Take Pictures of the Things You Love

This is an egret on Great Salt Pond this past September.  I used "paint daubs" and "spherize" in Photoshop to alter this image.

My step-daughter keeps telling me that a blog can evolve and that's good to know, because I want to write for a while about taking and working with photographs. 

The main thing is - go out and take some pictures.  Don't think too much about it.  Just notice what you are drawn to.  Photography is interesting in this way.  You think you are taking pictures of the world, and you are.  But there is so much to choose and you're the one who is choosing.  So it's also about you.  You catch yourself in the act of seeing the world.  It's your perception that meets the world as only you can see it.   I think I could take the best picture that was ever taken, the most famous picture, and still, one day it won't matter.  But I think the fact that I was outside taking pictures - that I met the world and it met me - or that anyone is out there also -  I think that will always matter. 

So what is important to you?  What do you find beautiful or interesting?  What do you love? 

Assuming you're using a digital camera, take as many pictures as possible.  That's how you find out about the generosity of this process.   Do you want to take 100 pictures over here and then go over and take another 100 over there?  You can.  Do you think you've made a mistake with a photo?  Take another.  How many chances do you want?  100? 1,000?  More?  Go ahead.  How much beauty and light do you want in your life?  You can have it.

Then go home and look at your pictures right away.  This is what my father and I used to do.  We'd go out and take pictures, or I would take pictures, and he would come with me and stay in the car.  I'd park where he had a view of the water, and I'd set him up with his radio, his snack, his paper, his water, his walker, and his binoculars.  At night, we'd look at the pictures.  In that way, I could bring him to all the places I had been.  I'd have hundreds of pictures and we'd scroll through them quickly.  He'd say, "nothing" "nothing"  "nothing",  giving his verdict with a regal flick of his hand.  Then finally, he'd say "Oooooh!".  In every case, it would be a picture of a wave, a bird or a deer.  It could have been the worst picture -  blurry,  bad light,  the ass end of something - but those were the things he loved.  We'd crop them this way and that way... look at them again and again.

It was important to look at the pictures right away.  It caused me, very naturally and intuitively, to connect my results with the act of taking pictures.  It taught me more about what I wanted, made me pay closer attention.  It also showed me when I needed to learn a specific technical skill, but in a way that was always directly useful, relevant to what I wanted to do.  This is the way I learned how to do photography.

There were a few human instincts at play.  One was the instinct for sight, and another for hunting, and another for seeking light, and another for knowing beauty.  There was also the instinct for learning.  I love this about photography:  It works with what humans do best, with what we've been doing for 200,000 years.  Photography affirms all of us in what is to be human, and it affirms each of us, specifically, as individuals.  We each have our own way of finding beauty.  It is about what is inside of us as much as what is outside.  We do have something to show to others. 

So I practice my skills (and those become mostly automatic after a while), but I always lead with what I love in taking pictures.  I tell myself the moment is more important than the picture.  I try to relax.  I follow what I'm drawn to and what I love.