Tuesday, April 5, 2011

On distant digital derivation (and a digression or two)

This weekend I attended a photo class. It was a impulsive thing - a wish generated by my mother, adopted by me, triggered by an ad in our local newspaper, and eventually followed through by the combined effort of miscommunication and generosity. My mother entered us despite me having laid other plans, and without knowing the cost. When discovering the cost (which was a little over the price we'd expected), she offered to pay. I altered my original plan, and we were thus able to participate.

Much alike how I will change my original plan for this post. 

I meant to write a little about the class, about how useful it had been, and to show a few samples of snapshots that proved I had through the course of 14 hours concentrated on one hectic weekend, I had become a superb photographer. But then the course didn't prove that. 

What I learned through this course, in addition to the stuff on the curriculum, was a) that I am NOT (as I thought) a good-ish amateur photographer; I am a terribly mediocre one, b) my beloved camera, Buck, that has been my compadre for four years, on three continents, during various times of stress and worry; is outdated. Buck is no class act camera. Buck has limitations, and c) if I want to take great pictures I also will have to do some post-shot work, meaning Photoshop. Tampering with images is no longer an issue; only purists will consider it any different than doing work in a darkroom. Photoshop is the darkroom of the digital age. 

It was three largeish disappointments to handle on top of a whole lot of (very useful) information regarding shutter speed, aperture, ISO, file formats, lightning, composition and so on. The class was interesting; the instructor impressive, engaging and lovely; and I think in the long run it will make me appreciate photography more. It has triggered a new set of thoughts around this vagueish hobby of mine. But I feel I had more use of learning of these things than of learning how to use them (especially since I didn't learn how to use them, due to points a) and b), and by default c) (since I don't have or plan to get Photoshop) above. But rather than taking all these new "rules" I've learned and putting them into use, I prefer learning by doing. Walking the road myself, see what happens. Okay, so the chances are that I will take a gazillion crappy photographs. But perhaps that is the price I have to pay to find my way of taking those few, great ones I sometimes feel I get. 

One could easily turn this into a writing analogy. I recently almost applied for a writing class. I didn't tell a soul about it, because I didn't want to face having to deal with people's reactions should I not get in. In the end, I shouldn't have worried, since I didn't even apply. One reason was the whole Japan debacle that turned my life upside down for quite a while (and to an extent still does). But at the same time, this freed up considerable amounts of time, so if I had wanted I still could have applied. 

The deadline was April 1st. I ended up not even trying. I could analyze it all day long, and I could make excuses all day long. It makes very little difference. But the lesson from the photo class applies here too: a writing class might have infuriated me more than inspired me, since I like to walk the path myself. Everything I know about writing, I have taught myself, from reading. By adding new genres, new authors, new books, I have expanded my horizon. Obviously there are still things I could have learned from a writing class, but I am not sure I'm ready to go there just yet. I need to figure out things on my own first, then I can absorb more information, more "rules", more ideas. 

Or maybe I'm just scared to discover that I am mediocre, that I am outdated, and that I need to "Photoshop" my work before it's ready for the world? 

Or. Maybe my failure to apply for the class has to do with the general post-Japan funk I've been hitting lately. I'm having a hard time getting out of bed, getting my butt off the chair in front of my computer, enjoying the weather, enjoying free time. I've been restless and motionless at the same time. I don't have anything to do, but there is an abundance of things I could do, should I feel like it. But I don't. I don't feel like doing anything. It took me days to summon the energy to write one single email to my current (former? Past and future?) employer to ask them if anything regarding "my situation" had changed. Will I go back? I still don't know. They still don't know. Shall I apply for jobs? Of course I shall. But I postpone. And postpone. It took me another day to change two lines in my resume. At this rate it will take weeks before I send off any applications. 

Limbo funk. Writing funk. Spring funk. Japan funk. And now photo funk. I need to snap out of it, but I don't really feel like it. I feel like sitting in a blanket hut in my room with a flashlight, pretending that the grown-ups are monsters, and that they cannot reach me as long as I keep completely still. 

This post is long, especially for A-Z standards. And yet I am asking you to visit a few links I'm about to post. Outrageous. One is another blog post I wrote for today. Over at Burrowers, Books & Balderdash the complete different side of my funk is showing - the silly side. Then, at our Burrow website, www.the-burrow.org, our collective spring mood is displayed in a brand new drabble feature. ¨

Finally, I read a blog post by the lovely Bru yesterday that really made me nod and shake my head all at the same time. She makes some very good points about the A-Z challenge, and I think the post and the comments below are well worth a read no matter how you feel about the challenge (but please keep the discussion civil). Obviously I don't agree with everything she says, since I am participating. But I must admit it got to me, even if I feel I've been clear from I signed up that I'm in this for my own part - for regularity - and not to gain followers. I won't attempt to visit every other blog in the challenge, and I don't expect every participant to visit mine. The new blogs I find as a result of the challenge, I consider a bonus. (I had a longer comment on this over at Bru's blog, but something technical sumfink has been messing with me, because it is all gone, and it was waaaay too long for me to even consider writing it again.)

Anyway. In response to Bru, possibly; as a way of talking myself through the funk, definitely; and because the whole "reader friendly, short post" concept doesn't always go well with my random, digressionary nature - this has been the monster post of the century. Bear over with me, and come back for Wordless Wednesday tomorrow (it will be a picture from my sorrow-less, pre-photo class days as a good-ish amateur, when Buck was solid gold and I thought Photoshop was for the tech savvy alone). Thanks for listening.  


Rayna Natasha Iyer said...

I don't know about your instructor, you I definitely think you are a good photographer.
Depending on the subject, you either bring in your own special brand of quirky, or you do the done thing slightly differently from the norm. Both of which make your photographs memorable.

February Grace said...

Hey there!

I'm sorry this wont' be a long reply (or a proper one tonight- will try to email you later- just had to basically shut comments down on my blog to all this- I've had enough...) but I wanted you to know that I got your comment via email and have a copy- would you like me to repost it to the comments on my blog for you?

Let me know- if you want me to, I will copy and paste the whole thing (or better still, I'll see if I have your email and email you a copy and you can repost if you choose)

sending you hugs- I hope you feel better. I won't say 'soon' because after what you've been through it'll be a process...but just know I'm thinking of you with affection.


February Grace said...

PS! I found where Blogger hid your comment! For some reason (don't know why) it mistook it for spam.

I just had to hit 'publish'. It should show there now.


LL Cool Joe said...

"I'm having a hard time getting out of bed, getting my butt off the chair in front of my computer, enjoying the weather, enjoying free time. I've been restless and motionless at the same time. I don't have anything to do, but there is an abundance of things I could do, should I feel like it. But I don't. I don't feel like doing anything."

Man I can relate to this at the moment, and it sucks. I'm just hoping this phase will pass, for you, and for me.

Katie Rob said...

"Or maybe I'm just scared to discover that I am mediocre, that I am outdated, and that I need to 'Photoshop' my work before it's ready for the world?"

Man, I know this feeling.

As for your funk, I had a good friend who was living/working in the airline industry in NYC through 9/11, and got into a similar funk. She really didn't shake off her funk until she went to live in Paris. So what I'm saying, I guess, is that you should move to Paris. There's some practical advice just for you.

David L Macaulay said...

ah limbo funk - I get this from time to time when it seems impossible to do anything but inspiration can come from the strangest of places - good luck.

sue said...

I want to say rude things about teachers and 'shoulds' and 'oughts' and the whole 'needing' new stuff and 'needing' photoshop and all. You're you, not them, and I feel a rant coming on so I'll stop there.
Give yourself time, hide under the blankets. One blog I read talked about just making time to BE, allow space for it all, incorporate it and then see what happens.

Áine Tierney said...

I've done lots of writing classes and groups: some are awful and some are brilliant. If they are good, it is rarely about the instructor/group leader, but the other people in the group. I don't agree with the view often expoused 'out there' that writing classes create cookie cutter writers. I've a good friend that really influenced my writing. She has a very melancholic, sad, sensitive tone, but the level of detail in her writing is incredible. I think I really learnt from her, more than any book or teacher, that the 'divil is in the detail'. But my voice is completely different to hers.
Best of luck with the photography and writing!

Michelle Gregory said...

sometimes ignorance really is bliss. i had fun writing back when i didn't know anything. now that i've read the books and blogs and gone to the classes, i stress out over every word. dang. part of me wishes i could go back.

welcome to my world of poetry said...

You have been through alot of late, don't be hard on yourself,
Take each day as it comes.

I read with interest your blog today, hope you'll feel much better soon.


Cold As Heaven said...

I'm more like a cowboy-photographer, carrying a camera that I can snatch from my pocket in a second, while skiing or biking. I try to capture the moment. And I only use cameras that I can afford to wreck, because I do that quite regularly >:)

Cold As Heaven

Marjorie said...

My classes tend to show me how inferior I am too. It just makes me want to do better.I look around me and see amazing photographers and just think how terrible I am at it! Though sometimes I come out reasonably satisfied with my work.

Cruella Collett said...

You guys are the sweetest :) Thanks for the support! *group hug*

Michael Offutt said...

You have to be a better photographer than me. lol.

Jules said...

You forgot just "general funk." And you mean grown-ups aren't monsters? Dang, another bubble busted. Hang in there :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

The Words Crafter said...

Wow, you just voiced some scary little thoughts in my own head. I love to take pictures and I know they're not great. But I like them and I don't know if I'll ever learn how to do the whole photoshop thing...

Pat Tillett said...

I can't offer much on this subject, because I struggle with it myself. I do it, but it's a struggle. I think I'm too A.D.D. to ever be very good.

First off, I just want to say that your photos are good!
I always have a lot to say on this subject. I've taken a few classes and EVERY one of them made me want to stop taking photos because they always seem to try and make it seem complicated. IT's NOT that complicated. In this day and age there is no reason for it to be so complicated. Most digital cameras these days have modes built in, that will get you pretty darn close to where all the settings should be anyway. If you gotta have perfection, you can go on from there. The NUMBER ONE most important thing you can develop as a photography is your "eye!" There are folks who take AMAZING photos with nothing but their cell phones. They can do it because they have a good eye. Composition and lighting are 90% of the deal.
And now to photoshop. You can do 1000 times more things with photoshop than you could ever do in the darkroom. I don't like that fact at all. These days too many pics are photoshopped to the point of looking more like paintings. I don't even own the program. Sorry, I didn't mean for this to be so long...

Cruella Collett said...

Again - you guys make me smile and blush and almost cry a little. The best. That's what you are!

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