Note: this ended up longer than I thought it would be. If you have a life, skip this post. If you just want to see the photos, there’s a gallery at the bottom of the post.
I take a lot of photos. People might not know a lot about me or, perhaps, they know too much about me (lies, and exaggerations, mostly) but one thing they ought to know is that I snap a lot of photos. The interesting thing about it is that I’m not serious about it. Or, maybe, about as serious as I am about my writing. Meaning, not all that serious.
In writing, I’ve come to that realization by being exposed to actual writers and aspiring authors — actual writers; writers who not me — who immerse themselves in their craft of choice. But, beyond that, they immerse themselves in the writing culture; they frequent writing sites, attend writing conferences, regularly converse with other writers, collaborate, and make plans to meet other writers.
I write. Sometimes, it’s even fiction. That’s mostly all I do. I’ve yet to attend a conference.
In photography, I came to that same realization by following other photographers; photographers who promote their work, run a photography business, have public showings, enter competitions, and work assiduously to promote themselves and their work. For example, photographers like Julie Powell and Leanne Cole.
That’s a lot of work and comparing them to what I do is like comparing corporations building resorts along the beach to a kid building sand castles on said beach. In case it’s not clear, the kid is a metaphor for what I do. I don’t run workshops, I don’t schedule shoots, I don’t hire models. I point the camera at something, often with no particular plan for a final product.
What further drove the point home is an article Leanne wrote for DPS (Digital Photography School).
In it, Leanne speaks of vision, planning, dedication, signature works, themes, processing, and other things that are worth reading if you’re interested in becoming a fine art photographer.
That’s not me, Bob.
For instance, the title of this post — Orphans in Black and White — refers to photos I took last December (a year ago!) at Puʻuhonua o Honaunau, what most people refer to as the Place of Refuge (LINK and LINK). There are other links that give the history of the place. For instance, the National Parks site.
These photos are orphans; photos I never did anything with and that were largely forgotten since I’d already written about the place before (HERE) and used photos from the park in other posts. Also, these were taken during a dreary day, so as color photos go, they’re not exactly exciting.
Here’s where my lack of focus comes in . . . After the last post, it occurred to me I should revisit the Thunderbirds show of 2011 and do better justice to the photos (I’ze now gots me more skillz and better tools). On the way there, I got sidetracked by thinking of all the photos of hawks in my archives. They also would make a decent project; a whole series of B&W hawk photos. I then thought of the few shots I have of the hawk I saw here, on the island, and I went looking for it . . . and came across these photos.
“You know what, Bob?” I asked my imaginary friend, “I think these would look great with a B&W treatment.”
I idly started playing with them as I munched on stuff and drank coffee and a few hours later I had me twenty B&W photos.
The problem is that I ain’t got me no signature style. No artsy stuff I can call my own . . . and that’s when I thought “hmm . . . I wonder how these would look run through some Topaz Plugins? Bob? What do you think? Bob? You better not be hitting that tuxedo cake again!”
Well, I had to get me some as well, right? Wouldn’t do letting your imaginary friend eat all by his lonesome. But, right after that, I got me some artsy versions of the photos (like you’ve been seeing).
Two things should be obvious . . . one, readers are saying to themselves:
“Crap! Did I read that right? There are forty photos in this post? That’s it; I’m outta here!”
Two, I have no style or signature “look” to speak of. That’s because, as I often tell people, I ain’t no photographer. I’m just someone who takes photos.
Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I mean, some of the photos occasionally border on being good and at the very least provide a bit of an escape for a few readers. But it always makes me cringe when I hear people lavish praise on what I do.
I mean, I appreciate it, but I know my limitations. Specifically, I don’t produce photos that people would buy, just photos people occasionally like. I don’t produce photos that win awards or contests or even place as honorable mentions. I produce photos that look like they might win or place if entered in a contest.
There’s a huge difference.
Plus, as I often mention, all one has to do is look at SmugMug. I don’t mean my stuff. look at all the other stuff there. For instance — picked at random from a search — HERE (if you think I take decent hawk photos) and HERE (the second link is a portfolio of amazing photos and how they shot them . . . like I said; amazing stuff).
Those people are photographers. I take snapshots of stuff and put a few words to it after minimal manipulation. Heck, I’m even considering selling my big rig and just using a cheap camera and my phone as sufficient for what I do.
None of that is meant to take anything away from people who like my photos. Heck, I like my photos. But, that’s the point . . . a part of liking something is tied to associations you have with it.
I will flat-out say I prefer Nikon gear. I can even list a number of reasons for being a Nikon fan. BUT . . . it all comes down to the first serious camera I owned. The Nikon N8008. Once I embarked on the Nikon path, every subsequent decision reinforced my preference; D100, D200, D7000, P900 . . . at no time did I even consider another brand. It’s not that I didn’t look at other stuff, researched other stuff, read the specs, and even held other cameras . . . it’s that when I did, they were not cameras that fit comfortably in my hand, that had controls in familiar places, that, that . . . were something I was used to.
And that’s how it is with a lot of things. Here’s the thing . . . if tomorrow I’m told I can’t use Nikon ever again, I would pick another brand of camera and go on. I might complain about it and bemoan the loss of my Nikon stuff and wax nostalgic about my Nikon era . . . but in a few months, I would settle comfortably in whatever new platform I’d have chosen (likely, Sony) and eventually wonder what was so great about Nikons that other cameras didn’t have.
So it is with everything. Lots of photographers produce amazing work . . . but if you connect with one, you’re more likely to follow what they do than to go look for fresh work elsewhere. If you like a particular author and their writing style, you’re likely to look for more work from that author and also research authors who have a similar writing style.
That’s what serious artists do . . . they cultivate an image, present a body of work, form connections with their fans both through their work and also through reaching out with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, blogs, and appearing at galleries, and getting their names in publications, and making professional connections with manufacturers, etc. etc. etc.
“That sounds like a lot of work.”
“You ain’t kidding there, Bob.”
“But . . . you’re retired, right?”
“Well . . . yeah.”
“Weren’t you supposed to get serious about photography and writing? Maybe make a little splash in the professional world? Don’t you follow some people who started out roughly where you were and within a few years are selling photos, winning awards, getting fellowships and being recognized for their work?”
“Well . . .yeah.”
“Aren’t you capable of writing roughly a book a month? A short story in like a couple of days? A flash piece in like a few hours?”
“Well . . . yeah.”
“*sigh* Well, why aren’t you doing any of that?”
“Weren’t you listening to yourself, Bob?”
“What did I say?”
“It’s a lot of work! Man, Bob, you’re talking about making plans, sticking to timetables, constantly pushing myself, learning stuff, and . . . gosh, I can’t even say the word . . . soc . . . soc . . . socializing!”
“Yeah, but you said you would like to sell some stuff, perhaps get published.”
“I did say that, didn’t I? See, I kind of hoped legions of fans would force publishers and art galleries to seek me out and lavish me with offers.”
“. . . and that’s not happening . . .”
“Nope! Heck, Bob, I ain’t got legions of fans. Maybe twelve; on a good day, fourteen.”
“How do you lose two fans on regular days?”
“Heck if I know, Bob. Tell you the truth, I’m kind of surprised I got me twelve.”
Seriously, I blame the fact that there’s so much talent out there. I mean, there are the few people who made it and are well known. Then, there are the larger numbers (but still relatively few) of people with above-average talent who are working hard at becoming well known and are moderately successful in their circles and whose circles are expanding.
Then, there are the people who are just as good as the people in the first two categories but in narrower fields and who put their stuff out there pretty much for fun. Then, there’s me and the other millions of people who can do decent work but lack that certain “something” that would raise their art to a different level.
Part of what they lack is the determination to constantly push themselves to improve, to raise their art to new levels. They may not have ambition, they might have other obligations, they might be happy doing stuff just for their own satisfaction. As an example, read THIS.
I’m no Vivian Maier. For one, my stuff is readily available. No one is going to “discover” it after I explode from eating too much pasta and bread with pecorino cheese; people have already seen it and expelled a collective “meh!” from their unimpressed selves.
Same with my writing. Sure, I like it. Sure, a number of people like it. But my fiction posts consistently rank at the very bottom of views. Some of my favorite pieces have a lifetime viewership in the 30s. And half of those are probably me re-reading what I wrote.
Want to know who I blame? The Internet. All these people who are awash with talent used to be too busy to pursue fame and fortune. Outside of their family and friends, they seldom even bothered selling stuff. Now, they post something on the Internet, it goes viral, they get millions of views and Baam! they’ve got it made!
. . . and all because they have more talent than I do! How is that even fair, I ask you!
BIG DISCLAIMER No. 1 – This is mostly for new readers as, hopefully, long time regulars know this already, but the above is in NO WAY a cry for sympathy or an expression of frustration at me not having achieved the fame and notoriety (and money) of the Kardashians. It’s called sarcasm and I do that regularly around here. Why, the place practically drips with it and if you visit here, be prepared to occasionally sink knee-deep in it and ruin your new shoes.
Gosh, I hope people read that. I mean, it’s in red, for FSM sake! Really folk, what I’m saying is that making it as a business in any field is hard work and it takes a long time.
I also want to be clear on the fact that I like my stuff and enjoy both the photos I show and the fiction I write. But there is a difference between liking something and having it be commercially viable. A big difference. And that difference is “a lot of work over a long period of time.”
Heck, often it’s not even the amount of work.
Let’s face it; I put a lot of time and effort on this blog. If it was just effort and commitment and long hours, I would be successful (whatever that means).
But look at this post. We’re not even halfway through the number of photos I have to show. Even my regular readers start to lose the will to live and will likely turn from this offering long before reaching the end. Or, they’ll skim. I’m guessing that at most three people will read it all, and that’s only if other stuff is currently not occupying their time; stuff that life throws their way.
And I’m fine with that.
Heck, I know how to get more readers. Something between 500 and 750 words, one or two photos, and an interesting topic (they ain’t lacking – lots of amazing stuff in this world of ours).
I could split this post up, I could talk about B&W processing, the tools I use, the settings, how people should compose photos, what they should keep their eyes out for (actually, don’t do that . . . it stretches the optic nerve and it’s damn uncomfortable).
In other words, I could offer something useful to readers, and offer it more succinctly; something they can look at, semi-digest, and get back to their lives.
Heck, I could have done ten blog posts with two photos each — regular B&W and artsy version — and a quick 20-30 words blurb and split them up over two days; five quick posts a day with somewhat neat photos.
Every once in a while, review camera stuff or some writing thing. Perhaps try to sell stuff through an Amazon associate program. Get enough subscribers and get a couple of manufacturers to sponsor me once I have enough of a following.
Also, split the blog up; one blog just for writing, one for photography, one for travel stuff, and one for opinions. Widen my net, so to speak.
But, here’s the thing . . . a week from now, this post will be essentially gone from any search engine. The only one who will read this a month from now, a year from now, five years from now . . . is me. And this is exactly the kind of post I like. You know why I like it? Because I like how I write; I’m a great admirer of my stuff. When I’m bored, you know what I do?
Well, I don’t dedicate myself to improving my photography or writing; I don’t ponder how to become more successful. I’ll open up my blog, choose a tag, or a month, or a category and check out what I wrote or photographed last month, last year, three or more years ago.
Yesterday I reread a piece I had forgotten; it was about the machines in the now-defunct Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicle. It was funny and interesting and I compared it to what I think about it now.
You see, me that is now is not me that was last year and it’s not me that will be a year from now.
People have this idea they are the same persons now that they were ten or twenty years ago and that they will be the same person ten or twenty years from now.
They are profoundly wrong, as anyone who keeps a diary can tell you. I have some writing of mine from twenty years ago and I can tell you that yes, I resemble that person, but I am no longer that person. That person was, nonetheless, interesting and worth knowing, and if it wasn’t for my writing, I would have forgotten about that version of me.
Wow . . . this is getting deep. Time to back off a bit.
Is it only me or does anyone else see this next photo (and it’s artsy companion) and think of Mouth of Sauron from Lord of the Rings?
Speaking of which, I’ve been trying to read a few epic fantasy novels . . . and I’m running into a problem.
Everything that sounds interesting when I first hear about it turns out to have this same problem . . . in the description it will have something like “Volume 1 of the epic series (enter name here)“. It doesn’t even say how many books there are.
My problem? I like stuff that ends. Like, when I finish a book, I would like for that story to have ended. I mean, you can have a longer arc. You can have sequels, but fantasy books these days seem to be written open-ended. I mean, I would hate to be a fan of Martin’s Game of Thrones. Readers have a lot of time invested in the stories and they’re beginning to wonder if the guy will live long enough to finish the series. In at least one case (The Wheel of Time) the task fell to a different author when Jordan, unfortunately, passed away from an illness. I think I stopped at book six or so (truthfully, I don’t remember).
I’m somewhat in the same boat with Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files.
He was going at a pretty good clip but got stuck at #15 (he has 20 planned plus an ending trilogy). The last one was published in 2015 and he’s late with the followup.
But, here’s the thing with those books. The story in each book comes to a conclusion. Sure, there’s an overarching story, but I’m fine if I never hear it all of it. In fact, I’ll likely not finish reading it and I almost dropped the series a couple of times. Why? Because characters I like go through drastic changes. Also as the characters face mounting dangers, there’s a higher likelihood he’ll pull a Whedon and kill someone off.
And that will piss me off.
I drop authors who kill off characters “to make it more real” . . . I call it a failure of the imagination. They are telling me they don’t have what it takes to tell a good story without resorting to cheap shock value. Fine; then I won’t read them.
Hey, you know what? This is getting pretty long. I suppose I could split the post and stop here . . . OR, I could put a disclaimer at the beginning. Done!
Here’s a photo composed of six (or seven) photos joined in a vertical panorama . . .
Yes, I know that’s not in B&W. I just wanted to show what the vertical panorama looked like before I go and do stuff to it. If you have a really good connection, click HERE to see the original 10MB file. You can also go to the SmugMug gallery HERE to see all the photos.
Here are a few variations . . .
I tried bringing out a bit of the color but ultimately, I ended up going B&W . . . yes, this was the first one I processed, the one that had me decide to go just with B&W.
Those are processed differently, but you can hardly tell at that size. If you want to see one of them at full size, click HERE (13 MB).
For them who don’t click on links, here’s just the head of that carving.
I should come clean . . . given all the stuff recently in the news about Hollywood producers, comedians, politicians, and men in general, I had a moment of hesitation about putting up photos of this statue.
But, this is culture, man! You don’t mess with culture. Still, those long panoramas will be absent from the gallery at the bottom. One, because it messes with the arrangement of the photos, and two, screw them readers who skipped my words just to get to the photos; they’ll miss out on the depiction of politician of old.
My favorite things to photograph at this park are the lava rock walls.
I’ve actually thought about doing whole series of nothing but lava shots. I find the patterns interesting. This next shot — I believe — is actually a piece of coral. Also interesting.
Or, Perhaps, I could get into abstract or reflections . . . or both . . .
But that’s the other thing, right?
It’s been done before. Everything has been done before. I used to follow a blog that did nothing but similar abstract shots made out of reflections of things in either still or running water. Not sure what happened to the blog. I think they stopped posting or I lost the link or they blocked me because I kept asking if that was a reflection.
I kid about that last part. Other than on Facebook, no one has ever blocked me. Amazing that, ain’t it? Even as obnoxious as I am, most people put up with me.
Let me reflect on that . . .
Man, I can’t believe how long this went. I don’t even want to think of the hours I’ve wasted . . . er . . . lovingly spent composing this post. Not only that, it’s getting close to my bedtime and I still want to have a snack before hitting the sack.
So, what have we learned in all this time? Apparently, I’m not a serious photographer. Nor am I a serious writer.
As such, I’m not likely to ever leave a footprint of my passing.
Or, if I do, it’s likely in the sand and will quickly vanish . . .
There is an existential question underlying it all.
A question best voiced by that sage of the times . . . Trump.
Here’s the gallery for this
uncharacteristically short long post.
That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.
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. . . my FP ward . . . chieken shit.
Finally, if you interpret anything on this blog as me asking or wanting pity, sympathy, or complaining about my life, or asking for help and advice, know you’re likely missing my subtle mix of irony, sarcasm, and humor.