The 29-Day Blogging Challenge: P is for Photography
I’ve heard it said that humans are the only creature that creates – or has the capacity to create – art. Regarded as a clear symbol of our advanced evolution, this capacity for abstraction and symbolism towards our greater environment, rather than a purely functional, literal interaction, is seen as that which “separates man from beast.” Personally I think the world would be better off if we acted more like our lesser-order cousins, but perhaps we would lose our ability to produce art – and that would be a great loss indeed.
I have friends that can draw and paint amazing works, play numerous musical instruments, create stunning 3D computer images, sing like the best of their genre, dance in ways that defy physics, act out any number of theatre characters, or write so effortlessly and eloquently that guarantees them a spot on the future must-read lists. I’ve dabbled in most of these – I play percussion, a little piano, and a few chords on guitar; I can’t draw to save my life but play around with computer graphics and design; I make feeble attempts at writing, when the mood strikes, of course. Artisically, I think I’ve got a lot of expressive desire, but lack the fundamental skills to actually produce something.
Photography is my main artistic outlet. I’ve always been drawn to great photos, interesting compositions, the interplay of colour and shadow and perspective. I used to pour over film collections at the local library, relatively uninterested in the accompanying captions but entranced by the images themselves. What gave me pause was seeing photographs that showed the world the way I tend to see it. I’m drawn to unique angles, contrasts, candid scenes, juxtaposed subjects and environment. I studied these pictures, analyzed them, imagined myself the photographer looking at a particular scene and finding the ‘life’ that would inhabit my pictures.
What I love most about photography is the ability to capture a period of time in a static, two-dimensional medium. Even at the highest shutter speed, the resulting photograph spans a certain – perhaps miniscule – period of time. When taking someone’s portrait, for example, even if the shutter snaps shut in a hundredth of a second, the image still shows their progression through ten one-thousandths of that very second – in that time cells have regenerated, hair has grown, a myriad of thoughts have spun through their heads. Whole lives have begun and ended in less time. On the quantum level, a photograph is representative of an era, a length of time too small for us to notice but long enough for entire galaxies to shift position, the sun to move a several kilometers over. Although seemingly instantaneous, there is no such thing as ‘instantaneous’ in photography; and in a way, that brings the image to life.
I tend to focus (ha!) on inanimate objects, mainly buildings, architectural elements, cityscapes. I’ve begun to play around with animate subjects, group photos, portraits, etc., but still find the inanimate a much easier subject to capture. I’m rarely without my camera – especially when I travel – and spend a great amount of time analyzing the shots, the technical details – exposure, shutter speed, white balance, etc. – that produce the best results. Even if the composition – the combination of distinct elements to make up a cohesive scene – is less-than interesting, I try to learn the technical tweaks that result in the end product that I want. Once I have the specific settings and adjustments down, I can better capture the compositional image that I see through the viewfinder.
I’m still learning a lot, of course. I browse through photography-related websites and books often, picking up little tips and tricks along the way. That’s part of the allure of digital photography – experimentation is basically free. But I plod ahead, talk to friends with similar interests, practice as much as possible, and smile when I happen to get ‘the’ shot. It’s rare, but incredibly satisfying when it finally happens. Maybe that’s what drives my more classically artistic friends in their particular craft – that sense of accomplishment, even one-time mastery, the gratifying realization that you’ve physically produced something that until then only existed in your mind’s eye.
I certainly wouldn’t call myself an artist – I’m just some guy with a camera and a willingness to search for that one great shot. Sometimes is works out, sometimes it fails miserably, and sometimes there’s just a minute detail out of place that ultimately relegates the picture to the recycling bin on my desktop. I’m picky about the shots that I take, even more about the photos I keep, and as such struggle to learn more about my equipment, photography in general, advanced techniques and the more classically accepted principles of composition. Over the years I’ve seen an improvement, and am aiming to get even better over the next while. I’ve got a few project ideas, but they need a better photographer behind the lens in order to be worthwhile. With time, a lot of experience, and an overflowing recycling bin, maybe I’ll get there.
Previous posts: Introducing the 29-Day Blogging Challenge; A is for Anonymity; B is for Busses; C is for Canada; D is for Dogs;E is for Expatriate; F is for Failure;G is for Google; H is for Hedgehog; I is for Indian food; J is for Jill, obviously; K is for Kurt Cobain; L is for Listerine; M is for Mac&Cheez; N is for Night; O if for Olfactory Dysfunction