Saturday, February 27, 2016

One of those guys

I have become one of those guys. One of those guys that wonder how long they have to wait until their REI dividend check shows up.

I’ve hit pause on my GAS this year. A moratorium is in effect. No new camera bodies until 2017 rolls around on the calendar. There is one exception, but it is something I was looking at buying last year and I never found a good one. I’m not going to identify what it is, since every time I say “I want X” the price of X triples. Also, lenses are OK to get under this rule, so I can still exercise that particular demon. But this year I’m concentrating on two other things.

First, I’m getting out there more. And making that happen is going to need some new gear. Namely, it’s time to retire the unbranded mystery tent of great crappyness. Although, that tent has been a good lesson on what not to buy. It has a lousy rain fly, it lacks ventilation, it’s heavy. It was cheap when I didn’t have a lot of cash, and it has a good vestibule, but that’s all I can say about it that’s positive. So this year, a new place to crash in the back country will make getting out more fun.

shoot-512Second, I’m turning a more critical eye on the work I am producing. On both ends of the process. I am going to choose where I shoot with more forethought. While there’s nothing wrong with happening on to something by accident, I’m going to stop counting on that happening. It’s caused me to come home empty-handed more than once. I’m also paying more attention to my development, changing my agitation strategy and paying more attention to temperature control. And as for scanning, well, I’m using the same scanner, but I’m changing almost everything else.

So, the refusal to be stagnant this winter is turning in to a full-time job. But I’m not only going to get good things from it, I’m going to come out on the other side in far better shape and ready to run though spring at full throttle.

Creation over consumption. Not just a plan, but action.

One of those guys

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Making plans like the stream in winter

This winter has been more busy than most. I’m finding myself spending as much time as I can outside, hiking more than usual to stay as fit as I can, and trying to be as diligent as I can working on projects. I’m trying to be the stream this winter, and not the ice.

I’m not always hitting my goal of at least 1,500 words a week on one of the ongoing writing projects, but most weeks I am close. I’m making a cut on final images for another project, and in the process I am becoming better at scanning. I’m making steps toward starting a new project involving portraiture, but with little to show for it so far. But nice constant progress is afoot, and there is nothing more exciting than that.

Of course, there was an off-hand discussion on Twitter a little while back, and now I’m looking in to another little project.

It’s no secret I love the state I live in. I chose it to make my home, and I wouldn’t live much of anywhere else. For the first time, I’ve found a place I belong, instead of feeling stuck somewhere. I’m pretty bad at beating the gong about the place as well. So when a random comment I made about getting together a photographic expedition in the state was well received, I started to put a little time in to planning.

shoot-510My beloved knows I do love to plan. She’ll always know something is afoot when the obscure Internet searches begin. Then maps will get drug out. There will be specific books referenced. I think the process amuses her.

It’s still early. There are a lot of variables. Should it be a vehicle accessible only tour so the large format guys don’t get a hernia moving gear around? Should there be some hiking? Should it concentrate on natural beauty in forests and mountains, or should there be ghost towns and abandoned mines thrown in there? Stay in small town hotels, or camp out? Climb high or shoot up to get vistas? Time it for peak wildflowers or peak fall foliage?

Narrowing down variables and doing the scouting legwork is fun. And on top of that, it’s making it easier this winter to not become the frozen water, but keep being the moving water.

Making plans like the stream in winter

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Saturday Ritual

First, the coffee. If it’s a day with a bit of time, use the french press, and the tea kettle to boil the water. Just the right amount of cream. Pour in the mug and set aside so it can cool to the perfect temperature.

While that cools, you mix chemicals. I’ll use a gallon of filtered water I’ve set out at room temp to mix them up. Precise measurements in a graduated cylinder of the raw chemicals before dilution. HC-110 first, then white vinegar for the stop bath. The fix is almost always ready, unless it’s close to exhaustion and I have to make up a new batch.

shoot-509The film comes out, and then in to the dark bag, and out again inside the tank. The proper selection is made from the Ultimate Dev Chart, and the times are followed. In between agitations, the coffee is consumed.

After the film is done with its dance, and dry, it is scanned as the weekly words are written. Lightroom makes its appearance in the process. Then the words and photos are uploaded.

Once that is done, a camera is loaded, and it is lunch time. Over lunch, the merits of bicycle ride or hike are discussed. Then the merits of this or that trail. The camera is slung, the spare rolls put in pockets or a bag, and then we walk to the 4Runner to begin the days adventures outside.

And somewhere, pedaling or putting one foot in front of the other, there will be less tension, less stress, and life will right itself again.

We will drive home in the 4Runner, sweaty, hungry again, but better. There may be another meal stop, but then we go back to the house, ritual complete.

The next weekend will be upon us soon, and our ritual will begin again. As close to church as we ever come, more needed than most rituals to keep our sanity.

The Saturday Ritual

Saturday, February 6, 2016

I forget

I think I forget that photography is magic.

I’ll get too caught up on pedaling down the road because we have to make a certain town for the night or because I’m hungry and I need to be fed, and I’ll pass up a photo opportunity as I go. Somewhere in the back of my mind I’ll know I won’t get that particular opportunity again, but I’m moving on.

Or I’ll raise the camera to my eye and then lower it without taking the picture. There’s some wisdom in doing that. It spares you from the frustration of knowing you’re missing the shot you want. But that isn’t always the only consideration that should have weight.

I’ll clamber along and realize I don’t have the right lens to capture the scene I see in front of me. As a matter of habit, I don’t often carry a lot of equipment with me. Minimalism is a key part of what I do and who I am. But sometimes, I’ll forget something, or I’ll plan incorrectly, and then I’ll be stuck at tree line with a 50mm lens when what I really want to use is a wide and it’s back down in the truck. Dropping back down off a mountain to get a lens isn’t an option. Hiking five miles back and losing a couple thousand feet of elevation takes time, so I live with not getting what I want.

All of that is perfectly reasonable. Logical reactions to the situation at the time.

But they’re all what happens when I forget.

shoot-507Snap shots in the moment are frequently better than well planned out ones. Sometimes, you need to place your trust in the magic that happens in that little light light box, and just see what happens. Sometimes, I should tell the schedule to get bent and just stop the bike and shoot. I should take the damn shot anyway. Film is still pretty cheap, roll the dice on a frame and see what happens. I should just look at the light and capture what I can and not fret about what lens I have screwed to the front of the camera.

Getting out and then having disappointment stain the moment is not the way to have fun. Trust the magic. See if that 1/125th of a second lives forever and makes you happy. Worst case, it doesn’t, but there are a huge number of other fragments of time to try again. Best case, the magic happens, and you find yourself with something new and worthwhile. But forgetting leaves you with nothing to show, either way.

I forget