Out of window right now, my model takes a break from a stressful morning.
If you do, then run! Run to find a great foreground and subject to put with them. Clouds have the magic to transform the common into uncommon just by their very being. The key is to place your subject in the clouds but not letting the clouds overcome the subject. You want to use the clouds to give the imagination to roam and then bring the mind’s eye back down to the subject. This requires not only a great shape but also highlights and shadows that move the eye through the frame. In this process, you might have to use a split grad and the point of capture and Curves in post to manipulate those highlights and shadows. But if you have clouds, you have photographic gold!
Our dear friend Monica passed away last night, losing her 3rd round with cancer. I posted this back in Oct ’10, thought it would be good to repost now.
I met Monica, I don’t know 5 or 7yrs ago. If you met Monica, you would never forget her because she just oozes life, seriously, you can’t shut her up or deter her smile or laugh! She signed up to be in my MLP and all she owned was a point and shoot camera. That’s a bit below minimum requirements. But there was something about this lady though, something in her letter that just said, “ACCEPT ME, I’M VERY SPECIAL!” The fact she had fought and beaten breast cancer not once, but twice definitely captured my heart along with her unbridled desire to master photography. Then there is this thing she has for life, it’s infectious. There is no doubt she had her hands full with me and I know there were times she wanted to be Homer with me Bart and just make my eyes pop out. There were also times she cried on my shoulder. She’s a very special lady!
One of the great blessings of photography has been meeting folks like Monica! Over the years we have kept in touch and like these two images, she shares with me her triumphs and she has had many winning many awards, becoming president of her club and best of all, carrying on the greatest tradition in photography, inspiring others with her photographs. All this while she is once again battling stage 4 breast cancer, the bastard came back! Despite having lived through me as a mentor and cancer, she’s never once complained, never given up but always, always carried on with a camera in her hand sharing her passion for life with everyone she meets with the biggest smile on the planet.
She doesn’t know this, but there have been times when feeling sorry for myself for some petty photographic thing not going the way I want it, her email would show up in my email box and I would instantly feel ashamed knowing what this lady has gone through to be a photographer. That’s why I’m sharing Monica’s story with you. I asked her if it was OK and she said yes, that’s just her nature, but she didn’t know what I was going to say. Photographic problems don’t amount to a hill of beans compared to battling for your life. When you meet someone like Monica who while she is battling for her life, she’s battling more to grab your heartstrings with her images, you simply can’t find more inspiration for your photography. We are so fortunate as photographers to be able to pursue our passion that moans and groans really don’t fit. We all could take a play from Monica’s playbook and be better for it. It’s real simple, she just wants to make folks smile with her life and photography. Personally, I know of no greater gift! Thanks Monica…God’s speed!
Spent the evening in the office at the computer and wanted something playing. I grabbed the iPad and hit the HBO Go app and clicked on Documentaries. That’s when I saw Dark Light: The Art of Blind Photographers. This 2010 piece is simply marvelous, you can’t help but learn and be inspired. And it removes all excuses bringing to light the true joys of being a photographer. You can find it on HBO GO and probably other HBO outlets or you can order it. It’s a must see: it’s totally humbling!
It’s been a long week, even with the holiday, full of ups and downs. I was just about to sit down and write a boring post titled, “The Frustrations of a Blogger” about how many, not all look at the photo in the blog and that’s all. They don’t read the post but treat the photo like a book cover and judge its contents accordingly. I put a lot of time into my posts but this week, I was getting beaten up for not helping the right folks at the right moment, for free. Then I read an email like this and all those negatives go away and I know why I blog…..
Subject: Truly Grateful
I’ve nearly written this email 5-6 times and have finally decided to drop you a line, if for no other reason than to give you something other than “What do you think of the new D4?” to read.
About 1.5 years ago I was given a DSLR as a gift. I was super thrilled, but what I couldn’t anticipate was how happy it would make me.
The turning point came when I also received a gift card to Barnes and Noble. At the time I was having some car issues and was interested in trying to do the repairs myself so I was planning on using the gift card to purchase a repair manual for my vehicle. I wandered the aisles in B&N and turned a corner into the photography section. I glanced at a few “how-to” books, but my eyes were fixated on the nature/wildlife photography books. I picked up a couple, my mouth agape at the beauty of the photos, but returned them to the shelf for various reasons. Then I saw your book, “Captured,” peeking out towards the back. I grabbed it, flipped it open, started reading some of the text, turned on my heel, went to the counter, handed the lady my gift card, declined a plastic bag (to quote my father, “That’s OK, I’ll eat it here”), walked to my car, drove home, and spent the next two hours reading and re-reading sections of your book. I was captivated! Over the next several weeks I read your book cover to cover, taking notes along the way.
I hate bullshit and you’re a no bullshit guy. I love swear words and you dropped a few in the book (I’m pretty sure you did… I could be making that up!), which earned you major brownie points with me. But the way you wrote the book clicked with me. I’m a fisheries scientist by training and a nature lover at heart. Your stories and anecdotes of working with biologists rang true with me. One year ago (almost to the day) I was assisting a post-doc as she played surgeon and implanted acoustic transmitters in a popular fish species (walleye) and between surgeries (2-3 mins/surgery) I was grabbing my DSLR and snapping pictures like a madman, dropping it when I had to to get back and transfer the fish to recover chambers. The biologists I worked with were super grateful that I was there to document the study and be available to help, and I was elated to have the experience! I LOVE documenting research projects. It would be lovely if I could make a career out of it, but I digress.
Fast-forward a few months and my life quickly changed. I rolled the dice and decided that I would accept a job as a fisheries biologist and move from where I was living in Ottawa, Ontario to Chicago before completing my Master’s degree. This turned out to be a HUGE transition. My time in Ottawa was the best two years of my life: I made wonderful, life-long friends; was knee deep in some fantastic fishing (I’m a fisherman through and through); and met the woman of my dreams. I left all of that (still have the girlfriend, fortunately, though she’s doing a PhD on Prince Edward Island some 1,600 miles away). Culture shock hit me when I moved to Chicago, despite having lots of family around. Before photography, I used to eat, sleep, and breathe fishing; it was all I could think about and was my only hobby and my only escape. The fishing opportunities are limited in Chicago and those that are a available require specialized techniques that take years to develop.
Photography saved me. That may sound cliche or over the top, but in a sense it’s true. It made the shock of moving from a place I loved to a place I was less than enthused to be in (in this economy, you take what you can get), particularly since I couldn’t get out and fish easily. Though I missed fishing, I turned my attention to photography. I read everything I could get my hands on. I watched tutorials online. Perused various photographers’ portfolios to get ideas for my own images. Signed in to Facebook just to see if you’d posted something on your page and blog. Bought gear, bought software. Took my camera nearly every place I went, including with me to work (documenting research!). Spent and continue to spend more time at work looking at photography websites than I probably should! I still do all of these things (just finished reading your D4 settings and BT Journal iPad blog posts) with gusto.
I see the world differently around me. I look at a lone light fixture hanging off my apartment building and think, “How could I capture an image that would convey what my minds eye sees when I look at that light?” I look at sunrises or sunsets and think “This would be great light to shoot in!” I look at reflections in my parents’ dog’s eye and think of catch lights. I look at buildings and think of textures. I look at a red fire hydrant poking through a snow bank and think of the juxtaposition of an all white scene with a prominent red object intruding. I drive over a rickety bridge and think of wide-angle lenses and vanishing points. I look at a scene and assess what kind of dynamic range is there. I look at a plane and think, “What would Moose do?”
I have you, your teachings, and your willingness to share your knowledge and images to thank. My new-found love for photography has been a gift and blessing. I am so thankful to have something else to look forward to in life, particularly with my girlfriend living 1,600 miles away, and a creative outlet. It all started with your book!
If you’ve gotten this far, thanks for reading. It’s something I’ve wanted to write for a long time. Hopefully someday I can join you on one of your workshops and I can get to shake your hand!
S’mores roasted on a summer’s bonfire and sharing the sweetness with a friend waiting for the fireflys to emerge to light up the night. At the end of a grass strip filled with planes, the hangar by their owners enjoying birthday cake, that’s just about as good as life gets. The rewards photography brings can’t be summed up or better measured then moments like this. All done in a heartbeat with a simple click!
Here’s an example of the pieces when they mesh. An unique aircraft, A-26 normally tucked away in the back corner of the hangar with no photographic possibility. One day as things get moved around, it gets pulled out and I just happen to be there, the skies just happen to cooperate and the light is just right with nothing in the background to make a simple, clean click. I’ve been incredibly fortunate that many a time, the right cloud, rock, critter or person will be in the right place at the right time in front of my lens. In fact, I actually work hard to put myself in front of those interesting things so when it doesn’t happen, my mind starts spinning.
Here’s just such a case. We were in SD for our K&M Adventure a couple of weeks back and arrived at the South Dakota Air and Space Museum just as the storm broke. The skies were to die for, the light great and there in the back corner was a C-54 Skymaster looking really great. That’s if you like planes on sticks. I enjoy looking at them, learning about them but photographically, planes on sticks leave a lot to be desired for me. So I says to myself, “You know Photoshop, remove the sticks and park it on the grass.” Strictly a personal challenge, not something I was going to put out to photo buyers, I made the best possible images I could thinking the sticks and cement would disappear. I tried a couple of methods “parking” with this being the least offensive but they all suck. What bugs me most about the image are the tires, they simply look very wrong and that’s the only part of the photograph that actually has been messed with. I tried a number of techniques but no matter what, I simply don’t like the tires.
Now typically I don’t post images like the middle one, this is one of those experiments I talk about going down in flames that I keep to myself. It’s from these experiments though that I push my photography forward. Whether I succeed or go down in flames, you just never know until you try. And even though this experiment went down in misery, I’ll keep thinking about and working on a solution because at some point in time, I will have to make the photograph in similar conditions and then, failure won’t be an option. As my good friend Joe would say, it’s about getting out of your comfort zone. As a tow truck driver just reminded me, if you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space!
There are many barriers to our taking photographs and I think the biggest one is ourselves! The one excuse that drives me nuts why we “can’t” that I hear a lot and I mean, a lot is, “It’s expensive, I don’t have any money!” My question is, “Who does?”
If you’re reading this, it means more than likely you’re into photography. That means you have a camera of some shape, form or manufacture. To me, that means that at some point you had money to buy a camera and lens. SO be thankful for your blessings right from the start!! So then instantly the “It’s expensive” excuse just went out the window in my book. I love the folks who bought a D4, $6k camera, and then slammed me when I suggested getting a card for it that coats $200 because it’s “expensive.” Really, you just spent $6k?!
But here’s what really drives me nuts, the “It’s expensive to go take pictures” excuse to not pushing your photography! So what, you bought that camera to be a book end? You live in a card board box and can’t shoot? Why do photographers put up road blocks when there is none? You own a camera, there is no excuse to not shoot. OK, you can’t go to Africa this week to photograph that Lion or head to Alaska to photograph the Polar Bears coming off the ice or Spain for the running of the bulls. You can surely step out the front door and just point the camera up and photograph a cloud and who in the world will know where that cloud is and more to the point, if it’s a cool cloud, who would care?
There are a ton of perceptions and realities in photography, one of the perceptions is us photographers who have “made it” are floating in dough, manufactures give us our gear and we travel the world shooting whatever it is we feel like shooting. Nothing could be further from the truth no matter what photographer you want to throw up as an example. Photographers only survive because they are very good at counting pennies because quite often, that is all we have. Then some say, “Ya, but all the great photograph come from exotic places and I can’t afford to go there so I will never have a great photograph.” Bla, bla, bla!
I’m sure you’ve heard of Jay Maisel and if you’ve watched his shooting in NY class on Kelby Training (and if you haven’t why not?) then you know much of his shooting is done right outside of his front door. Some would say that because he lives in NY, he has a great “outside.” We all do but for many photographers, they look past that to some grand thing that they then say, “It’s too expensive.” A simple potted plant on your front porch could be a whole photographic essay lasting months. It’s just right in front of you!
The photograph I posted here I did so for a reason. This is a $10mil aircraft, P-38 Lighting “Glacier Girl.” I didn’t then and don’t now have the budget to do a shoot with this aircraft. It’s not a shoot I conceived of or thought I could possibly be a part of. It was only my second air to air shoot. It all came about because I stepped out of my house to take photographs. If I hadn’t taken that very simple step, it would never have happened. Ya, I am incredibly fortunate and at the same time, work very hard to make luck happen. And if I hadn’t stepped out of the house many times before so I was proficient with that camera, I wouldn’t have been able to take advantage and this and other opportunities that are so graciously offered me!
So can we agree on one thing then, photography is expensive, we all know that’s a fact. With that agreed upon then, let’s stop making it a barrier to our shooting and simply go shoot. As Cheryl Crow says, “It’s not having what we want, it’s wanting what we have!”
To get to my point, I need to give you a little background trivia. Before the prop ever turns, a brief is held, actually a couple of them. The reason of the brief is to go through the photo mission so all parties are on the same page for a number one reason, the main being safety. I was incredibly fortunate that my friends who fly the Texas Flying Legends Museum aircraft asked if I would do an air to air shoot with them. So they were my client, they had specific formations, “family portraits” they wanted taken. At the same time, they did this amazing flight for two WWII veterans, brothers. One flew in a P-47 (in the back of the P-51 during this flight) and the other a tail gunner in a B-25 (in Betty’s Dream). The photo mission was then not only the family portrait but portraits of the brothers flying again.
Before the main brief with all pilots, Doug (who flew the Corsair) & I sat down and created a Shot List. This is a aerial script of the aircraft/formation sets I wanted to tell the story visually. The shot list is more then, “I want the Corsair and then the Zero” but rather a move by move of planes in and out of the frame. These movements number one priority is safety. Then there is time, time is money because gas is burning. For example the B-25 can’t just dart in and out of place like the P-51D Mustang. So in no time Doug & I had a choreographed shot list for 9 formations in 60min (pilots were so good, we did it in less then 40min capturing 1709 images). With that, we did a brief with just the pilots of the subject planes. Then we did a brief with all pilots, photo platform and subjects. Then we did a walk through brief where we stood in positions of the flight and walk through all the moves for each formation. With all of this planning, we get in our aircraft and go flying.
While we “fly the brief,” simple little things like wind currents which you don’t know until you get in the air can take that planning and send it south. When you do an evening shoot for the light like we did, time is everything. So when one aircraft is taken out of formation for a minute because of turbulence, it then takes minutes for them to get back into position. You add the incredible complexity of five aircraft doing this, even with the best pilots on the planet like I had to work with, getting it all started is a challenge and its something no one has control over.
Our first formation was a Vic, a V formation with the B-25 on point. Getting the tight formation wasn’t coming together quickly and light was fading. It was obvious I was going to have to come up with another solution for the family portrait. All I could do (since I can’t get out and push) was make images to create a pano. The two images below are the two used to create the pano you see above. The biggest challenge was the background was never the same second by second and at the same time, the aircraft were moving up and down. I really didn’t hold much hope for the idea but with the D4 blasting at 10fps, I went for it. The image above is the fist assembly. I am quite pleased!
And the point to all of this? We’ve been finding here on the blog that wildlife photographers aren’t reading posts with a plane photo. Landscape photographers aren’t reading posts with wildlife. Everyone reads a post when there’s a Photoshop technique. How can photographers put their head in the sand like that? If I hadn’t done a ton of panos as a “landscape” photographer, I wouldn’t have had a clue on how to make it work from an aircraft turning 160knts shooting with 70-200 with ever changing background & horizon line! I don’t do portraits for a living and don’t live with flash, but if I didn’t learn those aspects of portraiture, I wouldn’t been able to photograph all the folks I had to this week at an aviation event! I personally don’t know of any aspect of any discipline of photography that doesn’t effect every other. If nothing else, if you don’t have an open mind to all aspects of photography, how can your photography grow and communicate? I’m not saying you need to read everything. I am saying though you might find your photography growing, being more fun and challenging if you simply go outside your comfort zone with the simple idea of learning. While I don’t go out and seek ultra wide panos much anymore, I sure am glad I perfected that technique for my photography. It made it possible to make this click taking care of my clients needs. It’s what photography often boils down to, no control problem solving.
The cell buzzes and I see my sweet bride is calling. I’m just sitting in the truck with the camera sitting across my lap so I answer. “Whatja doin” she asks? “What I always do, I stare at dirt” I reply. She’s says with a smile in her voice, “And you do it better then anyone else!”
I wish when I started working with the endangered San Joaquin Kit Fox back (one of the 1st species to be listed as endangered back in ’64) in ’87, I kept records of all the months I just started at dirt in anticipation of a fox emerging from a den only to see dirt the whole time. Seriously, I have spent an entire day staring at dirt through the lens looking for activity only to see at most, an ant or fly. It just goes with the game, just because I show up doesn’t mean mother nature will. And you might think I’d learn and perhaps stop or do it better but neither is the case. I am working with the best biologists on the planet and even though some of the dens have collared animals and we know that animal is in that den, it still doesn’t mean when you have light, they will emerge. The Kit Fox is a “nocturnal” animal by nature but it does have some daytime activity. That’s what I count on, that “some” as I stare at dirt.
I got home at 02:00 today after another great week working with my friends, both biologists and kit fox at five different den sites. Two of those sites, I never saw a fox. At one, the photo you see above, that’s the only click I made after a couple of days at the den. One other, I only shot video at night under funky lights and the other, well on the very last day at the very last minute, I was blessed with some great biology in the last glow of light of the day. To me, that is an amazing week of success and that’s because I have come back from a week and all I have are shots of dirt!
I am always very appreciative of folk’s praise when they give me grandiose titles as a wildlife photographer. But I’ve seen images from “weekend warriors” that are much more spectacular then what I’ve captured in my career. What I am probably the best at though is staring at dirt. I’m a long haul, project wildlife photographer not going after the “best” shot but the “best biological” shot that not only tells a story about the critter but answers questions about its biology to move preservation forward. There is a big difference between the two “bests” in my book. And to me part of that is ego and commitment driven. While a “best” photo lives a glamorous life for a short time being heralded as the best, sadly they are forgotten in as short period. On the other hand, “best biological” gets nearly no notoriety but the images lives on for a very long time in science. To me, that’s much more a valid goal for my images.
The D4 was important to me to obtain because of digital as a tool. The D1 besides opening the digital world to my photography (and for many of you as well), captured a photo of the kit fox that went around the world hours after being taken that made an impact. I foresaw the D4 with its high ISO video as well as still abilities able to do the same thing for this same species, one that is very much imperil. All I had to do was get the two together, the D4 and the kit fox which required me to perform my specialty with flawless professionalism, stare at dirt. And that last evening in that last moment of light with the camera ISO set at 1600, something I never did in the past, I made the shots that are in the process of being written up as I type because once again, biology and technology came together for a moment to record while not earth shattering and nothing you’ll see on the evening news, history. You see a hint of that in the photo right above, not even 12hrs old by now. There is no pay, no assignment, no fanfare just the simple reward that applying a craft with passion, a photo can make a difference in the grand scheme of things. All of this doing what Sharon says I’m the best at, I stare at dirt!
One of the incredible blessings of photography is where it takes you, it’s often to a place you never dreamt of going to. Right now I’m down in Kissimmee, FL getting ready for our Air2Air Workshop at a facility a year ago wasn’t even on my radar screen. A year later and I’ve just finished an amazing dinner with folks I consider the best of friends and it’s all because of a click!
The Precons for the NAPP Safari come out of my imagination. I have the fun of finding the location and thinking about the possible photography then the true brain, Kathy, Scott Kelby’s personal assistant has to make my crazy ideas work. So far we’re batting a 1000 so I have only praise for Ms. Kathy. I start planning a Precon about 1 year before the actual date which was the case for the Spring 2010 Photoshop World NAPP Safari in Orlando. We had it all set to happen at the Fantasy of Flight. It was all good to go up until a few weeks prior to the event. Then Fantasy of Flight had a double booking occur, so very common but when you’re good, participants never know there was a wrinkle in the plans. Well, Kathy called me and said, “Houston, we have a problem.”
We needed photography for folks for two hours and since we were doing an “aviation” theme with models, of course I wanted to continue with the theme. I was swamped with life stuff at the time so I told Kathy of this place I had heard nothing but good about pretty close by to where Photoshop World was being held in Orlando. So logistically it would work. I had never work with these folks but I was raised on the simply philosophy, “The least they can say is no.” I told Kathy to use my name in the hopes they might have heard of me. So Kathy called the folks at Stallion 51.
Recently hired at Stallion 51 unknown to us was the amazing KT. Stallion 51 had never done anything like this, the owner Lee wasn’t even sure what he was having being put in front of him, 60 photographers coming to photograph his P-51D Mustangs with models in tow! That’s an awful a lot to ask of anyone to grasp onto, especially a pilot. But KT was able to explain with the little Kathy was able to present, that this would be good “exposure” for Stallion 51. As one who has been asked to risk a bunch on the mere reward of “exposure,” I don’t blame anyone for saying no to such propositions. To Lee’s and KT’s credit, they said yes and we had a location for our two hour aviation shoot.
With the brilliance of McNally’s lighting, the slap stick acting of Russell Brown and the stars of the shoot, the planes of Stallion 51, we had an incredible great time and made some great images. I heard from a majority of the attendees afterwards who admitted that the idea of shooting “planes” for the day was their last idea of a good time. But afterwards, well two of these folks ditched Photoshop World to shoot and a giant nearby airshow, Sun n’ Fun! And during this whole time, I talked and would become dear friends with KT and the Stallion 51 family.
Advance the calendar forward year and here I am at Stallion 51 again. During that year I’ve come back many a time to Stallion 51, sometimes just to be social and some of the times servicing them as a client, taking care of photographic needs. And all of this because of a click, a moment with a camera and the sharing of an image coming from that moment. And that is one of the most amazing things that ever comes from photography.
Yes, we enjoy those clicks that remind of us of those moment in time that a special. That’s what photography really is all about, not that D4 being delivered at my home tomorrow that I won’t be able to see until Tuesday when I get home. Excuse me, I digressed a moment there. But better than that moment we record for every is the lives we touch and touch ours by that moment. The wise photograph latches onto that and not the miss chosen f/stop or missed split second of gesture. The wise photographer realizes that it’s the lives their photography touches and then reach back to touch ours is truly why we should be and are photographers.
There is no way a year ago when I just threw out an idea of a location did I know the people involved, from participants to clients, would a year later become part of my life! No matter how we describe the power of click, this has to be its greatest power, a life altering movement that might start faster than a heartbeat, as fast as 1/125. So next time you put that camera to your eye and you question the quality of that photograph you are creating, next time question the even bigger picture. Just what will be the blessing of that click?!
When I heard this NPR interview with George Cloony yesterday, a number of things he said resonated with me. I’ve been pondering them for the last day wondering if it was just me. Then a couple of emails came in this morning and I knew it wasn’t just me. The quote that resonates with what I’ve been seeing in some photographers is this….”People are experiencing less and recording more…” Give the interview a listen, some good stuff there for photographers.
Dec 31, 1997 a pelican case arrived at the office. I opened it up to see what at first appeared to be a familiar friend, an F5 body but it wasn’t the same F5 I was use to. It was a Kodak DCS 620, the first “DLSR” that I shot with. Back in the day, we’re only talking 15yrs ago, Kodak was the big player in digital photography from sensors to projectors and everything in between. They’ve now filed Chptr 11 and we have to ask ourselves why and what can we learn from it that which applies to our own photography?
The two product shots of the camera were taken with a Coolpix 900. Nikon had provided me a “black box” to shoot with to be one of the three shooters to introduce Nikon’s entry into the digital age. The Coolpix produced a 1mb Jpeg and the 620, it created this three file thing you had to combine with their software to get a Tiff (can you say painful!). The results though were enough for many of us to realize the potential of digital photography. Kodak had one helluva track record of producing some amazing products. With a little technology and a lot of imagination, photography progressed to what we enjoy today with the D4 being an amazing leap from the 620 of just 15yrs ago. Why didn’t Kodak keep up though to ride the way they help generate?
When I first heard that Kodak was filing, I thought back to a Jr High project where I got an A because I invested my “money” in their stock and it made the best showing during the semester. Then I thought back about the photographers who told me that digital was a fad like the disk camera or APS (remember those from film days?). Some of those shooters are now long gone, no longer shooting and a couple like myself who embraced digital are still out there clicking. What can we learn from this short look at our history? Here’s my lonely $.02 on the matter.
(photo of my light table filled with the latest project at the time, taken with the Kodak DCS 620)
There’s this thought that gear isn’t important, the photographer is. There’s this thought that the photographer isn’t important, the gear is. Personally, I don’t see how you can divorce either from the other in a creative world of visually communicating.The human spirit drives both, the photographer and the gear. At least, that’s how I see it. I know in no uncertain terms that the D3 obtained for me a photograph NO OTHER way possible until it hit my hands. The GEAR made the photo but the PHOTOGRAPHER had to recognize the problem and realize its solution. It was a MARRIAGE between the two that made the one image possible and when it came to the Greater Sage Grouse project, it was pivotal in the solution! The solution required both photographer and gear, neither one could do it alone.
My involvement with Kodak digital ended around 2002 so I’m not sure all that occurred since then to lead up to the filing, but we had the feeling back then that the connection between gear and the photographer was being missed. In the beginning of digital, most everyone missed it but as we know, history has shown that digital ain’t all that bad. I have to admit when I heard the D4 was being announced, I said to myself, “Here we go again.” Much to my great surprise, the upgrade in technology has been for the most part embraced and not criticized! While I now have over 2200 emails with questions about the D4 to answer, they are all boil down to the basic question, “How will this technology improve my photography?”
And to be honest with you, alone I don’t think it will. What I do think it will do is open the doors to your imagination permitting you to go places you might not have realized you could have gone without it. The D4 in itself is not the game changer. You, yourself are not the game changer. It is when the two come together, the spirit and the technology, that’s the game changer will occur. Personally, I know that many of the photographs I’ve taken in the last 15yrs with digital I could have done with film. I also know there is one image, one very important one that change the world for a species, that could only have made with a D3, digital. It’s that one, that one possible click that constantly pushes me to embrace new technology.
You’ve gotta take risks in every form as a photographer to move forward. You often fall down and you have to pick yourself back up and learn from that fall. You don’t and you will fall again. But if you do, you’re up an running. For way too many, these are tough times which saddens me as photography is just to joyous of a life pursuit to have that pressure. For those, thinking about obtaining a D4 just isn’t possible but don’t let that stop you from moving in that direction. I often hear, “Got to learn what my camera can do now before I upgrade.” It’s not what your camera can do, it’s what you can do with your camera! The last thing I want you to do is go Chptr 11 on your photography so push yourself to push your gear! Shutter speeds and apertures are still the exact same as there were 100yrs ago. Light will always be a mystery we chase. Wrap them up in your spirit and you won’t go bankrupt. Our photographic future is awfully damn bright, go out and click and share never forgetting, YOU with your camera can change the world with a photograph!
The phone rings, Paul’s on the other end wanting to know if we’re home, they want to drop by and give me something. When the flight director of the Space Shuttle Program who lives in TX says he wants to drop by, you make sure you are home! We had done an air to air shoot with Paul & his lovely wife Louise in their RVs a couple of month back and as I always do, I sent them like I send all pilots prints as a thank you for their time and skill. They came over and we talked for a while, got caught up on plane stuff and made some new plans for 2012. Paul had walked in with apparently nothing in his hands so my mind was wondering what was up. Then Paul reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out something which he placed in my hand. “We had a couple of these made up special using metal that flew in the Shuttle for a few million miles” he says as he lets the challenge coin drop in my hand. WOW!
It is really easy for me to pull heartstrings when I throw up a photo of a bunny. Everyone loves Peter Cottontail so it’s easy to hit home. I can throw up some moody shot of a landscape with a little color here, a rock there and clouds everywhere and most of the time it hits its mark in the heart. But throw up a photo of a craft made of metal (or in this case plastic) and grabbing the heartstrings has a whole new challenge about it. It’s been a week of gift receiving with plane owners sending a book they created about the restoration of their aircraft in which I was involved in, an Air2Air Workshop student sending a gorgeous calendar of his images to say thanks, a facility manager thanking me for an article and then the challenge coin. It all comes from a passion for photography AND sharing it!
I firmly believe the #1 person who must be thrilled with your photography is YOURSELF! I’m not suggesting we fall in love with every click but I am saying we must be in love with photography and our photography for where it is at this moment in time. We should be able to grab our own heartstrings with our clicks so that we not only find enjoyment for what we did today, but find the inspiration for what we want to do tomorrow. That’s how you keep the passion alive!
I also believe that this process only succeeds when we get past our satisfaction and start reaching out and touching others with our photos. I’m not talking about those comments you receive when you post your image to some web group, I’m talking about placing your image in the hands of someone and all you see is that smile. You know what I’m talking about, you’ve all seen it, that warm smile that comes from the heart. That’s when you know, you know you are reaching out and saying something with your photograph. Paul wanting to fly with me again was thanks enough, telling me two of my prints hang on his office wall in Houston, that’s over the top! But to come all this way to put that coin in my hand…. And then when the recipient of your photo is so moved by them that they in return feel they need to give you something in return, well, there simply are no words for that satisfaction.
It is truly easy to get wrapped up in the latest gear, newest post product or technique but don’t ever forget that it’s the passion that you put into that click that is revealed with all of that stuff in that final image! While we don’t hit the mark every time, it really only takes those couple that hit the bullseye dead center to keep you clicking to reach that point one more time. While gifts are great and a tangible means of knowing you’ve reached your goal, the best gifts often go unspoken except by the heart. Don’t let f/stop and shutter speed get in the way of the main target of your photography and that’s reaching out and telling the story of your great fortune to others. Remember, heartstrings are the target!
the best part of a snow storm is when the sun comes back out.