As you might have guessed from the lack of updates here, my job almost succeeded in eating me alive. Almost.
Oddly enough, it was my job that indirectly tipped off an identity crisis when it comes to photography. When I started training, I learned that two of my cohorts dabble in the craft. One of them happens to be really good at it.I’d rather not share his work here right now (as it will probably lead him here to this blog, which I’m not ready for him to find). Feel free to leave me a comment if you wish to see it. The thing about his portfolio is it made me feel like an inferior photographer. I saw through the fisheye lens and liberal post-production work to suss out solid composition and excellent timing. I am especially impressed with his shots of birds. Given how much I like birdies, I suddenly felt a bit unworthy. The praise posted did not help things. I had a bit of a meltdown over it, and only chats with a few different friends helped me determine what to do in regards to my future in taking pictures.
Long story short, I’ve started to really accept that I’m a technician and not an artist. When I raised the question of quitting photography on Facebook on Writing.com, the point was raised about artistic photography making a statement. Here’s the thing. I don’t always see photography that way, especially artistic works. When I view photos in a physical gallery or exhibit space, I look at how the photo utilizes foreground/midground/background facets of composition. I also consider how much I can immerse myself in the scene on a base level. Ultimately, that’s what I try to do with my photography. I aim to engage sense beyond sight. I want people to imagine the texture of flower petals, the scent of a goat’s enclosure, or hear the breeze jostling objects in a scene. I do this through various in-camera/in the field techniques. I feel that the vast majority of post-processing takes away from achieving this goal. Yes, this does apply to the work of the photographer I mentioned earlier.
When I’ve dabbled in competitions, I have had some success. Aside from my YBS Top 100 milestone, I have people favoriting/voting for my photos on I Shot It. I can’t say for sure if these people are experiencing what I share on a sensory level. It’s all anonymous, kind of like an actual gallery where I’m not around to directly observe their reactions. My photos seem to do things for some people, though. I guess I have that going for me.
Ultimately, camera technique interests me way more than post-processing (even if I can stomach Lightroom). I care more about finding lenses that will best fit my budget and subjects than I do about actions. Staying quiet to not disturb the wildlife I photograph is more important to me than staying on top of photo software updates. If these priorities mean I’m a technical photographer and not an artistic one, then that’s what I am. Why I keep trying my hand at artistic pursuits I’ll never know.
Being in the technical camp means I don’t have a whole lot of support out there, but I do have some. Ken Rockwell’s op-ed on RAW files echoes some of the sentiments I have when it comes to the craft of photography. I suppose it’s nice to see someone echo my thoughts when that person’s photography background is way different than mine. As I dove back into photography courtesy of working in a photo lab, I saw some lovely things come out of developing film by placing it through automatically timed chemical baths and nearly no interference in printing. Some customers I developed film for were taking photography classes and brought their film to my store. It was fun to see their work because it was really gorgeous. Because of that, I got to see stunning work created without post-processing meddling. If there was ever a moment that my anti-manipulation dogma took root, this would be it.
It all boils down to this. I’m a technique freak that’s been trying to bite off more than I can chew. I’ve gotten lucky in that regard in the past, but this time around it finally became too much. It’s in my best interest to stay focused on improving technique since my desire to make a grand statement on a topic with my photos doesn’t appeal to me. Here’s to actually staying true to my technique-oriented self. I hope I can do this.
I admit I have a problem. Okay, I have lots of problems, but that’s not the point. When it comes to photography, I find that I enjoy shooting miniatures. This feels a bit like a cop out to me since these miniatures are often posed a certain way thus taking away some of the work I have to do to set up a shot. Most of the time, I encounter these miniatures when visiting railroad museums with my husband (who is very much a train enthusiast). While he’s taking snapshots of the actual train cars and reading all the placards, I’m scoping out a part of the miniature displays where I can set up shop and work on focusing. It’s a pretty good routine. Now these pictures were taken with Cameron way back in September of last year. I have photographed other miniatures since that time, and you’ll see them in the next installation. I’m not sure when that will be, but I figure I’ll cover some other aspects oh photography before delving into more photos of miniatures.
The thing about miniatures is that I actually don’t encounter them that often. When I do, so far it has been confined to model train sets. The thing is, miniatures aren’t all that easy to find in the United States outside of the model train subculture. There are some exceptions, but anyone looking for variety (me) will have to go to Europe. One miniature collection I’d love to revisit is Madurodam. I visited the Netherlands when I was seven, and one of my favorite events during that visit was going to Madurodam. I have a number of photos from that visit, but I didn’t take them. I’d like to go back and photograph the exhibits myself. I’d especially love to photograph the replicated Schiphol Airport. The planes taxied down the runway but alas did not fly. It was a very captivating sight for a child, and I’d probably have lots of fun photographing it myself. Until then, I’ll seek out nearby miniatures. They’re a nice change of pace photography-wise.
Since I already posted some more Duluth pictures, I figured I’d share a few more with you. These are from trips I took in the summer of 2009 and the spring of 2010, and they mark the shift in equipment from my Fuji to Cameron (my Nikon). Compared to my Fuji pictures, the depiction of color is more neutral in white balance and veers a fair amount away from the blue that I saw predominating my pictures before. Even though I have a tendency to visit the same spots in Duluth, it never gets old. As I take more trips to the city, I find it slightly easier to photograph (in that I can focus on photography rather than the urge to write until my hand falls off). I’m not sure when I’ll visit this year, but I know I will. I make it a point to visit Duluth at least once a year. It truly is my happy place.
This New Year is starting off on an unexpected foot when it comes to photography. I am a hobby photographer all the way through but sometimes put the craft to good use for charity purposes. I belong to a writing website where members set up auctions to benefit various groups on the site. From time to time, I will donate my photography in some form. Usually I offer framed prints, but I recently donated a photo book (which contained some of my favorite photos of Duluth). I mentioned the dimensions of the book, which should have made it clear it was a physical item. Well, the winning bidder thought it was an online item and would not accept it even though I stated several times it was printed on professional paper and needed to be shipped. Long story short, the bidder would not provide a shipping address, so I had to provide an alternative to fulfill the prize package.
The whole experience hurt. This was not the first time I auctioned off a physical photo item, but this was the first time when the prize was refused. I felt terrible about it. First, I had the book made at Adorama labs, so the book was professional quality. I had the book created during a sale as a test run for the wedding photo books I made for Christmas gifts. I had no use for it in my collection, so I wanted to send the book to a good home. Not getting the chance to do so broke my heart. On top of that, the site where I auctioned the book uses gift points as site currency, so the dollar equivalent of the bid was two dollars. That’s not a big surprise, but I do like to think my photography is worth five dollars. 🙂 Nonetheless, I started thinking about what my work is worth. This is a discussion I’ve watched among professional photographers but never really considered as a hobbyist. At the same time, since I do like to donate my work for small charity auctions and participate in free competitions, I am going out there asking for a market price. I’m not really asking that in so many words, but the implication is there. I wish I had an answer to that question that was more analytical than, “It’s worth whatever charity auction buyers are willing to pay.” My photos did net $20 at an in person auction several years ago. This was before I had Cameron and the photographic flexibility I have gleaned over the last two and a half years. I’d like to think I could get $30 at an in person auction. I’m not really sure. I know I’ll never be a professional in the field. Even so, I do think my photos are worth something. We’ll see when I put that photo back on the auction block. If you’d like, here’s a sneak preview.
I chose the tenth anniversary as a day to live. So I went to Duluth in an effort to avoid memorial ceremonies and media coverage of the day’s events. It was a surreal day in the lakeside city, as the mercury soared past 80 (which in itself is quite warm for Duluth). Aside from the 86 degree highs, the sky was cloudless by the lake, which, as always, made everything super bright. I was a little better prepared to handle the light and was able to get some great shots of the Aerial Lift Bridge and other sights along the Lake Superior shoreline. It was definitely a day to be out and enjoying life, something that people did in droves that day. I’ve been to Duluth a few times, but this is easily my favorite time. In fact, I’m inclined to say it was the best day of my life.
Apologies to Ray Charles for the title. Anyhow, I come bearing more Duluth pictures! These are all from spring/summer 2008, and they were all taken with the A340 (which will get its own entry sometime in early 2011). One thing I will say is the pictures on my Fuji tend to be cooler in tone, trending heavily in the blue field. You’ll see that to some extent here, but in the right conditions it’s actually a striking effect. Speaking of striking, one of my all time favorite photos is in this batch. Ironically, it doesn’t contain any blue.
I am not a Minnesota native, but I do love being here. In fact, one of my favorite places (so far) in all the world is Duluth. I’m not sure how or why, but I’m always at peace whenever I’m there. Okay, getting to the city is a little nerve wracking. Anyone who has driven on that stretch of 35 knows exactly what I mean. It’s a pretty steep drop once you get past Thompson’s Point/Spirit Mountain, and you’re pretty much riding your brakes for about a mile or so. After that, though, there’s something soothing about the city. It could be the lake. It could be the food (as there are some good local restaurants there). It could be their more rustic skyway system. It could be anything. So to celebrate my favorite month, I will be posting some pictures from one of my favorite places to travel. Here are a few snapshots from my very first visit to Duluth, all taken on my Fuji A340.