OK Im struggling a little bit..

Discussion in 'Philosophy of Photography' started by mmacleodbrown, Nov 22, 2010.

  1. mmacleodbrown

    mmacleodbrown Lounge Regular Subscribing Member

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    OK, I think Im missing the point a bit, or completely..
    Partly because Im up to my eyes in study for exams, Im well aware that I haven't taken any photo's. I have my camera with me every day, but my mindset isn't just right at the moment.
    I walk through London everyday, so there should be plenty of opportunities, but either Im not seeing them, or Im still in the mentality of 'holiday snapper' which was my only experience before.
    By that I mean taking photo's of things as a memory because you know you won't be going back, or because it is spectacular.
    Im being as gentle as I can here, but some of the photo's I see here, although there is nothing wrong with them, Im thinking 'why would you take that photo?' What is the story behind it, what are you trying to remember by capturing that image? What made that stand out for you so that you had to capture the moment..
    Please, please please don't anyone take offence at that, as Im not having a go, or trying to do anyone down, but Im trying to understand what is the reasoning behind it all...
    I am using my S95, there has been a couple of nights out and I have lots of people snaps, and Im happy becuase if it wasn't there, I wouldn't have captured the memories.
    Its the everyday photo bit Im struggling to get - I sort of had it a couple of weeks ago, when I was trying to get the light trails while waiting for a friend, but even that wasn't random as I was shooting for a particular effect..
    I think it is a case of not shooting things because they are not unique? I see buses outside of St Pauls, I s'pose I could take a picture, but it happens everyday, hundreds of times a day, Im not sure it is interesting enough for a photo..
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    I told you I was struggling...
     
  2. christilou

    christilou Lounge Hall of Famer S.C. Charter Member

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    Hello Martin, I feel your pain! I think a lot of people will be more able to help you than I but one of the things you should be looking for is THE LIGHT! The right light can transform the mundane into something spectacular. The golden light of late afternoon or early morning, even silhouettes can make those buses look really special :)
     
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  3. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Lounge Legend

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    you should be able to figure it out...
    There are probably almost as many ways of and reasons for taking photographs as there are people with cameras in their hands. Some folks are trying to just preserve memories, some are trying to document some event or season, some are trying to make a socially relevant comment, some are going for some higher level of "art", whatever that means to them, and some of them just want to take pictures of difficult subjects just to later pixel peep and see what their camera's can do. Some shots may have meaning to others, some may not. Some may or may not even have meaning to the photographer. But I think almost everyone goes through periods when they're just seeing everything as they walk through life and just have to take photos of it all, and other periods when they're seeing NOTHING, even if all of the same stuff is there in both periods. Sometimes its good to give yourself a little kick in the butt to push through the dry spells, but sometimes you just have to give yourself a break and not worry about it. I was very into actively "seeing" when I was a young photographer really taken with the art and the craft of it. And then I made a very conscious decision that I still wanted a camera to remember things, but I was much more interested in being an active participant in life and didn't care much about observing it as actively as you need to when really working at photography. And now I'm back at a point in my life where I'm very happy being a more active observer and really focussing on that active 'seeing' thing again. And sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't!

    I'm not sure if this response has anything to do with what you were asking, or if you're even asking anything. But that's what it made me think of...

    -Ray
     
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  4. BillN

    BillN Lounge Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

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    Have a look at a few of the Galleries on the MU43 site

    maybe start with this - just may give you a few ideas - most people on the site are "keen enthusiasts"

    Street - Mu-43 Gallery

    There are quite a few pages

    plus have a look at the Quests - put together by Don as he tries to "coach" some of us

    Main - Mu-43 Gallery

    Weekly Image Galleries - half way down the page - Quests - again - may give you a few ideas

    Good luck
     
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  5. tanngrisnir3

    tanngrisnir3 Lounge Regular

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    When I was a boy, about 11 years old or so, I lived in London for about 4 months. I have always wanted to go back, as a photographer, and get the Moore sculptures at sunset in Hyde Park.
     
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  6. mmacleodbrown

    mmacleodbrown Lounge Regular Subscribing Member

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    I think I might be stuck in the every picture has to be a big one mentality..
    Either that or the 'every photo has to say something'
    Will work my way through the links Bill, hopefully I will get the mindset behind some of them...

    Tanngrisnir - Im appalled to say that I didn't know there were any Henry Moore's in Hyde Park, but I have only been to Hyde Park once. Maybe I will try and get some pictures for you of those sculptures - it's not the same but..
     
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  7. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Lounge Legend

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    you should be able to figure it out...
    You know how you never really fall in love if you're trying to fall in love. But then when you stop caring about it and get very comfortable living your own life, then "WHAM!", you fall in love? Or how if you're involved in a violent sport like Rugby or American football or a few others, if you worry about getting hurt and play cautiously, you're gonna get hurt - but if you just play with abandon you generally don't? Or if you're a golfer, hitting the ball as hard as you can with great violence almost never makes for a good shot, but relaxing and hitting it so smoothly and dead solid perfect you barely feel the ball when the club strikes it - THAT'S when the shot goes exactly where you want it to go.

    Kind of like that with photography and just about every other creative endeavor I've ever tried. Same with playing guitar. If I'm trying to do something grand, it never is. If I'm just trying to enjoy the process and then find myself getting completely lost in the moment, THAT's when something grand occasionally happens. If you enjoy carrying a camera and taking photos, just get into enjoying it and don't worry about the results - its digital, the mistakes are FREE!!! And if you don't enjoy the process, why are you doing it?

    I can think of very few photographs that I knew were gonna be good when I shot them that ended up being good. It happens, but it happens very rarely and its usually a shot of something static. Most of the ones I thought were gonna be really good are generally nothing to write home about. But I usually find a few I really like, some of which I barely remember shooting, and definitely didn't think would amount to anything at the time. And its only from enjoying the process enough to just be out there shooting a lot that I "lucked" into the good ones. Its obviously not all luck, by doing it you develop instincts and you put yourself in the position to let those happy accidents happen. But the best ones still feel a bit like accidents. And I'm grateful for them. And those others that I thought were gonna be great but weren't? Well, those were more fun when I shot them because I was so damn sure they were gonna be brilliant. So I got a great moment out of it, even if not much of a photograph!

    So, have fun with it, don't worry about it (unless somebody's paying you and even then you're better off to let it come to you). Or put it down for a while if you can't have fun with it. The results will come when they're ready - its largely not up to you. Or at least that's a helpful attitude to take...

    Sorry to pontificate, but that part of your quote above really struck a chord with me.

    -Ray
     
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  8. BBW

    BBW Administrator Emeritus Subscribing Member S.C. Charter Member

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    Martin, I'm glad you posted your quandaries about photography. You've already gotten some thoughtful feedback. I'd suggest several things, some of which have already been suggested. Have you considered going to the library and taking out some photography books by well known and well regarded photographers from the past? Yes, present day photographers and yes even those who post right here also have plenty of merit, but it can help to look at some of the old guard such as Cartier-Bresson, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Paul Strand, Dorothea Lange, Gary Winogrand, Imogen Cunningham, Sally Mann, to name just a few... And you can check out the Spotlight section here: Spotlight , too.

    Each photographer will have their own way of looking at the world, as you do, too. Sometimes those ways of looking at things change depending upon life and experiences. We each find our own way, but we're influenced by so many different things in our lives, from other people to life events...to where we live. What turns one person on doesn't turn on someone else. I will say that even if I don't "like" a photograph as in I don't want to hang it on my wall - I still know that it is a great photograph.

    Every photographer, every writer, every artist has something within them that compels them to do what they need to do, corny as that might sound.

    Keep your eyes open and don't think too much about what you're doing, Martin, because that will stop you in your tracks. Go out, have the camera with you and use your eyes and heart. Sometimes you might even want to leave the camera home and just look.

    Seriously, don't dwell on this too much. I used to play tennis quite a bit, and when I first got back into it after quite a hiatus my father gave me a great book called "Inner Tennis"... The more you think about that serve or drop shot or forehand, the worse it's going to be. It's the same, I am sure, for any athletic endeavor whether it be ballet or baseball. If you think too much, you're going to choke.

    So my advice - go out and have fun and let things happen. If you don't get off on someone else's photos - that's fine, it's yours that count for you.:wink:
     
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  9. BBW

    BBW Administrator Emeritus Subscribing Member S.C. Charter Member

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    Hey, Ray - it seems as though we were posting at similar times I started mine and was interrupted.

    Plenty of good food here for thought for us all.
     
  10. mmacleodbrown

    mmacleodbrown Lounge Regular Subscribing Member

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    Ray - I think BB and yourself have hit the nail on the head...

    Im definately trying to think about it in an arty sort of way and maybe I need to stop that as Im not an arty sort of person to be honest, I definately lean towards the technical side..

    This morning I was looking out my door, and saw a weed poking its head out of a pile of dead brown leaves - I was thinking ' life admidst death' or some other bull. Yes, the colour contrast between the green and brown was vaguely interesting, but to be honest - it was pushing it! It would have been a **** photo..
    I quite enjoyed trying to shoot the light trails, even though my poor little s95 doesn't really have the apperture range for it, that was shooting for a particular effect, and Im going to have a go at the water drops when I get my K20D, as that interests me as well. Maybe I need to concentrate on the technique side more until I find my 'niche'...

    I completely agree with the 'thinking too hard about it' bit, and I will have a look through flickr and other sites, see what interests me and take it from there. I promise I will try and relax as well

    Thank you again for your kind words and advice..
     
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  11. summerkl

    summerkl Lounge Veteran

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    Martin,

    I recently went through the same dilemma but for a slightly different reason. I found myself keenly interested in photography again but had the problem of less personal photo opportunities as my kids had grown up.

    I asked myself what I wanted to achieve with my photos. Here are some early observations:

    1 - I needed to find photo subjects or a style that I enjoyed and suited my activities. I tried a few street shots and quickly discovered no personal connection. I'm dabbling with macro photography and liking it quite a bit. The point is - just take some shots and you'll find what you enjoy.

    2 - Whatever I wind up focussing on (ouch), I need to improve my skills in technique, composition, vision, etc. The point is - just take some shots and you'll start to get better

    3 - Participate in a photo forum. Notwithstanding it's virtual nature, it is very social and members have a common passion. I am glad to shamelessly praise this forum for its generous, supportive and "cozy" atmosphere.

    4 - To your first post re: what, why, etc behind a photo, I recommend going to olli's blog (photography by olli). I think it's an excellent example of how to add the missing context to seeminly mundane photos. I find it to be a very useful, compelling, interesting (can't find the right adjective) combination of photos and text. My hope/goal is to be confident enough to compose a photo essay with such understated elegance and conciseness.
     
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  12. olli

    olli Super Moderator Emeritus

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    You're not Alone

    Because we've all been there and because you'll find lots of support and encouragement here.

    I'm going to second what Ray says and suggest either go out and have fun with your camera without worrying about getting the perfect shot. Having a theme or a project can help focus your mind - why not a theme based on red London buses? advertisments, passengers, number, outside famous sites etc. Alternativley, put your camera away for a while. Look at the world around you, and enjoy it, without putting yourself under the pressure of trying to record it.

    I'm embarrassed by Kevin's kind comments on my ramblings on my photography by olli blog but I hope some of it might be of some use since I've tried to think a little bit there about why some pictures work and others don't and why some very ordinary pictures appeal to me while others don't.

    No-one will take offence at your comments about the images posted here, simply because I would bet that you're only saying what all of us think from time to time. Just because it works for the poster, it doesn't mean it will work for everyone else.

    And it's not just on this forum. How often do you see images - including professional journalistic and fine art images - and simply shrug your shoulders? On the other hand, I have seen images that stand out for me and recommended them to friends who look at them and don't see what I see.

    While you're working through all of this here's an online piece that provide some food for thought. It's from Mike Johnston's blog at The Online Photographer. It's a discussion about an image that won a prestigious photographic competition, an image that Mike described as 'nondescript'. After reading the posting you should also read the comments since there is a lot of discussion on what makes an image good or bad or significant or not.

    Also, why not take a look at the images of William Eggleston and Martin Parr, both of whom are masters of the mundane and are able to reveal the world in images that are sublimely ordinary.

    Just a few thoughts to add to all the good advice you have already got. Good luck and let us know how you are getting on.
     
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  13. Penny

    Penny Lounge Veteran

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    One suggestion which may not appeal to you at all; but here goes I have just joined Blipfoto.com which members try to take one photo per day (not compulsory) its a photographic journal it may give you ideas just looking at the 'pics' that others have taken. But I have been warned that it can become additive especially if you do have time on your hands (which I understand you probably don't)
    I've been 'messing' around with cameras for years and years but until I joined this Forum I never really understood anything about taking pictures I don't mean the technical side of things (although that too is debatable) Looking at other peoples photographs have been an inspiration to me though unfortunately rather late in my life.
     
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  14. Will

    Will Lounge All-Pro

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    For me it's all about creating images rather than taking them. The most satisfying is finding the beauty in something people would normally pass by.
     
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  15. christilou

    christilou Lounge Hall of Famer S.C. Charter Member

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    Will, I think you hit the nail on the head. I try to create something pleasing to the eye, sometimes only my own! I can't paint or draw but I can photograph things and try to turn them into something eyecatching (from time to time anyway :smile:)
     
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  16. snkenai

    snkenai Lounge All-Pro

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    I have been "messing"around with cameras for a loooong time and still don't have a "pattern of action". I have just always enjoyed taking pics. Rarely do I get a really good one. I do pretty good with exposure and comp., but I m too impatient too really be good. I too find myself wondering why I spend so much money on equipment and then don't produce the quality. Part of the answer is the equipment. I love all kinds of machinery, especially good machinery, hence the love of old film cameras. I seem to be off track here, but when I get in that "dead zone". I quit trying to make it happen. But I almost always take a camera with me. "Just in case."
    The other thing I do is combine my other loves with photography. One is cooking. If I produce a really eye catching dish, I reach for the camera! It's not about the picture. It's about the food! I share them with my grown kids to brag on dad's (my) cooking creativity. The camera is always at the ready, -just in case.
    Photography is part of the whole of my life, not an added activity.

    Steve
     
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  17. mmacleodbrown

    mmacleodbrown Lounge Regular Subscribing Member

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    I found this was my undoing so to speak..
    In an effort to be different or 'arty' I was trying to look at everyday things and take shots of them at unusual angles or some other method. To be honest it wasn't working and I was tying myself in knots with frustration trying to be something Im not..
    Too much studying to do at the moment, but Im going back to relaxing abaout it, probably taking less photo's and learning to walk before running.
    Im going to get my head around the basics first which seems a better idea than trying to produce the 'perfect' photo with every shot.
    I have found lots of photo's to look at online as well as a few online competitions to enter (not to win), but to give me a theme and some thought about how to go about it..

    One of the best photo's I have seen recently, just for the sheer fun of it was Bill's ladies at the counter, I couldn't tell you why I like it, it just makes me smile when I see it, so that makes it a really good photo...

    And my K20D arrived today, but that is a project for after I finish my studies...

    A big thank you for all the advice and comments though..
     
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  18. Wallace Billingham

    Wallace Billingham Lounge Regular

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    My advice to you would be to work on "personal project" basis. This is something I do all the time. Basically you create an end goal and work towards that goal. In this day and age on demand photobooks where you can get just one copy are a great project to work on.

    While this is your project if I were in your shoes I would make it about London as you say you walk around it everyday. My goal would be to make a photobook containing 100 photos that would tell a narrative of how you spend you life in London or whatever living in London means to you.

    Spend some time asking yourself what life in London is and make a list of the top 20 things, at this point do not think photographically at all, just imagine you had to make this list and tell it to someone over the phone without pictures what would it be? Your list of 20 might be very different than someone elses and that is OK. It is also OK if you can only come up with 10-15 things just make sure that your list is as complete as you can. The things on your list then become the main characters in your book. The cool thing is you can do this anywhere and you do not need a camera. All you need is paper and pen.

    Now that you have your characters for the book, prioritize them into 2 groups. One group for the major characters or subjects on your list and the other for the minor ones. Your major characters should be 20-35% of the list with the rest minor. Think of a novel that might have 4-6 major characters and 10-20 minor ones this is what you are trying to do. As an American when I think of London I think of Big Ben and Double Decker Buses. These would be my major characters, and things like fish and chips would be minor characters.

    You now have a good working list of things to shoot and work on. As you do this take your time and remember that you do not need to shoot the whole thing in a day, a week, a month, or even a year. You will have days when you might take 4-5 good images and other days when you go out and get none. That is OK also. As you do this review your list of characters often as once you dive in you might find the need to remove some, ad some, or change some from minor to major or major to minor and that is OK also. Also review all the images you take. Ask yourself what makes them good, or what made them bad, then figure out a way to make them better and tell the story better.

    When all is said and done you will have a nice portfolio of cohesive work that you will be proud of, and if nothing else you will be able to look back on it in the future and smile.

    One final note is that after working on a project for a while it is OK to abandon it if you lose interest in it, or feel the need to change direction and work on a new project. The goal here is just to give you a reason to shoot, rather than just going out and taking a bunch of random photos
     
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  19. mmacleodbrown

    mmacleodbrown Lounge Regular Subscribing Member

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    You might just have given me an idea...
    Not quite the London thing, but similar..
    Take the tube map, and visit every station and take pictures of the area - that way I can involve the whole family as it will be a day out and go see places that we have never been to...
    I can mix and match some of the methods you have described as well to build up the work

    Thank you Wallace

    Martin
     
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  20. BBW

    BBW Administrator Emeritus Subscribing Member S.C. Charter Member

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    Wallace, many thanks for sharing your suggestions with Martin.

    Martin, you do realize that you aren't the only one reading this thread and getting some good ideas. This is a definite keeper thread. I'm so glad you took the plunge and started it off, Martin. :2thumbs:
     

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