I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing most of the time. I was asked the other day how I get my pictures to look a certain way. I couldn’t give close to the answer the asker or myself really wanted. I have next to no idea what I’m doing. I’m okay with that. I’m also not okay with that. I know what I like doing. I know why I like doing it. I know I’ll keep doing it until I don’t want to do it anymore. I know my camera pretty well and I know the effect of the handful of Lightroom sliders I use. The deep, underlying qualities of the camera settings and sliders though – nope.
In my photography this is a source of a little embarrasement. I do want to know exactly how and why a different setting will affect a picture in a different way. On a deeper level than darker, lighter, sharper, depth of field. I just don’t want to know that anywhere near as much as I want to make the photo. It’s difficult when people want to talk seriously about photography because often we’re on very different levels. I can make a joke here and there. I know what bokeh is. I know ‘wide open’, ‘crushing the blacks’ and ‘prime lens’. The reason I know what a prime lens is is because I wanted one. The reason I wanted one is because I wanted less shit to worry about when I was shooting. I have one lens. I know my focal length. That’s one less thing to worry about. I almost never change my ISO or aperture. If I do I always forget to change it back when I need to. I love making photographs. I’m wondering if it’s time to start loving the science.
It’s important to me that I never let that get in the way of the photo though. I’ve seen people not take a photo because the composition wasn’t perfect in their electronic viewfinder. I don’t want that. I’ve always maintained that if I get the image I want I’m happy. I see people posting metadata with pictures and I wonder why it’s there. But, deep down, I know I should know more. I’m so in love with photography, with photographs, with photographers. I’m just not in love with cameras. I like the xt-10 I have. If it breaks I’ll by something smaller. Those are my feelings on cameras. But my list of photographers I love is always growing. There’s a handful of photos I love enough to show people if they express the slightest desire to talk about photography. There’s a Sean Lotman photo I’ve shown so many people it’s daft. They expressed at least a passing interest in photography so I grabbed my phone and gushed for a minute or two. Even just thinking about that photograph makes me want to get out and shoot. God, I love photography.
With those photos that I really love though, I want to know how they were made. I’ve been toying with the idea of picking up a film camera lately for this reason. I can dismiss the technical elements of photography for the rest of my life. But I want to know. I want to force myself to learn. Maybe I need the restraints. I need to watch more videos, read more books and blogs, pay more attention to what I’m robotically altering when I’m shooting. Everything I know about the technical side of photography is things picked up in passing. Much better, more knowledgable photographers will make throw away lines about something. It’ll stick if only in part. I want to be a more knowledgable photographer.
My fear is being burdened by that knowledge. I never want to not take a picture because it’s not technically perfect. I never want to care more about cameras and settings than about living my life with a camera in my hand. I think that’s a whole other question though. That’s much more about me as a person. I’d been meaning for a while to write about how great it is to not know anything. Getting it onto the page, I’ve talked myself out of it. Not feeling the pressure is great. Not knowing kind of sucks. Time to buckle down I guess.
Tokyo, April 2017