As a photographer, do I experience the moment?

 

 

A friend of mine asked me the other day what goes through my head when I take a photo. Am I experiencing the moment, or am I caught up in thoughts about how to take a photo?

It’s a very good question, and I’m sure every person who takes photos has a different opinion.

I believe it largely depends on the skill of the photographer, and how in tune to his or her environment they are while photographing.

 

Lets’s say a beginner/intermediate photographer is shooting photos of his friend’s band. He’s not that good yet, and he’s not that fluid with his camera. BUT since he is still new to taking photos, he is in flow, experiencing the moment. Because he is enthusiastic about learning, and is pushing his knowledge of his camera.

A more advanced/ professional photographer shoots photos of his friend’s band. His keen intuition of the performance, and his fluid and complete knowledge of his camera, allows him to be completely present and experience the moment with the camera as just a frame he experiences it through.

On the contrary, if the professional decides to take a better or more complicated photo, and goes through a whole range of compositional tools in his head in order to do so, he may get too caught up and forget the moment. If the beginner gets too distracted by a too complicated camera, he too will lose the moment.

It goes without saying that the best art would come from individuals engaged in flow aka “Optimal Experience”. The question is whether or not individuals should sacrifice the present experiencing of the moment for a possibly better image.

 

Which leads to the idea of being a conduit.

Chaz Bundwick of Toro y Moi finishes two songs off his new album.

Chaz Bundwick of Toro y Moi finishes two songs off his new album.

Shooting Film

When I first started shooting photos, my grandfather gave me his Canon film camera so I could learn how to shoot on film. I used it for a high school photojournalism class, where the images really sucked. Exposure, contrast, everything was crap. How it will be and should be.

I kept on shooting alongside digital through the years, and it’s hasn’t been until now that I’ve gotten technically great images (without a working light meter, I use an app that has Exposure Values in a chart that corresponds to ISO/shutter speed/aperture).

 

And it wasn’t until my digital camera was stolen that I started shooting film so much.

It’s given me restrictions, and in turn made me more thorough in respect to how I take photos.

 

Here’s a gallery of images on a range of different black and white films.

 

 

By The River

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We sat by the river. A log floated by.

My brother drew the Yosemite Falls, whose sound of cascading water is a small din compared to the wind in the pine and oak trees around us. People in small rafts talk loudly to each other down the river.

I kept watching the river. Small eddies hit the sides, and bounced off down the river.

The river reminded me that ALL is stream. All is flow. Nothing starts, persists, or ceases.

Two blackbirds flew over my head, and jays chirped in the tree to my right.

The oak trees shimmered brightly in the northward wind. The breeze stirred up the pollen in turn, and caused the guy walking on the trail across the river to sneeze.

 

A family of four found themselves flung forwards by the flow, into a low hanging branch. “Get on my side, and we’ll push off of it!” The mom exclaimed.

Looking back up to the falls, I noticed the sound was actually not coming straight at us, but ricocheting around the bottom of the Upper Falls, out at the opposite cliff face, and out to us.

 

The family of four got stuck once more, and then after getting untangled, carried on down the river.

 

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Fuji XT-1 tryout

Working at Looking Glass has it’s perks. I got a Fuji XT-1 along with 3 primes, a 14mm, a 23mm, and a 56mm sent to me from the Fuji rep. Super rad time with it, even smashed the screen on accident while I was at it.

This camera is amazing. After getting used to a smaller and lighter body to shoot photos with, and getting comfortable with the dials and menus, it got right out of my way. A pleasure to shoot with.

Here are some images from shooting with it.

How To Be Curious

1. Put the phone down. Seriously. You won’t miss something. Maybe you will. Don’t worry. What you’re doing here is much more important. And once you put it down, you will realize what you are curious about.

2. Brew the coffee. Jason Dill says weak diner coffee, because the fancy shoot gets him too spun out. Whatever floats your boat and gets your mind revved.

3. Tell your best friend to shut-up, or to keep talking. You’re thinking. You’re reading. You’re doing. Something. On the verge of greatness, tapping into the ether. Or the person you’re talking to is getting you stoked, so YOU should shut up and pay attention. Whatever’s appropriate.

4. Gather Materials.  A book, a map, headphones or speakers, a guitar, a camera, a paintbrush. A skateboard.

5. Be curious.

Repeat often to be very curious.

Skateboarders in the Urban Landscape

I was having a conversation with a customer here at Nixon Berkeley, and he said he had just recently picked up his board again, for transportation purposes really. “It’s so easy, I can just pick it up and not worry about someone taking it because it’s always with me.”

He said he was skating in the city the other day, and a cop got mad at him for skating in the street, “It’s for bikers only!”

No doubt you have seen the “No Skateboarding on the sidewalk” signs all over the city.

This brings the simple fact to attention.

Skateboarding IS a crime. 

Why this is so is unclear. Skateboarding is such a positive influence for many young kids, keeping them out of trouble and doing something creative and very physical.

It’s a daily meditation for many, a pick-me-up from the world of bullshit we live in.

But they tell us we can’t do it.

What makes them right? Nothing. Destruction of property is the only demeaning action we do. All the rest of the time, we are manifestations of humanity expressing itself uniquely, by cruising flipping manuevuering through the city.

But why can’t a park bench, a park ledge, be used for something other than being a pile and smoking cigarettes? Why can’t a skateboarder interpret it the way he wants?

Why can’t a park bench be worn in by metal trucks?

Why can’t someone look at a park bench and say, “Oh look, I think skateboarders were here! I wonder what they tried?” and not “Those fucking skateboarders.”

 

Skateboarders should be appreciated for making full use of their environment, for making art everywhere they go.

Not looked down upon, or punished.

 

Ha. Like that’s ever going to change. We’ll see!

 

 

 

 

Ask Questions

Always ask questions. Never stop.

Questions are the key to growth, to discovery and progression.

How do you freeze action? How do you keep everything sharp in a photo of mountains? How do you tre flip crook a handrail? How do you sellout Madison Square Garden in 10 minutes? How do you calm a scattered mind? How do you live in the present? How do you travel the world for 5 years and not pay rent/sign a lease? How do you love someone more than yourself? How do you be happy?

What excites you, fascinates you?

But most importantly, “What would it be like to travel on a beam of light?”

Don’t just ask questions, ask great ones.

Find people that can help you answer them, and try to help them answer THEIR questions. We’re all just trying to figure this out, so be helpful.

Ask, and then chase the answers.

Have fun.

Intuition and Photography

I feel that a developed intuition is something that can really make you a better photographer.

The definition of intuition is: the ability to acquire knowledge without inference and/or the use of reason.

To develop this intuition, you have to take a lot of photos. A lot of different types of photographs. Portraits, landscapes, macro, action, documentary, long exposures, etc. This gives you a wide range of experience.

Intuition calls upon your five senses and then any experiences that are similar to the one you are in. If you’ve shot skateboarding in the midday sun, you know you can have harsh shadows on the subjects face, therefore your intuition tells you to use some flash or expose for the shadows. If you have shot macro photos of flowers, you will see it’s easier to shoot in cloudy or overcast light, as details are less contrasty. If your have shot photos of civil unrest in the Middle East, you probably will want a wide-range lens to capture everything without having to switch lenses. Throw on a bulletproof vest for good measure.

Having a strong intuition allows you to quickly size up a photographic opportunity, and make a great photograph. Without this, your photos will continuously come out unsatisfactory unless you luck out.