Shooting Perfection

Apologies now, since I already feel that this post is going to unravel in a few directions.    The main subject is photography.  Subtopics: Photography as a Creative Outlet; Photography and my Perfectionist side; and, Observation versus Participation.  Stick with me, I may have a point in here somewhere…

I’ve moved on from my little Kodak point and shoot.  It served me well, and I’m keeping it around “just in case.”  However, I envy other people who have this brilliant photos of their children and vacations, and I wanted the same.  So, saving all the money I received for Christmas and my birthday, I splurged on an Olympus 620.  It’s a great camera; I am happy with the purchase.  But I now find I not only  need to learn the language and rules of photography, but also the tools, tricks and gizmos of the camera.  Nonetheless, I’ve played a bit with it and have managed to wrangle a few nice pictures of my daughter out of it.  I imagine it can only get easier.

Olympus E 620

I can definitely see myself enjoying photography as a regular hobby.  First, it’s “easy.”  Point-click-shoot.  Obviously, there’s much more to adjusting for lighting and correctly composing a shot, but even an absolutely terrible photographer can luck out with a great shot now and then.  Second, as far as a photography as a creative outlet – it’s near instant gratification.  God bless digital imaging!  No waiting for film (double bonus – no buying film, and you can just print only those images you want).  If someone closed their eyes, or a stranger walks into the shot, you know right away – shoot it again!  This aspect so compliments my impatience, it practically rewards it.  Third, it’s a limitless activity.  Take pictures when you want, where you want.

As far as creativity, I tend not to think too far out of the box.  I like symmetry and clean lines.  I think and process information in outline format – both on paper and in my head.  I’m a left-brained righty and it shows.  Photography is a good fit for me – it lets me manipulate the image enough that I feel like I am being creative without feeling pressured to come up with unique and usual ideas to do so.  As I learn more about the process, I may find myself becoming less in-the-box and willing to experiment.  Who knows, maybe taking up this hobby will spark my creative light and help improve my other creative outlet – writing.

About my writing.  I am certainly not doing it enough or well.  I am stymied with ideas that don’t go anyway.  Something which may be limiting my ability to access any vast internal creativity is my perfectionism.  Creation is messy.  I prefer order, organization, straight lines and complimentary colors.  When taking pictures, I am always looking for that perfect shot.  The picture that so perfectly captures the person or moment that it seems unreal – as though it were staged for a print ad or TV show.  But life never happens that way – there are strangers in the background, stains on shirts, unruly strands of hair, cars parked on picturesque streets.

So I often find myself “staging” and manipulating images before I even look through the lens.  But at some point, doesn’t the manipulation starts to make the image a lie.  It isn’t a perfect capture of the moment; its me remaking the moment, turning it into something I want to be.  As they say, perception is reality.  So by molding the image into what I see as perfection, doesn’t it make it so?  Is this what photography is about?  The photographer decides what is in the frame, and what isn’t.

Sometimes what is missing can say so much more about the image than that which appears in within its borders.  Which leads me to my last thought on the subject.  One thing that I never capture in my images, is me.  I can’t both view and be in the scene.  Yes, yes, remotes, I know.  But, I can’t see me in the image as I view it (at least not until the picture is taken) and philosophically, once I am in it, it is no longer the same scene – you can’t step in the same river twice, right?  So, it has occurred to me, that in my quest of the perfect  picture – of my daughter playing in that dappled light, that breath taking vista, of the celebrating revelers – I am taking myself out of these moments.  I can’t both help my daughter blow out candles and capture her doing it.  (Unless, of course I stage the photo later.  Note to self for the 2nd birthday…)  But, if I am not taking the pictures, I can’t be sure that I will as reliably preserve these memories in my mind’s eye as I would on my external drive.

The choice I am left with is Observer or Participant.  As I take pictures, I watch the scene I am missing unfold.  Even as I take part in the festivities, I am often torn out of them with the thought “Wait, stop!  I have to get a picture of this!”

This is why I think I love taking my daughter to the portrait studio – despite the ridiculous cost.  Having her pictures done is the event.  The staged setting and situations are the real moment.  Obviously, we don’t spend time in our day-to-day life lounging on an infinite background of cotton candy pink snuggling with fluffy white rabbits.  But for those 30 minutes, that was exactly what we were doing.  For those 30 minutes that was our life – staging photos.   So, the lie is the reality and since I am not the photographer, I get to participate.  While it doesn’t curb my desire for a creative outlet (I don’t get to dictate what poses or props to use) – it does temporarily satisfy my craving for that perfect picture (greatly enhanced by the portrait studio’s Photoshopping).  Yet it all feels like cheating.

Well, the mental diarrhea is out and it appears there was no point.  Dear Diary…