Browsing the archives for the photography category

Art and Fear and Flickr

photography

I am reading a most excellent book called Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland. It’s one of those books that was just in my Amazon.com shopping basket from an earlier visit when I was placing Christmas orders – I kept seeing other photographers mention it so added it at some time in the past. I am very glad i did.

I’m not far into it, but on reading the section the explains the difference between quitting ones art and merely stopping it, I was struck by a couple of things that i would pass on. It seems many artists will quit creating when they lose the destination for their art – that is, the place where they will share and show their art. They go on to share the following strategy to keep from quitting:

Operating Manual for Not Quitting
A – Make friends with others who make art, and share your in-progress work with each other frequently.
B – Learn to think of [A], rather than the Museum of Modern Art, as the destination of your work.
(Look at it this way: If all goes well, MOMA may come looking for you.

I was reading this over coffee while my son was sketching a comic panel based on a story we had been telling back and forth and I was commenting on his efforts between paragraphs and pages. I read this section to my son, and he said, “Well, yeah. That’s what me and my friends do,” as he continued sketching into his overflowing sketchbook.

This is how my son does it with his friends – each of his friends has one or more comic stories they are working on or will sketch a hastily told tale from lunch at shool. And this is how we all did it as kids. When we would do something cool, we shared it with out friends and they shared what they were doing. And that joy in creation and camaraderie is why we were doing it.

I realized how much Flickr.com provides that same sort of vehicle for myself and my photography. Sometimes when I am just shooting something for my own sake, I will have others ask me if this is for a project or for a client – and i just say no it’s for me and my friends. And of course, what I mean by that is that I will post it to Flickr and share it with my friends there. Especially my happier mistakes like this portrait:

Innocence

That is part of what keeps me from the fear of shooting something that might not work. I am sharing it with friends who are all busy doing exactly the same thing with their work as well. This also means that I can try things that may or may not work and not worry too much about how they will be received.

Flickr is a frequent destination for my photography. What’s yours?

1 Comment

That Civilized Veneer

Life as it is, photography

I am a nature photographer. And I have observed myself with insects when I go out. Somewhere near the beginning of my arrival “in the wild” I am hyper aware of anything crawling or landing on me or mosquitoes or bees nearby. But 20to 30 minutes later, i could care less. I am bigger than them and they pose no real risk to me – I may itch later, but for now I can’t be bothered.

I believe this is a veneer of the modern, sterile-seeming world I like to believe I am a part of when I am working my day job in a controlled environment like my home or my office. It takes a bit of effort to throw that veneer off and be an animal in the woods – but I do it – and I love it.

But it rolls back so quickly. The morning after spending a day in the swamps shooting, while driving to the office, I see antennae pop out from behind my driver’s-side visor. Interesting…. Then there are more antennas – lots more. And do I handle it like the nature photographer that I am? No, I handle it like a city boy who is driving to work and is strapped into his chair with unknown creepy-crawlies emerging inches from his face.

Which is to say that I nearly wrecked, stopping in the middle of the street and bailing from my car.



It turns out to be a mess of young caterpillars – I don’t know what sort they were. I recovered and moved them out of my car – and after finding more near my car, I took it for a carwash. I didn’t get any photos, even though my camera was in the car with me – that should tell you how rattled I am.

So tomorrow I am off to shoot wildflowers. And I know it will take a while to let that veneer of expected sterility fall away. But may I be open to the wonders of the natural world as it does – and also maybe come home with only an itch or two.

2 Comments

On Being Teachable

Life as it is, photography, Spiritual Journey, Vulnerability

I love to learn. Sometimes, though, I forget how little I know, and in so doing I lose my chance to learn something. This is a character defect of mine, this arrogant pride of my intelligence, and it can lead me into being an arrogant know-it-all if I let it get away from me.

But how to do so? That’s a real question….

I’ve worked against this a long time – and not always with success. If the opposite of being proud is to be humble, then I needed to work on being humble, i thought. I tried this and it never worked for me. CS Lewis had it right when he wrote as Screwtape, a senior demon in hell, to Wormwood, Screwtape’s nephew – an apprentice demon on his first assignment in the field. Screwtape warned that humility was fatal to demon-kind, but easily defeated as his advice went.

“Your patient has become humble; have you drawn his attention to this fact? All virtues are less formidable to us once the man is aware he has them, but this is specially true of humility. Catch him at the moment when he is really poor in spirit and smuggle into his mind the gratifying reflection, ‘By jove! I’m being humble,’ and almost immediately pride – pride at his own humility – will appear”

So how to defeat this, when to try by will alone is to create some sort of proud false-modesty? Yuck! That’s even worse than being a know-it-all in my book. It’s true that the only thing worse than false pride is false modesty.

The answer is in something simple – it is in not trying to be humble. It is in trying to simply stay teachable. In fact, if i can stay teachable in all situations, and with all people then i am coming closer to something good – something close enough to being humble that the difference doesn’t matter.

“Every man you meet is your superior in some way. In that you should learn from him”
Abraham Lincoln

Tonight was the classroom discussion for a wildflower photography class I decided to take. I took it because I recognize the instructor as a master at nature photography, and every time I have gone to one of his workshops, I am amazed at how little I know and how much he can teach me.

So once again tonight, I arrived and since it was a lecture, I found myself skeptical as to what I could learn and couldn’t i skip this lecture – after all, I have already heard several of his lectures. But I could be teachable, so I took out my notebook, and started writing notes on his ideas and the structure of his lecture and anything else I could learn and be taught. And as I opened myself up to being teachable, I found myself learning about topics of which I knew nothing, and seeing the results of ideas I had read about but never seen attempted. This being teachable stuff works!

May we all become teachable a little more today than we were yesterday.

1 Comment

The White-Bread Warning

Change, Life as it is, Mistakes, photography

In his book, The Secrets of Consulting, Gerald Weinberg uses parables and simple summaries to make his points about consulting. It’s a great book, and one I suggest to everyone that wants to become a consultant.

But consulting is not why I was thinking of one of those simple summaries on Saturday night, sitting in the mud in a marsh in a state park. I was sitting in the mud, having just fallen backwards, for the second time. That’s when Weinberg’s White Bread Warning came to me.

White Bread Warning:
“If you use the same recipe, you get the same bread.”

I had a burst of wisdom the moment before I fell the second time when I realized that I had been doing just what I was doing right before the first time I fell in the mud. I was photographing spider lilies in a muddy marsh and was lowering my tripod by changing the angle of the legs, and I started with the leg opposite me. This moved the tripod closer to me and meant I needed to step backwards. This muddy marsh was sucking our boots into itself and it often took a real effort to pull my feet free. So sure enough, I needed to step backwards again, my feet were stuck, and so backwards into the mud and marshwater I went… again.

Some people will recognize the White Bread Warning as a corollary to the insanity of “Trying the same thing again and again, expecting different results.” I have often heard the same idea expressed as:

If you keep doing what you are doing, you will keep getting what you are getting.

So, since I was no longer dry, I decided to stay on my knees in the mud and water and lower my tripod that way, and then shot from my knees. Here’s the shot that I got as a result:



Learning when I have a bad recipe and then making changes is, in some ways, pretty basic stuff. But it’s also the very basis of the sort of wisdom that comes from making mistakes.

After all, as a consultant to myself – that is advising myself on better ways to get through my day – I need to always be on the lookout for where recipes don’t work. Because one possible corollary of the White Bread Warning might be summed up as:

If I use a better recipe than i was using before, I will get better bread.

And I know I could use better bread than what I usually make for myself….

4 Comments

Nature Photography Advice I Want to Remember

photography

From Frans Lanting via a WSJ article:

“Think of the story you want to convey.” Think of the three or four main photographs that would illustrate this story. Always have these four images in mind before you set out on the photography expedition. Take hundreds of shots, but always be looking for those four images, he says.

I recently acquired a 100-400 lens and a fresnel flash adapter to take my nature photography to the next level, so i was looking for ideas and locations. However, when i read these words, i realized i was reading some real wisdom.

Blogged with Flock

No Comments
« Older Posts