Am I the logical left or the creative right? A combination of both or leaning more one way then the other?
Although my write up along side says 'photographer' I am that in a very loose use of the word. I am not a professional, nor do I know all the technical lingo that goes with photography and cameras. I'm very likely to give you a blank look if you ask me how many megapixels the camera has, pretty much how I am with my car. It needs to go from A to B so it is my tin can on wheels. My camera needs to take photographs and I'm not concerned with what it is doing inside to achieve that photograph.
I got my first DSLR in 2008. The photography bug really bit around 2010 when I started getting more opportunities to get out and take photographs and by 2011 I had joined a camera club and my photographic journey began. In between I was Admin on a weekly photographic page on Facebook and I slowly learnt the different terminology and basic rules of photography.
As a general rule of thumb you would attend some courses first to get to grips with the actual workings of your camera and eventually give you the confidence to shoot in a mode other than Auto - that big green button on most cameras. I really learnt by default, much like I do in life. Make a mistake, work out what is wrong, fix it, repeat and hope I get it right.
Over time I built up skill, learnt what the different buttons were for and became a more 'finished' photographer with the work I was putting up. But the technical side of things still didn't grab me. I wouldn't stop and consciously set the exposure, aperture and composition and take one shot. I would just shoot and see what I got when I downloaded for editing.
With the twists and turns that are life photography fast became my personal "go to therapy". It was a place that allowed me to escape into my own world, both while out shooting and in coming home and closeting myself up in my office to process and post shots. As I grew confident with my camera skills I started to explore with editing options, first with Picasa, then Photoscape and working my way through to Photoshop. I learnt about textures, played with exposure and generally learnt more terminology such as levels and saturation and curves which added to my creative abilities with my shots.
Facebook and Flickr allowed me to explore other avenues of photography and I gained exposure to different genres along the way. You generally as a photographer start shooting flowers and move on from there and the only way to try and set a standard for your work is with comparison to the work of others and feedback from other photographers.
By 2013 my genre of choice, and the genre I would choose if I was told it was the only way I could shoot for the rest of my life, was black & white minimalism. For me the simplicity of an uncluttered shot, often in high key, is beautiful. As photography was my therapy and my physical world was cluttered and messy I sought out ways to introduce calmness - and black and white minimalism gave me that. I was shooting with my soul, not my head.
I have over time found myself gravitating back to flower photography, although I usually combine the photograph with textures so that I don't create a textbook shot but rather a piece of personal art. Street Photography would make up my happy triangle of the three genres I enjoy most, although I do shoot other subjects as well. Portrait work being my least favourite of all the genres.
Circumstances and a need for a different kind of commentary on my photos led me to change camera clubs a little over a year ago. The club that I started with do not use the more formal kind of judging which is used by the Photographic Society of South Africa (PSSA). As with any field I personally felt I had reached a ceiling and in order to move forward with my photography and make some personal life choices about what direction I wanted to go in I needed to see what feedback my photos would receive on a PSSA level of judging.
The feedback through the new club is useful and positive. PSSA requires 3 basics as you move through the star levels - sharpness in the right place, proper exposure and use of the composition rules. Certain categories such as nature and photojournalism do not allow for the removal of those pesky branches in front of the lions nose or that oddball character in your 'news' shot. If nothing else I have learnt to pick out the focus point of a shot at a glance, which is a good skill to have regardless of whether it is skill or emotion you are shooting from. Moving through the first 3 levels are fairly rapid and then once on level 3 to advance further you have to enter and get acceptances with what are known as salons. (http://www.pssa.co.za/ for more info).
But again I find I am at another ceiling and in fact I've really stopped shooting for the most part and more often then not use my cellphone and use Instagram as my 'show place'. The difference of a PSSA shot in comparison to a emotion shot is huge (for me anyway) and I seem unable to find it in me to bridge that gap.
Which brings me to my questions - do we shoot with skill or emotions? Are we able to combine the two successfully and still progress or do we need to choose one route? Personally for myself I think the answer is a no to combining the skill and emotion and it has to be left or right - the magic in the middle is just not happening for me.
At the top of the post I have shared two photographs, a good macro shot of a jumping spider, which was taken this year with the benefit of the skills I've picked up through PSSA and a blurred image of a woman taken during a random night street shoot of the wet streets in the city centre - she was in fact not the focal point of the photograph but rather a piece of a shot that I discovered in post processing. As black and white is my preferred medium I have used black and white shots for comparison here.
The spider was a gold on PSSA judging. The lady - I don't think I could enter her in any category except perhaps visual art - even though it isn't actually an altered reality shot - it is as shot and just converted to black and white.
If I choose to stay on a PSSA level for advancement on star ratings I would have to consciously change the way I shoot in order to ensure I get the shot technically right. It isn't me though and it means I face the chance of losing my passion for photography. I can feel it - the pressure of a technically 'good' shot has dampened my enthusiasm to go and shoot. The therapy I gain from shooting from an emotional viewpoint is far more valuable to me then getting to 5 star level and as I am striving to live a more authentic and mindful life, and being present in my decisions, I personally need to take that into consideration when I pick up my camera and look through the viewfinder.
And what would life be without the bizarre twists and turns?
The image below of the 'yellow' flower has reached a ridiculous 40 039 views on Flickr. On the day it was taken it reached Explor (the top 500 shots of the day) and eight months later it is still at number 33 for that day (photos move in and out of the top 500). Yet it was taken with a cellphone on on a miserable day while I was waiting to see a Counselor at the Crisis Centre and feeling really low about life in general. The focal point is way off from where it should be as the wind was blowing, causing blur. Yet out of the 1225 photos I have in my photostream on Flickr that one has the most views, likes and comments.
It is a totally random shot, in passing shot. Go figure - emotion beat skill on that day. And continues to be my winning and chosen formula in photography.
I will keep clicking emotionally - it is how I shoot best.