When I was growing up I had an aunt, or a cousin or some relative who had the seats in her car covered with plastic. I always thought that was a little strange, to take this nice comfortable fabric and cover it with hot, sticky plastic, just so it wouldn’t get dirty or wear out. I don’t remember for certain, but I think she might have had the furniture in her house covered in plastic too. People used to – probably still do – use plastic carpet runners to keep people from walking on the carpet. I’ll admit that I can see the logic in covering carpet with carpet runner, in the winter, when it used to snow, and we people would come in the house with snow on their boots. But in the middle of summer? Nah!
Today, we can’t buy a cell phone without being offered a “screen protector.” I don’t understand why I would buy a fancy new phone with a gorgeous display and stick a piece of foggy plastic on it. So it won’t get dirty? It’s a touch screen, for Pete’s sake! It’s going to get finger marks on it! When I bought my last laptop, one of my students was appalled that I hadn’t paid another $50 or more for some rubberized piece of goo to cover the computer. I said, “someone went to a lot of trouble to make this computer look so nice, why would I want to cover it up?” We get sold $10 UV filters to put in front of our camera lenses, we can buy “skins” to cover up our cameras and lenses, but for what? So it won’t look like we use them? Come on, we don’t use them enough as it is, why cover it up with some aftermarket stuff someone thinks we need, just to keep our gear looking nice.
I have no idea why that was stuck in my head today. Well actually I do, and I feel much better now. Thanks!
Why is it that the people who insist on walking on the wrong side of the hallway – and who you invariably almost run over while rounding a corner – are the ones carrying a bowl of soup or a hot cup of coffee? Wouldn’t that be a good reason to walk on the right side and to make sure you didn’t run into someone?
Why do the people who only visit a restaurant during Restaurant Week or when there’s a Groupon complain when they can’t also get their free birthday dessert or half-price appetizer?
Someone recently posted an article on Facebook about a new app of some kind that allows you to apply “creative effects” to your iPhone photos in “seconds” instead of the “many minutes” that it takes for some other app to do the same thing. So now we can see even more lousy iPhone photos. You’ll be spending less of your time processing them, so I guess that means you can post more. But I still get to ignore them.
Why do the people who creep through the neighborhood at 24.9MPH (speed limit is 25) feel that it is OK to not bother stopping for stop signs?
I went to a meeting the other night where they had a ‘Swap Table’ for people to sell their used camera gear. I took in a Ziplock bag with a bunch of stuff I was going to throw away, dumped it out on the table and put a big FREE sign on it. I didn’t keep track of specific items, but the bag was just as full when I packed it up as it was when I brought it in. I guess nobody else wanted my junky stuff either. Maybe they put stuff in? It’s in the trash now. I should have just put it there to start with.
Besides the fact that it looks ridiculous, do the people who parade around in their cars with their Poochies on their laps ever think about what would happen to “Poochie” if they got in an accident and their airbag went off? Do they realize that they’d have a Poochie Pancake?
The nature photography group that I belong to is an affiliate member of the Photographic Society of America, or PSA. We have recently begun participating in a number of their competitions, some of them for projected images but most of them for printed images. Because I consider the well-made print to be the intended final result of my photography, I began to submit some of my work to be considered for entry in these competitions. We’ve got a lot of members and each club is limited in the number of images they can submit in each category, plus each photographer is limited in the number of their images that can be in any one submission. It’s all very complicated to me and I have a hard time figuring it out so I generally don’t bother trying. I just send my stuff in and if it gets picked it does, and if it doesn’t it doesn’t. No big deal either way.
I did have one of my photos win an Honorable Mention in one of the projected image competitions a couple of years ago, and that was nice. I’ve been working hard at getting better with my printing and am very proud of some of the work I have submitted, so I was hoping that one or more of my prints would do well.
I received an e-mail this morning with images of the winners from the most recent competition. Mine was not included in the list of winners or those receiving honorable mention. I won’t go into a lot of detail regarding how I feel about the winners, since they obviously appealed to the people who were doing the judging. But I’ve come to the conclusion that, at least for the purposes of these competitions, the kind of work I’m submitting isn’t what the judges are looking for. I’m just not using enough software.
This is not intended to be sour grapes or anything, and to conclude that would be missing my point. But I’d be interested in knowing if there is some place or some way to get meaningful and constructive feedback on printed work that is more representative of traditional photography, rather than heavily manipulated and/or highly processed images. Maybe I’m just entering the wrong category in these competitions, but I can’t imagine that I’m the only one experiencing this. Does anyone actively participate in a print review group? Is anyone interested in starting one? It’s something I’ve considered for a while, but there just aren’t that many people printing their work these days. And of those who do, it doesn’t seem like there are many people whose goals are similar to mine. I’d be interested in knowing the thoughts of anyone reading, and might even propose that a few of us give it a try and see how it goes. Send me an e-mail or reply in the comments.
When I ventured into this photography thing as something more serious than taking snapshots, I started off, as a lot of people do, shooting nature subjects. Kathy & I would drive around with Kevin Adams’ Waterfalls of North Carolina book, looking for waterfalls and shooting anything we found interesting along the way. At one point it seemed like I had a knack for finding “magic moments” where the morning or afternoon light provided gifts of dramatic clouds, fabulous sunbeams and great sunrise and sunset colors. I was a Nature Photographer, and proud of it.
I still find myself attracted to the mountains and to the woods, but I’ve also realized that there are photographs to be made everywhere. I’ve made photographs in small towns, large towns, on cruise ships, on Caribbean islands, at the beach, in the mountains, you name it.
The difficult thing is that it’s hard to break old habits. When I think about photographing fall colors I automatically think about heading for the mountains. Same with spring wildflowers, or sunrises and sunsets. But the seasons happen everywhere, and there are photographs of all kinds to be made in lots of places besides those we think of first. The challenge is to come up with new ideas. Fall at a bluegrass concert in Floyd, VA perhaps. Wildflowers at a park or garden in Statesville. The possibilities are endless.
The thing I love most about photography is that it so personal. I can photograph whatever I want, wherever I want – within reason, of course! Rather than limit my travel to traditional photographic icons, I like seeking out subject matter wherever I am, in places where it is harder to find, and where I have to work a little harder to find something that appeals to me.
Paul Lester recently wrote on his blog a post titled “Where I Connect” about reviewing his images in preparation for a critique session at an upcoming workshop. Paul wrote that he “connects” with nature and people. He and I are attending the same workshop and in going through the same exercise I’m finding that while I still do a lot of nature photography I have been connecting more and more with things other than nature, which is interesting since I have traditionally considered myself a nature photographer. I’ll probably come up with a mix of material, but it’s an interesting process. I don’t like labels anyway, so maybe I’ll just start considering myself a Photographer, without any prefixes. And I’m proud of that, too.
The B&B we stay at in Belhaven is on Water Street, right across the street from the Pantego Creek, and I often walk over to the waterfront around sunset time to see what kind of interesting sunset there might be. It’s easy to get to, has a good year-around view of the western horizon, and has some interesting trees and grasses for foreground interest. One of the things that calls me back time and time again are these three old posts, remnants of a long-gone dock or pier, that stick up out of the water just off the shoreline.
There’s nothing really special about these posts, but there’s something about them that keeps me photographing them over and over. I think mostly it’s just a great way to practice composition, placement and shutter speed, but it gets me out the door, and most of the time that’s the battle. I can sit in the living room and watch the sky, and if something interesting happens I can grab my gear and be set up in two minutes. But actually getting up and going there compels me to get the camera out and do something with it.
Sometimes I get an interesting shot, sometimes I just play around, but I always enjoy myself. Sometimes I have to remember to actually look at the sunset, I get so caught up with these posts! Sometimes the sky just fizzles out at sunset, but these posts are always there, and I’m always able to figure out something to do with them. Most of the photos never make it to paper but some of them do.
I and several of my blogging buddies have been having a discussion about motivation, and often we find that it takes a project, a convenient subject, or sometimes just a few old posts to get us out of our chairs and make us head out the door to make some photographs. Whatever gets you going, take advantage of it and get out there and shoot. All this fancy equipment doesn’t make photographs by itself!
This has been a strange winter so far. And not just here in North Carolina, but people I talk to all over the country are wondering what’s going on. Well, it’s February, so we’re not out of the woods yet, winter-wise. But at least here in the South we can look forward to spring being right around the corner.
There’s been a good-natured discussion going on over at Paul Lester’s blog. Paul rented a Canon G12 to try and compare with the S90 he currently owns, and several of us who have and shoot with the G12 chimed in with our words of wisdom. More recently Paul has been trying out a Nikon V1. I don’t think he’s planning to buy one but is interested in knowing what all the hoopla is about. In this day of disappearing camera shops and the inability to “try before you buy” I think renting a camera is a very smart way to go. And Paul’s a smart guy.
Of course I recently started shooting with the Fuji X10 and like it a lot. I still use the G12 and occasionally shoot with my “old” G9. I’m teaching an Intro to Digital Point & Shoot class this coming weekend and the next few weekends and will probably bring my mothballed G5 our of storage just to reminisce a bit. The G5 was my first digital camera, way back in 2004, and although I haven’t used it in a long time the files still look pretty good, albeit a bit small.
On a recent weekend trip to Hilton Head Island, SC I shot with – at different times – my Canon 5D, my Canon G12 and my Fuji X10. I got good results from all three of them, but the best experience was using the smaller and simpler cameras. I especially enjoyed walking around shooting architectural details handheld. I even put the G12 on a tripod for a sunset trip to the beach. But when I went out with a backpack with the 5D, two lenses, polarizers and all the stuff to go with it, I just…didn’t like it.
There’s been a lot of anticipation lately about the latest and greatest offerings from Nikon and Canon, but every time I think about carrying around another one of those beasts my shoulders start to hurt. I could sell my car and buy the forthcoming 1DX and a 200-400, but I’d have to hire someone to carry it. I resisted the urge to upgrade to the 5D Mark II and have a passing interest in the expected replacement, but when I look at my barely-carryon-legal rolling suitcase that holds all my gear and compare it with my G12 or my X10 (Kathy won’t let me touch her Olympus!) I can’t help but long for the simplicity of my Mamiya 7 and 3 prime lenses. That, a box of 220 film and a fanny pack and I was good for the weekend! Not any more.
I’ve sort of had in the back of my mind – more recently bubbling toward the front of my mind – that one of these new compact systems is going to be the be-all and end-all for me. The image quality keeps getting better to the point that I think it will no longer be a compromise or a step down to use a compact camera as a primary camera. I’m trying to be patient, and buying the little cameras like the X10 – while certainly not cheap – give me the thrill of something new while waiting for the right system to come along.
All of this discussion is fine. Even-tempered, well reasoned and logical. What gets me shaking my head though is the people who get so fired up about the new cameras that they practically stop taking pictures while they wait for the new ones. It’s as though their existing equipment stopped working as soon as the new stuff was announced.
But hey, it’s a hobby and we can all spend our money however we want, right? As long as the mortgage gets paid and the kids have shoes, we can spend the rest on golf clubs, wine, cars or anything we want, including cameras. Does it make us happy to be the first person in the club with the new XYZ Pro 1000? Buy it! Have an itch for that new RRS tripod? Sign up!
The inner geek in me gets excited about all this stuff too, and even if I wasn’t seriously thinking about making a change I’d still be interested. It’s a little scary to me when I even think about being at the front of the line for a brand-new camera. I worry that I’m interested for the wrong reasons. When I go to Lowe’s to buy a new hammer I don’t get all warm and fuzzy comparing them. It’s a tool, and as long as it does the job it should be an impersonal and unemotional transaction. But a camera seems like another story. I guess it’s because our photography is our way to express creativity we tend to get a little (lot?) more excited about buying cameras than we do when buying a hammer.
Hopefully I can manage to watch and listed for a few more weeks at least, until we see what gets announced in early February. Then, perhaps armed with a few more facts instead of a lot of speculation, I can actually make a decision. Those of you who might be looking to pick up some good Canon lenses for a song, keep your money in your pockets. I don’t move that fast, and may just decide to keep shooting with what I have for a while. I might just decide to carry around a little less of it!
Monte Stevens recently made a post on his blog titled “Seeing Shadows.” The comments indicated a general affinity for shadows and I am also a fan. About the same time Monte made that post I was making these photos, unbeknownst to each other. Within a few days, anyway.
I wish to suggest that we may be known as Shadow Geeks.
I thought I would try something a little different for this post. I don’t usually post a bunch of photos on my blog, but there’s no reason why I shouldn’t. These were taken Friday morning while wandering around downtown Charlotte with my Canon G12. I sure have a lot of fun with that little camera.
I recently received an e-mail from a photographer who said that he desperately needed my help, that he needed to free up space on his hard drive, and had to do it “that day, right now.” The e-mail came on a Thursday afternoon, I had just gotten home from work and had an already full evening and upcoming weekend, so there was no way I had time to try and help this guy for several days, let alone that very minute. I sent him an e-mail suggesting that he just move some of his photos to one of his external hard drives, then come back later and figure out a permanent solution. I never heard back from him so I assume he figured out his problem. I can’t help but think that there was a lot more to the story than he was letting on, and I had and still have a nagging feeling that his actual needs may have been well beyond my ability to help.
I understand that dealing with computers and digital files and managing our photographs can be very stressful. One of the things I liked about the film days was being able to pull out a binder, toss a couple of pages of slides or negatives onto a lightbox and look at them. The voodoo that has become digital photography is wonderful but sometimes it is scary as heck. And to do it right it is a lot of work!
In hindsight I consider myself very fortunate that I recognized early on, well before I had photos in dozens of folders in different locations on multiple hard drives and several computers, that there was enormous potential for mayhem. I’m not the most organized person in the world, but I have always subscribed to the idea of “a place for everything, and everything in its place.” My workshop is that way, my sock drawer is that way, and my photo files are that way.
Not everyone has the foresight to organize their work from the beginning, and once a workflow is established, no matter how haphazard it might be, it’s tough to change. I understand that. We gain a comfort level in the way we do things, and once we are comfortable it can be very scary to think about making a change. That is especially true when changing software, because not everything “translates,” there is often a steep learning curve and it can be really intimidating to think about changing our habits. I emphasize in my Lightroom teaching that everyone needs to learn enough about the pros and cons of the different choices that they can decide on the method that works best for them.
Things like full hard drives don’t happen overnight. I’ve been shooting with digital cameras for 7 years and have scanned slides from before that. My photo collection is tiny compared to a lot of people I know. I started with 250GB hard drives, stepped up to $500GM drives and now use 1TB drives. I’m just about ready to step up to the next size. You have to manage this stuff, and it’s an ongoing process. If you are the type of person who can live with disorganized files and don’t worry whether you can find stuff, you don’t have much of a problem. If you are the type of person who worries about every minute detail and has to have every contingency covered, you can drive yourself nuts. But if you take the time to think about it a bit, learn what the options are and get some expert advice it doesn’t have to be difficult. But don’t wait until you have 30,000 images and a full hard drive. Make ongoing evaluation part of your process, budget for newer and bigger hard drives and make sure you have a plan in case something goes wrong. You’ll be much happier in the long run and will have more time and attention for making photographs instead of worrying about managing your assets.