Idle Thoughts on (Amateur) Photography and (Fiction) Writing

I’m retired, so I have a lot on my plate. Still, I occasionally take time out to think; to reflect on what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, and whether I should continue doing it.

Everyone can benefit from stepping back, surveying the landscape, and charting their path forward; making sure they’re on the path they want to follow.

Sounds ominous, don’t it? I mean, it sounds as if something has gone wrong and needs fixing.

Nah! Well, maybe a little, but nothing of great consequence.

For them who don’t know, writing stuff down is a good way for me to focus my thoughts. It also makes it easier to catch flaws in my thinking once I read back what I wrote. It’s because when I read something, I’m focused on what it means, any implications of it, where it might offer either something useful or, conversely, lead me astray. Most of all, reading my thoughts affords me the luxury of checking if they make any sense. 

I also do that with the spoken word. What I hear goes through the same multi-layer analysis. I suggest the same practice to anyone wanting to catch errors in their thinking; write down what you think and then read it back — aloud, if need be — and check if it still makes as much sense as it did while still in your head.

Words — spoken or written — matter. 

That’s a warning the following is written off the cuff and not previously thought out in detail.

But, let’s begin with photography . . .

The New Moon – October 11, 2018 (click for larger version)

I mentioned in two previous posts (HERE and HERE)  about my struggles regarding going forward. By that, I mean what equipment I should use.

The photo above is of the new moon taken hand-held with my Nikon P900. I can’t say I’ve taken as good a photo with my DSLR and expensive lenses. Close, but I’d have to use a tripod and substantially crop the photo (the above is mildly crop to position the moon, but it’s close to how it came out of the camera).

Yesterday, we had the Ironman Championship Triathlon here in Kona, and I used my P900 mostly for video and my D7000 with the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens for photos.

(click for larger version)

That’s the elite women swimming out just as the lead elite men are heading back in. That’s also shot with the P900 because the DSLR wouldn’t have produced as good a shot 150 yards out. But, at short distances — 20 yards — the DSLR gives me more to work with . . .

Daniela Ryf running past the entrance to our condo complex.

If I wanted to, at full resolution, I could zoom into the mole on the woman’s face. She, by the way, won for the fourth year running, breaking the course record in the process. And that’s after having been stung by jellyfish during the two miles swim.

But, the P900 can do a passable job at shorter distances as well, and it’s not like I need to zoom in on someone’s moles. Deciding on the main camera going forward is difficult but not what I wanted to cover here.

I don’t sell my photos. They are for my use on the blog. Meaning, for me, photography is a casual art. But, something that happened yesterday gave me pause.

We’d gone down to Kona proper to watch the Ironman Championship race. Specifically, we wanted to watch the swimmers enter the water. Unfortunately, as we had surmised, the place was packed, and that’s when I fu . . . er . . . messed up.

We could’ve found a place with a view of the pier, but I wouldn’t have been able to deploy the tripod (one of the main reasons I wanted to go down there was to practice shooting videos, so I’d brought my tripod; for clarification, it’s something I almost never do).

Rather than watch the event and shoot hand-held, we (me, and Melisa followed) opted to set up around the corner where I could use the tripod and capture the swimmer as they swam the course.  

. . . but we wouldn’t see the swimmers get in and out of the water.

Do you see the problem?

One, I could have shot by hand, and it would’ve been OK like it has been many times before.

Two, I skipped watching something we wanted to see for the sake of being able to set up the tripod.

I done forgot something that I mentioned before . . . a crappy photo is better than no photo at all. I forgot a closely associated thing . . . an actual memory is better than a photo.

Yes, a photo will enhance the memory, but without a memory, you won’t have a photo.  

Realistically, I can watch high-resolution videos of the event. The prior two year’s Ironman events (2016 and 2017) we watched the live-stream and saw much more than we could have from being on site. There’s excellent coverage of the swimmers entering and leaving the water.

On the other hand, THIS guy has a different memory of the event than I do; a more visceral memory. A personal memory of having been there. Mind you, I don’t think this is a video I’d have posted because it’s more of a personal document (hence the title) and because it’s not up to my standards and because I’m not a fan of those types of posts. This is better suited to people used to appear in their own videos. That’s not me, Bob.

Let’s face it; video or photos, some things are better left unseen.

On the other “other hand” — my third hand, if I had three — his interest in the event and my interest in the event are vastly different, and my documentation of it will be different.

Frankly, we could have just as well skipped the event and wouldn’t have fretted about it; it’s what we did in the previous two years. But, we didn’t; we went, and I have photos and videos I can share. I’ll even share interesting moments and comment on the energy of the event.  

That said, Melisa would’ve probably enjoyed the event more if we had just experienced it instead of me concentrating on video and photography. She says it’s OK and I believe her because she knows I enjoy the process . . . but, 24 hours later, I still feel bad about it because we could’ve gone down there, I could’ve snapped photos and a few videos, but worried less about where to set up. We could have experienced more than we did.

Side note: she could have pursued her interests, but in these situations, she defers to my “artistic needs” and, as we’re not comfortable apart from each other, she went where I went.

And, that’s the other part of this thinking process.

What am I doing this for? It’s not like I was on assignment.

I have a few regular readers, but they would enjoy pretty much anything I put up in the way of photographs. I spoke about this as well in those post linked above; I shoot for my pleasure and entertainment.

But, for all my good intentions, I failed to heed the very words in those posts.

Yes, of course, I have an excuse! I wanted to practice taking video.

But, “practice” is the operative word. I could practice taking videos of boring cars going by or people walking or boring cars hitting people walking. Practicing at the event had me miss experiences I might’ve enjoyed had I not lugged the tripod along.

Understand, I did learn stuff. Watching the videos, I can see where I could have done better and set up in better places.

But . . .

. . . this was a once-a-year event we should have enjoyed. I mean, we did enjoy it; but I can’t help think we might have enjoyed it more had I practiced some other time.  

So, what now?

My words are now strongly imprinted on my brain; I’m a casual photographer, and I should act the part. Yes, I’ll still have standards for my photos (and videos), but I’ll strive to remember not to let the photography part interfere with my enjoyment of whatever I’m photographing.

Which brings me to writing . . .

I’ve not written much fiction lately and by lately, I mean these past few years.

It got me thinking . . . what the heck am I doing?

I looked back and noticed how much I used to write. And not just write, but write stuff I enjoyed writing and — most of all — still enjoy re-reading. I read a lot of my fiction and it’s a shock when the realization hits me . . .

My last book was NaNoWriMo 2015.

My last complete short fiction was the 2017 Halloween Story.

Side note: I need to plan a Halloween story as it’s just a few weeks away.

The 2017 writing year was puny by my standards, but it beats the heck out of the 2018 writing effort which — to date — saw butkus as far as fiction writing. I think I had a short flash fiction piece buried in one of my many posts, but that’s about it.

Again, “what the heck am I doing?” I asked myself.

I’m in the process of re-reading my first NaNoWriMo . . . and I’m literally astounded as to how effortlessly it flows, not a care in the world as it easily and smoothly (and other –ly adjectives) glides along with interesting (to me) characters and plot. And, humor. And action. And, that’s the unedited version.

One more time, “what the heck am I doing?” I asked myself.

I pulled a Grinch and sat and thought and thought and sat . . . and I figured it out.

Since 2015, there was an important change in my writing efforts: I worked at getting published.

And I got rejected. Not many times when you consider how many rejections successful (published) writers get. Forty-nine rejections. My goal is 837 rejections (not counting agents rejections).

Despite it being a 100% failure rate (or 0% success rate) that’s not what got me to stop writing. Heck, I want to write. I miss writing.

The problem is that I got a bit of encouragement with them rejections. I also listen to publishers and editors and writers and agents, and I started thinking more about what I “need to do” to get published as opposed to “just write what I like” and hope someone will like it enough to publish it.  

Mind you; this is nothing new; I pronounced it before — I said I’d write what I like and hope someone will like it enough to publish it.

But, I didn’t heed those words. You see, the first thing I now bring up when I sit at a typewriter (use your imagination for I have no actual typewriter) is a mental checklist of all the things I learned in the last three years (since my Viable Paradise workshop). It’s a long list, and it includes the meager feedback I received with some of my rejections.

. . . and none of it lends itself to my writing . . .

I might say I write for myself, but I realized that was in name only and not in practice. I’ve not been writing anything because I’m looking to write “publishable” stuff, whatever that is. And, because I’m not sure what it is (much of what I’ve seen is not all that impressive) I sit and stare blindly at the (imaginary) blank paper for a few minutes before clicking on YouTube and watching clips of action movies and listening to videos set to epic music.

It’s a bit of a shock realizing I’m no different than other people . . . I too can lie to myself.

A saving grace — if there is one — is that I’m calling myself on it and that once aware of it, I can counter it. 

I may be in a prison of my own making, but I know the way out. 

Me as a convict (eventually to morph into me as a zombie version)

And so, here we are . . . I have to approach my photography and writing — if they are to flourish — with a clear raison d’être and not just as lip service to noble-sounding words: they have to be internally consistent as being efforts put forth for personal satisfaction and enjoyment and not subject to the whims of an outside purpose.

Mind you; I still plan always to put forth works meeting my standards for acceptable quality and — as far as my writing goes — I’ll still make an effort toward getting something published. But the latter isn’t what will drive my writing.

First and foremost, it will be writing I enjoy and not driven by marketable requirements. And, this time, I mean it.

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.

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