Monthly Archives: June 2009

what do you want?

This isn’t about food or sex, although it could be. When I grab the camera and go out to shoot, “What do you want?” is one of the questions that I ask myself. Sometimes I know part of the answer. I have a place or a subject and head over to photograph it.

Before I get back on topic, let’s go ahead and establish that any number of things can happen once I arrive. If you know me, then you are aware that my mind wanders and I follow it on a fairly regular basis. We can talk about what goes on when that happens in a different post. For now, let’s pretend that I am able to avoid the constant distractions.
What I shoot is almost always driven by my moods. At this stage of my life as a photographer, I am not “in demand” or “on assignment” which means I am relatively low budget on my choices. In practical terms, that means I can’t choose an exotic locale and just go there to capture wonderful scenes. Technically I can make the choice but I don’t have the money to back it up.
This is not a criticism of the photographers that have both the freedom and the money to go where they want to shoot what they want. To some degree I am saying that living in what would be called the Birmingham/Hoover Metro Area in Alabama offers a different range of choices than locations like Hawaii.
So assume I have selected a location/subject, have walked or driven to the location, and am not being sidetracked. Stop laughing, it happens, on occasion. The point is that once I get there, a number of factors influence what I shoot and how I choose to shoot it. My instinct tells me it isn’t necessary to list the factors because I will not be able to list every factor and that nobody wants to read a discussion about available light or any of the other obvious factors that have to be considered. If you are someone that wants to list the factors, you are welcome to add a comment to cover that ground for me, you can consider it as a footnote or as your contribution to the photography world. If you are someone that needs that list and wishes I had included it here, you will have to glean that information from another source.
There is wisdom in shooting a subject a lot of ways and taking a lot of photographs. Sometimes you take the “money shot” and nail it, but sometimes you are wrong. Not you specifically, I mean it collectively, so if you are the person that nails the money shot every time, without fail, then clearly that statement did not pertain to you. The previous sentence was sort of a disclaimer to cover myself because there is always the exception lurking out there somewhere. What I am saying is that even though you have selected a location and a subject, be open to what is there.
One of my favorite quotes about photography is by Ernst Haas who said, “I am not interested in shooting new things – I am interested to see things new.”

So take your time, look around. Try to find something about the subject that captures your imagination. Look for the magic, then capture it with your camera. When you find the magic you will have answered the question, “What do you want?” and that will go a long way towards capturing something special.

I know, you are thinking this would have been a better post if it had been about food or sex. I can’t say that it would have been a better blog entry, but I am pretty sure more people would read it.

Photographs

Through the trees…

When did you begin your interest in photography? It’s a simple, direct question. My answer is a bit more complicated than what I have heard from other photographers. If you want to know when I started taking photographs, the answer is in the late 70’s when I purchased a Minolta SLR 35mm film camera. I took photos with that camera for several years.

My first son was born in late August of 1980 and my second son in late June of 1983. The third son was born in October of 1988. Somewhere between the arrival of the second son and the third son, photography was put on hold. That is a polite way of saying that I had no time for photography for what became many years. During that time a I purchased a VHS camera and kid events were “filmed” to capture it for later. “Later” eventually became “never” because nobody wants to watch a VHS tape of a kid’s soccer game, not even the kids that were in the game.

But to answer the question I posed at the beginning of this blog entry, you have to travel much further back in my life. Yeah, you guessed it, we have to take a little trip back to the early years.

Aren’t you curious about the events that shaped me? Sure you are, it’s a twisted tale and I have the scars to prove it.
Growing up in a small town in Alabama limited my exposure to the arts. The arts were loosely defined by my sister’s piano lessons, paint by numbers, and classical music that was background for some of the old cartoons. The closest thing to musicals were cowboy movies with Roy Rogers or Gene Autrey.

Looking back, I started to compose photographs before I was in the 1st grade. I had no idea that was what I was doing until many years later. Actually I wasn’t aware of it until this past year. So if you are doing the math at home, that would be somewhere approaching 50 laps around the sun. For those of you following closely and want to point out that I had a DSLR in the late 70’s, you are technically correct but I had not given any thought to when I became interested in photography nor did I realize that I had been composing photographs for such a long time.

It was this past year when I realized that my introduction to what I would call photography was through jigsaw puzzles. No, not the easy ones with the big pieces, the hard ones with lots of small pieces. The photographs were often mountains, a view of a forest, or a cottage beside a lake.

You spend a lot of time looking at the photographs on the boxes if you put together a lot of jigsaw puzzles. Beginning with those early years, whether we were on vacation at the beach in Florida, or playing in the woods near our house, or taking a trip somewhere, I was constantly composing photographs in my head. Since I didn’t own a camera and had no knowledge of photography, in my head I would say, “That would make a great jigsaw puzzle.”

These days I don’t work on jigsaw puzzles, but I’m still composing photographs.