Saturday, June 03, 2006

Rambling Thoughts and Lousy Pictures

There are so many blog entries rolling around in my head, I've been putting off writing anything because I just don't know where to start. I just spent I'm not sure how long putting the pictures I just got developed into albums, and I was planning on uploading a few, but now I don't feel motivated for that. I think I need to get some thoughts out, even if they are in no semblance of order. The pictures will still be there tomorrow.

Yesterday, I didn't get on my computer all day. I went to New Jersey to spend the day with a friend who has been feeling down lately. Highlights of the day included going to see "Over the Hedge" with our pockets full of contraband bulk candy and laughing so hard that I forgot to feel silly for seeing a children's movie without bothering to bring along any children, then having a mediocre movie on DVD interrupted by a power outage and being treated to the most incredible lightning display ever. Wow. That thunderstorm was intensely beautiful. Lighting was all around us, in sheets and forks, thunder so loud it set off car alarms, and rain driving with such force that it was splashing up to my knees even though we were under an awning on the back porch. Yes, on the back porch. You can't sit inside during a storm like that. At least we couldn't. When the rain let up a bit, we walked several loops around the housing development, me with no shoes, feeling the coolness of the gathering rain water rush around my feet.

One of the things that struck me when I was in New York City was the security measures that you see on every corner. We didn't even bother going to the Statue of Liberty, because they don't let you up past her feet anymore, and I saw at least three NSA guys in the terminal on our way to the Staten Island Ferry (which drives right past the Statue of Liberty, so you can get your pictures of her without having to pay for it - Liberty should be free!). It made me sad that we have to be so extremely protective now, although I completely understand why that came to be. I couldn't help but think, however, that if the goal of terrorism is to make us live in fear, then in many ways, the terrorists are winning.

But the answer to terrorism can't be turning a blind eye to the threat, either. I was reading an article today about a recent Homeland Security report that basically denies that there is anything in NYC that the terrorists would want to bomb. (In the report, next to the category "National Monuments and Icons" is a big, fat zero.) I'm not sure how much I can add to the article. And I seem to be fumbling with my words right now, so I won't even try. It just really got me thinking, and wondering: How can we be cautious without being afraid?

When I got home from work tonight, I was hungry, so I decided to make eggs. I also decided to call a friend at the exact same time. Note to self: Cooking soft-boiled eggs with only one hand is relatively easy. Getting them out of the shell with only one hand is nigh impossible.

Back to the pictures. I decided to splurge and spend the extra $2.60 per roll to get photo CDs. I figured it would save me having to scan every picture I wanted to post, and my photos would already be saved in an external location so I wouldn't have to worry as much about my hard drive crashing. Which means I can post my pictures here without a whole lot of trouble. So why am I dilly dallying?

I guess because I am a little disappointed with my pictures. I am still learning to use my camera, and I tell myself that I should be happy if there are two pictures on every roll that turn out well. And I am, to an extent. But I am also sad about the 10 pictures on every roll that really suck. And I feel sad about the missed opportunities, and I feel guilty for not getting it right, and I contemplate throwing in the towel completely and giving up on my fully manual SLR camera. I feel like I should be getting better at it by now, but then again, it's not like I'm getting any kind of professional instruction, so whatever improvement I experience will be through trial and error. And part of the reason my newest pictures are less great than my Ireland pictures from last August is that I'm pushing myself to try new things and sometimes, you can only learn those kind of lessons by getting the prints and seeing what didn't work.

Here are some of the lessons I will be learning from my most recent batch of photos:

Lesson #1: Don't be lazy. I know that camera strap is a really convenient, straight line to focus on, but wouldn't you rather be able to see the face?

elsa laughing

Lesson #2: When you focus on something or someone, practically nothing in front of your subject will be in focus, including that other person who is so conveniently in the frame. Ugly doorknobs and coverless light switches behind her, however, will be perfectly clear. Next time, focus on the woman in front, okay?

monica and kerry

Lesson #3: Sometimes, even when a picture turns out exactly how it was planned, you realize later that any scrap of artistic talent you might at other times possess must have been taking a bathroom break when you decided this would look good. Just don't take a picture like this again, okay?

blurry white flowers

Lesson #4: Break the rules sometimes. Take a picture directly into the sun on a dreary day as the sun is going down. My favourite pictures are often total flukes.

experimental farm sunset


Anonymous said...

Remember that photographers usually doctor even their greatest shots just a little. Cropping an image can have great results (like #3 -- if you crop it to focus in on the bottom right corner, with it just fading out into blurriness in the background, it'll create a focal point.)

Also, you can do a lot with computer software. I don't do much photography myself but one of my colleagues does and I was extremely jealous of his talent before he told me that very few of his images are displayed exactly as he snapped them. (So now I'm only somewhat jealous ...)

Check out Steve's photoblog at

Kate said...

I actually really like that third shot and think it would be fantastic with just a little cropping (I'm with anonymous!). What made you decide to go with film rather than digital?

Anonymous said...

Not shooting into the sun hasn't been a rule in fifty years. Akira Kirasowa famously began breaking that rule in his early films, (Watch Rashomon for the scene of the wood cutter walking through the woods, and notice the lengthy shots of tree branches with the sun directly behind). Since then it has been considered the way to get the most dramatic lighting for landscapes. I even have some charts for picking the correct exposure when doing so. The main fear is that when you use a telephoto lense to look into the sun you can quickly do severe damage to your eye. So you should actually frame the shot and adjust exposure without looking directly through the eyepiece, which is always fun.

Professional photography is an adventure.