Learning Curve: Photography

1 February, 2006

So I was flying high, excited about my new camera Friday night, but it’s been mixed since then. A lot is different. First off, a bigger camera is simply less stealth, more overhead, and more worth in a small package. I was adapting well to the cheap-camera-in-pocket lifestyle. Having to think about whether it’s safe to take out my camera, having it be a production if I do, that it makes me more conspicuous to do so…it’s a change. I didn’t bring it to work Monday, but did today (since I was going to a flickr thing immediately after). The old “turn on camera, walk to metro with it on” doesn’t work the same way…

Secondly, I’m starting up again, in lots of ways. I have more camera, but have not had time to get to know what’s there. I had a solid few weeks of time like that with my p&s, which was invaluable, but I don’t have that now. Also, I was alone then, and this time I have a (nascent) network of photographer contacts and friends, which while not exactly inhibiting, changes the dynamic. It was really just me before, even my sister, who was my go-to photography person, had no particular expertise in my equipment or digital methods. As a result of the equipment being new, things don’t look like I wanted them to upon download. Which is discouraging, although I am figuring it out.

I keep remembering advice I got from a friend who teaches photography at Columbia College in Chicago–not even advice, a throwaway line, really. In advising me to simplify compositions to clarify the message of each picture, he said “you can be vague after you figure out why you needed to take pictures.” I keep coming back to that idea, why DO I need to take pictures? I took a bunch on the bus today, someone had papered it with anti-Bush stickers, and I wasn’t going to even have the camera out, but I kept seeing things I wanted with the stickers–I even lensbabied at one point, although I find it frustrating to use in low light because I can’t tell if the focus spot is really focused or not. Anyway, that definitely felt like a need, having to capture that scene.

What I want is to photojournalize the little thoughts I have and things I notice that I would otherwise forget, like “look, that sticker that says ‘bush step down’ is right next to the stairs” or “heh, my friend’s head is perfectly framed by that woman’s waist.” I think so many of those sorts of thoughts in a day, and forget almost all of them, and it’s always made me sad how easy-come, easy-go they are. I am using photography to retain some of them. (Maybe this is a different way of saying the same thing, but I also am easily bored–without the stickers to think about and work on I’d just have been bored on the bus for 10 minutes.)

D2 metrobus, back stairs
f1.4 and butt

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4 Responses to “Learning Curve: Photography”

  1. Tim Says:

    What I want is to photojournalize the little thoughts I have and things I notice that I would otherwise forget, like “look, that sticker that says ‘bush step down’ is right next to the stairs” or “heh, my friend’s head is perfectly framed by that woman’s waist.” I think so many of those sorts of thoughts in a day, and forget almost all of them, and it’s always made me sad how easy-come, easy-go they are. I am using photography to retain some of them.

    These juxtaposition shots are a big deal for some artists. You may want to look at Elliot Erwitt’s ‘phototoons’ portfolio:

    http://www.elliotterwitt.com/entry.html

    Like most photo I think it’s all about clarity. Being able to put the viewer in that same mindset and allowing them to make the leap with you.

    -Tim

  2. ivan Says:

    The stealth thing is pretty important– it’s the reason why I rarely take my nikon out on the street.. but even though, I covered all the ‘Nikon’ logos with electrical tape a long time ago, back when film cameras were worth stealing 😉

  3. F1.4 Says:

    Juxtoposition of my head and a butt… hmmm

  4. Michael Says:

    I Like the blacking out of logos idea…that might cut down on some people’s reactions. Something I used to do back when I was regularly out using my ‘real’ cameras (i.e., 35mm and 2 1/4 SLRs), I would just leave the camera to hang about my neck and let autofocus do the work.

    I imagine with the instant feedback of a digital viewscreen, it wouldn’t take so long to get your bearings right and really be able to aim properly. Sans flash, that can be very stealthy.


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