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Moving foward

Today is kind of a huge deal for me. A big deal. The next chapter of my life is unfolding in a few different ways and I’m excited about what it all means.

First off…for those that don’t know, I do have a day job that pays the bills while I see about growing this photography business. Everyone has to start somewhere, and me being almost 36 with a wife and kid…doesn’t allow for taking a whole lot of chances financially. I did that when I was younger, so now I’m trying to build a strong foundation before I even think about it. And who knows…maybe it will always end up being a weekend gig…but I’m okay with seeing where it goes. It’s been a blast so far.

The reason I  bring up the job is today is my last day at the company I’ve been with for over seven years. For lots of reasons it’s time to move on. I’m joining a firm that is international and will essentially be doing the same thing I am now. Having been one place for as long as I have…you get used to the perks that come with seniority like that. So going to someplace else…being the new guy again…is going to be a change.

And yesterday I finally received the new camera…a 5D Mark II. Yes, of course, it’s an awesome toy, a photographer’s dream to have. But honestly…if I was just chasing storms and shooting landscapes, I could have been just fine with the ol’ XSi for awhile. This tool is something I felt I needed in order to move forward with the portrait/event/wedding photography side of things. One simple reason is some upcoming events I have that take place after dark, in low light situations. I need a camera that can deal with that and not need a flash all the time to do it.

The photo above was taken last night with the new camera. 50mm 1.4, f/1.4, 1/40, ISO2000. A tiny, tiny bit of noise reduction, some sharpening on export and it’s just a sample to me of the kind of shots I will be able to get in situations like a dimly lit living room.

Today is a day of change and a day of moving forward. I’m excited about the new job and new opportunities it presents…and at the same time am thrilled to see where the world of photography is taking me and the doors that are opening.

I like taking pictures

When I thought of the title of this blog post, I immediately remembered the guy from Idiocracy (a less well-known/liked movie from Mike Judge who brought us Office Space) who would say stuff like this in a really dumb voice:

“I like money.”

Also

“I can’t believe you like money too. We should hang out.”

What does that have to do with this blog post? Nothing really…other than the simplicity of the quotes. If you know about the movie at all, the plot revolves around a future society where people have so much done for them, that they’ve been dumbed down to the level of children.

In a way though, that kind of parallels my point, which you’ll see below. Kids keep it simple.

Since taking up photography, I’ve explored so many different aspects of the art. I remember the first 6-8 months doing nothing but perusing through thousands of photos on JPG Mag, or Flickr, learning what people like, learning what I like, seeing different techniques, styles and processing. I tried to do a 365 self-portrait project and got to about 60 days before realizing that wasn’t important to me anymore. It probably took until the end of last summer for me to narrow down who I was and what I liked to shoot.

That is still evolving, but I feel much more focused now. I know myself better. More importantly I think, I’m confident in what I shoot and how I shoot it.

As I explored, I grew to love HDR. It’s a tool I use probably 90% of the time on my landscape, storm and urbex images. I enjoy it, I have had a lot of success in it, but it’s not who I am.  I have no desire to be known as an “HDR Photographer.” I certainly wouldn’t mind people saying they love my technique, style and processing when it comes to HDR, but I’d like it to stop there.

Since HDR is kind of new (as in more mainstream now), fun and catchy, a lot of photogs are using it as a way to identify who they are. Flickr accounts, blogs, usernames, etc…they include the words “HDR” in everything so people know that’s what they do. And I believe some of that has contributed to the love/hate debate when it comes to HDR.

I guess my point is…you don’t see a lot of people declaring themselves “Color Photographers” or “B&W Photographers”…etc. They are just photographers.  Those of us who love HDR have to constantly fight against people who hate it. We struggle to get the point across that “HDR is just a tool in my bag“, nothing more. I hear that defense all the time. And it’s a good one because it’s true.

But then we go out and call ourselves HDR photographers. If it’s just a tool, why not call yourself a “10-Stop ND Filter Photog?

I’m certainly someone who would fall into this a lot. For awhile I put information under my pictures about how many brackets I took, if it was HDR or not, etc. Even having a Flickr collection saying “HDR” is something I’m re-thinking. Or using the little #HDR hashtag on Twitter. I dunno how I feel about that yet.

I just know we struggle to get HDR accepted as a normal part of photography, but then we go out of our way identify our photos and ourselves as HDR.

If we brought less attention to the fact that a photo is HDR and more to the composition of the photo itself…I believe it would benefit everyone. To me, composition is key and trumps everything else. If you have a photo that is composed well, then it doesn’t really matter how you process it, it’s going to be a great looking picture.

I think people just love a beautiful photograph or image. When I’ve shown my work at a gallery or the farmer’s market, 98% of people just comment on how much they love a photo, without any knowledge of it being HDR or something else. A few will of course ask why it’s so detailed and then I explain the processing techniques.

As photogs who use HDR, I think it’s kind of up to us to change the way it’s viewed by using it solely as a tool and then posting our pictures as they are.

Yes, there will of course be times where posting a photo kind of demands you explain how you processed it. I get that, and will undoubtedly do the same thing here and there. I realize it’s kind of fun to explain WHY you made a photo black and white, or chose to use HDR in this instance. I know on our blogs it’s even harder because we tend to have a lot more photographers looking for technical explanations for the things they see, but that’s totally fine if people have questions. Go ahead, answer them. But wouldn’t it be awesome to just display a photo and have it judged solely on how it looks without any pre-conceived notions? Talk more about WHY you took the photo and less about the processing aspects behind it?

This is just something that has been on my mind for the last month or two. My good friend Brian and I talked about some of this stuff before Christmas and he even eluded to the same thing in his post not too long ago. Be careful about being pigeonholed as a specific type of photographer…instead, keep it simple…just BE a photographer. The more and more you put yourself in a box, the harder it will be to climb out of it.

I shoot all kinds of stuff and process photos in many different ways. Weddings, kids, families, babies, parties, storms, landscapes, urban decay, B&W, color, HDR…my photography isn’t about just one thing…it’s about a wide range of subjects that boil down to one idea: I’m a photographer.

And truly…I just like taking pictures.