I'll come up with something in a minute.

How did I take that shot? Do you *REALLY* care?

I’m not an overly friendly person, I barely like the people I like. If I’m at all affectionate with someone, it means I really, really like them. I hate people. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come from the story I’m about to relate.

As you know, I keep a selection of photos up at work. I work as the head of the photography department of a local chamber of The Emerald Partition, which is a way for me to tell you and for trolling search engines not to pick up on it. I make the photo displays, using my own photos as fodder. Just something for people to look at as we waste time and space. Quite frankly, there is a giant digital iceberg heading our way, and I’m busy filling the champagne buckets on this particular Titanic. What I’m doing isn’t exactly going to sink us, but it’s going to seem ironic when we look back later.

This is a way for people to see something interesting and for people to notice that I can take a nice picture. It also gives me a reason not to get despondent, seeing my better works cheers me up, even if it’s just this shot of a traffic light, which I find beautiful in its ordinariness. Also, there could be a talent scout for a major Hollywood studio wandering the area and might notice me. Okay, that other thing is clearly not going to happen, not in that neighborhood, but I do enjoy getting to see the pictures. There is also the ego fluff when someone asks where we got the pictures and that they look professional and all of that. And it all comes crashing down when the questions begin.

There is a photo, this photo…
and up walks one of my co-workers who admires it with one or two other people who have stopped to take in the assault of beauty that is my photo display.

“How did you take that picture?” She asks.

“With a camera.” I say, smiling slyly to show her that this is just a gag.

“But how did you get so close to the tiger?”

“Camera with a zoom lens.” I explain and one of the other people starts to giggle.

“Well, how did you get the tiger to come? Did you pose the tiger or did you wait for the tiger?” she continues in earnest.

And… how do I even explain it? I pointed the camera, the tiger was there. The tiger doesn’t pose because tigers care less than a honey badger. This is one of those things that people tell me is not supposed to bug me, but it really, really does. I kind of hate pointless questions and mindless small talk. I hate telling people what I did on the weekend, I despise sharing what we had for dinner last night and I cannot stand sharing the creative process with people who are not creative. Particularly I have problems with the non-creative types who don’t really want to know, they just want to keep the conversation going. I don’t want to keep the conversation going, I want it to stop as soon as possible. I hate this part, having to talk about my art. I was listening to the News Quiz when I painted This Picture. I was thinking that when she abandons the script, Sandi Toksvig is actually funnier than when she reads what’s in front of her. There is no great revelation of the truth behind my soul in that painting. My heart remains closed to the picklocks of art interpreters. I have no truth to tell, or rather I have so many it comes to the same thing I don’t want to talk about it. My problem tends to manifest and crystallize when discussing photography. With painting, or drawing, you can hide behind bullshit and medium. With cameras, you’ve just got the camera. You can’t bullshit, you have to be honest. And honestly, I can’t be buggered to engage in idle chit chat about cameras and lenses.

“What kind of camera do you use?”
Now, okay, not a bad question, but it comes from someone who just admitted they don’t know how their Canon Powershot works. Sometimes they want to get really advanced and ask about the lenses I use. Would it matter what I told them? If I lied and said I use a Zildjian 16 Crash, would they know that’s not a kind of camera? If I said I used a Zedtrex 45 Lens, or a Naxmar 99 for long shots, would they get that I made the two names up and that the numbers are utterly meaningless? And since the Pentax K-r has been discontinued, does it matter? Yeah, you can get a K-5 or a K-30, but I don’t know if either of them are any good. I use a Pentax camera almost every day, and I know nothing of their products beyond my trusty Red K-r. Also, I have no idea how they work, just that they do. I’m glad people who understand Science are doing Science to improve my life, but I don’t understand a jot of it. I use the lens that came with the camera, and another zoom lens I bought. I had to look up our order history to make sure that was the right zoom lens. I don’t know the names, I barely know what the numbers mean. It’s a camera, it’s got lenses, some of the lenses let me see things that are far away. If someone said that they were into photography or was thinking about getting into it and wanted to actually discuss the method, I would be more than happy to talk about it with them.

The problem is, I can take gorgeous shots with that Canon Powershot we talked about before. If that’s all I’ve got to work with, I can make it work.

“How do you take pictures like that?”
You have no idea how hard it is not to say “I point the camera at what I want to take a picture of. That’s always the first step.” Again, I sometimes don’t remember what exactly I was doing at the time that one shot was taken. I take so many, many pictures (as some of you have grumbled) that they can sometimes evade my memory. Oh, yes, I remember when this one was taken, or that one, but they were circumstances when beauty leapt out at me and smacked me in the face before being caught between my lens and my CCD. Again, what are you looking for here? A story of how the picture was taken? A legend? A tale of adventure? As a storyteller and artist, I don’t just hand out tales of high adventure for free and as a counter monkey I don’t have time to tell stories. However, for you fine people I have written a book. Well, not really a book, but a helpful guide. It is entirely based on my experience…

GreyWeirdo’s Guide to taking pictures the GreyWeirdo Way!
Step #1: Get a Camera
Step #2: Take about a hundred thousand pictures.

Once you’ve done that, you’ll basically know all that I know. Yes, you’ll have to work out one or two things on your own, but you’ll have done it once you do it. I can tell people how to compose a shot, how to take a better picture of the grandkids. I can explain the need to keep light sources behind you, and how different kinds of light affect a camera in different ways. I can even go so far as to suggest a camera, but really you need to take thousands and thousands of shots until you find YOUR technique. And how do you tell someone that at a drug store counter? How do you explain that there is no short path or that you can’t learn art? You can learn tools, and you can gain perfection of a skill set through repetition, but some people will never be able to shoot a butterfly on a thistle because they don’t notice either as they walk by? I can’t explain that at work, any more than I can explain that your cell phone takes crappy pictures and you shouldn’t expect it to take a photo as good as my camera.

I did eventually get the person asking about the tiger picture to understand that it was one of a hundred photos (no, really) that I had taken of that tiger that day. That it was the one shot of her that I thought was striking enough to color correct, keep and then print. Scott Adams has a comment on this, I believe it’s from The Dilbert Principle. “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” I have made at least a hundred thousand mistakes with this camera, and I’ve kept roughly ten thousand of them. Do as much, and one day, maybe you can inexplicably photograph a decapitated Mario figure in a box of chocolate as an obscure reference to St. Valentine.

Yeah, maybe not. You just don’t seem the type.

February 19, 2013 - Posted by | Photo, Uncategorized | ,

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