Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Marking the Occasion

Some of you remember that my blog started off as "A Photo A Day." That was way back in February of 2007. This is now my 700th post. To mark the occasion, how about a list of the top ten things I've learned about taking photos since then. Nothing earth-shatteringly new here, mostly a reminder list, really.
Take my camera everywhere.

And if at all possible, I stop when I see a photo opportunity, not waiting until the next day even. I can't tell you how many times I've gone back to find that once delightful bloom beyond its prime. Or the roadside has been mowed. Or the entire field has been paved.

That's what happened to this photo's location, one of my all-time favorite places, now literally a parking lot.

"Golden Globes," October 2008, Interstate 20, Odessa, Texas
Take photos every day.

But two or three times a week is serviceable. Once a week is bad. Zero per week and I get downright cranky.

Thankfully, though, taking photos doesn't necessarily mean going outside. Sometimes when I can't get out, the outside comes in.

"A New Friend" September 2008, West Odessa, Texas (my bathroom, to be exact)
No, you won't remember.

I keep a little notebook with me to record places I go, names of people I photograph, and even ideas for future photos. I used to say of course I'll remember. But I've learned I won't.

Like this perfect pomegranate tree, as big as a shade tree, taken back when I believed I would always remember where it was.

"Pomegranate" July 2007, Somewhere in West Odessa, Texas
Go! Rain or shine.

I've shot through my rainy windshield. I've pushed the shutter button with frozen fingers. I've dropped sweat from my face onto pretty little wildflowers.

I try to remember even just a little weather can make a more interesting photo, and a memory. Dress accordingly.

"The Day It Never Rained" June 2008, My brother Casey, Between Seminole and Lamesa, Texas
My camera and I see differently.

I can't describe this technically, but I know what we see with our own eyes is not a perfect match to a camera's capture. The trick, then, is to learn what your camera will do with what you give it, and "collaborate."

I think that's why I've stuck with a Lumix brand (four years, three cameras). We've built our collaboration. Besides, I now have three batteries, two home chargers, one car charger, and a number of cards that all fit my camera, side benefits of sticking with a brand.

"Salvia's Song" February 2009, West Odessa, Texas
Ignore "That won't work."

I was frightened when I first poked my camera into a flower: "It will be crap and I'll ruin my lens trying!" Since then, I've kissed a thousand flowers, and my lens keeps on going after a thousand cleanings.

Each time I go out, I include trying a "Nah, that won't work" shot. It usually doesn't. Sometimes, it opens a whole new world.

"New Camera" June 2008, West Odessa, Texas
Shoot the breeze.

I'm no stranger to strangers. I feel comfortable talking to just about anyone.

Oddly, though, I get nervous taking photos of people. I suppose it's because I really, really, really want them to turn out well.

I've learned that talking while shooting people, asking them questions and shooting the breeze makes me less nervous. Them too.

P.S. Most people say yes, when you ask. Even if they at first say no.

"Abraham & Penguinito" February 2009, West Odessa, Texas
One word: Prune.

Because this spider wove stems into her turret, I wouldn't prune for this shot. But, trust me, I have plenty where a jutting piece of grass over the very center view or beer bottles in the background should have been pruned.

By pruning, I'm not talking about anything environmentally unsound. No, I mean just take out the stray stick, brush off some distracting dirt, and generally pay attention to the whole, not just the, er, hole.

Take plastic bags with you. Pick up trash for bonus karma points!

"Spider Style" May 2009, West Odessa, Texas
Be a tourist.

How many cotton fields have I seen in my life? How many tumbleweeds? How much red, sandy dirt? Too much, too many to count. Still, I'm really only a visitor, a tourist in this place and time.

There is no such thing as ordinary, except as a judgment. On the one hand, it's a challenge to take photos of what I've seen a million times. On the other, what else should I take photos of?

"One" January 2008, Martin County, Texas
Don't worry. Be happy.

Taking photos is somewhat of a ruse. Having some good photos, a bonus. The real enjoyment is being outdoors, walking, open to seeing. If some photos turn out well enough to share or remind me of good times, it's icing on the cake.

And the best part? There's always today to get out for more photos and for more seeing.

"Winter Tapestry" January 2009, East Loop 338, Odessa, Texas

(And a Bonus)

Embrace Happy Accidents.

If you take photos, you'll have some happy accidents. They are yours, just as much as the shots you wrangled and poured your soul into.

You got up. You got dressed. You got out.

You pointed. You clicked.

It's truly yours. Embrace it.

"Two Photographers at Dawn" June 2008, Master Gardener's Compost Garden, Time Machine, Odessa, Texas


Andi said...

Your learnings and observations are as wonderful as your photos.

I absolutely love the phrase "There is no such thing as ordinary, except as a judgment." It's something I need to remember.

HLIP said...

And this is now officially my favorite post on your blog.

Your photos are always beautiful!

Eeyore said...

Wow! Several hundred dollars for photography classes and you sum it all up in one post! But maybe if I hadn't spent the money, I wouldn't have understood much of what you said.


jomamma said...

Great post, great photos.

Bobbie said...

10+ very good points and such delicious results!

Lucky Dip Lisa said...

700 hundred posts!! I would count myself blessed even if I only ever read a quater of these. Your photography takes my breath away each and every time. Your writing is beautiful, your observations right on the money. I am sure you are really my long lost sister lol! They way we share in many thoughts and subjects, the feeling we get from just being and seeing.I truly appreciate your skill, talent and knack for taking stunning pics of dusty red fields, weeds, seeds and shaddow play. Lucky us I say!
Love your list too...I am sure you could just about see me nodding in agreement with all you said:)

Maya said...

Oh yes, absolutely! Every one of these is SO true. I have my little pocket camera with me at all times. Luck = opportunity + preparation. Also, not listening to my dad when he said that shot won't work (too dark etc.). Some of my best shots are the ones that "wouldn't work!"

Forcing myself to take a photo a day for a year was a challenge, but great for me in the long run!

Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful post! What a great gift to read this today. Your photos keep getting better and better, in my view. Your wisdom is something to treasure. Thank you!