Losing my photographic innocence

Hello Rebel! Goodbye Innocence...

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.

Colorful leaf in 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?

Memories...nothing more than memories...

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?)

F)  Point.

G.) Shoot.

And now I have to FOCUS, as well?  Oh NO!

The second picture I ever snapped. A professional photographer asked what lens I used!

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.

You can do it...

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.

One small step for photographers, one giant leap for mankind!

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!

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
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53 Responses to Losing my photographic innocence

  1. I’ve had the ‘blue snow’ conversation too. That said I do most of my photos in automatic mode and I am very happy. sometimes on Flickr I see in the comments, rafts of complex reviews on the processing of said photo. And it leaves me as cold as blue snow. For the time being I am very happy in my nieve place.

  2. jeffstroud says:

    Kathy,

    I think you were ready to lose your innocence… photographiclly! At least you had a loving companion to explain and assist you in this process, I had to pay to have some one teach me what all those other letters on the camera mean, and I Have been set free to make and create in a completely different way. I have used manual setting for some time now, I once dropped my camera, when I first got it, and knocked the lens, I have had to manually focus the lens ever since.

    There is an ad on TV for a camera in which a guy is presenting his photographs in slide show. And there is a crowd of people with cocktail viewing his work, asking, what apture did you use, what speed, what setting did you use in low light? and he response slowly and vaguely, “really big, very fast, and yes… he had no idea, of what the people were asking. The ad insist that with this camera any one can take a photograph like a professional. Sad state of affaires, I must say.

    I like you humor, I enjoyed the story, Welcome to http://www.redbubble.com!

    I am Love, Jeff

    PS: if you want to snow to be blue that is ok too!

    • Kathy says:

      Jeff, thank you so much for the inspiration to join redbubble. I still don’t know what I’m doing over there–are you surprised?–but will add that to the learning curve.

      You will be proud to know that I manually focused the lens for the first time today. It gave me a rush of pure power! LOL!

      Glad you liked the humor, Jeff…it was fun to write this blog.

  3. photobyholly says:

    I’m glad to know it’s not just me!! 🙂 As I look back on previous batches of my own photos, I am often thinking, “Yeah… I should/shouldn’t have done ___________”… and then I close out the file. Not sure why I save them all, maybe so I can pull them back out at some point and remind myself what NOT to do. I have been trying to learn how to use my Nikon D3000 for the past 2 months. I realize that I’m still brand new to this, but you’d think I would remember SOME of the basics! Following other blogs DOES help in the learning process! Thanks you for sharing this post!!

    • Kathy says:

      Photobyholly, you know, as I was writing this blog I suspected that many others might be feeling the same way. So glad you are in the same place. It was so funny being in Florida with my mom last week. We would spot a photo opportunity and I would say, “Lens cap off! Camera on! Unlock camera lens!” like a drill seargant. My mom just laughed.

  4. Susan D says:

    Ah, let them eat blue cake. Photography is an art form; poetry is an art form. Beauty, perspective, interpretation remain in the eye and mind of the beholder. This spoken by a novice who is happy to stay that way when it comes to photography. All hail blue snow, green suns and fascinating “mistakes.” Experts and critics are necessary and enhance art, but it’s still their interpretation. Art is personal. Response to art is also personal. No amount of focusing and adjustment can alter that. It’s wonderful.

    • Kathy says:

      All hail mistakes! (Actually, Susan D, I went ambling back through photos in last year’s blog and found dozens and dozens and dozens that I liked. It’s just that I CAN’T BELIEVE that the camera doesn’t focus on everything simultaneously. I was at the dentist today and kept staring at the poster on the ceiling looking, “Now where is the focus?” It was a fascinating hour at the dentist. lol.)

  5. Colleen says:

    Kathy, I love that spontaneous innocence and (technical) incorectness that you describe. Blue snow. A focus that expands my view of the world in a way that a technically perfect focus might not. Maybe photographic innocence is a quality that is worth preserving even when we know the manual by heart 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes and six hundred yes’s. (Can yes be plural?) I DO want to maintain photographic innocence. But I do want to learn the manual, too. By heart? Yikes! That’s a tall order for someone who forgets Yesterday. But will try!

  6. Blue snow is better than gray snow. 🙂 Remember, losing ones virginity (photographic or otherwise) only opens a door to a new and wonderful world of pleasures and opportunities. Your journey is similar to many but it is never the same for each. An excellent essay and your photos show your photographic evolution. There is no reason to rush, no time table to learn as long as you do and have fun in the process.

    • Kathy says:

      There you have it, Scott. Losing ones virginity opens the door to a new and wonderful world of pleasure and opportunities. I suspect you are SO right! You should have seen the color of a slushy pond today. It was the most awful color of brown I’ve ever seen. I declined to photograph. Thank you for supporting my slow learning curve. I am almost inspired to start reading the manual. (And did you see my comment to Jeff? I manually focused for the first time this afternoon. Ecstasy…)

  7. Dawn says:

    A new door opens for you now! This is your creative process – would you tell Matisse his work isn’t perfectly accurate? It’s your art – enjoy it.

    You leave me smiling – and blue snow beats yellow any day.

    • Kathy says:

      Dawn, do you remember last year I did a blog on yellow snow? Arghhh…that wasn’t pretty. It was just a lot of pictures of snow colored with sap. Not anything anyone would want to hang on their wall! It does feel like a door is opening. But in every new door that opens, something new arrives and something old leaves. I just needed to mourn that “something old” for a few minutes.

  8. holessence says:

    Kathy – I’m so glad your going to present your work on redbubble – whoohoo!

    And I oh-so-agree with Jeff, “If you want snow to be blue, that’s ok too” (there are probably big-time photographers who jump through fiery technical hoops to make their snow look blue).

    • Kathy says:

      Laurie, I could teach some of those big-time photographers about blue snow. I should have named this blog The Blue Snow Blog. Trying to figure out how to put something which links to Redbubble on the side of this blog. So far haven’t been successful…do you have anything over on the bubble?

  9. P.j. grath says:

    Maybe it’s like driving a car, Kathy. Remember when you were a little kid and could simply enjoy the ride? Then it was time to learn to drive, and you had to think about all the rules of the road and what to do with your hands and feet and where to look (not forgetting rear-view mirrors!) and how to respond to different kinds of weather and to keep track of your gauges. By now, that’s automatic, isn’t it? You enjoy the ride again, don’t you? But do you remember the Little Golden Book, “The Color Kittens”? I still like blue snow myself.

    • Kathy says:

      I really appreciate your analogy, Pamela. It is amazing how automatic our reactions can get. We so often start out being confused and challenged by learning new things. A year or two or six down the road it’s all on auto-pilot. I just googled that book to look at it. I remember so many Little Golden Books from childhood, but never knew The Color Kittens. Looks like it was an inspiring classic.

  10. divacarla says:

    Keep your innocence, Kathy. It lives in the moment of seeing that photograph big on the screen, whether photo’d with manual or automatic settings. My cannon Elph is on manual/automatic most of the time. Only when taking indoor shots of art do I fiddle with settings to capture the focues, detail, and color I need to convey. Nature moves too fast for anything slower than AUTO.

    • Kathy says:

      Carla, I adore how your answer is so CARLA!! I love how you said, “Nature moves too fast for anything slower than AUTO.” I am smiling. My innocence loves your answer. It wants to come visit you and track voles in the snow.

  11. Cindy Lou says:

    I say go with what makes your heart and photographic soul happy…and if that’s blue snow and an auto focus, so what? It makes you happy and has made us happy for a long time now!

    • Kathy says:

      Here’s the twist, Cindy Lou. Blue snow and auto focus has made me happy for a long time…but now this other fiddle-de-doo is making me happy too. It’s a different kind of happy, but it seems to be rising up from the shallow marshes of my heart and requesting a Try. I think I shall comply–without losing the happiness. (And I SO love you for your faithful readership. I am so grateful that you have been here since almost the very beginning. YOU ARE AWESOME!)

  12. Karma says:

    I think the great thing about this new world of DSLR is options. If you’d like to return to the world of photographic innocence – just leave it on P all the time and auto white balance and auto ISO all the time. When you are ready to try something different, work photos in different ways, then start making your adjustments ( in P mode or different modes). I started slowly, changing the white balance and ISO and seeing what happened when I did that. I played with the exposure compensation ( the AV+/-). At Scott’s suggestion, I played with the “command dial” while in P mode. Keep playing, keep enjoying, keep reading. It is a wonderful world, afterall.
    BTW, why/where do you unlock your lens? I have no such place or function on my Rebel. My biggest forget-all-the-time issue is leaving my memory card in the computer!! Done it countless times. Finally bought a back-up for the camera bag.

    • Kathy says:

      Karma–pssst…secret! (I have not yet learned where White Balance is on this new camera yet. It’s probably in some Obvious Place. Let’s hope it’s working properly.) I SO admire you because of your willingness to jump in and learn and explore and play and read the manual! You have been doing so great. When I grow up, I want to be just like you.

      As for the lens locking/unlocking…this has to do with the lens that I bought. Because it goes out so long, you need to lock it to keep it in appropriate mode. The lens is an 18/200. Which I am only beginning to fathom what that means.

      • Karma says:

        Huh, I didn’t know that. I bought a 18-55, and a 55-250 to go with mine; maybe cutting that length into 2 different lens causes you not to need the locking! Got my new lens today!!! It is a 50mm f1.8. Can’t wait to have more time to play with it – quick post about it at my place today.

  13. Robin says:

    I like blue snow. In fact, I love blue snow. Like Mrs. UHDD, I think I prefer to remain innocent. I’ve been going through old photos, delighting in them rather than seeing mistakes or things I should have, could have done. Sometimes what I hoped to focus on and didn’t catch brings out something I didn’t catch but the camera focused on, and that sort of thing is always a nice surprise.

    Besides, you impress me as the type of person who will maintain her innocence no matter what. That’s one of the things I enjoy most about your photos. 🙂

    Wishing you lots of sales and luck on redbubble.

    • Kathy says:

      How wonderful, Robin! Love the fact that you are delighting in your old photos. After I wrote this post, I went through a lot of my old photos and delighted in them, too. It’s just that my eyes are open wider. Am seeing a lot more. It’s a gift and a challenge. Like many things in life!

  14. Marianne says:

    Kathy, it’s a great post! Very creative! Is that a bed frame in the snow?

  15. Carol says:

    But I like blue snow. It adds something. I’ve read the manual; actually I’ve read all the manuals for all three digital cameras we’ve owned. I can read – it’s the retaining what I’ve read that becomes a problem. Hub has a Rebel, I have my Panasonic that can be more than a point and shoot, but I like point and shoot. Until I do a macro and it comes out blurred, then I grumble. Maybe someday. In the meantime, I like blue snow.

    • Kathy says:

      Oh Carol, I can see that is my problem, too. Well, it will be my problem after I read the manual. RETAINING what is read. Sigh… Glad you are a blue snow afficiando!

  16. Dawn says:

    I like blue snow too. Have always liked it. Always will. And I like purple and green suns. It’s all art. So sometimes you get to be a modern artist, and sometimes you get to record the world they way other people want to see it. It’s really up to you. I don’t believe there ARE any mistakes…they’re all just versions of the truth.

    Grow and learn at your own speed. Have to say that what you’ve produced so far has been wonderful.

    • Kathy says:

      Dawn, “Versions of the truth” sounds good to me. How different our world might be if we simply looked at things as “versions of the truth” rather than “mistakes”. I feel like adopting your viewpoint today. thank you!

  17. Tammy McLeod says:

    I don’t know a darn thing about taking pictures but I also keep that manual handy just in case I decide to read it one day.

  18. John says:

    It is imperative that you get the colors correct, proper focus, accurate shutter speed to make acceptable photos. When you feel everything is a completely accurate representation of the object you are shooting, then you need to start saving money, lots of money, to buy Adobe Photoshop. If you work hard and learn that tool you can do things like make the snow look like it has a blue tinge to it and cause the picture to be a little out of focus, change the way the light appears on your picture.

    Either that or you can continue to shoot the way you like and when they ask why the snow is blue you can tell them you photoshopped it. They’ll be impressed and you will save a heck of a lot of money. 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      That is so funny, John! I had to laugh… I really want to learn Photoshop someday. Someday. Way too much to learn right now! (Do you think they have photoshop classes in Marquette??)

  19. Sue says:

    I love it that you are so attached to blue snow! I have a picture that I should really send off to you, it’s the best/worst case of blue snowinitis you ever saw…..I tried to snap a shot of a Pelican marching across the frozen river here in February. Yes, that’s right a Pelican! I have no idea what he was doing here, but it made the funniest photo, all blue and fuzzy to boot!
    I’m just so amazed at the beauty and quality of your pictures…..you’ve come a loooong way, baby! 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Isn’t it FUNNY, Sue? I LOVE your picture of blue snow and the pelican. I really do. You may think lots went wrong in that picture, but I like it. 🙂 Thanks for the compliment. That means a lot, coming from you!

  20. Kathy, I just knew when you were in Florida and I say the images that you had got yourself a brand new camera some place along the way. I was told the other day that a profession fashion photographer often sets aside her $7,000 camera body and goes back to her Canon Rebel as she prefers it to the more expensive tool. So on that report I am guessing you made an excellent choice. I have a Canon EOS 40D with an EFS 17-85mm lens. I love this baby even if it is was a bit heavy at first. What I am wanting next is a good 300mm telephoto lens. It is on my wish list. Going from my 35 mm film camers, I too took awhile to be able to find the manual focus even though I knew it HAD to be there. I cursed my “stupid camera” for weeks until I found it… after reading the manual.

    I am so excited about your redbubble storefront. I have had the best of times with mine and it is great to have you in the next booth for chatting and sharing.

    As for blue snow, when I paint snow I usually put the shadows in with blue if the sun is shining or if it is early dawn. So I think you can choose when to it is appropriate to show the blueness of snow. Knowing how to use the white balance just gives you the choice.

    What fun! And congratulations Kathy on your new rebel walking companion.

  21. truels says:

    I was smiling when reading your essay about loosing your photographic innocense: This is a development that all of us who shoot pictures are coming through, but you tell it to your own funny way! I stopped smiling reaching the last picture – and laughed! This photo is great fun – and a perfect illustration to your story. Who made the motive??!

    • Kathy says:

      I am GLAD to hear, Truels, that many others have gone through these challenges. Phew…it’s always nice to know we’re not alone. That last photo was taken last year–with the little Sony Cybershot–at the Michigan Technological University’s annual snow sculpture festival. Didn’t they do a good job? The ice looks incredible.

  22. sartenada says:

    Blue snow – it happens to me also sometimes. When I take snow photos with my pocket (Panasonic) camera which I have always with me during winter, my snow photos are blue, but when using my Nikon D300, this kind of problem is not seen so often. Actually I have noticed that in Spring I have the same problem with Nikon too. Another problem is in winter photos when photographing ice, I mean ice art. In real life ice art is great, but when in photos, ice is too transparent. Well, then it needs some process.

    I enjoy very much of all of Your photos, but one photo brought a smile to my lips and that is the last photo. What a lovely idea!

    Happy shooting.

    • Kathy says:

      Hello sartenada–I am glad to hear it happens to you, too. We should form a Blue Snow club, lol! I don’t see the blue snow as much with my new Canon Rebel, but definitely with the pocket Cybershot. I had never thought of the ice photo challenges yet. Glad you liked the last photo! P.S. Sartenada, I am starting to learn to like photography. Just learned how to MANUAL foucs!

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