As do millions of others, I take pictures for pleasure. Early on, my photography was limited to recording travels and family scenes, documenting experience. An interest in imaging our world would come later, with the realization that photography provides the same type of satisfaction as does writing. I recognize a common dynamic; each forces one to engage with the world, to pay attention, to dig beneath the surface. Each can produce a product of artistic merit.
I have always enjoyed the tactile activities that coax nature to reveal its beauty, be it gardening, rock and gem collecting, wood working, to name a few. Photography’s similar motivation produces a visual vehicle for better understanding the world and for sharing this knowledge with others, turning us into story tellers.
I came to non-casual photography too late in life, missing those years when youthful energy and adventure-seeking would have lured me out into the world with camera. Of a certain age now, there is internal resistance to developing a rhythm of getting out with camera gear.
In this regard, the current generation has considerable advantage over mine, always with a camera in their pocket or purse, constantly viewing the world through a lens. Photography is a way of life for most now, perhaps beginning with a desire to document, then expanding toward art. Everyone can be a journalist with an eye to what is going on around them, non-obtrusively producing images and video. Through practice, they will become capable visual story tellers and their craft may advance to art.
The artistic photographer seeks to discover the beauty born of the interface of light with a subject of visual interest, to frame the context of the encounter, to direct the viewer’s interest toward the subject, to set a mood that will engage the viewer, to capture a moment when the subject reveals some essential character of its nature, and to produce a technically competent image reflecting all of the above. The artful photograph transcends mere information content, illuminating discovered essence in a most compatible light, while emotionally engaging the viewer.
Whether journalist or artist, one persistent objective in photography is to offer a fresh view on the world. Some ‘modern’ shooters approach freshness via special effects like multiple exposure images using filters and post-processing, or via tricks such as tilting the camera so the subject aligns with the diagonal. These attempts at freshening seem interesting until they seem overdone. But simple changes to the viewing perspective can make the commonplace seem new again.
Most of today’s cameras are held at eye level; it is always clear that the photographer is about to capture an image, reducing the possibility of a candid subject pose. And the persistent eye-level aspect of most scenes forces our photos into a sameness.
In a prior era, the twin-lens reflex (TLR) camera had a viewfinder that was viewed from the top, so the camera could then be held at waist level. Portraits and street scenes from waist level have a different sense than those from eye level, both because of the viewing aspect, and because the subject might not sense a photo was about to be taken. (I have it on good authority that women do not prefer such a low camera angle when they are a closeup subject. When she is near, raise the camera to produce a more flattering image.)
Today’s DSLRs can gain some of the TLR benefit through use of a right-angle viewfinder extension, or via a fully articulated LCD viewfinder. Another innovation today is the selfie-stick, enabling all types of viewing angles with camera phones. And inexpensive flying camera drones can provide aerial images of otherwise inaccessible scenes. Whether getting low or getting high, an imaginative take on a scene will obtain a more interesting photo.
I also have my camera phone in my pocket at all times now. I am pleased that the imaging feature, initially an afterthought on most devices, is increasingly becoming an essential competitive feature, meaning the camera quality keeps getting better. Yet for my natural imaging, I will always need more capability than such small devices will be able to offer. Hence I still maintain my DSLR and bring it along on occasional nature hikes, and on trips planned to include a source of photo-ops.
On trips and at family events, Debby is in charge of ad hoc people pictures and street scenes. She travels a bit lighter than I, with only her latest point and shoot, a Panny Lumix ZS8, and her omnipresent iPhone
5S 6S. She is the more skilled photographer, and her pictures of Venice, Italy grace our living room walls.
Debby captured the scenic images below with an iPhone 4S, and the market scene with the Lumix.
Since this is my brag sheet, not hers, the rest of this post presents some of my work. I am a walk-about photographer with a simple kit that fits in a waist bag, extended by three soft lens cases. I also carry a pair of Nikon 10×32 binocs around my neck. 90% of my photos are hand-held with the 80-400mm, although I intend to do more landscape photography in the future.
I try to limit my travel kit to less than 5kg. (The kit shares my issues with weight control – it currently hovers near 6kg including monopod, and the extra weight gets more noticeable each year.)
Here I am on a shoot, captured in typical field gear. When experiencing down time in the field, I review shots in camera and delete the losers. My memory card holds over 1100 images, which can keep me shooting for days. Coincidentally, the battery is rated at 1100 activations per charge.
The photos below are arranged in two groups, first those from special trips with a photographic intent, and then those resulting from serendipity, having a camera available when a photo op presents.
The following photos are intended to show that exotic locales and photo safaris are not required to make interesting photos. Often, the photo-ops just come to us, if we keep a camera near and are aware of our surroundings.
I find common dirt birds as interesting as any other bird, so never miss an opportunity to attempt an artful image.
Bird feeders also provide photographic opportunity.
Here’s a bit of history of my involvement with photography. I began taking pictures originally with an Argus C3 while in school, graduating to a Nikkormat FTn and most recently to a Nikon D7200. With the exception of the first two cameras, interim bodies were sold upon buying a newer one. The Nikkormat still worked flawlessly when I last boxed it. My original consumer-grade Nikkor AI-S manual focus primes: 28mm f/2.8, 55mm f/2.8 micro, 85mm f/1.8, 200mm f/4 compact, are still in use with the D7200 and work flawlessly.
Alas, the Nikkormat is a film camera and I doubt if I will ever use it again. I was never a serious photographer in the days of film. I never got into a rhythm of taking pictures regularly and seeing improvement. Hit and miss was expensive in the film days, which posed some sort of psychological barrier, particularly the thought that others might view all my ‘losers’. Also, I didn’t like the extra baggage of tripods. The final nail was the delay between shutter release and slide in my viewer. Waiting for another day to finish the roll of film, then the wait for developing, was a total turn-off for me.
All that changed around the year 2K, with the advent of the D1, and a little later the light, compact Nikkor 80-400mm AF-D VR lens. Now for the first time I was inspired to take a lot of clicks and began to experience a few keepers. I am truly an instant gratification, digital VR baby. Yet even with this marvelous gear, my limited photographic interest to date has been the simple imaging of natural things that I happen to stumble upon. Hopefully, I will expand my subject interests in the future.
Photos appearing throughout my blogs are highly compressed from original format.