We must remember that a photograph can hold just as much as we put into it,
and no one has ever approached the full possibilities of the medium.*
Often when considering my craft I think back to my Dad. To his era (pre-digital), his mastery of both the art and chemistry of photography, of him so carefully choosing the right film for the subject matter and later, the developing process and him so anxiously waiting for the proofs to dry to see if he’d done everything right. He always did!
In honouring those memories and Dad himself, I am ever striving to raise my competence, to master new techniques, to improve upon those already learned and to consciously listen to that inner voice which is my imagination – all so that I might work towards that impossible goal: Approaching the full possibilities of my medium.
TTL** (through the lens) is how I view and experience most things; indeed all of those that are important to me. It can come as no surprise to most people reading this post that my ultimate motivation comes from the philosophy, work, words and lifestyle of the great Ansel Adams.
My Learning Mechanism
However does a woman teach herself to be an awesome photographer?
I loathe the editing process and resent every minute spent working in Lightroom, time I’d much rather spend outdoors shooting. Thus, I am forever trying to learn the skills necessary to get each image just right in camera, through the lens.
I never know in advance what I will photograph… I go out into the world
and hope I will come across something that imperatively interests me.*
An important lesson is preparedness for and acceptance of the unexpected. I’m learning that a good wildlife photograph cannot be preplanned. Whilst I can have a brilliant idea for a photo shoot, for telling a specific animal’s or bird’s story through light and shadow, whilst I can know a perfect location for finding the creature I’m after, mother nature and the critters seldom cooperate. It is a very rare and special day when the light, the beast, and the ideal background all align in the chosen location as composed at my desk. Planned photographs are seldom as good as expected, almost never profound. Good images are typically grand surprises.
Another lesson I’m learning is that what I find interesting is
not always hardly ever as appealing to others. Even when it is, I’ve learned that the viewer’s perspective is most important and, it turns out, most interesting to me. It’s a study in perspective; I am always utterly fascinated that two random people can interpret one of my images completely differently – from each other and from me – and that each reaction is entirely pure and legitimate. Each one informs my preparation for the next image in some way.
Biggest lesson I’ve learned? There is no substitute for passion and curiosity and it is always exhilarating to learn and try anything new.
My Creative Mechanism
A good photograph conveys a feeling, an emotion, and tells the story of an experience. It is also the sum of our past experiments, be they successes or failures.
In wisdom gathered over time I have found that every experience
is a form of exploration.*
Creativity is a grand exploration. For me, creative vision arrives only after I’ve taken the time to observe and appreciate the inherent beauty in every setting, to value the loveliness of nature and of my exploration.
It is my intention to present – through the medium of photography – intuitive observations of the natural world which may have meaning to the spectators.*
Generating stunning and profound images is only part of what it means to be a photographer; storytelling and emotion are the foundations of good photography. Finding and interpreting those are the challenges of this medium that I so enjoy and savour.
The natural world is my genre of choice but I confess that I am
a little obsessed with the textures, grains, colours and hues in the backgrounds of my images; often more-so than with the creature – my actual subject.
I am always thrilled when I can convey a sense of humour in my photography so I am always on the lookout for that. I am also constantly aware of movements, splashes, ripples, shadows and sounds – all things that connect me with the natural world in that exact moment, all of which are gone in an instant.
I try to remember that my photographic craftsmanship seldom follows a straight line from idea to memory card. It unfolds in an unexpectedly jagged line, twisting and undulating to what is typically a surprise ending. Letting go of control is key and not my forte. My best images happen when my interests and passions intersect spontaneously and fuse; that point is the core of my creative spirit. Getting there is seldom a linear process.
I also make an effort to limit the number of shutter depressions whilst trying to get the perfect shot. I hate editing, Lightroom time feels like darned hard work – NOT ARTISTRY – so I am conscious of preventing photo overload for myself. Photography is my bliss, my infatuation, my escape, my contentment – I don’t want to do anything that may diminish that joy.
Finally, I understand that perfection cannot always be my ultimate goal. The imperfections are often the best elements of my shots. Inconvenient solar spots or rays can add a touch of magic. Chickadee or chipmunk photobombs can add humour. A shadowy, romantic landscape can add atmosphere. Failing to achieve tack-sharp focus on the subject might trigger the viewer’s imagination. Indeed all of these flaws have, at one time or another, made many of my photos more memorable than they’d otherwise have been.
Sometimes the shot I believed would be the outtake is outstanding.
Photography, as a powerful medium of expression and communications,
offers an infinite variety of perception, interpretation and execution.*
Posting photographs on social media is a cool and satisfying form of expression and communication. It allows us to send beauty into the world creating a ripple-effect, often unbeknownst to us; brightening someone’s bad day, inspiring another photographer, highlighting a cause or simply amusing our followers.
Despite that joy, perhaps photographers need to be cautious of oversharing. Maybe we should hold back our most special images. To save some exclusively for our families, or to curate into shows. We don’t need to share everything; our art has more purpose than that.
Long before and even throughout Dad’s time, photographs were always and only printed. They were treasured; artifacts deserving a special place to be hung on walls. Heirlooms to be handed down from one generation to the next. Art.
Printed images are rapidly becoming a thing of the past; we’ve become a culture of rapid-fire selfies, all stored for eternity on devices and memory cards. We take more photos now than at any other time in history, memories that are seldom printed, almost never framed. Viewed only by rapid-fire scrolling. It is a shame.
Perhaps it is time to take a step back and acknowledge the power of our cameras to capture some of the most meaningful and memorable moments in our lives. Before we click, before we even think of sharing, maybe we take the time to create some lasting beauty. Pause long enough to carefully compose our pictures – even the most impromptu.
You don’t make a photograph just with a camera.
You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen,
the books you have read, the music you have heard,
the people you have loved.*
Through the lens, photography allows us to stop time for eternity. It is the stuff of nostalgia. It has the power to spark imaginations. It is the medium for allowing future generations the chance to examine our history, to see what was meaningful to us at this time.
Capturing a special occasion, a rare sighting, a beautiful landscape with a camera and lens can be pure magic. Magic that glows brightly. Just as it should!
‘Til next time, y’all…
**TTL refers to a metering system that determines the proper exposure based on measuring the light that strikes the imaging sensor after passing through the camera’s lens.