I went into Shinjuku today for my Monday photo walk / mental recharge. On the train I felt a little down and distracted and couldn’t wait to get outside and just shoot for a couple of hours. After arriving, the better part of the next two hours was spent taking photos that made me want to throw my camera under the next passing train. After that, I felt refreshed and ready for the work week to recommence. I’m grateful for days like today. I enjoy the never ending process that is making things.
I’m not normally one for chimping (checking the LCD screen right after taking a photo), but lately I’ve been trying to fine tune my camera settings a little more. I want my camera to do what I want with as little interference as possible. For almost a year now I’ve been using one camera and one lens. Sometimes I forget I even can change the lens on this camera. As far as focal length goes, for the time being at least, I’m set. However, while I can flick through ISO, Aperture, and shutter speed in no time at all I often find myself victim to one of the many other settings I forget I’d turned on once upon a time. Which brings me back to Shinjuku; hanging out near one of my favourite shuttered shop fronts and fiddling with the settings and checking pictures to see how they altered the outcome.
After half an hour I’d seen every single photo I’d taken on the back of the camera. They were generally dreadful. Overexposed; underexposed; one photo that I convinced myself would have been perfect if only I hadn’t screwed up the focus. I don’t believe perfection is achievable in anything, so why I spent two minutes lamenting a picture of a guy altering his tie I’ll never know. The reason I never chimp is this: I get pissed off by every shot I don’t make. I don’t want to be that photographer. I want to make pictures that pick me up. I want to enjoy the process of making them. I’m glad that photography is so accessible now. My absolutely battered iPhone 5s was my way in. A problem I often find with digital photography is how convinced people (read: I) can become that just because you made a picture in 1/150th of a second means that particular photo is the result of the work you’ve done. It isn’t. It’s part of the work you’re doing. The hunt for instant satisfaction is ridiculous. The work isn’t done in that fraction of a second. It’s done in the hours, the weeks, the years of taking photographs that we dedicate our time to.
The last few weeks I’ve been trying to imagine photography like painting a painting or writing a novel. Any shutter push is a brush stroke. The pictures I took and deleted today are just work towards a piece of work I will never finish. A painter works a long time on any piece and after that they might still paint over it. Start from scratch. Forget the self-portrait they just spent a month on. Paint some flowers instead. The process is eternal. That’s the beauty of it. Some days I think I could go out without a memory card in my camera; without a battery. Hell, maybe without the camera itself and still enjoy the process of making photos.
My favourite thing about today is that I did feel better. On the train into Shinjuku I had a weight in my chest I couldn’t quite shake. It happens sometimes. I’m human. About two minutes after getting off the train I took my first photo of the day. It wasn’t good. But I saw an old man, sharply dressed, talking to his wife while she looked through her bag. They were happy. After that I spent my half hour getting frustrated and somewhere along the line I remembered that I don’t care if I go home with nothing. That’s not why I leave the house in the first place. I went to Mister Donut, had a coffee and a couple of free refills and text Bob to jokingly lament my bad day. I watched a couple across the table having a great time; they never stopped smiling. I didn’t take their photo. I didn’t want to interrupt.
I walked the long way back to the station and took a few more photos. A couple of them came out okay. But whether they see the light of day again isn’t the point. I worked hard on my craft today. I felt better about myself today. I went for a run, did laundry, wrote this post, and made Yuka some chocolates for White Day today.
Today was a good day.
Tokyo, March 2017.