Sunday, July 3, 2011

Why I do This

Lightning on Orange by
Lightning on Orange, a photo by on Flickr.

When I was little... maybe 10 years old... I was riding down the road with my mom. It was early spring, and I was struck at how pretty the trees were, with their tiny little buds.

I mentioned it to my mom, and she said, "I hadn't even noticed that... you surprise me with all those little things you pay attention to".

Photography lets me capture those things, both the little hints of beauty and a sky full of wonder, and share them with other people.

The art of photography, for me, is in capturing what I'm seeing. By learning all of the functions of my camera, I can usually photograph things exactly how I want.

Some of the "rules" of photography ("rule of thirds", "leading lines" and a few other compositional techniques) also help.

Most people don't realize how our eyes actually work. You don't just see everything at once. You look at stuff. Your eyes travel over everything, until they find something to focus on. The compositional rules help a photographer understand how to capture these natural eye movements in a photograph.

When I look at things, I look as if I were the camera. That sounds so cheesy, I'm sorry.

Last night when the sky turned orange and yellow, I got worried. I got worried that I might miss this amazing moment, I rushed to the car (kid in tow) and headed out to a nearby field studded street.

Just looking around, it was almost too beautiful. Unbelievably beautiful. There were so many elements of beauty that I couldn't figure out what to capture.

The sky to the west was on fire, saturating everything with a warm golden hue. To the east, the sky was cool and blue. In between, the colors merging together was magical.

Photographic manipulation (photoshop, lightroom, etc...) makes it easy to make "decent" pictures look amazing. But it also makes it hard when you have amazing pictures.

It's hard because there are so many photographs that look amazing, mostly due to post processing, that a truly amazing shot doesn't really stand out.

That's what I was thinking when I was photographing the sky. "No one is going to believe that the sky was really this amazing...".

Oops, sorry, that was a bit of a tangent.

What I'm getting at is that you can know the rules and techniques, and you can get some great images. If you do it long enough, something in your brain will change, and you'll start seeing the world as if you were constantly photographing it.


I tend to live in the past. My memories of things always tend to be much more glorious than the event or experience really was.

I think a lot of us do that.

I first consciously realized this when I was in Egypt.

I was miserable. Hot and sweaty, stomach problems from the water, no alone time (due to cultural differences... Arabs are much more social than Americans in my experience), and bored.

Then I thought of how I'd remember my stay in Cairo. I knew my memories would be grand. I'd remember how amazing it was to see the pyramids while riding a horse through the desert. I'd miss the constant noise of the city streets. I'd romanticize the markets and parks.

But really, at the time, I wasn't enjoying much of it.

With photography, I become so focused on those awesome moments, and how they will look in the future, that I really do miss out on the drudgery.

It makes the present better.

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