I have been grieving this week.
Missing that which is slowly disappearing.
Missing my photographic innocence.
What’s that? you ask. What are you talking about now? What is photographic innocence?
Photographic innocence happens when you first start taking photographs. You start snapping pictures. You snap-snap-snap without thinking too much. You download your photos into the computer. Then you ooooh and ahhhhh in delight.
You are amazed when you look at the results. Look what the camera did! Look what the camera saw! Look what the camera produced!
You get shivers. You feel happy. You can’t believe how much the camera is teaching you about how to see.
You are photographically innocent. You are like a child learning to see for the first time. You are thrilled with what is.
Perhaps, like me, you discover that snow is not always white. Sometimes snow is BLUE! When the shadows of the forest or houses or garages fall upon snow, snow is blue. How come you never knew this before? You are ecstatic. You fall so in love with blue snow that you want to sing its praises to the Universe. You post picture after picture of the blue snow.
Until several of your friends say–gently, of course–“Umm, Kathy, have you thought about learning to use the White Balance setting on your camera?” You stare in disbelief at your friends. What are they saying? Are they saying that snow is NOT blue?
You try out the White Balance setting on your camera–after searching the menu for two weeks–and suddenly your innocent joy in blue snow thaws. It melts away and you feel ashamed as you look back at your blue snow photos. You adjust all your photos from this point forward. You are no longer innocent. You now know that snow is meant to be white–and you adjust accordingly. Your joy fizzles. In its place is a vague sense of shame.
They say pre-schoolers learn about the world this way. They start by coloring blue and green and purple suns. They color the incredible sun the way it appears to them. Until a kindergarten teacher, perhaps, says, “Johnny, the sun is yellow. Or orange. Or red. But it’s not really green.” Johnny picks up the yellow crayon, but something is gone in his expression, his creativity. The purple sun is somehow wrong. Yellow is right.
We learn…but at what cost?
I don’t usually see the world in details as much as most folks. I look at a scene or photo and take it in viscerally. As a Whole. My eyes move toward the energy and basically ignore that which isn’t energy. (Sorry, can’t describe it any better than that.)
However, lately, with the new Canon Rebel I have been lovingly advised to learn to focus the camera. Huh? What’s that mean? My former innocence has required the skill of point-and-shoot. And I am still pointing and shooting with the Canon because it’s all I can do to remember the following photographic steps:
A) take off the lens cap. (Have only forgotten about 50 times.)
B) Unlock the lens (Have only forgotten this 100 times.)
C) Turn the camera ON. (I won’t tell you how many times this has been forgotten.)
D) Make sure the camera is on automatic because I don’t know what any of the other settings mean yet.
E) Adjust the focal length between wide and telephoto. (Aren’t you pleased I can do that?)
And now I have to FOCUS, as well? Oh NO!
I said, whining pathetically to my husband, “But WHERE does one focus on this camera?”
He showed me his camera. Automatic focus. Manual focus. He patiently demonstrated how to move the lens to bring the desired object into focus. He instructed that one must at times switch off auto focus and use manual focus.
“Oh no!” I replied forcefully, “I can’t remember how to FOCUS along with removing the lens cap, turning on the camera, unlocking the lens and making sure the other settings are appropriate. HOW IS ANYONE SUPPOSE TO DO ALL THESE THINGS WHEN A PINK SPOONBILL IS TAKING OFF?”
Now I am looking at photographs and seeing that–yes–oh yes–there are different subjects upon which we must focus. It could be people, beach, sand, pink spoonbill wings or leaves. We must determine.
I can’t look at old photographs now without shuttering (pun intended) to see how many places the camera–I can’t say it was me–refused to focus on the intended subject. Instead of seeing lovely wonderful photographs I am suddenly only viewing errors, mistakes and challenges.
What happened to the days of joy and roses? When innocence prevailed? When one saw only what delighted one–and not what didn’t?
OK, OK. We all must lose our photographic virginity sometime. We lose our innocence. What we are truly doing is learning to see more. To see better. To see detail. To see deeper.
Before we saw in shallow depths. Now we see farther. We grow up. We learn to frame. To see light and shadows. To stretch wider than before. To spread our wings. To create. To truly fly.
Nonetheless, I remember the little girl (OK, adult woman) two years ago who delighted in the most technically incorrect photos. Who never even noticed what was in focus. Who loved blue snow.
How do we progress, advance, move forward while retaining some of that spontaneous innocence? How do we embrace a deeper slower knowledge of photography without abandoning our freshness? How do retain our intuitive, natural, instinctive gifts without becoming contrived, forced, stilted?
I suspect that what one gains from learning how to utilize AV, TV, P and M (don’t ask me what any of them mean even though they have already been patiently explained) will result in its own joy and connection and satisfaction.
Just don’t expect this learning to come fast. I would rather write a blog about losing photographic innocence rather than read the manual… Remember, it took seven months to learn to touch my toes. This may be even a lengthier undertaking. Thank you for your focus and patience.
P.S. Don’t you love blogging? 1,034 words later and you suddenly feel no photographic grief! You’ve expressed the part of yourself that is grieving…and suddenly you’re raring to go. You suddenly decide you’ll sell some photographs at redbubble.com. You decide you really should read the manual. You’re newly inspired! Ready to learn! Excited about the technical aspects of focusing!