The sun was peaking through a slight gap in the branches of a tree. There were little pink blossoms everywhere. What a morning scene.
I did what I do.
I started to make pictures. Auto focus was having a very tough time with such strong backlighting and direct sunlight into the lens. I held my finger on the button. Sometimes it works. Sometimes the autofocus function says “oh, no you don’t.” This time I did. And, it did.
That’s what I made.
A completely out of focus picture. It just happened to be the best of my quick little take out of about ten pictures.
I worked on it a bit in post production. Mostly, I brought what wasn’t understandable back to my eye. That was it.
Today is a really fine day. The weather is wonderful. The pictures are coming. And, in a spring of a lot of brand new music, Bruce Springsteen released a new album. “Western Stars.” I’m often a little cautious when it comes to any big musician’s new work. Often, it isn’t all that.
Not this time.
This one is so good. It reaches into my soul. I know words that I’ve never heard as he sings them. I know the melody. A lot of his songs are what some folks call “high lonely.” It’s hard to write one song that carries that feeling. The whole album carries is that.
The record will arrive in this house soon. I want to get as close to the original master as I can.
Well, I assembled it in post production from four individual pictures. One of the most dominating pictures is something that might not even occur to you. We use a Nespresso machine around this place. Some people think it’s a little pricey to use everyday. I don’t. We like good coffee. If we went out to drink it, we’d spend about $20.00 a day. And, there would be the sunk time. This costs about $1.80 a day because I don’t buy Nespresso-branded coffee. I buy better coffee for less money. I drink it at home and I keep working.
What does our coffee habit have to do with this picture?
Check out the picture carefully. You’ll see coffee pods throughout. When we get a new shipment of pods we just toss them into a bowl. I believe that no matter what the manufacturer says about the blend, they all taste about the same. But, they package them in different color pods.
I had no choice but to photograph them in the bowl.
That’s one. The other three pictures were made in nature. One is a magnolia bloom, another is a flower and deep inside you can find a leaf that looks like bamboo, but isn’t.
When I started stacking them, I started to see something emerge. Color. Pure color. Wonderful color. I thought, “why not?” I kept going.
That’s the take away. Experiment. Keep going until the natural forces bring you to something. That’s success. Or, it might just be a big mess. That’s failure. I reckon that I succeed less than 10% of the time.
Serve Somebody. That’s from an old Dylan song. I’m listening to the live version which was just released. Recorded in 1979. Released in 2017. It’s a long story. Let’s just say it was made during his “Born Again” period. A lot of people didn’t take him seriously. But, he was at his live musical peak. His voice was in great shape. His stage presence was amazing. He played Christian rock before it was a thing.
The picture was made on that day in The Bywater. Just like yesterday’s post. In fact, it was made about three minutes later. That should give you an idea of how I work the scene. When I’m on the scene. And, it isn’t moving. Like a second line. All I can say about this picture is find the pay phone. Heh!
The image works on almost pure color. Even before I tinkered with it, the thing that caught my eye is the contrast between the red car and the blue door. I made a couple of pictures without the car. Doesn’t come close. The picture needs the car. It needs the clutter of the stop scene.
Boy, I get so confused. The reaction on other social media to yesterday’s post — the one that focused on the pay phone and the building behind it — was wonderful. People who I respect as knowing something about art really like it. Thank you very much.
I never saw that image as being very good. So, either I’ve managed to get so good that I just burp out good pictures and don’t know it, which is as likely as me living to 300 years. Or, I have no idea what I’m doing and just get lucky sometimes. That’s more like it.
I’ve been thinking about it some. That’s always a bad idea. I think it harkens back to my photojournalism days. For those of you who follow me on Instagram, you kind of know what I mean. All those black and white pictures really make me smile. They are of people. They are of the places in which those people live. They are comfortable to me.
This new work — all of it — is experimental. I have no idea if it matters. To me. Or, to anybody else. It isn’t very comfortable. I suppose that’s okay. It’s in that little zone where growth comes. Based on comments going back to may layer experiments of a few months ago, you like them. And, that matters. Some people say to do whatever you want without any concern about what others think.
That title? Serve Somebody. We all gotta serve somebody.
That’s the question. As I mentioned yesterday, a fellow blogger asked how I come up with my ideas. If you read some of the comments for yesterday’s post, especially those between Michelle and I, you know my answer.
I don’t know.
I’m not putting anybody off. Or, being secretive. All I know is that I always saw and thought in the way that I do. It wasn’t always as clear to me as it is today. But, clarity came with time, experience and practice.
Besides, telling you how I come up with something is assuming that my something is the same as yours. That can’t be correct. We are all different.
Instead, I’m going to talk about my rules. The ones inside of me.
I’m hesitant to do that because a year or so ago, WordPress asked new photographers to shoot a picture following The Rule of Thirds in one of their challenges. The response was loud and very noisy. “I’m not following any damn rules.” “I can do anything that I want.” “Who needs rules?”
Uh. Wait a minute. The Rule of Thirds is a mathematical concept based on some laws of nature. Human beings are more or less built in thirds. So are trees. Flowers. Bushes.
Lighten up. Read the concept. Learn the rule. Then break it.
My first rule is Robert Capa’s old saying. Capa was a famous war photographer who photographed World War II’s D-Day and managed to step on a land mine in the earliest days of the Vietnam War and blow himself up. He said, “If the picture isn’t good enough, you weren’t close enough.” Think about that. It doesn’t just mean physical distance. It means an emotional distance. Spiritual distance. It implies closeness with the subject.
My second rule. “Don’t take the picture. Let the picture take you.” I’ve heard that from a number of sources. Think about that. Wait, wait, wait. The picture will appear if you just work with the subject and take your time with it. Sometimes it’s a look. Or motion. Or light.
My third rule comes from National Geographic Society’s William Allard. I never look at pictures of a place to which I’m traveling. I research it. I read about it from a historical perspective and from a semi-fictional point of view. I prefer to find my own pictures. I do not want to duplicate somebody else’s work. I don’t want to find the place where 100,000 other photographers worked. I don’t want my tripod to be in their tripod holes.
My fourth rule comes from Jay Maisel. If you aren’t impressed with your own picture, how do you expect me to be impressed by it?
My last two rules also come from Mr. Maisel. Leave everything and everybody better off than when you found them. Make your subjects smile. Talk to them. Remember that your picture is their story. Tell it. With honor and dignity. That applies to scenics as well. Take nothing but pictures.
And finally, always carry a camera. You can’t take a picture without one. It is certain that the moment will not ever be the same. It’s not very hard these days to carry something with which to make a picture.
Which ones do I follow regularly?
All of them. They are deeply ingrained inside of me.
I’m going to add one more. My own rule. I’m old enough now that I can create rules too. Heh!
Don’t make every picture you take precious. You don’t have to go on some big trip to take pictures. Take pictures. At home. In your yard. While you are out and about. As a friend of mine says, some of the best pictures are the ones that you make photographing your world. Show us your world. You’ll be far better off for it. So will we.
These pictures. My world. My way. Christmas lights. Decorations. And, a bit of the tree. Why this way? I started out by shooting family pictures and the usual documentary things. Pretty soon I got bored and started looking at shape. And color. And light. I controlled everything. But, the ISO. I let that fall into auto because photographing directly into lights can get tricky. You can end up with a bunch of bright point of light and a bunch of silhouettes. And… I’m lazy.