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On Photography

Five years ago if someone suggested that I'd be taking photographs for money I'd have thought they were crazy. I'm mean seriously off their rocker, if I may use that old-fashioned term. Of course I may, this is my blog!

When you had to pay to take pictures, I never took as many as I would have liked. There was food and clothes to buy for six people, Little League money, swim team money, school related costs, and the list goes on. When I see those figures released each year on what it cost to raise a child, I think they are outrageous, but I will agree it does cost a lot of money to raise children. Just not as much as they say. I've never regretted a penny of it; I only hope our boys think we did good.

So..........the digital camera revolutionized my life. Now I can take as many as I darn well please. But that doesn't mean I know what I'm doing. I just take a lot, hoping for the best.

There's a reason most photographers are males. Don't get all up in arms that I'm stereotyping please because that's not my intention. There are some women who are great at depth perception, math and science, however, traditionally males are better at those subjects. I can't explain it, but that's been my experience.

Remember when I was taking math and science at Valencia? I somehow managed to get through those classes, just like I did physics while in x-ray school, but it doesn't mean that I really understood those subjects. I faked it. Just like I'm doing with photography. Having a curious mind is what keeps me in contention.
Here's my work station where I spend time figuring out what photographs are interesting. Most are not. Most are ordinary. For Christmas Jonathan gave me two photography magazines which for the most part are filled with gear reviews, photoshop techniques, the sort of things that don't do much for me. It doesn't stop me from devouring them. Yesterday American Photo, the artier of the two, arrived in the post. I've got a new mantra going forward that I read in an article about shooting burlesque. No, I won't be shooting burlesque any time soon, just using a quote from one of the photographers to inspire me. Henry Horenstein related that early on in his career, actually his first professional assignment, he was paid $5.00 to shoot a picture of a new country singer named Dolly Parton. And I quote, "She offered one of the best pieces of creative advice. She said, 'Honey, people don't come out to see me look like them.'" I've tried to do that up to now, however, her words will ring in my ears as I sit at this desk.

I do shoot all kinds of photos, they just don't sell. People in a photo are a no-no to date. If I was famous, that might not be the case, but every time I put out something with a person in it, even if they are anonymous, the print stays in my basket until I remove it. That's one reason I like shooting at the market, because having people in the photographs is the point. I'm only sorry I cut off this darling boy's foot in my haste as he walked by. Can you tell what the front of his shirt says? The Godfather.
I'm working with my new camera every day to get comfortable. Here's an attempt with the "soft focus" setting. Speaking of Valencia, my professor, Burt Stout, taught me my other great mantra--photography is light management. Simple. The morning sun is streaming through the blinds on this shot which if I'd waited much longer would have been too bright. Instead of getting too caught up in the technical details which stymie me as I've mentioned already, I work hard at using the available light to create moods.
There are so many uses for photography that I suppose there is room for all kinds of shooters, including me. For the most part I shoot, or at least I put out to sell, decorator type photography. Pretty things. Sometimes interesting, sometimes just about color. At this time of the year I'm working on my entry for the Orlando calendar, which because I've been featured in the past, they sent me an email last month with a map of this year's neighborhood. How do I put this? It's not the best part of town, for sure. Parramore and W. Church Street are the main commercial streets for the African American community. Yesterday morning, armed with my new camera, I parked in front of J. Henry's Barbershop. One of the barbers was eating sunflower seeds and relaxing in front of the shop. Generally I've found if you are upfront with folks they have no problem cooperating. I told him what I was up to, he replied, "Stick your head in, that's J. Henry up front." Stepping inside, I introduced myself to these gentlemen; this much I can tell you--they seemed proud their neighborhood was being featured. He readily agreed to this shot:
See me in the mirror? I've never been in a black barbershop before. Now that I have, I'm very intrigued with the aprons all the barbers wore. The sign on the door reads--"Cover your underwear before entering the shop", and I love the slogan painted in white on the window--"A place to get your head together." Very clever. Although I like this shot (click on to see bigger--lots going on), it won't be entered as the assignment is for architectural elements, which in this case is proving most difficult. There are many empty shops, as well as run down ones. As well, I not interested in exploiting the people or the neighborhood. I think I've got three that will suffice for my entry.
Whenever I get a new camera or lens, it takes awhile to adjust. This time of year the weather makes shooting somewhat difficult because there is generally a haze in the air due to the humidity,  but practice I must.  After leaving downtown I drove to Cypress Grove Park near our home to wander. Because I've been there multiple times, it's challenging to come up with new ways to shoot the same landscape. Not only that, the camera requires constant thinking and the light was entirely wrong. That did not stop me from trying. Below is a shot upwards of the ubiquitous moss hanging from the cypress trees. As I typed that I recognized that these two photos from the park demonstrate exactly my point. The one above is pretty, but ordinary. The one below hopefully requires more thought.
Do I know what aperture I used? Of course not. How about shutter speed Gail? Why no. I did, on the other hand, do my best to position the sun behind the branches and moss, thinking all the while about light management. 

There may come a day when the technical details become clearer to me, however, I'm not counting on it. In the meantime, maybe, if I keep practicing, as if my camera were a musical instrument, I'll improve.
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