Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pathways #4: Stop looking, and begin seeing...

Everyone around the world enjoys Coke...
Wow!  Has it been six months since my last post to my Pathways series???  I completely lost track of time over the summer as I've been traveling about and enjoying the outdoors.

I've received some nice emails from people around the world on this series, so I want to continue to put these posts up here to communicate some of the key things that I'm learning while I continue to develop my photography skills.

I enjoy the emails that I get from people all over the world about this blog.  They remind me of how connected we are and how the internet has made the world a much smaller place.  It also reminds me of the power of search engines, because I've done nothing to promote this blog over the years, but I get a regular number of hits to it every day and the web traffic reports show me that people are spending time to browse around the site at the content I've written.  That's great!

With that in mind, this is my next post in the series...

This post is about details.  Seeing details, photographing details and enjoying details.  One of the things that I wrote about in my last Pathways post at this link was about finding photographic subjects that really interest you and ignite your passion for shooting.  This is is critical for improving your creativity (and therefore your photography) because when you're shooting things that you really like, you'll be more interested in how you ultimately represent your subject.

Once you find the subjects that ignite your passion, the next step is to study them to see the details that lurk below the surface so you can bring those details to life to show your subjects in a deeper and more thorough way.  To show things that others might not even notice, but that you see and enjoy.  If you're passionate about your subject, this will come naturally.  As David duChemin said in his terrific book "Within The Frame", to improve our photography we need to "stop looking, and begin seeing".

Prayer offerings to wish the climbers success...
I had a chance to practice this on my recent trip to Nepal.  The trip was a very long journey, but when I was in the villages near Mount Everest, I spent a lot of time absorbing the details in the local village.  It was easy to get wrapped up in the process, and I started noticing details all over the place that made excellent photo subjects.

In addition to capturing the standard photos of the area around Mount Everest, these photos posted here of the finer details serve to enrich my presentation of what the place is all about and what goes on there.  Anyone can point their camera at Mount Everest and take a postcard photo, but what about all of the other details all around it?

So how do you "stop looking, and begin seeing"?  I think that developing the ability to "see" starts with slowing down.  When we spot something that interests us photographically, especially if we're rushing during travel, we tend to jump right to the process of firing off many shots to try to capture the moment and then we move on.

A cautionary sign about drinking the local water...
Instead of rushing around to grab shots, I would suggest slowing down a bit.  Think about what originally drew your attention to the scene and how to emphasize that aspect of the scene.  Is it a grand scene that should be photographed with a wide angle lens to show its grandeur?  Or, is it a smaller detail in the scene that should be picked out with a telephoto lens.  Is it color?  Shape?  Texture?  How can you emphasize it?

When you slow down and start to think like this, you will begin to "see" your subject and what's going on around you much more effectively and naturally.  You'll find that the process of discovering great little details starts to become second nature in your photographic process.  Additionally, your photography portfolio of a particular subject will be better/deeper and your photography skills will certainly improve.  Try it out the next time you're out shooting.  I'm sure that you'll soon see great results in your photographs!

Interesting wiring for light switches on side of building...
On a side note, I have to confess something and tell you that I've never been to Nepal, I've never seen Mount Everest, and none of these pictures were taken there.  I was just kidding about that part of this post.  All of these photographs were taken at Disney World's Animal Kingdom theme park in Orlando, FL USA near the Mount Everest roller coaster attraction. 

I waited to mention this until the end of this post because it serves to make my point even better.  There are interesting details all around you that you might be walking straight by in your rush to get somewhere or do something else.  This is especially true at Disney!  Slow down.  Look around.  Enjoy the details.

It also serves the other point in this post and my previous posts about finding something that you're passionate about and truly "seeing" it.  

I really enjoy going to Disney World, so much so that I've been there with my family 5 times in the past 10 years.  You could say that we're passionate about Disney and the fun that we have there.  

Typically I've rushed around Disney shooting photos all over the place, but over the years I've missed many great pictures like these here that expose the detail and effort that went into designing and building the Disney parks.  These are the details that make Disney much more than an ordinary amusement park.  The attention to detail in the parks is truly amazing, and it's a labor of love by the Disney designers that should be enjoyed and appreciated by visitors to their parks if you're interested in this type of thing.  On our last trip, we slowed down and appreciated the small details more than ever...

In closing, it's irrelevant where I took these photos.  I included them here with my story of going to Nepal as a humorous way of making my points about slowing down, thinking, and truly "seeing" your subject so that you can bring the details to life.  Have fun, but go slow!  Your photography will thank you...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Oktoberfest 2011

Me enjoying a beer in Wurzburg, Germany
UPDATED 9/20/11:  Here is a link to a short photo essay at regarding the history of how Oktoberfest came to be.

It's not going to be long now before the cold starts to arrive, then comes Indian Summer, and then all of a sudden you'll notice that you need a light jacket before you go outside.

For the past few days near where I live in New York, there's been an early autumn snap of cold in the air.  The heat on the first floor of our house went on both mornings of this past weekend.

On one hand it was soothing because I like the smell in the house caused by the heat when it comes on for the first time in the autumn as I sit drinking my morning coffee.  But on the other hand, it gives me an anxiety attack because it reminds me that fall and winter are coming, and I still have a ton of outdoor house chores to do before winter!!!  But forget that for now....This post is about Oktoberfest!

I work for a German company, and I've had the opportunity to travel to Germany several times on business over the recent years.  In addition to seeing my friends and colleagues over there, I get to eat some really good food and drink a lot of excellent beer!

Although I've never been to Europe at this time of year when the giant Oktoberfest celebrations are going on (especially in Munich), perhaps one day things will coincide and I'll get to experience one of these memorable festivals.  My wife has been to one, and she said it's quite the scene to see!  But since I'm not in Germany, going to an Oktoberfest in my area is the next best thing.

Enjoying a Warsteiner on my way home...somewhere over London.
Now is the season for these festivals, and some of them are great family events.  In addition have delicious food, many craft vendors, and German and Bavarian music.  Hunter Mountain, Bear Mountain, West Point, and Belleayre Mountain in New York all have festivals, although the one at Hunter Mountain needs more German beer!  I don't think that Budweiser and Bud Light really belong in multiple taps on the Oktoberfest beer wagons!  I plan to check out Bear Mountain or Belleayre this year for a change of pace.

The nice thing about these festivals is that they act as a milestone in the change of seasons.  Shortly after enjoying them, the autumn colors start to arrive in the trees, the first delivery of wood for the season is dumped by the delivery guy on the driveway (which I then have to stack!), and the fireplace is lit up for the first time as we settle into autumn....

Warm sunlight, an open door, and a menu I couldn't read...but the beer was good!
I encourage everyone to get out and enjoy an Oktoberfest celebration and the beginning of the change of seasons near you.  It's a fun family activity to see the crafts, eat the food, experience some different types of music, and of course for the adults.....drink good beer!

If you know of good celebrations in the Northeast U.S., post them as a comment to this post so that Google will pick them up and others can find them as well.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

9/11 - Ten years gone by....

As I wrote in my blog post at this link last year, I dedicate this post this year with my best wishes to everyone, everywhere, who was affected by 9/11.

I can only hope that the people in this world can eventually find a way, somehow, to work toward a coexistence that's peaceful enough so that an event of this type never occurs again.  

Through photography, in the last year or so I've developed what I would describe as a significant interest in "the world".  I read a lot of photography and travel books, magazines, and blogs.  Through this material and the photographs within, something was sparked in my brain to want to learn more about all of the different countries and people in the world, and what makes them what they are.

As I read through these books and look at the photos, I'm learning much about the world and its people and why things are the way they are.  How thousands of years of history have shaped the people and countries on this planet.  I don't agree with a lot of things that many people in this world do, but at least now I'm beginning to understand it better.

Perhaps if we all took a little more time to study the world and the people around us, we might begin to reach an understanding of each other that would some day lead to something closer to the peaceful coexistence that I mentioned above.  I can only hope...

This year my kids began asking more sophisticated questions about 9/11.  They want to understand what it's all about, why it happened, and why so many people died on that one day.  It also helps them to understand things like why they hear "Afghanistan" and "Iraq" on the news every night...

My wife and I do the best we can to answer their questions in a way that they can understand that doesn't scare them, and we've let them watch some of the 9/11 television specials this year.  I think they're at an age where it's important for them to learn these things.  Without letting it become overbearing on them, I think it's OK now for them to learn on a more complex level that there are good people and bad people in the world, and sometimes the bad people do some really terrible things.

As I write this on the eve of the 10th Anniversary of 9/11, I'm very sad.  I sit and stare at the 9/11 specials on TV.  Just absorbing them.  And after ten years, there's some part of me that still finds the whole thing quite difficult to comprehend.  But I maintain my hope that I wrote about above that some day, somehow, the world will become a better place to be.  The future generations deserve better than this....

Now that the 9/11 Memorial in New York City is open and almost complete, I will go there with my wife and kids some day soon to see the park, the memorial fountains, and the new One World Trade Center building.  I'm sure it will be a very emotional visit.

And from this day forward, I will no longer call that area "Ground Zero" anymore.  It deserves better than that.  I will call it what it used to be called.  The World Trade Center.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

9/11: The Photographers' Stories

(Peter J. Eckel/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)
I have a personal connection to 9/11 that I wrote about in my blog post at this link.  For that reason, I'm probably likely to read a lot of news stories and photography stories about it as the 10th Anniversary approaches.

I found a good article today on the Popular Photography website at this link called "9/11: The Photographers' Stories, Part 1—"Get Down Here. Now".

It's a four part article (all four parts are at the link above) that tells the story of 9/11 from some of the photographers who documented it.

It's definitely worth a read...

Monday, September 5, 2011

"Photographically Speaking" by David duChemin

If you read this blog, you know that I'm a fan of David duChemin's books and photography.  He speaks a language that I can relate to about understanding the many aspects of photography and improving my photography skills.

He has a new book coming out soon called "Photographically Speaking", and the video below offers a glimpse of what it's a about.  The sentiments expressed in this video are very similar to my thoughts about photography, which I guess is why I relate to what duChemin is all about.

It should be a good read...