Friday, May 23, 2014

... And Also

I seem to have an ever expanding list of websites that I want to point out or comment upon, and I keep putting off doing it because I try to do the collections all at once, or in a theme, but I think I need to just start doling these out as I get it done.

There is, for example, this warning about the inevitable creative and work plateau everyone will face.

"Society has a funny way of reminding people that there’s this order for things, and at this point your Facebook wall is exploding with friends’ puppies and houses and engagements and marriages and babies. And you start asking yourself… what have you done with your life?!"

Next, I'm always amused by and interested in a blog post that gets your attention cleverly, and delivers by being more clever, like this one.

"Let’s do some math," Etienne Schottel writes.  "What can we get for $2,800 (which is quite something I must admit)?

"A) The Sony RX1 killer-camera-that-fits-in-your-pocket-alas-not-in-my-French-undersized-pockets. ...

"B) A Leica lens which is so sharp that it is considered as a weapon in some countries.

"C) A one-year flight ticket which will offer you so many good moments and pictures that you’ll never regret it.

"Yes, my answer is C. This is the price of the ticket (for one person) we paid for our one-year trip. But, you can change the amount for something smaller, even $300 my answer remains “C”. I will always prefer using my money to go somewhere I don’t know that any new camera and that is my Grail. Period (I love them)."

Good point, in its way.  As I've blogged a couple times before, and mentioned on The Guy with the Leica,  truly the best camera is the one you have, and having something decent while in an interesting place is a good combination.

But maybe not a great one.

I think he misses two points: That the camera used can affect the picture, and there are pictures everywhere.

I have blogged before about my love of the Leica M and in particular the ones I own.  As I've said before, the M style camera just makes me see things differently, basically with more awareness.  Another, more esoteric way I have put it: The M makes it clear to me what a 50mm lens is for.

However, what's more important, I think, is the idea of putting your head in the right place to shoot.  Why is it that things are more interesting and somehow more visual when you're traveling?  Why is a small Chinese child in Beijing photogenic, but your neighbor's toddler cute, but just another kid?  Try looking at your world as a visitor.  It might actually surprise you what you now see and what becomes interesting.

Finally, there's this cri de coeur by a wedding photographer.   She relates how she made herself crazy looking at other photographers' work, but then just stopped cold turkey.

"Instead? I read books. I listened to music. I drank whiskey with my friends and had impromptu dance parties in my living room. I binge-watched TV shows and ate entire boxes of doughnuts. I took road trips, stayed up all night, slept in all day. I snuggled my husband, my sisters, my nephews. I wrote and drew and sewed and took pictures with my iPhone — my iPhone, for heaven’s sake!
"In short: I lived. And I discovered that if I would just live my life and be a person, if I would commune with other people who live and love and ARE, inspiration grew. It blossomed out of me like herbs in the windowsill, taller overnight, greener by the hour.
"And instead of incessantly reminding myself of all the ways in which I fell short — the money I wasn’t earning, the gear I wasn’t acquiring, the pictures I didn’t even know how to make — I stepped back and saw that wedding photography — this beautiful, terrible, exhausting, wonderful thing I called my job — was really a direct path to communion."

It's a good lesson, I think, for all of us.  We became what we are, and became good at what we do,  not because of imitation, but because of us and all the learning and studying and various influences of all the things that interest us.  You don't have to "find your joy," it's right there, where you put it down.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

In Memoriam

I've blogged about this poem before -- I think it has perhaps one of the best opening lines ever written -- but I return to it again as Memorial Day approaches.  One might think me anti-military or a pacifist for my fascination with it and other writing by those from the post-war generation of the 1920s, a group notably horrified by the experience of the Great War.  (Just check out The Razor's Edge, if you want an excellent, longer read.)  However, I have no problem with the military and it's application ... if one is prepared for the unpleasant consequences.

With that in mind, let us take a moment to think of those who willingly put themselves in harm's way, not infrequently enough left on the battlefield of foreign lands or their own minds, wondering why ...

Anthem for Doomed Youth

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
      — Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
      Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells; 
      Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,—
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
      And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
      Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
      The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

Friday, May 9, 2014


For the longest time, I've thought it would be interesting to do a book on the world's top news photographers.  Each one would get two pages: on the left, a portrait (by me, naturally), a paragraph or two of text explaining who it is and why the photographer rates being considered in the "top," and a small print of his or her most famous picture.  Then, on the right, would be the photographer's favorite picture from his portfolio, along with a quote explaining why.

I think this would show two things: That a photographer's favorite picture is rarely the one others consider his best, and that photographers are usually bad editors of their own work.

Does this say "Beauty" to you?

Recently, on my "phlog," The Guy with the Leica, I posted three pictures I chose to send to a contest with the theme of Beauty.  Aside from having to plow through a lot of archives (the only requirement was that the picture was shot with a Leica camera), it took a surprising amount of thought and time to pick the pictures I sent in.

Personally, I hate editing my own stuff, especially if I have to do it right after the shoot.  I think I'm still too "in the moment," remembering what happened and what I did to make the picture, rather than simply looking at it as a photo, the way a viewer who hadn't been there would.  Often, I am mystified when people react strongly to a picture I have shot recently -- either positively or negatively.  After some time, I can feel a bit better about it, but things still carry memories and meanings for me that the uninformed viewer would not get.  Better to let a good editor come at it cold.

I have this problem with writing too, which may be another reason I have trouble blogging as often as I should.  I hate all my writing initially, then grow to tolerate it as time passes.

Friday, May 2, 2014

I'm going to be an optimist about this ...

But if you close your eyes
Does it almost feel like
Nothing changed at all?
And if you close your eyes
Does it almost feel like
You've been here before?
How am I gonna be an optimist about this?
How am I gonna be an optimist about this?

Sometimes it seems that, every time I see the end of our long, hard slog, a new problem, delay or expense comes along.  Every time I think that I can finally relax into a reasonable, comfortable schedule, more urgent things must be done, or whenever we've finally locked down a good income stream to climb out, it evaporates.

But I am going to be an optimist about this, even as the dust settles down around us ...