Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Photos Are Made With Your Eyes, Not Your Camera. Who Knew?

It pains me immensely to admit this, but my wife is a better photographer than I. Much better. (There's no need to spread this around, of course.) And this is in spite of the fact that I've studied photography fairly extensively. Worked with a fine wedding and portrait photographer back in California during my college days, while employed at a photo lab in Pasadena, CA. (Hope you're doing well, Jack Belcher. And that your 1970 Ford Pinto is still running.) I've even taught photography, because it turns out that as a first-year teacher, when the principal asks if you can teach this or that subject, you say, "Pfffft! Absolutely! Why, if I hadn't become an
Sunset over Holmes Lake in Lincoln, NE. Click
image to enlarge. (Photo by
Lesley Jackson Scher)
English teacher, I definitely would have become a biogenetics researcher. Or a painter. Or possibly an astronaut. So, yeah! Bring on those science, art, history, or home economics classes!" (But no math, please. There are limits to just how much fakery I can manage.)



Luckily, I actually did know something about photography.


But not as much as Lesley, apparently. In spite of the fact that technically I know more than she about rules of thirds and golden means and horizon placement and F-stops and reciprocity and the like, she can take (a real photographer would say "make") better photos than I. Consistently. And she can do it with a three-year-old Android smart phone camera, even when I'm using the fancy Olympus digital with the awesome zoom lens and the dozens of nifty attachments that I just had to have.


Actually, I should have known that the technology doesn't make the photographer. When Ansel Adams taught classes, he often had his students peering through cardboard paper towel rolls for days before he allowed them to use real cameras. It was a low-tech approach, but what he was doing was teaching them to really see what they were looking at. And when my students would ask if they should get motor drives (sigh… it's a film-camera thing; you young people wouldn't understand), I knew what they really wanted. They wanted to be able to go home and tell Mom and Dad that Mr. Scher had said that they should run out and get motor drives for class. (They made a slick, ratchet-y, whirring sound that today's cameras approximate electronically. All the cool people had motor drives.) But I didn't tell them that. I told them that they didn't need motor drives. I told them that if they were taking bad photos, a motor drive would simply allow them to take bad photos much more quickly. And I was right.


But now, I have digital cameras. And they do indeed allow me to take bad photos much more quickly than before. Why, even with a motor drive, I could never have taken bad photos this quickly! It's a miracle of modern technology!! Digital cameras have made mediocrity attainable, and much more easily than ever before. This is a great thing for those of us striving for mediocrity.


TANGENT WARNING: By the way, I really miss darkrooms. The slightly musty, humid air. The smell of fixer and stop-bath. Strips of negatives wiped down with Photo-Flo and hung with clothespins on a wire strung across the (always too-small) space. Trays and test strips, filters and squeegees. The orange or red bulb casting a dim light. The paper safe with the door that always jammed. Enlargers with motorized headsnot that I could ever have afforded one of the motorized monsters. When we moved to Lincoln in 1992, one of the first things I did was . . .  Well, I was going to say that I built a darkroom, but what I really did was cause a darkroom to be built. By a very intimidating fellow whose first comment when looking at the framing I'd done so far was, "So, hey… OK if I tear all of this crap out?" So my contribution was limited to writing a check. Actually, I probably didn't even do that; most likely, Lesley  wrote the check. (Lesley is not only a better photographer than I, she is also much better with money.)

So, go figure . . .  Apparently the technology isn't what makes a good photographer. Or programmer. Or mechanic or teacher or cook or writer. And I guess that's worth keeping in mind.

8 comments:

  1. It would be interesting to see a shot in which you and Lesley each "made" (yes, I read the post) a picture of the same scene, each with your own camera. Do you think you would have very different shots if you both stood in the same general area at the same time of day? Or would she be more likely to get a better shot if you each visited the same area separately on different days? I guess I'm wondering, where in the process does the difference between photographers matter most - is she better because she's better at selecting the scene for a shot?

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    1. I really think that she just SEES better. She can visualize better than I. So, that's kind of the thing: we wouldn't BE at the same place at the same time, because I would have wandered on past the spot, not seeing anything remarkable. But she would have seen something beautiful or interesting in the area I simply passed by.

      And thanks for the comment!! Now get back to work. :)

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  2. The photo that you have here, make sure to tell people to click on the photo to make it larger, it is stunning. Well done, Les, your husband is right, you are a great photographer!

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    1. Great idea - thanks, I'll do that!

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  3. June uses her iPhone. I use my Olympus digital (same model Lesley introduced to me). June's pics always get rave reviews when she posts on FB. I tend not to post pics on FB (coward I am). June's are always wonderful. Mine? Well. . . . Think it's a gender thing?

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    1. Maybe so! Or perhaps we just married beautiful, talented women. Who happen to take better photos than we do.

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  4. Beautiful, but your short changed your wife, only 747 words. OK I'm being a smarty, but I couldn't resist. Stay well. Have a wonderful holiday season.

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    1. Trying not to blather on so... :) You have a great holiday, too!

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