Sunday, June 14, 2009
What Makes A Photographer?
My wife's statement that I had already shot photos of several scenes got me wondering how the photographer's mind may differ from the minds of most other people.
We were looking over a valley in the Blue Ridge Mountains at the time, but my first thought was about the possibilities in smaller scenes. Photographers do see the world a bit differently, as do other creative types who train, or are trained, in different ways...artists, engineers and similar people. My mind brings larger sites into view as a solid whole, producing the scene I want to show. Obviously, this doesn't always work for any of a variety of reasons, but when it clicks, the results are often quite viewable.
Somewhere in my head, the many years of shooting film and digital mesh to produce the scene, with subconscious consideration of light intensity and direction, and color of that light when I look at a scene.
Only a photographer can look at a rusty hinge and see a composition of interest that appeals to a number of people. Storm gratings become geometric patterns of varying appearance as the light angle and intensity varies. Barn siding creates a visual tone poem with its different colors and textures.
Those are close-ups available in most places where I live, with echoes around the world.
It's possible to look at a barn, and see a thousand close-ups of interest, isolating a half dozen or fewer for capture. Looking at the entire scene, glancing around to note the position of the sun and the variety of cloud formations gives me an idea of what a building, or car, or motorcycle, or person--though I'm not a good people photographer--might look like in a half hour or two hours or the next day when light rain or heavy mist is predicted.
Other drivers on the road have to worry about distractions from cell phones, children in the vehicle, coffee in the lap, or a hamburger sliding out of a bun as they drive. I worry about the distractions I get from changing scenes, the realization that what I'm seeing will change forever before I can return and catch it in a photo to share the effect. This is not just a distraction while driving, though. It's a distraction on a walk, or just sitting in the front yard, hearing a hummingbird living up to its name, and wondering why I left my camera indoors, watching a leaf falling from a tree, see a power line fuse that I hadn't noticed in more than 20 years in the same house.
In essence, the photographer sees the same postcard effect, the overall scene, that others do, but with a mind that breaks that scene down into its elements, then rebuilds it quickly, so that much more is available.
Whether that photographic mind is good, bad or indifferent is up to the viewer. It does seem to be different.