Being of photography: the loss of one’s desire, the admiration and appreciation of another’s

I was a photographer.

I say, “was,” like it’s a one-shot deal, like being a non-smoker before you start (when you quit later on, you’re now a former smoker), or being a virgin (enough said there). I say “was” as I am no longer actively pursuing it as either a hobby or an interest.

I’m not really sure why exactly that is, and I’ve spent some time thinking about it. I’ve processed both my own black and white film and prints and my own slide film. I’ve learned much about the science of photography–how to best compose a shot; the ins and outs of photographic theory, depth of field, proper exposure, existing light, reciprocity failure, and so on and on.

In short, I learned how to take a great picture…or as I prefer to say, to make one. The expression that we “take” pictures is erroneous, for anyone that understands photography–you don’t physically “take” anything. You make an exposure–on film, data card, whatever.

The point being, even though I don’t pursue the hobby all that much anymore (I still snap off some shots with whatever I’ve had with me, from time to time), I can appreciate great photographic work. Every once in a while I see the photographs someone else has made and I wonder: had I not lost interest, could I have done the same?

(In a minute I’ll share one such person’s work with you.)

I believe there are probably four reasons why I lost my passion for the pursuit:

4. Something else captured my interest. My interest in photography started as a child, and continued through college (where I was a part-time photographer for my college paper), tapering off when I moved to the Southwest in the late 80s. Perhaps it was the move and new environment, perhaps it was my developing love of computers and tech, it’s hard to say. But as far as I can tell, that’s the general timeline.

3. Better and more expensive equipment was released. This was undoubtedly a big part of it. I had a Pentax ME Super; with several lenses, autowind attachment, a large variety of filters, and so on. I loved that camera, and while I don’t still have the one that I got directly from Pentax with my name engraved on it, I was able to find a replacement years later.

I really wanted something better, but couldn’t afford it. Then digital hit the market….Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can make really great photographs with a simple camera–if you are supremely talented, then yes, you can. But most of us aren’t. I’m a big fan of the camera helping me capture a shot–giving me advice that I can take, ignore or turn off altogether.

On the other hand: great equipment doesn’t make up for little or no talent. I wish I could tell you, in the years that I worked at a chain of photo processing stores, all the garbage I slogged through, trying my best to save a guy’s first baby/graduation/wedding shots with color and exposure adjustments. He’d walk in, new Nikon or Leica draped haphazardly over his shoulder, pick up his pictures, take them to his car and look at them. He’d come back in after a few minutes and demand to know why his pictures were fuzzy, out of focus, too dark, etc. He should have seen what they would have looked like if I hadn’t tried to rescue the crappy images found on his negatives. Which brings me to the final points….

2. When your work is your hobby, and you grow to hate your work–you grow to hate your hobby. I know, perhaps this is a poor excuse. But it’s the second best reason I can tell you for no longer wanting to be involved with it. The Number One reason is….

1. I could not capture on film what I saw in my brain–my mind’s eye, if you will. I would go through rolls and rolls of film trying to capture a vision that I had. I was shooting color slide film, which is particularly unforgiving. There’s little you can do with what’s there; unlike blank and white, where you do perform miracles in the darkroom. On one hand, it’s enormously gratifying when you get the shot, because that means you used just the right combination of length of time and light to get the proper exposure on the film. But that was like winning the lottery.

With digital photography there’s a back end to it, meaning getting the shot is almost secondary, strangely enough. With some of the amazing software available you can do wonders with what you’ve captured. It might look nothing like it did in real life, but it can match your vision perfectly. Learning how to best use the software is almost more important now than learning how to create a great exposure…and that’s too bad.

Which brings me to a website with some awesome work. This gentleman has learned how to capture the vision he sees onto an image, and to do so in a very unique way.

Here is just one of his photographs:

Amazing work. The original caption reads “Single exposure, no editing.” From Mikko Lagerstedt’s Blogger Photoblog.

Magic is, in itself, a science…the science of illusion. With magic or illusion you watch, try to understand how it was done, and then imagine how you might do that same thing yourself. Photography is much like that.

While you might never be able to get the same results he has, half the fun and challenge is in the trying.


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