding back, intentionally or otherwise, simply because I feel as if the rest of my life is on hold. Waiting for a job. Waiting for a divorce. Waiting for finding a new place to live and starting over on my own. Perhaps these up-in-the-air issues are thwarting my attempts to move forward with photography? Or maybe it’s simpler than that. Maybe I’m just not certain where to go. What to do.

Hell… I still have a terrible record at figuring out which of my own pictures is better than the rest. I’m still regularly amazed at the reaction I will get to one photograph on flickr, while another, one I think is great, garners little to no attention. For example, I posted the following two pictures a few weeks ago:

The first picture, of my cat Pumpkin sunning himself at the front door, generated 43-views and 6-separate comments. The second picture, of a mallard at a local park, generated 26-views and 1-comment.

The picture of Pumpkin was just a whim. Just me enjoying snapping a photo of one of my cats doing what they do best: getting some sun. The one of the mallard was me doing what I love best: snapping pics of nature. Especially of animals and birds in particular. I worked hard that particular afternoon to grab a handful of good shots of the male and female mallards enjoying the early spring/late winter day at the pond. And I worked hard to narrow down the field of photos until I had what I thought were the best of the best. And this one… this one in particular really stood out for me.

Tack-sharp. Gorgeous colours. A perfect profile.

In my mind the mallard was a winner. Hands down. Should have been favourited and commented upon and loved by all. Instead it was the everyday shot of a cat in the sun which generated the far greater response. What the hell is wrong with me that I don’t see this? Am I too close to my own work to recognize what’s better? I’m I prejudiced to think less of the casual snap of the cat because I didn’t ‘work’ for it? Am I simply incapable of recognizing something basic and fundamental about the images that would have told me the picture of Pumpkin would be the more popular?

For someone who sometimes entertains the notion of trying to sell one’s work it’s very disconcerting to find oneself incapable of recognizing what may be the better work (at least when based upon viewers preferences).

So… where does this leave me at this time? Am I going to continue with this blog? I’d like to think so. I confess to having an idea for another blog, one which I believe is much closer to my heart, but I am concerned that if I cannot remain dedicated to this one why would I be dedicated to another even if it is something more important to me (the subject, not blogging itself)? It’s a dilemma and is, in part, the reason I have yet to commit to starting it.

As if life isn’t messy enough without me trying to make it more so. What a putz.

Advertisements

Really….I’m trying my best. No. Really.

Having been on something akin to a sabbatical for many, many weeks, I have been, of late, attempting to get back into the full swing of life that is related to photography.

This means not only taking pictures, which I have done a bit of, but catching up on sites such as WordPress and Flickr. It also entails the knowledge that I have loads of pictures sitting upon my hard drive, anxiously awaiting my deft touch at processing.

Ahem.

Besides feeling the simple urge to get away from photography a bit, I have also delved into other matters, which have been keeping me both busy and occupied. Part of the current problem of catching up with photography-stuff is that I’m not letting go of the new things to which I have been engaged. Thus time becomes even more fleeting and is a rather large impediment to any sense of accomplishing tasks both necessary and desired each day.

But I promise, like a holy oath, that I’m working on catching up with everyone’s WordPress and Flickr site as well as moving forward to working on my own photographs and photography blogs. Thus far I’ve found it easier to play catch up with everyone else’s work than on my own. I’m still feeling something of a sensation to push away from the computer whenever I contemplate opening up my folders and going through my own work.

I cannot tell if this is just me reacting to a perceived lack of accomplishment in my photography or if it is something more sinister. No. That isn’t right. There isn’t anything more sinister afoot. You know…..upon reflection (and I’ve spent a fair amount of time reflecting on my photography while not actually doing any photography) I might be willing to concede that there is something of a crisis in faith going on here, which is really quite pathetic.

A number of folks I follow around WordPress and Flickr create fantastic images. Images I very much enjoy and hope that perhaps one day I’ll be able to create on my own. But the impediment to this creativity is myself. As I’ve lamented previously, I’m not a particularly creative person. So, if I know this fact about myself in advance, why should I feel anxious that I’m not creating pictures that are as interesting, etc. as those done by others, who are clearly gifted with creativity?

It would be like me envying Michael Jordan his basketball skills or Thierry Henry his football skills when I’m completely rubbish at sport because I’m hopelessly uncoordinated. And I don’t envy them their skills. But maybe that is because I haven’t ever had an interest in being a sports star, where I have thought it would be nice to be a player in the world of photography. Not a big player, but a player.

But you know something (yes, I imagine you must know something)…..now that I type this thought here, into WordPress, I realize how completely stupid it sounds. Not that my assessment is stupid, as it’s likely correctly. No, what’s stupid is that I feel this way at all.

Maybe I have to look at creativity from the context of who I am. Am I being creative for my own purposes instead of judging such against those whose work I admire and think of as being creative. I guess it is, in part, that we all aspire to believe or feel that we are really good/great at something and photography is one of those things for me. But I can live without being good or great at it. As long as I can derive pleasure from the act of photography then I should be happy enough and this is where I should be focusing my energies.

There….all better.

Scientific progress goes “Boink!”

For the most part my Flickr account has been used to upload photos taken with both my trusty Canon 40D and Rebel XTi (400D for our overseas readers). But I have uploaded some photos taken in the past with my Canon point-n-shoot devices: the Powershot A95 and A630.

But I, like so many others, have a cell phone, which includes a camera. My first camera phone was the Motorola RAZR; a decent phone in most regards (if only it had been a reliable phone). My next camera phone was/is my very trust and handy Palm Centro. It shoots both images as well as video and has proven to be a great phone for the particular reasons I purchased it.

But I have now moved on after almost two-years with my black and silver-accented Centro to the latest incarnation of the Apple iPhone. It too shots video and pictures. It shoots better pictures and video than does my Centro. But my problem is I don’t know what to do with the pictures.

Clearly I can save them on my iMac. Clearly I can e-mail them to friends and family alike. One day, hopefully soon, AT&T (the only carrier for the iPhone in the United States) will finally get its shit together and allow for the sending of media (including pictures) via text messaging. (“End of summer,” they keep promising, but not definite date has yet to be announced)

But should I upload them to my Flickr account? Flickr is for sharing photographs and a photograph is a photograph, whether it comes off a dSLR, a point-n-shoot or a mobile blower. But for some reason I feel that my intent for my Flickr account would be violated, if only gently, by the inclusion of images from the iPhone.

I see some sleepless nights ahead of me…

Flickr, art, my own pictures, your pictures, and coincidences

(fair warning: this may be a long post but as everything I say is important so you should keep reading)

This morning I was, as usual, doing some of my best thinking, while taking a shower. My shower is where, for whatever reason, I relax and my mind tends to wander and I seem to think more clearly. This mornings topic wound up being about photography.

My photography.

My photography and what I am thinking about it, where I want it to go and what I want it to mean to me. In brief, or as brief as I can be, this is the conclusion to which I came: I am going to take pictures of whatever I want and do with them whatever I want.

I have experienced a variety of feelings over the past few months about what I have been doing and where I want to go, and I seem to have lost sight of my original reasoning for purchasing a dSLR (my lovely, lovely Canon 40D): because my point-n-shoot digital cameras didn’t satisfy my desire for quality images AND because they took way too long to actually ‘snap’ a picture. Too many high contrast photos had that purple fringing issue and you wouldn’t believe how many photos I took that didn’t come out because the subject matter (almost always one of the cats or dogs) moved during the actual capture process. Those digi point-n-shoots are just way too slow at snapping an image, especially without use of the flash. I really never thought much about post-processing of images (other than maybe crop & zoom) and while I knew I wanted to explore photography as an art form I wasn’t buying the camera for that purpose. I derive an awful lot of pleasure from simply taking pictures. Pictures of anything and/or anyone. As a matter-of-fact I think it is the actual process of picture taking that I enjoy more than anything else. Recording images of the more furry members of my family makes me very happy. Getting in the car and traveling to one of my more favourite parks to walk about and snap images brings me great pleasure. Trying to capture a decent picture of a winter cardinal, while elusive, is a great way to spend a morning. Just handling the equipment, the weight in my hands, the strap around my neck, the physical sensation of raising the camera to my eye….all work to create a sense of well-being within me.

Now, I think this train of thought was brought on, in no small part, by a blog posting I read yesterday. You can find it here. The posting discusses some particular techniques to use in Photoshop to create an effect that the writer believes turns an ordinary photo into something extraordinary. And it is a great effect. But here is what I thought was most interesting about his entry: when he shot the original image he already had in his mind what he wanted to do to it. I had a hard time wrapping my head around this idea. He scoped out a location, determined what he would do to an image in post-processing (to obtain his final result) and then shot images to take back home with which to work.

What?

I don’t think like that. I still have a hard time wrapping my wee little brain around this sort of work. Maybe it’s because I see post-processing software as a place to ‘fix’ things or to accentuate something or de-accentuate something. I don’t know. And while I KNOW that image editing software can let me do so many things, I, to be frank, never really think of it in that manner for myself. I take an image to capture a moment. To make a record of a moment in time. For me, it’s more a matter of accurately recording the moment than altering it to convey something more……(maybe this explains why I never liked the work of Impressionist painters until much more recently in my life)

So, I exited the shower feeling….well….feeling better about myself and my photo-taking experiences thus far. I had been comparing them to others (which is patently dumb) and to expectations I had created in my head based upon ideas that had crept into my brain, but which I hadn’t thoroughly vetted in any meaningful way. And suddenly I felt the urge to upload photos to Flickr and join the image-hosting world regardless of the fact that my photos are completely average by any measure. And that is just fine by me.

Now let us jump to this afternoon where I’m using the tag surfer option here in WordPress.com and I wind up over on Blogger (somehow – it just happens you know) and I came across this posting from Tim Connor, who is discussing an article he read by a New York Times Magazine writer named Virginia Heffernan, whose article can be found here. And between them both are interesting discussions of Flickr and what is a “Flickr” photograph. It seems they both generally agree, but with some divergence, that there is a certain type of image for which Flickr is famous: heavily processed with image editing software. Which, of course, brings us full circle; back to my shower and thinking about what I want from my photographic endeavors, and thinking about the posting about how to create a particular look with Photoshop, etc.  Clearly my aesthetic is not their aesthetic and for probably the first time since I began this process in December 2007 I’m okay with the idea that I’m not doing things like other folks.  I don’t have to be anything.  My pictures don’t have to be anything more than pictures.  My subject matter can be what makes me happy and all other considerations be damned.

Besides…..I guess this means I’m pretty avant-garde because my images certainly do not fit within the so-called Flickr aesthetic. Damn if I’m not super-fucking cool.