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A blog dedicated to the Source of everything good.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

On why I take pictures

Long-time reader and commenter Elena has asked me to write about my photographic hobby. She’s interested to know what sort of camera I use, what inspires me, etc. I wrote a little about that in the opening post of my “doorway” series, but will try to give a more thorough answer here. Thanks for asking, Elena :-).

I use a camera that my husband bought me as a surprise Christmas gift two years ago, an Olympus C-50 zoom 5.0 megapixel point-and-shoot. For a point-and-shoot, it is a very good camera, combining many features of a multi-mode SLR (single-lens reflex) camera with the size and convenience of an “instamatic.” Prior to going digital I used a Canon A-1 35mm SLR. The Canon was my photographic companion for nearly 20 years. I still have it, but the flash units began giving me trouble and the camera-plus-accessories became inconvenient (if not impossible) to lug around along with my very young children and their accoutrements. Besides, I wanted to be able to put photos directly to the computer. My plan was to do some research on digital SLRs before purchasing a digicam, but the sheer daunting nature of the task (not to mention the price of a good digital SLR) prevented me from executing such a plan. That’s where my husband, unbeknownst to me, stepped in. He wanted me to be able to enjoy my hobby and continue taking pictures of the kids, so he got me the Olympus.

I am amazed at what the Olympus can do. I do miss the focal-length choices I had with my Canon A-1 lenses (telephoto, wide-angle, and macro – wide-angle especially) and ability to precisely compose a shot (I crop many of my digital photos in a photo-editing program to make up for that). I also miss having control of depth-of-field and of exposure to the extent that I did with the Canon. But I’ve adapted to the Olympus’ limitations and have had great fun with it.

As to what inspires me, well...basically, anything that strikes me as interesting, clever, and/or beautiful. I notice the way light falls on surfaces and objects. I see patterns, colors and the way they interact; shapes, form, and lines and their interactions; the beauty of things natural and otherwise; and suggestions of symbolic or meaningful things. Usually things strike me in a way that goes deeper than the purely visual.

In many ways I find photography to be like music: a photograph has rhythm, form, movement, pattern, and interplay; it depicts things, it is emotive, and it has beauty. It is expressive on many levels. Composing a photograph is like shaping a phrase – it must follow certain rules and have the right balance in order to succeed, but those rules are themselves dependent on the nature of what’s being depicted. In other words, a photo (or phrase/piece of music) must make sense within itself according to the medium, the subject, and the concept. Often I feel I cannot capture the right balance in a photograph (or in a phrase of music!), though. Sometimes this is due to the fact that I haven’t the time necessary to make a “perfect” shot – I generally grab shots on the fly. But someday I hope to have opportunity to be more studied and careful, as well as technically more accomplished.

(Classical) music recreates/interprets a concept that’s been “frozen,” i.e., notated on a page, whereas photography freezes a moment and records something in that moment. I like to capture what I see, to photo-journalize my environment and my life. Perhaps, in a way, I also try to defy time. If you want to get psychological about it, photography is probably a way for me to try to verify, portray, and preserve goodness in the world and in life, as well as explore just what is good and beautiful. To do this in depth, however, takes time and inspiration that I don’t have much of at this stage in my life. Maybe someday.

Photography helps me learn things about myself, positive and negative. It’s both a window and a mirror. Like a good friend, though, it reveals and reflects without condemnation. It confronts with kindness.

It is also a means of connecting with others. I like to share what I see so that others may appreciate what’s around them and maybe see things in a different light ( ;-) ) than they would otherwise. I love it when someone else’s photos do this for me.

Ultimately, a great photograph is like a great performance: it expands one’s world, informs, edifies, inspires, awes, helps one process things, and maybe takes one’s breath away. It makes one thankful.

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  • Your fifth paragraph deserves a wider audience! (So does the rest, but that one was especially good.) I'll probably give it a little (not much) wider one.

    By Blogger Martin LaBar, at 7:01 AM  

  • Hobbies are a little something extra that God sews into the soul of our being.

    By Blogger Darlene, at 11:54 AM  

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