Hack Elements

Photography

I learned photography at a small town newspaper, where (both) reporters had to shoot their own news photos and do their own darkroom work. I enjoyed it mostly as a technical exercise, learning the mechanics of exposure and development. I "went digital" early on in the late '90s, but didn't really wake up to photography as something I loved to do until my first good digital camera, a Canon Powershot G3, which allowed for some level of manual control and raw shooting.

I spent a period wanting to get what I think of as "postcard shots": Perfect reproductions of scenic things. Today, I tend to agree with CJ Chilvers about that kind of picture:

If you can find it on a postcard, it’s already been covered pretty well and by better photographers than you. It’s probably time to move on to a more unique scene. The throngs of budding photographers, reading how-to articles, will take care of the dew-covered flower close-ups for you. Create something you care about, and it will rarely be a cliche.

At the same time, trying to reproduce a scene the most faithfully you can is sort of like learning scales on an instrument the better to improvise later. It's good to have some idea how to use the instrument.

In the past seven years or so I've taken to carrying cameras around wherever I go. I like finding them time to just go into picture-taking mode, not thinking about much but trying to remain aware of what's around me -- vibrant colors or shapes, strong shadows, interesting light. I keep a camera with me as much as possible to avoid ever getting into a frame of mind where I am setting out to take pictures and get some particular result.

I also tend to share my photos more advisedly these days, meaning that I do sometimes update my photo site but have stopped sharing much on social media. If I think someone might enjoy something I shot, I'll send it to them with a little note or small comment. I like it better when I think to do that after the thought, not while I'm shooting: I found that taking pictures while thinking about other peoples' reactions to them tended to put me too much in my head. I'd rather just enjoy the time taking the pictures for their own sake, and enjoying the act of giving the picture as a gift later.

When the pandemic started, photography walks became a lot more important to me. I was out walking every morning and night as a way to feel healthier, both emotionally and physically, and I liked capturing the little details of street and home life that reflect this particular period. Outdoor dining, masked people on the street, odd little bits of pandemic-related folk art, and the empty quiet of a city street on afternoons that might have once been busy.