In between work life taking a toll on my mental well-being for the last few weeks, I’ve been contemplating more photography (amongst playing chess and being thrashed by my iPad!). Photography is a study and art in itself, and I’m constantly mesmerised, in awe, in fact, of pictures taken by friends and the Instagram-nation. There is a great deal of very talented people about . . . the bastards!
But what is clearer to me than ever, is that photography takes practice. It’s as simple as that. It is not enough to find something pretty and take a snap of it, it’s about changing the angle, seeing an everyday object from a different viewpoint, waiting for the gold hours of sunrise and sunset. In the fantastic Learning to See Creatively by Bryan Peterson he walks you through different ways of seeing, multifarious methods of viewing the world. It sounds simple, but it really isn’t. The infamous Scott Kelby illustrated in his Crush the Composition (you now have to register, but worth it!) just how much work is involved in a single photo of a classic car – each great shot seems to have twenty or thirty behind it. Every photograph got him closer and closer to what he wanted to see, what made the shot interesting for him. It just so happens that millions of people tend to agree with him! Then there’s capturing the simply extraordinary, which not only takes practice but timing and luck.
There are some people of course that can simply take a wonderful photo (my girlfriend being one of them) that floor me entirely, and make me want to smash my camera on the ground and pulverise it to dust. And stab people in the eye. And kill everyone around me and and and . . . breathe! It’s not a competition, Richard, it’s not a competition. My girlfriend - knowing very little to almost nothing by the way of shutter speed, focus, rule of thirds, bokeh, tripods, light, breaking the rule of thirds, leading the eye, colour or texture – then will feel the full force of my wrath. “Wow, what a lovely picture, my love!” I say through gritted teeth, tearing the tops off of flowers and pushing passing children from their bicycles. It may not a competition, but I seem to always be behind.
Since I’m feeling poetic and very much my age, I’ll leave you with the Ulysses by Tennyson (as Odysseus sought strength from his endless toils), used so effectively in Bond’s Skyfall and the last episode of Frasier:
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
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