“Put that thing away!”
These words constantly echo in the ears of the gadget-obsessed. I pity the husbands and wives who suffer through constant and inappropriate use of electronic gadgets. And I admit that they have a point when it comes to mobile phones and game machines: Electronic distractions have no place when there is actual life to enjoy!
But photographers are a special case, in my opinion. The act of photography is one of devotion and enjoyment of the moment; It is the exact opposite of a distraction. Though fumbling with camera settings and lenses often seems out of place, the basic act of photography requires a keen eye for beauty and a sincere appreciation that enhances life. So I beseech one and all: Please don’t ask us to put away our cameras!
As I dive into photography as art (rather than mere snapshot-taking), I have been surprised by how much I need to learn. I assumed it would be difficult to “get” the nuances of apertures and exposure values, but conquering these technical challenges is just a start. Knowing how to turn a given view into an image in the camera only opens the door to photography. Finding the view is much more difficult than making a photo.
As I began to discover photography, I quickly noticed the importance of the frame: As we explore our surroundings, our eyes move rapidly, noticing details here and there, and we step through the environment physically. But we cannot do this with a still image. The photographer must translate a setting into a single image, framing a focal point with complementary details in a way that is pleasing to the eye.
I find that this process of framing a shot greatly enhances my appreciation of my surroundings. As I walk in, I begin to notice not just the obvious focal points but also the surrounding architectural or natural elements. Once, I might only have seen a statue or fountain. But now I see them in context of a foreground tree and a far-off vista. Architects design buildings this way, but many visitors are not conscious of this fact.
I have also begun actively to look for interesting objects of focus, and this has opened my eyes to an overlooked world. I have discovered an odd fascination with hanging lights and chandeliers: Because they are so large, expensive, and important design-wise, they are often unique objects of art!
People, too, are a prime topic for “street photographers” and documentarians. I haven’t yet mustered the courage really to shoot on the street, but I have begun to notice just how interesting my fellow humans can be. This is especially true of the overlooked, the weather-worn, and the elderly, all of whom tell a story with their faces.
Looking at my earlier photos, I realize a distinct lack of color. I focused so much on the objects of my interest that I overlooked the essential ingredient of an image: Light. Since then, I’ve been increasingly focused on the color of objects and their surroundings, looking for bright/dark contrast.
This search for color not only livens up my photos, it enhances my enjoyment of the world. I’ve begun noticing vivid flowers, bright clothing, and the color of the light itself. It’s amazing just how beautiful the whole world is, since it’s constantly bathed in color, contrast, and light.
You can often see more through the camera lens than you can with your own eyes, and nowhere is this more true than in darkness. As the sun sets, the world can seem dull and gray. But long-exposure shots change everything, pulling in color from street lights, porch lamps, and the moon.
The people in my life are just as interesting, textured, and colorful as the places I visit. I find myself watching them with a keener eye, looking for beauty even when my camera is not at hand. “That would make a great photo,” I’ll think, even as I’m watching them more intently than before.
When I do have a camera, I love to capture my friends and family as I see them. I look for spontaneous images that show their personality rather than the posed shots everyone asks for. I would much rather show a contemplative moment than a forced smile!
Photography is an act of observation and contemplation as much as a technical process. Although cameras, lenses, and (ugh!) flashes can seem cumbersome and intrusive, I ask for patience. I promise it’s not getting in the way of life like some entertainment device. My camera enhances my experience of the world!
Top photo by h0bbel, all others by me!