photography

Photograph Something

Winter

“You don’t have to be Michael Jordan. You can still play in the NBA.” – Jeffery Saddoris, On Taking Pictures, ep. 39

Sometimes, just walking out your front door and snapping a few shots around the neighborhood is enough. Get outside and get something done – it’s often plenty.

Mr. Saddoris was right: I don’t have to have some big project in mind in order to take photos. Sometimes I’ll get lucky and find stuff, as with the shot above.

I guess that’s my goal this year. I don’t have to have some overarching message to communicate (although I do have an idea for one – more on that later). Instead, I can lug my camera to more places and find beauty in the everyday. I feel like I already do that with my iPhone (and Instagram).

You know what’s really helped? Seeing more activity in my Flickr feed. Some days just one post by a contact can spark my creativity enough to say, “You know what, I can share something today.” Even if it’s a photo that’s been sitting in my to-edit queue for months, the drive to post something can be enough to finally finish the thing.

I still like the big photo projects, the big weekend adventures, the hours spent in Lightroom culling the good from the meh – but it doesn’t have to be all that. Maybe a photo a day will seem like less work. More fun.

A photo a day. A mini project. Surely that’s doable.


Flickr Is Dead?

Flickr is not dead. It is very much alive. It’s just not the creature everyone wants it to be. Fortunately there are other places for personal snapshots of daily life. Flickr is where I will continue to go for everything else.

Stephen Coles, courtesy of Grant.

I’m in agreement. I use Flickr as an archive, as a way to discover great photos, and as a way to share photos with friends. I’m also using it for work: we’re switching to Flickr for our website photo galleries. It’s so much easier than using Joomla! tools, it’s not even funny.


Thomas Hawk Interview

An interview at PetaPixel with one of my photography heroes and inspirations, Thomas Hawk.

My favorite quote:

People have asked me over the years if I’d like to do photography full time and my answer has always been no. Part of working as a professional photographer means that you may end up having to shoot things that are not your passion.

I totally agree. Photography is a hobby. Getting paid is nice, but I’m always nervous it’ll take the fun out of one of my passions.


Instagramming Daily

Instagram feels like my one-off way of sharing photos. I see something I like, I post it everywhere (well, Twitter and Facebook), at least once a day.

But now I find that (a) I’m constantly taking Instagram photos and (b) I have a backlog of photos to use. What to do?

Simple: post two photos a day instead of one. Except that one will be reserved for Instagram users/friends only. It’s Instagram-exclusive.

We hypershare everything these days. We have the ability to post something once and have it appear everywhere. By doing this, no one social platform gets exclusive anything. Part of the attraction of certain social networks, however, is their unique strength: Flickr for photos, Twitter for random thoughts or links, Facebook for information no one cares about.

For Instagram, it’s in-the-moment photos. A photo log of your day. More and more I feel that some of those photos should stick to Instagram, and only Instagram. That’s what makes Instagram special. If someone isn’t on Instagram, they don’t get to reap the benefits.

Plus I get to clear out my catalog of Instagram photos, and my friends on Instagram get to see stuff no one else gets to see.


Goodbye, Bike

Goodbye, bike. on Flickr.

I remember the time I had to abandon my bike at the Rockefeller Library at Brown University.

During my New England trip, in 2008, I had high hopes for that bike. All the parks and battlefields I’d visit were perfect for a bike, I thought, so I stuffed it into the hatch of my Suzuki Aerio.

Stuffing it may have been a mistake, however, because the damage was evident immediately. The frame was bent sometime during the trip, and that made the wheel terribly wobbly – making the bike ride like some demented shopping cart.

I only rode it a half mile in Providence, Rhode Island, before giving up. I parked the bike at the library, went inside for a water, came back out to say my goodbyes, and left it there. With any luck, the university would consider it a donation from some stranger.

That incident was one of many I had on that trip: a parking garage booted my car wheel, my knee ached, I got hit on at a rest stop, I stayed at some sleazy motel in New Jersey.

But it wasn’t a bad trip. It was a great trip filled with bad luck.


Jump the Fence

Call me a railing jumper. I wear it as a point of pride.

That photo of the waterfall above? I had another one from the viewing station, probably 20 to 30 feet above where I took the above shot. Then I glanced over the wooden railing that surrounded the viewing station, saw a root-studded path down to the rocks below, and jumped.

It happens often enough, especially on trips and photo assignments, that I automatically look for a way to hop the fence and find a path to get closer. It happened on that trip Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I only hesitated because there were a mom and a dad, with their two kids, standing next to me, and I didn’t want to be a bad influence on the kids.

But then I thought, “Well, why not?” Maybe the kids will get yelled at now, but isn’t it better to show them that a little rebellion will do you good?

Sure, jumping the fence could get you hurt (the rocks were slippery from the waterfall spray) or arrested (though I didn’t see a sign – but more often I do). But getting a closer view of that waterfall was worth it.

Now this kind of thing gets me in trouble. I’ve had enough run-ins with the authorities that keeps me at least pragmatically cautious. My first instinct, though, is to jump the fence – always has been.

Don't slip.

While in Yellowstone, it wasn’t enough that I saw pretty waterfalls from the park roadway. No, I had to slide down the ravine, step into the river, scramble up the rocks, and get a closer view. Tasting the river is more memorable than seeing it from the side window.

Grand Canyon - My little rock ledge

At the north rim of the Grand Canyon I noticed, just next to the lot where middle-aged insurance salesmen parked their Buicks, a little outcropping of rock. It was dozens of yards away from the main viewing area, the one encircled by metal railing. This little ledge off to the side? The one partially covered by ragged desert brush and boulders? No one was there. It was all mine.

So I climbed it. And as my legs dangled from the edge and the tourists screamed in horror, I felt like I was getting a view that few people saw. There’s something to be said about experiencing the Grand Canyon all by yourself, with no one around, and with nothing holding you back from the void. There was no railing here.

And so it is with life. That’s pretty obvious, but the more I travel, the more I realize people are content with staying within some prescribed boundary.

This philosophy is largely situational. Rules aren’t there simply to be broken. As Dr. Renner, my journalism professor and mentor always said, “Rules are made for smart people to break.” In other words: learn the rules, pay attention, and break them when it makes sense.

If everyone broke the rules willy-nilly, there might not be waterfalls to photograph. But if breaking the rules means harming nothing or nobody but yourself, I say go for it.

Jump the fence.

On the edge.

Maybe it says something about my compulsion to hang there on the edge of nothing. Maybe I just need medication. I don’t know.

But while I have legs to carry me and a lack of the kind of common sense that says “stay within the boundaries,” I’ll keep doing it.

In fact, I’d recommend it to anyone.