In a rush to catch a bus, I stopped to take pictures of some stone benches and art that I’ve walked passed for years. Clicking away, falling into the bending light, a man yelled and told me that he had helped the artist who made them. Unfortunately, in my hurry, I did ask his name, but in a quick search I found out the work was done by the sculptor John Hoge.
While pushing and pulling the tones, I felt the images taking the shape of human muscle; the glow and reflections that came through are the energy and strength our muscles give us. Coincidentally, these stones sit in front of a hospital.
Every now and then I stumble across an image I forgot about or put aside because I knew I liked it, but didn’t do anything with it. I’ll start with one I found today that I have so many titles for, but I’ve taken to Don’t Look Down.
The other day, I took a trip to the local Fisherman’s Terminal to pick up some salmon for dinner, and thought it might be fun to do a short photowalk through the shipyard. September has been cool and sunny, and the light gentle, yet intense. It turned out to be a meditative escape in a playground of shapes, texture, color, and light.
Sometimes I think I can take photographing for granted. With easy access to any kind of camera, we can capture what we want when we want. It’s easy. It’s fast. It can sometimes be more of a reactionary response, or a “this might look good” moment. I don’t discourage myself from just shooting because sometimes those moments turn out really well. Some of my favorite images are things I caught by luck or random happenstance. But the amount of snap-shot/just because photos I have can totally burn me out. I tend to get bored and frustrated. Where is the work I’m dying to make? The work that really stands out for me that isn’t just another random image? That’s when I realized: My mind is not always in it’s prime state when taking photos. Simply put, there are times I am present with my camera and the moment, and there are times when I am not. I want to strive to be more present. Not only is this healthier for my mind, it yields my more thoughtful and impactful images.
As I continued my walk through the shipyard, I felt every step on the wooden pier, took a breath and stabilized my feet before every shutter release, thought about how a subject might look at different angles, remembered to consciously practice things I learned in school like hyper-focal distance focusing, and visualized how I might want to process a moment differently than how I saw it at that moment. I was patient with myself. I let myself try. It was one of my more immersive photo walk experiences. I was eager to edit what I had shot, because I knew I had good things to share.
So, I’d like to ask you: What intention (if any) do you set for yourself when you go out shooting? When do you think you feel disconnected from your work? When do you feel connected with your work? Do you practice a sort of mindfulness when you are shooting? And just for fun, where are some places in your hometown that you can always go to to explore your creative seeing? As someone who can struggle with creativity and finding inspiration, I’d love to hear your thoughts!
In high school, before digital, we shot black-and-white film. It was a meditative practice. Five years ago I took some photography classes and one of my instructors was an incredibly passionate and experienced photographer. No-nonsense, hard-core, bad-to-the-bone master printer, Jhanavi Lisa Barnes taught us the zone system and helped us understand highlights and shadows. How to accomplish these things in-camera (film), and later on in the darkroom. There is nothing like a print that comes from film and developed on paper. I do miss the luxury of it, and have a total respect and appreciation for the process. (Alas, I’m an impatient type. Also, the cost of purchasing film, paper, facilities rental, gas, parking, etc. just isn’t economical or convenient).
So, how do you visualize, take, and process an image so that it looks like it imbues the tonality and contrast of black and white film? I continue to hone and refine my skills in digital photography, and feel I have a good grasp on how to adjust tone, saturation, and highlights through the various color channels and tone curves. I push myself through the grey of an image. With the Zone System in mind, I work to keep, but not blow out, my highlights. I nudge my shadows, blacks, and exposure sliders to keep the shadows from becoming too muddy. However, if I’m going for a specific style, I will push the highlights and/or muddy the contrast if it communicates the feeling I want for it to radiate. Finding balance in the light is something I love to work with.
Here’s a little slide show of people and places where I’ve worked the light to suit the image captured; keeping in mind the feelings I remember having when developing black and white prints.
The Fremont Sunday Market in Seattle is a fun place to walk and peruse art, crafts, vintage goods, and wares. On a hot sunny day, sun blazing overhead, I was feeling experimental. Here, I had fun with exposure. I felt like shooting like how it felt – white hot. I think these would be fun as easy poster prints to hang in a bright kitchen.
Snow is in the forecast for the next couple of days. The snapping cold kept us at home today, but we were lucky to have clear blue skies all day. But one of the benefits of our apartment are our our west-facing windows and wood burning fireplace.
The Sun also helped inspire me to produce a small collection today that I titled A Slice of Sun that I’ve featured in my KitchenTable gallery; a running collection of small projects I work on at home. Take a peak!
And here are a few uplifting moments I’ve had at home. I hope your weekend was just as warm and inspiring.