26 Sep Photography Has Invaded My Every Thought
You hear it all the time, people “viewing” the world in a perspective that is unique to only those in the same career field. With each life experience we gain as we live each day, we wake up and see the world a little differently, whether we like it or not. This perspective greatly skews itself in the direction of topics and ideas where your mind spends a lot of it’s time thinking, observing, acting-on, and discussing. We become hypersensitive to these things we specialize our lives around. The “perspective” I am specifically referring to in this post is that of a visual sense, however, the varying perspectives of the world span from the other senses our bodies have (like hearing or smell) to just thoughts. Of course, all of these perspectives are manifested from thought, but they work in-tandem with our sensory organs.
It should be no surprise to those reading this that my perspective has been warped by my obsession with photography. Like the blind gain an uncanny ability to heighten their sense of hearing, I’ve come to modify my sight and how I view the world in photography. My quest in making new and different photography (and in as great of a quantity as I can), puts me in a mode that hunts for anything that can be utilized to inspire, create, or evolve a photography concept. I’ve become fascinated and an observer of what I’ve already experienced my whole life, which is light and how it reacts in an unimaginable number of environmental variations. For example, I understand that candle light is faint, very orange in color, where fluorescent bulb is much bright and different in color temperature. I understand that glass, metal, and other like-objects hold reflective properties. All of these things you learn as a kid, but you never really have to consciously think about them in every day life and how they effect your life, because quite simply, they don’t real matter that much. Not until you pick up a light capturing device, like a camera, do you start to find an appreciation of everything you already “know.” Turns out you really don’t know much about it after all. Further more, you don’t understand how important the smallest variations in time of day, light variations, surface properties of simple objects sitting in a room, etc. really are until it comes time for you to replicate it accurately with a camera. Essentially, you are observing non-stop, taking mental notes, testing, failing, and learning all over again in a new world hidden inside of the same one you’ve known since birth. It’s a rewiring of the brain, and sometimes it’s a fricken battle to accomplish, because you are fighting your whole life’s idea of how things are. For me, it’s taking what I know about life, shoving that knowledge in to a camera, and looking at it via the lens. This rewiring process can’t even begin until you understand the camera and what it is capable of. Further more, with flash photography, the camera and only the camera is capable of seeing what flash photography can produce. After years of observing flash photography produced by cameras and the lighting tools which helped manipulate light, you can start to predictively visualize the world that your camera sees. It’s very much a trial and error process, a LOT of observing.
I don’t use the word “obsessed” lightly, so when I say that my photography (more specifically my off-camera lighting techniques) has bled into my every day life, it’s no joke. I don’t see a car sitting in a parking garage, a pool table in a bar, a dancer in a ballroom, or even a random person sitting on a bench in the park like most other people do. I don’t look at it within the same lighting conditions which are currently presented, rather what they’d look like with a number of flash lights popping off with a various set of light modifiers. I can see the same environment lit a dozen different ways, creating a dozen completely different compositions. Believe me, if you are not familiar with what flash lighting can do to an environment… well, it’s a magical thing. I think the thing I love most about the whole off-camera thing is the fact that I am literally creating an environment that would otherwise not exist. A dozen, heck… a hundred photographers can pull a camera to their face and take the same photo by just capturing what is laid in front of them with existing light. No one else can walk up with a camera and capture my same flash lighting vision. Much like a painter with bottles of paint and a blank canvas, no one will be able to paint that same image. The painter creates with paint, I paint my canvas with light, my canvas is the present world in which I paint my light on. It’s a sweet thing.
Beyond the off-camera light visions that I can’t seem to escape, I also see the world via the perspective of the camera lens a lot. Along with the restrictions, advantages and disadvantages a camera, it becomes almost a second nature reflex (viewing the world through a camera). How I can expand or compress a composition with different lenses given visual challenges, where a camera’s pros/cons or the human eye’s pros/cons have the leg-up with the presented light, how a lot of situations can be best captured in a still image. It all comes back to that being a constant observer of light, but within the confines of the photography world, constantly rewiring my brain, mentally preparing it for if particular occasions present themselves, I have a plan of attack and a better understanding of them from a camera perspective. Again, my “old” brain already knew all of these basic things, but it had no idea how to reiterate that via a camera. That’s my job… to tell a story, project an idea or mood, draw your attention to or away from details, etc. and to do it on in one still image. Of course my brain can immediately interpret a scene, know what it is, what it’s about, but wait… how does that work for a camera?
I wish I could rattle-off a list of ridiculous (and definitely nerdy) thoughts that pop into my head which take a completely random topic in life and I somehow tear the entire topic apart with photographic daydreams. Just the other day I was flipping through the yahoo news feed and came across that article about a planet scientists spotted in space that orbited two suns. They related it to the binary star system showcased by the planet Tatooine in Star Wars (hey, it was their nerdy reference, not mine). The suns move independent from each other, meaning that the day light and sunsets view, from this planet perspective, would be different every day. You could imagine what this did to me, my mind full of curiosity of the lighting possibilities this would create. This would also mean that mid-day shooting would be able to produce visually pleasing images since one sun’s light will fill in the shadows made by the other. How cool would that be? Then mixing in off-camera lighting on top of that, booyah. Would be fun, but unless Canon includes a free space ship capable of flying 2oo lightyears away in the box with the new 5D mkIII, I won’t get a crack at capturing Tatooine anytime soon.
When will photography stop invading my every day’s train of thought? I’m gonna peg that guess around… never. At least not until somethings else comes along that can slap me in the face as hard as photography did. It’s been a delight capturing images steadily for about six years now. I’ve capture thousands of images for myself personally, I’ve had the great fortune of capturing casual, important, and once-in-a-lifetime events for personal and commercial clients. I get to wake up and create images, cataloging a period of time on earth (hopefully with some style). Some times I wonder what will happen to my images once I’ve passed on, and they are all that is left of my professional efforts. Will my kids hang them on the wall, have a gallery of them on their iPads (38th generation)? Hell, I have no idea what the road ahead holds, photographically, but I have a feeling that the future images out there waiting for me to snag will only get better and better as my relentless mind won’t stop thinking about clicking a damn camera.