I thought today would be a great time to return to photography, and put the world’s troubles behind is for a while.
Finding words to describe, be it emotionally, intellectually or superficially, photographs has always been easy for me. The question needs to be asked however, what comes first the chicken or the egg? In other words, do I have descriptive words of preconceived scenes floating in my memory bank just waiting for a subject to match them to, or do I see a photo, which then conjures up words?
I’ve asked these questions before, I know.
This brilliant image of an African Wildebeest migration created by Darrel Gulin, brings to my mind thoughts like “dust choked” chaos, or L.A. during rush hour. Before Covid-19 of course.
As a former photographer, I also think in terms of preparation or visual preconceptions, as well as shutter speed and aperture. Once we are photographers, the action and the art, are always mere companions for the Xs and Os of technology.
This dreamy California coast sunset from Suzanne Haggerty produces a very different response of words for me than our previous example. Dreamy of course is almost a given, but serene or maybe better said serendipity came to me immediately. Gold as in Gold Coast also comes to mind. For me, it makes me wonder what it was like in the seconds after the last light sank into the ocean.
If I had made this image, I might have sat there in the darkness contemplating the world, for at least a little while.
I do not remember my general thoughts on that day as I attempted to focus (literally) on individual Bald Eagles as they soared above the Wisconsin River, while riding the thermal currents. I do remember seeing this outstanding example of an immature Bald Eagle, far, far, away in the sky. I began snapping (with camera, 500mm lens and tripod) away at distances that would require crops that would never produce a quality that would satisfy me, or bring a sale of the image. As I gave up and focused on older eagles out of the corner of my eye, I saw the bird I most wanted coming closer. As I focused and follow focused (manual focus), finally it came within the distance needed to accomplish what I wanted. The only thing left was for me, the one who teaches photography, to get the bird in focus, without motion blur, and within the picture frame. I loved those moments of reckoning.
As you can see, I just barely got the right wing all the way into the picture frame. If I would have missed, I would likely have cropped this image super tight, with only the face and center part of the bird showing.
When Bald Eagles glide, thoughts of grace and poetry come to mind. I do not doubt, that they were in my mind when I captured ( photographed is a better word, because I would never want to capture one of these guys) this image and recorded those sights and feelings forever.
I have had a passion for observing “little critters” since I was a child. It was natural that when I became a photographer, my passion would carry over. The striped fly you see below landed on a leaf which was next to me, just as I was about to give up on some seemingly more significant critters (butterflies) nearby. Butterflies are popular subjects for macro photographers and certainly flies are not. To me that means, I want to photograph flies.
This one seemed like a boxer defending itself from a flurry of punches. That image is in fact what was going through my mind when I began the act of visually capturing this creature. While it was a sunny day, I used a small electronic flash to create a modeling affect, and produce dimension via shadows.
Perhaps I failed to “illustrate my thoughts” (a boxer boxing) as powerfully as I might have, but the image always makes me smile none the less.
Another passion of mine as a photographer, was falling water. It is so naturally artful. Oft times, I would forget about the big picture scenic, and reduce the falls into patterns of water and rock. Contrasts between soft falling water, and hard rock. Rhythms, almost like a soft and dreamy musical ballad.
I cannot say with honesty, that such was what I saw when I made this image, but if I was not illustrating my thoughts, I was thinking about it as an illustration.
The contrast between water and rock is no more compelling than the contrast that exists between soft liquid water, and hard frozen water. The dichotomy between those two facets of water, is exactly what I was attempting to capture when I made this picture. That is the in fact, the act of illustrating thoughts
I have made a lot of autumn images in my life, but many of them had nothing to do with making a nice picture of the season. To me, this image was all about composing color, tone, texture and line. While the photo is literal in the sense than anyone can tell what the subject is, it is purely abstract in the interpretation I chose. Ultimately, just another example of illustrated thought.
Still photography as a medium, has always intrigued me in the sense that you can start with a subject, as most photographers do, or you can begin with a concept instead, and inevitably, wind up at the same place. Photography is a brief look (1 second, ¼ second, 1/5000th second, etc.) into the lives of things. People, animals, the setting sun, seasons, rocks, water, buildings, etc. How we meld our opinions, vision, feelings and photographic knowledge and skills, is how we tell the story we want others to see.
Whether we use photography to illustrate our thoughts, or use it to simply capture what we see, it is a challenge that helps us show others who and what we are.
Images, should be about the subject, but also about the photographer. 50/50.
The Spice of Life
I have always embraced a fair amount of variety in life. It is said to be the spice of life.
As a photographer, I could not limit myself entirely to nature as a subject. Within nature, I never could have been a macro photographer, or a landscape photographer, or a wildlife photographer. I had to do it all.
As a car racing photographer, or just a racing enthusiast, I needed to do it all. Little paved ovals, paved super speedways. Dirt ovals. Road courses and even drag strips. Open wheel cars, fendered cars, sports cars.
With horses, I owned grade horses, Quarter Horses, an American Saddlebred, Appaloosas, an Arabian (with my sister), and more.
The same is true with me when it comes to entertainment, or art such as painting, and certainly for music.
With that said, uncalculated hodgepodge can make it impossible to obtain, or maintain goals.
When I quit smoking I did not just stop one day. I also did not take a course or join a group. I used no nicotine substitutes. I carefully changed my habits.
I began only smoking at certain times. I subtracted the number of times, and the amount of cigarettes until the amount of time left when I smoked, was miniscule. The reason it worked was that we are creatures of habit. Bit by bit, I altered the number of times and cigarettes I used until a couple of times a day was normal for my body and my brain. One day several years ago I walked outside (I never smoked in the house) with my final three cigarettes, and smoked all three, lighting one from another. I have never bought or smoked another cigarette.
At a time when I knew I was going to be spending a lot more time at home, I worried for health, weight and monetary reasons, that I would eat myself into oblivion. I love to eat, but most of my life I simply moved too much and too fast to gain weight. So I gave myself specific times to eat, with no snacking. I ate as much as I wanted, but only around the same times every day. It has worked reasonably well for many years.
Variety is indeed the spice of life, but unfortunately it seems that it only works with discipline. I struggle with discipline at least as much as anybody else, so sacrificing some variety for some scheduling does in fact work.
We live in a scary world that is changing fast. It will soon change even faster. More than ever before, moral constants are needed. If we change our moral codes to appease others, then we never had any morals to begin with and those others will become addicted to being bullies.
Stand firm for what you believe.
From the lips of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans,