I’ve always thought of a photo idea being shot on several different levels. A quick definition is 1) documentation of the idea 2) refinement of the idea
but lacking the final composition or emotion…and 3). The shot that says what you felt and wanted to convey.
Here’s an example using a few photos of my mother. As mom got older, she got shorter, and eventually had trouble seeing over the dash of the car.
I kidded her about it but also had an idea for a photo that would illustrate it in a slightly humorous way.
I didn’t get the feeling that the shot would work from inside the car, so I decided to try to shoot it
from the outside. The first shot was after we got back from having coffee one afternoon. I had a 50mm 1.2L lens on my Canon 5D3 camera and
thought I could blur out the background and highlight her eyes looking over the top of the door.
Here’s the shot, but I didn’t think it achieved the feeling I was looking for. It didn’t touch that something inside me that makes me smile
when I look at it. The background, although blurred, is still distracting.
A few months later we were on our way for coffee in Oshkosh. I stopped off at home to pick up my camera. It was a nice summery day and
I was reminded of the photo of mom looking over the door. This time I grabbed a 500mm f4L lens on my Canon 1DX to try a different perspective.
I had mom put on a pair of my sunglasses and told her to look at me. The longer lens really blurred the background and brought attention
to just over half of mom’s head peaking over the window. I knew when I shot it that this was the photo
I was looking for and would convey the feeling I had.
Comparing the two photos, the second one is simpler, cleaner, and because of the compression of the 500mm lens, does a better job
of showing her face.
Cold mornings, warm coffee. And sometimes, just a warm place.
I too often get caught up in my own little world of coffee and work and talk that I forget the other stories going on around me. And even when I do, do I know what the story actually is?
Who is the elderly lady reading the paper at Planet Perk? Or the art director from 4Imprint? Or this gentleman, who arrived with a huge armful of notes, slept, and then was gone before I realized it. Photos tell one small side of a story. Too often our minds manufacture the rest.
The time has come to ask what the stories are.
(Fuji X-100/3200 ISO/)
You never know when a photo of someone that’s in your heart will be the last. These were the last of mom from Monday. Despite being tired, she could still give me “the look” when she knew I was taking her picture and she didn’t want it taken. Or give me that devilish smile when she was about to say something with childish honesty. Mom passed peacefully in her sleep. In my heart she is trying out her wings without any pains or troubles now…zipping around, filled with wonder…and knowing she doesn’t have to worry about not being able to look over the steering wheel.
(Originally posted September 5, 2012)
My photos of mom always seem to capture comments about her spirit, her smile and her happiness.
But life is not always like that. As with anyone, mom has her ups and downs. And while I usually don’t photograph her downs, I did shoot this last week and thought it was worth sharing.
It was a quick snap from the iPad one afternoon in Planet Perk. Between forced smiles and laughs, mom had things on her mind. We had sold her car. She agreed to it. It had been in storage since November, and I took her everywhere she wanted to go. But……it was sold. Gone. And so was the freedom the car had represented to her. Even if she hadn’t driven in months. Even if it was a physical challenge for her to walk from her apartment to her car. Even if she knew she didn’t want to drive in Oshkosh with it’s new round -a-bouts…it still represented freedom to her. And now it was gone.
I know I lament each small step in getting older. Sometimes it’s realizing I can actually forget something; sometimes it’s realizing my reactions are getting slower. Each of us have our own personal ways of getting smacked in the face by the reality of what getting older takes away from us. But the biggest whack might just be the loss of freedom when you can’t drive anymore. We can’t go to the store when we want groceries. We can’t just take a drive. We are dependant on someone.
So this photo is now a reminder to me that at a significant moment like this in someone’s journey, the best thing to say is not say anything at all. Don’t give a list of all the practical reasons why this makes sense. Just be there. And maybe just take that person for a ride for no reason at all…just so they can feel the wind in their face…and a hint of freedom. (Originally posted June 24, 2012)
I’ve been intrigued by the Fuji X-100 for months, but research, desire and anticipation did not come close to the fear that engulfed me when I first held that camera in my hand. What was I thinking? I shoot a Canon 1DX. And I’m going to now shoot a 21st century rangefinder? It seemed so ancient. But it felt good in my hands. How much of the camera seemed intuitive? A fair amount after the first few minutes of examination. Of course, reading the manual helped.
And then it was…fun. Different…but fun. Did I mention quiet? It was quite a bit like I remembered from my beginning days as a photo enthusiast. I remember Pete Schroeder had a Petri rangefinder back in the late 60′s. For two kids in high school, it was the pinnacle of technology. I had an old Argus C3, which was also a rangefinder camera, but in those days, it seemed so old fashioned to the Petri. Each click of the shutter seemed special. Each click would freeze a moment of time …or at least a small burst of imagination for these two high school kids. Adding to the magic was the fact that you couldn’t see the image until you had developed the film.
The X-100 makes me feel like I’m freezing a moment in time. It’s almost like connecting with my past. Except this time I can check my results immediately on the LCD. I think I’ve been conditioned by the digital age to check immediately to see how the image looks after each shot…but back in those “early days” there was such a magic to having to wait…wait to know if the magic worked again.