A while ago, I got to talking to a friend on Writing.com, and his comments spurred Identity Crisis. However, these’s one aspect of his comments I didn’t cover there, and I actually forgot about it until a month or so ago when I attended a premiere at a local photo gallery. That aspect is audience expectations.
Steve (said friend) said that artistic photography should make some sort of statement about reality. I’ve already stated the reasons I disagree with that idea. In recent weeks, though, I’ve found I might not be the only one. Let me clarify that. I’m not the only one among photography consumers that merits technique and aesthetics over commentary. This is a mindset that can be found even among some (semi) professional photographers. This exhibit was held at Minneapolis Photo Center, a place I didn’t even know existed until last summer. It’s a place that you really only know about if photography is a big deal to you.
The premiere was really crowded, and I had to wait a bit to move from photo to photo. As a result, I had a chance to do some eavesdropping. It was incredibly fascinating. Many people who attended the show focused on the form and technique photographers employed. The nature (heh) of the exhibit certainly encouraged technical remarks. Even so, there were a lot of comments that could apply to most photo exhibits. In particular, I heard one gentleman remark on people downright abusing Photoshop to turn photos into paintings. I totally understand that complaint. Even so, at least these individuals used Photoshop in a plausibly convincing manner.
It was a pleasant surprise ti hear so many people focus strictly on what was in front of them. (Pardon the pun. Again.) There wasn’t any speculation about the photographer’s intent or any larger message. It was people simply enjoying the photos at face value. More to the point, it was people who regularly peruse photography taking everything at face value. Seeing and hearing people admire (or criticize) the images themselves proved enlightening. It also made me wonder about other photography audiences.
I admit I haven’t been around non-photography audiences as much as I’ve been around those who are more immersed in the photography world. When I’ve been around the former, the comments are less technical. At the same time, there aren’t many people seeing the exhibited photos as grandiose statements. Some people remarked on how the photos reflected the times. Others noted very general observations about the composition of the photos. You could hear a pin drop when nudity was involved. Hey, I live in the US and am speaking from experience in US museums. What do you expect? In any case, the comments were broad and superficial even in museum settings. I found that to be intriguing. I think I’ll need to make some more observations, though, to see if this holds up.
A very strange thing has been happening. I’ve been talking to people offline about photography. Trust me what I say this is not something that happens very often.
So what have I been discussing with people? Well, just about anything and everything. I did attend a special exhibit for National Camera’s 100th Anniversary. I didn’t talk to people there, but it was an enlightening visit that preceded some interesting conversations I’d have in the following days. I listened to people talk about their past experiences using the equipment on display. The cameras on exhibit covered the gamut from a 1914 model (that still works!) and 617 format cameras to 80s Polaroids and the first iPhone. I was especially amused by the early digital cameras (point and shoot as well as SLR), as I had some memories of them. My mom had a super bulky Kodak model back in 2001, and I found it better suited for makeshift binoculars. I primarily used it to locate my dad in a crowded convention center after he was sworn in as an American citizen. Good times.
The next morning was when the conversations began. My husband and I had brunch at Signature Cafe before going to the Minnesota Zoo for a visit. Our server (Dave) was a cordial guy who it turns out was into photography and even served as an assistant for a friend who did extensive professional work. We discussed Canon and Nikon cameras. Dave had worked primarily with Canon models up until this last year when he was gifted a Nikon and some lenses. I will cop to Canon probably having better continuous shooting. I have used continuous shooting on Nikon, and it does take a little bit to process. Your finger needs to be on that shutter button a while if you want to get the maximum benefit of this shooting method. Needless to say, I’ve lost some precious opportunities. Thus, I would be more likely to defer to Canon in these cases. That said, we both agreed that the picture quality from Nikon models was overall superior. It’s always good to have a Team Nikon ally. 🙂 After brunch, my husband and I went to the Minnesota Zoo, where photography was the order of the afternoon. Hooray, flutterbies!
A few days later, I ended up conversing with a guy watching the Torchlight 5K on Hennepin Avenue. I went for the parade that followed the race but went early to get a good spot. I found a railing for newspaper racks, and there wasn’t much room in front of said railing, which gave me pretty decent visibility. Anyway, I realized that like a complete dumbass I left my battery at home and didn’t have another on me. While my husband wonderfully went back home to get one, I chatted with the guy to my left. It turns out he’d been in Minneapolis much of the day to take pictures. He had a Canon compact point-and-shoot model and displayed a decent aptitude for the cameras he was using. His composition struck a cord with me, as it was reminiscent of some of my work throughout the years. He asked a lot of questions, and I shared with him the things I’ve managed to learn over time. As I’ve gotten older, I understand that photography is truly an ongoing learning process. Unlike writing, I feel like I have a lot more I can learn in terms of the craft of photography. In some people’s eyes, I wouldn’t be called a photographer. That doesn’t mean I haven’t made efforts to learn what I can in terms of technique and research equipment. During this conversation, I discussed the rule of thirds and elaborated on a panning technique that focuses on a moving subject in the foreground but blurs the background. I even pulled up Facebook photos to show as examples. The gentleman expressed great interest in learning more about the nuts and bolts of photography, and he even laughed at my (completely unplanned) pun in which I used the phrase “the big picture” when discussing the components of exposure. Talking to him also made me realize just how much I have learned so far in taking photos. Between reading, chatting with picture-taking friends, and just going out there, I’ve done quite a bit of work in the roughly 15 years I’ve been taking pictures. I didn’t even realize that much time had passed. 😛 In all seriousness, being able to teach someone a bit about photography made me realize how much I enjoy this craft and how much I want people to understand what it is that practitioners of this craft go through. It’s not whipping out a cell phone and grabbing something to plug into Instagram. It’s a method to look at what’s around you, one that requires great concentration and alertness to any given environment. Thus, people who state that photography is easy miss an important point. Operating a camera is easy. Capturing a photography is another story.
2012 has been a year for venturing into previously uncharted territory. This has proven especially true for nighttime and low light photography. I had no plans for this at the beginning of the year, but it happened, anyway. If I had to guess, finally switching over to manual settings on my P80 a few months ago catalyzed my forays into this practice. Since then, I’ve done a few night shoots (including fireworks), and much of my photography at this year’s State Fair was in low light. I can’t say any of it is good, but it’s better than what I have produced in the past. The details are starting to get clearer. I just know that there will come a point when Cameron’s processing just won’t be efficient enough to get the best low light photos possible. I think when I get that down pat I’ll obtain that D5100 I’ve been eyeing for so long. I hope so, anyway.
I’ve gone on the record a couple times discussing why I’m not a big fan of editing photos. When I post things to this blog, I don’t retouch them. The material is all original and determined at the shoot. I take pride in that fact and am pleased when I get compliments for what is essentially fresh work. The fact that I can even get kudos for my unedited items at all is kind of amazing.
That said, I feel kind of weird when I lurk in photographer discussions that almost always end up including some discussion of Photoshop, Lightroom or another photo editing software. Editing photos is not my style. However, I’ve had a conundrum on my hands with a few photos in the last several months. I love one of the elements, but there’s a flaw that is too glaring to ignore. For me, this is especially annoying with composition, as that is something that really can be fixed from the getgo. On the other hand, there was a photo from my unofficial spring break that was an awesome accident (had the shutter going entirely too fast indoors) but had some stuff at the bottom that really detracted from the simplicity of wrinkled sheets and shades of blue. I really wanted to display this picture, so I had no choice but to do some cropping. It broke my heart to do it, but I got what I wanted. After that, I decided to work on lighting fixes in the editing room, as that doesn’t bother me so much. Lighting has historically been a little tough for me to grasp (although it’s becoming easier to manage now). When I did this tinkering, I found I was having to do less and less to refine the frame. It made me feel a little bit better.
I think that if I ever upgrade from PaintShopPro I will only get Lightroom. The reason for that is their chromatic aberration fix is simple to use. For the record, PSP does have this fix, but it is a nightmare if you do have to use it. Likewise, since the features are more focused on light refinement and less on manipulation of the image, Lightroom fits my mindset toward editing. I’m still not a fan of the editing room, but I can deal with it every once in a while. I never said I dealt with it well. I just said I can deal with it these days. On that note, here are some photos. Are they edited? I’ll let you make the call.
I have plenty more photos to share from my sojourn to Savannah. However, an act of graffiti that damaged a local landmark left many in Minneapolis outraged. Though the paint has been cleaned up, the memory of that unhappy news still lingers. So this post is dedicated to the awesomeness known as Spoonbridge and Cherry as viewed through a less harmful vehicle of creative expression: photography.
I apologize for the lack of blog entry last week. I’ve been working incredibly hard to finish a story that took over my brain and doubled in length. As a result, I had no time to devote to getting a new entry up for this blog. It seems unusual for me to be so focused on a story at this time of year, especially when there are so many snowman items around. However, it’s been difficult to get distracted with holiday stuff with the lack of snow in Minneapolis (a very strange thing for this time of year). I’ve made time to capture the sights of the season in spite on the unseasonably warm temperatures and cold drought. May we have a blizzard on New Year’s Day.
Minnesota’s autumn colors were not exactly out in full force for a while. September was rather dry and crispy, so leaves blew off before they had a chance to turn. On top of that, the leaves that stuck around didn’t turn right away. I still saw lots of green leaves two thirds of the way through October. These were taken during the first weekend of November, a month past the state’s peak time. The rain just kept the strongest ones up there, so it gave me a chance to catch some of the most vibrant parts of autumn.