I just love the photo walk idea: getting together with other lovers of photography, going out, and having fun doing what we love doing. It is not talking about photography; it is doing photography. It is not really meant to learn, yet we usually learn something just by watching others and thinking about a different approach to a particular shot. It is not passive, but directly active. Last year, our Temple, Belton, Killeen, Salado area photo walk was in Temple. This year, we are going to switch things up a bit and try out a new downtown, Belton. Last year was a bit difficult to organize, because initially, our location was rejected because we were too close to other walks, in Austin and (I think) Waco. They finally gave in, but we had lost a lot of time that could have been used getting the word out to interested photographers.…
A most excellent diversion…wait, no, this is work, right? In one of those rare moments when neither life or wife required me to return home, I had Temple’s MK&T rail depot all to myself at sundown.
Yesterday, I took the scenic route back to my parking spot. I was just running a normal errand and had my one-year-old in my arms. Sure, we accidentally parked a little too far away initially, but that had nothing to do with the scenic route. The mood, history, and culture of downtown Temple, Texas inspired us to take a slightly less direct path back to the car…just for the beauty of the moment. I was less concerned with taking photos than I was with enjoying a few extra minutes of the day. What I received was more enjoyable and eye opening than I expected.
The “Learning to See” in the title is a reference to Chris Marquardt’s Learning to See Workshops. Not that I have been to a workshop, but I have listened to his Tips from the Top Floor podcast quite a bit, and really appreciate his approach to photography. I could not agree more with his website byline: “learn to see”. How we experience life, what we notice, and the learned ability to switch perspective are key ingredients to the quality of photography we produce. I learned a lesson in learning to see on that scenic walk back to the car.
I was going about my own business, teaching school (music, these days), when I heard about a young singer who was coming to the school to share about her experience in the music industry and, of course, sing a few songs for us. It turned out to be Katie Armiger, an up and coming female vocalist in country music.
I struck up a conversation with a high school student last Friday, noticing him working on editing a movie. Turns out, he was doing the final cutting for a student-made film which was a part of a theater class project (Harker Heights High School in Killeen Texas) and would be shown at their film festival the next day.
We talked about video, films, photography, and such. He asked me if I had done any video. Though very little, I have played around with it some. He told me I really ought to give them something of mine to show in the film festival as well. Why not? It would be something different for them: all theirs are full cast and crew types of productions, whereas mine is a one man show used mostly for creative experimentation.
There are many aspects of photography, many different paths down which it might lead. My own path is a journey in pursuit of reality, or “true reality” as I like to call it (though I know how redundant that sounds), and with the potential of photography to freeze a moment in time, “reality” is indeed a common pursuit in photography, but not the “true reality” or the spiritual reality which lies behind, through, and all around that surface-level reality. I heard a quote that really seemed to be attempting to bridge the gap between the surface reality and the deeper and wider reality.
In the biographical documentary about James Nachtwey, War Photographer, Nachtwey said, “It’s more difficult to get publications to focus on issues that are more critical, that do not provide people with an escape from reality, but attempt to get them deeper into reality, to be concerned about something much greater than themselves.”
I was digging through a box of stuff a friend left—I find myself doing this fairly often here in China, we leave little traces of our lives all around the place—and found a Polaroid camera and one cartridge of film, or paper, or whatever you call it for Polaroid. I have been excited ever since seeing it, and I can just feel that it will be the perfect ten pieces of paper to record a special upcoming life change.
For one, Polaroid is just cool. I remember wanting to shoot one when I was a kid when seeing some friend of my brother with one, but I was simply too little to be trusted, I guess. I have never pulled the trigger (more true than I ever knew till just recently, they really do have a trigger kind of mechanism) on a Polaroid. And second, I only have ten shots. That is just exciting in itself.
What is a camera obscura? I did not find out till too long ago myself. If you do not know, just go Google it if you want more answer than this: if you black out a room and allow light in through a small hole, you will have a live, color, (upside down and backwards,) movie of life outside displayed inside your room. It is like a giant eyeball or like you are inside your camera.
The other day, a friend of mine was showing the photos from his daughter’s wedding. Initially, I was only in the same room and enjoying some conversation with someone else, but then I started to realize how incredible the photos really were. I asked who had taken them, because the wedding was out here in Asia and (believe me) a little out of the way to find a nice wedding photographer. Unknowingly, I had asked the photographer, herself.
Assuming, from the quality of the photos, she was an experienced photographer, I actually asked how she used her flash to balance the light so beautifully. After a brief exchange, which I still have a hard time processing, I found out she had used a regular, old point-and-shoot camera! How could it be?