Saturday Evening Post #159:

I’ve spent the past couple of days mentoring a young, beginner bird photographer.

It’s funny, I think, if you ask someone what they do, you might get I am (was) a Chemist, or perhaps and Accountant, or Motor Mechanic, Banker, or School Teacher.
Say “I’m a Photographer’, and its well, kind of ho-hum, yeah, but what do (did) you do for a living.
Anyone  with a mobile fone can be ‘a photographer’.

I usually answer these days, “By (pause), Training and Background, (pause), I’m a Photographer.
Not Iphoneography in there to confuse.
Still, it does lead to some interesting side discussions.

Bruce Barnbaum in his book The Essence of Photography, tells the story of two art teachers.
The first looks at the stick figure drawings of a child and asks, “Oh is that your Mum, or Sister or is it You?”  A question bound to enhance the creative expression of the budding artist.
The other will ask, much more bluntly, “Is your family really green?” And there goes creativity.

I personally can speak loudly to that, as an art teacher, in my year 8, dismissed my attempt, at a subject, as it did not fit the template or paradigm she had set.  But, I still think it was creative.  However that was, as they say, the end of my budding art career. 🙂

One of my Tai Chi masters says of learning the various forms, “Art is always changing and growing. If not, its dead”  He is quite ‘hot’ on not just completing the form the same way, each time, but allowing room for personal expression.

I’ve said here before, get a bunch of photographers together and very soon the discussion will turn to “Whatchabeendoinlately?”

And it’s not just about what work/client or style.
It usually enters into the area of what new ideas have you been exploring.

In his book, The Art Spirit Robert Heri says, A tree growing out of the ground is as wonderful today as it ever was. It does not need to adopt new and startling methods”

Flowers it has been said, don’t get all bent out of shape, and go off to seek their personal freedom.  They don’t plan to move to another location for better opportunities or bewail the climate where they are growing. They simply get on with the task.

Which leads, me hopefully to the point of the moment with Cassia, of Cinnamon.
One of the challenges I often face is getting correct exposure for a light bird on a dark backdrop or a dark bird on a light background.   Or an inflight, where the bird moves from light to shadow and the poor old camera meter just can’t keep up.
One of the reasons I shoot such work with the camera in “M”anual. There are of course a number of ways to hold that exposure, but I’ve adopted the “M” method.

Yet working with my young friend, and not wishing to ask are his birds really green (or over or under exposed), we have been discussing and practicing ways to keep exposures under control.  You may laugh, but I’ve had him shooting Aperture priority, JPEG for the past few days. It offers less room for error, keeps him behind the camera and doesn’t wander into the fantasy of the ‘digital darkroom’.

Too much light. Make corrections.
Too little light.  Make corrections.

The next few weeks will find him reaching further into the crayon box and finding he can select a colour other than green. !

Cassia was waiting for the next food delivery.  Impatiently, if Falcons do such an emotion.  She flew from one perch in the open, to another in the shade. From front lighting to backlighting and all the way through.

As Bruce  says, “Its not about technical ideas and methods… nor about making images simply because you can with the tools and apps at your disposal… It’s about, because you love photography,  putting in the time and effort necessary. ”
(In Tai Chi we call that Kung-it refers to any study, learning, or practice that requires patience, energy, and time to complete)


4 thoughts on “Saturday Evening Post #159:

  1. There is much to learn and skills to hone, and that honing never ends. Whatever the craft. Birds in flight give much opportunity to make mistakes and learn, the key is not to get frustrated and discouraged. I will sometimes switch to AP just to see what the camera says is the right ‘other’ settings. As I will often do if in a new venue, I will use an analyser to ‘read’ the room. That gives me a starting point, then I can work the ‘magic’ more efficiently, having gained the knowledge from the machine. I use the analogy as the spectrum analyser will give the EQ settings for a perfectly flat response in a given room. The camera will also determine the ‘perfectly flat’ image. Which is fine if you want to be a part of the crowd. I still have much to learn in photography but looking back over the catalogue I can see the times I have learnt and the direction of my images has changed, hopefully for the better.
    I had a fun time with a flock of eight Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos in the tall pine on Sneydes today. They finally stopped for a feed there, instead of whizzing past on the way to somewhere else.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. G,day, we have at our disposal such amazing tools and technology, some that we might have dreamed about in the past, but even then would not have been able to see how it would impact our work.
      I was going to blah blah on about Grey Cards, Light meters and the Zone System but have honestly never seen any exponent produce that ‘perfect image’. (Ansel Adams, not withstanding)
      Once the mantra of the technique gets in the way, our “green crayon drawings” will never meet the established criteria. It is I think why many pursue a life in the digital darkroom.


  2. A great post David and so true, we need to see the beauty and creativity in everything one does, and encourage it not put it down. How lovely that you can mentor a learner in your craft, what a privilege. My most enjoyable times in my work as a senior scientist was training young enthusiastic workers, who were so keen to pick my brain and learn my secrets. It is lovely to leave a legacy to those who follow. I understand what you mean by people not appreciating your career, especially when you are so good at what you do. I always also found it a bit off putting that people would shy away from discussing my previous career to hide their ignorance or pride, but show great interest in my wife’s career or children’s. We are off tomorrow, all being well, to start our short holiday break providing the boundary isn’t moved again. Stay safe my friend, as numbers appear to still be not so good down there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Ashely, Great teachers are few and far between, but then great students are also. As a learning photographer, I was like a sponge, perhaps it was the only real interest I had as a mid-teen. ( apart from sleeping). Once I got to work with ‘real’ photographers, and see how they accepted the challenges of each image, so much began to make sense.
      The grand thing I think I’ve learned over the years is that the great photographers freely offered their advice and encouragement. In a ‘pay-it-forward’ way, I tried to follow that as much as possible.
      Hope the ‘escape’ from lockdown gives you the lift needed.

      Liked by 1 person

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