Thursday, March 31, 2011

Know Thy Self, and To Thine Own Self Be True

As part of my efforts to keep abreast of developments in the field of photography, I have subscribed to and frequently visit a very informative website .  On the website people ask and have questions answered by other participants on the website.  You can also post some of your photographs and request "ratings" as well as "critiques".  I find the website to be very useful and entertaining.  However at times I find it frustrating.

I am amazed at how many times people will submit a post requesting advice along the lines of "I am going to ????, what lenses should I bring?"  or "I am gong to !!!!!! and I have x, y, and z lenses, should I bring my z lens?"

"I am going to ?????, what lenses should I bring?" is a very difficult question for strangers to answer.  Selection of lenses is dependent upon many variables.  Some of the variables are:  The types of photographs that the photographer would like to take - Landscapes, Architecture, Portraits, Sports, Wildlife, Birds, Insects, Macro, Documentary and so forth.  The lighting conditions that are anticipated - full sunlight, shade, twilight, or night.  The weight of gear that the photographer is willing or capable of lugging around with them can also be a factor in selecting lenses.  The ancient Greek admonishment to "Know thy self" appears to be lost upon many people.

Various lenses are available in either fixed or variable focal lengths and apertures that are specific to the variables, compromises for a combination of variables, or in some cases not appropriate for a specific set of variables.  It would be very difficult to use a long length telephoto or fixed lens to take architectural photographs in an urban setting just as a very wide lens would not be practical for photographing wildlife in their natural surroundings.  Taking along a f5.6 or f6.5 lens for the purpose of photographing in low light conditions even with a tripod would not be a good choice.

A total stranger even with the knowledge of what, how, and where the asking photographer intends to photograph can only make recommendations based upon their own experiences and perhaps more significantly - their own preferences.  In the end the total strangers suffer none of the consequences of their recommendations and suggestions.  The requesting photographer is the only one exposed to disappointment at missed opportunities or having lugged unnecessary equipment around.

Having looked at thousands of photographs, approximately 25,000, I have become familiar with the style of several of the other members.  Without looking to see the credit for the photograph, I know who took and post-processed the picture.  Based upon my experience and personal preferences, there are several photographers whose works I greatly admire.  Based upon my experience and personal preferences, there are many photographers whose work I do not like at all.  However, I respect the photographers for doing it their way even though their way that I can appreciate.  They know themselves, their work and put it all out on display.  Their work is unique and not imitations of what others have deemed to be "good" or even "great".  There has been only one Ansel Adams and that is enough.  There has been only one Galen Rowell, Gordon Parks, and one Alfred Stieglitz which have been enough.  There is only one Anne Geddes and I suspect that it is more than enough.  My point is that these artists are unique.  Rather than to be imitated they should be inspirations to us to take OUR photographs; our personal and just as unique works.  Shakespeare's words of "To thine own self be true" often come to my mind in contemplating decisions regarding my photography or in making decisions related to my personal life.

The power and strength of art is to show us things that we do not see, can not see, or refuse to see in ways that we may or may not like.  Art can stimulate, motivate, and sometimes even aggravate.  Art can reaffirm our sense of reality as well as challenge our sense of reality.

Art is the product of the human mind.  Whereas the artist can learn how to utilize the various established tools and recognized techniques to communicate their vision, the vision is and will always remain theirs and theirs alone.  The artist is free to decide what the message is and how it needs to be conveyed; free to do it their way.

We have a certain amount of freedom in our lives.  The amount of freedom that we are allowed depends upon where we live, our economic, our social, and physical status.  Whenever we allow or rely upon others to make decisions for us, we are giving up some of our precious freedom.  Like the photographers who reach out to be told what lenses to bring or not to bring with them, too many people restrict and enslave themselves by relying upon others to make life decisions for them.

There currently are people in the USA called "Life Coaches" who are paid to advise people on how to live their lives.  I know of people who live their life as they believe that other people expect them to live - never knowing if they had made the "right" decision, always hoping to live up to others expectations, and constantly abusing themselves with self doubt.  I know other people who have difficulties making decisions because they are concerned or do not know what other people will think.  Just as in the end the photographer will bear the consequences of the decision that they make or others make for them, we in life bear the consequences of our choices, decisions, and non-decisions.

Well, I view life pretty much as I do photography.  As far as I know we have only one life on this planet just as we typically only have one opportunity to visit a place to photograph.  Buddhists would disagree that we have but one life on this planet and travel agents would disagree that you can visit a place only once, but I am Christian and rather than relying on returning to a place a second or third time, I prefer to take all my pictures the first time for there may never be another time.  Time, money, and fate often prevent us from having a "do over".  I know myself and I try to be true to myself - I will carry all the lenses and equipment that I know I will need to take the photographs that I want to take.  I may not get the opportunity to take all those photographs that my research lead me to believe would be possible, but I will be prepared if the opportuntities do present themselves.  I am willing to carry the extra burden to be able to capture the moments of a lifetime.

So far I have never regretted bringing along a piece of camera equipment on my travels.

Yes I have returned to some locations a second or third time but it was because I had better equipment, a different vision, or better skills to realize my vision.

I have yet to regret not having brought a piece of my photography equipment.

I always travel totally prepared to take MY photographs.  I know what I want and I know what it should take to produce my desired results.

Life is a journey that we, as individuals, decide how satisfying it can be.  Once again as in photography, the best decisions are our decisions based upon our goals, experience, resources, and vision.

Our happiness often springs from knowing ourself and being being true our own self.   It only takes courage to have confidence and trust in how we decide to live our life just as which lens to bring or not bring to take OUR photographs.  It is a freedom that should not be given away.

1 comment:

  1. I've gotten a bit lazy over the past few years, and on a recent trip to Laos, restricted by airplane weight, reduced my equipment to one camera body and one lens (Be it a good one, the Canaon 24-70/2.8).
    Yes, I got 95% of what I wanted to get, but missed the 100 macro when that huge spider came along, and could have done better at the night time event lit by only one tiny light, if I'd taken my 1.4 wide angle and standard.
    But it was MY decision, and I agree, I could never rely on someone else to tell me.