pWdumaNjA-6CEEBhRoD5euxNETs When All This Actual Life Played Out: March 2010

31 March 2010

Won't you smile for a camera?

Although my father was a photographer, there are few photos of us as children beyond snapshots and school pictures. I think that he found us restive and unpredictable subjects, and disliked our propensity for not knowing exactly how he wanted us to pose or smile, so there was no pleasure in sitting for him. Even at the age of 4, I look rather wary, stiff and guarded, unlike my brother who somehow always managed to seem relaxed. If he were a puppy, he'd have been doing a play bow. 

To this day, I cannot stand having my picture taken and often will deliberately look away if I know a camera is pointed my direction (my brother still manages to look like a happy puppy in photos, and I mean that in the best possible way). My wedding day was a misery in that regard, and the photographer caught at least one photo of me rolling my eyes while he barked instructions.  Unsurprisingly, in my brief stint modeling, I was happier on the runway, and I'm still not sure who that toothy, grinning creature was in the set of headshots.

Not the girl who prefers the viewfinder to the camera's eye, she who would rather document than be documented.

Tech stuff: no idea! My father was the police department photographer at the time this was taken in the mid-1960s, and based on the other photos from this series, I suspect he was realizing that dead bodies were easier to deal with.

30 March 2010

Misty mountain

Off the coast of Greenland
29 July 2008

At sunset, the fog was hanging in low over the water and the peak was playing hide and seek. At the most unexpected moments, one might see the most amazing things, and this was one of those secret and magical times.

Tech stuff: taken with my Nikon D40.

29 March 2010

Moon shot

Orange County, California
March 2010

The moon is full tonight, the first full moon after the Spring Equinox, which makes Sunday Easter.

I put my tripod and some of my new found understanding of my silly camera to work.

Then I announced that I was ready to accept the gift of that lovely expensive telephoto lens the spouse keeps saying he'll buy me.

Tech stuff: taken with a Nikon D40, ISO 800, shutter slow and aperture wide.

27 March 2010

Towers in Toronto

Air Canada Centre
22 September 2007

One of the first rules I learned about shooting photos: don't shoot into the sun. So, of course, I'm constantly shooting into the sun, always looking for that perfect HA-I-wasn't-supposed-to-do-it-this-way-but-I-did-and-look-what-happened! photo. And look what happened. I lost all the architectural detail on the sculpture because I didn't have a good lighting set up (and was using a point-and-shoot) and I shot into the sun. Also, I could have laid down on my back for better depth. The win? I got the light coming through the stars, which was part of what I was aiming for. Sure, some judicious Photoshopping would make this a different photo, but I sort of like it as is.

The other win, of course, is that after I took a few photos, Deb and I walked into the lobby of the ACC, and Rush was soundchecking "Subdivisions" in the arena. The hattrick? We were in the second row that night, and since that concert was the reason I was in Toronto, I might not have taken a great photo, but I ended up with a good souvenir of the day.

Tech stuff: taken with a Canon Power Shot S110. This is my souvenir because I don't take photos during concerts. You see all these people standing around during shows, clicking their phone cameras. What's the point?! When that actual life plays out, I'm there to absorb it right through my skin. No viewfinder for me!


I am not a photographer.

I am many things, and I love to take photos, but I don't claim to be a photographer.

I was given my first camera, a Kodak Instamatic X-15, for my 10th birthday, though the first photos that I took were probably with one of my father's work cameras, a Polaroid perhaps, or one those enormous reflex things that you see in old films with the reflector and a flash bulb. Flash bulbs are one of my earliest childhood memories.

I can still smell them.

My father was a photographer, as well as a filmmaker. While I suppose that taking x-rays isn't actually photography, he first began handling cameras and film as a medical corpsman in the Navy in the final year of World War II. By the early 1950s, he was doing aerial photo surveys of California, and in 1955, he left the United States to become a lay missionary for the White Fathers in Africa, working as a photographer and making documentaries. When he returned to the U.S. in the early 1960s, he met and married my mother, and almost exactly a year later, I made my appearance, and within a few years, we'd moved from Washington, D.C., to Tucson, Arizona--still the Wild West, then--where he went to work for police department as ID photographer. It wasn't a pretty job, but it was in the course of his work, in a small city building, in a dark room illuminated by red light that I learned about film processing, contact sheets and how the slosh of cold chemicals over paper made magic.

When I got my first camera, I learned how the viewfinder changed the way I looked at the world. A flower on a cactus was no longer just a flower: it was a potential work of art. I took my first photography class and made my own magic in the darkroom. Small magic, 11-year-old magic, but magic of my own nonetheless.

By the time I was in junior high, I'd become the yearbook photographer with my little Instamatic, on the merits of my photography class and a small award in a state contest, because I had the patience to set up shots and the guts to carry my camera everywhere. There was no glory in the job; mostly people let me know that I was in the way, but looking through the viewfinder narrowed and focused my vision, allowed me to escape the difficulties of my home life, got me out of a troubled house.

Of course, watching life through the lens eventually got me into trouble. I ended up with a concussion while photographing a football game from the sidelines, trying to get that ultimate action shot, not really realizing that objects in the viewfinder are closer than they appear...

With the exception of that yearbook stint, though, I've never considered photography more than a hobby. Sure, others have considered me the go-to person at times because I'm the one who "knows how to take pictures," so off I go to document various things or take and develop vast numbers of visa and passport photos for poor college students, but most of the documenting has been for personal purposes. I've been content to leave the art of photography to others, and to take photos for my own pleasure.

It was only two years ago that I finally got fed up with the point and shoots--the digital equivalents of my ancient Instamatic--I'd been given over the years, and quite literally shaking, spent a large amount of money on a real camera for myself. It changed the way I look at the world.

I got a Nikon camera; I love to take a photograph. I can't even think how long it's been since I've used Kodachrome, but my life is awash in color. And black and white. At the touch of a button, I can make my cat live in sepia.

I don't always take great photographs. In fact, I rarely do. I'm not a photographer. But I'm always looking for ways to improve, for ways to see. So this is a journey.

Come look at the world with me.

Tech stuff: The blog title was inspired by the song "Please Just Take These Photos From My Hands" by Snow Patrol. The background photograph, detail from a boulder in Nuuk, Greenland, was taken by me in July 2008.