I’ve learned not to think when I run out with my camera to take some pictures. I may have a feeling about a place, a time of day, a sense of perfection or ruin in mind, but I am looking in my camera for something that just feels right. When I began as a photographer I had to think until I mastered operating my camera controls, which were all manual. Unfortunately, that habit of thinking about every shot really inhibited my shooting; and I took forever to expose a roll of film.
I was over my hesitancy when my enthusiasm for photography was reignited in 2000 or so when I accepted warm invitations from Randi Laak, then an instructor at the Worcester Center for Crafts
, to enroll in his Friday evening photography class. I freely experimented with exposures, films, darkroom chemistry and processes as I had not when I started out.
Together with the freedom in the darkroom (And now in Photoshop), the history of photography of which I had learned as a beginning photographer and witnessed in publications and exhibitions as time passed, and my love of many paintings, prints, sculptures, etc. at the Worcester Art Museum
and elsewhere, I am endowed with feelings associated with these beautiful or provocative objects that are evoked, I believe, as I walk through the world. I think those feelings and associations are part of my feeling of “rightness” when something captures my eye.
The universe seems to notice that I take the time to stop and see things then once in a while shouts at me to stop and look at this!
Here’s one example of a landscape photograph of a scene of light penetrating a shadowy wild place for which I felt similarly to when I look at an 18th century painting by Alessandro Magnasco:
I believe digital cameras, their sensors, lenses, and image processors have evolved and multiplied enough that I can buy equipment to make “fine art” for not a lot of bucks. However, I don’t think full frame cameras, professional lenses and the like are without value. They’re tools in talented hands for making extraordinary images.
My point is that I don’t need spend like crazy on high end gear to make photographs that please me and whatever audience I can gather.
After one or two newer model generations have gone to market, leftover inventories may be steeply discounted. I look at specifications. A pro-grade camera may share technology with a lower priced model. Hey, if I can control aperture, ISO, and exposure time, then I’m happy.
I think of this approach as buying trailing edge technology. Maybe it’s just my Yankee stinginess. Whatever it is, I save by buying things that give me raw files, high resolution, low noise, and that satisfy my fussy eye without breaking the bank.
What is enough? I must be happy with the work that I create. If doing photography doesn’t give me joy and satisfaction, it won’t matter what I spend.
Making photographs, thinking of new projects, just feeling like picking up the camera, I am not a mere machine purring along. Habit can carry me through low points, but sometimes life stops me in my tracks as when last month (while my continued search for a job was getting to be a drag) my kid brother unexpectedly and suddenly died. I had been struggling, and now life screeched to a temporary halt while I grieved with my family and friends.
Slowly, I began to process my emotions and thoughts about the event by talking with my surviving brother and two sisters, my wife, my nephews who had lost their father, and close extended family members and friends; I wrote a few thoughts down in haiku form; I edited some photos and took a few new pictures that seemed to connect me with my feelings of loss, and memories of my brother.
My life paused when tragedy struck. I did not take pictures, then I did. I did not write, now I do. Creativity at this time is not a sentimental process, making lemonade when life gave me lemons; its cessation is the hole I fall in; its work is stones I grip to pull myself up again.
Moe and I were in Washington viewing the cherry blossoms on an overcast spring day. That evening my brother passed away. Something about this image felt like what was going on inside me: the grayness of the day, the diffusion by clouds of the light…
The cherry blossom
And the cold spring afternoon
Are now always one
Spring and cold belong
Not together, but alone
One alive, one ghost
I studied photography and the camera, but I’m not a studious photographer. When I’m out in the field I think a little, perhaps change a few camera settings; then I’m done thinking. When what I see on my camera LCD or in the viewfinder feels right I click. It is as though in my mind I’ve closed my eyes to trust the world to show me what apprehended my eye that I could feel but not in that moment comprehend. I trust the world to give me time.