I went to a photography workshop last Saturday called “Get Outside of Your Bubble with Your Camera.” It was put on by the Anoka County library and taught by Wing Hung Huie. There are two more workshop offerings if you’re in the Twin Cities area. Only about twenty minutes were spent running loose on our own to take photos inside and outside the Rum River Library. I ended up with the kind of photos shown here. My sad attempt at being artsy.
Regardless, the workshop got me excited about photography again and gave me hope that I can get out of the rut I’d fallen into.
I’d been feeling tired of shooting the same-old-same-old. Plus, since I took my camera off the ‘Automatic’ and ‘Program’ settings, many of my photos were turning out horrible in low light situations or other lighting or movement challenges.
When I open my aperture to deal with low light, I often don’t get as much of the photo focused as I wanted. Worse yet, my subject is often the thing that is blurry while the surrounding crap is sharp. Worse yet, I have screwed up those special, “I’m not going to have the opportunity to shoot this again,” moments.
However, with mistakes comes learning. I’m still screwing up, but I’m getting more shots that turn out as I wanted as I become more aware of what my camera screen is telling me and when I’ve pushed a setting too far.
But that’s all technical stuff — difficult but perhaps the lesser of the skills required to get the photo that doesn’t make you yawn.
What I learned at the workshop put on by Wing Young Huie went much deeper than finding the correct camera setting combination.
He asked questions like:
- What are you going for in your photos? — Drama? Slice of life? Color? Contrast? Beauty? Art?
- What photographs/photographers inspire you? What makes you think “I want to take photos like that!”
- Why are you taking photos? To capture memories/moments of your life or other people’s lives? What story do you want to tell? Is the photograph for you or are you thinking of what you want the viewer to see?
Some of the questions I wrote down weren’t what Wing said exactly but the direction his questions spurred my brain to run. What he said and asked got me thinking about photos as a message. A story. A way of capturing an image that held significance or interest.
My photography technique appeared to be taking the same direction as my life has been taking where the surrounding junk in my life is what has fallen within the focal point while what I really wanted to be the main thing I was focusing on, is blurry and fallen into the backdrop. I want to change that with both my photos and my life…
When I thought about the photos that I like to look at, they are the ones that provide a glimpse of life. Only deeper than what is on the surface. I like to see the subject’s internal or external struggle, beauty, personality or expression. And that can relate not only to human subjects but also to animals, nature and place. Plus, I like not only seeing the personality of the subject in the photo but of the photographer themselves. In fact, that may be even more of the draw, even though there is no guarantee that I am correctly interpreting their expression of self.
I started to look at photographers to see what direction my likes and dislikes would take. In my quest, I discovered lensculture.com There I found photographers like Helen Levitt (street photography), Doug Rickhard (neighborhoods), Siegfried Hansen (streets with strong graphic composition), and Sylvia Plachy. I’m not sure how to characterize Plachy, which is probably why she was my favorite. Her photos wander between showing a sense of humor, sorrow, street photography, nature, and art.
What I noticed from my search was I really like black and white photography. I like taking away the distraction of color – the pretty factor – so you see the image rather than the attraction of the color. I like the way the lines stand out, the variation in tones, and the way the emotion of the shot comes through. I sometimes edit my color photos in black and white just for that reason – to get away from the distraction of color – and then decide I like the photo better in black and white.
I also discovered that I like photos with either people, animals, or other living creatures in them rather than just a landscape scene or flower. There are exceptions to that – an outline of a tree, dew on a flower or leaf, light shown in a unique way, architecture or street photos that show interesting lines and composition. Okay, there are a lot of exceptions, but let’s just stick with thinking about strong, consistent image drawing power.
The funny, or perhaps scary, part of what I most like is that it is the kind of photography that most terrifies me — taking photos of people. When I do take such photos, I’m usually a stalker, taking the shot on the sly. Because of that, they usually don’t turn out very well because I’m in a hurry, trying to take a quick shot before I’m noticed. I’m not comfortable with the thought of invading someone’s life and space. I’m afraid that if I ask someone if I can take their photo they will expect that I know what I’m doing. That I need to get WAY better first. I’m afraid that I’ll take too long and inconvenience them. And the clincher… I don’t want to look stupid, clumsy, and inept.
When people in the workshop voiced similar concerns, whatever their fear was, Wing’s response was that you should never let fear keep you from doing something you really want to do. That depriving yourself of even trying this ‘thing’, is what often leads to depression.
Wing also said that whatever people tell you that you can do or that is possible, you have to find out for yourself.
Does that mean I’m running out on the streets and asking people if I can take their photo? Not yet. But it now seems more possible than it did before the workshop.
So what fear or limiting belief do you want to test out for yourself?