Windows For the Soul - Photography

The waiting

Apart from photographing my own family, I am not really into portrait photography. It’s not that I don’t like it, but I suppose portrait photography is not for everybody. Some people feel uncomfortable when they are being photographed and I would dare say that most of us do. But then there are those who feel uncomfortable when they are photographing others. Yes, that’s me, go figure... Anyway, this is just another example that if I always have my camera with me I avoid regretting leaving it home and the common excuse to sell one’s gear: lack of use.
I had just had my sunday lunch and was messing around with the camera as usual, when I saw this photograph in my mind, and I saw it in black & white, of an old man staring at the TV set in standby mode... and I don’t mean the TV. Petrified enough for me to be able to take the shot at a low speed, hand-held ... well, not really hand-held, because I laid the camera on the table. Personally, but maybe it’s just me, I look at this photo and a word comes to mind: respect. Is that not what we feel when we see photos of old people? And when we see photos of children, don’t we all see innocence? And so many other stereotypes. Maybe this is why I have some mixed feelings for portrait photography: it usually only captures the person’s good side. Who knows what wickedness hides behind a face?... Still, I will not be posting this in the “No excuses” category, but rather start a new category for my posts: “Us” and who knows... maybe I will come up with a portrait once in a while.

The waiting_DSC_0866
Nikon D90, Nikon 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @165mm, ISO 400, 1/3, f/8.0.

A photographer's dull life - Part I

If you want to build a portfolio that does not embarrass you, just how much of a handicap is it having a dull life? How much of the result is made by the object alone and how much does it depend on the photographer? I keep asking myself these questions whenever I come across portfolios of photographers, pros and amateurs, showcasing their photos of stunning landscapes and dramatic wildlife shots. How can someone who spends most of his day in front of his computer expect to ever have a proper portfolio? I suppose it really depends on the photographic path, so to speak, that one wants to choose. But the fact is that, at least for me (but I suspect the same happens with the majority of “photo viewers”...), the photographs that tend to capture greater attention are not photos that someone who spends most of his time in daily dull routines could take. I know that these are “no excuses” (hence the name of one of the categories of posts here) that may justify the lack of use of one’s gear, but I suppose it is beyond contention that it is harder to find a crowd-pleaser on a commuter’s route than on a photography trip to, say, the Patagonia or some snowy mountain destination. And with this argument I am by no means taking the merits from photos like the one I mention in my post “A photographer's dull life - Part II”, on the “Photography on the web” page of this site, but I believe it is not really unfair saying that the subject of the photo can be a winner almost by itself. Of course, an incompetent photographer can always manage to mess up the great work of mother nature. I mean...been there, done that.
Still, I would dare say that it is harder to find consensual interest in a photo of an ordinary detail or episode of life, than it is to gather general applause with photos of cuddly baby seals, of a colourful exotic bird or of a jaw-dropping landscape.
Having said that, assuming there is some truth in this, there is little appreciation that a photographer can expect to receive from a photo of a most ordinary detail that any other person would have the hardest time trying to see some interest in. Yet, how often do we take a picture that for some reason we like, but always end up having to explain why we like it and what we saw that caught our attention. It happens to me all the time and I can only see this as a sign that I should never give up my day job. This photo is an example of that. There I was, waiting for my train. In front of me was this clock on the wall. Stopped, broken and with the logo of our public railways company. I liked the symbolic nature of the shot of a broken clock of a broke company (kept by tax-payers’ money) and the geometry in the clock’s framing on the wall. Of course, I should not expect anyone to see it like me, but as long as I am happy with it, it’s ok. Obviously, tough, the path to a career as a photographer is not paved with photos like this one. Maybe I should bear this in mind in future posts.

Broken train station clock
Nikon D90, Nikon 55-200 mm f/4.0-5.6 @200mm, ISO 200, 1/80, f/8.0.

The Lady and the Papparazzo

There she was, one second she was moving around as if she was looking for someone, the next she stood still, as if she was waiting. Briefly, though, because she never stood still long enough to give the paparazzo (me) time to compose the shot properly. The light was natural, no strobes, reflectors or any other devices to compensate for the less than perfect light (in the shade, actually) of a late afternoon of the early spring. No macro lens, just my poor man’s Nikon 18-55 kit lens and no tripod to compensate for my usually rather shaky hands for low shutter speed. With a regular white plastic bag I improvised a reflector to slightly brighten up my subject. Disturbed by our presence (mine and the bag’s) the ladybug stopped and seemed to look over her shoulder as if she was saying something like “get lost, will you?!” Well, I know the result could be better, but it could also be worse... I hope.

Ladybug being harassed by a papparazzo

Nikon D90, Nikon 15-55mm f/3.5-5.6 VR @55mm, ISO 200, 1/60, f/5.6.